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Making Mischief

Making Mischief by Elizabeth Young
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Abby Morland's been making mischief since she was not-so-sweet sixteen, when she spied gorgeous Guy from the neighborhood being attacked by curvaceous Cara, the "Topless Piranha." It was a racy, tasty, spicy piece of gossip Abby couldn't resist passing along. But years later, her indiscretion may be coming back to haunt her -- since she now wouldn't mind a little nibble of Guy herself. With four cousins, two weddings, and a re-emergent piranha in the offing, the recipe for making more mischief is at hand, and it might just turn Guy in Abby's direction at last!

HarperCollins; June 2009
352 pages; ISBN 9780061956980
Read online, or download in secure EPUB
Title: Making Mischief
Author: Elizabeth Young

Chapter One

Given what it sparked off later, that day should have come with a health warning. I could have done with one of those wizened crones they had back in the olden days, peering at entrails and muttering, "Take care, dearie. August be a wicked month. I see water. I see goings-on, and hot gossip. 'Twill all turn into a proper dog's breakfast one day, just when you be a-falling in love."

But all I got by way of portents was Rachel's zits.

Sixteen and a half at the time, during a late summer heatwave, I was spending a few days at my cousins' house, near Brighton. The beach would have been enough of a draw but the main reason I'd come was my cousin Rachel's sixteenth birthday. Her folks were not only providing a big party, they were also clearing off for the entire night. You'd think Rachel might be buzzing about this, but no. Early on the day before she was crying that she might as well be dead, would I just look at these spots?

"Two more!" she said tearfully, peering at them in the bedroom mirror. "And I haven't touched any chips or chocolate for weeks!"

"You'd hardly notice them," I soothed, which wasn't precisely true, but what could you say? I felt bad for having only one minute zit I could cover with my fringe, especially when I devoured junk like a gannet.

"They're huge," she despaired. "I wish I could have a face transplant for my birthday."

"You look fine," I soothed. "Just stick some concealer on."

"Yes, but it doesn't conceal, does it? It just looks like spots with gunge on. Who's ever going to fancy me in my whole entire life when I look like this?"

Rachel was at the stage of hating everything about herself: hair (yuck), face (round and pink and gross), figure (fat and disgusting and gross), legs (stumpy and gross). Like an anorexic who looks in the mirror and sees Fat, Rachel looked at Perfectly Attractive Nearly Sixteen and saw Hideous.

"Nobody's going to notice them except you," I said. It was a strain sometimes, being a mature sixteen and a half who hadn't hated absolutely everything about herself for at least three months.

"Abby, please! You sound just like Mum!" Rachel turned her wide green eyes back to the mirror and despaired. "And Guy's probably coming around later, and I know he's going to think I look like a pizza -- I might as well kill myself now."

I knew Guy was probably coming around later -- she must have told me twice in the past five minutes. I'd never met him, but as he'd apparently lived three doors away forever, I'd heard him mentioned now and then.

But not like this. My antennae were perking up fast. "Do you fancy him, then?"

Rachel's face turned into a cocktail of anguish and that imploring-for-secrecy look. "Oh, Abby! I'm madly in love with him, but please don't tell Lindsay. Only Cara knows, and she'll never breathe a word."

Cara was her best friend, who also lived close by. I'd met her a few times over the years, and until then I'd neither particularly liked nor disliked her. At that moment, though, it occurred to me that Cara wasn't the type I'd trust with my secret passion. I saw her smiling as she whispered it to somebody else during maths, and the next thing you knew, you might as well have put it in the News of the World.

Lindsay, to whom I promised to breathe no words, was Rachel's elder sister. Then seventeen and at the heady stage of learning to drive, she was eleven months my senior. And as it turned out, Lindsay had sussed out Rachel's little passion already. She volunteered the information right after breakfast.

The sisters were not at all alike. Where Rachel had brown hair with a hint of chestnut and big green eyes, Lindsay took after her mother. Tall and hyper-slim, she had Auntie Rosemary's corn-gold hair and blue eyes.

"Only don't dare ever tell her I told you," she said. "She'd be hideously embarrassed -- she's known him since she was about four. If you ask me it's ever since she fell over at the tennis club a couple of weeks ago and he helped her wash the grit out." She put on a breathy, heart-fluttery voice. ‘And as his strong brown fingers gently sloshed her knee with Dettol . . .' "

Under a guilty little laugh I was empathizing all too well. "I once had a massive crush on a friend of Andrew's who called me Squirt."

Andrew was my elder brother.

Lindsay laughed. "Don't you ever tell him, but I once had a massive crush on Andrew. Still, I was only about thirteen at the time."

"I was fourteen. I'd only just had my ears pierced."

We laughed together. What a relief it was to be past that embarrassing stage when you still hadn't even had a snog, let alone a boyfriend.

"Anyway, it's hopeless," Lindsay went on. "She's just ‘Rachel down the road' to Guy, I'm afraid."

"Has he got a girlfriend, then?"

"Abby, Guy doesn't really have girlfriends. He just has girls."

Huh, I thought. Just like Gary Davis at home, I bet. Gary fancied himself something rotten. "So is he coming around this afternoon?" I asked.

"Probably. We can play semi-mixed doubles and I'm telling you now, you'd better watch out for his lethal backhand volley."

Better not mess up then, I thought. While I was a passable player on school courts, Mum didn't run to tennis clubs. I didn't want some Gary Davis type yelling, "Rubbish!" and making me feel an idiot. I could bet he'd expect me to be impressed, too. He'd expect me to go all so-called subtly flirty and flick my hair, like even my best friend Emma did around Gary Davis. Well, he had another think.