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Chapter 18

THE NEXT MORNING, I wake at six o’clock. It’s pathetic, I know, but I’m as excited as a little kid on Christmas Day (or as me on Christmas Day, to be perfectly honest).

I lie in bed, telling myself to be grown-up and laid-back and not think about it—but I just can’t resist it. My mind swims with images of the piles of newspapers in newsstands all over the country. Of the copies ofTheDaily World being dropped on people’s doormats this morning; all the people who are going to be opening their papers, yawning, wondering what’s in the news.

And what are they going to see?

They’re going to see my name! Rebecca Bloomwood in print inThe Daily World ! My first national byline: “By Rebecca Bloomwood.” Doesn’t that sound cool? “By Rebecca Bloomwood.”

I know the piece has gone in, because Eric Foreman phoned me up yesterday afternoon and told me the editor was really pleased with it. And they’ve got it on a color page—so the picture of Janice and Martin will be in full color. Really high profile. I can’t quite believe it.The Daily World!

Even as I’m lying here, it occurs to me, there’s already a wholepile ofDaily World s at the newsstand in the parade of shops round the corner. A whole pile of pristine, unopened copies. And the newsstand opens at . . . what time? Six, I seem to remember. And now it’s five past six. So intheory, Icould go and buy one right now if I wanted to. I could just get up, slip on some clothes, go down to the newsstand, and buy one.

Not that I would, of course. I’m not quite so sad and desper-ate that I’m going to rush down as soon as the shop’s opened, just to see my name. I mean, what do you take me for? No, what I’ll do is just saunter down casually later on—perhaps at eleven or midday—pick up the paper and flip through it in mild interest and then saunter home again. I probably won’t even bother to buy a copy. I mean—I’ve seen my name in print before. It’s hardly a big deal. No need to make a song and dance about it.

I’m going to turn over now and go back to sleep. I can’t think why I’m awake so early. Must be the birds or something. Hmm . . . close my eyes, plump up my pillow, think about some-thing else . . . I wonder what I’ll have for breakfast when I get up?

But I’ve never seen my name inThe Daily World, says a little voice in my head. I’ve never seen it in a national newspaper.

This is killing me. I can’t wait any longer, I’vegot to see it.

Abruptly I get out of bed, throw on my clothes, and tiptoe down the stairs. As I close the door, I feel just like the girl in that Beatles song about leaving home. Outside the air has a sweet, new-day smell, and the road is completely quiet. Gosh, it’s nice being up early. Why on earth don’t I get up at six more often? I should do this every day. A power walk before breakfast, like people do in New York. Burn off loads of calories and then return home to an energizing breakfast of oats and freshly squeezed orange juice. Perfect. This will be my new regime.

But as I reach the little parade of shops I feel a stab of nerves, and without quite meaning to, I slow my walk to a funereal pace. Maybe I’ll just buy myself a Mars Bar and go home again. Or a Mint Aero, if they’ve got them.

Cautiously, I push at the door and wince at the ping! as it opens. I really don’t want to draw attention to myself this morn-ing. What if the guy behind the counter has read my article and thinks it’s rubbish? This is nerve-racking. I should never have become a journalist. I should have become a beautician, like I always wanted to. Maybe it’s not too late. I’ll retrain, open my own boutique . . .

“Hello, Becky!”

I look up and feel my face jerk in surprise. Martin Webster’s standing at the counter, holding a copy ofThe Daily World. “I just happened to be awake,” he explains sheepishly. “Thought I’d just come down, have a little look . . .”

“Oh,” I say. “Erm . . . me too.” I give a nonchalant shrug. “Since I was awake anyway . . .”

My eye falls on the newspaper and I feel my stomach flip over. I’m going to expire with nerves. Please, just kill me quickly.

“So—what . . . what’s it like?” I say in a strangled voice.

“Well,” says Martin, gazing at the page as though perplexed. “It’s certainly big.” He turns the paper round to face me, and I nearly keel over. There, in full color, is a picture of Martin and Janice staring miserably up at the camera, below the headlineCOUPLE CHEATED BY FAT CATS AT FLAGSTAFF LIFE.

Shaking slightly, I take the paper from Martin. My eye skips across the page to the first column of text . . . and there it is! “By Rebecca Bloomwood.” That’s my name! That’s me!

There’s a ping at the door of the shop, and we both look round. And there, to my utter astonishment, is Dad.

“Oh,” he says, and gives an embarrassed little cough. “Your mother wanted me to buy a copy. And since I was awake anyway . . .”

“So was I,” says Martin quickly.

“Me too,” I say.

“Well,” says Dad. “So—is it in?”

“Oh yes,” I say, “it’s in.” I turn the paper round so he can see it.

“Gosh,” he says. “It’s big, isn’t it?”

“The photo’s good, don’t you think?” says Martin enthusiasti-cally. “Brings out the flowers in our curtains beautifully.”

“Yes, the photo’s great,” I agree.

I’m not going to demean myself by asking what he thought of the article itself. If he wants to compliment my writing, he will. If he doesn’t—then it really doesn’t matter. The point is,I’m proud of it.

“And Janice looks very nice, I thought,” says Martin, still gazing at the photograph.

“Very nice,” agrees Dad. “If a little mournful.”

“You see, these professionals, they know how to light a shot,” says Martin. “The way the sunlight falls just here, on her—”

“What about my article?” I wail piteously. “Did you like that?”

“Oh, it’s very good!” says Martin. “Sorry, Becky, I should have said! I haven’t read it all yet, but it seems to capture the situation exactly. Makes me out to be quite a hero!” He frowns. “Although I never did fight in the Falklands, you know.”

“Oh well,” I say hurriedly. “That’s neither here nor there, really.”

“So you wrote all this yesterday?” says Dad. “On my type-writer?” He seems astounded.

“Yes,” I say smugly. “It looks good, doesn’t it? Have you seen my byline? ‘By Rebecca Bloomwood.’ ”

“Janice’ll be thrilled,” says Martin. “I’m going to buy two copies.”

“I’m going to buy three,” says Dad. “Your granny will love to see this.”

“And I’ll buy one,” I say. “Or two, perhaps.” I carelessly reach for a handful and plonk them on the counter.

“Six copies?” says the cashier. “Are you sure?”

“I need them for my records,” I say, and blush slightly.



When we get home, Mum and Janice are both waiting at our front door, desperate to see a copy.

“My hair!” wails Janice as soon as she sees the picture. “It looks terrible! What have they done to it?”

“No, it doesn’t, love!” protests Martin. “You look very nice.”

“Your curtains look lovely, Janice,” says Mum, looking over her shoulder.

“They do, don’t they?” says Martin eagerly. “That’s just what I said.”

I give up. What kind of family have I got, that are more inter-ested in curtains than top financial journalism? Anyway, I don’t care. I’m mesmerized by my byline. “By Rebecca Bloomwood.” “By Rebecca Bloomwood.”

After everyone’s peered at the paper, Mum invites Janice and Martin round to our house for breakfast, and Dad goes and puts on some coffee. There’s a rather festive air to the proceedings, and everyone keeps laughing a lot. I don’t think any of us can quite believe that Janice and Martin are inThe Daily World. (And me, of course. “By Rebecca Bloomwood.”)

At ten o’clock, I slope off and ring up Eric Foreman. Just casually, you know. To let him know I’ve seen it.

“Looks good, doesn’t it?” he says cheerfully. “The editor&rs............

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