How to Get the Friends You Want (8 page)

BOOK: How to Get the Friends You Want
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Gran stuck her garden fork into the burning-bin and hauled out a big bunch of smoky sticks and leaves.

‘Nonsense,' she said. ‘You just put too much in. You were deliberately trying to put it out!'

Jane rolled her eyes.

‘Your gran and her great ideas,' she said. ‘You know what this reminds me of?'

‘That was your fault too,' said Gran. ‘It would have worked fine if you'd done it properly.'

‘What?' I asked. ‘What are you talking about?'

They both turned to look at me, as if they'd momentarily forgotten I was there.

‘When your gran and I were at school, we found a box of matches in the playground.'

‘All the teachers smoked in those days,' Gran said. ‘It probably fell out of one of their pockets.'

‘I wanted to hand it in,' said Jane. ‘Only madam here had a better idea. “Let's do smoke signals like cowboys and Indians,” she says.'

‘All the films were about cowboys and Indians when we were young,' said Gran.

‘We went into the gap behind the play-sheds, where lots of leaves had got blown, and we pulled them into a heap. It was a warm dry day, not a damp drizzly one like today. If it had been a day like today we'd have been fine, because nothing's going to burn on a day like this, is it?'

Gran muttered something. Jane took no notice.

‘So we strike a match and put it under the leaves, and they start to smoulder, little bits of smoke at first, and then a steady stream. Your gran says, “Use your sweater to make the signals. Lay it over to stop the smoke, then pull it away. I'll go to the other side of the playground and count the puffs.” I think you can guess what happened next.'

‘You were only supposed to lay your sweater over it for a second,' Gran said.

‘I did, but it happened to be the second the flames broke through, and it was bye-bye school sweater, hello Headmaster's Office.'

‘I got detention too.'

‘Yes, but you didn't ruin your sweater. I got grounded for a fortnight because of that.'

‘Getting grounded wasn't really too much of a punishment for you though, was it?' Gran said.

‘Not really,' agreed Jane. ‘Living in the sticks doesn't do much for someone's social life.'

They suddenly stopped arguing and laughed, remembering.

‘So you didn't go round each other's houses after school?' I said.

‘I couldn't,' Jane said. ‘We didn't have a car, and anyway, there's only so much of your gran's good ideas a person can take!'

‘And I didn't really want to,' said Gran. ‘I was never that sociable as a girl. I liked messing around on my own.'

‘I'm like that,' I said, without even thinking about it.

As soon as the words came out, I saw that it was true. I liked seeing Becky at the kennels and doing outdoors things with Toby; I liked talking about interesting stuff with Jess. But I also liked lying around reading, or watching David Attenborough, or finding new dogs for my wall. I liked talking to Sam and playing with Dennis.

That's when I saw my great mistake. I had thought I wanted to be friends with Sasha, Tammy
and Abina because everyone did. They were the coolest girls in class; they were clever and nice. But they wanted to do everything together – and they were wearing me out!

The thing was, everybody was different, and that meant they wanted different kinds of friends. Matching-set friends were great for sociable people like Sasha, Tammy and Abina. But interesting friends who weren't too demanding, like Becky, Toby and Jess... they were the perfect friends for me.

Except I'd really upset them.

‘Are you alright, Peony?' Gran said. ‘You look like you've seen a ghost.'

‘It was probably the ghost of this dead bonfire,' said Jane.

‘All it needs is some firelighters.'

I walked down to the shop to get some firelighters for Gran. Things were a mess, friends-wise, but at least I knew what I wanted now. Mr Kaminski says knowing what you want is the first step to getting it. He says you have to know exactly what you want, and write it down – that's the golden rule.

When you've written it down, you think about it and think about until ideas start to come. Then you try one idea and another and another, until you find one that works.

So when I got home I found some paper and wrote it down:

I want to be friends again with Toby, Jess and Becky, and I want to stop being part of Sasha's set.

Chapter 12
Four Facts about Friends and Making Amends

I slept with my wish list under my pillow and when I woke up in the morning I had some good ideas about what to do. That's the magic of Mr Kaminski's method.

When it came to Becky, Toby and Jess, I had to say sorry and make amends. That's what Mum told Primrose to do when she dumped Matt because someone showed her a pic of him giving another girl a hug, and it turned out she was his cousin. I wasn't sure how to do the amends
bit, but I could certainly start straight away with saying sorry.

When it came to Sasha, Tammy and Abina, the best thing would be to ease myself out gradually, making excuses for not going round their houses until they stopped inviting me.

But when I tried to say sorry to Jess and Toby they kept avoiding me, and when I finally caught up with them at break time, Jess cut me off in the middle of my sentence.

‘Shall I tell you Five Fascinating Facts about Friends? One – they stick together. Two – they aren't embarrassed about each other...'

I felt my face go hot. I didn't think anyone else knew how I secretly felt about Toby's shorts, Jess's unusual ideas and Becky's charity-shop clothes.

‘Three – they don't let each other down. Four – if they do mess up, they're sorry...'

‘But that's what I'm trying to say,' I butted in. ‘I am sorry.'

‘If you're sorry it's just because you aren't in Sasha's team any more and therefore you aren't going to win.'

She turned and walked off. I felt confused. She was normally so easy-going, but suddenly it was like she'd taken strop-lessons from Primrose.

‘She's really upset,' Toby said, with a shrug. He limped off after her. He wasn't using the crutches
any more, but it didn't look as if his ankle was completely better.

‘That's only four facts about friends!' I called after them, but they didn't even look back.

So far, so bad, and things didn't go any better with Sasha, Tammy and Abina. When I told them I couldn't go to Tammy's after school they thought I was upset because their new Chair, Olivia Wyre, was coming.

‘She's only coming because we need to practise with her,' Sasha said. ‘We'd much rather have you on our team.'

‘You can do it next year,' Abina said. ‘One of us will stand down.'

‘Anyway,' said Tammy, ‘you've got to come this afternoon to help with Heavenly Honeybun. We're going to get her used to being handled for the pet parade, and you're the expert. We need you!'

They wouldn't take no for an answer, so we all went to Tammy's after school, Sasha, Tammy, Abina, Olivia and me. Abina and I watched the others doing their Young Voices practice and we all said well done to Olivia and told her how good she was.

After they had run through it several times, we went down to the bottom of the garden to see Heavenly Honeybun. We fed her some grass
through the mesh on her door while Tammy put on the gardening gloves. As soon as Heavenly Honeybun saw them, she bolted into the bedroom end of her hutch and thumped her feet furiously on the wooden floor.

Tammy very slowly opened the hutch. Heavenly Honeybun glared at her in a ‘just you dare' kind of way. After one or two half-hearted tries it became clear that Tammy didn't really dare, even in the thick leather gloves, so she stood back and looked at me.

I put on the gloves and offered my hand low to the floor of the hutch so that Heavenly Honeybun could push her nose under it. She tried to bite me. One thing was for sure, she wasn't at all like Dennis.

I made a grab for her and lifted her, kicking and wriggling, out of the hutch. I sat down and put her on the shed floor beside me, keeping one hand over her face until she calmed down.

Sasha, Tammy, Abina and Olivia were impressed. ‘How did you do that?' they said. Tammy fetched Heavenly Honeybun's brush and they took turns brushing her sides while I held her.

‘You're so good with animals,' said Abina. ‘I can't wait for you to help me put Pookie through his paces.'

I said I was really sorry but I wouldn't be able to go to her house on Saturday.

‘My friend Becky from the kennels is running a stall for the RSPCA at the pet parade,' I told them. ‘I promised her I'd help. She's doing a tombola and stuff.'

They seemed genuinely disappointed, but they said they understood. Sasha asked if Becky had plenty of prizes because if she didn't she was sure her mum would donate something from the shop. Abina said she could get her parents to give something too, and Tammy went to ask her mum straight away.

A few minutes later, she came back with a brand new bird-feeder.

‘Mum bought this yesterday but she says she can easily buy another one. She's going to ask her friends to make a donation too. This is going to be the best tombola ever!'

By the time I saw Becky on Saturday morning I had two big bags of prizes from Sasha, Tammy and Abina's parents and their friends. That was some serious amends!

But saying sorry was difficult because Becky seemed completely normal with me, as if she'd never overheard me saying that she wasn't my friend. But I knew she had. I remembered the hurt look on her face.

All morning, as we cleaned out the pens and walked the dogs, I was trying to find the right moment to tell her I was sorry for saying what I said, but there wasn't really a chance.

I went into the farmhouse to see Sam while Becky was finishing up. It was lovely being able to hang around longer and not be in a rush because of going to Abina's. Sam seemed to think it didn't matter too much about saying sorry. ‘She knows you didn't mean it,' he seemed to say.

‘I did mean it, though.'

‘All right then, she knows you were just being stupid.'

Harsh but true, Sam.

After lunch we laid all the prizes out on Becky's kitchen table. It was completely crammed. Half of them were normal tombola prizes such as tins of peaches and supermarket showergel, but the rest were much too good for a tombola, where every 50p ticket wins. There were expensive glossy books and arty picture frames and vouchers for free facials at Beachside Beauty. There was a hamper from Healthy Ways and a gift box from the chocolate shop.

We decided to split the prizes into two sections and run a raffle as well as a tombola.

When we had organised everything for Becky's stall we went to my house to do a practice with
Dennis. I picked him up and put him on the table, like they do in the pet parade, and Becky pretended to be the judge.

Dennis got a bit edgy when Becky stroked him and I thought he might bolt, so I rested my finger gently across his nose, and he settled again. I explained how he would sit still for hours, quite happily, as long as he had his nose underneath something. That was his rabbit nature.

Becky took a penny out of her pocket.

‘Would it work with this?'

I shrugged. I didn't think so. Really I meant he liked to put his nose under a hand or foot, not have something light and small balancing on it.

Becky gently placed the penny on Dennis's nose. He sat completely still until she took it off again. I put him on the floor and gave him a bit of cream cracker. He munched it up and then licked up all the bits, getting crumbs all over his whiskers.

‘That is one happy bunny,' said Becky. ‘He deserves to win first prize.'

‘Being happy won't be enough against a beautiful pet like Heavenly Honeybun or one that's clever and well-trained like Pookie,' I said.

‘Well, it should be,' said Becky.

I had some pictures of pot-bellied pigs and Blue French Angora rabbits in my book of unusual
pets so we went upstairs to look for it. First stop, the living room. Primrose's duvet was still draped over the settee from her Saturday morning TV-fest and there was a snow-storm of tissues on the floor – she must have been watching something mushy.

Next stop, my bedroom. The super-size mug Matt gave me with the photo of Sam on it had a crust of last night's hot milk round the inside and my tiger bedspread was all crumpled up in the corner of my bed, with my wish list poking out from under it.

I whisked it into my pocket and as I did so – more wish-magic – I suddenly knew how to break friends with Sasha, Tammy and Abina without upsetting them.

As soon as Becky went, I phoned Sasha.

‘As I couldn't come to Abina's today,' I said, ‘I was wondering if you would all like to come to my house tomorrow?'

BOOK: How to Get the Friends You Want
9.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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