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Authors: Cat Clarke


BOOK: Torn
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First published in Great Britain in 2011 by Quercus

21 Bloomsbury Square



Copyright © Cat Clarke, 2011

The moral right of Cat Clarke to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Design and Patents Act, 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

A CIP catalogue reference for this book is available from the British Library

eBook ISBN 978 1 78087 528 6

Print ISBN 978 0 85738 205 4

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places and events are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

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Cat Clarke was born in Zambia and brought up in Scotland and Yorkshire, which has given her an accent that tends to confuse people. Cat has written non-fiction books about exciting things like cowboys, sharks and pirates, and now writes YA novels, usually about teenagers being mean to each other. Her first novel,
was published by Quercus in 2011.

Praise for

‘Moving, thought-provoking, and truly gripping from start to finish’

‘It isn’t often you race through a book because you are desperate for the denouement, the truth … incredibly poignant and thought-provoking’
Birmingham Post

‘A fascinating and exciting read’
Belfast Newsletter

‘Grace’s story is told with warmth, sensitivity and humour’
School Librarian

‘A most accomplished and daring debut’
Books for Keeps

Also by Cat Clarke

For Dad, with heaps of love and a great deal of respect.
You really are quite marvellous, you know.


A funeral without a body is like a wedding without a bride. Or a groom.

Except this isn’t officially a funeral – it’s a
memorial service
. Instead of a coffin, there’s an easel with a huge photo. She looks pretty. Hopeful, even.

The church is jam-packed. People standing at the back, craning their necks to get a good look at the family. There were even photographers outside when we arrived. It’s a zoo. A snivelling, wailing zoo. Not that I can talk – I’ve been snivelling too. Dad pressed a hanky into my hand as soon as we got here. Now it’s sodden and snotty, so I’m guessing he won’t want it back.

No one’s wearing black. Black is officially banned. Apparently she used to joke about her funeral, saying she hoped everyone would wear crazy neons and wave glow-sticks around. Well, no neons as such, but
I did manage to pour myself into my purple skinny jeans (
was I thinking?).

Sometimes I used to imagine my own funeral. It was nothing like this. And it certainly didn’t involve the school choir singing ‘Keep Holding On’ by Avril bloody Lavigne. Polly Sutcliffe is centre stage. New haircut. Highlights too. She manages to get through most of the first verse before dissolving into tears. Real, actual tears, just like the ones I’ve been crying for days and days.

Tears of shock.

Tears of sadness.

Tears of guilt.


School has been weird since it happened. It’s all anyone can talk about. The first day back, every teacher said a few words about her at the start of each lesson. Some were more convincing than others. Miss Daley hadn’t even known her – not really – but you could tell she was genuinely upset.

Daley arrived at the start of the school year, fresh and new and vulnerable, a tiny bird-lady with
I’m a newly qualified teacher, please take advantage of me
tattooed on her forehead. So we did what we always do – try to find a weakness, see how far we can push
her, wondering if she’ll cry if we take things a little too far. But she held up pretty well. She took everything we could throw at her – even Tara’s major attitude.

I keep looking over at Cass; I can’t help it. She’s picking cat hairs off her skirt, like she always does when she’s bored. Except Cass hardly ever wears skirts. Her mum must have talked her into it. Looks like she’s had a haircut too. It seems like everyone’s got spruced up for the occasion. I catch Cass’s eye and she half waves in my direction. I shake my head, just a tiny bit so no one else will notice. She shrugs and goes back to grooming her clothes. Jesus.

I shouldn’t be surprised that she’s not crying. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her cry. Not even when Boots Mark 3 got run over last summer. And Boots Mark 3 was her favourite of all the Bootses. Boots Mark 4 isn’t quite matching up, apparently. He’s certainly hairier than the last one. I try to steer clear, since I’m sort of allergic to cats. Not properly – just enough to make my face itch when I’m around them.

Cass prides herself on being strong. She thinks girls who cry all the time are
. Crying at the end of a Disney film? Pathetic. Crying because the boy you fancy doesn’t even know you exist? Pathetic. The
entire school crying on and off for the past couple of weeks? Pathetic pathetic pathetic.

Luckily she makes an exception for me. I’m allowed to cry whenever I want, and she’ll do anything she can to cheer me up. Which usually involves making me laugh. She can
make me laugh. It’s one of my favourite things about her. Although I hate it when she does it on purpose when I’ve got a mouthful of orange juice or something. That’s just cruel.

The singing is over, thank God. I check the order of service: a reading by the three witches. Of course it doesn’t actually
‘witches’, but that’s what Cass calls them. They’re not
bad – individually, at least. Just normal girls: Gemma, Danni and Sam. But put them together and they transform into something bigger, something badder. And if you add their fearless leader into the mix, they mutate into a multi-headed monster of popularity. A monster that teachers
, for some inexplicable reason. A monster that boys love even more, for very obvious reasons. A monster that the rest of us bow down to – out of fear mostly, but also a kind of grudging respect. And jealousy.

But their fearless leader is no more.


The reading is surprising – a passage from one of her favourite books, apparently. A book I bought for her, a long time ago.

Dad whispers in my ear, ‘Remember when I used to read this to you?’

I nod. Something tightens in my throat.

The witches get through it without the usual hair-flicking and pouting. Waterproof mascara was invented for days like this. I want to look over at Cass, but I don’t. She’ll probably be smirking and I couldn’t bear that.

A boy stands up from the front row. Messy brown hair and sloping shoulders. He slowly makes his way to the lectern and takes a rumpled piece of paper from the back pocket of his jeans. He clears his throat and looks at us. His gaze roams the pews, not even pausing when it meets mine. It’s five years since I last saw him. He’s not a skinny little boy in too-big clothes any more. He’s an almost-man. Jack.

‘I’d like to thank you all for coming today. It means a lot to me and my family. I wish Tara could be here to see how much everyone loved her.’ He smiles a tiny smile at the thought, and I do too. He looks down at the paper in his hands and everyone can see that he’s shaking, trying to hold it together. He scrunches the paper into a ball and continues, ‘Tara was the
most annoying sister in the world.’ Some people are shocked and frowning a bit; Cass looks interested. I’m definitely interested.

‘I mean it. She drove me mental. She
let me have the remote control. She used to borrow my iPod without asking – and then I’d find it lying around with the battery run down. She listened in on my phone conversations and read my text messages. And she took the piss out of me
the time. She could rip me to shreds in any argument … and then she’d go running to Mum about it, saying that I was being mean and picking on her. She could wrap people around her little finger just like that.’ He snaps his fingers. People don’t know how to take this. It’s brilliant.

‘Tara was the best sister in the world. She used to bring me tomato soup and toast when I wasn’t feeling well. And she’d make sure the butter went right to the edges too. She taught me to always say “no” when a girl asks if her bum looks big. She covered for me when I got wasted and was sick on the hall carpet – blamed the dog. Sorry, Mum. And sorry, Rufus.’ Most people laugh – a muted, funereal sort of laugh.

‘Tara was there for me whenever I needed someone to talk to. She didn’t always say what I wanted to hear, but she was always honest. Totally, absolutely, brutally honest. The last thing she said to
me was, “Get a haircut – you look ridiculous.”’ Jack laughs and runs his hand through his hair. I don’t think he looks ridiculous.

‘My sister was my very favourite person and I will miss her every day for the rest of my life. Now I’ve got the remote control whenever I want it and my iPod’s always fully charged. But I just want my sister back. And that’s not going to happen.’ His voice cracks at the end, and he rushes back to his seat.

I’m finding it hard to breathe. I close my eyes and try to think of something else – anything else. It’s useless. All I can think about is a brother grieving for his sister. And never knowing the truth.

Please, God, let this be over soon. I shouldn’t be here. None of us should be here. Rae had the right idea. But then it’s easy for her. She can get away with not turning up. She just has to play the depressed emo-girl card. The rest of us aren’t so lucky.

BOOK: Torn
2.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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