Authors: Lynne Thomas
My name is Jelly Cooper and I am not your friend.
friends in this world, just two. Frankly speaking, they’re the only people who can stomach to be near me, so vile my temper, so scathing my wit and so cutting my tongue.
to think that the others hide around corners to escape the ferociousness of me. But deep down I know it’s because I’m different. And being different at my school is like having the plague. Or nits.
But that’s OK;
it’s better this way.
I mean, who with an ounce of dignity would
to associate themselves with pathetic, airheaded, self-obsessed, pompom-waving idiots?
No one, you’d think.
Not a single soul. Not a one.
You’d be wrong.
Hard to believe, but there it is: a cold hard fact glittering like the tip of a big fat diamond. Nearly every poor sod in this school wants to be loved by the popular squad. It’s a shame that they wilfully don’t see the truth (that they aren’t really cheerleaders but jackals in heels), but I guess that’s about right for the standard around here. Morons.
Unfortunately, until I reach the ripe old age of sixteen,
or thereabouts, I’m bound by law (and my parents) to attend this shambolic excuse for an educational establishment. Naturally I spend my days fighting against the monstrous soul-crushing machine of oppression that is school and, well, hanging out with my friends.
I don’t have time f
or goody-two-shoes, I hate the in-crowd and cheerleaders make me sick.
So here I am. Not popular, not powerful, just really, really…different.
My name, like I said, is Jelly Cooper. I’m fourteen years old, not popular, not powerful, just different. This is my story.
If you don’t like it, that’s fine. I couldn’t care less.
You mean nothing to me.
“..........Happy birthday to yooooooooooo. Hip hip!”
As the cheers die away (there are six people at my party, including me; it doesn’t take long), I sigh and roll my eyes.
Fourteen-years-old and still the jelly and blancmange routine at birthdays. Other people get cool retro roller-discos, or foam parties, or just get left alone to do their own thing. I think of those lucky people and I want to throw back my head and howl at the injustice of my life, but I bite down on the inside of my cheek and keep a tentative grip on sanity.
The candles on the cake flicker and glow in the gloom.
It’s June; even with the blinds closed and the curtains drawn it’s not going to be proper dark in here until after ten, but Mum has done her best, bless her.
“Make a wish, love, and blow out the candles.”
I can’t believe it. Her voice is
Mothers! They get
over-emotional. Oh well, might as well get on with it. I screw my eyes shut, purse my lips and –
“MAKE A WISH, MAKE A WISH!”
Molly screams in my ear. She’s six and, man, can she scream. I turn and scowl at her.
“I wish,” I growl, “that Molly didn’t just perforate my left ear drum and make me half-deaf on my birthday.”
I poke out my tongue and her eyes dance in the candlelight, the little minx.
“You’ve got to make a wish before you blow out the candles, jelly-brain, or it won’t come true.”
Ah, little sisters. Couldn’t you just squish them? Flat.
Humphrey chuckles at my shoulder and I resolve to inflict pain on him later. He knows me too well to be amused at my expense and expect to get away with it.
With reluctance, I push aside wicked thoughts of making Humphrey pay and focus on drawing a close to the pathetic show that is my birthday. I suck in a deep breath and lean in towards the dining table.
“Mum,” Molly whispers loudly. “What’s
perfor… perfra… perforitated mean?”
Agatha murmurs in my ear. “She sounds like
your favourite American president.”
I burst out laughing and the candles doubt with a gentle ‘poof.’
The collective despair over the premature snuffing of some
poxy candles is enough to make me laugh all over again. Crikey, they’re just wax sticks on fire. What’s the big deal?
Dad fumbles for matches in the drawer.
“Dad, leave it,” I say. “I blew them out in one go; mission accomplished. Can’t we open the blinds and have some cake?”
“But you didn’t make a wish!” Molly wails.
Oh-oh. When Molly gets upset, we all get upset.
“Yes love, you have to make a wish.” Dad says. “It’s bad luck if you don’t.”
I could have a wee chat with the person responsible for starting that ridiculous superstition.
“David,” Mum huffs.
“Have you found the matches? We’ll have to light them again.”
Please don’t, I silently pray.
“They’re not in the drawer, love,” Dad murmurs, rummaging. “I don’t know where they’ve gone.”
Like the matches decided to take off on a little adventure.
Mum ‘tuts’ and says in her best ‘I’m not getting annoyed, see how calm I am’ voice,
hey’re in the kitchen dear. Where you left them after lighting the candles on Jelly’s cake. Two minutes ago.”
“Oh yes!” Dad cries, as if Mum’s just solved one of the mysteries of the world. “I’ll just go get them.”
Wait for it…
Ow!” Dad yelps, bouncing off the doorframe. “Dark in here, isn’t it?”
Humphrey shaking with laughter.
I drop my head into my hands and kneed my forehead with my fingertips.
This is the best birthday ever.
“Found them!” Dad cries victoriously from the kitchen. “Now, where’s that cake?”
In the darkness of the dining room, I look up at the ceiling and wish for my life not to suck quite so much. I wish for a freak act of nature that dumps three feet of snow on us overnight so that I don’t have to go to school tomorrow. I wish Travis Jenson would look at me, just once, and I
that Mum and Dad would give the cake thing a rest. But most of all, I wish I could stop the dreams. Because then I might be able to get some sleep and
, I really wish for.
But that’s aiming high, so I wish for a smaller bum and blow out the candles.
Hours later, or at least what
like hours later, I drag Humphrey and Agatha to my room and soundly close the door. I fall, face first, onto the bed. “That was horrible.” I say through the duvet.
Agatha chuckles. It’s a light, melodic sound; totally unlike my awful bark of a laugh
(usually there’s also some kind of snort at the end, just to double-underline how unladylike I am).
“Oh, come on. It wasn’t that bad. I had a great time.”
I don’t know if the fact that she actually means it makes it worse. I raise my head and squint at her. “You’re
Humphrey grabs my ankles and lifts my leg to make room.
“Says the freak on the bed.”
The mattress depresses and my highly honed skills of deduction tell me that he’s
sitting down and, if I want, I can kick him. I raise my leg.
“If you kick me, Agatha will sit on you while I tickle your feet.”
of anyone touching my feet can bring on hyperventilation and knowing Humphrey will make good his threat, I roll on my back and sit up, careful to tuck my feet well out of tickle range.
Humphrey smiles and stretches out on the bed.
“Works every time.”
I scowl at him but he doesn’t notice. How annoying.
“So, fourteen at last.”
Agatha bites her lip as I turn the scowl on her.
As if I need reminding that I’m the youngest of the group, practically the youngest in the year. It seems I’ve been waiting an eternity to catch up with Humphrey and his ‘I’m sooooo mature’ November birthday. Agatha’s not much better; she was born on Christmas Day and shares her birthday with Jesus. Trust me to be a summer baby. Though personally, I think June should be classed as spring; we get way too much rain for it to be summer.
The big one-four. Where does the time go?” Humphrey puts on a wistful face and takes his life in his hands. “I remember when she was just a tiny little pudding child with scruffy ginger hair.”
Humphrey’s lucky I love him to death. Nevertheless, that deserves a dead leg.
“It was meant to.”
Humphrey rubs his leg, sucking in his breath, and I smile. That should keep the wisecrack count down for a while.
Agatha comes up to the bed and I tense, expecting her to jump on me or pile-drive me or something. My eyes widen as I see that’s not her intention at all.
“Here,” she says, holding out a box wrapped in silver paper. “Happy birthday.”
“Yeah,” Humphrey echoes, rubbing his thigh.
Why do I suddenly feel bad? He
that dead leg.
“But you already gave me presents.”
Agatha looks at Humphrey and something passes between them. Humphrey sighs, grabs the box and places it in my hands.
“Look Jay, we know you haven’t been sleeping well lately and, God knows you’re not going to talk about it, so Agatha thought
, I mean we
thought, that this might help.” He waves a finger at the present.
Very carefully, I pull off the wrapping paper and open the lid. Nestled in tissue paper is a
. I pick up the mass of feathers and crystals and chimes and bright, colourful, paper inscribed with funny-looking alien symbols and give it a gentle shake.
“You got me a rattle. Um,
“It’s not a
,” Agatha says, like I’m as thick as a stick. “It’s a
Agatha nods. “You hang it over your bed and it stops bad dreams.”
Of course it does.
“Agatha,” I sigh. “You’re the most intelligent person I know. You have a brain the size of Jupiter. How you can believe that crap?”
Agatha looks crestfallen. Humphrey, who hates to see Agatha upset (because he’s secretly in love with her), rests a hand on my shoulder and gives it the smallest of squeezes.
“Why don’t you hang it up for decoration? Say, oh I don’t know, over here, by the bed?”
I chew the inside of my cheek and think about it. Eventually I nod, once.
Humphrey breathes out.
“Great. Hope it works, because you could
do with the sleep.”
My head snaps round super-fast and my eyes narrow. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Humphrey jumps up from the bed and takes Agatha’s hand. He pulls her across the room, opens the bedroom door and pushes her onto the landing. Looking back at me, he smiles, but it’s sad and out of place on his face.
“Grumpy Jelly I can deal with. Grumpy Jelly is normal. Angry, scared, sleep-deprived Jelly is a nightmare.”
I open my mouth but nothing comes out.
Humphrey ducks out of the room and gently closes the door.