In this modern-day twist on Prince Charming looking for his Cinderella, Emma Grey’s debut YA novel UNREQUITED is a hilarious and utterly addictive new novel that has it all; a feisty and brave heroine, cute boys, big dreams and plenty of drama!
Seventeen-year-old Kat Hartland loathes Unrequited, the world’s biggest boy band. She’s 100 per cent immune to ‘perfect’ singer Angus Marsden and his unfailingly predictable lyrics. Show her the anti-fan club … she wants to be its president!
Just give her a proper musician. Or maybe the seriously hot med student who rescued her on the train. Ideal formal partner, right? Ideal everything …
But when Kat comes face to face with Angus Marsden himself, things start to get complicated. Throw in a deranged female singer, an enraged fandom, final exams, a part in a musical and a mum who just doesn’t get it.
Scroll down and start reading this delicious new fairy tale romance now!
‘You cannot even be serious!’ Kat screams, gawking at the text message from her mum. It was sent two hours ago at 3.36 pm from Brisbane airport, where she is apparently stuck in a tropical downpour, flight delays coming out of her ears.
Kat hits ‘call’ but the stupid woman (not her mum — the recorded voice) tells her she’s totally out of credit and the action can’t be completed.
‘It has to be completed!’ she yells, shaking the phone like that’s somehow going to magic up some spare credit. Why did they give up their landline? This cannot be happening!
She re-reads the message:
‘Stuck on the ground. Won’t make it back in time. Please take the twins to the concert. You’ll have to go in. They’re too young to be unchaperoned. Love you!’
She has to be kidding.
Twelve-year-old Annie appears in the doorway, suited up in her official Unrequited paraphernalia like the committed Fangirl that she is. Tour T-shirt. I heart Angus necklace. Assortment of badges. Stick-on nails depicting Angus’s air-brushed face, his regulation-suave expression and a hairstyle to which entire Tumblr blogs are dedicated.
If Annie and her twin, Jess, are the UK boy band’s most ardent admirers, Kat is Unrequited’s biggest critic. It’s not any one thing about them — just an unpalatable combination of the songs, the lyrics, the merchandise, the hysteria. All of it. They do absolutely nothing for her, other than ruin her Monday night because she has to drag herself to their concert and endure two hours of out-of-all-proportion Unrequited hype. She’ll have to cancel the date she had with her HSC textbooks, the lounge-room sofa, leftover pizza and a DVD set of Smash!
Annie starts crying. Apparently it’s from excitement, which is kind of cute, and Kat tries to put herself in her younger sibling’s shoes. Shoes which, FYI, appear to be held together with Unrequited laces. Where will the merchandising end?
Kat forces a smile. ‘Is Jess ready?’
Kat isn’t. She glances in her bedroom mirror. Vintage eighties denim cut-offs, plain white T-shirt, no makeup, dark hair in an actual messy bun — as distinct from the ‘messy bun look’ which would have taken hours to assemble. She has no intention of taking hours to assemble anything for Angus Marsden and his cardboard cut-out side-kicks. They might be hot, but they’re ‘manufactured hot’. Just like every other group that never even met until some high-flying producer threw them into a rehearsal room and made them inexplicably big, thanks to the pack mentality of teenage girls.
The train-ride from Revesby is as hideous as Kat expects it to be. In fact, no — it’s worse. The carriage is unseasonably hot for early October and she has to keep peeling her legs off the synthetic seats. Unrequited music is blaring from various phones and iPods. Girls are squealing, including girls her age and older, which she thinks is beyond tragic. Shouldn’t they be studying for the HSC, like she would be if she wasn’t stuck here instead, and if the lure of Smash wasn’t stronger? And what’s with the cake faces? The band won’t actually care. They won’t actually notice any of these girls, which is pretty fitting given the name of their group. This is just another legion of screaming fans, making normal life impossible for the musicians and turning people like Kat into bitter and twisted anti-fans.
Bitter is SO not an attractive quality, Kat realises, as she tries to rein in her antagonism and think of something else. Anything.
Her attention drifts to the boy sitting opposite her on the train. In her anti-band flap, she hadn’t noticed him board. What an oversight! He’s on his phone and she shamelessly eavesdrops. He’s talking about his uni project while she takes mental note of his cheekbones and jawline — the type usually reserved for people like Superman and Douglas Booth. On-trend reading glasses. Dark, floppy hair. A satchel full of textbooks gaping open on the seat beside him.
Hmm. At some point during his highly technical-sounding phone conversation, which he is conducting in an incredibly warm, deep voice that Kat could listen to all day, she rouses the courage to smile at him. But he looks at her like she’s a thirteen-year-old Unrequited fan and glazes right over.
She wants to say, ‘Hey, I’m seventeen and I hate them! This is absolutely a case of mistaken identity, trust me …’ But saying that might not come across as charmingly as it does in her imagination and he might end up thinking she’s more of a lunatic than he likely already does.
It’s a bad day when Angus Marsden and the boys, of all people, come between Kat and a potential date with a med student. (She’s decided that’s what he is, having stalkerishly scanned the titles on the textbooks spilling out of his bag and having seen enough of Grey’s Anatomy to put two and two
together. And yes, ‘date’ may be getting ahead of herself a tad, but she’s particularly good at getting ahead of herself.)
WHY didn’t she do her hair?
Oh, hang on! He’s off the phone! Try to look casual. Look out the window. DO NOT MAKE EYE CONT — GAH! Too late!
Future Dr McDreamy fleetingly locks his dark brown eyes with hers. Her heartrate explodes. Her entire life passes before her eyes …
Oh, wait! That’s what happens when you’re about to die not when you’re falling in love. Get your emergencies right, Kat!
On the topic of emergencies, Jess starts digging around in Kat’s handbag, flashing Unrequited tickets in her face, saying ‘Here’s yours!’ Unfortunately, in her enthusiasm, Jess drops the ticket onto the floor between Kat and McDreamy.
To Kat’s utter mortification, he reaches down and scoops it up. He stifles a smile, hands it back and says, ‘L26. Good seat.’
Before she can think of something clever to say — or even anything to say at all — McDreamy goes back to searching for the cure for cancer on his iPad. Or maybe he’s checking Facebook. Either way, she’s left holding the ticket and gaping speechlessly, which is not really the intelligent look she’s
Kat shoves the ticket back in her bag and glares at her sister. McDreamy starts typing a status update, probably: ‘Save me. Am on train with lunatic Unrequited fan.’ Then he flips the cover shut on the iPad, takes his glasses off and shuts his eyes.
He’s gorgeous when he dozes, Kat thinks. Although his lack of interest seems quite a long way from ‘Can’t Keep His Eyes Off Me’. That aside, he’s probably been up all night cramming for a very important exam. Yes, that’s it. The man needs his rest. Let’s all shush for a minute and give him some space …
‘Eeeeeee!!!’ Annie screams. Everyone in the carriage jumps.
‘What is WRONG with you, Annie?’ Kat chastises. Annie bursts into tears again and says, loudly, ‘I’m just so excited! I can’t believe we’re about to MEET THEM!’
‘See them, you mean …’
‘No! Look at the tickets! They’re VIP. They include a backstage meet-and-greet pass after the show!’
There’s an eruption of Fangirling in the carriage and an audible chuckle now from McDreamy. Kat glares at him before remembering who he is, and she does her best to rearrange her face into something less repulsive and more ‘come hither’. But not too ‘come hither’. She’s hardly going to throw herself at the guy, is she? The result of all this facial rearranging is confusing for all concerned, and besides, she has the pressing matter of the Backstage Pass to deal with.
WHAT possessed her mother to buy these tickets? Why didn’t she warn Kat in her SMS?
‘Gosh!’ she forces through her teeth. ‘Backstage passes, girls! Aren’t we LUCKY?’
The girls beam. She smiles back. McDreamy pretends not to notice but clearly has, because he’s also smiling just a little — more out of pity than anything else — and, for ten glorious seconds, it’s all Happy Families. Then the train lurches to an unscheduled stop, flinging Kat from her seat and practically into McDreamy’s lap. The engine dies.
Where are we? Kat thinks, panicking.
‘Where are we?’ she begs McDreamy. She realises she’s grasping his arm as part of her involuntary fight-or-flight response to her sisters’ impending doom. She is ninety-eight per cent focused on Jess and Annie right now and the potential crushing of their Unrequited dreams. The other two per cent
is focused on how hard McDreamy’s forearm feels. Obviously he’s one of those brainy guys who also works out at the gym, probably on the rowing machine … possibly in shorts and a tank …
Despite it taking all the will in the world, Kat gently extracts his arm from her clutches, edges back to her seat and finds herself saying ‘Sorry! You don’t understand. I HAVE to get to this concert.’
‘Big Unrequited fan?’ he asks, his expression deadpan except for the twinkle in his brown eyes as he flicks his dark hair out of the way. It’s like the temperature in the carriage skyrockets.
Kat laughs out loud. Unfortunately, it’s not an attractive, girlish flutter of a laugh. More of a guffaw. With a bonus snort.
‘We’re about a twenty-minute drive from the arena,’ he says matter-of-factly.
Jess starts to cry. Annie is uncharacteristically silent and Kat starts madly counting her cash. She has enough for a carbide home after the show and for glowsticks and maybe a bucket of chips for the three of them to share.
‘Can you get us there?’ Kat hears someone ask, and then she discovers, embarrassingly, that it’s her. What is she doing? She doesn’t even know this guy!
McDreamy glances at his watch. Of course he’s got somewhere else to be. Look at the guy! ‘We don’t even know each other’s names …’ he begins to explain.
He WOULD be a perfect gentleman, wouldn’t he?
‘I’m Kat,’ she says, trying to think of a solution fast. Introducing herself out of the blue seems a crucial step, even though she appears to be inadvertently throwing herself at the guy in the process, and even though it’s not working at all.
He doesn’t answer but whips out his phone and makes a call while they’re all getting off the train. It’s about a half-kilometre walk to the platform, with Unrequited fans in various states of tears and frazzle.
‘I need a cab,’ McDreamy commands. ‘Pick-up Ashfield station.’
Kat’s confused. She thought he had a car. Is he lying? Maybe he’s a serial killer. He doesn’t look like one …
‘Drop off Sydney Olympic Park. Three passengers. Book it in the name of Kat. As soon as possible. Thanks.’
‘I can’t afford …’
‘I’ve got it, don’t worry.’
He’s paying for the cab now? Kat doesn’t know what to say. She wants to say ‘no’ but this is her only lifeline. ‘I HAVE to get these girls to that concert …’
He smiles. ‘I get it. I’ve got sisters. I live with a life-sized cut-out of Angus Marsden in the lounge room. It’s driving me out of home. Literally. I put an application in for campus accommodation last weekend.’ He winks, and she’s distracted by the crinkling around the corner of his eye. She imagines him with a stethoscope strung around his neck, fixing people. Sigh. She doesn’t know if he’s joking or not about moving out. All the uni students she knows can’t afford to. Maybe he’s smart and hot and rich …
‘Here we are,’ he says, as a taxi swings into the car park minutes later and is identified as Kat’s, much to the massive disappointment of every other desperate fan there. Kat opens the back door and shuffles the girls in, with their fan posters and phones and incessant shrieks of delight. McDreamy runs his credit card through the machine with the driver.
‘Can you give me your number or something so I can pay you back?’ Kat asks appreciatively (and hopefully).
‘No need!’ he says. ‘Don’t argue — the meter’s ticking …’
She hops into the front seat and he shuts the door as the driver takes off.
And that’s that.
Kat’s not entirely sure what just happened, or how she feels about it, but she seems to have been rescued by some sort of anonymous, urban knight.
The cab driver pulls up outside the arena and stops the meter, prints a receipt and says in a thick, Italian accent, ‘There you are, girls. Your boyfriend’s paid already.’
‘Oh, you misunderstand. He’s not —’ Kat begins to argue but then it occurs to her that the driver probably isn’t interested in her relationship status with McDreamy. Not that she has one, alas.
McDreamy would make the perfect partner for her school formal. That would solve Problem #1 on her mental list, although she doesn’t have time to think about it right now because the girls are leaping out of the taxi and sprinting off with the rest of the Unrequited pack, hot-footing it towards
the backstage entrance. There, they cling like monkeys to a wire fence and stare into a car park inhabited by five black SUVs with tinted windows, five burly drivers, security guys, a couple of catering vans and a big trailer which Kat presumes is empty — not that she’s looking. She’s hovering several metres back, away from the hordes, checking her phone.
She presumes incorrectly about the trailer. Half an hour of nothing later, one of the band members briefly emerges from it and the crowd goes even wilder than they were when nobody was emerging from it. It’s like they’ve utterly lost any shred of intelligence. Annie, by this stage, is actually perched
on Jess’s shoulders, wielding an iPhone over the fence and soaking up all its battery life before the concert even begins. If she drops the phone, their mum will kill her. And Kat for not supervising her properly.
‘Let’s go in!’ Kat suggests, for the phone’s sake, at least. She has to physically drag them away from the fence. It’s like the time she had to drag them from the gibbon enclosure at the zoo when they were three.
They queue to go into the stadium. A security guard checks through Kat’s bag and makes her throw out a bottle of water. Another confiscates Jess’s and Annie’s glitter-covered, fluoro posters because apparently the organisers won’t allow anything bigger than an A4 sheet in. The girls are crestfallen — they spent hours on the posters. How will the band notice them now? Kat reminds them about the backstage passes and they leap around like they’ve just won Powerball. Exhausting!
Kat makes a beeline for the glowsticks but decides the queue for food is too long, so they go in and find their seats, which are literally beside a second stage — a discovery that sends the twins’ excitement off the radar. Kat armours up with her noise-deadening earphones, cranks up her own music and plans to obliterate as much mania as possible.
It’s cool in the arena and, as she has no intention of breaking a sweat at this concert, she’s relieved to find a long-sleeved T-shirt in her bag. It’s from the Legally Blonde musical she’s rehearsing for at Sydney Uni. Hot pink, with sequins. Totally out of place. Whatever.
When the band finally does take the stage, half an hour late, following a support act who threatened to steal the show, they’re hard to ignore. Actually, no. It’s not the band but the screaming that’s hard to ignore. Kat listens to the opening song because she’s not the kind of person who can’t admit when she’s wrong. She wants to confirm what she really thinks of Unrequited, which she does within the first few bars.
I mean, she thinks, they’re beautiful. They know how to work the audience — although really, this audience seems to work itself, even when the band isn’t around. But are the music critics right? They’re ‘the most exciting UK export since One Direction’. Really?
Everything reaches fever pitch midway through the concert. In a technique first made famous by 1D, all five Unrequited members are airlifted from the main stage to the platform right beside Kat and the twins. Can’t they do something original? It’s like the boys are being dangled above a pit of flesh-eating piranhas … every single girl in the room (except one) is reaching up and screaming.
Kat doesn’t like to be rude, but she’s not about to stand here and feign adoration for Angus Marsden, even though, up this close, she has to admit he’s actually pretty good-looking. Just in that fully commercially packaged, famous-person, perfect way, of course.
Following the tested formula of all the big bands before them, the band goes into full-blown audience-interaction mode: reading tweets, answering questions, mucking around. The audience laps it up eagerly. Kat can’t believe her mum spent so much money on this. She wishes there was an escape route, but there isn’t one.
It’s about this time that she notices something horribly disconcerting. She glances up from her iPod, which she’s been shuffling through during this whole second-stage waste of time. And … Hmm. If she isn’t very much mistaken, Angus Marsden appears to be staring at her.
When he sees that she’s noticed, he smiles.
Then he winks.
Yes, he really does.
Now, when Angus Marsden smiles and winks at any of the other 95,000 people in the arena, every single one of them — except maybe the burly security guards (but maybe even them) screams, cries, faints, winks back or throws something of theirs at him, as if it’s a pre-programmed biological response.
No such biological response has been pre-programmed into Kat. Angus can’t work his artificial charms on her. No way. She goes back to shuffling her iPod until Annie starts pulling at her arm and pointing at the stage and saying, ‘He’s looking at us!’
Kat tells Annie that he looks at everyone. It’s what he does! It’s all part of the act!
Annie insists that he KEEPS looking over at them.
‘Hey, Angus! Angus! Where are you, man?’ Zach asks loudly into the microphone and Kat looks up in time to see that ‘where he is’ is exactly where Annie said he was. He’s looking at Kat. AGAIN. She laughs nervously, and finds herself mouthing ‘What?’ At ANGUS MARSDEN! Who smiles at her again, then re-focuses and says, ‘We love you, Sydney!’ And the crowd erupts.
For a nanosecond, Kat’s swept up in it, then she remembers where she is. And who she is. And who HE is! It’s all so contrived. She rolls her eyes tries to check Instagram but of course there’s never any credit in an emergency, is there!
The boys get back on the floating platform and return to the main stage. It’s kind of a relief for Kat because that was a weirdly close call. Even weirder timing, given McDreamy the Train Knight couldn’t be more uninterested in giving out his number. And then Angus — the very last guy on the planet that she would ever even contemplate getting to know (even if it was remotely possible) seems to have actually noticed her. Who would even believe it?
‘He saw you!!!’ Jess screeches.
‘He’s in love with you, Kat!’ Annie yells.
‘You’re both CRAZY!’ Kat screams, although try as she might to avoid it, she can’t resist a quick glance at the stage. She has to admit, even though it makes zero sense, that she feels the tiniest brush of disappointment that Angus is back in his game. Thoroughly professional. Working the audience
like a puppeteer controlling the strings.
Of course he hasn’t noticed her! Gosh, tickets on herself much? She must be losing it!
Backstage after an Unrequited concert = manic. TOTALLY. If security was intense outside the venue it’s even worse behind the scenes and, coupled with that, Kat’s becoming nervous. Irrationally! But yes, there is something about Angus Marsden’s performance that’s unsettling her. And it isn’t his singing.
By the time they eventually push through the throng of hysterical backstage-pass holders to a meeting room bursting with catering and more merchandise and extra security guards, Kat isn’t sure who’s more stricken with butterflies. Annie and Jess — or herself.
They’re not kept waiting long. Zach and Reuben bound into the room, larger than life and on a post-concert high. Or pretending to be on one, Kat thinks. She can’t help being cynical. How can they possibly maintain this much energy night after night? In any case, the kids are LOSING IT. Seriously, Jess is practically hyperventilating.
Not long after that, Xavier and Alex appear in the doorway and start hugging fans and scrawling their names on T-shirts and programs. Kat politely declines both hug and scrawl, but they spin her around and write on her Legally Blonde shirt anyway. She hopes it’s the type of ink that washes off, otherwise she’ll need a new one.
‘Guys, we’re sorry. Angus can’t be here,’ Reuben says without further explanation, relying on his blond-haired, blue-eyed gorgeousness to smooth the news over.
Not here? Why?
There’s a collective groan from the gathered audience, and a sigh of relief from Kat. She thinks about making a complaint, given the money her mum has spent on these passes and the crushed looks on her sisters’ faces. But then, if she does that, it would look like she’s upset about Angus’s absence. Does she really want to make a scene over Angus Marsden? Hardly!
Git! Why isn’t he here? This is part of being famous — showing up when you can’t be bothered. The whole thing only serves to make Kat even less likely to ever become a fan. She’s embarrassed for having entertained the thought, even for a sliver of a second, that he actually appeared to single her
out of an audience of thousands of girls, nearly all of them having made at least some effort with their appearance (if not way too much effort in many cases).
The event wraps up pretty quickly and the boys say goodbye amidst an odd mix of elation and dejection from their fans. Just as they’re leaving the room, Kat overhears one of the managers muttering to one of the security guards.
‘Off chasing some girl, apparently. We’ve got to rein him in. It’s like there’s one rule for him and one for the rest of the band.’
Kat’s stomach sinks. Oddly.
I mean, why should she care if Angus is off chasing some girl? She can’t even stand him.
It’s past eleven o’clock by this point, and she really needs to find a taxi rank and get these girls home. She’s reminded of the taxi they came in and the chain of events that transpired to get them into it. Is this whole elaborate evening a dream? What kind of girl would possibly have ‘encounters’ with a
chivalrous med student and one of the world’s biggest pop stars in the space of only a few hours?
Certainly not a girl like Kat, who routinely spends Saturday nights at home studying or watching entire box sets of One Tree Hill or Gossip Girl and bawling her eyes out while life passes her by, wondering if she’ll ever meet anyone good.
‘OMG!’ Annie exclaims. She’s jumping up and down on the spot. For once, Annie’s drama is a welcome interruption to Kat’s depressing inner monologue.
‘You should see what Angus Marsden just tweeted!’
‘I really don’t want to know,’ Kat says with a sigh, even though she really does want to know but refuses to show it.
‘It’s like, really cryptic, and it’s been re-tweeted about a gazillion times already!’
Kat highly doubts it, and rams in her earphones.
Annie is undeterred. ‘He says, “Hey, L26. What were you listening to?”’
‘What does that mean?’ Jess ponders. ‘Kat?’
But Kat’s not listening. She’s had enough of Unrequited to last a lifetime. They can talk all they like about Angus Marsden’s tweets. She’s got Paloma Faith on. Loud. Hoping the girls will hear it and get the message.
Annie and Jess give up and look through their bag of loot from the concert. Glowsticks, signed programs, their seat tickets — L28, L27 …
It’s Jess who gets it first, and she goes to rip the earphones out of Kat’s ears and explain in no uncertain terms that ANGUS MARSDEN appears to be FLIRTING with her over TWITTER in front of the ENTIRE WORLD. But Annie grabs her twin sister’s arm and puts her hand over her mouth.
‘Don’t say it! Kat’s never going to buy into this. We can’t tell her or we’ll never get to meet him!’
‘Shut up! Act normal.’
And without another word, Annie applies the remaining fifteen minutes of the taxi ride home to the careful task of creating Gmail and Twitter accounts in the name of @elle_twentysix before replying to Angus Marsden’s tweet with two simple words that promptly send his entire account into meltdown:
It’s been a long time since Joel Isaacson hasn’t been able to focus in an anatomy lecture, but he’s struggling today and he hates that. After throwing everything at getting this scholarship, the last thing he wants is to blow this chance over some fleeting encounter on a train with a girl he’s never
going to see again.
Irritatingly, he can’t seem to get her out of his head. What was it about her? She was the only other passenger who didn’t appear to be planning an elopement with Angus Marsden. Maybe it was that. Or maybe it was that she was the only one not plastered in makeup. Or could it have been the way she grabbed his arm and held onto it, begging him for help …
His lecturer drones on about the central nervous system, and Joel swears he can still feel her touch on his arm. It’s ludicrous. It’s not like she’s the first girl who’s ever touched him. Calling that cab, putting Kat into it and refusing to give her his number was the most sensible thing he’s ever done. The last thing he needs right now is a distraction.
He glances at his lecture pad and it’s patchy as hell. He reckons he’s picked up maybe one sentence in ten, and he runs his fingers through his dark hair in frustration. It’s like she’s scrambled his neural circuits with her damsel-in-distress act. It’s weird. He usually goes for the complete opposite type.
His phone lights up with an incoming message. It’s Sarah Elliott, right on cue. Third-year law. Off-the-scale smart. Gorgeous. Blonde. The kind of girl who would never be caught short of cash on a train heading for an Unrequited concert. In fact, she doesn’t catch trains at all. She’s everything Joel
would be looking for if he was looking. Which he isn’t.
‘Coffee?’ the message reads.
‘Be there in ten.’
At the cafe a few minutes later, watching Sarah scrawl notes on a napkin for the latest fundraiser she’s volunteering for, Joel wonders (not for the first time) if he isn’t totally missing the mark with Sarah. In all the years they’ve been friends, he’s not once asked her out. Well, not unless you count her infamous and crushing rejection of him at the school fête in Year Six. It happened in front of everyone in the queue for the dodgem cars. He’d been trying to rouse the courage to ask her to be his
girlfriend for weeks. To this day, he shudders at the memory.
Then there was that other time. Also a debacle. February fourteenth in Year Nine. Joel had sent Sarah an anonymous Valentine which she somehow assumed was from Lane Wilkinson. Lane was that lethal combination of sports captain plus debating champion, and he’d done nothing to clear up the misunderstanding. In fact, he capitalised on it, swooping in to become Sarah’s first boyfriend. He was also the first to break her heart, the pieces of which Joel put back together one rainy weekend (while fighting an urge to thump Lane).
He didn’t thump him, though. He was happy enough just to have Sarah back. He gave up hoping for anything more and they got on with their friendship, grew up, and at some point seemed to create this unspoken rule that they would never cross that line together. He suspects neither of them
would risk what they have now by getting mixed up with each other that way, which is how he comes to be sitting here quite comfortably with her now, wondering if he should tell her about Kat.
‘Where are you today, Joel?’ Sarah asks, and he realises his thoughts have drifted off. Again.
He mumbles an apology but she doesn’t buy it. ‘Have you met someone?’
Her frankness catches him off-guard and he scratches for an answer but the game is up. She knows him too well.
‘You have met someone, haven’t you? Tell me all about her! Start at the beginning. I want to know everything.’
‘There’s really not much to tell,’ he says, truthfully.
‘What’s her name?’
He shrugs. ‘Don’t know.’
‘Well, where did you meet her?’
‘On a train.’
‘On a train?’
‘Yes, Sares — people do catch trains you know!’
‘Does she study here?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Well, what’s she studying?’
‘Where does she live?’
‘Stop being cagey, Joel. It’s infuriating!’
He laughs. ‘I’m not being cagey. I barely know this girl. I probably wouldn’t recognise her again if I fell over her …’
Although, that’s a lie and he knows it. His stupid memory has apparently logged every last detail about her, from the way her white T-shirt kept slipping off her left shoulder and she kept hoiking it up, through to her frown when bits of flyaway hair blew into her eyes as the hot westerly rushed in
through the train window. It was all he could do to pretend to focus on his iPad and not stare at her.
‘Where was she going, then?’ Sarah presses.
‘This is not how it sounds, but she was going to an Unrequited concert.’
‘What? You’re kidding! How old is she? Fourteen?’
‘I hope not,’ Joel answers, too quickly. He can’t even guess how old she is. Younger than him, definitely. Her sisters seemed about twelve or thirteen and she was chaperoning them, so maybe sixteen or seventeen? Probably still at high school, he thinks with a jolt. ‘Look, there’s really no point discussing it. It was one of those chance meetings. She probably hasn’t given it a second thought. End of story.’
Sarah sits back and ponders this for a minute. ‘This whole thing reminds me of something I heard in the hairdresser this morning. They were all talking about Unrequited …’
Joel groans. ‘Can we just change the subject?’
‘No! It was quite intriguing actually. Apparently this singer … What’s his name again? The one with the eyes …’
‘They’ve all got eyes.’
‘Yeah. Not like this guy …’
‘Yes! Angus Marsden has apparently fallen head over heels in love with a girl from the audience last night. He’s tweeting her using her seat number — L26 — and she apparently sent a tweet back after the concert. I can’t stand the band but even I can recognise a fairy tale when I see one. This story has
Cinderella written all over it. The hairdressers were hooked on it! Everyone is trying to work out who she is!’
Sarah’s prattling on in a very un-Sarah-like way and something in Joel’s chest freezes. He has a flashback: picking Kat’s concert ticket up off the floor of the train and seeing the seat number before he handed it back to her.
L26. He’s sure of it.
Suddenly he’s not feeling so stupid about this nonsensical crush. He is feeling stupid, though, for bundling her into that cab and sending her straight into the lion’s den. Bloody Angus Marsden! He could show a flicker of interest in any girl in the world and they’d show up at the click of a finger. Why does it have to be Kat? And she’d even asked for Joel’s number and he’d refused. He could kick himself!
‘Joel? Are you even listening to me?’
‘What’s going on with you?’
He looks Sarah square in the eye and wonders if he can tell her, or whether he’s better off leaving it. Better off forgetting this ever happened.
He’s hardly going to fight the guy for Kat, is he? Marsden’s an international pop star — fantasy boyfriend of millions of girls the world over. The whole idea of it makes Joel’s chest hurt and his brain thump with envy. It’s not an emotion he’s used to. She’ll be like a bee to honey with Angus. Any girl would be. Even Sensible Sarah’s all flushed just talking about it and that’s entirely out of character for her.
Joel lets his mind wander one last time to Kat, and the way she looked at him on the train when she was desperate for his help. His stomach lurches at the compulsion he felt to be exclusively at her service. He’d have done anything for her right then, in a way he’d never felt compelled to before. For
What if she’s out of her depth now? he wonders. What if, by some inexplicable miracle, she doesn’t want the hottest pop star on the planet falling in love with her? What if there’s even the smallest chance that she’s thinking of the train ride, too …
Hmm. He looks at his friend. Should he go there?
‘Sarah, can you keep a secret?’
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