Authors: Sophie McKenzie
Award-winning books from Sophie McKenzie
Winner Richard and Judy Best Kids’ Books 2007 12+
Winner of the Red House Children’s Book Award 2007 12+
Winner of the Manchester Children’s Book Award 2008
Winner of the Bolton Children’s Book Award 2007
Winner of the Grampian Children’s Book Award 2008
Winner of the John Lewis Solihull Book Award 2008
Winner of the Lewisham Children’s Book Award
Winner of the 2008 Sakura Medal
SIX STEPS TO A GIRL
Winner of the Manchester Children’s Book Award 2009
Overall winner of the Red House Children’s Book Award 2009
Winner of the Leeds Book Award 2009 age 11–14 category
Winner of the Spellbinding Award 2009
Winner of the Lancashire Children’s Book Award 2009
Winner of the Portsmouth Book Award 2009 (Longer Novel section)
Winner of the Staffordshire Children’s Book Award 2009
Winner of the Southern Schools Book Award 2010
Winner of the RED Book Award 2010
Winner of the Warwickshire Secondary Book Award 2010
Winner of the Grampian Children’s Book Award 2010
Winner of the North East Teenage Book Award 2010
THE MEDUSA PROJECT: THE SET-UP
Winner of the North East Book Award 2010
Winner of the Portsmouth Book Award 2010
Winner of the Yorkshire Coast Book Award 2010
First published in Great Britain in 2011 by Simon
and Schuster UK Ltd, a CBS company.
Copyright © 2011 Sophie McKenzie
This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.
No reproduction without permission.
All rights reserved.
The right of Sophie McKenzie to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Design and Patents
Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
Floor, 222 Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1X 8HB
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to
actual people living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
eBook ISBN: 978-0-85707-290-0
1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2
Printed and bound in Great Britain by CPI Mackays, Chatham ME5 8TD.
For my good friend, Philly
I woke up to sunshine pouring in through the bedroom window of the holiday cottage. It was going to be another hot day. I yawned and sat up in bed, careful not to disturb
Madison. Her long dark hair was spread over the pillow. I brushed it gently back, revealing her sweet, heart-shaped face.
As I moved, Madison moaned in her sleep. Her lashes were long and dark against her soft cheek, but I could see the teardrops they still held. It had been like this every night since we’d
arrived at the holiday cottage last week. A nightmare kept waking her – bringing her into my room, where I’d have to stroke her hair to get her back to sleep. Later, I’d wake to
find her crying in her sleep . . . soft whimpers that broke my heart.
I bent down now and kissed her forehead, carefully drawing the quilt over her bare shoulder. I watched her for a moment as her breath grew less even and her eyes slowly opened.
‘Hey, Lauren,’ she mumbled. ‘I was dreaming about Daddy again.’
‘I know, babycakes,’ I whispered. ‘It’s OK.’
Our father, Sam, had died suddenly nine months ago. Losing him was a big aching hole inside me, even though I didn’t grow up with him. He was my birth dad but I had been kidnapped when I
was tiny, and adopted, so I didn’t know him until two years ago.
Sam had been really special and I missed him every day, but when I looked at my birth mum, Annie, or my sisters – Shelby and Madison – I could see that Sam dying so suddenly had been
much worse for them . . . it had ripped their hearts out. Madison especially, being so young. She was only eight. My guts twisted thinking about how she must feel.
Now Madison nuzzled in close beside me. I stroked her hair and she yawned and stretched like a cat, arching her back and reaching her arms over her head. A moment later she was off the bed and
scampering to the window. She turned to me with big brown eyes.
‘Can we go to the beach today?’
I grinned at her. ‘Sure – just as soon as you’ve had breakfast.’
‘Yayy!!’ Madison skipped round the room, her nightmares forgotten. She pulled on a pink tutu over her blue check pyjama bottoms. Her hair flew out behind her as she spun.
It suddenly struck me that I’d never understood that phrase:
a breath of fresh air
, before. But that was Madison – fresh air in a dull, flat world: the only person ever to
raise a smile from Annie and the only person who always made me feel good about myself.
Madison stopped in mid-spin and stared at me. ‘But no Shelby,’ she said. ‘Promise, Lauren. Shelby can’t come too.’
I smiled. One of the many things that bound Madison and me together was a dislike of our middle sister. Shelby was
rude and aggressive. Only yesterday, she’d made Madison cry
by sneering that she was too old to still be playing with dolls.
‘Sure,’ I said. ‘If you get dressed really fast we’ll be able to leave before she even wakes up.’
With a wide-eyed nod, Madison vanished from the room. I pulled on my clothes quickly, then checked myself in the mirror – the denim shorts, fitted T-shirt and sandals all looked OK. I took
a straw bag from the wardrobe and fetched two towels and some sun cream from the bathroom. It had been amazingly hot for days, considering it was only April, and today looked like it was going to
be no exception.
I tied my hair off my face and applied a little eyeliner and lip gloss. I slid the lip gloss into my bag along with my phone. Madison would enjoy playing with both of them while I hopefully
tanned my legs. I already had a bikini top on under my T-shirt. Grabbing my sunglasses, I left the room.
Madison was downstairs, wolfing down a bowl of cereal.
‘Well OK, you and Lauren can go, but only if you stay close together,’ Annie said, twisting her hands anxiously over each other. She was wearing her dressing gown and
‘We’ll be fine,’ I said firmly. ‘I’ll look after Mo and—’
‘But who’ll look after
?’ Annie interrupted. She picked up her coffee cup and sipped at it distractedly.
For goodness’ sake
. I gripped the sides of the table. I
to be sympathetic. I knew how hard losing Sam had hit her. It was hard for all of us. But why did she have to
act like I was about to be kidnapped again every time I took two steps away from her? I was sixteen, and taking my GCSEs in a couple of months.
Swallowing down my irritation, I forced a smile on my face. ‘We’ll be fine,’ I repeated.
‘Don’t you want to wait for Shelby to get up?’ Annie asked.
‘No, Mom,’ Madison said firmly. ‘We want to go
.’ She stood up from the table and looped her little blue bag over her shoulder. I caught her eye, knowing what
was inside the bag.
‘OK, but . . . but are you sure you wouldn’t rather go for a drive and a picnic?’ Annie said.
Madison and I exchanged an alarmed glance. Annie’s idea of a picnic consisted of a short journey during which she complained constantly about the narrow country lanes and having to drive
on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, followed by a random meal based on whatever she’d found in the fridge. Over the past few days we’d sat on quite a few beaches, trying
– and failing – to find one of the caves which Annie said the area was full of, and eating bizarre stuff like boiled egg and dried apricot salad . . . or, on one occasion, a packet of
seeds that turned out to be bird food.
‘Er . . . no thanks,’ I said.
‘OK, well, take this.’ Annie shoved a couple of twenty-pound notes into my hand. ‘Promise you’ll be back by midday, OK?’
I rolled my eyes. ‘All right.’
Madison raced across the room and put her bowl in the sink. She was dressed in denim shorts and a T-shirt that was a similar blue to mine.
As both of us have long dark hair and the same easy-tan skin, our eyes (mine blue, Mo’s dark brown) marked the only real colouring difference between us.
‘Hey, we’re twins, Mo,’ I said.
‘I know.’ She beamed at me. ‘I’m ready.’
‘Take a jacket, both of you,’ Annie said, bustling out to the coat stand in the hall.
‘No need, it’s already boiling out there.’ I held out my hand and felt Madison’s warm, small fingers curl round mine. ‘Bye, Annie.’
‘Bye, Mom,’ called Madison. Giggling, she let me drag her out of the kitchen door and round the side of the house.
As she skipped down the pavement, still holding my hand, I could hear Annie’s plaintive voice behind us. ‘Be careful . . .’ Irritation coiled round me like a snake.
We walked on. The sun beat down on my face, warming me through. The closer we got to the beach the happier I felt, the cloying weight of Annie’s worry lifting as we left her behind.
It didn’t occur to me for a second that she was right to worry . . . that there was anything
And yet, two hours later, my whole world would be turned upside down. And, though I didn’t know it at the time, it would all be my fault.
By 10 am the beach was starting to fill up with excited sunbathers. I guess it was the Easter Monday bank holiday and the unusually hot weather that was bringing people out,
but to be honest I’d liked it better last week when the sky had been overcast and the seaside more deserted.
Madison didn’t seem to mind. We stopped to watch the carousel on the promenade blaring out ‘The Teddy Bear’s Picnic’, then found a spot on the sand and laid out our