Janet Griegson passed me a scrap of newspaper today in maths, all folded over,like a note. From Marty, of course, my best friend. She sits on the other side of Janet, ever since Miss Chatworth separated us for whispering too much. Now I'm at a table all by myself, like a leper.
Marty leaned across her desk to look at me, motioning like wild. Read it! she mouthed. So I unfolded the bit of newspaper, and saw this:
The Flying Frog Theatre's spring production promises to be as much fun as always. Children aged seven to sixteen are invited to audition for Northern Lights, adapted for the stage from the popular children's book by Philip Pullman. Auditions Friday from 4 pm to 10 pm. Come one, come all!
And I'm not being funny, but I swear I got tingles. Destiny! I've always wanted to be an actress, always. Dad says I was acting before I even learned to talk pulling faces just to make people laugh, putting on funny costumes and different personalities like other people put on hats.
I stared down at the article. Northern Lights is my favourite book ever, in the whole world. And Lyra, in that spooky alternate Oxford, is my favourite heroine.
I could be Lyra.
Two rows across, Marty was bent over her exercise book doing equations like she actually cared about them. When she got the chance, she craned her neck to look at me, and raised her eyebrows up so that they almost disappeared under her curly dark hair. Are you game? And I grinned back. Yes!
Marty is Martine really, but everyone calls her Marty. Like I'm Jules, even though I'm Juliet. Only teachers and my grandmother ever call me Juliet, which is an OK name if you're a Shakespearean maiden waiting for your true love on a balcony, but in real life? Way too posh and prissy. Nothing at all like me.
The bell went then. The whole class jumped and started rustling about, shoving books and pencil cases into their bookbags.
'Stop!' bellowed Chatty. 'Military fashion! Do not move until I tell you so!'
Oh, please. She made us stand by our desks, twitching and itching to leave, until she finally condescended to release us. Then - whoosh! Everyone
gone at once, scattered in different directions.
Marty and I rushed towards the science building, shivering. It's January, and grey and freezing outside.
'Doesn't the play sound great?' said Marty, huddling into her blazer. 'It'd be so cool if we both got parts!'
'I know! The only plays I've ever been in are those incredibly sad things in primary school.'
Marty nodded. 'Everyone being spring flowers or whatever.'
'Twinkly little elves. Exactly.'
"Will your dad drive us to the audition?”
My dad works from home, and he never minds driving us to things. (He's a writer for the BBC.) So I said 'Sure/ automatically, and then I said, 'No, wait, let's get the bus, all right? I don't want to ask him this time.'
'Wha-at? Why not, you moron?Marty bumped me with her hip.
I bumped her back. "Cause I want to surprise him if I get a part.'
This isn't like a proper book so far, is it? I should tell you something about myself, what I look like and all. So I'll start again.
My name is Jules Cheney, and I'm thirteen. And if you haven't guessed already, I have to tell you I'm practically the queen of Year Nine - I have long red hair and a million best friends and I'm so popular you'd just about die if I sat next to you or ate lunch with you or
Sorry, I can't go on, I'm laughing too hard. I've got long red hair, all right. But you probably wouldn't notice me at all, really. Unless you saw me and Marty carrying on together, laughing and whispering like we always do.
But with most people I'm sort of shy. Or not shy, exactly, just quiet. Unless I know you really well. Then Dad says you can't shut me up unless you gag me. But most people don't know me really well, and so a lot of times when I'm called on in class, my mind goes an utter blank, and I get all red and flustered. It's very embarrassing. Adrian Benton calls me Brickface when that happens, and then everyone laughs and my face blazes even redder.
Not that I care what Adrian Benton says. Or does. No-one likes him. He has this horrible braying laugh and he's always bouncing about like a chubby, hyper puppy, trying to make everyone notice him. Pathetic.
I helped Dad get tea ready that night like I usually do. I grated up cheese while lae chopped onions, and in the background the little kitchen CD-player was pulsing out this weird music called Enigma that Dad likes.
'I'll be home late on Friday/ I told him. 'Only it's a secret why, OK?'
Dad shook his head and laughed. 'Anything I want to know about?'
'Not really. Just murder and mayhem.' That's what I always say.
'Thought as much.' Dad pointed his knife at me. 'I don't know you if the coppers come. And home by six, right?'
'Um - I don't know if I will be.'
He lifted his eyebrows, and I said, 'Mrs Fulson knows where we'll be.'That's Marty's mum. 'She said she'd drive us home afterwards. It's nothing bad, just a surprise.'
At least, I hope there's a surprise. You see, Northern Lights is Dad's favourite book, too. When I first got it, we read it out loud to each other. (It took ages - it's a stonking great book.) It would be brilliant if I could tell him I'd got a part! He'd be so, so chuffed.
Now he just smiled and said, 'Ve-ry mysterious ... ring me if you're going to be later than six, then, and tell me what time you plan on swanning home. I presume they have phones in this secret place.
'Well, of course/ I said. Do theatres have phones? I don't know, I hope so. I'd have to remember to take twenty pence with me.
We had just popped Dad's special mash in the oven for the cheddar to melt when the phone rang.
Dad answered it, motioning for me to turn down the music. 'Hello?' There was a pause, and then his face turned grim. 'Again? Holly, come on, you said you'd be home on time for a change.'
My stomach sank, Mum home late again. That meant another fight.
'There's always a meeting. Yes, fair enough, but meanwhile I've got tea just about ready, because you told me that tonight, for once, you were not going to be late.'
Jules is OK. Life is going on as usual. She's passing notes to her best friend, Marty, in boring lessons at school. Ignoring the repulsive Adrian Benton. And maybe things are looking up - she's about to audition for the main part in the play of Northern Lights.
But then her world explodes. Her perfect dad suddenly leaves home and doesn't want to talk to her any more. And strange photographers start leaping out from behind bushes and taking her photo. And everyone knows who she is.
A gripping and moving tale of a family torn apart and the power of the press.
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Description du livre San Val, 2003. Library Binding. État : Used: Good. Ex-Library with all expected markings and inclusions. Tight binding. Clean pages with no stray marks. Has very little, if any, shelf wear. N° de réf. du libraire 160123018