Authors: Hilary Freeman
Praise for Hilary Freeman
‘Camden comes to life on the page in this engaging and fun story of friendship and celebrities . . . with characters so realistic you feel you might bump into them at
Camden Town tube!’
‘The perfect choice for teenage girls (and their mums). Warm and witty, compelling and insightful.’
‘The characters are believable and the narrative is pacy . . . a good read.’
‘A really good read . . . funny, yet realistic.’
This book is dedicated to Mickaël Lorinquer,
my boy from France,
and to the memory of our beautiful daughter,
Elodie, who was born sleeping
on 26th September 2012
and who will always live in our hearts.
First published in Great Britain in 2013
by Piccadilly Press Ltd,
5 Castle Road, London NW1 8PR
Text copyright © Hilary Freeman, 2013
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical,
photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner.
The right of Hilary Freeman to be identified as Author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
ISBN: 978 1 84812 301 4 (paperback)
ISBN: 978 1 84812 302 1 (eBook)
1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2
Printed and bound by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY
Cover design by Simon Davis
Cover illustrations by Susan Hellard
turn into Paradise Avenue and glance at my watch. It’s ten o’clock already. I’ve taken
longer than I should have. Stupid me. Xavier will probably be up and about by now and Mum will be wondering where I’ve got to. She only wanted her prescription picking up but I got distracted
in Boots, tried on some new nail varnish shades and wondered if she would notice if I bought one of them and gave her less change than was due. Anyone else would have made a quick decision but
instead I ummed and ahhed for ages, swatching the shades, waiting for them to dry, changing my mind about which colour I liked best, and at least two or three times taking a bottle from the stand,
then replacing it again. I guess I wanted to treat myself for once, even though I knew I shouldn’t. The sales assistant said the bright pink colour looked good on me, and I got as far as
queuing up to pay for it, but then I felt guilty and didn’t buy it after all. A waste of time. Stupid me.
It strikes me that something doesn’t look right. Doesn’t feel right. I must have walked up my street thousands of times since I was a little girl and, usually, I do it on
autopilot, barely noticing the familiar buildings or the cars parked outside. And yet, today, I sense something new. The street isn’t as quiet as it should be at this hour. There are too many
people about, people standing outside their homes, waiting for something, watching something. I quicken my pace, trying to see past them, past the cars, wondering if the police have finally come to
raid the art collective and throw the squatters out. But I can’t see any police, or a police car, and as I pass the collective house it is as still and silent as I’d expect at this time
on a Saturday, its windows blacked out as usual.
Now I can see that there’s an ambulance parked up at the other end of the street. My end of the street. That isn’t unusual. It’s probably one of the old ladies from the
almshouses, either being picked up or taken back from hospital. They’re always falling over, or leaving their hobs on and setting off the fire alarm. But it doesn’t explain why there
are so many people on the street watching.
Mrs Richards, one of my neighbours, is standing on her doorstep as I pass.
‘Hey, Mrs R, what’s going on?’ I ask, stopping for a moment. ‘Is it the almshouses again?’
‘I don’t think so, Victoria,’ she says, in a tone more excited than grave. ‘An ambulance came tearing down here with its siren on and lights flashing about ten
minutes ago. Someone’s been hurt. That’s all I know.’
‘Thanks,’ I say, nodding. ‘How awful. I hope they’re OK.’
As I turn to walk on, somebody grabs hold of my shoulder from behind. I jump, instinctively grasping my bag to my side, and swing around, ready to defend myself.
It’s Xavier. My first feeling is one of relief – at least it isn’t him who’s hurt. Then I notice that his face is white. He mutters something in French and I
can’t tell if he’s panicking or is angry with me.
‘Slow down,’ I say. ‘I don’t understand. Tell me in English.’
He grips my wrist, but not in a friendly way. His palm is moist and hot. ‘Where ’ave you been? I called but you did not come.’
‘I’m sorry, I was out. I had some chores to do. What’s happened? Are you OK?’
He nods, but he doesn’t seem OK. He looks scared.
A horrible realisation is beginning to dawn on me, but I don’t want to acknowledge it.
‘Come now,’ he says. ‘You must come now.’ He pulls me along, past the onlookers, steering me around the cars that are parked across the kerb. My heart is pounding. I
Now I know for certain: it’s my house that’s at the centre of the drama. My front door is wide open. The person in the ambulance must be my mum.
s you all know, your French exchange students will be coming to stay next week,’ says Miss Long who is,
ironically, about four foot nine and the shape of a beach ball. ‘And . . .’ She pauses for maximum effect. ‘. . . as you’ll no doubt be pleased to hear, the rumours are
true: due to an administrative mix-up, this year, some of them will be boys.’
There’s a murmur of excitement across the classroom. I go to an all girls’ school, you see. We don’t have the chance to meet boys very often.
‘How many of them, Miss?’ asks Lucy Reed, who is probably the loudest, most confident and – when it comes to boys – most experienced girl in our year. ‘Who’s
going to get one?’