This is a work of fiction.

Names, characters, places and incidents
are either the product of the author’s imagination or, if real, used
fictitiously. All statements, activities, stunts, descriptions, information
and material of any other kind contained herein are included for
entertainment purposes only and should not be relied on for
accuracy or replicated, as they may result in injury.
First published 2016 by Walker Books Ltd
87 Vauxhall Walk, London SE11 5HJ
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Text © 2016 Nat Luurtsema
Cover images: goggles © 2016 LWA/Larry Williams/Getty Images;
hair © 2016 moodboard/Getty Images;
face © 2016 Hill Street Studios/Getty Images
The right of Nat Luurtsema to be identified as author of this
work has been asserted by her in accordance with the
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
This book has been typeset in Sabon
Printed and bound in Great Britain by Clays Ltd, St Ives plc
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced,
transmitted or stored in an information retrieval system in any
form or by any means, graphic, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopying, taping and recording, without prior
written permission from the publisher.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data:
a catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
ISBN 978-1-4063-6652-5
www.walker.co.uk

For Diarmuid

8

As I walk into school I can hear the bell ringing for the
beginning of afternoon lessons. I check my timetable.
Come on, PE … please, please, PE. The only lesson I
don’t find completely baffling.
Unless there’s a new class called Lying Down and
Having a Bit of a Rest.
It’s biology. Gutted.
I get there first and sit on a tall stool at the back.
This is the best desk in the classroom – nearest the
window, furthest from the teacher, good view of the
tadpoles. Prime real estate! Someone will have to sit
next to me.
You’d think.
Everyone enters in gaggles of twos and threes and sit
somewhere they can all be together. Melia comes in and
78

I smile at her. But Cammie is right behind her. She spots
me and mutters, “Tragic,” loudly enough for me to hear.
The two girls with them laugh. Melia doesn’t laugh but
she doesn’t return my smile, either.
Biology actually passes quite quickly, as I spend
the whole class thinking about my hatred of Cammie,
which is strong and healthy. I get lost in daydreams of
how happy I’d be if she got horrendous acne.
As we leave biology I overhear Melia and her friends
talking. Apparently they’ve got a swimming match
tonight, so the whole team is leaving straight after
school in the minibus.
Interesting.
At the end of school I watch the team congregate in
the car park. Debs counts them all off and they stick
their sports bags and packed dinners in the boot.
It brings back memories of cheese rolls that always
tasted of petrol fumes.
I grab Lav and ask her to tell Dad I’ll walk home as
I’ll be a bit late.
“Shall I tell him you’ve got detention?” she asks.
“Yeah. He won’t believe it, but go on.”
I’ve never been in trouble at school. I don’t think
some of my teachers could pick me out of a line-up.
79

I put my hand in my bag and feel something silky.
Excellent.
Everyone races past, keen to get out of school ASAP.
If I was a teacher I’d be a bit hurt by how desperate my
pupils are to leave. It’s like they’re fleeing a fire.
I walk against the tide, feeling a little thrill. I’m looking forward to this.
The swimming pool seems deserted, but I’m not risking it. I check all the changing rooms, even the toilets.
With the exception of the occasional staff member wandering around, I have the whole place to myself.
My swimming costume is a little tighter than it
used to be. I poke my stomach; I suspect that’s the
culprit. But as Mum always says when Lav complains
about her weight: “Some people don’t have arms or legs!
OK?”
Can’t really argue with that.
I stride towards the swimming pool and I’m about to
dive in when I notice that Pete, Roman and his brother
are loitering in the field again. They’re kicking a football around and Pete is smoking.
If I had to name the person I find least relaxing to be
around, I’d say Pete and Cammie are currently fighting
for the top spot. But this is more my pool than theirs so
80

I’m determined to ignore them. They’ll get bored and go
away soon.
I dive in from the side and it feels amazing. I swim a
length and feel the muscles in my ribs stretching. Then I
lie on my back in a starfish shape and scull gently, small
movements of my hands but just enough to spin me in
a slow circle.
I take a deep breath and let it out bit by bit as I sink
to the bottom of the pool, where I start somersaulting
slowly, forwards then backwards. I can feel the air in my
nose – enough pressure to stop water shooting up my
nose but not enough to lose any bubbles.
I don’t know what this is that I’m doing at the
bottom of the pool but I’ve always been good at it. It’s a
useless trick, really, only good for making people think
you’ve drowned. (If you need that skill regularly, then
your life is more depressing than mine and I tip my hat
to you.)
I start to feel an ache in my ribs and I surface slowly
with my eyes closed. Mmmm. So relaxing.
I open my eyes.
Roman, Small Roman and Pete are all standing on
the side of the pool looking down on me. In both ways,
I sense.
81

The silence hangs. I say weakly, “No outdoor shoes.”
“What?” says Roman.
“Nothing.”
Small Roman definitely heard – he’s, like, three feet
closer to me than the other two.
“What were you doing down there?” asks Roman.
“Uh…”
Really, are we going to have a chat like this? I never
usually feel naked in a swimming costume, but suddenly
I do. I don’t get out of the pool. I bob around, a little
talking, floating idiot head.
I realize I need to give Roman more of an answer than
“uh”.
“Just floating around, really – somersaults and stuff.”
“You a swimmer?” asks Pete.
I hesitate. “Used to be. Don’t do it any more.”
They all nod, and Small Roman smiles at me. They
have no idea what a massive big deal it was for me to
say that.
“Do you swim?” I ask. They don’t, of course, or I’d
know them. But still, Operation: Make Friends is going
surprising well here, let’s not derail it.
“No, we’re dancers,” says Small Roman. Pete rolls
his eyes.
82

“What?” protests Small Roman good-humouredly.
“We still are!”
“What’s this?” I ask. (Lav taught me the trick of
talking to boys: not too many words. It looks keen.
Treat everything you say like a tweet – 140 characters
or less.)
“OK, so for years we’ve been like this dance … uh…”
“Troupe?” I suggest.
“Collective,” Pete corrects me.
Small Roman goes on. “And we just tried out for
Britain’s Hidden Talent but didn’t even make it through
to try-outs.”
“I thought everyone tried out in front of the judges?”
I ask.
“No,” says Small Roman. “They’re holding public
auditions once a week for the next few months. We
did the first one and got nowhere. You only get on
TV if you’re talented or mental. The people in the
middle, who are just deluded and a bit pathetic, get
sent home.”
He looks so sad my heart breaks a bit and I scoop the
water around me to fill the silence, which makes me spin
in a small circle. “I’m sorry,” I say sincerely, once I’m
facing him again.
83

“Apparently people are ‘over’ dance collectives now
there’s been like a million of them on TV,” explains
Roman, scuffing his shoe along the floor tiles. “They
said Gabe would appeal to young girls, but it didn’t
help.”
“Uh huh,” I say, sneaking a glance at Small Roman.
Who I guess is called Gabe and would be appealing if
I wasn’t looking straight up his nose. My neck hurts.
“So we thought maybe something to do with swimming?” Gabe continues.
“Can you swim?” I ask.
It seems a reasonable question, unless they want to
appear on TV wearing armbands.
“Everyone can swim,” scoffs Pete.
I’m about to argue with him on that, but Gabe jumps
in. “We were playing football outside and…”
“We thought you’d drowned,” says Roman in a way
that makes me feel a bit daft.
“But when we came in, we saw you doing that amazing underwater acrobatics,” says Gabe. “It’s cool.”
Roman and Pete nod, and I feel a bit giddy with
neckache and compliments.
“So … teach us that?” asks Roman.
“I don’t want to be on TV,” I lie. I do, I totally do, but
84

holding my gold Olympic swimming medal and smiling modestly and tearfully at the cameras, not prancing
about in front of booing weirdos.
“Not you,” says Roman bluntly. “You could train us.”
“In … what, though? What is this?”
At this they all look extremely uncomfortable. They
glance at each other, and I take the opportunity to
stretch my neck down.
Aargh aargh aarghhh. The pain is so intense I see
spots of light. By the time I look up again I think my
eyes must be bulging like a squeezed hamster. (I imagine.
I’ve never squeezed a hamster, though Hannah did once
when we were eight and I didn’t stop her.)
(Before you get all judgy, Mr Nibbles went on to live
a full and happy life. For nine more days.)
“I guess it’s kind of like … synchronized swimming,”
says Roman with an effort, and they all look like they’re
sucking a lemon. I try not to laugh. Poor boys, it must
be so hard being cool all the time, eh?
“There was a synchronized swimming team from
around here who got through last week’s audition,” says
Gabe.
“But they were all girls and really hot,” Pete remarks,
suddenly enthusiastic.
85

“So hot,” adds Roman, entirely unnecessarily in my
opinion.
Good for them. I smooth my wet hair behind my ears
before I realize how that looks. Insecuuuure!
“So, you want me to train you?” I ask, getting back
to the point. Because although it is lovely to talk to boys
about “hot” girls, I am getting very cold.
“Yeah. We can’t pay you, though, we’re broke,” says
Pete. From where I’m floating I’m exactly eye-level with
his £150 Nike trainers and I allow myself a sceptical
face.
“But we’ll say hi to you at school,” says Roman.
I stop treading water and sink a bit. I keep my chin
underwater. My eyes feel very hot.
“Maaate,” Gabe says to him quietly. Somehow that
just makes me feel worse.
I can feel myself blushing. I swim away from them
and hoist myself out of the pool on the other side. I can
hear murmuring behind me. I know they’re discussing
if I’m upset (YES) or maybe even crying. (NO. That is
water from the pool on my face. Yes, all of it.)
I may be a social outcast (fine, I am) but I don’t
deserve this: it’s mean, and I’ve had a gutful of people
being mean. I wanted to come and swim without
86

Cammie and her bitchy mates and instead I run into the
male versions.
Plus, in my mind I’m already telling Hannah this
story later and I want to tell her how I left in a haughty
silence, so that is what I do.