Finding Audrey(5)

By: Sophie Kinsella

‘Well. Anyway.’ I shrug. ‘That’s LOC.’

There’s silence for a moment. Mum is peering at the screen like some ancient professor trying to decipher an ancient Egyptian code. There’s an almighty explosion and she winces.

‘Why does it always have to be about killing? If I designed a game it would centre around ideas. Politics. Issues. Yes! I mean, why not?’ I can tell her brain’s firing up with a new idea. ‘What about a computer game called Discuss? You could keep the competitive element, but score points by debating!’

‘And that is why we’re not squillionaires,’ I say, as though to a third party.

I’m about to find another clip when Felix comes running into the room.

‘Candy Crush!’ he says in delight as soon as he spies my iPad, and Mum gasps in horror.

‘How does he know about that?’ she demands. ‘Turn it off. I’m not having another addict in the family!’

Oops. It may possibly have been me who introduced Felix to Candy Crush. Not that he has any idea how to play it properly.

I close down the iPad and Felix stares at it, crestfallen. ‘Candy Crush!’ he wails. ‘I want to play Candy Cruuuuush!’

‘It’s broken, Felix.’ I pretend to press the iPad. ‘See? Broken.’

‘Broken,’ affirms Mum.

Felix looks from us to the iPad. You can sense his mind is working as hard as his four-year-old brain cells will let him. ‘We must buy a plug,’ he suggests, with sudden animation, and grabs the iPad. ‘We can buy a plug and fix it.’

‘The plug shop’s closed,’ says Mum, without missing a beat. ‘What a shame. We’ll do it tomorrow. But guess what? We’re going to have toast and Nutella now!’

‘Toast and Nutella!’ Felix’s face bursts into joyous beams. As he throws up his arms, Mum grabs the iPad from him and gives it to me. Five seconds later I’ve hidden it behind a cushion on the bed.

‘Where did the Candy Crush go?’ Felix suddenly notices its disappearance and screws up his face to howl.

‘We’re taking it to the plug shop, remember?’ says Mum at once.

‘Plug shop.’ I nod. ‘But hey, you’re going to have toast and Nutella! How many pieces are you going to have?’

Poor old Felix. He lets Mum lead him out of the room, still looking confused. Totally outmanoeuvred. That’s what happens when you’re four. Bet Mum wishes she could pull that trick on Frank.

So now Mum knows what LOC is. And ‘knowledge is power’, according to Kofi Annan. Although, as Leonardo da Vinci said: ‘Where there is shouting, there is no true knowledge,’ which might apply better to our family. (Please don’t think I’m super-well-read or anything. Mum bought me a book of quotations last month and I flick through it when I’m watching telly.)

Anyway, ‘knowledge is power’ isn’t really happening here, because Mum has no power over Frank at all. It’s Saturday evening, and he’s been playing LOC ever since lunch time. He disappeared into the playroom straight after pudding. Then there was a ring at the doorbell and I scuttled out of the way into the den, which is my own private place.

Now it’s nearly six and I’ve crept into the kitchen for some Oreos, to find Mum striding around, all twitchy. She’s exhaling and looking at the clock and exhaling again.

‘They’re all computer addicts!’ she says in a sudden burst. ‘I’ve asked them to turn them off about twenty-five times! Why can’t they do it? It’s a simple switch! On, off.’

‘Maybe they’re on a level—’ I begin.

‘Levels!’ Mum cuts me off savagely. ‘I’m tired of hearing about levels! I’m giving them one more minute. That’s it.’

I take out an Oreo and prise it open. ‘So, who’s with Frank?’

‘A friend from school. I haven’t met him before. Linus, I think he’s called . . .’

Linus. I remember Linus. He was in that school play, To Kill a Mockingbird, and he played Atticus Finch. Frank was Crowd.

Frank goes to Cardinal Nicholls School, which is just up the road from my school, Stokeland Girls’ School, and sometimes the two schools join together for plays and concerts and stuff. Although to be truthful, Stokeland isn’t ‘my school’ any more. I haven’t been to school since February, because some stuff happened there. Not great stuff.

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