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Billie and the Parent Plan
by Ann Bryant
Follow the poignant story of Billie Stubbs, a sparky and unforgettable heroine who is struggling to come to terms with her mother’s remarriage and the sudden acquisition of a new family.
“Funny, sad, inspiring and amazingly perceptive.”
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My name’s Billie Stubbs. Well, to tell the truth it’s Millie Stubbs, but when I was four, I had a bad cold and a blocked-up nose one day, and the lady from the newspaper shop asked me what my name was. And I tried to say Millie, but it came out like Billie. You’ll see what I mean if you block your own nose and try it. The lady said, “Oh that’s a nice name! I’ve never heard of Billie for a girl before!” And all day long I kept trying it out and making Mum say it too, and when I woke up the next day I still liked it, so then I made everyone say it and it just kind of stuck.
This is a description of me. I’m ten years and three hundred and forty-nine days old, which makes me nearly eleven, and I’m quite small for my age with bluey-grey eyes, and straight, dark-brown hair that comes down to the end of my sleeves – when I’m wearing short sleeves, that is. Like right now. These sleeves are part of a dress that’s long and tight and shiny and dark gold, and swirls out at the bottom if you whizz round. Mum and I chose it together, and for once he wasn’t around and neither was Victoria. Of course Mum made me try it on for him, and he said I looked like a film star in it. How stupid is that? How can a nearly eleven-year-old look like a film star? And Victoria, my eighteen-year-old, very, very nearly stepsister, gave me one of her big squelchy kisses and said I looked good enough to eat. Pathetic! So now I’m sitting on an extremely hard seat in the Register Office staring at the back of Mum’s head and feeling like a custard pie. Great!
This is a terrible day. Not because of the dress. Because of him. Quentin.
I don’t even care that the seat’s hard. I don’t care that Granny Caroline’s perfume is getting up my nose from one side, and, Victoria keeps whispering things in lipstick breath into my ear on the other side. There isn’t any room left in my brain for thinking about those things because of concentrating so hard on the back of Mum’s head. And this is why. I’m trying to do something my best friend, Archie, told me about called thought transference, so I can make Mum realize that this is her last chance to get out of marrying stupid old Quentin. Some people don’t actually mean old when they say stupid old, like “This stupid old pen won’t work.” But I mean it. You see, Quentin’s fifty-three, which is old enough to be a granddad, and my mum’s only thirty-six.
This is your very, very last chance, Mum…
“Do you, Emma Stubbs, take Quentin Taylor Crawford to be your lawful, wedded husband…?”
Just say no, Mum. You’ve got to. Please don’t marry that ancient old antique dinosaur! Just say no. SAY! NO!
My whole body feels like sliding down to the floor and dissolving into nothingness. Mum! What have you done?
They’re smiling at each other now and I’m going frozen on the inside, thinking back to how it all began. If only she hadn’t gone to that dinner party in Somerset, she would never have met Quentin in the first place. Then I wouldn’t be stuck here, like the saddest, crossest person in the entire world, with the most boring, old-fashioned, looks-like-a-granddad man for my stepfather. I stared out of the Register Office window and went off into a daydream. If Quentin and I lived in the animal kingdom I would be a small black-and-white chimp and he would be a raggedy old grey mongoose. That’s how different we are. And now my last hope has gone.
I’ve always gone off into thought bubbles and daydreams, and I think I was probably five when my imaginings about having a new dad started. I used to draw pictures of him at school, but they were rubbish because art is my worst thing. I can only really draw clouds and sheep. (A sheep is a cloud with four lines coming out of the bottom.)
But one day, when my mum had been to Parents’ Evening the night before, she asked me if I ever wished I had a dad, same as other children. I guessed Miss Pope must have shown her the drawings of my imaginary dad, so I asked Mum if she liked them and Mum had tears in her eyes and I didn’t get why because there was nothing to be sad about. Then she asked me again if I wished I had a dad and I said “a bit” because it felt as though “no” would have been too rude to say, even though it was the truth. You see, I was so little, and I couldn’t explain that the reason I didn’t mind about not having a dad was because I had Mum. I’d never even met my real dad, and actually he’d never met me either because he went off before I was born. The imaginary dad person was just in my thought bubbles. For fun. Mum was real life. She was the one who cuddled me and made up all the games. I can still remember those ones from when I was four. There was the Jump out of bed game, the Get dressed game, the Eat up breakfast game and all the other games right till the Guess what the bedtime story will be game.
As I got older I felt as though I was getting to know the dad in my thought bubbles better, and when I was about eight he was wearing jogging bottoms and a T-shirt and looking a bit sweaty because he’d been working out at the gym to keep fit, and then he’d come home so he could go out for a run with me because that’s what we both loved doing most. I’m quite a good runner – I mean in real life, not just in my dream – and the new dad was really keen to make me even better by helping me with my training.
I’ve scribbled that training dream down on a scrap of paper and stuffed it in my private box in my drawer with my other scribbled thoughts and ideas and dreams. The box is full now because in the last three months, which is how long Quentin and Victoria have been living in our house, things have changed. I’ve had more thought bubbles and done more scribbling than ever before. You see, I really do want a new dad now. A young one, like the one in my eight-year-old thought bubble. Someone who’d come along and sweep Mum off her feet and make her get rid of Quentin. And I’ve been doing everything in my power to try and make that happen. For a start I developed a big keenness on shopping which Mum couldn’t understand.
“Why do you keep wanting to go to the supermarket, Billie?”
But I could hardly tell her I was on the lookout for a man like the one in my daydreams, with spiky brown hair and jogging bottoms and a sweaty T-shirt, and the moment I saw one I planned to accidentally bump into him with the supermarket trolley, which would get Mum talking to him, and once she’d taken a proper look she’d instantly realize she’d made a big mistake choosing someone with a bald patch on top and the side bits all grey. Why did she do that? Why? I don’t get her.
But now it’s too late. My beautiful big thought bubbles have been popped for good, because Mum’s actually gone and done the very worst thing ever and married stupid old Quentin. Well, I’m not telling people that he’s my dad. I’m not even saying I’ve got a new stepdad. I’m not saying anything at all.
Mum’s wedding dress is like a suit. It’s creamy coloured and the skirt goes right down to the floor. I must admit she looks very pretty today with all her sparkly jewellery. Quentin looks boring. His suit is grey with stripes. When he turns his head in a certain way the side of his cheek gets a big fold in it. Yuk!
I suddenly realized I’d been stuck in a thought bubble for ages, and I’d just done one of those big shivery shudders that your brain doesn’t actually tell your body to do, so now Victoria’s holding my hand as though I’m a baby or something.
“It’s very emotional, isn’t it, Billie?”
I didn’t answer her. It’s so annoying with Victoria because she acts like she’s all wise and she knows everything about me and my feelings, partly because she’s eighteen and partly because she thinks she’s my sister. Well, I don’t want a sister any more than I want a stepfather.
Ever since Victoria’s been living in our house, she’s been trying to get me to tell her my thoughts, but they’re private and there’s no way I’d ever tell anyone, so I definitely wouldn’t tell her. The other very annoying thing that Victoria is always doing, is hugging me, and she’s doing it right now because she thinks I’m emotional from this horrible wedding. Which just proves that she doesn’t understand me at all.
“It makes you feel a bit teary, doesn’t it, Billie?”
I’d said it under my breath but she heard.
“Listen to you, all gruff!”
Then she kissed me and I could feel the stickiness from her lipstick on my face. I was trying to rub it off without her noticing when Granny Caroline’s arm went round me from the other side, and I found myself squashed into one of her massive boobs.
“Lovely, isn’t it, dear?”
I couldn’t answer her, partly because I couldn’t really move my mouth but partly because I was too fed up to answer. You see, I’d suddenly had a pounce thought. That’s one of those thoughts that crouches right down inside your brain for ages, all stinky and slimy, but you’re not really aware of anything except a bad feeling hanging around in your head, and then it suddenly pounces and makes you shake with fear.
This is the thought that pounced on me…I’d heard Victoria and Mum giggling about how there would probably be a wedding photo of Mum and Quentin in the paper, and I hadn’t really thought there was anything wrong with that. But now I could see something hugely, massively wrong about it, because if anyone sees the photo they’ll know that Quentin is my new stepdad, and I won’t be able to deny it. And there’s someone in my class at school who absolutely must not see it. Not ever. His name’s Liam. Liam Compton. If Liam saw it my life would be even worse than it is now. In fact it wouldn’t be worth living.
Oh go away, pounce thought! Go away! Go away!
Leave me alone!
Ann Bryant is both an author and a musician. She started her writing when she was young, writing a play when she was still at primary school. At school, one of her favourite activities was just hanging out with friends and Ann is happy to relive these times again with the girls of Silver Spires in the fantastic School Friends series. Ann now teaches music and drama as well as writing children's fiction, including the very successful Ballerina Dreams series.
Visit www.annbryant.co.uk to find out more.
Written in the first person, this book is a humorous treatise of an analytical girl trying to make sense of human dynamics. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable read and actually a good aid for a child who may be feeling the angst of change in a new family life.
Anne Gannon, Inis: The Children’s Books Ireland Magazine
Do you agree or disagree with the reviews below? Why not write your own?
billie and the parent plan
I really love this book it is awesome I really want her to make a second book.
victoria, 25th November 2008
Billie and the Parent Plan is fab!
Nice book couldn't stop reading it I was so sucked and felt for Billie at some point but also thought I've done that some times or maybe more! I would give this book ********** out of ten cause it was fab and there wasn't one part I didn't like!!!
Phoebe, 2nd April 2008
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