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Girl, (Nearly) 16: Absolute Torture
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Girl, (Nearly) 16: Absolute Torture

Written by Sue LimbAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Sue Limb

· Delacorte Books for Young Readers
· eBook · December 18, 2007 · $7.99 · 978-0-307-43342-8 (0-307-43342-0)
Also available as an unabridged audiobook download.

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Disaster! Jess tried to hide her horror. Her mum frowned. “What’s wrong, sweetheart? It’s what you’ve always wanted. A trip to see your Dad! I rang him about it last night and he can’t wait to see you! And there’ll be sun, sea, art and icecream! Plus lots of interesting places on the way down there. It’s the holiday of a lifetime. For goodness’ sake, Jess! What’s the matter?”

Jess could not possibly, ever, tell. She would rather run through the supermarket stark naked and farting than reveal her secret to Mum. This sudden fabulous surprise holiday was going to ruin her life, big time. Jess’s heart sank and sank and sank until it was right down on the carpet like a very ill pet.

But she must try and sound delighted. “Nothing’s wrong! I’ve just got a bit of a headache. But hey, Mum! Thanks! It’ll be fantastic! When do we leave?” She tried desperately to force a bit of enthusiasm into her voice, but it was hopeless — like trying to cram her bum into size 10 jeans.

“We’ll set off the day after tomorrow,” said her mum, with the excited smile of a practised torturer. “Early. There won’t be so much traffic then, and we can just potter gently down into the countryside. Oh, I can’t wait! It’s going to be marvellous!”

Mum’s eyes glazed over and she stared out of the window with a look of faraway rapture, as if the angel of the Lord had just appeared over Tesco’s. “Ruined abbeys!” she drooled. “Rare wild flowers! Bronze Age Burial Mounds!”

Jess sometimes thought her mum was slightly off her head. Maybe if her parents had stayed together it would have kept Mum sane. But then again, maybe not. Her dad was kind of crazy, too.

“Start packing!” said Mum. “You’ve only got twenty four hours!” And she rushed off upstairs, possibly to pack “Fabulous Fossils and Fascinating Cracks in the Ground” or “Sexy Sea Urchins of the South West.”

Twenty-four hours! Jess had to think fast. She had just one day to put an end to this obscene talk of a holiday. Could she become dangerously ill in twenty-four hours? Could she discreetly vandalise the car so it would never, ever, start again? Could she, acting with utmost care of course, slightly burn the house down?

She had to see Fred. Dear Fred! He would know what to do. Perhaps they could elope. She had to text him now! Jess raced up to her bedroom but — how cruel fate was - her mobile phone had disappeared. The floor of her room was covered with a kind of lasagne of clothes, CDs, books, and empty chocolate wrappers. Jess flung the debris around for a moment and then decided to cut her losses and just go round to Fred’s house without texting him.

She just had to check her make-up, first. Jess headed for the kitchen where there was a small mirror above the sink, so you could stare into your own tortured eyes as you washed the dishes. Oh my God, her eyebrows were rubbish. They would have been rubbish even on an orang-utan.

“Have you seen my teeth?” came a sudden spooky voice behind her. But it wasn’t a spectral presence. It was only Granny. Actually what she said was “Have you feen my teeth?” because when she lost her teeth she couldn’t pronounce her “s”s. She called Jess “Jeff”. This was slightly irritating. Jess wasn’t completely opposed to the idea of a sex change, but if she did unexpectedly become a male person, she wanted to be called Brad, not Jeff.

“Have you looked under your pillow?” asked Jess. They went into Granny’s room and found the teeth immediately.

“My goodness, you are brilliant at finding things, dear,” said Granny. “You should work in airport security when you leave school.”

Jess laughed. Granny’s teeth were always either in a glass of water on the bedside table, or under the pillow.

Granny picked up her teeth and for a moment used them in a kind of ventriloquist act.

“Hello, Jeff!” she said in a squeaky voice she always used for the teeth. “What’f for fupper?” Granny made the teeth chomp together in a hungry kind of way.

This little cabaret had amused Jess quite a lot when she was younger, but now, quite frankly, it was beginning to lose its allure. Jess was desperate to escape and fly to the arms of Fabulous Fred. She laughed politely and backed off down the hallway towards the front door.

“Let’s go and watch the news,” said Granny, ramming her teeth back into her mouth with panache. “There’s been an explosion in Poland, it’s terrible. Hundreds feared dead.” Granny was quite ghoulish in her addiction to catastrophe.

“I’ve got to go out, Granny,” said Jess, looking at her watch in an important way. “I’ve got to say goodbye to my friends before I go on holiday.”

“Ah! Our lovely trip! I’m so looking forward to it, dear, aren’t you? We’re going to end up in Cornwall, of course, and that’s where Grandpa and I spent our honeymoon, you know.”

Jess had heard this story approximately 99,999 times. Please don’t say anything more about it, Granny, thought Jess desperately, or I might just have to bundle you away affectionately but briskly into the cupboard under the stairs.

“And,” Granny went on excitedly, “I’m taking Grandpa’s ashes so I can throw them into the sea!” Jess smiled through gritted teeth and reached behind her to open the front door.

“Lovely, Granny! Fabulous idea! Ashes, sea — go for it! Kind of like, The Afterlife is a Scuba-Diving Holiday!” Granny laughed. “Now you must excuse me, Granny — I really must go! Flora’s waiting for me in the park!”

“Oh all right dear — I’ll keep you posted on the Polish explosion when you get back!” promised Granny. She trotted eagerly into the sitting room, heading for the TV.

Jess ran out of the house and sped down the road. It had been a lie about Flora waiting for her in the park. An excuse to get away. The person she really had to see was Fred. Please God, she prayed as she hurtled off towards the sacred house where the divine Fred Parsons lived. Save me, please, from this terrible holiday! Sprain my ankle! Sprain both my ankles! And please let Fred be in!

From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpted from Girl, (Nearly) 16: Absolute Torture by Sue Limb Copyright © 2005 by Sue Limb. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.