By Adele Broadbent
Hawke’s Bay author, reviewer and bookseller Adele Broadbent is back with a new title for a young adult audience. Thanks to OneTree House, we can share a chapter from If Only, to whet your appetite for the story to come.
Tam squeezed into a circle of people standing on the lawn, pulling me in after her. ‘Hi. I’m Tam. This is Kayla.’ We got the same response we’d received outside the theatre earlier that night. The girls ignored us and the guys just nodded. Tam didn’t seem to notice. She chatted away to Evan and his mates as if she’d known them forever and I wondered where this self-confident chick had morphed from.
I looked at the people around me, trying not to stare. One girl had tattoos around her neck and along one bare arm. A guy had more piercings than I’d seen in my entire life, let alone on one person. Another girl, wearing the shortest skirt I’ve ever seen, hung off a guy with thick, black eye make-up and blue lipstick.
As Tam chatted away next to me, I imagined Mum and Dad’s faces as if they had known where I was. Not the coolest thought, but I wasn’t about to tell anyone.
When Tam first told me about the tickets I worried about how I was going to get past Mum. Even with free tickets, there was no way she would’ve let me go to the comedy festival ‘with mature themes’, with a bunch of people she didn’t know, that also included guys. Dad’s not as paranoid as Mum, but usually what Mum says, goes.
When Tam first told me about the tickets I worried about how I was going to get past Mum.
I’d timed it perfectly, asking her as she juggled putting the groceries away, helping my little brother Theo with his maths homework, and cooking tea. I’d strolled into the kitchen. ‘Can I go to Tam’s this Saturday?’ I stirred a simmering pot on the stove. ‘I’ll probably stay the night.’
Mum poked her head out of the pantry. ‘Chocolate cake and movie night, huh?’
I never answered, continuing to stir the pot. I figured if I didn’t say anything, it wasn’t a lie.
‘I don’t see why not,’ she said. ‘No R16 movies please and don’t forget you said you’d visit Auntie Mae this weekend.’
‘Of course not,’ I said, leaving the kitchen as quickly as possible. It was only afterwards that I’d thought about Auntie Mae. I groaned. I had promised to see her but since we’d moved to the other side of town, it was a pain.
Auntie Mae isn’t our real auntie. She is more like an adopted grandmother. Before we moved, she’d lived next door to us for as long as I could remember. We’d go to her house after school, or she’d babysit us at night if Mum and Dad went out.
She’d do all sorts of cool stuff with us, like running races and obstacle courses in her backyard in summer. In the winter she’d pull out wooden puzzles and awesome board games you couldn’t buy any more. She’d help with my homework and school projects and she was great to talk to about stuff at school that I didn’t want Mum to know.
But at nearly 16, board games and running races weren’t exactly my thing any more. As I grew she’d seemed to shrink, and going to see her now was just … It seems so mean to think it but it was boring. But if it meant getting past Mum, I’d stick to my promise. I’ll go tomorrow, I thought, returning to here and now just as Tam and the tattoo girl shrieked with laughter.
As I grew she’d seemed to shrink, and going to see her now was just … It seems so mean to think it but it was boring.
Tam tugged on my arm. ‘Come on, K, let’s get something to drink.’
Inside the house, there was a strange, sweet smell in the air and the bass bounced off the walls. I imagined what the neighbours might be thinking. Dad would be onto noise control at half the decibels. I shook my head. Stop it, Kayla. You’re at a party. It’s supposed to be loud.
People packed the wide hallway and adjoining rooms, preventing any easy movement. Making sure to stick together, we wove in and out of the crowd until we made it into the lounge.
Again, we stopped as Tam recognised someone. I stood watching once again, wishing I’d worn the high heels Tam had offered when we were getting dressed. I’d always been the shortest in my class at school, but in such a packed space, I suddenly felt even smaller.
We’d spent hours getting ready at Tam’s place and although Tam told me I looked great, I felt completely out of place in my jeans and long-sleeved top. At least half of the girls wore skimpy tops, tiny skirts with black tights, and had long, straight hair. No wonder Tam had insisted on straightening mine, not that my wavy, mud-brown hair looked anything like it was supposed to.
The guys weren’t much better. It was like hoodys and skinny jeans is a uniform for partiers.
I looked past Tam to the next room, wondering if it would be less crowded. Shiny pots and pans hung from a rack above the heads of the crowd, so I figured it was the kitchen. I tapped Tam on her shoulder and pointed in the direction of the pots. When I made a drinking motion she grinned and nodded before leaning back in close with the girl she was talking to.
When I made a drinking motion she grinned and nodded before leaning back in close with the girl she was talking to.
It was a relief to reach the huge kitchen. Clusters of people stood around the edges, talking and laughing, with conversation slightly easier than in the lounge. An island bench in the centre of the room was stacked with bottles and beer cans and as I searched for Coke or orange juice, a guy pushed in front of me. He tore off a couple of cans and lobbed them across the room to his mates, before grabbing one himself.
‘Want something to drink?’
I looked up and recognised one of the guys from Evan’s group at the comedy show. I’d ended up sitting between him and Tam at the show, and he’d seemed a bit shy. At least, he wasn’t as out-there as Evan and his mates.
At the comedy show interval, Tam and the others had gone out to the foyer. ‘To mingle,’ Tam had said. Too scared to leave my seat in case someone recognised me under the make-up Tam had shovelled on, I’d been left on my own with him. I learnt his name was Alex and not much else as we sat waiting for the others to return. But he was nice enough and didn’t completely ignore me, which is what guys usually do.
‘Do you want something to drink?’ he repeated. I nodded and tried to find my tongue as he stood waiting for my answer. ‘Um, yes,’ I stuttered. ‘Is there any Coke?’
‘Yeah. Hang on.’ He crossed the kitchen to the biggest fridge I’d ever seen. He swung open one of the double stainless-steel doors to reveal even more beer, and I wondered if he’d laugh if I asked for water. He reached into the back of the fridge and to my relief pulled out two cans of Coke.
He swung open one of the double stainless-steel doors to reveal even more beer, and I wondered if he’d laugh if I asked for water.
‘Sure you don’t want a beer?’ he asked, glancing around at what others were drinking.
‘No, thanks,’ I said. ‘Can I have that one for my friend?’ I nodded at the second can of Coke.
‘Oh. Sure,’ he said.
‘Alex!’ We turned to the sound of his name. Evan and two other guys beckoned him over. He smiled at me and gave a little shrug before heading in their direction.
The kitchen had filled while I’d got the Cokes and I had to squeeze my way back out, but when I found the spot I’d left Tam, she’d gone.
‘Oh, great, Tam.’ I stood on my tiptoes, peering around the room. No Tam. I scanned the crowd for my friend or any of the people we’d arrived with but didn’t recognise any faces at all. I hardly knew them but decided to go back to where I’d seen Alex and Evan. When I finally made it, a quick scan of the kitchen told me they were gone, too. I leaned against the kitchen wall, holding two Cokes, feeling like a complete idiot.
Extracted with permission from If Only by Adele Broadbent, published by OneTree House.
By Adele Broadbent
Published by OneTree House