The It Girl in Rome
“YOU CAN’T KEEP ME TRAPPED up here forever!”
Jess folded her arms, looking very pleased with herself. “Sure I can.”
“Let me down at once!”
“Let me think about that.” She acted thoughtful for a moment, stroking her chin, and then shrugged. “No.”
I huffed as my best friend looked up at me, a victorious grin on her face.
“You know, Anna,” Jess began, “it’s not difficult. You tell me exactly what happened yesterday and I will put back the ladder so you can get down from the attic. Everyone is a winner.”
“I don’t see how I’m a winner in this situation,” I argued, shining my headlamp around me just in case there happened to be a spare ladder handily up here somewhere. “I’m going to tell Dad to never open the front door for you again. I hope you have thought through the consequences of your actions.”
“I have considered them deeply.” She smiled, bending down to get her camera out of her bag. “I’m pretty sure this is worth it.” She pointed the lens up and I heard a sharp click as I peered down angrily at her.
“Well, that is definitely a keeper.” She laughed, examining the image. “You look so angry! Also, you are very pale. Wow, like a ghost peeking out from the darkness of the spooky attic. Good thing we’re going on a school trip where you’ll see a bit of sun. You could really use some vitamin D.”
“You know, you are being extremely insulting.”
“I guess the headlamp isn’t helping,” she continued, completely ignoring me. “With that on you look like a mole. A ghostly mole.”
“Seriously. Very rude.”
“Actually, maybe more like a ghostly guinea pig. I can’t tell. Let me go ask your dad what he thinks. You wait there.”
“WHY ARE WE FRIENDS?”
As Jess walked off to consult Dad on which rodent I resembled, I kicked myself for listening to him this morning when he insisted that my big suitcase must be stored away in the attic, and then for thinking it would be a good idea to go and get the stupid suitcase myself instead of asking him to get it for me.
Of course, I couldn’t have guessed that while I was rummaging around in said attic, headlamp attached, that my unfunny best friend would come over and steal the ladder, using it as a weapon to gain information because I had refused to tell her some minor details about a date.
Well, I wasn’t going to let her win, I decided as I heard Jess’s footsteps returning to the landing. I would have to find another way of getting down. There wasn’t much in the attic that could help me in this predicament, but I’d have to be resourceful and think outside the box.
“Your dad reckons you look more like a ghostly guinea pig than a mole, but I’m still undecided. How’s it going up there?” Jess called as I tried not to sneeze from all the dust I was disturbing in the search for materials to aid my escape.
“What is going on?” I heard my dad ask, attempting to join in on the fun.
“I’m refusing to let Anna down from the attic until she tells me all about her date with Connor yesterday,” Jess explained.
“Right,” Dad replied as though that was totally a rational thing to do. “You haven’t read about it in the papers or online? I can show you if you like. It’s just awful.”
“THANKS, DAD!” I yelled.
“I don’t trust reporters to give the whole story,” Jess
informed him. “But I can’t imagine it was as bad as they made it out to be.”
“Oh,” Dad said gravely. “It was.”
I groaned. “You’re not helping, Dad. Shouldn’t you be working on your book?”
“I was actually doing some baking.”
“Classic procrastination. And you always have a go at me when I have homework and I . . . Aha!” I cried victoriously, coming across some old curtains that Dad had never thrown away.
I shuffled eagerly back to the gaping hole in the floor with my new find and began to lower the curtains down. “I am just like those dudes in The Great Escape!”
“Anna”—Dad coughed—“did you just compare yourself getting out of an attic to British soldiers escaping from a German prisoner-of-war camp?”
“I will simply tie this material to something up here and climb down it,” I announced proudly to my audience, ignoring Dad. “And, Jess, you thought you were clever! You thought you could defeat me! HA!”
Jess reached out and yanked the curtain hard so that it flew out of my hands and landed in a heap on the floor next to their feet.
“I quite liked these curtains, but your mother forced me to take them down,” Dad piped up, nudging them with his toe. “They might come in handy. Thanks for the reminder that they exist, Anna-pops!”
“No offense, Mr. Huntley, but they look like Dog vomited the sixties on them.” Jess patted him sympathetically on the arm. “Your taste is terrible.”
“Fine!” I switched off my headlamp in defeat. “I’ll tell you about the date and you can put the ladder back.” I wrinkled my nose. “I think I might be losing air supply.”
“I’ll leave you girls to it,” Dad chuckled, walking back down the stairs. “I look forward to Danny’s arrival when I might hear some sense in this house.”
“Come on, then.” Jess reached for the ladder teasingly. “Fill me in.”
“I was dressed as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.”
“Which makes total sense for a first date with the boy you’ve liked forever.”
“I was joking. What were you thinking going on a date with Connor dressed as a TURTLE?”
“Because it was the London Comic Con!” I protested as
she shook her head. “I went as Michelangelo. He’s the best one. You know, the one who likes all the pizza and says stuff like ‘cowabunga!’?”
Jess looked at me blankly.
“Really? Nothing?” I sighed and carried on. “So there I was dressed as a turtle and Connor was dressed as a Jedi and at first when I saw him I was kind of disappointed because I wanted us to match and I’m pretty sure that when I said we should go as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles he agreed that was a really good idea, but he must have changed his mind at the last minute or maybe the shop had run out of green face paint or something. And then I wished that he had told me he’d made a last-minute decision to go as a Jedi because I could have gone as Princess Leia, although her outfit choices are questionable and I don’t think I could have pulled off the hair. I guess I could have gone as R2-D2, though, which would have been quite cute, so he should have told me about changing his mind, don’t you think?”
I squinted at Jess, trying to work out whether she was being sarcastic or not. “Anyway, the long and the short of it is that when we got to Comic Con, I tripped over and knocked into the leg of someone dressed in a giant Iron Man suit, who in
turn fell into the side of the big Marvel comic-book stand, which then collapsed onto everyone inside it and some of the smaller stands surrounding it. A pretty cool example of the domino effect, really. I mean, if we’re looking for positives.” I paused. “Can I have the ladder back now?”
“So how did you leave it with Connor?” Jess asked, neglecting my request and looking flabbergasted.
“It was so chaotic, what with me running around apologizing to everyone and helping people up, checking they weren’t dead and stuff . . .” I sighed. “I got a bit caught up in explaining everything to the organizers and asking people not to take photos of me, so I’m not really sure what Connor was doing. He was probably helping people out from under the canvas. I kind of abandoned him a little.” I buried my face in my hands at the memory of it all. “Eventually, he found me and we waited outside in silence for Dad to pick us up.”
“He didn’t say anything?”
“Not really. I think we were both still in shock. He sent me a nice message after we dropped him off, though. He said that he had a really great time, that I wasn’t to worry about knocking over the Marvel stand, that he thought it was actually very funny and that he was disappointed he might miss out on such dramatic events when I’m in Rome.” I rolled my eyes. “He
must think I’m such a klutz. I finally get a boyfriend and I’m already screwing it all up.”
“What did you say?” Jess whipped up her head to look at me. “Why would Connor miss out on events in Rome?”
“He’s not going. Didn’t I tell you that bit already? He told me yesterday right before I took down Iron Man.”
My heart sank a little all over again as I filled Jess in on Connor’s plan for summer vacation. A plan that turned out to be the opposite of what I was expecting. “I thought we’d be spending two romantic weeks in Rome together—albeit with everyone else there—but he pulled out of the school trip so that he can work on his second comic book.”
“He did what? No way!” Jess put her hands on her hips. “That is not cool!”
“It’s very dedicated of him,” I said sternly, reminding myself not to be so selfish. “I am fully supportive of his decision.”
Jess snorted. “Whatever. He couldn’t take two weeks out of his comic-book drawing schedule to go on an awesome vacation with his friends and girlfriend?”
“Excuse you, but as a fellow talented artist, you should surely be the most understanding when it comes to sacrificing a social calendar for your creations. Photography projects surely come before vacations.”
“Wrong, you philistine,” she sniffed. “The best work comes from capturing moments of truth, for example photographing friends having the time of their lives on their summer vacation, not shutting yourself in a room away from everyone. Tell Connor he will be missing out on inspiration.”
“I will be sure to pass on the message.” I rolled my eyes. “Now, can you put the ladder back?”
“Yeah, sure, I just can’t believe . . . Hang on.” Jess held up her hand and sniffed the air. “What is that?”
“I think I can smell—”
“Hey, girls!” Dad called up the stairs. “Brownies fresh out the oven! Any takers?”
Without a moment’s hesitation, Jess let go of the ladder and darted down the stairs. “Yes, please! I’m starving!”
“Jess? JESS?” I called desperately, listening out for her footsteps coming back up the stairs. “JESS! I need the ladder! I’m still up here! Is anyone listening?”
I switched on my headlamp and a moth fluttered by.
I hate my life.