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Authors: Jacqueline Wilson

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BOOK: The Suitcase Kid
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Miss Maynard is old. She's my headmistress. I had to go and see her the other day. She started off being quite matey and she even offered me one of her special toffees but then she started in on me.

‘It's just not good enough, Andrea. Your schoolwork's gone to pieces this year. You don't
hand your homework in on time, or you don't even bother to do it. You don't have your P.E. kit for your lessons. You don't bring a proper sick note when you've been off school. What's going on, mmm?'

My teeth got jammed in this huge wodge of toffee so I could only manage to urgle-urgle in response. Anyway, how could I explain properly? I'm so busy flitting from my mum's place to Dad's and back again that I leave half my stuff behind. I hand Mum my P.E. stuff to go in the wash and then I forget to take it with me to Dad's. It's no use expecting Carrie to do it. She washes but she doesn't ever iron anything and I get teased when I'm at Dad's because my school blouses are all crumpled and once they went shocking pink because Carrie shoved my stuff in with Zen's scarlet sweater. Carrie didn't even say she was sorry. She said she thought the pink shirt looked lovely with my bottlegreen uniform, much better than boring old white.

I don't always bring a sick note because I forget to ask Mum or Dad . . . and maybe just occasionally I'm not exactly sick, I'm just staying off school because I've got fed up with it.
No-one knows. I pretend to Mum or Dad that I'm going to school and I get on all the right buses but I don't always get off in the right place. I slope about the town instead. Sometimes I go to the garden in Larkspur Lane and Radish and I spend hours and hours there. She sails backwards and forwards across the lake and then she treks through the jungle or climbs the north face of Mount Mulberry . . .

‘Andrea!' Miss Maynard put her thin wrinkly face close to mine. ‘You've gone off into a daydream! For goodness sake, girl, you must stop this silly habit. I know things have been difficult for you at home.'

‘I haven't
got
a home any more. Mum and Dad—'

‘Yes, I know. And I do sympathize. But I can't help thinking you're making a rather unnecessary fuss. You know as well as I do that lots and lots of parents divorce and move house. It's very upsetting, but it's not the end of the world. We've been making allowances for you long enough, Andrea. Now it's time you started pulling yourself together.'

She gave my shoulders a little shake as if she was really pulling me together. I felt that if she went on pulling I'd go twang like elastic.

Mr Roberts is old too. Really old, with white hair and whiskers, but he still serves in his sweet shop though he can't bend any more because he says his knees have gone. You can't see whether they really have gone or not because of his corduroy trousers. Bill the baboon doles out pocket money on Saturdays. I get it too when I'm around, and then we all go down the road to the local shops. Paula's always fussing about her figure so she doesn't go to Mr Roberts' sweet shop, she buys tapes and magazines from the newsagent's on the corner. Graham and Katie and I go to the sweet shop.

‘Hello, my darlings,' Mr Roberts says as soon as he sees us. He's always twinkling and stroking his beard. You expect him to go Ho-ho-ho like Father Christmas.

Graham is very shy with most people but he gets quite chatty with Mr Roberts. But it's Katie who is the favourite. Naturally. She twirls about the shop like a sugar-plum fairy and Mr Roberts chuckles and claps and calls her his Little Precious and his Cute Little Sweetheart. He always lets her have a free go in his Lucky Bag, five pence a dip.

He offers me a free go too but I just stick my nose in the air and say no thanks. I have to
buy my sweets and chocolate from him because there's nowhere else to get it, but I'm not going to make friends.

Mr Roberts and I are deadly enemies. The very first time I went into his shop with Graham and Katie he looked me up and down and then he whispered to Katie, ‘Who's the Jolly Green Giant then?'

It was a loud whisper and I heard. Katie sniggered and snorted and even Graham smiled. He said later that Mr Roberts just called me that because I was wearing my green school raincoat. Rubbish. It was a studied insult because of my size.

The grannies and grandads are all old too. I can't stick any of them. I have my own Nan and Grandad but they live in Canada with my auntie so they're no use. They're Dad's mum and dad. Mum's mum and dad are dead so they're no use either. It's not fair, because Paula and Graham and Katie have got two full sets of grandparents and they're always coming to see them, and Zen and Crystal have a granny and grandpa too.
They
aren't too bad, because they took me to the zoo with them, and we all got icecream and an animal colouring book. Paula and Graham and Katie's lot
are awful. The baboon's parents are squat and hairy like him, even the granny. I'd hate to kiss her because she has a moustache. But the worst ones of all are the other gran and grandad. They used to help look after Paula and Graham and Katie after their mum died. They still come and visit a lot. They don't think much of my mum. They keep going on about the past, and how devoted Bill was to his first wife, and Mum gets very pink in the face. They practically ignore her. And me. You will never believe this but when they come on a visit they always bring presents for Paula and Graham and Katie. Sometimes they're really big presents, new clothes or books or records. Sometimes it's just boxes of chocolates. But whatever it is, I don't get anything at all. Not a sausage.

Mum got pinker than ever, pinker than my spoiled school shirts, and eventually I heard her ask the gran and grandad if they could include me in the present-giving so that I wouldn't feel left out.

‘But Paula and Graham and Katie are our grandchildren,' they said. ‘Andrea's nothing to do with us.'

Well, good. Catch
me
wanting anything to do with
them
.

DAD'S GOT A
camera. We're back to the old routine now. One week at Mum's. One week at Dad's. You know. As easy as A B C. Carrie was a bit huffy at first because she'd had a social worker round to check up on things.

‘And she said everywhere is spotless,' said Carrie. ‘You tell your mother that. We might be a bit untidy, but the flat is perfectly clean and she said that Zen and Crystal are delightful
intelligent children who have obviously had a lot of loving care and stimulation.'

The delightful and intelligent twins were having a fierce pillowfight as she spoke, lovingly and carefully stimulating the pillows until they both burst simultaneously and scattered a snow of feathers.

Carrie just laughed. Even Dad didn't get cross. He got his camera and took lots of photos.

‘You'll wear that camera out before the baby's even born,' said Carrie, still laughing. She turned to me. ‘I bought your dad this second-hand camera so he can take lots of photos when the baby's being born. Won't that be lovely?'

I stared at her. I know how babies are born of course. I didn't think they were going to be the sort of photos you could put in a silver frame and prop on top of the television set.

Dad saw me looking doubtful.

‘I want to take lots of photos of my number one daughter too,' he said. ‘Come on, Andy, give us a smile.'

I gave him a smile. And then another. And then I put my hand on my hip and gave him a little wave. Then I pointed a toe. Then I pirouetted round the room, Dad going
snap snap snap
.

‘That's the girl, Andy. Hey, that's great. You've really got the idea, haven't you?'

It was wonderful. I felt like a film star. Crystal came and joined in and she smiled and waved and pointed too, but she didn't do it as naturally as me. And Zen was hopeless, galumphing about and pulling hideous faces at the camera.

‘No, Andy's the star model,' said Carrie. ‘Here, let's dress her up like a real model, eh? Come and help me choose some clothes, Crystal. And we'll make her up and give her a posh hair-do. Would you like that, Andy?'

I liked it enormously. Carrie dressed me up in one of her long droopy fancy frocks and Crystal draped a shawl round my shoulders and stuck a ring on every finger. Carrie stroked dark shadow on my eyelids and purple lipstick round my mouth and then brushed my hair up into a crazy kind of bun. Crystal squirted me all over with scent even though it wouldn't show in a photograph.

Then we had a long, long, posing session, Dad snapping away until he eventually ran out of film. He developed the photographs himself, blundering round the bathroom in the pitch dark. I couldn't wait to see the finished
photographs. I felt as if I'd been transformed into this new grown-up magical pretty person. I looked for her in the photographs – but I just saw myself, looking a bit funny in a long frock with stuff smeared all over my face.

‘I don't like them. Tear them up, Dad. Ugh, I look awful,' I said hastily.

‘No, they're very good. The lighting's a bit haywire and you're out of focus here and there, but on the whole they're great,' said Dad.

‘
You
look great, Andy,' said Carrie. ‘You know what? You'll have to be a fashion model when you grow up. You're nice and tall already. Fashion models have to be very tall.'

I didn't know that. I thought about the idea. Maybe the photographs weren't too bad after all.

Dad gave me some copies to show to Mum when it was her turn to have me.

‘Oh for Heaven's sake!' said Mum. ‘Look at the way they've got you up! You look awful, Andy. All that dreadful make-up. And you're wearing that Carrie's clothes. Why on earth couldn't your father take some proper photos of you in your own clothes, instead of all dolled up like a dog's dinner.'

‘I was being a fashion model, Mum. Carrie
said I could be a model when I grow up, she did, Mum, honestly.'

‘She would,' said Mum, shuddering.

‘Fashion models aren't
fat
,' said Katie, poking me in the tummy.

‘I can go on a diet when I grow up,' I said, but I was starting to wish I hadn't taken the photos with me.

But then Paula came and had a look.

‘Don't you look grown-up, Andy? No-one would ever think you were only ten. You look almost as old as me.'

That pleased me quite a lot.

And then Graham had a quick shuffle through the photos too.

‘Don't, Graham. I look such a twit,' I said, going hot.

‘Yeah, you said it, Andy Pandy,' said Katie.

‘I think you look pretty,' said Graham.

That pleased me even more.

‘
WHAT'S MISS MAYNARD
on about in this letter, Andy? She's moaning about all your dental appointments, saying it would be better if you could go after school. But you haven't
had
any dental appointments, have you? You went for a check-up in the summer and you didn't even need any fillings. So what's going on, Andy?
Andy??
'

‘How did you do in your English test, Andy? And how's the old arithmetic getting on? Why won't you let me see your schoolbooks nowadays? You are still top of the class, aren't you? Andy, what's the matter?'

‘Come along, Andrea, answer the question. It's no use looking at Aileen, she's not going to tell you. You weren't paying attention, were you? It's simply not good enough. Do you want to end up a complete dunce, is that it?'

‘Who's been mucking around with my tights? They're all wet and soapy. You've been messing about with your little rabbit again, haven't you?'

‘How are things working out for you and Radish, Andrea? Do you mind going from House A to House B and back again?'

‘Do you know what time it is, Andy Pandy? Time to go home. Only you haven't got a home any more, have you?'

BOOK: The Suitcase Kid
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ads

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