This is a story about Cat , a dark haired and curvy sixteen year old who lives in the shadow of her slim, blonde, boy-magnet sister Tessa. Cat is a bit of dreamer and has a secret passion for her attractive English teacher Mr Brown. Enter a fit American lad Josh (the son of her dad’s boss) who comes to stay in Glasgow. When Josh shows no interest in her gorgeous sister, preferring Cat’s company instead she wrongly jumps to the conclusion that he’s gay and befriends him on that basis, even taking him bra shopping with her and attempting to set him up with a boyfriend. This is the first of many mistakes leading to confusion, chaos and cringing embarrassment as the truth is finally revealed. A light-hearted ugly duckling story with a twist.
Here’s an extract from Chapter 11 – about half way through the book – hope you enjoy!
I stuffed the essay back in my bag and I swear I almost floated out the door. I was just so happy. I spotted Josh, who was leaning against the wall along the corridor waiting for me. I ran up to him, then, without stopping to think, dropped my bag, threw my arms around his neck and kissed him.
When I let him go he said, smiling, ‘Wow, what was that for?’
I picked up my bag and hooked my arm through his and we headed for the stairs. ‘Oh God, Josh, I’m just so happy. I’ve been worried about nothing. Absolutely nothing.’ I looked around just to make sure no one could hear us, then continued, ‘Mr Brown hasn’t been seeing the French assistant. He was only giving her a lift when her car wasn’t working. Just being kind and thoughtful as usual. I should never have doubted him.’
I babbled on happily all the way back to Josh’s but he was very quiet and didn’t seem to be as pleased for me as I’d hoped. In fact once we’d gone up to his room with a Coke he said, ‘So, Cat, does this mean you’re putting your life on hold for this guy again? You’re not gonna date anyone, maybe make out with someone you like? You’re sixteen – you’re supposed to be having fun, not sitting around at home waiting for some guy who may never show up.’
‘I’ll wait for ever if I have to, and so will he,’ I said crossly. I put down my glass of Coke. ‘If you’re just going to try and belittle our relationship maybe I should go.’
‘What relationship?’ he said sarcastically.
Right, that was it. I wasn’t putting up with this any more. Josh was a good friend but he’d crossed the line now. Without another word I marched to the door but Josh called after me, ‘Don’t go, Cat. I’m sorry, that was pretty crass. It’s just that, you know, maybe this whole thing with your teacher is stopping you from thinking about guys that are, well, uh, maybe more right for you age-wise and, um, in other ways too.’
I hesitated, my hand on the door handle. He had apologized after all – probably he’d just been concerned about me. I moved back into the room. ‘OK, I know you mean well, but you really shouldn’t worry about me. I’m quite happy just to wait for David. Anyway,’ I confided, ‘I don’t really like snogging boys.’
‘No, in fact I hate it. I’ve only done it twice and it was awful.’ I settled down on Josh’s bed and patted the space beside me. ‘The first time was with a boy I met when we were on holiday in Spain two years ago. It was disgusting. All slobbery, and he moved his mouth round and round like a washing machine. Finally he stuck his tongue down my throat and I nearly gagged.’
‘Doesn’t sound like a good first experience. Maybe the guy just wasn’t right for you.’
‘Maybe, but my snog with Billy at the Christmas party wasn’t much better.’
‘You made out with Billy? The guy with the python?’
‘Yeah. At least he didn’t slobber but he’d drunk so much lager so quickly before the party that he kept belching mid snog.’
Josh smiled. ‘Not such a cool idea.’
‘Of course it will be different with David as he’s so much more mature.’
He shrugged. ‘Who knows?’
‘But I worry I might not, you know, be experienced enough for him. I mean, since I’ve decided not to snog anyone again I won’t have had any practice. Maybe I won’t be any good.’
‘It’s not an exam, Cat. In any case, someone his age is going to be looking for a lot more action than that.’
I ignored this jibe from Josh. Mr Brown had been willing to wait this long for me so I was sure he’d be patient about sex and we’d take things slowly at first. I don’t know why Josh can’t see how wonderful Mr Brown is. I suppose he just doesn’t understand him like I do. Instead of arguing I continued, ‘I suppose I’ll just have to go back to practising by snogging myself in the mirror.’
I giggled and repeated what I’d said, then added, ‘All girls do it at some time. Even my sister Tessa before she started dating. She denied it of course but I saw the lipstick marks on her bedroom mirror.’
‘Really? All you chicks make out with, like, your reflections! That’s weird, Cat. You’re bullshitting me.’
‘Well, not all; some, like Lindsay, prefer kissing the back of their hand because it’s more flesh-like.’
‘Or Marianne, who liked to snog her teddy bear.’
‘She makes out with a stuffed toy?’
I giggled again. ‘Yeah, but there’s worse. Now promise me you won’t tell anyone.’ Josh nodded mutely. ‘Well, when Lindsay told me about snogging the back of her hand I thought, That’s stupid – I mean, totally mad. It’s her own hand after all.’
‘Hmm, yeah, right.’
‘So I thought, Well, suppose it didn’t feel like your own hand. Suppose it felt like part of someone else’s body.’
‘You’re losing me, Cat.’
‘Lindsay and I both tried it. We’d sit on our right hand until the circulation got cut off and it went numb, and honest to God it didn’t feel like part of you. Then, not only could you snog it, you could caress yourself with your hand and imagine it was some boy you fancied. Of course, he’d never go any further than you wanted him to.’
We were both laughing. God, I’d forgotten about that until just now. Lindsay and I were just in the Second Year at the time and totally mental. When he’d stopped laughing Josh said, ‘I’ve never met anyone like you, Cat.’
‘Yeah, completely nuts.’
‘That too. But what I meant was I’ve never known any girl so, I don’t know, honest and open, I guess. Totally natural.’
‘Well, I don’t share stuff like this with most guys. Only you in fact. No way would I trust those idiots with our secrets. But you’re different. Obviously.’
‘Well, thanks, Cat. I’m honoured you feel you can confide in me. I really am. So I guess I can’t tell Peter about Lindsay and the numb-hand thing. A pity – he’d enjoy it.’
‘Don’t you dare! Lindsay would kill me.’
Josh teased me for a bit but then assured me that he wouldn’t tell anyone and I believed him. Then I asked curiously, ‘Do boys ever do that? Practise snogging?’
‘I don’t think so. No one’s ever said, but I can’t be sure, I suppose.’ Josh smiled. ‘After all, it’s not likely guys are going to be caught out by leaving lipstick marks on the bedroom mirror.
‘Anyway,’ he continued, ‘I’ve certainly never kissed my reflection or a part of my own body. Maybe a teddy bear – you’d have to ask my mom – but not since I was five. Honestly, Cat, I don’t think you can practise making out without another person.’
I thought about this. He was probably right. ‘Well, I can’t do that. I wouldn’t cheat on Mr Brown. I’ll just have to hope I’ll be OK at the time.’
Josh shrugged. ‘Your choice.’
But then I had an idea. ‘Of course, I suppose I could practise with you and it wouldn’t be cheating since you’re definitely a totally platonic friend.’
‘Excuse me? Are you serious? You want to practise making out with me?’
‘Yeah, well, why not? It would be better than my reflection or a teddy bear.’
‘I’m overwhelmed by this flattery, Cat. Careful or I might really get too big-headed,’ Josh said sarcastically.
‘I didn’t mean it like that,’ I soothed. ‘It’s just that, you know, obviously I can trust you completely and so I wouldn’t feel guilty about Mr Brown.’
‘You trust me completely? Maybe you shouldn’t. I’m just a guy after all.’
‘Don’t be silly. Of course I trust you. You’re my friend. And, well, it’s not like you’d ever take advantage of me, would you?’
I looked at him, trying to figure out what he was thinking. His expression was hard to read. He looked confused and wary. But maybe it was more than that. Maybe the idea of snogging a girl was repulsive.
I said slowly, ‘Of course, if it would be really disgusting for you I’d understand. We’ll just forget it.’
He ran a hand distractedly through his hair. ‘Of course it isn’t disgusting, Cat,’ he said gently. ‘Just, well, a bit weird, that’s all. But, OK, right, if you really want to, then go ahead. Use me for practice.’
‘Oh, right, thanks.’
We sat silently on the bed for a while, then he said, ‘So, I’m waiting.’
‘Yeah, why not?’
‘Well, er, not here. I mean, not on the bed.’
‘Seems a good place to me but, hey, OK, have it your way.’ Josh stood up. ‘Better?’
I stood up too, moved away from the bed, then faced him. He was just standing there looking relaxed and amused, making no move towards me. I blushed, suddenly embarrassed. This really was one of my dafter ideas. What was I supposed to do now? A few moments passed. Josh looked at his watch and yawned pointedly. Very funny. Then he said, ‘Chickening out?’
To be honest I felt like doing just that but there was no way I would now. Not after Josh’s challenge. ‘No, just thinking about it.’
‘Oh, yeah, I get it. Mental preparation. Visualizing your moves like an athlete before the event. But you’re not gonna do a pole-vault, Cat. It really isn’t that difficult.’ I smiled.
‘That’s better,’ he said. ‘This is supposed to be enjoyable. Before you smiled just then you looked like you were going to have a tooth extracted rather than be kissed.’
‘Right, so . . .’ I said in a brusque matter-of-fact tone. ‘Should I keep my eyes open, do you think, or close them?’
‘Whatever you feel comfortable with. It’s cool.’
I decided to close my eyes. Then I tried to think about kissing Mr Brown to get me in the mood. Where would we have our first kiss? At school maybe on the day I left? Or perhaps at a romantic restaurant. We’d have a table for two with red roses and candles. No, better still, on a moonlit beach where we’d been strolling hand in hand. Not in Scotland of course, which would be too cold. Spain maybe, or the south of France. David would have bought the tickets to surprise me. Yes. A moonlit beach was definitely the most romantic. I smiled, then moved forward to embrace ‘David’ and found myself nearly falling over as I clasped empty air. I opened my eyes. Josh had disappeared. But then I felt an arm placed around my waist. He must have silently crept behind me while I was deciding on my fantasy location.
Idiot! I laughed, then twisted round to face him, meaning to give him a playful slap, but before I could do this he’d pulled me tightly towards him and kissed me hard on the mouth. For a long time. Pressed so close to him I could feel the heat of his body through his shirt and was aware, in the silent room, of the strong beat of his heart. I felt my tummy tighten and my face flush. Oh God, what was happening to me? I’d never felt like this before. Then, slowly, gently, he released me but still held onto my hands.
I didn’t look at him, instead examining my toes like I’d never seen them before. I was aware I must appear odd but I couldn’t let him look into my eyes until I’d got my emotions under some sort of control again. Neither of us said anything until at last, embarrassed by the silence, I took a deep breath and stupidly said, ‘Well, er, thanks, Josh.’
He said in an amused tone, ‘You’re welcome.’
Trying to match his light touch, I replied, ‘So, then, how did I do?’
‘Well, not bad, but I think you need a lot more practice.’
He bent his head to kiss me again but I pulled away from him, trying to twist my hands free. ‘No! Stop it!’ I shouted.
Josh, shocked by my vehement response, immediately let go of me. ‘Hey, I’m sorry, sorry. What’s the matter?’
Embarrassed by my over-the-top reaction, I said hastily, ‘Nothing, nothing. It’s just . . . you were right. This was a stupid idea. Look, I need to get back now. I’ve loads of homework to do tonight and, erm, yeah, I just remembered I promised to cook Dad spaghetti bolognese for dinner. Mum doesn’t cook,’ I babbled on, ‘unless you count tomato and lettuce salads as cooking, which obviously I don’t. Especially without any dressing. Well, not quite true – she does lemon and balsamic vinegar dressing but no mayonnaise. Can you imagine? God, you’re so lucky. A mum who makes lasagne and bakes cookies.’ I picked up my school bag. ‘Right, see you later.’
‘I’ll walk you home,’ Josh said.
‘No, I’m fine thanks.’ I opened the bedroom door and sped down the stairs, calling as I went, ‘See ya tomorrow.’
At last I was out the front door and running – yeah, literally running for home. Oh God, how stupid I’d been. Why hadn’t I realized that though a gay guy like Josh could never fancy me in a million years this didn’t stop me from being attracted to him. Especially when we were locked in a passionate clinch in his bedroom! Tonight I felt I’d betrayed Mr Brown and, almost as bad, put my friendship with Josh, which was beginning to mean so much to me, in jeopardy. I silently vowed I’d never do anything so stupid again. Never.