Authors: Cathy Hopkins
is the author of the incredibly successful
books, as well as the highly acclaimed
series. She lives in North London with her husband and cats.
Cathy spends most of her time locked in a shed at the bottom of the garden pretending to write books, but she is actually in there listening to music, hippie dancing and talking to her friends on email.
Apart from that, Cathy has joined the gym and spends more time than is good for her making up excuses as to why she hasn’t got time to go.
Find out more about Cathy and her books at
I’d like to dedicate this book to Steve Lovering,
my own hero, who took many years to find.
Thanks as always to Brenda Gardner, Anne Clark,
Melissa Patey and all the fab team at Piccadilly
who make doing these books such a pleasure.
First published in Great Britain in 2008
by Piccadilly Press Ltd,
5 Castle Road, London NW1 8PR
Text copyright © Cathy Hopkins, 2008
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner.
The right of Cathy Hopkins to be identified as Author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
ISBN: 978 1 85340 975 2
3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4
Printed in the UK by CPI Bookmarque, Croydon, CR0 4TD
Text design by Carolyn Griffiths, Cambridge
Cover design by Simon Davis
Cover illustration by Sue Hellard’
‘How do you know when you’re in love?’ asked Leela as she kicked her feet through the carpet of autumn leaves on the way to Starbucks for an after-school hot chocolate.
‘You have butterflies in your tummy. You feel light-headed and your legs go to jelly when you see him,’ said Brook, offering round a packet of Liquorice Allsorts, then taking one herself.
Zahrah pulled her collar up against the chill wind. ‘Sounds like some kind of disease,’ she said. ‘One that you should avoid at all costs or at least take some supplements to stop you catching.’
‘Lo-ove is the bug that I’m dreaming of,’
sang Brook and she popped a pink Allsort into her mouth then linked her arm through mine. I linked my other arm with Zahrah and she linked with Leela. I glanced along the line at my new friends. I still couldn’t believe my luck – I’d only started at our school in September and had spent the first few weeks feeling like a Molly-no-Mates, but then, over the half-term, I’d got in with this great bunch of girls who were a real laugh. It was now nearly the end of October and I felt like I’d known them all my life.
As we walked along, I could see a few boys from the Sixth Form checking us out – my new friends are an attractive bunch, all brunettes apart from me. My hair is more red chestnut than dark.
‘We’re an exotic lot,’ Brook had said one evening when we were talking about our families and the various places we’d lived before ending up in Notting Hill in London. I won the ‘most travelled prize’ hands down – my family has lived in five different countries since I was born (India, the Caribbean, Morocco, Italy and Ireland). Brook came second. Both her parents are American and she lived in New York until she moved to London with her mum when she was eleven. She’s still got a slight American accent. She recently chopped her hair to a jaw length bob and it really shows off her beautiful heart-shaped face and her grey-green eyes that always seem so thoughtful. Leela is from an Indian background but was born here in the UK in Leicester. Her family moved to London when she was six. She’s the smallest of the four of us with delicate features and long hair that shines like silk when she wears it loose but most of the time she wears it back in a clip. Zahrah is from a mixed background — Ethiopian on her mum’s side and English on her dad’s. She grew up in the East End of London before moving to Queen’s Park where her family live now. She’s the same height as I am (five foot nine), and has high cheek bones and huge dark brown eyes with eyelashes that are so long and curly they almost look false. Her aunt does her hair for her, in plaited cornrows close to her head. One day, when I know Zahrah better, I’m going to ask her if her aunt will do mine in little plaits. At the moment, my hair’s shoulder-length in layers and I think it’s boring. I’d like to do something mad with it, like dye it white-blonde for a change. I was going to do it one weekend but Mum talked me out of it saying that the red tones in my hair suit my eyes which are amber. I’d love to be a blonde with blue eyes, at least for a couple of weeks.
‘What do you think, India Jane?’ asked Leela as we reached Starbucks and she pushed open the door. A blast of warm air that smelled of roasted coffee hit us as we trooped in after her. We quickly bagged the two leather sofas by the window where you get the best view of the boys coming out of the private school down the road. I immediately thought about Joe Donahue. I’d first seen him sitting here when I’d arrived in London back in the summer and thought that if he was a typical example of the local boys then I’d landed in heaven. A lot had happened since then and Joe and I had been on our first date last weekend. Well, sort of date. Actually it was a trip to an art gallery to see an exhibition by a local artist who my Aunt Sarah rates and, OK, so Aunt Sarah and Joe’s mum were there too (they work together), but he took my hand and stroked my fingers when they went off to buy something from the gallery shop and we were alone for a few minutes. It sent shivers up and down my spine and I thought that, in a funny way, you can kiss with your hands. I felt all the butterflies and jelly-leg symptoms that Brook had just mentioned. So, oh yes, it was definitely love as far as I was concerned when it came to Joe.
‘You feel on a high,’ I said as I put my rucksack in the corner of the sofa. ‘You want to be your best self and you can’t stop thinking about him and even the slightest touch, like brushing hands or arms, can make you feel all warm and fluttery inside.’
‘Joe?’ asked Zahrah.
She took a sharp breath in.
‘Oh I know all about his bad-boy reputation,’ I said. ‘Don’t worry. And I really think he’s over that.’
Zahrah sucked in the air through her teeth making a hissing sound and pinched her mouth tight with disapproval. I laughed. Although I’d only been hanging around with Zahrah, Brook and Leela for the couple of weeks since half-term, I had quickly learned that sometimes Zahrah didn’t speak, rather she let her face say what she was thinking. She even used her breath to communicate: she let out long sighs if she was unhappy, short sighs if bored and irritated and the sharp intake of breath meant watch out, beware or that she really
Yeah, yeah, I know,’ I said, smiling at her, ‘but I really do think it’s different with us. I can feel it. Now who wants what?’
‘Hot chocolate,’ said Leela.
‘Herbal for me,’ said Brook. ‘Peppermint.’
‘Cappuccino for me,’ said Zahrah. ‘I’ll come with you.’
We made our way to the counter and joined a queue made up of other pupils from our school in the same black and white uniform. Choosing to speak in Zahrah’s language, I let out a sigh of happiness.
‘Someone’s in a good mood,’ she commented.
I was. Life was good. I had three fab new girl friends. Joe Donahue was maybe my boyfriend and love was in the air.
‘I know,’ I said and I gave her arm a squeeze. ‘I love the autumn, don’t you? The crisp chill air and the smell of bonfires and damp leaves when the light fades. Wrapping up in scarves and gloves. Going home and getting cosy by the fire.’
Zahrah shrugged and gave me an ‘Are you bonkers?’ look. ‘I need the sun,’ she said. ‘I’m sure I get that SAD condition in the winter.’ She slumped her shoulders and made her face look so miserable that I almost laughed. I didn’t because I was still getting to know her and didn’t want to offend her in case she was being serious. ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s because my family are from the sunshine land.’
‘Oh yeah. Africa. Have you ever been there?’
‘No. Not yet. I’d like to. Mum goes back when she can but it would be too expensive for us all to go. Like six air fares if Dad came too. Can you imagine? But I can feel Africa is in my blood – that’s probably why I don’t like the cold weather.’