Finding Audrey

Author: P Hana

Page 25

   

Only, he did say “See you soon.” Why would he say “See you soon” if he was planning to ignore me for the rest of my life?

My hands are twisted up, and I try to unclench them. He won’t come. He’s here to see Frank, not me. I need to stop thinking about this. I turn up How I Met Your Mother and am flicking through a copy of Closer too, for good measure, when Felix comes charging towards the sofa.

“This pocket paper is for you!” he announces, and thrusts a piece of A4 at me.

Hi, Rhubarb.

He’s drawn the picture of rhubarb in dark glasses again, and I feel my mouth twitch into a smile.

Hi, Orange Slice.

I’m terrible at drawing, but somehow I manage a picture of a face with hair and an orange segment for a mouth. I send Felix trotting off with it, and wait.

A few moments later I hear Mum and Dad coming down the stairs, and some sort of kerfuffle coming from the playroom.

“You are SO UNREASONABLE!” Frank’s voice suddenly echoes though the house.

“PLEASE DO NOT SHOUT AT ME IN FRONT OF YOUR FRIENDS!” Mum shrieks back.

I instinctively have my hands over my ears and am wondering whether to escape upstairs to my room, when there’s a noise at the door. I look up—and it’s him. It’s Linus.

Before I know it, I’ve bolted into the furthest corner of the sofa.

Stupid, dumb lizard brain.

I stare fixedly at the wall and mutter, “Hi.”

“Hi, Rhubarb. So what’s this ‘orange slice’ thing?”

“Oh.” I can’t help a tiny smile, and my fists unclench a teeny smidgen. “I think your smile looks like an orange segment.”

“My mum says it’s like a crescent moon.”

“There you go, then.”

He moves a little into the room. I’m not looking that way, but my radar is on full twitch alert. If you spend most of your time turned away from people, you get to know what they’re doing without having to see it.

“So—aren’t you playing?” My voice comes out a little husky.

“Your mum’s banned me. She got a bit mad. Frank was helping me play, and she started on this thing about how he was banned, and that included sitting with his friends, telling them what to do.”

“Right.” I nod. “I can imagine. Do your parents get so stressed about computer games?”

“Not really,” says Linus. “They’re more stressed about my granny. She lives with us and she’s proper crazy. I mean—”

He stops abruptly and there’s a prickly silence. It takes me about three seconds to realize why.

That’s what he thinks I am, hits me with a horrible thud, followed by, Of course he does.

The silence is getting worse. I can sense the word crazy floating around in the air, like the words on Frank’s French vocab program.

Crazy.

Fou.

I learned that in French, before I quit school. Folie. That means crazy too, doesn’t it? Only it sounds like a chic form of crazy. Crazy in, like, a Breton-striped top with red lipstick.

“I’m sorry,” says Linus.

“Don’t be sorry,” I say, almost aggressively. “You didn’t say anything.”

Which is true. He didn’t say anything. He stopped midsentence.

Except that stopping midsentence is the worst thing people can do. It’s like, totally passive-aggressive, because you can’t take issue with anything they’ve said. You have to take issue with what you think they were going to say.

Which then they deny.

The Queen of the Midsentence Stop is my mum. I mean, she’s an expert. Some recent examples in no particular order:

1.

MUM: Well, I really think your so-called friend Natalie could have—

Midsentence Stop.

ME: What? Prevented everything from happening? So it’s her fault? We can lay everything at the door of Natalie Dexter?

MUM: Don’t overreact, Audrey. I wasn’t going to say that.

2.

MUM: I’ve bought you some facial wash. Look, it’s especially formulated for teenage skin.

ME (reading label): “For problem skin breakouts.” You think I have problem skin?

MUM: Of course not, darling. But you have to admit that sometimes it’s a little—

Midsentence Stop.

ME: What? Rank? Gross? Like, I should walk around with a bag over my head?

MUM: Don’t overreact, Audrey. I wasn’t going to say that.

Anyway, so I’m quite attuned to the Midsentence Stop. And Linus just stopped, totally midsentence, and I know what he was going to say. He was going to say: she’s crazy like you’re crazy.

He’s repulsed by me. I knew it. He’s only come by here because it’s like entertainment, like a freak show. The girl in the dark glasses, roll up, roll up, see her cower in the corner.

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