Authors: Susannah McFarlane
Up until that morning, at recess to be exact, Emma Jacks had been really looking forward to the party. Eve, one of the girls who started at St Cree Primary last term, was having a dance birthday party and the whole class had been invited. The whole class; that was good. It meant people didn't rush around finding out who was invited and who wasn't. No one was disappointed, no one was surprised: everyone was excited. And that's how recess had started. Emma was sitting outside with Hannah, Elle and Isi, her best friends, and they were discussing the party.
âIt's so cool that the whole class is going,' said Emma. âAnd a dance party, how fun will that be!'
Elle, who loved dancing, opened her mouth wide but no sound came out. That normally meant she had an idea. The girls waited and finally Elle spoke. âWe can make up a new dance routine!' she cried. âYou know, one of those dances where everyone lines up and does the same steps at the same time. Imagine the whole class doing it together! How much fun would that be!'
âThat would be sooooo cool!' cried Isi, who was the most excitable of the group. âMaybe we could take glow sticks!' she nearly shouted. The other kids were starting to look at her but Isi was on a roll. âAnd we could wear disco gear and crazy hairâmaybe silver! And we could â¦'
Nema and Laila were walking past as Isi was talking. They must have overheard. It would have been hard not to.
âIt's not a fancy dress party, Isi,' said Laila.
âThen again Isi always looks a bit of a clown anyway,' whispered Nema to Laila in one of those pretend whispers that people could hear. âDizzy Isi, the dancing clown!' Nema laughed and Laila joined in.
Laila was new to the class too, and she wasn't the sort of girl who would invite the whole class to her party. She didn't seem to care about anyone else's feelings. She would talk about people behind their backs and then act as if they were best friends later on. When a person she was talking about walked up, she went silent in a way that made it clear that she had been talking about that person. And she had become best friends with Nema, the class mean girl. The only thing worse than one mean girl was, obviously, two.
âOh be quiet you two!' said Emma. âIsi looks really good in bright colours.' She was getting pretty good at standing up to Nema when she was meanâand Nema gave her plenty of opportunities for practice. Besides, it was true. Bright colours looked fabulous against Isi's deep olive skin, which she got from her Italian mother. Orange was her favourite colour. Nema on the other hand seemed to wear black most of the timeâblack jeans, black t-shirts and black skirts.
âBright colours are so babyish though,' snapped Nema who clearly didn't like being stood up to. âAnd so not the style this season. When I was in Paris â¦'
âHere we go again,' whispered Hannah to Emma. âHow many times is Nema going to show off about her trip to Paris?'
Nema had gone on an unexpected trip to Paris in the last school holidays. Her mum was called away for her work at the last moment and Nema was allowed to go with her. She had come back even bossier and the self-appointed expert on all things fashion.
âWhen I was in Paris,' continued Nema, âit was all about wild animal skinsâzebras, cheetahs and really cool accessories made from rhino horn. I've got this really expensive bangle â¦'
âThat's disgusting,' cried Emma.
âIt's cruel,' cried Hannah.
âReal animals?' asked Elle, horrified.
âYeah, of course,' replied Nema. âKeeping it real.'
âYou wouldn't want to be fake,' said Laila. âWhen we go back â¦ ow, Nema!'
Emma looked at Nema. Had she just poked Laila? Why?
âAnyway I'm getting a new dress for the party,' said Laila.
âYeah, course,' said Nema. âWho isn't?'
Emma blushed. She wasn't. She knew it wasn't even worth asking her mum. Anyway, she'd already had a few ideas and Elle was coming over after school so they could try things on.
âWhat are you wearing, Emma?' asked Nema. âOne of your “creations” I suppose?'
Emma blushed. She liked putting different bits of clothing together, often pieces you wouldn't think would go. She liked adding stuff like ribbons and buttons to bits of clothing.
âYou always look great, Em,' said Isi. âYou have a way of putting things together that's so â¦ so â¦'
âSo what?' asked Emma.
âIs that a good thing?'
âYes! It's a great thing. You have your own style.'
âCan I just say one word?' said Nema, who was going to anyway. âRibbon.'
Aaaarrrgghh! Emma should have known Nema would bring that up. There had been a talent concert at school and Emma, Hannah, Isi and Elle's band, Squishy Music, had performed and Emma had put together the girls' costumes. She had bought skirts from the op-shop and stuck on extra buttons and strips of lace and, because they were a bit big, she had tied huge ribbons around the waist. They looked fabulous but after the show when everyone was milling around, Emma's ribbon had come undone. She wasn't sure how it had happened (although come to think of it, Nema had been standing close by) but she was so excited about the success of the talent show that she didn't notice her skirt was around her feet. Until, that is, Hannah, Isi and Elle pointed downwards. Emma looked down to see that she was standing in her underpants.
âWho cares about that? No one really saw,' cried Isi, loyally defending her friend. âAnd the skirts were greatâdifferent, so much better than wearing what everyone else wears. And, in a way, it was sort of funny, Em, wasn't it? It was like your seaweed costume!'
âThanks for bringing that up, Is,' muttered Emma. That had been even worse. There had been an Under the Sea party and Emma had made an amazing cloak with seaweed-like strips floating off it. Well, she thought it was amazing until she arrived and everyone else had come as mermaids and seahorses. Emma's experimenting had led to a few disasters and she didn't want another one at the dance party. Perhaps she should just wear something more normal â¦
âThen again,' said Nema, moving the topic back onto herself, âI might wear my new Alicia Noir dress from Paris. It's from her African Shadows Collection.'
The girls all looked open-mouthed at Nema. New dresses? Paris designers? Suddenly what they thought would be a really fun dance party seemed to be shaping up to be a fashion contest.
âAnyway,' Nema went on, âI'm not saying what I'll wear. It's a secret.'
Emma looked at Nema. She knew the bossy, dark-haired girl had another secret. Nema had begun working for evil agency
How did Emma know that? Because Emma Jacks, ten and a budding if not always completely successful fashion designer, was also Agent EJ12 who worked for the secret agency
, whose job it was to stop
The last year at
had been EJ12's best yet. She had won the agency's Shining Stars Spy of the Year award, her friend Isi had joined
's science and invention division, and she had been on a mission with both her mum and grandma. And now it looked like
might have recruited Elle as well. Her friend had won an athletics competition and later received a letter instructing her to go to a light shop to collect her prize. To an ordinary person, that might just have seemed weird but a
agent knew it was an instruction to report to HQ. The agency was busy recruiting.
They weren't the only one.
also seemed to be training more agents, as EJ had discovered on her mission last Christmas. Back then, there had been lots of young girls helping
agent Tiffany Glass steal diamonds from a window displayâone of those girls had been Nema. Not that Emma was completely surprised because Nema seemed quite a good fit for an evil agency. Recently Emma had been noticing that Nema was away from school quite often. The reason she always gave was that she was travelling with her mum who worked overseas a lot, but Emma was very suspicious. Had Nema finished her training? Was her trip to Paris something to do with
? Was there a reason Nema spent so much time in Ms Black's office? And was Ms Black a
agent or was her name just a coincidence? Emma wasn't so sure. As one of the many
mottoes said, âCoincidences are clues waiting to be caught'. So Emma and Isi kept a close eye on Nema. Trouble was, that made it hard to avoid her mean comments. Like now. Nema seemed to have a knack of making Emma doubt herself.
âYou could just try being normal, you know, and wear what everyone else wears,' snapped Nema.
âYou say such dumb things, Nema,' said Hannah.
But Emma wondered. Maybe it wasn't dumb.