Anything But Ordinary

In “Snow” Adam told Charlie that in an alternate universe Terri would be his wife. Wanna take a look at that universe?


Characters: , , ,

Pairing: ,

Genre: , ,



Length: words

Published: 03/11/2002 • Updated: Updated: 24 May 2003

Chapter One: Piffling Gremlins: Charlie’s POV

As I walk with Maya and Adam I have to wonder what the hell I’m doing here. I could be spending the day with Linda.

Ah-ha! That’s why I’m here.

I had only two very unappealing options. Go with Adam and Maya to the mall and catch a movie, or spend time with Linda.

It’s not that I don’t like her. I did at some point, but recently she’s driving me up the wall, making snide comments about the rest of the Ducks, and being so pro-this and anti-that that we never get time to have a conversation. It’s getting to the point where I just can’t be bothered.

“Maybellina-marna!” I hear a distinctly Irish voice yell loudly.

“Tazmania!” Maya responds equally loudly.

“Oh god, it’s a female Averman.” Adam mutters.

I note the source of the first voice, a tiny girl with bright purple hair is standing on a bench waving madly. She’s even smaller than Maya. I check Adam’s reaction, he look surprised too.

Maya dashes towards the purple haired girl and embraces her tightly. The purple girl is gabbling at the top of her lungs.

As Adam and I approach I hear Maya say, “English, Taz. Speak English.”

“Sorry!” She grins back. I notice that her eyes are purple too. Contacts, surely. No-one has purple eyes. “I’m just so happy to see you.”

Adam clears his throat, reminding Maya that the two of us still exist.

“Oooh!” Purple Girl’s eyes light up. “This must be Boyfriend! Or Boyfriends. Which one belongs to you… or is this a very disturbing ménage a trois?”

I have to laugh. This girl is insane.

“Taz, honey.” Maya loops an arm around her. “How much soda have you had?”

“Just three cans. And some of those yummy sherbet dabs.” She answers promptly.

Maya sighs. “Great. Sugar-highed.” She says with a fixed grin. “Anyway, this,” she gestures to Adam. “Is my boyfriend, Adam. The other guy is Charlie, his best friend. Guys, this is my friend, Taz. She’s the one who drew that picture I have on my wall.” She adds to Adam. Having never been in Maya’s room I have no idea what she’s talking about.

Taz bounds over to me and shakes my hand vigorously. “Nice to meet you, Charles.”

“Charlie.” I correct. I hate it when people call me Charles.

“That’s what I said, Charles.” She grins big. I wonder if anyone would mind if I killed her.

“What’s Taz short for?” I ask her.

“Tezmanian Devil.” She answers. I’ve only known her a few minutes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the truth.

“Taryn Anne McDonald.” Maya supplies.

Taz looks mildly annoyed. “Hey, Maya, best friend here! I’m your oldest and bestest friend in the world… except for those ten or twenty people who’ve known you longer and better.”

Maya grins back at her. “If you want to torment Charlie, that’s fine, but I have to give him a little ammunition so he can defend himself.”

I give Adam and evil look, and wonder idly if this is some form of payback for being nasty to him when he made Varsity.

Taz turns her attention to him, and he looks alarmed. She interrogates him sternly, making sure he’s good enough for Maya for a few minutes, until Maya very firmly tells her to hush.

“So what movie are we seeing?” Maya asks a subdued Taz.

Taz shrugs.

“You didn’t think to pick up a listing?”

“Why bother? We can just go to the cinema and find out what’s on there.” Taz replies, perking up once more. “I vote for Ice Age.”

“Taz, I saw that last week with Adam.” Maya tells her as we all start to walk.

“You didn’t tell me that there would be a lunatic here.” I say to Adam in a low voice.

He looks slightly guilty. “I knew that Maya was meeting an old friend, I didn’t realise that her friend was on day release.”

“I heard that!” Taz says over her shoulder, she doesn’t look even remotely offended. In fact she looks amused. Linda would never see the funny side of that.

“Sorry.” I say.

She shrugs indifferently. “I’ll take it as a compliment.”

She can’t be from this planet. Adam and I have just insulted a girl we’ve known only five minutes, and she’s pleased?

Once we arrive at the cinema a heated debate breaks out. Taz is firmly ensconced in the Ice Age corner, while Adam and Maya are desperate to see Panic Room. I haven’t seen either. Taz speaks up saying that she’ll see Ice Age by herself if the three of us want to check out the other one.

Now this puts me in a bind. Do I want to be third wheel with the happy couple or do I want to see a kids flick with a lunatic? Who knows what she’ll get up to.

“I’m about to buy my ticket.” Taz threatens. “Last chance to change your minds. You know you want to see it!”

“I’ll go with you.” I say. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because she’s so tiny and I don’t like the idea of her going anywhere by herself.

She gives me a thousand watt smile, it lights up her whole face. She’s a very pretty girl.

“I’ll get the tickets.” She decides. “You can get the munchies. I’m allergic to touching popcorn, so unless you’re willing to feed it to me, that’s out. And don’t get me soda, it makes me hyper. Juice is good, but I like it watered down. 80% ice, 15% water and 5% juice.”

Suddenly I regret my decision, but it’s too late now because she’s bounding over to the vendor.

Maya smiles and touches my arm. “Get her Milk Duds, any type of juice is fine as long as there’s plenty of ice. And don’t worry, she’ll quiet down once the film starts, you won’t even know she’s there. And even if she doesn’t, just tell her to hush and she will.”

Why do I feel like I’ve been left babysitting a complete terror, and the smug mother is giving me last minute instructions before making a break for peace and quiet?

I glare at her and my supposed best friend. “Any other rules or advice? Does she turn into a monster if you feed her after midnight?” I ask sarcastically. Lunatic Taz might be, but she’s neither a child or my responsibility.

The look on Maya’s face lets me know that, for the first time in her life, Taz has made a quiet entrance.

“Now you’ve done it.” Maya mutters.

I whirl round, all set to make yet another hasty apology. Instead of the hurt expression I’m expecting, Taz’s face is showing pure joy.

“You’re a Gremlins fan too?” She asks excitedly. “I am, it’s my favourite movie to watch at Christmas.” She then launches into a quick skit highlighting the funniest moments of the movie. You wouldn’t think this tiny perky Irish girl could make Gremlin sounds but she can. She even makes her ears wiggle for the Snow White part of it.

I’m laughing so hard that I barely notice Adam and Maya making their exits.

People are staring at Taz, but she doesn’t care. Linda hates calling attention to herself when she’s having fun. Maybe it’s because fun is a rare event for Linda and she’s somewhat concerned she’s not doing it right.

Taz has no such qualms, and continues her manic babble as we queue for drinks (juice, lots of ice—no soda), and Milk Duds (I’m not hand feeding her popcorn, although part of me really wants to know how you can be allergic to touching it, but not eating it and what exactly the reaction would be if she touched it).

“Come on, Gremlin.” I take her elbow and lead her towards the screen showing Ice Age. Once we cross the threshold she shuts up immediately. You’d have thought that when someone is babbling as much as her they’d need time to wind down. She’s a highly intriguing girl, if somewhat irritating.

“Don’t let me fall over.” She whispers to me, taking my arm to steady herself.

I give her a bemused look. What does she mean?

“Those lines of lights.” She points to the subtle strip lights on the floor. “They make me lose my balance. I really want some for my house though.”

I grin and hold on to her.

We find our seats and only have to climb over three people to reach them, which is my definition of a very easy time.

When the movie starts Taz becomes completely immersed in the story, I myself am not entirely uninvolved, but I find myself sneaking glances at her at regular intervals. Her eyes never leave the screen, or if they do, I don’t see.

She’s completely oblivious to me—the rest of the world even. I’m stunned to see her get sniffly at the emotional part of the film.

Linda would never do that. Then again, Linda would never watch Ice Age, because ‘filmmakers today seem to change history to suit themselves and their budgets. It’s morally wrong to fill the heads of children with such piffle’. That’s a direct quote. And yes, she really did use the word ‘piffle’.

When the film ends and the lights come on Taz looks visibly startled, as if she couldn’t quite remember how she got here.

“You ok, Gremlin?” I ask her.

She nods and gets up. I have to offer my arm again, a Taz is obviously not designed for staying still for longer than ten minutes and she’s going to be like a coiled spring when she gets outside. I don’t know how I know this, I just do.

Chapter Two: Purple Foam and Bizarre Squirrelly Things: Charlie’s POV

We get outside and walk over to the decorative fountain and sit on the edge. God knows what a fountain is doing in a mall, but it’s there. Complete with pennies at the bottom from the people who wish for things.

We have just under an hour until Adam and Maya get out from their film, since it started later and is longer, I checked as we left.


I’m sorely tempted to Argh right back at her, but I’m quite scared of the consequences. Instead I fight the smirk on my face and calmly say, “You Arghed? Something wrong, dear?”

She starts talking very quickly and I have no idea what she’s staying. After a few minutes I deduce that she must be talking Irish.

I goggle at her for a few seconds, then open my mouth with no idea what to say. “Planet Earth is full! Go home!” As unplanned responses go, that was one of my best.

She grins and reverts back to English. “I would, but the Flufflogians don’t like me either!” She pulls a face and wails pitifully. “Now I’ll never get back to my home planet. Fluffloga is such a beautiful place!”

I have no idea what I’m going to do next. I guess Taz has that effect on people. I amaze myself by picking her up and turning her upside down. I dangle her over the fountain. “Be shushed or I’ll drop you in head first!” I tell her.

“Charlie, pull me back up!” She says in a horrified tone.

She called me Charlie. For a moment I think I’ve gone too far and scared her, but no, when I put her the right way up I realise her hair has gotten wet and the water in the fountain has a wonderful purple tinge to it.

“I only just had my hair dyed.” She explains.

I take her hand and we make a quick exit laughing all the way.

I haven’t had this much fun for ages. As Taz drags me into a store and I take one last look at the fountain. I pull her to a stop and nod at it.

She claps her hand to her mouth to smother her laugh. The purple dye has made it’s way around the system, and now the water spouting at the top is coming out purple too.

“There’s only one thing for it.” She says.

“What’s that?”

“We’re going to have to clean it.”

I gawp at her. That sounds like something Linda would say, she’d make us own up and scrub the blasted thing.

“I don’t have much patience for cleaning.” Taz confides. “I recon if we threw a bottle of washing up liquid in there it would do the trick.”

Hello dear sweet soul-mate. “You’re on!”

“You’re going to have to buy it, I stick out like a sore thumb.”

“Having the same colour hair as a bruise?” I say.

She grins and elbows me in ribs. “You go buy it, I’m going to the ladies to sit under a hand dryer and see if I can sort out my hair. I look kinda suspicious.”

I meet Taz quarter of an hour later. Her hair is standing out wildly in all directions. She obviously doesn’t care either. I hate girls who are obsessed with how they look. Besides, I think she’s cute.

I did not just have that thought. I have a girlfriend. I’m perfectly happy.

Yes, I’m perfectly happy with my boring activist girlfriend who would never dream of vandalising a water fountain in the name of having a good time.

Taz takes the detergent bottle from me and viciously stabs it with her keys. She takes off her jacket and folds it over her arm, concealing the bottle.

We saunter over to the fountain, drop it in and walk away calmly. We’re at the other side of the mall before we stop walking. And our pace had stepped up several notches.

My heart is pounding, we could be in so much trouble for this. Taz’s face is lit up with exhilaration. Again, I have to say, I’ve not had such a good time in ages. I’m definitely glad I came.

“Ooh! Toy shop!” She says, looking around. “Can we go in? Please!!”

Who am I to deny her?

I follow her and she looks like a kid at Christmas. I hope she doesn’t have any more wild plans. I don’t know if I can keep up with her.

“Race ya?” She says, pointing to some space hoppers.

Stop thinking, Conway. She reads your mind.

“I’m highly tempted. If I wasn’t almost six feet tall I would say yes, but you have an unfair advantage, since you haven’t grown since you were the age Space Hoppers were invented for.” I grin.

“I’ll give you a head start.” She grins back.

“Let’s see what else they have in here.” I suggest.

She slips her hand through my arm and we continue deeper into the store…

Right into the Ice Age section. Her eyes light up. “It’s the bizarre squirrelly thing!” She says, holding up a toy. “It’s so cute!” She turns over the tag, winces at the price, but says, “It’s called Scrat! Bless!”

Cue her bizarre squirrelly thing impression.

As anticipated, she does launch into a highly amusing impersonation of it.

I take the toy off her and march off as if in a huff. She follows, a little confused, but still making strange ‘eek’ing noises.

I set the toy down on the counter and reach for my wallet. She’s completely dumbfounded. She’s silent. It’s a miracle.

And I feel really good as I hand the Scrat to her, and not just because she’s quieted down.

“Thanks, Charles.”

I take her hand again as we walk out of the store, no thought goes into the action, I just do it. “You’re more than welcome.”

Outside of the store kids are surging towards the other end of the mall. She grabs one in a fairly aggressive way.

“What’s happening?” She asks in an innocent tone. “Is somebody famous here?”

“No!” He replies excitedly. “Someone’s thrown something in the fountain, there’s purple foam everywhere!”

Taz and I exchange amused looks. “This I gotta see!” She decides and starts dragging me to the other end of the mall.

We follow the crowd, and I begin to get nervous about Taz’s hair. She sticks out a mile in a crowd of boring looking people.

Conway, you just gave her another indirect compliment.

Not out loud.

Now you’re having an internal argument.

“Oh. My. God.” Taz sums it up rather well.

There is a mountain of purple foam where the fountain used to be. And it’s surrounded by every single security guard in Minnesota.

“Protect the bubbles!” I say to Taz, who gets what I’m saying and crumples on the ground with laughter.

Someone taps me on the shoulder. I turn to face Maya, who glances at the hysterical purple leprechaun at my feet and then to the Great Bubble Mountain. She sighs deeply. “How much soda did you give her?”

“None.” I reply.

“She did this without the aid of saccharine?” Maya rolls her eyes at me. “You encouraged her, didn’t you?”

I offer my hand to Taz and she gets up, there are tears streaming down her face. Maya can’t fight the laughter, and with Banksie doubled up in mirth, there really is no point.

I have to almost carry Taz out of the mall, and as we walk it occurs to me that Maya never even considered that this wasn’t Taz’s doing.

I wonder what else she’s done.

Chapter Three: A Word of Warning: Charlie’s POV

“That Taz is a lunatic.” I say to Adam as we sit in our dorm room, supposedly studying for tomorrow’s test. “She’s started calling me Scrat after that bizarre squirrelly thing from Ice Age.”

“Noticed.” He replies with a grin.

Noticed? Is that all the response I get?

“With all that mad hair and all.” I add. Talk to me, Banksie.


“And being Irish. It’s a nice accent.”

“I guess.”

Is that all I’m getting? Here I am, making a conversation about a girl who’s not my girlfriend, who just so happens to be my best friend’s girlfriend’s best friend. I’m showing way too much interest in her, he should really ask me if I’m interested in her.

“She’s pretty too. In a quirky kinda way.” I say.

“If you like purple.”

Damn it, Banks! Call me on it! Ask me if I like her!

“I like purple.” I say. Come on, I’ve almost said it out loud. Ask me!

He just smiles.

“Fine! You’ve dragged it out of me!” I rage. “I like her!”

He laughs at me. “Dragged it out of you? I didn’t say a word.”

“Well, you should have! You’re my best friend, I shouldn’t have to tell you of my own accord, you should ask me, beat it out of me if need be!”

He gives me a look. “Your logic does not resemble Earth logic. You’ve spent way too much time with Taz.”

“Or not enough.” I say pointedly.

He rolls his eyes. “You should really have started the conversation with ‘I’m thinking of ditching Linda’. That might have got my attention. I have strict instructions from Maya not to let you anywhere near Taz until you have.”

“Oh!” Now I get it. Stupid me. “Well, I will ditch Linda.”

“Nice one, Conway.” He says approvingly. “I’m sure that exchanging one maniac for another will do you the world of good.”

“Taz is a fun maniac, Linda’s just…”

“A boring weasel-faced wench with the personality of a veruca?” He suggests. From his quick response I’d wager he’s spent some time thinking about how little he enjoys Linda’s company.

I nod. “Maybe I wouldn’t be quite so insulting, but yeah.”

“Cool, I’m going to find Maya.” He says, getting up.

“Later.” I say.

Moments later the door opens again, instead of Adam, like I was expecting, it’s Maya.

“He’s just gone to look for you.” I tell her.

“Actually, I came here to see you.” She takes a seat on Adam’s bed.

“Is this about Taz?” I ask cautiously.

“Yes it is.” She says. “Don’t mess her around. She’s a nice girl and the last thing she needs is someone screwing with her feelings.”

“I know she’s a nice girl.” I retort, slightly irritated that I’m getting this lecture after spending just one day with her. And most of that day was supervised, except for our two hours of insanity.

“Charlie, I don’t want to sound like a bitch or anything, but you don’t know Taz at all. You’ve met the fun side of her, and you like it—which is a plus, most people get annoyed with her.”

“So what’s the other side?” I ask.

“She’s very…” Maya scrunches up her face as she searches for the right word. “Vulnerable, I guess. Her life wasn’t always great.” She pushes her hair out of her eyes and leans forward.

“She’s just won an art scholarship to come here. This will be the last school she’s at before graduation. She hasn’t stayed at any school longer than six months since she was eleven. This time she’s making friends for keeps.” She is obviously debating whether or not to tell me the rest. “This doesn’t leave the room, ok?”

“Ok.” I say.

“You can’t even tell Taz I told you. She’d hate me for telling you this.”

“I promise.”

“She used to live with her Mom in Ireland until her Mom died, Taz only was nine. She stayed for two more years with her Grandmother until she got too old to take care of her. Her Dad is American, so he collected Taz and brought her over here. She’s been carted around like a piece of luggage ever since. She’s never said anything, but I don’t think her Dad has really noticed she’s a person. Hence her wacky behaviour, attention seeking. She asked him if she got a scholarship to a boarding school could she stay in one place for the rest of her education. He said yes.”

“Wow.” I say softly. “Poor Taz.”

“Don’t ‘poor Taz’ her, she’d hate it. I’m just telling you this, before she gets all attached to you—which no doubt she will do when she starts here if you let her. If you want to date her, fine, but don’t play around with her and stay with Linda. You’ll hurt her, and I’ll destroy you for it.”

“I get it.” I tell her. “And I won’t hurt her.”

At this point Adam walks in. I guess this was some form of set-up. He was probably hovering behind the door the whole time. He takes a seat next to Maya and starts playing with her hair.

“Taz just called me!” She says brightly, as if none of the conversation before has happened. “She wants to know what we’re doing on Tuesday.”

Chapter Four: Suddenly Monday: Charlie’s POV

Why is it that Linda’s always around when I want to hang out just with the Ducks, but the moment I want to see her on her own she vanishes?

I haven’t been able to get this big stupid grin off my face since meeting Taz, it was one insane moment after another. I’ve never met someone so genuinely perky, she makes the cheerleaders look unenthusiastic. Then again, her happiness isn’t plastic like theirs.

And yes, I can give her as many mental compliments as I like because as soon as I find Linda we’re finished.


Dear gods! Here she is! She’s fiddling with her locker, and wow, does she look pissed off.

“Hey Linda.” I say pleasantly. “Can we talk?”

She glares in response.

“Are you ok?” I ask, with little enthusiasm.

“No I am not ok.” She tells me in a very stern tone. “Did you hear what happened to the memorial fountain in the mall on Saturday?” She sighs. “Of course you did, you were there.”

Oh. Right. Did one of her friends see me holding hands with Taz? That’s strange, I thought they were too busy saving the rain forest or something to go shopping. I really must stop thinking nasty thoughts about her.

“Uh-huh.” I say noncommittally.

“Well, why didn’t you offer to help clean it?” She demands with terrifying ferocity. “That fountain was in memorial of Sir Richard Wilkins III, he did many wonderful things for the conservations laws in this state!”

I guess now would not be a good time to tell her I was the cause of the purple foam. “Um, because I was with some friends.” I offer cautiously.

She sighs and rolls her eyes. “Always too busy to help!”

My mother doesn’t give me as much grief as her—and usually when Mom’s yelling she’s making a fair point. “Linda, we need to talk.” I say, I refuse to get distracted. I’m seeing Taz tomorrow, but only if I don’t have a girlfriend.

“Well, we can talk tomorrow. My friends and I are going to volunteer for the restoration project.” She snaps.

“Linda! Calm down! It’s just a bit of detergent. It’s not like someone threw acid in there!”

“I bet you thought it was funny!” She says accusingly.

I nod. “I did. Sue me. And we need to talk now.”

“I’m busy.” She slams her locker to punctuate the point.

I grab her arm to stop her walking away. “Well, Linda, I’m breaking up with you. When you’re finally unbusy enough to process that you can come talk to me… or better yet, don’t.”

Maybe that was a little nasty.

She stops what she’s doing. “You’re breaking up with me? Why?”

“Because we don’t have anything in common any more.” I say in the most gentle tone I can muster. “We don’t agree on anything, and it’s been months since we’ve had a conversation.”

“Months? What do you call this?”

“I call it an argument.” I say. “I’m sorry, Linda, but we just don’t make sense together.”

“Fine! My friends always told me I was too good for you anyway!” She shoulders her bag and marches off. I pity anyone who crosses her today.

As break ups go, that wasn’t so bad.

I have to grin.

It looks like I’m seeing Taz tomorrow.

Chapter Five: A Very Taz Tuesday: Charlie’s POV

I sit on the bus with Maya and Adam trying to show a polite interest in their conversation. I’ve never felt so pent up and hyper about just meeting someone.

“… right, Spazway?”

I look up and realise that they’re looking at me. “Um, yeah?” I say, hoping that I’ve given the right answer.

“He’s got it bad.” Maya deduces. She smirks at me. “We just asked if you and Linda will stay friends.”

I know for a fact that both Maya and Adam hate her, so they weren’t making conversation, they were confirming that I was spacing.

I’m saved from further embarrassment by the bus pulling over outside the mall. I hop out of my seat and am at the door before it even stops completely. I hear Maya and Adam laugh at me. Yes, I’m hopelessly pathetic.

I encourage (read: threatened to leave them behind) the others to walk as fast as is humanly possible towards the bench where we met Taz on Saturday.

She’s there already, bouncing excitedly. Does she ever run out of energy? She grins at me, and I don’t think I imagined the way her eyes light up.

“Maybellina, Charliebobs and Adamykins!” She calls. Several hundred people stare at her like she’s a lunatic, and I pick up the pace.

She leaps off of the bench and hurls herself at Maya for a hug. Once that’s done, there’s a hug for me that ends all too soon.

“How are you diddling, Scrat?” She asks me with a big grin.

I’ve no idea what she’s saying so I just adlib. “Nice to see you, Gremlin!”

She bounds over to Adam and stops dead. “Not sure if I should hug you.” She admits, then shakes his hand enthusiastically.

“Have you been at the sugar again?” Maya asks.

“Nope. This is pure Taz adrenaline.” She says. “So, what do you think of the outfit? I’m trying to practice looking preppy, did it work?”

I grin at her. She’s wearing a black skirt, a huge pair of Dr. Marten boots with butterflies painted on them and a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up and the tails tied in a loose knot above her midriff.

She kinda looks like Britney Spears did in the Baby, One More Time video, except she looks nothing like her. It’s a bizarre comparison.

“You don’t look preppy at all.” Adam says, then hastily adds, “but good try.”

“New piercing?” Maya asks, pointing at Taz’s belly button.

“Got bored. I’ve been here three hours.” Taz replies.

“Three hours? We were still in class while you were getting hole-punched.” I say, and I’m pleased to note she edges towards me.

“It’s a hard life not going to school.” Taz tells me, moving closer still. “But that will all change. I move into the dorms on Saturday.” She grins widely. “I’m looking for volunteers to haul boxes up to my room all day.”

“Adam,” Maya tugs at his hand. “Remember we wanted to check out that store?”

“What store?” He asks looking genuinely confused.

“That store that we talked about it earlier.” She nods, in what she probably thinks is a subtle way, towards me and Taz and tugs on his hand again. “Come on.”

“Oh right!” He says, catching on. “Let’s go.”

Taz and I watch them hurry away. That’s sweet, they’re going so I can make my move.

I turn back to Taz and I see she’s bright red. “Why didn’t she just say ‘Adam, let’s leave Taz and Charlie alone because Taz told me to’? It would have been only slightly more embarrassing.”

That was because of Taz and not me? I grin hugely.

“Oh well, now I’m horribly humiliated, follow me.” She says matter-of-factly.

I reach out and take her hand. “Don’t be, Gremlin.”

She grins at me. “Now I feel a little better.”

She leads me back to the bench where she was waiting for us and picks up her bag (purple, fluffy, terrifying—it suits her down to the ground).

“You shouldn’t leave that lying around, someone might steal it.” I say.

She takes a seat and gives me a withering look. “Who on earth would want to steal this?”

She makes a fair point. I take a seat next to her.

She lets go of my hand and starts rummaging in her bag. “I made you something.” She shrugs embarrassedly and hands me a box.

I’m touched. “You didn’t have to.”

“Don’t say that until you’ve at least opened it.” She grins. “It’s not much.”

I open the box and it’s filled with protective foam. I pull that out and inside the foam is a small model gremlin. It has a purple mohawk. I grin at her. “This is great.”

She blushes. “He’s called Tyke. He’d be Spike, ‘cos of the spike of hair, but it’s purple, so Tyke.”

“You made this?” I ask in admiration.

“To be honest, yes and no.” She admits. “The actual model is from a kit I ordered off the internet with my Dad’s credit card—he’s still trying to puzzle that one out—but I painted it and glazed it. Clay isn’t really my thing, I prefer to paint.”

“Yeah, Maya told me that you’d won an art scholarship.” And coming from Eden Hall, that means a lot. The school is almost entirely sports-driven as far as scholarships go. There are only a few on offer for Art, English and some other subjects. The fact that Taz even met the criteria to apply for one just goes to show how talented she must be.

Taz shrugs. “It wasn’t that hard, I had a few letters of recommendation as well, and my Dad’s loaded, so that helps grease a few wheels too.”

“Don’t sell yourself short.” I say turning the gremlin around in my hands. “This is really good.”

She grins at me. “You’ll be sick of me and my artwork soon. I have been known to paint walls. When I got home I drew a mountain of purple foam, with Scrat at the top—not you, the squirrelly thing from Ice Age. It drives my Dad insane. We move to a new house, I paint a few murals, then he gets yet another transfer and he has to pay someone to sand it off or paint over it.”

“You move around a lot then?” I ask, as if I didn’t already know.

She nods. “Yeah, I’m not too sure what my dad does, but he’s really good at it.”

“So how long have you know Maya? And how did you stay in contact?”

She thinks it over. “Um, I think about two or three years. We went to the same school, I was there for seven whole months, Maya was the only person who was nice to me. We swapped email addresses when I moved and we called each other every few months. Maya insisted that we stay friends, I’d given up even trying at that point. She’s a really nice person.”

“She said the same thing about you.” I say, putting Tyke back in the box.

She grins at me. “Well, that just goes to show… three years of friendship and she still doesn’t know me! Then again, I know nothing about you. Maya says you play hockey with Adam.”

“Play hockey with Adam?” I repeat, my tone incredulous. “I’m the captain of the team!” I grin at her. “Bit of respect please, Gremlin.”

“Sorry, Scrat.”

I grin at her nickname for me. She’s so… argh! I’m not going to finish that sentence, I’ll only compliment her again and then I’ll blush and then she’ll ask why…

“Actually, we have a game on Friday. I don’t suppose you’d like to come and watch?” I offer.

“Can I bring my sketch book? I’ve never drawn a hockey game before.”

Of all the unique answers. “Sure.” I take her hand again.

“Hey guys!” Maya and Adam saunter over.

“Have fun at that store?” Taz asks.

Maya sticks her tongue out in response.

Adam looks around nervously. “So where’s the trail of destruction? We left you two alone for half an hour, why is the mall still standing?”

“Yeah, that’s because the bomb’s gonna detonate after we leave.” I wink at Taz and she grins back.

“Why do I get the sinking sensation that you might not be kidding?” Maya teases. “And it’s just come over the PA System that the fountain is spouting pink water and if they find the perpetrator they’re in big trouble.”

I must have missed that announcement. I look at Taz.

She rolls her eyes. “Like I said, I was here for three hours, I got bored.”

I laugh, she’s amazing. “You’re going to get caught one day.”

“People like me never get caught!”

“Are we just going to stand here all day, or are we going somewhere?” Adam asks.

I stand and pull Taz to her feet. “Going somewhere.” I decide. “But where?”

“Ooh, can we go on the roller coaster?” Taz asks.

“It’s kinda small and not too scary.” Maya says, then shrugs. “But why not?”

“Yeah,” Adam adds. “Let’s go queue for half an hour.”

I wonder if Taz can stand still for that long. I have doubts.

We walk to the other end of the mall towards the coaster, passing the fountain on the way. It’s a vibrant shade of pink. There are seven highly pissed off looking security guards standing in front of it, and close to them are Linda and her activist friends, looking horrified.

Everyone else who sees it laughs.

I know I made the right choice. I slip my arm around Taz as we walk and she grins up at me. I have to wonder when I’ll get the chance to kiss her.

As we queue Maya and Adam exchange a few kisses and he tickles her. I really want to kiss Taz, but I don’t want our first kiss to be in a queue for the smallest roller coaster in the world.

I content myself with playing with Taz’s hair. It’s a really bright shade of purple, not many girls could look good with it, but she does. She even dyes her eyebrows purple too. I’ll have to ask her what her natural colour is.

We finally get on the coaster and the guy taking tickets jokes about how Taz and Maya are only just tall enough to ride it.

I put an arm around her shoulder and she leans into me. The coaster is boring, but with Taz it’s fun. She giggles like a loon as it twists and turns.

She drags me on it a further three times, Maya and Adam decline, and when I put my foot down and refuse to queue again, we find the other two sharing cotton candy. It’s such a nauseatingly couply thing to do.

Taz is horribly offended, simply because they don’t sell purple cotton candy. She actually asks the vendor why he doesn’t have purple food colouring. I have to drag her away when the debate gets a little too heated.

“Sorry!” I tell the guy. “She’s on day release and wriggled out of her straight jacket.”

“I still think you should consider purple!” She tells him, not budging an inch.

The guy looks tiredly amused, and I know it’s time to take Taz away. I lean down and tip her over my shoulder.

“Scrat! I’m wearing a skirt! If my knickers are on show to the world I’ll kill you!” She yells. “At least they’re my very best ones!”

I know I’m blushing. “It’s ok, Gremlin. Everyone thinks your ‘knickers’ are very nice.” I tell her as I carry her over to Adam and Maya.

“Charlie, put her down. She’s not used to being so far from the ground, she’ll get airsick.” Maya instructs with a grin.

I reluctantly set Taz on her feet again, she looks a little dizzy and grabs my arm for support. I put an arm around her shoulders and she leans against me.

We wander around aimlessly for awhile, then the girls excuse themselves to use the restroom. We know this is just an excuse to leave us alone while they gossip about us. The only reason guys don’t use the same excuse is because we know girls use this trick and we wait until they do to start talking about them.

“Have you kissed her yet?” Adam asks as soon as they’re out of earshot.

“No opportunity.” I reply.

“What do you mean no opportunity? You’ve been hugging her and holding her hand the whole time—and what about that half hour when Maya dragged me into a shoe shop so the two of you could talk?”

I roll my eyes at him. “How long did it take you to kiss Maya? I had to ask her out for you! You don’t have a leg to stand on in this argument.”

“But you’re not me.” He points out. “You had half an hour to kiss her without me and Maya around!”

“She gave me a Gremlin, I was so busy being stunned I missed the opportunity.” I admit with a sigh. “Maybe I can take her out after the game on Friday. Just the two of us.”

“She gave you a Gremlin? Oh, never mind, they’re on their way back, do you want me and Maya to disappear?” He offers.

“Banksie, I love you.”

He looks embarrassed. “Please don’t say that again in public.”

Maya walks over to him. “Adam, shall we—”

At the same time he says, “We should go see—”

They grin at each other and disappear quickly.

Taz again looks embarrassed.

“I told Adam to take Maya somewhere else.” I tell her and she grins at me.

“I might have asked Maya if she had an elsewhere to be also.”

I take her hand again and lead her over to a bench. “I was thinking,” I take a deep breath. “Do you want to go out some time? Just us, not Adam and Maya?”

She grins hugely and nods. “Yeah, I’d like that. But not here, there’s only so much damage I can do to the same mall without calling attention to myself.”

“Don’t worry, Gremlin, I’ll take you somewhere new, where nobody will be expecting you to destroy something.” I grin and pull her closer to me.

She looks up at me, and I know now’s a good a time as ever to kiss her.

But I don’t get that far, because she moves closer and kisses me.