Jade 27th August
The news ran through me like an electric shock.
"...pregnant?" I whispered. Mum looked horrified at my expression.
"Are you OK? We knew this would come as quite a shock..."
"Mum...this is brilliant!" I cried. I saw relief flood over her face.
“Is it a boy or a girl?” Charlie asked excitedly.
“A girl. Oh I'm so glad you two are OK with this!”
We had a group family hug, all talking at once. Then Charlie remembered Julie and Liam and rung them up to tell them to come round to hear the news. After all, they are practically family. Two minutes later, they were hugging us all and popping open a bottle of wine. I went to bed in a great mood.
However, this morning my good mood had dampened considerably. I was dreading Layla's party. Liam told me he would come and pick me up at six, so I had the whole day to fill, which is hard when you’re nervous about something. By twelve o'clock, I had washed and dried my hair, changed into dark blue jeans and a plain white t shirt, decided on wearing heeled black boots to please Taylor, and done my makeup. There was nothing to do but wait. But I couldn't. I flipped through a few magazines and revision books, painted my nails, tidied my desk, but that only took ten minutes.
I was considering phoning someone up for a chat when I heard Anna's car pulling into the driveway. I didn't need to look to see it was her. I can hear Anna and her car a mile off. The radio in her car is crap, yet it is always pumping out loud music like a heartbeat. Plus whenever she turns off the car, its wheels screech like a scream of someone dying horribly, as she slams the breaks on so hard.
“Muuuuuuuuuuuuuuuum!” I heard her screech as she tottered up the driveway wearing six inch silver heels and a low cut tight dress, her face plastered with makeup. I rolled my eyes in despair. Anna is the most annoying person in the world. The only people more annoying than her are Paris Hilton and Katy Price.
The door slammed and I came out my room and downstairs where she dragged me into a perfume smelling hug that made me want to choke.
“My baby Jade! Wait till you hear the news!”
“What news would that be?” Charlie asked.
“Just you wait! It's such good news!”
“Did you get another new handbag by any chance?” Charlie asked sarcastically with a roll of his eyes. Anna didn’t get it.
“Yes, I did, but that’s not the news!”
“Well, are you moving to Africa by any chance? That would be good news. Or a miracle.” Charlie said. Being a bit dim, Anna didn't get the joke again. She shrieked for mum again, pulling Charlie into the hug too. Mum looked weary as she came out of the kitchen and saw Anna.
“Anna, darling. What do we owe the pleasure?”
“Me and Brandy! We're getting married!” she cried. Charlie and I groaned in unison. We all knew it was going to happen soon, but everybody dreaded the day. I dread Anna getting married because she wanted me as bridesmaid, which would mean a hideous dress chosen by Anna as well as having to walk her down the aisle. Charlie dreads it because he hates “Brandy” (Brandon) more than anybody else, and to have him as family would be unbearable for him. Mum and Dad dread it because they will have to pay for a big fancy wedding that probably will end in divorce knowing Anna.
“That's great, honey, but don't you think it's a little soon? You’re only eighteen.”
“Oh don't start, mum! I know what I'm doing.”
“Really? So why aren't you at work?”
“...I lost my job.”
“Oh, Anna, really? How do you think you can carry on like this? You refused to stay on at school, and you promised to get a job, but now you've lost it? What did you do to lose it?”
“Well, Brandy finished uni, didn't he, so I wanted to spend some more time with him. I only missed a day or two of work...”
“You didn't even work full time! You only worked as a waitress in a café! Surely you could have waited until you had finished work?”
“Well what does it matter anyway?”
“Well for starters, how do you expect to be able to pay all your bills? Save up for this wedding of yours? I can't help you, I've already bought you that car this year, and now I'm saving up for more important things like extra tuition for Charlie and Jade.”
“It's not fair, Mum. You've always preferred them to me!”
“I wonder why,” Charlie mumbled.
“Shut up, Charlie, you little rat!”
“It's all about you isn't it? You waltz into here after weeks of not seeing you, tell us you’re getting married but can't look after yourself properly,” Charlie shouted at Anna “Didn't think to ask how any of us are. Didn't think that maybe Mum has some news too?” Anna blinked in surprise.
“What news?” she asked mum.
“Oh nothing much. Nothing as big as you and 'Brandy poo' getting married. Mum is pregnant, you self-centred cow!”
“Stop it now, both of you!” Mum shouted, “Jade is the only one being mature here. Anna, come with me, we need to talk this through. Charlie, make yourself useful and do some ironing.”
Mum marched Anna out the room and Charlie stormed off in the other direction. When I followed him he was attacking a t shirt of his with the iron. I gently prised the iron from his fingers and pushed him back so I could iron it myself. He sighed.
We were silent for a minute, but I knew how he was feeling. We have one of those connections where we don't have to say anything yet it's as though we are talking to each other. I know him better than anyone.
“Doesn't it make you...angry,” he said eventually.
“Yeah. It does. But Anna is Anna.”
“It just pisses me off that no one seems to care about other people anymore.”
“I care. I care about you.”
Charlie smiled “Yeah but that's your job. You’re my twinny.”
I shrugged “It's only the important people that count.”
“How are you so down to earth all the time? You know everything.”
I laughed “Believe me, I don't. If I did, I would sort out everything. Make your life perfect, make mum and dad happy. Probably find a way to send Anna to Africa. But like you say, that would be a miracle.”
I held up the finished t shirt for him and he hung it on a coat hanger.
“So are you coming to Layla's party tonight?”
“Yeah, if I can be bothered. Hopefully I won't see Taylor.”
“Believe me, we're all hoping deep down we won't see Taylor.”
Taylor told me she has a crush on Charlie and I told him. Now, he's doing his best to avoid her.
“I don't understand why you stay friends with her. You and Liam both don't like her, so what's the point?”
“I've been asking myself the same thing for a long time.”
Charlie looked at me sadly, as though he understood “It's not fair. I wish your life could be easier.”
I smiled again “So do I. But life isn't fair or easy, is it? Besides, there are worse off people than me.”
“Stop being all ethical and kind. It's as though you’re giving all your niceness away to everyone and there is none left to make you happy. I mean, you are voluntarily doing my ironing! I think there's something wrong with you.”
I swatted him with a t shirt and chased him up the stairs, laughing. He did the stupid thing of letting himself get trapped in a corner, and I hit him with the t shirt.
“Do you surrender?” I asked. He snorted.
“Yes! Yes! OK!” he laughed. He held up his hands, breathless.
“Alright. Now go get the ironing done. If you don't mum will eat you.”
He hopped back downstairs, grinning. I was glad to see he had cheered up a bit. I sensed there might be something deeper than today's events that were bothering him, but I'm not one to be nosey. If he wanted me to know, he would tell me.
A while later, I decided to go for a bike ride. I didn't bother getting changed and went outside to enjoy the summers day. I was just about to leave when the moving lorry pulled up outside the house across the road, closely followed by an orange camper van. I ran back into the house.
“Mum! Charlie! The new neighbours are here!” I called. Then I realised it wasn't a good time. I could hear Anna crying and Mum talking quickly in a raised voice, and Charlie was locked up in his room as usual. I decided to go and greet them on my own.
I came back outside to see a tall skinny boy with curly hair stumble out the camper van. He grinned and waved at me, and in doing so, nearly dropped the box he was carrying.
“Jeffrey! Watch what you’re doing!” a woman shouted at him, but not in a harsh tone.
“Sorry mum,” Jeffrey said with another grin as I crossed the street.
“I'm afraid I may have been a distraction,” I admitted guiltily to the woman, as I offered my hand to shake. She accepted with a smile and I realised how pretty she was. She had the air of a nice person, and her easy smile made me warm to her immediately. She had long curly hair and stunning green eyes, and on closer examination, so did Jeffrey. Jeffrey looks remarkably similar to her, and he is unbelievably cute. He wore a t-shirt that said “Who ate all the pies?” and chinos with converse trainers, one yellow one red, both covered in mud. His cheeky grin, quirky clothes and sparkly eyes made a good first impression on me.
“I wouldn't worry. He's easily distracted. I'm Kathy Grant and this is my son Jeffrey.”
“M-u-m! I've told you Jeff.” I laughed.
“Nice to meet you, Kathy, and Jeffrey,” I mocked, “I'm Jade Collins. I live just across the street. The rest of my family can't come over right now, but I'm sure they will introduce themselves at some point. We're having a bit of a family drama, you see.”
“Not to worry. So do you have a big family then?”
“Quite big. I have a twin brother called Charlie. An older sister Anna. Mum and Dad. And mum is going to be having a baby girl.”
“How lovely. A full house then.”
“Yeah. Luckily Anna has moved out now. She drives me nuts.”
Jeff and Kathy both laughed “Well it's just me and Jeff here. Jeff's Dad isn't about much anymore.”
“No need to be, dear. We ended on good terms. He wanted to travel the world, do charity work, experience different cultures. He still cares very much for Jeffrey, but his independence is important to him.”
“So how old are you Jade?” Jeff wanted to know.
“I'm fifteen. I'm going into year eleven at the high school down the road.”
“Great, me too! I'm taking history, Spanish, art and music.”
“Good choices. I do history, Spanish, music and PE.”
“What sort music do you do? Guitar? Piano?”
“I can play a bit of both of those, but actually I'm a singer.”
“I have a friend who lives down this road, and he does music. He normally accompanies me. He plays clarinet, piano and guitar.”
“My god. He must be talented.”
“He is. What do you play?”
“Guitar mostly. I can play ukulele and basic piano.”
“Cool. So do you guys want any help taking boxes in or anything?”
“That would be fantastic if you’re not too busy. Thank you.”
“My pleasure. Nothing better to do anyway.”
So I spent a couple of hours helping them shift boxes and furniture. I asked Jeff why he moved house and he shrugged.
“I didn't really fit in back home. I guess I had a few friends, but when mum got a new job up here, I decided it was a good thing. Maybe here things will be better.”
“I can't imagine you not fitting in. You seem pretty cool to me.”
He laughed “Thanks. Well at least I know I have one friend here at the least.”
“You'll love Liam. And my brother Charlie, he's hilarious.” Then I couldn't think of anyone else he might like. I began to worry that maybe Jeff wouldn't fit in here after all.
“Who's your best friend?” he asked. I sighed.
Jeff looked puzzled. “OK. Put it another way. Who would you say the friend you like the most is?”
“Liam, definitely. I've known him since birth.”
“So wouldn't that make him your best friend?”
“I suppose. There is a bit of a problem.”
I nodded, “There's a girl called Taylor. She can be really nice and sweet and she is really pretty, but...she's one of those people that like to...she's a bit of a control freak. And she decided that we are best friends, back in year seven. And no one says no to her. So that's why it's complicated. I'm not one of those people who can stand up to girls like her.”
We dropped the topic after that. A while later, we finished moving all the boxes and furniture into the house.
“Tell you what, kids. How about you fix up the attic room? You can paint it and make it into a sort of den.” Kathy told us.
“Yeah that would be cool,” Jeff said “Got any ideas, Jade?”
As it happened, I did. It was something I had always wanted to do, but my mum wouldn't let me. I quickly ran home and found a crumpled packet of balloons from a party donkeys years ago. We headed up to the attic and filled them up with paints all colours of the rainbow. Green, yellow, pink, blue, orange, red and purple paint exploded on the white walls like fireworks as we chucked the balloon grenades at the walls. Then Jeff decided the wooden floor looked too plain, so we put on old pairs of socks, dipped our feet in the paint and walked around the room. We did some finger prints in the corners of the room too, and wrote “Jeff and Jade spread awesomeness here.” It is the coolest room in the world.
Kathy came upstairs with snacks and drinks and to check out the room “Wow! This looks amazing. It'll look even better when it has some furniture in it. We can get some bean bags and stuff. Here you go guys.”
She passed us cans of coke and a half eaten packet of Jaffa Cakes. Jeff grinned.
“Jaffa Cakes are the best. It rhymes with my name. Well...sort of.”
I laughed “Jeffrey Jaffa Cake.”
“Jeff Jaffa Cake.”
“Soz,” I said, trying to keep a serious face.
“You will be.” He picked up an abandoned paintbrush and flicked paint at me. I squealed and he chased me down the stairs with the paintbrush as a weapon.
“OK! OK! I'm sorry! I won't call you the Jeffrey again! Starting...JEFFREY...now!” I couldn't stop laughing and he started laughing too. Kathy had followed us down the stairs and was shaking her head, but she was smiling.
“Your mad, both of you.”
I was still gasping for breath as I looked at my watch.
“Jesus! It's nearly six o'clock! Sorry, I have to go now. I'm going to a party.”
“That's fine. It was lovely to meet you, Jade.”
“Come over any time,” Jeff told me with a friendly wave. I waved back and hurried back to the house. I looked in the mirror and realised I had paint on my t shirt and in my hair.
“Jade? Is that you? Where have you been all day,” Mum called.
“I've been...to meet... the neighbours,” I shouted as I ran up the stairs. I took out my ponytail and shoved my panda hat on my head, which covered up most of the paint.
“That's great. By the way, Anna is staying the night, so can she have your bed?”
Great. “Sure she can. I'll camp on the couch.”
I changed my t-shirt just as the doorbell rang.
“Jade, Liam's here.”
“I know. I know.”
I rushed downstairs again and kissed mum on the cheek.
Liam smiled at me as he greeted me.
“You kept your word about wearing jeans.”
“Uh-huh. I didn't have time to change anyway.”
We started walking. Layla's house was about an hour's walk, but we don't mind. It gives us time to chat.
“Where have you been all day?”
“I went across the street and helped the new neighbours unpack. Hey, there is a boy called Jeff, he's going to be in our year. And he likes all the same stuff as me...”
Without realising it, I babbled on about Jeff for ages. Liam was smiling to himself.
“What?” I said, pausing. He grinned.
“Sounds like someone has a crush on Jeffrey.”
“I totally believe you,” he said slyly, making it obvious he didn't.
“We only met today. And besides, he isn't...err...my type.”
“You just made that up. You don't have a type. No one is weird enough for you.”
“He is!” I blurted, and then covered my mouth. Liam was laughing, and I shoved him.
“I didn't mean that, you know I didn't. Stop being so annoying.”
“Alright, alright. But seriously. Why not consider asking him to Taylor's party rather than Dylan? If you explain the situation to him, I'm sure he will be happy to go as friends with you.”
I thought about it. “Yeah, that does sound more appealing than having to ask Dylan tonight. Yeah, I think I'll do that. Thanks for the advice.”
As we turned the corner into Layla's street, I began to feel more relaxed about the party. I could see people arriving already, even though we were quite early.
The feeling didn't last long.