Chapter 1 - Resolutions
At just under five foot, and with pretty much everything right about there, my best friend Stella is about as different from me as you can get. Even in school uniform, she looks chic and elegant, while I'm like an awkward giant.
"Fig!" she giggles, extracting herself from my enormous hug. But I'm just so thrilled to see my one and only friend after ten days of being stuck at home. "Gutted you couldn't come to the party," she says. "What happened?"
"Mubla happened," I mutter. "Her usual You don't need to see the date change to know a new year has begun. She doesn't trust me, Stella. `I'm fifteen and she still thinks I need supervising!"
I'm sick of my mother controlling me. She's hacked into my life for too long, insisting on her 'It's my way or the highway' rules; having to follow her timetable; dressing the way she suggests; achieving the New Year resolutions she makes for me.
"She hacked into my phone," I tell Stella, who gasps. "It was supposed to be the one private area of my life. Dab Dabs promised he'd get her to leave my phone alone."
"What was she looking for?"
I smile grimly. "She wanted to check whether I had a boyfriend. Now that would have been a hideous betrayal, but - shock, horror! - the truth was far worse. That I don't have one. And that I'm the biggest nerd in school."
"You're not," murmurs Stella but I know she's only being kind.
"D'you know what she said?" I continue. "Your'e a loser, Lemony. And I was always so popular at school. I expected more from a Fitzsherbert..." Honestly, I came this close to pointing out how ironic it is that my bullying mother was disappointed that I'm being bullied at school."
"What did you say then?"
I shrug. "Shouted at her for calling me Lemony."
"Why won't she call you Fig?" asks Stella, frowning. "Your family's all about the nicknames."
"Dunno," I sigh. "I should start calling her Mother. See how she likes it..."
Of course I probably won't. Jago, my little brother, gave her the name Mulba because he felt sorry for her after I'd given Dab Dabs his nickname.
Stella grins sympathetically and changes the subject. "Good Crimbo?"
"Effervescent," I say. "You?
"Meritorious," she replies.
Every day we try to out-word each other. It's a game we've been playing ever since Year Five, when Mubla pub me into the World Championship Spelling Bee competition. I had to read every page of the Oxford Dictionary for eight months but faltered on the rather easy word 'neurotic'. For the record, I got stage fright, and put the 'e' and the 'u' the wrong way round. Hilarious really, since Mubla uses the word to describe me all the time.
"I've made the mother of all resolutions," I say. "It's going to blow your mind!"
Stella frowns. "You can't mean you actually like the resolution Mubla's given you?" She cringes. "It's not another maths challenge, is it?"
She's referring to last year when Mubla wanted me to be the youngest person to get an A* in maths A level. I got an A. I do love maths, though. Give me an algebra problem and I will happily sit there for hours.
"God, no," I laugh. "She's signed me up for acting classes. Wants me to get over my 'silly stage fright'."
"You? Acting! Is she insane?" Then the bell sounds for registration and Stella turns to me. "So what isyour resolution?"
"I'm going to swim the world," I reply.
"Flip, Fig!" she shrieks. "Where'd that come from?"
"It was that Inspiring Women seminar we had before Christmas," I say. "The fourteen-year-old girl who became the youngest person to sail round the world single-handedly. Got me thinking."
"That's a flipping awesome resolution," says Stella. "My one sound lame by comparison."
"Why, what's yours?"
"Drink more water, eat less sugar," she replies.
We end up doubled over with laughter, until Stella stops suddenly. "Hang on. Isn't there one tiny problem here?"
I grin. "Yeah. I can't swim..."