Adorkable, p.1Sarra Manning
By Sarra Manning
Let’s Get Lost
Diary of a Crush Trilogy
Published by Hachette Digital
All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2012 by Sarra Manning
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher.
Little, Brown Book Group
100 Victoria Embankment
London, EC4Y 0DY
Also by Sarra Manning
The Ad♥rkable Manifesto
About the Author
The Ad♥rkable Manifesto
We have nothing to declare but our dorkiness.
Jumble sales are our shopping malls.
Better to make cookies than be a cookie-cutter.
Suffering doesn’t necessarily improve you but it does give you something to blog about.
Experiment with Photoshop, hair dye, nail polish and cupcake flavours but never drugs.
Don’t follow leaders, be one.
Necessity is the mother of customisation.
Puppies make everything better.
Quiet girls rarely make history.
Never shield your oddness, but wear your oddness like a shield.
‘We need to talk,’ Michael Lee told me firmly when I stepped out of the makeshift changing room at the St Jude’s jumble sale, which was actually four curtained rails arranged in a square, to have a good preen in front of a clouded mirror.
I didn’t say anything. I just stared back at his reflection, because he was Michael Lee. MICHAEL LEE!
Oh, Michael Lee. Where to begin? Boys wanted to be him. Girls wanted him. He was star of school, stage and playing field. Enough brains to fit in with the geeks, captain of the football team so all the sporty types bowed down before him, and his faux-hawk and carefully scuffed Converses also pulled in the indie crowd. If that wasn’t enough, his dad was Chinese so he had an exotic Eurasian thing going on; there was even an ode to his cheekbones on the wall of the second-floor girls’ loos at school.
He might have been all that and a bag of Hula Hoops but, as far as I was concerned, if you were one of those popular types who got on with absolutely everyone then you couldn’t have much of an edge. To be all things to all people, Michael Lee had to be the least interesting person in our school. That took some doing because our school was bursting at the seams with mediocrity.
So I couldn’t imagine why Michael Lee was standing there in front of me insisting that we needed to have a chat, chin tilted so I had a great view of his poetry-inspiring cheekbones. I could also see right up his nostrils because he was freakishly tall.
‘Go away,’ I said in a bored voice, wafting my hand languidly in the direction of the other side of the church hall. ‘Because I can guarantee that you have nothing to say that I’d want to hear.’
It would have sent most people scuttling back from whence they came but Michael Lee just gave me this look as if I was all hot air and bluster, then he dared to put his hand on my shoulder so he could turn my stiff, cringing body round. ‘Look,’ he said, his breath hitting my face, which made me flinch even more. ‘What’s wrong with that picture?’
I couldn’t concentrate on anything other than Michael Lee having his football-playing, prize-essay-writing hot fingers on my clavicle. It was just wrong. Beyond wrong. It was a whole other world of wrong. I screwed my eyes tightly shut in protest and when I opened them again, I was looking at Barney, who I’d left in charge of my stall, against my better judgement, talking to a girl.
Not just any girl but Scarlett Thomas, who happened to be Michael Lee’s girlfriend. Not that I held that against her. What I held against her was that she was vapid and had a really annoying voice, which was breathy and babyish and had exactly the same effect on me as someone crunching ice cubes. Scarlett also had long blonde hair, which she spent hours combing, spritzing, primping and tossing so if you stood behind her in the lunch queue there was a good chance you’d get a mouthful of hair.
She was tossing her hair back now as she spoke to Barney and, yes, she was grinning a vacant grin and Barney was smiling and ducking his head, the way he did when he was embarrassed. It wasn’t a picture that made my heart sing, but then again …
‘There’s nothing wrong with that picture,’ I told Michael Lee crisply. ‘It’s just your girlfriend talking to my boyfriend—’
‘But it’s not the talking—’
‘About quadratic equations or one of the many other things Scarlett doesn’t understand, which made her fail her Maths GCSE and have to retake it.’ I gave Michael a flinty-eyed look. ‘That’s why Ms Clements asked Barney to tutor Scarlett. Didn’t she mention it?’
‘She did mention it and it’s not them talking to each other that’s wrong, it’s how they’re not really talking at all. They’re just standing there and gazing at each other,’ he pointed out.
‘You’re being ridiculous,’ I said, even as I surreptitiously glanced back to where Barney and Scarlett were indeed gazing at each other. It was obvious they were staring at each other because they’d run out of things to say and it was awkward, nervous gazing, because they had absolutely nothing in common. ‘There is nada, nowt, not one thing going on. Well, apart from the fact that you and Scarlett are slumming it at a jumble sale,’ I added, turning my attention back to Michael Lee. ‘Right, now that we’ve cleared that up, feel free to go about your business.’
Michael opened his mouth like he had something more to say about the utter non-event of Barney and Scarlett gurning at each other. Then shut it again. I waited for him to leave so I could go about my business, but he suddenly moved closer to me.
‘There is something going on between them,’ he said, bending his head. His breath ghosted against my cheek again. I wanted to bat it away with an irritated gesture. He straightened up. ‘And nice dress, by the way.’
I could tell he didn’t mean it from the almost-smirk on his face, which made me wonder if Michael Lee might actually have some hidden depths buried way below the surface of his bland exterior.
I sniffed loudly and contemptuously, which made the quirk of his lips blossom into a full-blown smirk before he strode away.
‘Jeane, my love, don
‘I know he was being sarcastic but he was also being very mistaken because this dress is made from all kinds of awesome,’ I said, stepping back so I could get my preen on, though my heart wasn’t really in it now.
The dress was black and I didn’t normally do black because why would anyone want to wear black when there were so many fabulous colours in the world? People with no imagination and Goths who hadn’t got the memo that the nineties were over, that’s who. But it wasn’t just black; it had these horizontal patterns all over it – yellow, green, orange, blue, red, purple and pink squiggly lines that made my eyeballs itch – and it fitted so well that it could have been made just for me, which didn’t happen often because I have a very odd body. I’m small, like five feet nothing, and compact so I can fit into children’s sizes, but I’m sturdy with it. My grandfather used to say that I reminded him of a pit pony – when he wasn’t telling me little girls should be seen and not heard.
Anyway, yes. I’m sturdy, stocky even. Like, my legs are really muscly because I cycle a lot and I’m kind of solid everywhere else. If it wasn’t for the iron-grey hair (it was meant to be white but my friend Ben had only been training as a hairdresser for two weeks and something went badly wrong) and the bright red lipstick I always wore, I could have passed for a chubby twelve-year-old boy. But this dress had enough nips and tucks and darts and horizontal lines that at least it looked as if I had some kind of shape because me and puberty hadn’t got on very well. Instead of womanly curves, it had left me with a general lumpiness.
‘You’d look so pretty if you wore a nice dress instead of all this nasty jumble sale stuff. You don’t know where it’s been,’ Betty lamented. ‘My granddaughter’s got lots of clothes she doesn’t wear any more. I could sort you out some things.’
‘No, thanks,’ I said firmly. ‘I love the nasty jumble sale stuff.’
‘But some of my granddaughter’s old clothes are from Topshop.’
It was very hard to restrain myself, but I didn’t immediately launch into a rant about the evils of buying clothes from high street chains, which peddled the same five looks each season so everyone had to dress just like everyone else in clothes that were sewn together by children in Third World sweatshops who were paid in cups of maize.
‘Really, Betty, I like dressing in clothes that other people don’t want any more. It’s not the clothes’ fault that they’ve gone out of fashion,’ I insisted. ‘Anyway, it’s better to reuse than recycle.’
Five minutes later, the dress was mine, and I was back in my own lilac-tweed, old-lady skirt and mustard-coloured jumper and heading to my stall where Barney was leafing through a stack of yellowing comics. Thankfully, Scarlett and Michael Lee were nowhere to be seen.
‘I got you cake,’ I announced. At the sound of my voice, Barney’s head shot up and his milk-white complexion took on a rosy hue. I’d never known a boy who blushed as much as Barney did. In fact, I hadn’t even been certain that boys could blush, until I met Barney.
He was blushing now for no good reason, unless … No, I wasn’t going to waste my precious time on Michael Lee’s crackpot theories, except …
‘So, Michael Lee and Scarlett Thomas, what were they doing here?’ I asked casually. ‘Hardly their scene. I bet they’ve gone away to disinfect themselves from the stench of second-hand goods.’
Barney was now so red that it looked as if someone had plunged his head into a pan of boiling water, but he hunched over so a curtain of silky hair covered his burning face and grunted something unintelligible.
‘You and Scarlett?’ I prompted.
‘Er, what about me and Scarlett?’ he asked in a strangulated voice.
I shrugged. ‘Just saw her checking out the stall when I was trying on dresses. I hope you gave her the hard sell and offloaded that chipped “Rugby players do it with odd-shaped balls” mug that I can’t shift.’
‘Well, no, I didn’t have a chance,’ Barney admitted, as if he was confessing to something shameful. ‘And that mug is really chipped.’
‘True. Very true. Not surprised you didn’t get round to it,’ I said, cocking my head in what I hoped was an understanding manner. ‘You two looked pretty tight. What were you talking about?’
Barney flailed his hands. ‘Nothing!’ he yelped, then realised immediately that ‘Nothing’ was not a suitable reply. ‘We talked about Maths and stuff,’ he added.
I’d been sure that there wasn’t anything going on with Barney and Scarlett apart from some compound fractions, but Barney’s apparent guilt was forcing me to rethink that theory.
I knew I could winkle the truth from Barney in nanoseconds, and that the truth was that Barney had a crush on Scarlett – being easy on the eye and untaxing on the brain, she was considered quite a catch. There was no point in getting upset about it, even though I’d raised him to be better than that, and it really wasn’t worth talking about any longer. It was far too boring.
‘I got you cake,’ I reminded Barney and watched his eyes skitter from side to side as if he wasn’t sure whether my abrupt change of subject meant that the topic of Scarlett was over and done with or if it was a sneaky tactic to catch him out.
For once, it wasn’t. I handed over a huge slab of cake, which was obscured by a napkin. Barney took it warily.
‘Well, thanks,’ he muttered, as he uncovered his prize and I watched his face go from deep pink to bedsheet-white. Barney was so white that he was only a couple of shades down from albino. He hated his skin almost as much as he hated his orange hair. At school, the lower years call Barney ‘the ginger minger’, but Barney’s hair isn’t ginger. It’s actually the colour of marmalade, except when the sun is shining and it becomes a living flame, which is why I’ve forbidden him from dyeing it. He’s not a minger either. When his face isn’t obscured by a thick fringe, his features are delicate, almost girlish, and his eyes, which were fixed on me imploringly, are pond-green. Barney is the only boy I’ve ever met whose signature colours are white, orange and green. Most other boys are blue or brown, I thought, and made a mental note to explore this colour theory on my blog later in the week. Then I turned my attention back to Barney, who had puckered up his face and was thrusting the napkin and its contents back at me.
‘This is carrot cake!’
I nodded. ‘Carrot cake with cream-cheese frosting. Yum.’
‘Not yum. This is, like, the anti-yum. I ask you to get me a cake. A CAKE! And you come back with something made out of carrots and cheese. That is not cake,’ Barney snapped. ‘It’s non-cake-food disguised as cake.’
I could only stand and stare. I’d seen Barney petulant before – I was usually responsible for it – but I’d never known him quite so snippy.
‘But you eat carrots,’ I ventured timidly under the weight of
Barney’s ferocious scowl. ‘I’m sure I’ve seen you eat carrots.’
‘I eat them under duress – I have to have meat or potatoes with them.’
‘I’m sorry,’ I said and I tried to sound like I meant it. Barney was in a very unpredictable mood and I didn’t want to trigger another explosion. ‘I’m sorry I sucked at the cake selection. I obviously need to work on that.’
‘Well, I suppose it’s not your fault,’ Barney decided magnanimously. He looked at me from under his fringe, a mere glimmer of a smile just hovering on his lips. ‘You do really suck at choosing cakes, but it’s good to know you suck at something. I was beginning to wonder.’
‘I suck at loads of things,’ I assured Barney, as I decided that it was probably safe to stand behind the stall with him. ‘Can’t turn cartwheels.
‘It’s genetic,’ Barney said. ‘But I think you can teach yourself to do it.’
I pushed up my right eyebrow with my fingertip. ‘Maybe I should tape my eyebrow up every night and hope that my muscle memory kicks in.’
‘I bet there’s an instruction guide on the internet,’ Barney said eagerly. It was just the kind of obscure, random thing that he liked to research. ‘I’ll put my Google-fu on it, shall I?’
We were friends again. I mean, boyfriend and girlfriend again. I got Barney a slice of chocolate cake, then spent the rest of the afternoon adding to the list of things I absolutely sucked at, which made him laugh.
It was good. We were cool. Though I wondered why I had to run myself down in order to make Barney feel better about our relationship when I was a card-carrying feminist. Like, seriously. I had the word ‘feminist’ on my business cards. But for once I took the easy option because I couldn’t bear the thought of three hours of Barney moping about. I didn’t even yell at him when he spilt Dr Pepper on the ‘Adorkable’ hot water bottle cover it had taken me ages to knit.
I hate Jeane Smith.
I hate her stupid grey hair and her disgusting polyester clothes. I hate how she goes out of her way to make herself look as unattractive as possible but still wants everyone to notice her. She should just wear a T-shirt with ‘Everyone! Pay attention to me! Right now!’ printed on it.
I hate how everything she says is sarcastic and mean and sounds even more sarcastic and mean because of the flat, toneless way she speaks. As if showing emotion or excitement is way too uncool.
I hate the way she shoved her fugly face into mine and jabbed a finger in my chest to make her point. Though, now I think about it, I’m not sure she did do that, but it’s the kind of thing she would probably do.
Adorkable by Sarra Manning / Young Adult / History & Fiction / Romance & Love have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes