Finding Audrey(6)

By: Sophie Kinsella


Anyway. Moving on. After that, I got ill. Now I’m going to change schools and go down a year so I won’t fall behind. The new school is called the Heath Academy and they said it would be sensible to start in September, rather than the summer term when it’s mainly exams. So, till then, I’m at home.

I mean, I don’t do nothing. They’ve sent me lots of reading suggestions and maths books and French vocab lists. Everyone’s agreed it’s vital I keep up with my schoolwork and ‘It will make you feel so much better, Audrey!’ (It so doesn’t.) So sometimes I send in a history essay or something and they send it back with some red comments. It’s all a bit random.

Anyway. The point is, Linus was in the play and he was a really good Atticus Finch. He was noble and heroic and everyone believed him. Like, he has to shoot a rabid dog in one scene and the prop gun didn’t work on our night, but no one in the audience laughed or even murmured. That’s how good he was.

He came round to our house once, before a rehearsal. Just for about five minutes, but I still remember it.

Actually, that’s kind of irrelevant.

I’m about to remind Mum that Linus played Atticus Finch when I realize she’s left the kitchen. A moment later I hear her voice:

‘You’ve played enough, young man!’

Young man.

I dart over to the door and look through the crack. As Frank strides into the hall after Mum, his face is quivering with fury.

‘We hadn’t reached the end of the level! You can’t just switch off the game! Do you understand what you did just then, Mum? Do you even know how Land of Conquerors works?’

He sounds properly irate. He’s stopped right underneath where I am, his black hair falling over his pale forehead, his skinny arms flailing and his big bony hands gesticulating furiously. I hope Frank grows into his hands and feet one day. They can’t stay so comically huge, can they? The rest of him has to catch up, surely? He’s fifteen, so he could still grow a foot. Dad’s six foot, but he always says Frank will end up taller than him.

‘It’s fine,’ says a voice I recognize. It’s Linus, but I can’t see him through the crack. ‘I’ll go home. Thanks for having me.’

‘Don’t go home!’ exclaims Mum, in her best charming-to-visitors voice. ‘Please don’t go home, Linus. That’s not what I meant at all.’

‘But if we can’t play games . . .’ Linus sounds flummoxed.

‘Are you saying the only form of socializing you boys understand is playing computer games? Do you know how sad that is?’

‘Well, what do you suggest we do?’ says Frank sulkily.

‘I think you should play badminton. It’s a nice summer’s evening, the garden’s beautiful, and look what I found!’ She holds out the ropy old badminton set to Frank. The net is all twisted and I can see that some animal has nibbled at one of the shuttlecocks.

I want to laugh at Frank’s expression.

‘Mum . . .’ He appears almost speechless with horror. ‘Where did you even find that?’

‘Or croquet!’ adds Mum brightly. ‘That’s a fun game.’

Frank doesn’t even answer. He looks so stricken by the idea of croquet, I actually feel quite sorry for him.

‘Or hide-and-seek?’

I give a snort of laughter and clap my hand over my mouth. I can’t help it. Hide-and-seek.

‘Or Rummikub!’ says Mum, sounding desperate. ‘You always used to love Rummikub.’

‘I like Rummikub,’ volunteers Linus, and I feel a tweak of approval. He could have legitimately laid into Frank at this point; walked straight out of the house and put on Facebook that Frank’s house sucks. But he sounds like he wants to please Mum. He sounds like one of those people who looks around and thinks, Well, why not make life easier for everyone? (I’m getting this from three words, you understand.)

‘You want to play Rummikub?’ Frank sounds incredulous.

‘Why not?’ says Linus easily, and a moment later the two of them head off towards the playroom. (Mum and Dad repainted it and called it the Teenage Study when I turned thirteen, but it’s still the playroom.)

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