What's Up With Jody Barton?

Sometimes life throws you a massive curveball . . .

Me and my sister are twins. She's Jolene and I'm Jody. We've both got brown hair, we're both left-handed and we both have these weirdly long little toes which make us look like long-toed mutants. But apart from that, I'd say we're fairly different.

Well, actually, we're a lot different . . .

It's hard enough being one half of the world's least identical twins, without both of you falling for the same guy. Jolene's turned flirting into a fine art, but Jody? Not so much. And as if a twinny love triangle wasn't messy enough . . . there's something nobody knows about Jody Barton. Something BIG. Told with the trademark warmth and laugh-out-loud humour of the much-loved LOTTIE BIGGS books, this is a book that will make you think, with a gobsmacking twist you won't believe.

Buy the book: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0330523023/ ref=s9_simh_gw_p14_d0_g14_i1?pf_rd_m=A3P5ROKL5A1OLE pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=1C13P3WRJ3GT9K5156AS&pf_rd_


5. One Careful Driver

One thing i’ve learned in maths is that it’s mostly about patterns. Right back as far as Reception class, i’ve been filling my head up with them. to begin with, it was easy patterns like 2,4,6,8 ... but then,by the time i was in Year 4, i could do trickier ones like 8, 16, 24, 32 . . . and then, when i got to high school, mrs hamood introduced me to a whole load more of them. she taught me about square numbers and cube numbers and the Fibonacci sequence and kaprekar’s sequence and Pascal’s triangle and Penrose’s tiling patterns, and i could go on and on talking like this forever because you can never really run out of patterns and sequences in maths. and, anyway, you can always have a go at making up a few of your own. Or, if you’re a daydreamer like me, you can do what i do and just draw pictures in your maths book until the lesson ends.


interestingly,there is no logical pattern to prime numbers. as far as i can tell, primes appear along the number line completely at random. this is probably why i find them fascinating.


But patterns don’t just happen in maths.they happen in life too.all the time.in fact,my life pretty much follows one great big massive pattern. During the week, i get up at seven, have a shower and eat my breakfast, and then i brush my teeth and walk to school with Jolene. and when i’m there i follow a timetable which is the same every single week and then i come home and work for a couple of hours in the cafe and then i do whatever i like for the rest of the evening.and sometimes i might go to maths club – if it’s a monday – or i might work on my project with chatty chong or i might hang out with Jolene at Brent cross shopping centre or walk down to kilburn market and talk to the nice woman who sells me posters of River Phoenix and the Doors. and, even though my life might not seem fantastically spectacular, i almost never get bored. Because i like these reoccurring patterns. it means that everything in my world is ticking along nicely.


But after liam left his phone in our cafe i started to behave a bit more randomly.


Normally, i don’t do much on sunday evenings.there’s not really anything very interesting to do and there’s never anything much cop on telly.so usually i just stay in my room and play on my xbox or go to Jolene’s room and play on hers.

and sometimes, if we want to play each other but can’t be bothered to leave the comfort of our own individual rooms, we put on these hysterical wi-fi gaming helmets which my dad got cheap from Frosty Frank and zap the crap out of each other that way.


But the other sunday i didn’t do either of those things. after setting my sister up with the boy who had blown my mind, i just lay on my bed for about three hours and looked at my posters.and even though Jolene barged into my room four times to challenge me to a game of lego star Wars, i didn’t budge. in the end, i told her i had a headache and, eventually, she took the hint and left me alone.


i didn’t have a headache though. i was just discovering what the word heartache meant.


and then on monday, everything went even more random.Jolene and i were walking to school and everything was fine until Natalie snell and latasha Joy rocked up and started walking with us.Natalie snell is the hardest girl in my school and latasha Roy thinks she’s it just because she’s got bigger bazookas than Dolly Parton.


i don’t like either of them.


and they don’t like me because i’m quiet and good at maths.


they like Jolene though because she’s crap at maths and good at netball.and, to be fair, everyone likes Jolene.


Natalie snell said,‘alriiiiiight,twinny twin twinnies!’


latasha Joy pushed her bazookas out and said,‘What’s up?’


and Jolene suddenly acquired this fake gangster accent

and said, ‘heeeeyyyy, wassup, sisters?’


and i just sort of smiled and didn’t say anything because i didn’t really want them to be there.


Natalie snell ignored me and said,‘Been meaning to catch up with you, yeah, Joles. there’s this kid in my geography class that’s got the hots for you big time!tyler smith.D’you know him?’


latasha Joy pushed her bazookas out and said,‘he’s Nat’s cousin, innit.’


and Jolene laughed and said, ‘Flattered, yeah. But i ain’t interested. soz.’


and i just kept walking and looked at my feet because i hate these kind of conversations.


Natalie snell frowned.and then she said,‘What’s wrong with tyler?’


latasha Joy said, ‘Yeah, wassup with him? You got a problem with his face or something?’


and Jolene said, ‘No! there’s nothing wrong with his face. Relaaax! i’m just well into someone else right now.’


and i sighed but nobody heard me because nobody was paying any attention to me.


Natalie snell’s eyes went big and round and interested. ‘Who is it?’


Jolene said,‘he’s called liam.he doesn’t go to our school. he’s fitter than a mcFitty biscuit.’


i cringed. Jolene commits really chronic word abuse sometimes.


Natalie snell said, ‘Wow! so are you saying he’s even buffer than my own blood relation?’


latasha Joy wiggled around behind her big bazookas and said,‘aint no bloke more nang than Nat’s cousin, is it?’


and my crazy sister Jolene just laughed really casually as if she didn’t have a worry in the world and said, ‘i ain’t saying tyler ain’t good looking or nothing. cos he blatantly is. But i just ain’t into him right now. cos this liam guy is raaaaaaaw!’


and then, after a nasty moment where i truly thought Jolene might get beaten to a pulp for disrespecting Natalie snell’s blood relation, all three of them relaxed and started laughing and cackling and crowing on and on about how completely fit and buff and nang and raw liam is.


and, although i didn’t exactly disagree with them, i couldn’t easily join in. and, anyway, i didn’t want to. it seemed a bit disrespectful and tasteless somehow.


in fact, i just wanted to get as far away from all three of them as i could.


so, for the first time in my entire life, i decided to break my monday pattern and do something i’ve never ever done before in my whole fifteen years and nine months of existence – although that’s actually only three genuine birthdays, remember.


i decided to bunk off school.


i didn’t spend ages thinking it through. actually, i didn’t even think it through at all. i just pulled Jolene back by her arm and said,‘You know what – i don’t fancy going in today. But don’t say anything to mum and Dad though, will you?’

Jolene looked shocked. even Natalie and latasha looked a bit surprised.




‘i ain’t done my extended maths homework,’ i lied. ‘i don’t wanna get any grief from mrs hamood.’


Jolene frowned. ‘i didn’t even know we had any maths homework.You haven’t done any for me.Does that mean i’m going to get a load of grief as well?’


‘No,’ i said. ‘this is extended maths homework. Only me and chatty chong had to do it.’ i was speaking at about a million miles per hour. i tend to do that when i’m lying.


Jolene laughed. ‘as if you’d get any grief from her! she totally loves you!’


i shrugged. ‘i just don’t feel like going in,’ i said. and then, without another single word, i did a one-hundred­and-eighty-degrees turn and walked back towards Willesden high Road.


above the noise of the buses and cars,i heard Jolene shout after me a couple of times – but i just kept right on walking. i needed to be on my own. this can happen occasionally when you’re a twin.


there was no way i was going home though. Because i knew my mum and dad would be in the cafe and that my mum would insist on dragging me over to the doctor’s surgery the very second i tried spinning her any sort of rubbish story about being sick or something.


(FYi, our family doctor is called Dr Rash and practically every time i’ve ever had to see him, i’ve left the surgery with

a little bottle to dribble some wee in and a prescription for those pills which have to be inserted via the back door.to be honest, i’d rather just go to school.)


so i completely avoided Willesden high Road and carried on walking until i got to Gladstone Park and then i sat down on a bench and stared vacantly at the ducks.


Gladstone Park is nice. it’s a massive green space that touches the edges of Willesden Green and Neasden and cricklewood – and that’s a really good thing because we don’t have many massive green spaces.to be honest,we don’t have many little ones either. the other good things about Gladstone Park are the hill in the middle of it, which gives you a really top view of the whole of Wembley stadium – not just the arch, and the big duck pond on the top of the hill. the only bad thing about the park is that my school sometimes forces us to do cross-country running all the flipping way round it.


luckily,Year 11 doesn’t have Pe or games on a monday so i was able to sit and stare at the ducks in total peace.


i couldn’t even hear any buses for once.


i’ve no idea how long i sat there. i gave the ducks my sandwiches. they were cheese and tomato and the ducks seemed to like them quite a lot. especially the ones with the emerald-green heads.and then,after a while,i stood up and leaned against the pond railings so that i could watch the ducks push and shove each other out of the way in order to gobble up my shredded sarnies.and it was while i was doing this that i became aware of a really very weird sensatio

rolling around inside my head and in my belly. and it was because it suddenly occurred to me that being born a duck is a whole lot less complicated and a whole lot less stressful than being born a human being.even for twin ducks. after all,the biggest thing that they ever have to worry about is grabbing a piece of bread before any other duck does.


i bet they don’t ever get into a flap about love and loyalty and doing the right twinny thing. and i bet they don’t get themselves into a state because they can’t stop thinking about the wrong duck.


and after thinking that i didn’t want to look at them any more. Because being jealous of a bunch of flipping ducks doesn’t make you feel that great about yourself,if i’m honest.


so i left the park and walked back towards Willesden high Road and this meant that i had to use the footbridge that crosses the train tracks by Dollis hill tube station.and rather than walk straight across the footbridge like i normally do, i did another random thing. i walked as far as the middle of the bridge and then i stopped. Don’t ask me why i stopped because i don’t actually know. it was just another unpredictable act that followed no particular kind of pattern.


and then i stood there for about twenty-five minutes, with my chin resting on the top of the footbridge railing, and watched the tube trains coming and going beneath me. You can do this in my part of london. Because, this far out of the centre, the tube trains don’t actually travel through tubes.


and, even though i’ve always thought that trainspotters are a seriously weird bunch of people, i’m now wondering if, actually, they’re on to something very interesting. Because my twenty-five minutes on the footbridge were totally and utterly fascinating. and for a while i think i even forgot to feel messed up and confused about liam.


Very quickly, i saw a strict pattern emerging. Firstly, a train would pull slowly out of Dollis hill station and rumble away towards the West end. as it curved round a bend in the track, i could see that a few passengers were reading paperbacks and newspapers, but mostly they were all just staring into space.


and then, about two or three minutes after i’d lost sight of that train, another one, on a parallel track and heading back from cheeseburger land, would crawl into Dollis hill station and stop with a big hiss right beneath my feet.there were never many people on these trains either.


But the trains that interested me the most were the ones which passed by on a third piece of track set slightly over to one side.these were the high-speed trains on the metropolitan line, and they whizzed through Dollis hill station without even stopping. every six minutes, the track began to rattle and hum, and seconds later a blur of red, white and blue metal raced by underneath me. i’ve got no way of knowing whether the passengers on board were reading newspapers or staring into space or whether there were actually many of them or not, because the trains were moving much too fast for me to take a look inside.


But i do know that i definitely wouldn’t want to get in the way of one of them.


Because those things could do some seriously nasty damage.


and that got me thinking about just how vitally important maths is. Because without the careful sequencing of trains going in and out of Dollis hill tube station it’s fair to say that there would be total and utter carnage. But it also got me thinking about how vitally important and skilled and alert those train drivers have to be. Because they’ve got a serious amount of responsibility sitting on their shoulders. they’re the only ones who have the power to prevent a really catastrophic collision.


and all at once, i realized that i absolutely, necessarily and categorically needed to stop giving this mysterious liam aNY of my headspace at all.


in actual fact, i couldn’t even understand why i still was. it was like he had morphed into some kind of weird boomerang. i kept throwing him out of my brain and he kept flying straight back in again.


But i had to find a way of shutting him out of my head completely. Because even thinking about him was dangerous. thinking about him made me want to go out with him.


Just like Jolene wanted to go out with him.


and if i didn’t back right off,me and her were inevitably going to wind up in a really ugly and hideous collision.


in fact, if i didn’t back right off, i was in serious danger of getting myself into something i couldn’t really cope with.

so i should have stayed right away from the cafe that afternoon. i should have gone to maths club like i normally do on mondays and played lame games on the computer which have names like sonic the hexagon or super mario cartesian co-ordinates,and helped little kids in Year 7 with their maths homework.But i couldn’t do any of that because i’d skipped off school.and as i was cold and a bit bored and as it had started to rain and as i had absolutely nothing else to do, i stayed out until 3 p.m. and then i went back home.


i suppose it’s fair to say that i’m not much good at skipping school.


my mum was behind the counter when i got back. she always is on mondays. it’s my dad’s only day off, and every monday afternoon he gets on the train with Frosty Frank and they travel all the way to Romford in essex just to watch greyhounds race each other round a track. my dad reckons it’s like going to a gym but better. Because the greyhounds run much faster than he ever could and gambling is a much easier way to lose a few pounds.


like i said before, my dad is a very funny man.


my mum gave me a massive smile and said,‘You’re home early! Where’s your sister?’


and i said,‘maths club was cancelled.’and then i said,‘i don’t flipping well know where she is. We might be twins but that doesn’t mean we’re joined at the hip.’


my mum said,‘Oooh,what’s up with you?’and then she put her hands behind her back to untie her apron and said, ‘Be an angel, will you? Now you’re here, you couldn’t just keep an eye on the cafe for me while i nip across the road and top my tan up?’


‘Oh, mummm,’ i said.


‘i’ll pay you double bubble,’said my mum.‘it’s hardly busy in here.and,anyway,Jolene will be home any second so you won’t be on your own.’


and, even though i’d decided that i definitely was not going to be about when liam rocked up to collect his phone, i agreed. Because double bubble is a very difficult offer to turn down.

so i pulled an orange apron over my head,plonked myself down on a stall behind the counter and fixed my eyes on the clock on the wall.


and i waited.


at 3.41,Jolene rushed in,rushed over to me,said,‘i can’t believe you bunked off school today . . . we’ll talk about it later,’ and then rushed upstairs to make herself look beautiful for liam.


at 3.57, she came down again. she’d swapped her school uniform for her chunky’s Diner uniform and some make­up. it wasn’t ideal, but she still looked quite nice.


at 4.00, liam didn’t arrive.


‘Oh crap,’ said Jolene.‘Do you think he’s gonna come?’


i rolled my eyes.‘he said about four o’clock. it’s only four o’clock now. Give him a chance.’


at 4.32, liam still hadn’t arrived so Jolene rushed upstairs to freshen up.


at 4.43, she came down again. Personally, i thought she looked slightly less nice than she did before.


there was still no sign of liam.


at 5.06, Jolene rushed upstairs to reapply her make-up. if she’d asked for my advice, i’d have told her not to bother. she’d already blatantly overdone the black eye-gunk as it was. her eyelids were practically collapsing under the stuff. But as usual she hadn’t asked for my advice. she never does about make-up. Only about maths homework.


at 5.14, the front door of the cafe opened.


it was him!

my stomach did a somersault.


apart from Whispering Bob harris and a couple of old ladies who were taking advantage of the chunky’s Diner BOGOF on pensioner meals, it was just the two of us. my mum was still across the road at a tan for all seasons and Jolene was still putting on more make-up. Unfortunately, i was in the middle of scoffing a sneaky fried-egg sandwich. liam looked over and waved at me at the exact same moment that i stuck my tongue out to stop runny egg yolk dribbling down my chin.


i’m beginning to understand why there has never been a queue of people desperate to go out with me.


liam was wearing the moss-green parka again. i don’t believe there’s anyone in the world who looks as good in a moss-green parka as he does. Underneath it, i could see a fraction of his school uniform. But not enough to see which school he actually went to. he was wet from the rain and his trousers were soggy where they’d dragged on the ground. i could tell that they’d been deliberately unstitched at the hems to make them as long as possible. most people would look skanky in unstitched trousers like that. But not him.


he crossed over to the counter and said, ‘hi.You’ve got my phone i think.’and then he said,‘You missed a bit,’ and tapped his own chin to show me where i’d still got egg stuck to mine.


my hand flew up to my face.


liam grinned and said,‘Got you! i’m just kidding.Your face is fine.’

he was looking right at me. he thought my face was fine! i looked back at him and smiled. and in that second, i got a clear view of his eyes. even though he has River Phoenix’s face, his eyes are completely different. River’s eyes were green. (i’ve got no idea what colour Jim morrison’s eyes were because all the posters i have of him happen to be black and white.)


But liam has eyes the colour of conkers.


and his eyelashes are amazing too.You wouldn’t normally think that eyelashes could be that particularly amazing, but his are. they’re long and curly and they look nice. Jolene’s eyelashes never look as nice as his even though she uses a lorry-load of mascara.


But then i bit my lip and looked at the floor. Without risking another look at him,i said,‘actually it’s not me you want, it’s my sister. she’s just popped upstairs. i’ll give her a shout.’


liam looked surprised. ‘Didn’t sound like your sister i spoke to on the blower. sounded exactly like you.’


i shook my head.‘No, it was definitely her.We’re twins.’


‘even so . . .’ said liam. But i didn’t let him finish. i hurried over to the stAff only door, opened it and yelled up,‘Jolene, the guy for the phone is here.’


From somewhere way up higher i heard Jolene shout back, ‘Ohmigodohmigodohmigod,’ and then i heard the thump of her feet on the stairs.


Without another glance in liam’s direction, i said,‘this is her now,’ and scarpered.


Whispering Bob harris was eating ham, egg and chips in one of the window seats. i noticed that his egg had been giving him grief as well. he’d dripped it all over the table. i grabbed a cloth and said, ‘Would you like me to wipe that for you, sir?’


(my dad has told us that we must never use the name Whispering Bob harris to Whispering Bob harris’s face.We must only ever call him sir. to be honest, though, i don’t think WBh actually cares what we call him.)


WBh cupped his hand behind his ear and said, ‘speak up, son, i can’t hear you.’


i smiled. i always do when he says this. For some reason, it just totally tickles my pickles. he calls everyone son. even my mum. i waved my cloth at him and wiped his table. i was still doing this when, behind me, Jolene announced her arrival with a big cheery ‘hiya’.


i heard liam say hi back.


‘hi-de-flipping-hi,’ i muttered into my dishcloth. to be honest, i was starting to feel really crap. it’s not easy being nice and setting your sister up with a boy you’re secretly into yourself. in fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s one of the hardest things to do in the whole world. i reckon it’s even more difficult than Fermat’s last theorem – and according to the Guinness Book of World Records,Fermat’s last theorem is the most difficult maths problem in the entire history of maths. except that mr Fermat did eventually come up with an answer so it wasn’t that blinking tricky.

‘speak up,son,i can’t hear you,’bellowed Whispering Bob harris.


‘i didn’t say anything,’ i bellowed back.


Whispering Bob harris put his hand up to his mouth as if he wanted to tell me a secret, leaned forward and thundered, ‘What the heck is that one over there wearing? she’s forgotten her blinking trousers!’ and then he nodded his head in Jolene’s direction.


i turned round.


my jaw dropped open and my heart sank. I’d just made the biggest and most unselfish sacrifice of my entire life just to give her a second chance with luscious liam and she’d blown it.the stupid, stupid girl!


and then my mouth closed and my heart lifted right up.


Good, i thought. Good. Good. Good.


and then my heart sank again. Because i didn’t feel good at all. i felt guilty.


Jolene hadn’t only tampered with her make-up – she’d tampered with her clothes too.and for someone who’s had more hot dates than an african calendar she’d got her entire look totally wrong. the usual chunky’s uniform – orange apron, orange t-shirt and black trousers – had been ditched in favour of a pink crop top and a pair of silver shorts which were so short that, on first glance, it looked as if she’d just wrapped a bit of baking foil round her bum.


Beyoncé knowles could easily get away with this, but Jolene just looked stupid.


Weirdest of all, though, were the socks she was wearing. they had blue and white stripes on and were pulled up high over her knees.


Queens Park Rangers football socks.


i shook my head and moved on to wipe another table. Jolene was blatantly trying way too hard. and anyone with eyes can see that liam is not the type of person to get excited by a trudy try-hard.


Whispering Bob harris bellowed, ‘service please!’


i chucked my cloth down and went back to see what he wanted. he had the wipe-clean menu open in front of him.


i said,‘how can i help you, sir?’


WBh said, ‘speak up, son, i can’t hear you!’ and then he tapped a picture of a slice of apple pie and bellowed, ‘and custard.and a cuppa tea.’


this time my pickles weren’t tickled. in fact, i was feeling thoroughly fed up. Before i could think about what i was saying, i bellowed back, ‘No problem, son.’ and then, immediately, i felt ashamed for disrespecting someone who is older than God.then i remembered that WhB can’t hear anyway and felt Ok again.


But as i began to walk off he bellowed, ‘What the bloody hell is up with you today?’ so, to be perfectly honest, i can’t actually be sure whether he heard me or not.


liam was leaning against the counter and talking to Jolene. he had a silly grin on his lovely face. she had one on hers too.i know for a fact that there wasn’t one on mine.i opened the fridge, took out a slice of apple pie, whacked it into a dish and then slammed the whole lot into the microwave.

Being a good twin and doing a seriously unselfish thing is not something i can wholeheartedly recommend.


i heard liam say,‘You sound totally different in real life to how you do on the phone.’


and i heard Jolene say,‘Yeah,well,yesterday i had a snotty cold.’


i took a can of custard out of the cupboard, attacked it with a can-opener and pretended that it was Jolene’s head.


liam said,‘so can i have my phone back then?’


Jolene said,‘Yeah.i’m getting it now.so what’s your name then? liam what?’


i stopped attacking the can so that i could listen better.


‘mackie,’ said liam.


so that explained the ringtone then.‘Return of the mack’.


Jolene said,‘Which school do you go to?’


liam grinned and pulled a face. ‘What is this? twenty questions?’


‘i’m just asking,’ stropped Jolene.‘i didn’t realize i needed some sort of licence! Jeez!’


i smiled and set back to work on the can of custard.


liam said, ‘hey, i like your socks. so you’re a QPR fan then?’


Jolene’s voice brightened right up.‘Oh yeah,i love them. Best football team in the whole of london.’


i smiled again. in fact, i nearly laughed out loud. i have to hand it to Jolene.if there’s something she really, really wants, she makes a proper effort to go out and get it. having those words in her mouth must have made her want to vom.

liam said, ‘it’s funny that. Because you’ve got the spurs logo all over your nails.’


i closed my eyes. she makes a proper effort. But she’s also a proper muppet.


But,then again,she’s also my twin sister and listening to her massively Fail with the bloke of her dreams was beginning to make me feel pretty awkward and uncomfortable.


i turned round and said, ‘For your information, we’re a two-team family.spurs and QPR.always have been.always will be.’


‘Your dad didn’t seem like much of a QPR fan,’said liam.


‘he’s not,’i said.‘But my mum is.and Jolene and i support both.’


Jolene looked at me and smiled.and it was such a grateful smile that, for a second, i wanted to cry.When all is said and done, nobody could ever come between me and her. Not even liam mackie.


liam smiled at me too. ‘Fair enough. so maybe i’ll see you at a Rangers match one day.’


my heart stopped. had he just said that to me? to be honest, i hate football. Normally, i’d rather shave my eyeballs than watch an entire game of football. But if he was asking . . .


Jolene said,‘cool!When are they playing next? We could combine it with a burger somewhere and then maybe go on to the cinema afterwards and catch a film. i really want to see mothello. it’s a cartoon tragedy involving a massively jealous moth. i don’t know you yet, liam, but my guess is that you’d completely love it. so what do you say?’

my sister may be a muppet. But she’s an uber-confident one.


liam smiled again.and then he started to laugh.‘cartoon moths? Nah, i don’t think so. can i have my phone back though?’


the microwave pinged. i took WBh’s apple pie out and poured cold custard over it.and then i put it back in.


Jolene said,‘i’ll get your phone, shall i?’


i didn’t need to look at her to know that she was properly cheesed off. her voice had turned so frosty that she sounded like she could spit ice cubes. my sister Jolene doesn’t like being knocked back. especially not twice in two days from the exact same guy.


Without another word, she went off to get liam’s phone from the tiny cupboard underneath the stairs that my dad calls his OPeRatiONs OFFice.


liam folded his arms on the counter and grinned at me. ‘No offence to your sister,’ he said.‘she just ain’t my type.’


‘Oh,’ i said.


liam laughed again and said,‘Does she do the talking for both of you?’


i didn’t say anything.i couldn’t.my voice-box had packed up.and actually this was massively inconvenient because if it had been working i’d have used it to shout,


‘What about me,


liam? am I your type?’

But because i was speechless, i just went all hot and prickly and stared intently at the microwave and felt massively humongously and incredibly awkward.


For a moment, the only things that could be heard at our end of the cafe were the whirring of the microwave and a particularly loud conversation between the two BOGOF old ladies who were sitting close to the counter.they were so old that it’s possible they were even older than Whispering Bob harris.they were talking about childbirth.One of them said,‘Do you know what,Doreen? Fourteen hours i was in labour with my Bobby. Fourteen hours! and he had a head like an oversized watermelon. i don’t know how i managed. i’ll tell you one thing for sure, though, i ain’t ever going through all that again!’


the other old lady said,‘Well,Vee,you don’t need to tell me about pain.When i had my carol, it turned out that my trapdoor weren’t big enough.the midwife had to–’


abruptly, i rushed to the stereo and pressed play on the mP3. the sound of Johnny cash filled the cafe. my dad’s favourite. Not mine though. in my opinion, Johnny cash’s voice is shiftier than titch’s and twice as terrifying.i switched the stereo off again.


liam said, ‘hey, can’t you leave that on? Johnny cash is a dude!’


my eyebrows shot off the top of my head, but i switched Johnny cash back on again. to be fair, perhaps i’ve never really given him a proper listen.


the front door opened and, briefly, the noise of cars and buses splashing down Willesden high Road in the rain was added to the general Johnny cash/childbirth audio mash-up. i looked up and then immediately wished i hadn’t. chatty chong was walking towards me.


chatty chong plonked his school bag down on the counter. then, after a suspicious sideways glance at liam mackie, he said,‘You weren’t in maths club, yeah?’


‘No,’ i said.although to be strictly honest, i didn’t really say it. it was more of a mortified mumble.


liam mackie grinned and said, ‘maths club? Rock and roll!’


my face started burning. chatty chong shot another suspicious sideways glance at liam and then he said,‘come to think of it, you weren’t in maths either.’


i didn’t say anything. i just frowned at chatty chong and telepathically told him to clear off.


he didn’t clear off though.instead,he said,‘so what time do you finish in here? Do you wanna come over to mine after and draw some isosceles triangles, yeah?’


‘Not really,’ i mumbled.


liam’s eyes boggled.and then he leaned forward and said, ‘Oh my days! if you live that fast you’ll die young!’ and then he started laughing so hard that he had to put his head down on the counter.


i turned away and stared at WBh’s apple pie and custard. according to the timer on the microwave, it still needed another minute and forty seconds.Not that i actually needed a poxy microwave to warm anything up – i could have just

used the heat from my face.


chatty chong said,‘ain’t this a good time?’


‘Not really,’ i said.


chatty chong was silent for a second. he gave a long hard look at liam mackie and then he gave a long hard look at me.and then,after what felt like a solid hour of long hard looking, he picked up his bag and walked out of the cafe.


‘Rock and roll,’ said liam again, and then he began to sing along softly to the Johnny cash song playing on the stereo. it was a song about a boy called sue. it’s probably my least favourite song of all time.


During a quiet bit in the record,i heard the old lady called Vee ask the old lady called Doreen,‘Does your trapdoor still give you trouble even now? mine does on odd occasions.’


to my enormous relief,i never got to hear Doreen’s reply because the front door opened again. my mum was back from the tanning salon.


‘hiya, baby,’ she said, and waved at me.


‘hiya, mum,’ i said, and waved back. i don’t think i’ve ever been so glad to see her in my whole life. i didn’t even mind too much that she’d called me baby.


the microwave pinged. i took the apple pie and custard out of it.


my mum closed up her umbrella and took her raincoat off. Underneath it, she was wearing a little strappy sundress. i hadn’t noticed that she’d been wearing that earlier. But, then again, she always wears summer clothes when she’s popping over to a tan for all seasons. she reckons it helps her get into the tanning mood. as she walked through the cafe, she almost looked like cameron Diaz. Just a slightly more knackered version.


my mum said, ‘Where’s Jolene? skiving off again?’ and then she looked at liam and said,‘and who’s this handsome chap here then? a new friend?’


cameron Diaz might have the edge on my mum when it comes to looks but i doubt she could ever beat my mum in a competitive cringe-off.


‘Don’t be daft,’i snapped.‘he’s just some random customer who came in to collect his stupid phone. Jolene’s gone to get it for him.’and then i sploshed tea into a mug, picked up the molten hot bowl of apple pie and custard and got out of the way before my mum could say anything worse.


as i was putting WBh’s stuff down in front of him, i heard my mum say to liam, ‘i must apologize to you, sweetheart. my children have got shocking manners. i don’t know where i’ve gone wrong with them, i honestly don’t. and what’s your name, my lovely?’


and, unsurprisingly, i heard him say,‘liam.’ But he must have had a bit of dust trapped in his throat or something because he didn’t sound as cool as he did before and his voice had gone all croaky.


‘and you left your phone here, did you, my lovely?’


liam just made another croaking noise.


‘Well, Jolene certainly seems to be taking her time,’ said my mum. ‘can i get you a drink of anything while you’re waiting, sugarplum?’

and liam croaked,‘Yes, please.can i have a smoothie?’


‘With strawberries and banana?’


‘Yes please,’ croaked liam again.


i picked up Vee and Doreen’s empty dinner plates and carried them over to the sink. they had moved on from discussing childbirth and trapdoors, and were now noisily debating which member of take that they liked the best.


i heard Doreen say,‘For me,Vee, it’s that little mark Owen every single time. he’s got the face of an angel sent down to us from heaven.’


Vee said,‘Oh no. Not him, Dor! he’s addicted to nookie! i’d choose chubby Gary Barlow any day. he’s much more wholesome and there’s more of him to get hold of.’


and then they both started cackling into their jam roly­poly puddings.


as i passed liam mackie, i noticed that his face had gone massively red and he was looking a bit uncomfortable. i hesitated.then i said,‘are you Ok?’


he nodded.


i smiled and said,‘You don’t say much, do you?’


my mum put a smoothie down in front of liam.‘there you go, handsome,’ she said. ‘Get your kissing gear around that.’


liam’s face went even redder. For a moment, i wondered if he was actually in the process of mutating into a tomato or something – but then i remembered something vitally important. it explained everything.


‘Uh-oh,’ i said to my mum. ‘You’ve put yogurt in his smoothie. he doesn’t like it with yogurt in.’ i looked at liam and added,‘Do you?’


liam croaked,‘No ...i mean yes ...i mean i love yogurt.’and then he downed the whole thing in one long slow gulp. my mouth dropped open in utter disbelief. some people change their likes and dislikes just as regularly as they change their undies.


But then i pushed that thought right out of my head because any contemplation of liam’s undies was definitely a serious no-go area.


Just then,Jolene came back.she had a face like a trodden-on teacake. she put liam’s phone down on the counter, slid it over to him and said,‘Bye then.have a nice life.’


my mum looked at Jolene and said, ‘hi baby.’ and then she frowned and said,‘Why haven’t you got any trousers on?’


Jolene opened her mouth to answer.


my mum turned to liam and said, ‘are you leaving us already, sweetheart?’


Jolene slammed her mouth shut again.


liam croaked,‘Yes ... i mean no.’


he seemed utterly flummoxed – which was odd really because it wasn’t exactly what you could call a difficult question. me and my mum and Jolene stared at him. Out of the corner of my eye, i could see that my sister still had a face like a spat-out smartie. liam mackie put his phone in his pocket and scratched his head for a second.and then, suddenly, he looked at Jolene and said,‘i would like to see that film about the moth after all.’

Jolene looked surprised. i think i did too, to be honest. it was a helluva u-turn.


‘Would you?’ she asked.


‘Yeah,’said liam.‘i was just kidding around before.But i really want to see you again.’and then he looked over at my mum and me and said,‘i really want to see you all again.’


‘same,’ said Jolene. her face had brightened up.


liam said,‘i’ll drop by and see you after school tomorrow, shall i?’


‘sure,’ said Jolene. she was actually smiling now.


liam grinned. ‘sweet!’ and then he leaned over the counter and kissed my sister lightly on her cheek. Just like they do in France.and he was so cool about it that he didn’t even seem to care that me and my mum were watching.


and i just stood there wondering what it felt like to be kissed by him.



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