1 Jess sat in her bedroom and wrote a title on a piece of paper: Reasons to Be Cheerful. There have to be some, she thought desperately. Life had been beastly recently, with Fred behaving – well, behaving like a rat. So what did she have to be cheerful about? Jess stared moodily at the carpet. A tiny beetle ran under her desk. Luckily she didn’t mind insects. Just rats, really. Especially the human sort. 1) I’m not a cockroach. A bit of a random reason to be cheerful, but she had to start somewhere. Although it’s possible, admitted Jess, that cockroaches have a lifestyle that’s one hundred per cent fun, holding raves on the ﬂoors of dirty kitchens every night of the year. 2) I’m not obese. During the winter, thick ﬂeeces had kept her bod discreetly veiled, but now spring was
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here and she was going to have to foist her lard on the unsuspecting public. Her backside was so big, she often had the feeling she was being followed. 3) I’m not seriously ill. Jess paused. She’d better check ﬁrst. She started by examining her hands. They looked just about OK – at least they hadn’t fallen off in the night. Jess became distracted by her ﬁngers. She’d read somewhere that having an index ﬁnger shorter than your ring ﬁnger meant that you might have some masculine characteristics, such as being good at maths and asserting yourself. Jess sighed. Her index ﬁnger was deﬁnitely longer than her ring ﬁnger, so it was unlikely that she would turn out to be a stylish mathematician with her own TV game show. 4) My mum and dad, though divorced, are friends. Her parents had got divorced when she was too young to remember any of it. Though mad in their own quiet ways, they were so well behaved they’d probably managed not to throw too many plates at each other. If any china had been hurled, it was most likely only egg cups. 5) Granny understands me and is still alive (that is, she was when I last looked). Jess suddenly had a horrid thought and raced downstairs. Granny was sitting in front of the TV, fast asleep with her mouth open. Jess stared
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anxiously at Granny’s chest encased in its cosy handknitted cardi emblazoned with a woolly picture of dolphins leaping joyfully in and out of a blue-green sea. Thank goodness! The sea was rising and falling regularly, an infallible sign that Granny was still alive, though Jess did feel a slight pang of seasickness. On the TV somebody was being ill treated by an alien. Granny found sci-ﬁ and horror delightfully soothing. Though tempted to stay and watch the earth being saved from the brink yet again, Jess ran back upstairs. She still hadn’t thought of a reason to be really cheerful, something that cancelled out all the annoying stuff. 6) I’ve never been tortured by aliens. In fact, being tortured by your very own friends was worse, as Jess now realised. She sighed and stared up at her bulletin board. It was adorned with random stuff: photos of terriers skateboarding, some pics of Flora mugging at the camera, trying to pull a horrendous face yet somehow remaining almost illegally beautiful . . . There were no images of Fred. (Nor of his latest ﬂame, the unstoppable, indestructible, shameless Jodie.) They’d all been stashed away in Jess’s wardrobe. At the thought of Fred, a wave of rage and indignation swept through her. Jess grabbed a pencil and ripped a piece of blank paper off a pad. She drew a cartoon of Fred,
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exaggerating his long legs, his short bristly hair, his huge eyes. Next to him she drew a cruel caricature of Jodie, much fatter than she’d ever been in real life, and dolled up in a bride’s veil. Above the happy couple, Jess wrote in red felt tip, You may kick the bride! Then she pinned it to her bulletin board. I must get some darts, she thought. Firing some arrows off at that irritating pair would cheer her up in her worst moments. Reluctantly she dragged herself away from the wedding pic of Fred and Jodie, and returned to her Reasons to Be Cheerful. She really did want to be cheerful again, not kind of smouldering from an inner ﬁre the way she had been for weeks now. 7) I’m lucky to live in the age of TV. Imagine all those poor Stone Age people, forced to draw mammoths on cave walls to while away the time. And how did they even play charades in the prehistoric era? You couldn’t start with ‘Is it a book, a ﬁlm or a movie?’ It would always have to be a cave painting, an odd-looking vegetable or a lump of mammoth poo that looked amusingly like somebody’s head. 8) Despite humanity’s attempts to ruin the planet, we still have small, furry, cuddly animals. Just not in this actual house, thought Jess resentfully. Despite a relentless campaign of nagging, she was as far away from
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having a pet as ever. The nearest thing she had to a small ﬂuffy creature was her fur-trapper’s hat which was made of polyester. Maybe it should be known as a polyester-trapper’s hat. She was quite tempted sometimes to call it Twinkle and to take it for walks on a lead. 9) I’m not going out with Luke. Although Luke was a really lovely guy, and amazingly talented, for Jess to go out with him would have been wrong, wrong, wrong. She had made the right decision there, at least. At this point Jess sighed and threw away her pen. She had meant to toss it lightly on to the desk and for it to lie there creating an atmosphere of chic despair. Instead it bounced off the wall and fell down behind the back of the desk. She glared at the cartoon of Fred and Jodie getting married. It gave her a strange, ferocious pleasure. She thought she might do some more drawings of them later. She might invent some horrible children for them, and a vile dog called Frodie who looked a bit like Jodie. And she’d make them live in a nasty house covered with house-warts. This bitter and twisted mood had to be dispelled somehow. Jess tried to pull herself together. She decided to do the only sensible thing: ﬂip open her laptop, ﬁnd a tarot website and get an instant reading.
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She was immediately instructed to think of a question or an object of concern. Jess closed her eyes. How much longer am I going to have to endure this? she begged the invisible Fates. Will things ever get back to the way they were? She’d selected a three-card reading – for the past, present and future. The ﬁrst card to be revealed represented the past. It was the Five of Swords and symbolised Loss and Regret. ‘Too right!’ cried Jess aloud. She read on. Sometimes one has to accept one’s errors in judgement and one’s rash and belligerent actions. But had she made an error in judgement? She looked up belligerent in the online dictionary just in case it might mean something not quite as bad as she suspected. Inclined or eager to ﬁght, the deﬁnition said. Hostile or aggressive. She wondered whether she had been hostile or aggressive, or whether she’d been perfectly justiﬁed when she let rip at Fred during Chaos, the Valentine’s dinner dance. Abandoning the online tarot reading in despair, Jess went downstairs. Granny had woken up from her little nap and was watching avidly as a Special Space Force Agent destroyed some aliens without, miraculously, ruining her hair. ‘She’s got them on the run now,’ Granny commented
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reassuringly. ‘But there’s a twist right at the end – they’ve taken over her partner’s body. I’ve seen this one before.’ ‘What happens in the end?’ asked Jess, ﬂopping down on the hearthrug beside Granny’s feet. ‘It’s one of those coat hanger episodes,’ said Granny. ‘Cliffhanger, I mean. She ﬁnds her mate again and there’s this grand reunion, but gradually she realises that he’s been taken over by an evil alien force.’ Jess shuddered with recognition. Something very similar had been happening in her own life, ever since Fred had started going out with Jodie.
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OUT 5TH JULY
Praise for Sue Limb and Jess Jordan: ‘Very funny and sharply observed, this is the kind of book no teenage girl should be without’ The Bookseller Limb’s heroine is cleverer than Rennison’s, less bonkers than McKay’s, but just as captivating’ The Times ‘Limb weaves such themes as friendship and rivalry, the importance or not of appearances and so forth . . . this is pink lit that girls (and boys with a copy in a plain wrapper) will love’ Books for Keeps