Finding Audrey(4)

By: Sophie Kinsella



Frank gives a dirty snigger, which I can’t help giggling at. Frank is actually pretty funny.

‘I’ll ignore that,’ says Mum stonily. ‘It only goes to prove what I was saying.’

‘No it doesn’t,’ says Frank, and opens the fridge. He takes out a carton of chocolate milk and drains it, straight from the carton, which is gross.

‘Don’t do that!’ I say furiously.

‘There’s another carton. Relax.’

‘I’m putting a limit on your playing, young man.’ Mum bats the Daily Mail for emphasis. ‘I’ve just about had enough of this.’

Young man. That means she’s going to drag Dad into it. Any time she starts using Young man or Young woman, sure enough, the next day there’s some ghastly family meeting, where Dad tries to back up everything Mum says, even though he can’t follow half of it.

Anyway, not my problem.



Until Mum arrives in my bedroom that evening and demands, ‘Audrey, what is Land of Conquerors?’

I look up from Grazia and survey her. She looks tense. Her cheeks are pink and her right hand is all clenched, as if it’s just come off a computer mouse. She’s been Googling ‘computer-game addiction’, I just know she has.

‘A game.’

‘I know it’s a game’ – Mum sounds exasperated – ‘but why does Frank play it all the time? You don’t play it all the time, do you?’

‘No.’ I’ve played LOC and I really don’t get the obsession. I mean, it’s OK for an hour or two.

‘So what’s the appeal?’

‘Well, you know.’ I think for a moment. ‘It’s exciting. You get rewards. And the heroes are pretty good. Like, the graphics are amazing, and they just released this new warrior team with new capabilities, so . . .’ I shrug.

Mum looks more bewildered than ever. The trouble is, she doesn’t play games. So it’s kind of impossible to convey to her the difference between LOC 3 and, say, Pacman from 1985.

‘They show it on YouTube,’ I say in sudden inspiration. ‘People do commentaries. Hang on.’

As I’m finding a clip on my iPad, Mum sits down and looks around the room. She’s trying to act casual, but I can sense her beady blue eyes scanning my piles of stuff, looking for . . . what? Anything. Everything. The truth is, Mum and I haven’t done casual for a while. Everything is loaded.

With everything that’s happened, that’s one of the saddest things of all. We can’t be normal with each other any more. The tiniest thing I say, Mum’s all over it, even if she doesn’t realize it. Her brain goes into overdrive. What does it mean? Is Audrey all right? What’s Audrey really saying?

I can see her looking closely at a pair of old ripped jeans on my chair, as though they hold some dark significance. Whereas in fact the only significance they hold is: I’ve grown out of them. I’ve shot up about three inches in the last year, which makes me five eight. Quite tall for fourteen. People say I look like Mum, but I’m not as pretty as her. Her eyes are so blue. Like blue diamonds. Mine are wishy-washy – not that they’re particularly visible right now.

Just so you can visualize me, I’m fairly skinny, fairly nondescript, wearing a black vest-top and skinny jeans. And I wear dark glasses all the time, even in the house. It’s . . . Well. A thing. My thing, I suppose. Hence the ‘celebrity’ quips from Rob our neighbour. He saw me in my dark glasses, getting out of the car in the rain, and he was all, like, ‘Why the shades? Are you Angelina Jolie?’

I’m not trying to be cool. There’s a reason.

Which, of course, now you want to know.

I assume.

OK, it’s actually quite private. I’m not sure I’m ready to tell you yet. You can think I’m weird if you like. Enough people do.

‘Here we are.’ I find a clip of some LOC battle with ‘Archy’ commentating. ‘Archy’ is a YouTuber from Sweden who makes videos that Frank loves. They consist of ‘Archy’ playing LOC and making funny commentaries on the game, and as I expected, it takes me for ever to explain this concept to Mum.

‘But why would you watch someone else playing?’ she keeps saying, baffled. ‘Why? Isn’t that a complete waste of time?’

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