Authors: Sarra Manning
Tags: #Social Issues, #Death, #Emotions & Feelings, #Emotional Problems, #Juvenile Fiction, #Fiction, #Emotional Problems of Teenagers, #Family & Relationships, #Interpersonal Relations, #Dating & Sex, #Guilt, #Behavior, #Self-Help, #Death; Grief; Bereavement, #General, #Death & Dying
a note from the author
Let’s Get Lost
about three months after my mum died. I never got a chance to say
good-bye to her, so I wrote this book instead. Three years and about ten different drafts later, I
finished it and hope that it’s a fitting tribute to an amazing woman who nurtured my love of
reading and gave me all the opportunities she never had. Without her, I’d never have become a
There are no words left, so I’ll just point out that Isabel’s badges came from the wonderful
and that “Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl” is by Broken Social Scene
from their very brilliant album
You Forgot It in People
So, I’m sorry that I haven’t been here for ages.
A lot’s happened but I guess you probably know that. I’m not sure how it works. Like, can you see me all the time? If you can, that’s weird and slightly icky, especially if I’m doing something rude. But, anyway, things were bad for quite a while. Disaster movie bad. I don’t even want to get into it, not because I’m being avoidy but it’s in the past and I’ve moved on.
I got into another car crash a few months ago. I’ve really screwed up my arm so I guess that I’m not going to be a brain surgeon or a concert violinist. I think I needed to be really hurt on the outside so the hurt on the inside would realize that it wasn’t on its own and that it had to come out.
Dad was amazing. I told him everything, and he didn’t get really cold and sarcastic like he does—you remember? He pulled me out of school immediately, wouldn’t take any crap from Mrs. Greenwood or the governors. I’m going to go to college in September and maybe I’ll squeeze my A-levels into one year, maybe I won’t.
I haven’t seen the others. Even Dot. She kept calling, and Dad said I had to be straight with her and tell her why I didn’t want to see her ever again. I miss her sometimes but I don’t want to be that girl any more. I never did. Not deep down.
It’s been really nice to just chill. Grandma’s talking to me again, she taught me how to knit because it’s good therapy for my hand, and I made a cover for my iPod and I made one for Smith, too. I’ll tell you about him later. But mostly this year, I’ve been working with Dad. Or, like, I’ve been working for Dad because, yeah, he’s been amazing but he was really pissed off that I hurt all his books and he wanted compensation. And a new filing system. Payback’s a bitch.
I go to the university with him some days and sit at the back while he lectures and hear his students moan about him. Then I come home and make these really exotic meals. And I taught Felix, who says hi by the way, how to bake so we’ve been having a lot of cake.
What else? I did some volunteering at an old people’s home, but I gave it up because I didn’t like the old people. They smelled funny and most of them were loopy. Oh, come on! I haven’t suddenly sprouted wings. I’m still me.
Dad’s taking the summer off and he’s rented a place in Devon with a swimming pool. He says he’s going to write a book about some dead American novelist, no surprises there, and that Smith can keep me out of trouble. Yup, Smith’s coming, too. As my sort-of-not-boyfriend.
I’m not sure what he is, but we kissed the other night for the first time in ages and maybe I’ve finally wriggled back into his good graces. It’s taken a lot of effort, not just in knitted iPod covers or Victoria sponges. Takes more than that to make someone trust you again. Dad was easy compared with Smith.
All his friends hated me for making him miserable and lying to him. Even when I was at my most forlorn with my plaster cast accessory, they’d walk out of the room when I walked into it. I guess I deserved it, but I think they’re warming to me. Well, Molly is and she might come down to Devon while we’re there.
Jane is always going to hate my guts and the feeling’s pretty mutual and Smith . . . he’s like my best
friend, and maybe now that we’re getting kissy again, he might be my best friend with, like, benefits.
Should probably stop getting fixated on one kiss. Smith says that we went too far and too fast last time and that we have to slow down—
have to slow down. I think I’ll be eighty before we ever have sex again. And I still love him. I can’t help it. I wish I could sometimes, because it hurts when he won’t say it back. He says that he needs more time. I wonder if he sneaks into my room when I’m asleep and whispers it in my ear while I dream about you.
Yeah, I always dream about you. Good dreams. I wish I didn’t have to wake up. But I always do and the pain’s still there, but I don’t ever want it to go away because then it means that you’ve gone away.
But you’re not ever going to leave me, I know that now.
Everyone was right when they said I’d carry a piece of you in my heart and I do. And it burns so bright, the tiny corner of my heart that’s exclusively yours, that it’s turned all the terrible things we said that day into ash and all that’s left is the good stuff.
I see you all around me. I see you in Felix when he’s concentrating on his homework and his tongue pokes out the corner of his mouth. I feel you in the way my hands rub the butter and flour together when I’m baking, like you taught me. I hear you every time Dad calls me “Belle,” like you used to. A million times in a million different ways, you’re there in my heart. Don’t ever stop. Don’t ever leave.
I love you, Mum. Always.
I knew the
party was going to suck. Parties usually do, but I still had this half excited, half scared fluttering in my tummy, like there was a baby bird in there, flapping its wings and trying to take a left just under my rib cage.
I had a bath and exfoliated and shaved and moisturized, then I tried to figure out what the hell I could do with my hair. I’d had this disastrous experiment with a pair of scissors and, well, it had said Starry Night on the box and I’d been hoping that when I’d finished (after getting black splotches over every towel we possessed) I’d look like a mysterious girl from a French film who had lots of lovers and spent a lot of time in cafés debating the meaning of life. Instead I ended up looking like a total goth. I had to hack six inches off, leaving me with a ragged bob that was more Amélie than Emily Strange. In the right light.
There still wasn’t even enough hair to scoop into a ponytail, so I fashioned two bunches and fixed them with sparkly hair bobbles that I found lurking in the back of the bathroom cabinet. I sort of liked the finished effect in a strange way. It was edgy. It was striking. God, it was really time to book myself a hair appointment.
But that was merely the tip of my style dilemma as I stood in my daisy-patterned underwear in front of my bulging wardrobe and tried to decide who I wanted to be that night. I love to explore the possibilities of transforming myself from a lanky sixteen-year-old into somebody thrilling. I could do the Kate Moss boho thing. Or my Topshop version of Marissa Cooper. Rock chick was so very last year, and what had I been thinking when I bought that vintage lace dress with the rip under the arm?
I took a deep breath and padded into my parents’ bedroom. If I’d stopped to inhale, which I didn’t, I knew I’d still be able to smell the faint aroma of Calvin Klein’s Eternity. I really don’t know how
can bear to sleep in here every night, which is why he usually passes out in the study.
All her clothes were neatly arranged by color. A rainbow array of dresses and skirts hanging there with no place to go. I was doing them a huge public service just by rifling through the rails. Eventually, I found a plain black dress, which I don’t think I ever saw her wear. It was regulation-issue, with three-quarter-length sleeves that fashion magazines would describe as understated and chic. Maybe I could do understated and chic, I thought as I wriggled into it. It was meant to hug my curves, but I didn’t have much to hug, so it kinda skimmed over them and ended up somewhere just above my knees, which was odd because she’d been taller than me. But then I’d grown a lot over the summer. I dug a pair of fishnets out of one of her drawers, which accessorized perfectly with my pink kitten heels, and stole some
smudgy gray eye shadow from the dressing table.
I looked older, which was good because it meant that I might actually be able to buy cigarettes and wine without having to get into this whole thing about my date of birth and who the prime minister was on the day I was born. All I needed was some cold, hard cash to give to the nice man in the liquor store.
Getting money from my dad is a finesse job. Luckily, I have finesse coming out of my arse. I barged into his study without knocking, marched across to his desk, and held out my hand. “Give me twenty pounds,” I snapped. “I need twenty pounds. Give it to me. Now!”
My father is not like other people’s fathers. No sir. When they made him they broke the mold, probably after orders from on high. He teaches American literature at the University, which is why my little brother, Felix, and I are named after characters from Henry James’s novels. I tried reading
Portrait of a Lady
once to show willing because the heroine, Isabel Archer, is my namesake. It’s about the only time in the last two years that he managed to look even faintly pleased with me. But I gave it up after the first chapter. I mean, God, would it have killed Henry James to use a comma or, like, a period occasionally? I saw the film with Nicole Kidman in it, though. And what kind of freak names their only daughter after a poor girl who has to marry some misogynistic prick who’s only interested in her money? My father, that’s who.
Right now, he was contemplating his glass of red wine, but he looked up and blinked slowly, then blinked faster as he took in my stylish little ensemble. “What on earth are you wearing?”
“Clothes,” I explained, not wanting to get sidetracked from the mission. “Twenty pounds, Dad.”
“Are you going out somewhere, then?” he inquired archly, like he’d invented the rhetorical question.
“Yes. It’s Friday night. I’m going out, I’ll be home before eleven. Now give me twenty pounds.”
“There’s no need to be quite so shrill, Isabel.” He gave me one of his piercing looks, but after sixteen years they’ve lost their effectiveness. “And why should I give you twenty pounds?”
“Fine,” I said, like it was no big deal. “I’ll just go out and when it’s time to come home, I’ll walk the dark streets just as the pubs are emptying out because I haven’t got any money for a cab. I’m sure I’ll be all right. And even if I’m not, well, at least you’ve managed to save yourself twenty quid.”
I hadn’t even finished my Oscar-worthy speech before there were two crisp ten-pound notes fluttering on my outstretched palm.
“Now will you stop yammering and leave me in peace?”
“Consider it done,” I said, backing out fast before he had a chance to change his mind. “Have fun with the dead Americans.”
“Don’t be late,” he warned me, but I could tell that his heart wasn’t in it, and he was already reaching for his glass before I closed the door.
We sent Nancy into the liquor store to take advantage of their “four bottles for twelve pounds”
promotion because she could easily pass for twenty-one. All those tanning sessions had given her skin this orange leather look you don’t see on most sixteen-year-olds.
“Get the Sauvignon Blanc,” I demanded as I rummaged in my bag for some liquid eyeliner, because Dot was looking way too vanilla to get through the door of even the lame student party we were going to crash.
As I brandished the brush at Dot and grabbed hold of her chin so she couldn’t get away, I could see Ella pull a face at Nancy. “Can’t we just get some Bacardi Breezers?” she whined.
“Why do we have to always get wine? There’s never a corkscrew at these parties and . . .”
“Are you twelve? Do you want some candy and ice cream to go with your Breezers?”
“Ow! You nearly had my eye out!” Dot yelped, and I was forced to turn away from Nancy and Ella, who were still griping about my choice of alcoholic beverages.
I could have compromised and told Nancy to get a bottle of vodka and some mixers, but I’ve learned from bitter experience that it’s best to squash any imminent signs of rebellion immediately. “Sauvignon Blanc,” I repeated implacably. And then, because a good leader is a benevolent one, I conceded ever so slightly. “I guess you could get just two bottles and you could have red wine, if you wanted.”