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Lola And The Special Talents

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They say everybody has their own special talent. But they also say some people can go their whole life without finding out what it is! I have absolutely no intention of doing that. I’m always on the look out for what my secret special talent might be.

I’m twelve years own and my name is Lola. My Mum is called Karen. She works as a receptionist in the hospital. Her special talent is dealing with people. She’s good at calming unhappy people and soothing angry people. My Dad is called Jeremy. His special talent is making cakes. Sometimes when I get home from school I find he’s baked a whole tray of fairy cakes. Sometimes it’s chocolate cake.

I also have a brother and sister. My brother, Carl, is five and he doesn’t have any talents. Unless you count running around the house screaming fit to burst my eardrums as a talent. Which I don’t.

My sister Sal is fifteen and her special talent is doing people’s hair. She loves sculpting it into weird and wonderful styles.

And then there’s me. Lola.

As I walk along the road to school, I’m thinking about the secret talent I don’t know I have yet.

And I’m wondering… How is it some people know what they’re good at right from the word GO!…

And here I am at twelve years of age and I still don’t know what my talent is.

I wouldn’t even know I had one if I hadn’t listened to an interesting programme on the radio. This woman said absolutely everyone in the world is good at something, even if they don’t know it.

And from then on, I decided to watch people to see if it was true.

And it is!

Even Wilber Hill, who is in my class at school, has a talent. His talent is being annoying. He is also good at passing notes in class without being detected. This is a useful talent, which I don’t have.

As I walk along, I think of my best friend Cat. Her special talent is being nice to people. She manages to be nice to everyone, even disgusting people, like Wilber Hill and our horrible teacher, Mr Frederick.

I wonder what Mr Frederick’s special talent is? I decide it is detecting people who are trying to surreptitiously sneak into school late. He has detected me on many occasions (I am late quite often.)

Perhaps that is my special talent: Being Late?

And I think how depressing that would be.

As I am thinking these things, I discover I am late once again, so I run all the way to class. Mr Frederick glares fiercely at me from beneath bushy black eyebrows. I try to smile sweetly, but I think it was more of a nervous grimace.

“Late!” he sighs, wearily. “Three times this week, Lola.”

I nod. “Sorry, Mr Frederick.” And I slip quietly into my seat beside Cat. As I do so, I notice there is a girl standing beside Mr Frederick’s desk. She’s small and dark and as I look at her, she looks back at me.

“We have a new girl,” Mr Frederick says, unnecessarily. “She’s from Greece. Her name is Alexandria…” He squints down at a piece of paper in his hand. “Alexandria…”

The girl steps forward. “Alexandria Malamatos, but I want to be called Lexi,” she says, expressionlessly. I decide her special talent is the ability to talk like a robot.

“Ah yes. Lexi. Well, Lexi. Now… Let me see, who can I get to look after you?” Mr Frederick scans the room. His eyes rest on me. “Lola.”

I groan internally. I hate looking after new girls. Particularly new girls who look so cool and collected and tell the teacher they want to be called Lexi. What kind of a name is ‘Lexi’ anyway?

“So,” goes on Mr Frederick. “Cat, you’ll sit next to Maria. And Lexi can go and sit next to Lola. Lola, you will be responsible for showing Lexi around and making her feel at home.”

I really want to cry now. Cat and I have always sat together and we have never, ever, not once been separated! Now who will I have to pass notes to? I sigh as Lexi slips in beside me.

“Hello,” she whispers.

I bare my teeth in a greeting. It’s supposed to be a smile, but it probably looks fierce and angry, which is how I feel. I watch as Lexi brings out her exercise books. I see she has written all her homework down in Greek. It looks an interesting language.

And I look at Lexi and I wonder…

If maybe, possibly my special talent could be learning to speak Greek. I decide I will order a course of Learning to Speak Greek CD’s from the library!

I ask Lexi over to my house. I would have asked Cat, but she has a trombone lesson this after noon.

Lexi smiles and nods and seems to look like she wants to come, but she doesn’t say very much.

In my house, she livens up a bit. Sal asks if she can try a cool new hairstyle out on Lexi and she agrees. So Sal brushes out Lexi’s curly brown hair and pretty soon the room stinks of hairspray.

Lexi doesn’t seem to mind. She just smiles and smiles at her reflection in the mirror. I decide Lexi’s other special talent is to resemble a Cheshire cat.

It’s very difficult to have a conversation with Lexi. She mostly sits there silently. I ask her about Greece and what it’s like. She says it’s hot and there are lots of goats around. I ask her if she kept goats. She said she did. I ask her why she came here. Not in a nasty way, just out of interest. Lexi doesn’t answer, she just dissolves into tears. I feel guilty for making her cry, but how was I to know?

Thankfully, Sal manages to cheer Lexi up. I don’t know how she does it. Maybe Sal’s other special talent is dealing with people, like Mum does?

Around dinner time, Lexi goes. I watch her walk down the path and along the road and I decide I don’t like Lexi. Not one bit.

“That’s a very nice girl,” Sal remarks. “You should bring her round again. She seemed to enjoy herself.”

Which just shows Sal’s special talent is being generally clueless.

*





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I am running and my feet are pounding along the pavement. And I’m looking at the white circles of chewing gum. I’m wondering why people are so lazy they can’t even put their gum in a bin. It’s not as if there aren’t plenty of bins around.

And I wonder if anyone can ever get the chewing gum off? It seems to stick fast.

I’m so busy looking at the chewing gum and wondering about it that I suddenly realize I am late for school.

Again.

So I run all the way and arrive panting.
“Late,” snaps Mr Frederick.

I make a kind of que sera sera face. He stares sadly at me and writes my name down in the late book.

I am looking forward to sitting next to Cat, since I want to tell her about Lexi bursting into tears.

But when I get to my seat, I see Lexi sitting next to me.

And I remember that Cat and I are not sitting next to each other anymore.

And I bite my lip and slide into my seat.

I wish Lexi was back home in Greece.

To make things worse, everyone else seems to like Lexi. Maybe it’s because she’s from a foreign country? Everyone hangs round her during break time. She laughs and giggles and shares sweets with them. She offers me one, but I refuse.

Cat and I sit on the playground wall and we read our books. Cat and I both love reading. The books we like to read best are by an author called Sylvia P. Higgins. She writes books about a girl called Jane. Jane seems an ordinary school girl, but in secret, Jane is a world famous model, who goes under the pseudonym of Silver. But Jane desperately wants to lead a normal life, so she keeps her job a secret. Oh, and she also solves mysteries.

I have learned it is surprising how many mysteries there are to solve in the world of modelling.

Lexi and her crowd of fans move kind of near to us. I see Lexi scanning the titles of our books.

I bet she’s never even heard of the Silver series.

The bell rings, shrill and piercing. It’s the English lesson next. It’s my favourite. We have a really great teacher called Miss Moore. She gives us homework to do that involve lots and lots of writing. I love writing. It’s my favourite thing to do ever.

As Cat and I walk into school, Cat says: “I wish I was sitting next to you. Mr Frederick put me next to Wilber Hill.”

I make a sympathetic noise, and I realize, no matter how bad Lexi is, I prefer her a thousand times to Wilber Hill.

And as I sit next to Lexi and watch her scribbling in her exercise book, I wonder why I don’t like her.

She’s good at art. She’s drawing some realistic looking mountains, at the moment, and a girl who looks like she’s herding goats. The girl looks really unhappy.

I wonder who the girl is meant to be?

Can’t be Lexi. She’s happy enough. Everybody likes her, especially Mr Frederick, who doesn’t like anyone!

And I look at Lexi’s drawing and I wish I could tear it up. I don’t know why, I just want to hear the sound of paper ripping and see the look on Lexi’s face when she realizes her precious drawing is destroyed.

*





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*

OK, it’s OFFICIAL. My week cannot get any worse. It can’t. Not unless my entire family are wiped out by nuclear war and my hometown is turned into a minefield. That would be quite bad.

But, barring that, my week cannot get any worse.

As if sitting next to a strange, silent new girl isn’t enough, plus there’s the fact the library still haven’t got my Greek CD’s in and now Cat is going on holiday. To the Bahamas.

Yes. The Bahamas.

I am picturing sunshine, turquoise waves and dolphins!

And I suppose I’m jealous that it’s Cat, not me, who gets to go there.

I find it amazing Cat’s parents just snatch her out of school to take her on holiday. My parents go mad if I miss even one day of school!

Which is strange, as I don’t learn very much there.

“When are you leaving?” I ask Cat, as we walk to school together.

She shrugs kind of sadly. “Tomorrow,” she replied.

I want to know why she’s so sad when she’s the one who will be sunbathing. Likely on the deck of a ship with lots of dolphins swimming around.

“I’m sorry, Lola,” she says. “I wish you could come with us.”

“Me too,” I reply.

We arrive at school. “Late,” groans Mr Frederick, predictably. “May I suggest you get yourself an alarm clock, Lola?”
I try to tell him Carl threw my alarm clock into next door’s goldfish pond when he had one of his tantrums. I haven’t got round to replacing it yet, due to not having any money. Mr Frederick does not seem very sympathetic.

Cat and I go and sit down.

I think about how it’s going to be tomorrow, once she’s gone.

And I realize…

I am going to miss her.

Because now I will be all alone in the playground, when everyone swarms round Lexi, I will be standing by myself in the shadows.

And I don’t think that is a nice thought.

So I try to forget it.

But it’s still at the back of my mind, niggling. Boring into my brain, like a drill. I try not to pay it any attention, but the more I try, the more I feel it there.

Now it’s sitting like a heavy stone in my heart.

I know it’s not forever.

I know Cat will come back.

But, believe me, when you’re standing all alone and no one is being nice to you, it feels like forever.

After school, I go round to Cat’s house to say goodbye. She hugs me and I hold onto her as long as I can. She smells of honey and jasmine and exotic places.

I wonder what I smell of? I guess it’s hairspray, since Sal is constantly practicing hairdressing on me, which gets annoying after a while.

“Goodbye, Lola,” Cat says, and I can tell she’s trying to sound cheerful.

“Have a good time,” I call, as I walk away.

“I will. I’ll send you a postcard.”

I walk home, and I wonder why I’m crying. I pretend to be looking very hard at the pavement, but I can’t see it properly. My tears blur all the chewing gum spots. It looks like they’ve congealed together, and it’s like I’m walking on a white path.
And then I hear a quiet voice behind me. “Lola?”

I turn around, swiping at my tears. “What?”

I squint through the tears and see it’s a small girl with dark curly hair and brown eyes.

“Nothing.” Lexi stands there looking at me, and I hope she didn’t see I was crying.

I wonder why she bothered to speak to me, if all she had to say was “Nothing”.

I turn and walk away. I’m not in the mood to talk about nothing.

*





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I walk to school slowly. I carry my head high and don’t look at the blobs of chewing gum. For once, I am not late. But Mr Frederick is not there to see it. We seem to have a new teacher. He is sitting on the desk grinning at nothing in particular.

As I sit down, he holds up a hand. “Everybody. I’m Michael Shelley. You can call me Michael. And before you all sit down, I want you to change seats so you are sitting in alphabetical order.”

My heart shoots upwards, as if it was a rocket. This means I won’t be sitting next to Lexi!

The class is buzzing. “Alphabetical order, sir?” queries Wilber. “You mean the alphabetical order of our surnames or our first names?”

“First names,” replies Michael. “It’s so I can get to know all your names quickly and easily.”

My heart sinks, like a pebble in a pond. There are only two pupils in my class whose names begin with L. Lola and Lexi.

“OK,” Michael says, enthusiastically. “Abigail Stewart and Adrian Jones. Sit together please. Alexandria Malamatos and Alistair Phillips.”

I can’t stifle the huge grin as I realize Lexi will be registered as Alexandria. Yes!!

“Please, sir,” Lexi put up her hand. “I’m Alexandria Malamatos, but I much prefer to be called Lexi. And I want to sit next to Lola, as Mr Frederick assigned her to look after me and if I’m called Lexi, I’ll sit next to her anyway.” She stops babbling and looks up at him, pleadingly.

Michael looks at her and consults his list. “Very well,” he agrees. “That’s fine.”
I half-sigh, half-gulp. I really don’t want to sit to Lexi. I’m sick and tired of her stupid drawings and her stupid, quiet voice.

I don’t think I want to learn Greek anymore.

I don’t think I want to do anything anymore.

“So,” Michael Shelley says. “I want you all to draw.”

We all blink at him. I can hear annoying Wilber whisper: “Draw? Draw what?”

“The first thing you think of,” Michael says. “Draw it.”

I pick up a paper and pencil. Something about the way he said “Draw!” inspires me.

The first thing I think of is Cat sunning herself in the Bahamas. I draw that.

And then I think of me, left alone here. I draw a line down one half the page, like a barrier. The drawing of Cat is on one side, and the drawing of me is on the other.

And the drawing of me is me, sitting on the playground wall, while everyone is talking and laughing with Lexi. I’m left alone, pretending to read my book, but really you can see I very much want to be part of the crowd with Lexi.

The drawing becomes so real and vivid, it almost frightens me. I take my mind off it by looking at what Lexi drew.

I’m not surprised when I see it’s the same old drawing she’s been scribbling all week. That girl with the goats in the mountains.

“Everyone finished?” asks Michael. “Good.” He collects all our drawings one by one.”

And I sit up and I decide maybe this lesson won’t be so bad after all.

When I get back home, I decide to send Cat an email. She probably doesn’t have an Internet connection in the Bahamas, but you never know.

“From: Lola Harper
Dear Cat,
Today was not so bad as I expected. We have a new teacher and his name is Michael Shelley. He made us all draw the first thing we thought of, which was weird. I’m not sure whether our drawings get marked and graded, because how can you grade thoughts? Surely there is no right and wrong for that.
So, you see, it is quite confusing.
But I kind of liked it.
How are you? You probably haven’t got there yet. I’m picturing you in an aeroplane above the Pacific. Or is it the Atlantic? I can’t remember.
Well, much love, and I’ll talk to you later.
Lola.”

I sign out and go to my room. When I get there, I find someone has put a booklet on my bed. It is a very colourful booklet, with pictures of mountains and goats on it. And on the top are the words: “Learn to Speak Greek In One Week!” and I wonder if the person who thought up that sentence noticed that it rhymed.

And when I open the booklet up, I see there are CD’s inside.

And I think how ironic it is that I’ve waited quite a long time for the CD’s, and now they are here, I don’t want them anymore.

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Today is Saturday, which means no school. I’m glad. I don’t feel like going to school.

Saturday is a day when our whole family gets together and does crazy things. Sometimes we go to a place called Water World. I think I’m the only one in the entire family who doesn’t enjoy that. I’m always scared I might drown.

Sometimes we go to the local donkey sanctuary. I kind of like that and kind of don’t, if that makes sense.

I love all the donkeys, but I get a weird feeling inside when I see pictures of what happened to them. Some of them were terribly neglected and ended up covered in calluses and weals. Others didn’t have their hooves cut, so they grew far too long and the donkeys couldn’t walk properly. It makes me want to find the cruel people who did it and punish them.

Except what can one small school girl do?

I know what I’d like to do. I’d like to buy a huge mansion and rescue all abused animals.

If Cat was here right now, she’d tell me that wasn’t practical, but I don’t care. It’s my favourite daydream.

I’m lying on my bed, flicking through one of Sal’s glossy, teenage magazines. She says she just buys them so she can see how the hairstyles were done, but I think she buys it for the pin-ups of those stupid boy bands.
Looking through the magazine, everything seems such a waste of time. Who cares who won the Glamour Award of the Year? Does any of it really matter?

I feel so tired and I just want to cry,

Mum comes in suddenly. I see her lips purse, sort of suspiciously and sort of sympathetically. “Get your togs on, Lola,” she says. “We’re leaving soon.”

I shake my head. “I don’t really feel like coming, Mum.” I pretend to cough a little and fake a sneeze. “I think I’m going down with something.”

It could be true. I do feel a bit ill.

Mum perches on the end of my bed and feels my forehead. She looks at me. I look back. It is very difficult to fool my Mum, as she has to deal with sickly people every day.

We look at each other for a long moment. She is the one who looks away first. “OK,” she says. “If you really want to stay, you can.”
I smile, kind of sadly. Because I know I should feel like jumping up and down for joy, since I got what I wanted.

Today, I don’t even feel like doing that.

“Why don’t you tell me about it?” Mum asks.

She doesn’t understand. There’s no point in telling her about it. Because she can’t fix it. She can’t bring Cat back from the Bahamas. She can’t send Lexi back to Greece.

I shrug. “There’s nothing wrong.”

I think she knows I’m lying, but she doesn’t push it. I sort of wish she had. She goes back downstairs, and I hear low voices and my name mentioned once or twice. I wonder if Mum is going to send Dad upstairs to talk to me?

Obviously not, for I hear the front door slam shut. I go quickly over to my window and watch my family climb into the car. I watch until my breath has steamed up the window and it’s like I’m looking through a veil. I rub the steam away and carry on looking until the car has disappeared.

I wonder where they’re going? Probably to the cinema. I wonder what film they’re going to see.

I go back over to my bed and wonder why I feel like crying.

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*
Sunday passed in a kind of h-a-z-e… Before I know it, it’s back to Monday. The day I was dreading.

I’m walking into school all by myself. I’m wishing I could have someone to talk to, even a friendly cat.

But the street is deserted, like a ghost town.

Until I hear the click of shoes walking behind me. I turn round and Lexi is following me.

“Did you have a good weekend, Lola Harper?” she asks me.

I nod vigorously. Lexi is clearly out to ruin my life, and I am not going to give her the satisfaction of knowing she has succeeded. Maybe that is her special talent. Life-ruining.

I don’t bother to ask if she has had a good weekend. I just turn away and keep walking. I can’t resist glancing over my shoulder one last time, and I see she has stopped in the middle of the road and is just staring at me, with a hurt, disbelieving expression on her face.

And I wonder why I feel so bad, when I should be feeling good.

During class, Lexi just ignores me, which is unusual. She is normally always asking stupid questions, like “What was that page number again?” and “What was that maths equation again?” Now, her head is bent over her work, like I don’t exist.

Suits me. I don’t like her anyway.

She is still drawing, when she is supposed to be solving more of those awful maths equations.

It’s a different drawing from the goat drawing, through. I try to peer over her shoulder, and I realize with a shock that the drawing is of me.

I am being crushed by a herd of rampaging elephants.

I raise my eyebrows, because it makes me feel better, and less like I’m going to cry.

I decide to do a little drawing of my own. Hey! Maybe doing wonderful drawings will be my special talent!

I draw a picture of Lexi being chased by a pride of wild lions. I draw one of the lions with it’s mouth open, ready to eat her. I even draw slivers of saliva hanging from it’s jaws. I spend ages trying to perfect the look of terror on her small, round face. By the time I get it right, I realize everyone is watching me, and Michael Shelley is craning over my shoulder.

I wish the ground could open up and swallow me. Permanently. I shut my eyes, waiting for the storm to break.

“That is a very good drawing, Lola,” Michael says, admiringly. “Well done.”

I flick my eyes open. “What?”

“And Lexi. I see you’ve both been drawing.” He picks Lexi’s drawing up and looks at it.

Lexi and I both look at each other. There’s a steely look in her eyes I never noticed before. She probably hates me now.

Well, not as much as I hate her!

“Well, now you’ve finished your drawings, would you be so kind as to finish off the maths equations?” Michael says. His voice sounds kind, but I think there is an undertone of hardness. I bend my head over my equations and don’t look up until the lesson is over.

The next lesson is English, and I am so glad. We have all been assigned to write an essay on “My Worst Day Ever.”

That shouldn’t be too difficult. I have a whole lot of days to choose from.

I decide to write about my entire week and just condense it, so it sounds like it was one day. I wonder if Miss Moore will notice? She probably will. She’s very clever.

It takes me ages to write it, since I’m trying to find the perfect words for what I want.

When I’ve finished, I read it over again. It sounds quite sad and moody.

I hand it silently over to Miss Moore.

I wonder what she will think?

I’m sitting the playground, pretending to read my book. It’s just like how I drew it. I’m watching everyone surround Lexi. She’s probably telling them some story about her goat-herding life in Greece. I’d laugh, if it wasn’t so pathetic.

I watch her detach herself from the group and come over to me. “I like…” she begins, but the bell rings piercingly.

I can’t help wondering what she was going to say.

What kind of sentence begins with: “I like…”?
I didn’t know she liked anything. Except drawing goats. Maybe that is another of special talents. Not particularly useful, in my opinion.

Still. I haven’t even worked out what my special talent is.

You know what? I’m beginning to wonder if I even have one.

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I am thinking how strange it is that I am never late for Michael’s lessons, but I am always late for Mr Frederick’s. I wonder if this is because Michael has a more informal attitude to teaching. At least, that’s what I just heard Michael say to Miss Moore.

I have been doing a lot of listening these days. My Mum would call it eavesdropping. She does it all the time at work. She says it’s the only way she’ll find out what’s going on.

So, I hear a lot of interesting things.

I hear Miss Moore say that because of the state of the economy in Greece, Lexi Malamatos and her family have come over here. Apparently, Mr Malamatos, Lexi’s father, lost a lot of money. Michael makes a tutting sound and asks what the world is coming to and they both walk away.

I look at Lexi, who is deep in conversation with Wilber. Maybe she didn’t want to come here in the first place. I try to imagine how I would feel, if my father nearly almost went bankrupt. I know I would not like it. I also would not like having to move house…

I feel a little guilty now. It’s not Lexi’s fault if she’s quiet. I have a niggling suspicion I should have been a bit nicer to her.

It’s too late now.

I decide to just go into the class room where the next lesson will be held. I don’t feel like sitting on the playground wall. I don’t even feel like reading Silver. This is very unusual.

I walk into the class room and I see Miss Moore is sitting at the desk. He is marking some papers.

“Will it disturb you if I wait here?” I ask.

She smiles and shakes her head. “By the way, Lola.”

“Yes?” I’m poised, half-sitting, half-standing.

“I’ve read your essay on the Worst Day Ever,” she says. “Apart from the fact you must live on a different planet, with eighty-four hour long days instead of just twenty-four hours, it’s a very well-written piece of literature. You’ve captured a lot of very painful emotions.”
I’m feeling puzzled. And then kind of excited. Because I think maybe I’ve just found my special talent.

My special talent is writing!

And I’m feeling stupid that I didn’t think of it before. Because I write every single day, and it’s just something I do. It comes so naturally. Like breathing.

“Here you go.” Miss Moore passes me back my essay.

I thank her and sit down, feeling delighted.

I decide to read my essay over again, savouring Miss Moore’s compliments over again.

And then I see the name at the top of the page is not “Lola Harper” by “Lexi Malamatos”. Miss Moore must have accidentally mixed our papers up.

And I’m about to hand it back to her when a paragraph catches my eye.

“It’s very hard for me to choose my worst day ever. There seem to have been a lot of bad days, lately.”

And that reminds me of something I wrote recently. I decide to read on, though I know I probably shouldn’t. It’s likely breaching some confidentiality rule, but who cares?

I seemed to read the whole page in a second.

Lexi described her life in the mountains. She talked about goats (surprise, surprise!).

There are tears in my eyes as I read this bit:

“One of my worst days was when Odysseus was sold. My father was a goat herder. He owned a lot of goats. My mother and I used to help look after them. I had my own pet kid, called Odysseus. His mother died when he was born, so he was an orphan. I raised him and bottle-fed him and he was mine. He always answered me when I called him. He was like a pet dog.

I hated leaving him behind, but we had to sell all our goats.

The day the goats were to go, I held onto Odysseus and hugged him tightly. He bleated so plaintively I’m sure he knew something was wrong. It was like he was crying too.

I miss him so much. I used to talk to him and tell him all my secrets, since there was nobody else to talk to.”

I swallowed. I really, really wish I had been nicer to Lexi.

“I hate Britain,” she wrote. “I find the language so difficult. People stare at me as if I’m stupid. They don’t realize how long it takes for me to translate what they said into Greek. By the time I’ve understood, the conversation has moved on, and it’s too late to say what I want to say. There is one girl I would like to be friends with, as we like reading the same books, but she doesn’t want to be friends. I can’t describe how lonely it feels here.

The teachers all talk so fast, I can’t understand much of it, so I just draw. At least drawing is the same in every language.

Dad says not to worry, I will settle in soon.

He only says this because he has settled in fine. He has a new job working as a waiter in a posh hotel. Mum has joined the local gymnasium. They have settled in wonderfully, and I feel guilty when I try to tell them how much I hate this place. I have no friends, and I don’t think I ever will.

So, when my parents ask how was my day, I don’t tell them that each day is worse than the one that went before. I just smile and grit my teeth and tell them it was wonderful.

Lexi Malamatos.”

I feel eyes watching me and I look up. I see Miss Moore is staring at me, with the trace of a smile on her face. I look down at the paper in my hand then back up at her, and I know suddenly this was not a mistake. Miss Moore did not confuse the papers. She gave me Lexi’s essay deliberately.

I close my eyes for a moment and I’m reliving the past week. And I’m suddenly looking at that sentence: “There is one girl I would like to be friends with, as we like reading the same books, but she doesn’t want to be friends.”

And I know who that girl is.

And I know what Lexi was going to say that day in the playground. She was going to say “I like Silver books, too.”

And then we probably would have made friends. Because anyone who likes Silver must be a nice person.

But the bell rang and she never got to say it.

And I want to cry, because I realize I was mean and horrible and I’m sorry.

And I remember what it was Mr Frederick said when he asked me to look after Lexi. He told me to make her feel at home.

All I did was make her wish she was at home.

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When I get home, there is an email waiting for me.

“From: Cat Shaw, cat_amongst_the_pigeons@emu.com
Dear Lola,
Yes! We docked to pick up supplies and I got to use the Internet! It is so wonderful here! I really wish you were with us!
I got to swim with dolphins! It was amazing! They were so incredible! This is the best holiday in the world, ever, ever, ever, and I’m so sorry I’m not sharing it with you. You would love it so much.
My parents are having a whale of a time as well (joke!)
I am in such a good mood today. This is the most wonderful place ever.
And tomorrow we’ve made plans to go surfing with a really nice family who live here! I can’t wait.
Oh, the new teacher sounds good.
See you soon,
Cat.”

For some reason, I have to read that email twice.

Cat manages to say absolutely nothing using a lot of words.

I can’t describe how I’m feeling at the moment, so I’m not going to try.

I write back:
“From: Lola Harper
Dear Cat.
Sounds like you are having a good time. I wish you were here because I have just found out the new girl, Lexi…”

I press delete.
“From: Lola Harper
Dear Cat,
I’m so glad you’re enjoying yourself. I’m having a wonderful time here too. Michael, our new teacher, is brilliant, and he says I am really good at writing, so I think I have found my special talent.
I am off to practice it right now, so I can’t talk for long.
Love,
Lola.”

I press send.

And I really wish that there was an invention that could convey feeling in emails. Because then Cat would know how I feel without me struggling to tell her.

How do I feel?

I really wish she hadn’t sent such a cheerful email, because it makes me feel terrible, for some reason.

It makes me feel like I can’t tell her my problems. Because she’s having such a wonderful time, it would be a shame to spoil it.

And I watch as a silver tear trickles down my cheek and plops onto the desk.

I rake a hand through my hair and I wonder what to do.

I shrug on my coat and walk out into the street. I’m beginning to hate all that chewing gum. I accidentally stand on a fresh and it sticks to my shoe.

I’m annoyed, because I saved up for two months so I could buy these shoes. I look down at them. They are black, with smart red bows and gold buckles. And I am staring very hard at them.

And I hear the sound of clicky shoes. I look up and I see Lexi.

I smile, because I suddenly realize I came out to look for her.

“Would you like to come to my house?” I ask, speaking slowly and clearly.

She bits her lip and I see her mentally translating what I said. Her face suddenly lights up, and she nods violently.

I smile. “Do you have any of the Silver books in Greek?” I ask.

She looks a bit taken aback. I see the cogs whirring round in her brain, and I see her wondering how she knows I know she likes Silver.

I see something click inside her head, and she smiles. “Yes,” she says, quietly, and we walk along the road to my house.

*






*





*





*

Lexi is sleeping over. She called her parents and asked if it was OK, and they said yes. I was surprised they let her, considering it’s a school night, but I get the feeling they are delighted that she has made a new friend.

Turns out that when Miss Moore gave me Lexi’s paper, he also gave Lexi my paper.

And, when I was walking along the road looking for her, she was walking along the road looking for me.

And Lexi suddenly understood that I was really missing my best friend and I was feeling lonely, just like she was.

And we stay awake until after midnight talking about all that.

And I apologised for being so gruesome to her.

And she said, not to worry, she could be pretty gruesome too.

I’m so tired, I feel like I’m falling asleep right now. But I’m not going to go to sleep until I write down a resolution. And it’s not going to be one of those new year resolutions I make every year but never keep. I’m going to keep this one.

“I, Lola Harper, resolve never to jump to conclusions about people, and to be nice to everyone, even people I think I don’t like. Because it may turn out that I really do like them, after all…”

And I think about how good it will be when Cat comes home, because she is bound to like Lexi as well, and all three of us can be friends!

And just before I finally drift asleep, I think about my special talent and how glad I am Michael Shelley helped me find it. I’m pretty sure he also conspired with Miss Moore to help me make friends with Lexi. And I decide that tomorrow, I am going to write them both a letter to say thank-you for both those things.

Because I owe them big-time.

THE END





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