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Authors: Jacqueline Wilson

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BOOK: The Suitcase Kid
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MUM STILL SAID
I couldn't go back to Dad's Dad got on to his solicitor. We had to have another family counselling session. It was the same lady, the one with the mummy doll and the daddy doll and the bricks to make House A and House B.

‘Hello Andrea. How's Radish?' she said.

I just shrugged, but I was impressed that she'd actually remembered Radish's name.

Mum and Dad ranted on and on. I didn't say much at all. Neither did Radish. The lady kept looking in my direction and asking me what we thought. We shrugged so often our shoulders ached.

It was quite good fun hearing Mum slagging off Carrie and Zen and Crystal and it was quite good fun hearing Dad slagging off the baboon and Paula and Graham and Katie but it was no fun at all hearing them slagging off each other. I started to get my sore throat back, and I felt sick and I had a pain in my tummy. I went off to the toilet down the corridor to see if that might help the pain. I crept back and listened for a bit outside the door.

‘How do you think Andrea's coping with all this?' said the lady.

‘It's awful for the poor little lamb,' said Mum.

‘Yes, it's really unsettling her,' said Dad. ‘Though when she's been with me a few days she calms down – and by the end of the week she's almost her old happy self.'

‘That's because she knows she can come back to me soon.'

‘That's absolute rubbish! The poor kid's been missing me dreadfully, she says so herself.'

‘Have there been any behaviour problems at all?' asked the lady.

I tensed a little.

‘She's always fine with me.'

‘We get on like a house on fire, always have done.'

‘It's just that the school says she's rather withdrawn and isn't doing very well at her lessons.'

‘What do you mean, withdrawn? She's always been very outgoing and she's got heaps of friends.'

‘And she's extremely bright, nearly always top of the class.'

‘Yes, of course, but she has had quite a lot to cope with recently.'

I nodded bitterly behind the door.

‘Children in these circumstances often develop worrying little habits which show they're under stress. They get whiny and demanding. They bite their nails. They often wet the bed.'

‘Cheek!' I whispered. ‘I do
not
wet my rotten old beds.'

‘Sometimes they start stealing, but it's not as serious as it sounds. It's simply a way of looking for affection, taking a few treats because they feel very hard done by.'

‘Oh dear,' said Mum, her voice catching. ‘You see the thing is, Andrea has started taking a few things recently.'

‘What????'
I whispered. ‘I haven't! I'm not a thief! What are you
on
about, Mum?'

‘Well, Andrea's never stolen anything when she's with me. So it just shows she wants her dad.'

‘It's not really stealing. And she takes such silly things. Things she can't possibly want. It's not as if she helps herself to money or chocolates or anything like that,' said Mum, sounding nearly in tears. ‘I haven't said anything to her, but I've been getting really worried. It started off with her taking my Sellotape. And then she took one of Bill's cassettes. I knew she doesn't like his music so I thought she was just trying to be annoying. But then she took Katie's video case. That's what's really puzzled us. She doesn't like that video, the
Watch with Mother
one, the Andy Pandy puppet gets on her nerves. But she didn't take the video, just the
case
. What in the world would she want the case for? It doesn't make sense.'

I stuck my tongue out at the door. It made perfect sense.

‘Perhaps she just wanted to annoy Katie?' said the lady.

‘Perhaps,' said Mum. ‘She certainly doesn't get on with her. They're always fighting.'

‘She fights a lot with Zen and Crystal too,' said Dad, ‘but if only Andrea could be with us for longer then I'm sure she'd put down roots and we'd be like one big happy family, especially when the new baby's here.'

‘She needs to be with me,' said Mum. ‘She can't cope with the idea of a new stepsister, she's talked about it to me.'

‘Yet she's already having to cope with five ready-made siblings,' said the lady. ‘You can't expect Andrea to get on with them. She doesn't want to be with them, she doesn't want to be with your new partners – she simply wants to be with you two.'

I nod, clutching Radish.

‘And of course that's not possible.'

It
is
.

‘I wonder where Andrea's got to? I'd better go and look for her.'

I take my cue and go back into the room. They all three give me big false smiles. I don't smile back. I still don't say anything. They think they've sussed me out but they know nothing.
And they're wrong about my new brothers and sisters, as a matter of fact. I don't think much of Zen but Crystal's OK, she can be quite sweet sometimes. I detest and despise little sugar-mouse Katie but Paula's funny, though she gets narked with me when I use her drying tights as a slide for Radish. But the best one of all is Graham. We are now mates.

He kept out of the way as usual for a few days and then he suddenly waylaid me on the stairs.

‘I've got something in my room for you,' he muttered.

It was a boat. He'd made me a real little Radish-sized boat out of pieces of wood carefully nailed together and then painted. There's a real sail made from an old hankie and a little red ribbon flag on top.

‘This one floats,' said Graham. ‘I've tried it out in the bath. And it'll take one passenger easily.'

‘Oh Graham!' I gave him a big hug. He went very pink and his glasses misted over. ‘It's a lovely boat. It must have taken you ages. Why did you do it for me?'

‘Because I like the way you keep bashing Katie,' said Graham, grinning. ‘I can't stick
her either. She always used to get on to me and tease me and muck up my stuff. Now she leaves me alone because she's got you to plague.'

‘Yeah, it's not fair. And I can't ever get away from her.' I considered, my head on one side. ‘It's awful sharing a room with her. Tell you what, Graham, I could come in here with you sometimes, couldn't I?'

‘Oh, this is too small for two people what with my computer and everything,' Graham stammered, blinking anxiously.

‘It's OK. I've got my own secret place where I go actually.'

‘The bathroom?'

‘No, much much better than the bathroom. I go there after school. That's where I'll sail my boat. Thanks ever so much, Graham. Here, we're mates now, aren't we, you and me?'

‘Yes OK, if you like,' said Graham.

I do like. And so does Radish. She liked the video vessel very much but she
adores
her real sailing boat. She'd sail the lake all day long if I let her.

KATIE KEEPS ME
awake half the night. She won't have the light out for a start. Well, she'll switch the main light off but she's got this little china lamp in the shape of a toadstool with all these dinky rabbits and squirrels perched on little china chairs inside (Radish squeezed through the little door and tried to make friends but they didn't want to know). The lamp glows all night long, and
then Katie has her own torch and she nearly always has her television on too. She turns the sound down low but the picture goes on flickering.

The only way I can find a bit of proper dark is right under the bedclothes and then I nearly suffocate.

‘Switch that stupid set
off
!'

‘It's my telly. It's my bedroom. I can do what I want.'

‘I'll tell my mum.'

‘I'll tell my dad.'

‘I want to go to sleep.'

‘Well
I
want to stay awake.'

‘Look, I'm turning it off, so tough titty,' I said, jumping out of bed and switching off the set.

‘And
I'm
turning it on, so tough titties with knobs on,' said Katie, bouncing out of bed and switching it straight back on.

She likes it when we have these long arguments late at night. She likes to stay wide awake. Sometimes I have a bad dream and I wake up at two or three in the morning and if I look over at Katie's bed her eyes are nearly always open, big and blue and unblinking.

It's not that she can't go to sleep. She fights terribly hard not to. She almost never lies down comfortably. She sits up with all her pillows propped behind her. She eats biscuits and drinks a lot of water so she has to keep nipping along to the bathroom. She even wears an old angora jumper under her pyjamas. It's so tight and tickly it does a splendid job keeping her awake.

‘You aren't half a baby, Katie. Ten years old and scared of the dark.'

‘Oh, I'm scared am I?' said Katie, and she touched the volume control on the television. She was watching one of those awful
Nightmare
films and just the sound of the creepy music made me put my head back under the covers.

It was my mate Graham who helped me suss things out. He gets a bit fussed and fidgety if I barge into his bedroom but we sometimes have these little chats on the stairs now. He used to share a bedroom with Katie when they were both little so he knows what it's like.

‘She didn't have a television then so she used to make me play all these games with her and then we'd have to take turns telling ghost stories and whenever I fell asleep she'd
pinch me and once she hit me so hard with her torch I had a black eye in the morning
and
I got into trouble with Dad for it because he said I was a right little wimp if my kid sister could get the better of me in a scrap,' Graham said, sighing.

‘Doesn't she get tired like other people?'

‘Yes, of course she does. Haven't you seen the dark circles under her eyes? And she sometimes falls asleep at school.'

‘So why won't she go to sleep at night like anyone else?'

‘Because she's scared.'

‘But she
makes
herself scared, watching all those horrid videos.'

‘No, that's to keep her awake. She's scared of going to sleep.'

‘Mm?' I stared at him. ‘What's there to be scared of in going to sleep?'

Graham fidgeted quite a bit. He screwed up his face several times and took his glasses off and polished them.

‘She's just scared, that's all.'

‘But what
of
?'

Graham's eyes looked very strange and bare and pink without his glasses. They blinked a lot.

‘When our mum died they told us she'd gone to sleep,' he said, swallowing. ‘Paula and I knew she'd been ill and then we knew she was dead. But Katie was just this little squirt and she didn't know what dead meant. So they said it was just like going to sleep. They meant to be kind but she got very scared of going to sleep after that.'

‘I
see
.'

‘Andy?'

‘What?'

‘Don't tease her about it, eh? I mean, I know she's a right pain, she's my own sister and yet I can't stick her, but all the same, don't go on about it.'

‘I won't.'

And I didn't. That night I didn't even moan when she kept bumbling about the bedroom hour after hour. I settled down and went to sleep myself. I woke up about midnight. I looked over. Katie was still awake, sitting bolt upright staring at the television screen.

‘Katie.' I reached out and touched her. She was icy cold. ‘Hey. Why don't you switch that off and come in my bed for a cuddle, eh?'

She paused. There was a little silence. Then she gave a sniff.

‘What on earth makes you think I want to come in your bed, Andy Pandy? You're so big and fat I'd get squashed flat in five minutes.'

I
still
didn't tease her. But I didn't half want to.

I DON'T LIKE
Old People. They really get on my nerves.

BOOK: The Suitcase Kid
10.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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