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Authors: Jacqueline Wilson

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BOOK: The Suitcase Kid
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The baboon beat his chest and bellowed in the morning, but Radish and I didn't care.

WE DIDN'T ALWAYS
live in Mulberry Cottage. We used to live in this pokey flat in the middle of London when I was very little. It was noisy and there was lots of rubbish everywhere and we kept getting burgled. Mum and Dad used to talk about moving to a pretty little cottage in the country but it was always just like a fairy story.

Then one day we went for a run out in the
car and it was very hot and I got bored and started whining and they got cross with me so I howled and wouldn't shut up and Dad stopped at a little corner shop to bribe me into silence. I stopped yelling and started happily slurping my way through an icecream. Mum and Dad had an ice too, and we all went for a little walk in the sunshine. And that was when we saw it. The cottage at the end of the road. A white cottage with a grey slate roof and a black chimney and a bright butter-yellow front door. There were yellow roses and honeysuckle growing up a lattice round the door and the leaded windows, and lots of other flowers growing in the big garden. In the middle of the garden was an old twisted tree with big branches bent almost to the ground. Mum and Dad were so taken by the cottage that they'd stopped keeping an eye on me. I toddled through the gate and made for the tree because it was studded all over with soft dark fruit. I picked a berry and popped it in my mouth. It tasted sweet and sharp and sensational. My very first mulberry.

There was a For Sale notice on the fence. It seemed like we were meant to buy Mulberry Cottage. It wasn't quite in the country. It turned out to have a lot of dry rot and
woodworm and for the first year there was dust everywhere and we couldn't use half the rooms. But it didn't matter. We'd found our fairy-tale cottage.

I
found it. After all, I was the one who started yelling so they had to stop the car. It was my cottage. I was the one who called it Mulberry Cottage right from the start.

Mum made mulberry pies the first year we were there. And then she made mulberry jam. It didn't set properly but I didn't care. It was fun pouring your jam on your bread. I didn't mind a bit when it ran down my wrist and into my sleeve. I liked licking it off.

When Mum went back to work she stopped doing that sort of cooking. Dad had a go at a pie once, but his pastry was all burnt and crunchy. It didn't really matter though, because the mulberries softened it up. He didn't have another go so I just used to eat my mulberries raw.

Have you ever had a mulberry? They're better than raspberries or strawberries, I'm telling you. You have one mulberry and you want another and another and another. They stain quite a bit no matter how careful you are. You end up looking like Dracula with
mulberry juice dripping bloodily down your chin, but who cares? You also often end up stuck in the loo with a tummy upset but honestly, it's worth it.

My mouth is watering. I want a mulberry so much. I can't stand to think that there's someone else living in Mulberry Cottage now, picking my mulberries off my tree. There's someone else in my bedroom with the funny uneven wooden floorboards. I kept trying to prise them up hoping that someone in the past would have hidden treasure underneath. And I was sure there was a secret passage because the walls were so old and thick. I know I'd have found the treasure and the passage if I could only have gone on living there.

DAD CAME TO
collect me on Friday evening. I got so excited and fidgety before he came that I couldn't even sit still to watch
Neighbours
. I couldn't wait for him to get here – and yet when he tooted his car horn I suddenly clutched Mum and didn't want to go after all. It's always like that.

Dad doesn't come to the front door any more. Dad and Mum still row a lot if they're together
for long. And once Dad and the baboon nearly had a fight. They both had their fists in the air and circled round each other. Mum yelled but they didn't take any notice of her. I kept tugging at Dad but he just brushed my hand away. It was Katie who stopped them fighting.

‘Oh please stop, Daddy, you're scaring me,' she squeaked, blinking the famous blue eyes.

I can't stick Katie.

There's one really good thing. My dad can't stand her either.

‘I had another fight with Katie,' I told Dad when we were driving over to his place.

‘And who won?'

‘
I
did.'

Dad chuckled. ‘Good for you, Andy. She's a spoilt little brat if ever I saw one.'

‘Uncle Bill said I was spoilt the other day,' I said.

I'd made a fuss because I didn't get the cream off the top of the milk for my cornflakes three days running. He said we all had to take turns. I said I never had to take turns in my old house with my mum and my dad. Uncle Bill said it was about time I learnt to share. I said a whole lot of other stuff and I ended up getting severely told off. But I didn't care,
because Paula let me have the top of the milk when it was her turn, because she says she's slimming.

‘What a cheek that man's got! I don't know what your mother sees in him,' said Dad.

‘Yes, he's horrible,' I agreed happily.

‘Is he horrible to you, Andy?' Dad asked, reaching out and giving my chin a little tickle.

‘Well. Sort of.'

‘You tell me straight away if he tells you off again or does anything else horrid, OK? Get on the phone right away. It's madness your having to live with them half the time. You'd be much happier with me, wouldn't you?'

‘Mmm,' I said, and I reached for Radish in my pocket.

‘I miss you so much when you're at your mum's place,' said Dad.

‘I miss you too,' I said.

When I'm with Mum, I miss Dad. When I'm with Dad, I miss Mum. Sometimes I can hardly believe that we all used to live at Mulberry Cottage together.

‘Come here, sweetheart,' said Dad, slowing down so he could give me a hug.

I cuddled up against his chest and he kept kissing the top of my head. I felt as if I was
a juicy stretch of grass and he was a hungry sheep.

‘My little girl,' said Dad.

I love it when he calls me that. Even though I'm not little, I'm big.

He looked at his watch and gave me a squeeze.

‘We're quite early you know. Shall we go and have an icecream soda together, just you and me?' He winked. ‘No need to tell Carrie.'

Carrie is his new wife. She disapproves of anything that tastes really good, like icecream and fizzy drinks and hamburgers and chips and chocolate. She serves up the most horrible brown muck for our meals. She gives her children Zen and Crystal carrot sticks to eat instead of sweets. (They cheat though. They're always swiping Smarties from the other kids in their Infants class).

Icecream sodas are my all-time favourites. I can never decide whether I like strawberry or chocolate best. My Dad knows I always dither between the two.

‘How about two icecream sodas today? One strawberry, one chocolate?' he suggested.

‘Wow!' But I hesitated. Seeing he was in such a good mood . . . ‘Dad?' I said, trying to sound
all sweet and wheedly like Katie. ‘Hey Dad, as we've got lots of time could we maybe do something else instead?'

‘Instead of icecream sodas? Gosh! OK pet, what do you want to do? Anything for my little girl.'

I took a deep breath.

‘Could we take a little drive and go and see Mulberry Cottage?'

Dad's arm went stiff. His face lost its smile.

‘Oh Andy. Don't start.'

‘Oh Dad, please. I'm not starting anything. I just want to see Mulberry Cottage again, that's all.'

‘Why? There's no point. We're not ever going to be living in Mulberry Cottage again. There's another family living there now.'

‘I know. I just want to see it, that's all. Because I like it. And the mulberries should be out soon and we could maybe pick some and we could get Mum to make one of her pies and—'

‘Don't be silly, Andrea,' said Dad, and he started up the car and we drove off.

I didn't get to go to Mulberry Cottage. I didn't get a strawberry or a chocolate icecream soda. It wasn't fair. It never is.

FOR MOST OF
my life I was an only child. I didn't mind a bit. And then all of a sudden I get lumbered. I have five and a half stepbrothers and sisters.

There's Paula and Graham and horrible little Katie who are my un-Uncle Bill's children. Then there are Zen and Crystal, Carrie's five-year-old twins. Yes, Zen and Crystal. Did you
ever hear such dopey names? Mum fell about when she heard.

And then there's the half. Carrie is going to have another baby.

I didn't suss things out for a bit. Carrie is very thin but she often wears long droopy smocky things so I didn't really notice her tummy. But then one Friday night when I was unpacking all my things I started up an argument with Zen. Crystal isn't too bad. She's got long fair hair and a little white face and she sucks her thumb a lot. Zen bites his nails. He's going to chew his fingers right down to the knuckle soon. He's got long fair hair and a little white face too. When I first saw them I thought they were twin girls. But though Zen looks a wet little wimp he's as tough as old boots. He
wears
old boots, sort of miniature Doc Martens, and he doesn't half kick with them too. There's a big poster about the Peace Movement in Carrie's kitchen but no-one gets any peace at all when Zen's around.

He's got his old Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles poster on his side of their bunk-beds. Crystal's got one of a ballet dancer and she's started
lessons herself and keeps twirling about in her pink satin ballet slippers. Carrie tried sending her to junior karate instead but Crystal hated it. Carrie tried to get Zen to go to ballet with Crystal but he just mucked about and was silly and the teacher complained. No wonder.

Anyway
, I have to sleep in Zen and Crystal's bedroom every other week and it's a right bore. They've got their bunk-beds but otherwise it's not like a bedroom at all. Carrie lets them get all their toys out at once and they never have to put anything away. They have a tent in there too, and a weird Wendy House made out of the clothes-horse, and heaps of cardboard boxes that are supposed to be trains and shops and caves. You have to wade through all this junk to get across the room to the big cupboard. It's falling to bits and half the drawers don't fit properly, but Carrie's painted it with dragons and mermaids and unicorns and all sorts of other fairy-tale stuff so it looks quite pretty if you like that sort of thing.

I think I'd have maybe loved a cupboard like that when I was Crystal's age. I wouldn't mind one now. If I could have it back in my own bedroom at Mulberry Cottage.

Mum says it sounds as if I have to sleep in
a rubbish tip and she gets particularly narked that I don't have a proper bed. Carrie's made this weird cotton sleeping-bag that she says is like a Japanese futon. She embroidered little Japanese ladies and butterflies and birds all over the front and I thought it was specially for me and I couldn't help liking it a lot. But then I found out that Zen and Crystal's creepy little friends come to stay sometimes and they sleep in the Japanese bag too, so I went right off it.

BOOK: The Suitcase Kid
6.56Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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