Authors: Fleur Beale
ourteen-year-old urban princess Minna Hargreaves is finding life sweet. Her family may be dysfunctional, but at least she’s got great friends and a gorgeous new boyfriend.
Then her dad drops a bombshell: in one month’s time the Hargreaves family is going to live on a tiny, windswept island in Cook Strait to film a reality TV show. And, as if that’s not bad enough, there will be
no phone calls
no social life
for an entire year. Just the company of a secretive mother, a stoner brother, a couple of chickens and a totally clueless dad.
How will Minna survive this nightmare?
Fleur Beale has written 28 books for children and young adults and lives in Wellington.
I wish to thank Carol and Bruce Knight for their kindness and generosity in sharing with me their experiences of living on Stephens Island, a conservation island in Cook Strait.
I walked home from school — my feet must have touched the footpath, but I didn’t feel a thing.
Seb King liked me. Me! Minna Hargreaves. I didn’t know it would feel like this — floaty and happy and full of sunshine. He liked
. He held my hand and looked into my eyes. He asked
My friends were fantastic about it. I’ve seen other friendships break up when somebody gets a boyfriend. That would never happen with Lizzie, Jax and Addy, even though I knew Addy liked him too. She just said, ‘He’s hot and he’s got great taste.’
I hugged her but didn’t say anything because I could tell she was hurting.
As for Lizzie — Seb and me were the drama of the
decade. It’s a wonder she didn’t design my wedding dress and then go and buy the fabric. But that’s Lizzie. She makes life interesting.
Jax said, ‘Well, I think he’s lucky to have you for his girlfriend.’ She sounded wistful but it wasn’t because she wanted Seb — no, Jax had a thing for my brother, which was something I simply couldn’t understand so we never talked about it.
Each day I woke up happy. Each day I swear I still floated rather than walked. Love was wonderful, fabulous — why had nobody ever told me that? I tasted the sweetness of his kisses long after we parted each day.
We talked each night on the phone. His voice, so deep and sexy, whispered through my dreams.
We had our one-month anniversary. A week later he walked me home, but before we turned the corner into my street, he put his arms around me, bent his head to stare deep into my eyes, then kissed me.
This was different from all his other kisses — more intense, sweeter. His voice was husky as he whispered, ‘My house this weekend?’
All I could say was, ‘Oh, Seb — I love you so much.’
He held me tight and murmured, ‘Friday night. We’ll go to Joseph’s party then back to my house.’
I nodded. I would do it. I’d have to convince Mum I was going to Lizzie’s, but I’d do it.
Seb gave me one last hug before he jogged back the way we’d come. I watched him go — my boyfriend who was soon to become my lover.
My heart, which had slowed after he stopped kissing me, sped up again. My stomach jumped. My lover — oh
god oh god oh god. I ran the last few metres to my house.
The second I got inside, I fired off texts to the girls.
Major emergency. Meet at once
. They knew where and they knew when: BeauTox, our favourite café, and right now.
I yelled to Mum that I was going to the café and ran before she could come up with some reason why I shouldn’t.
I was a mess — a nervous, shuddering mess. I loved him, I did. He just had to put his arms around me and I melted, dissolved, became boneless.
The girls said nothing for a moment after I broke the news, then Jax said, ‘Well, it was bound to happen, I guess. He’s older than you.’ She didn’t add that we all knew he’d slept with other girls.
Addy asked, ‘Do you want to?’
I wriggled on the bar stool. ‘I dunno. One second I’m thinking it’d be the best thing in the world, and then I’m thinking I don’t want things to change. I want to stay the way we are forever and ever.’
‘Dreamer,’ said Lizzie. She leaned her chin on her hands. ‘I reckon you should go for it. You love him. What’s the problem?’
‘She’s too young,’ said Jax. ‘It’s illegal till you’re sixteen.’ Which I wouldn’t be for a year and a bit. How could I wait that long?
Lizzie just shrugged. ‘Legal, illegal! Who takes any notice of that? Do what you want, I say.’
Jax stood up. ‘Gotta go — babysitting duty.’ She hugged me. ‘Love you, Min — good luck.’
Time to go. We walked down the road to where our paths divided. I kept rubbing my hands down my jeans. My throat was dry despite all the swallowing I was doing, and my heart would kill me if it kept thumping at the rate it was going right now.
I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to. I didn’t want to.
I didn’t sleep much that night.
Seb waited for me at our corner the next morning. Before I lost my nerve, I blabbed out, ‘Seb — I just want things to stay like they are now.’ I couldn’t look at him. What if he dumped me?
But he just tightened his arm around my shoulders. ‘Sweet, babe. No drama.’
I leaned into his shoulder, relief making me shudder. He loved me. He really did love me, although he never actually said the words.
‘Actions speak louder than words,’ said Addy when I mentioned it at school.
Yes, they did, and Seb spent every interval with me. That had to mean something.
I relaxed. Everything was fine. For another two weeks we held hands at school, on the way home and on the way there. We kissed. Life was sweet. Nothing had changed.
Then one Friday he said, ‘Good news, babe. The olds are going away next weekend. We can have the whole house to ourselves.’ He kissed me. ‘Think about it.’
I called another BeauTox meeting as soon as he was out of sight.
‘I’m worried he’ll break up with me if I don’t.’ I turned my cup round and round on its saucer and I couldn’t
look at the girls.
‘Well, if he means that much to you — do it,’ said Lizzie. ‘It’s natural. It’s taking your relationship to the next stage. Just do it.’
She was right. I knew she was right, but I worried about it all weekend except when I was with Seb or talking to him on the phone. He didn’t pressure me but, in a way, I kind of wished he would because one second I wanted to and the next I didn’t. I talked to the girls about it on the phone, but I still hadn’t made up my mind when we hung out at Jax’s on Sunday afternoon. Lizzie rolled her eyes at me. ‘You’re crazy! Do it — or some other girl will.’
Addy gasped. ‘Lizzie! That’s not fair — he’s not like that.’
Lizzie shrugged. ‘If it was me, I wouldn’t risk losing him.’
I ran home, my feet beating out do it,
don’t do it
all the way. I was glad Mum was busy in her studio most of the weekend, because if she’d been in full-on mother mode she’d have worked out that I was suffering from an extreme case of jitters for sure.
Things kind of fell into place on Monday morning. Mum announced, ‘I’m going to be away from Friday morning till Sunday night this weekend.’
Dad almost glanced up from the newspaper. ‘Oh? Why?’
‘A workshop,’ said Mum. ‘Visiting artist. Live-in weekend.’
‘Hmm,’ said Dad. He may have heard but I wouldn’t put any bets on it.
But I heard and I swear my stomach turned itself inside out. The huge barrier to my being with Seb had just taken herself off the radar for the weekend. His parents away. Mum away.
I ran out the door with Mum calling that I’d forgotten my lunch money. Huh! No way in hell was I going to be able to eat for the rest of the entire week.
The girls waited for me at our corner. I gabbled out the news about Mum. ‘What’ll I do? I just don’t know what to do! I mean — there’ll probably never be another chance like this ever again.’
Lizzie rubbed her hands. ‘It’s fate. You’re meant to be with him. It’s written in the stars.’
Fate. Who was I to argue with fate? With Mum out of the way, there was nothing to stop me. Dad would believe whatever I told him and, anyway, he probably wouldn’t notice if I disappeared for the whole weekend as well.
I took a deep breath. ‘Okay,’ I said. ‘Fate. Yes. I’ll tell Seb as soon as I see him.’
‘Which would be about now,’ said Jax, nodding her head to where Seb waited for me on the corner by the school.
‘Go on,’ said Lizzie. ‘Remember — it’s the most natural thing in the world.’
I ran off. I didn’t need her prodding me. They all saw the kiss Seb gave me so they’d all know I’d told him. I was glad I’d committed myself. It was good to have the
shall I, shan’t I
thing over and done with.
Jitters doesn’t even come close to describing what I felt all week, except when I was with Seb and then it all
seemed the most obvious and right thing in the world. I loved him and that was all that mattered.
But on Friday afternoon, when I was at home by myself getting ready, I wasn’t exactly the calmest. In fact, I didn’t know my heart could hammer so fast. Maybe it’d kill me — that’s if Mum didn’t kill me first if she found out what I was doing.
I flicked open my phone and called Lizzie. ‘I don’t think jeans are right. What’ll I wear? I look foul!’
She yelled at me, and I could hear Addy and Jax behind her yelling too.
You look fine in jeans. Shows your figure. Stop stressing!
Then Lizzie hit me with the clincher. ‘Believe me, Minna — Seb King is not going to be interested in your
I heard the gasping splutter of laughter from the other two. I also heard our front door shut. Mum? I shook my head. God, I was losing it.
Mum’s away — remember, Min? So that’s Noah home. Calm down. Concentrate.
I paced my bedroom, kicking discarded gear out of the way to give me space. I’d die. I was really going to die. But I’d die if Seb dropped me too.
Lizzie spoke in my ear. She used her calm voice, the one she used when she knew she was right. ‘Look Min, you’ll be fine. I mean, it’s natural to have the odd butterfly …’
‘I haven’t just got butterflies, Lizzie. Butterflies I can handle. I’ve got moths and beetles and grasshoppers and cicadas in there. It’s not natural. Why am I so freaking nervous?’
Lizzie went into major soothe mode. ‘You’ll be fine when you see him. And it’s the next step, Min. You know it is.’
I could almost see Jax and Addy behind her, nodding and looking wise and, in Addy’s case, a bit jealous.
‘Yeah,’ I muttered. ‘You’re right. I know you are. And I want to do this. I do. It’s just …’
‘You’ll be fine,’ Lizzie repeated soothingly.
I was taking a deep breath to answer her when my bedroom door opened, and with no knock first to warn me either.
‘Minna! Where do you think you’re going?’ There was my mother, voice as hard as wire rope, and her eyes flicking from my half-packed bag to my best jeans, new top, make-up and newly washed hair.
My deep breath turned into a gasp. I choked, dropped the phone and coughed my guts out, but even through it all I could still hear Lizzie’s voice:
Minna? What’s happened?
Then, oh god, Mum bent down, grabbed my phone and turned it off.
‘Mum! Give it to me. I was talking to Lizzie.’ I eyeballed her. ‘I was in the middle of a conversation. A private one, in case you’re interested.’
Why? Why had she come home?
‘What are you doing home anyway? You’re supposed to be at that workshop.’ Three days. I should have had three whole days free of bloodhound mother. And two whole nights. Why couldn’t she
on Noah instead of me? My gut did a flip. Seb was waiting for me.
Mum ignored my question, which she was so good at
doing, but just let me ignore hers and wham — daughter-crime of severe magnitude. Instead of answering me, she stood there bouncing my phone, my life, in her hand. ‘I’ll keep this. And the landline is off limits until further notice.’
I lunged for my phone. ‘You can’t do that! You’re ruining my life!’ If I died boyfriendless, bitter and lonely it would all be her fault. I grabbed my bag and walked out of my room.
She called after me, ‘Minna! You are not leaving this house tonight. Do you hear me?’
I swung around. ‘Dad said I could.
trusts me.’ Dad should divorce her, then I could live with him and my life would be my own.
She sucked in a breath. ‘If you take one step outside, I’m calling your father to go after you. And if he won’t, then it’ll be the police.’
I thumped my bag against the wall — and probably broke my new mascara and nail polish. Why did she have to come home now? Two minutes later and I’d have been out of there.
‘Where were you going?’
‘Lizzie’s, so I don’t know what you’re getting so manic about.’ What time would Mum go to bed tonight? Please Noah, come home stoned and divert her attention. How long would Seb wait? God, I hoped Lizzie would call him and tell him there was a problem.
Mum said, ‘I don’t believe you.’
‘I am so. Look, I’ll phone her and you can talk to her.’ I hit my hand against my head. ‘Oh, that’s right — silly me — you’ve got my phone.’
The door opened behind me. Noah? No, Dad — but that could be just as useful. ‘Hello Min. Weren’t you going to Lizzie’s tonight?’
‘Yes! I was. Until
came home and ruined
.’ I edged past him and reached for the door handle. ‘I’ll be off now.’
‘Stay right where you are,’ ordered my darling mother.
‘Liv!’ said Dad. ‘What are you doing home?’
I got the door open.
‘Minna. Don’t you take one step out of this house.’
‘Dad said I could go!’ I got outside and then, would you believe it,
reached out and hauled me back.
‘Seems to be a problem here, Min. Let’s sit down and talk it through.’
I jerked my arm free. ‘Lemme go. I’m late. I’ve gotta go. Now!’
But he grabbed my hand and towed me into the lounge, although I didn’t make it easy for him. ‘Sit down and shut up,’ he said, dumping me in a chair. It was the voice he used when he meant it.
‘It’s not fair!’ I screamed.
He just looked at me. I shut up. Then he turned to Mum. ‘Liv? What’s the problem? I said she could stay at Lizzie’s tonight.’
Ha, Mum — suck on that, why don’t you?
Mum sat down, but on a higher chair than mine I noticed. The high ground, that’s what she liked. She was so into power, my mother. ‘And do you remember me telling you, Wes, that she was not to go anywhere while I was away?’
I gasped. ‘That’s so mean! You’re always trying to control my life.’ Get this over with. Let me go. Seb will think I’m scared. He’ll think I don’t love him enough.
Dad frowned. ‘But what’s the harm in her going to Lizzie’s? That girl’s over here often enough.’
Mum looked at me. ‘But you weren’t going to Lizzie’s, were you, Minna?’
That set off the menagerie in my gut all over again. How did she know? Only one thing to do. I looked her in the eye and said, ‘Yes I
. Where else would I be going? You don’t trust me, you’re so suspicious. I’m fourteen, in case you didn’t realise. Isn’t that old enough to sleep over at a friend’s place?’