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by Veronica Bright

Her dad hates her blue hair, but who cares? Ellie only sees him in the school holidays. Besides, his new partner is a cow. She wants Ellie to live with them, “before it’s too late,” she says. No way.

Ellie’s part of the in-crowd. She has the last say as to who is acceptable. And who isn’t. Being clever and sporty, no-one questions her leadership. She controls with innocently placed remarks. “That’s an odd colour you’re wearing.” “You fancy him?” “Tell me something that isn’t boring.”

Ellie’s mum has a lot of boyfriends. The latest is a George Clooney look-alike. He flirts with Ellie when her mum’s out. She’ll escape soon though, get away from here, go off to uni. She’s thought about being a sports coach, but she’d have to be outside in all weathers, wouldn’t she, and what would that do to the complexion long-term? Above all things, she’d like to be a model — they have such fun, and everyone adores them.

Uni first though, then the bright lights.

Mostly it’s the present that concerns her — where the girls will go at the weekend, could she walk in those heels, does this shade of lippie do anything for her? She works in a city boutique on Saturdays. Gets a discount, too. Everyone is jealous of that. Except Francesca the Freak. She shops at Oxfam. Quotes Shakespeare. Constantly. The Freak’s the only other one whose first university choice is Cambridge. But listen to this. She wants to read archaeology.

The exams come and go. Ellie and Francesca appear side by side in the paper. Talented and gifted, they stand together. But Ellie is not smiling. She knows. And she doesn’t believe in abortion.

She has to go home and tell her mother.

At least George Clooney will bugger off.

Veronica Bright is the author of three collections of prize-winning short stories. The latest is Rainbow Laughter, available from Amazon. Veronica is still working on her novel, crossing her fingers and toes that one day it will find a home with a traditional publisher. You can connect with Veronica on Facebook or Twitter @BrightVeronica. She writes a monthly blog of interest to fledgling writers on her website www.veronicabright.co.uk.