Today's Reading

Where were you? Waited at the flagpole until ten past.

My phone's on silent because we're supposed to be having Quality Family Time, which means no contact with the outside world, but I catch it glowing sideways through the cushion where I've stuffed it out of sight. It's Anna. Oh God. When Mum took me home, I completely forgot to tell her I wasn't going to be there. My stomach gives a glurp of anxiety and I hold my breath as I reply.

Got picked up. REALLY sorry.

I don't want to go into the whole walking-out-of-class thing, and she's not in my geography class. I don't want to think about it at all, actually, because when I do I get that weird swooping horrible feeling in my stomach and my skin goes all fizzy just thinking about it. And I'm gnawing on my thumbnail waiting for her to reply. I'm worried that she might just think sod it, because, honestly, she could. Anytime. I have no idea why she's friends with me, because Anna's lovely. She's sort of accepted by the populars and the jocks and the geeks 'and' the funny in-betweeny ones—and even with all that she still chooses to be my best friend, even though I must bring her down about fifty nerd points in the universal school scale of social acceptability.

"No stress. But...party crisis. WTF are we going to wear?"

And with one sentence the prickly skin feeling is gone and my heart settles down with a little thump, like a stone landing at the bottom of a pond.

Mum's fallen asleep on the sofa, where Leah's lying beside her with her thumb in her mouth (even though she's thirteen, don't ask) staring at an old episode of Friends like she's about to take an exam in it. I get up, unplugging my charger, and slip out of the room as Anna messages again.

You doing anything tomorrow? Come around to mine and we can try some stuff on. I'll do your hair?


CHAPTER TWO

I love Anna's bedroom, because it's not mine, so the mess doesn't feel so messy. And she's much better at lining up her posters and she doesn't have a dressing table that looks like an explosion in a nail-polish factory. And she didn't carve the names of JLS on her mirror when she was nine, so she doesn't have to live with the reminder every time she puts on eyeliner that she used to be in love with a crap boy band. Saying that, she does have One Direction stuck on the back of the bedroom door. I know because, when the door closes, her bathrobe swings sideways and Harry Styles peeks out from under the sleeve.

"What about leggings and denim shorts?"

I pick them up from the tangle of clothes on the bed, and wave them at her hopefully.

"Too short."

We're only invited to Charlotte Regan's party because Anna's mum works in the health center with Charlotte's mum, and they're friends. They still haven't quite grasped the idea that just 'cause we were friends in nursery school doesn't mean we're going to hang out ten years later. But anyway, whatever Charlotte's mum said (something along the lines of You're only having a party if Anna and Grace come because they're so completely überdorky, particularly Grace, that there is NO CHANCE of anything even vaguely scandalous happening), we're invited to the Party of the Year.
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