Sometimes I wish I could just grow down and go back to primary school. Everything was easy then. School was fun, I was the Grade 6 Spelling Champion, and my best friend and I thought boys were disgusting.
When I wake up on the first day of Year 10, I realise how much has changed. School is hard. My best friend is boycrazy. I have never kissed a boy. And no one gives a rat’s fund ament about spelling.
I drag myself into the kitchen for breakfast. Mum and Dad are talking, but stop when I come in. Mum looks down into her cup of tea, and Dad leaves the room.
‘Is everything okay?’ I ask as I eat last night’s ravioli straight from the Tupperware container.
‘Fine,’ says Mum, then makes a face. ‘Imogen, that’s disgusting.’
Mum named me Imogen because it sounded like imagine, but everyone calls me Midge. Even Mum only calls me Imogen when I’m doing something wrong.
I pop another piece of ravioli into my mouth. ‘What?’
‘You could at least heat it up.’
‘I like it cold.’
Mum empties the dregs of her tea into the sink and then smoothes her shirt. She was a total hippie before I was born, but now she works for a classy law fi rm in the city. She still burns incense and talks about karma, and she gets all hot under her Country Road collar when I call her a sell-out.
I finish the ravioli, and rummage through the fridge to find something worthy of a sandwich for school.
‘Don’t bother making your lunch,’ says Mum, gathering up the official-looking papers that decorate the kitchen table. ‘I’ll give you money to buy something.’
I freeze. ‘What have you done with my mother?’ I ask suspiciously.
‘It’s your first day back at school,’ says Mum. ‘You should have a treat.’
I raise my eyebrows. ‘This from the woman who started a letter-writing campaign to our local council insisting they serve tofu in the school canteen.’
She just smiles and snaps her briefcase closed.
Tahni bounces up to me at my locker in the Year 10 corridor. She’s been in Queensland with her family since after Christmas, so I haven’t seen her in forever. We squeal and hug and do the girl thing, then she launches into a lurid and, I suspect, highly exaggerated description of the boys she met on the beach, and the bikini she wore, and the expressions on the faces of the boys when
they saw her in the bikini, and the photo she gave them of her in the bikini (airbrushed, of course – Tahni became a Photoshop expert last year with the sole purpose of being able to airbrush her own photos). I zone out after a couple of seconds. I notice a sign on the wall:
I can forgive Tahni her tendency to turn even the most mundane events into a drama worthy of Ramsay Street, but there are only two things worse than poor spelling. One is misplaced quotation marks. The other is unnecessary apostrophes.
‘So?’ asks Tahni. ‘Did you meet any hot boys over the summer?’
She says it in this annoying sing-song voice which makes me blush. Because she knows the truth. She knows I’ve never kissed a boy. She’s the one who tells me at every available opportunity that I’m going to be a lonely old lady with eleven cats in a caravan. I feel like the whole school is judging me. Me in all my pathetic loser-y glory.
This is an extra-special bonus level of Not Fair. It’s not like I’m ugly. I’ve spent hours in front of the mirror, trying to figure out what is wrong. I have good skin. My eyebrows are nicely shaped. I don’t have crooked teeth or a hideous squint. So. What. Is. The. Problem??
Tahni laughs and makes miaowing noises. I envisage a whole year of this. A whole year of every girl in the school who isn’t me pashing anything with a Y chromosome. And I can’t handle it. I would rather die.
So I say it. I don’t think about it. I just say it.
‘I did meet a boy.’
Tahni giggles. ‘Cousins don’t count, Midge,’ she says. ‘Or pizza delivery boys. Or the boys who work at the video shop.’
I glare at her. ‘I met him at the library,’ I say. ‘He has wavy brown hair, and he’s English.’
I pause. What am I talking about? I didn’t meet any boys.
‘So he’s a nerd,’ says Tahni, cautiously.
Does that mean she bought it?
I grin. ‘A hotty Mc-Hot nerd.’
Tahni nods appreciatively. Who doesn’t love a hot nerd?
‘Wow,’ she says. ‘You really met a boy. When can I meet him?’
‘He’s gone back to England,’ I say. Where is this all coming from?
‘So you’ll never see him again,’ Tahni says dismissively, like it doesn’t count.
‘He might be moving here.’
What am I doing? I’m crazy. There’s no way Tahni will buy this.
But she is. She’s leaning forward, her eyes intent. ‘Did you pash him?’
Tahni lets out a little squeak of excitement. ‘Are you off your V-plates?’
I give her a Look. ‘Don’t be gross,’ I say. ‘We only met a month ago.’
‘So what did you do?’ asks Tahni. She looks slightly defensive. Maybe she’s worried that I have a better story than her never-ending Bikini on the Beach masterpiece.
I’m enjoying this way more than I should.
‘We went on a picnic by the river,’ I say. ‘We had a picnic rug and lemonade and dip and squishy cheese. He made me a garland out of daisies and willow branches and called me a princess.’
Tahni frowns, and I know I’ve gone too far. ‘Sounds kind of wet,’ she says.
‘It wasn’t,’ I say. ‘It was romantic.’
The bell rings. ‘More on this later,’ says Tahni over her shoulder as she hurries off to form assembly.
I am officially insane.