The next morning, Patricia and Jemima sat on the bus, on their way to school. Jemima was slumped against the window, snoring. Patricia looked at her, a nervous giggle rising in her throat when she saw that her friend had a stream of dribble making its way down from the corner of her mouth, down her chubby neck and heading for her school bag.
Truth was, they were both feeling a little out of sorts this morning. After the telly had gone off last night, Jemima had suggested that they go clubbing. A few years back, this would have been unthinkable. But since the Government had lowered the legal drinking age to 14, it was not unusual at all to see school-age children in pubs and clubs on a school night.
It had all been part of the Government's ''Keep Alcopops out of the Park'' campaign. Along with the lowering of the legal age limit, they had insisted on a total ban on the sale of alcopops in supermarkets and corner shops, restricting them only to pubs, clubs and restaurants. Of course, this had led to a bit of a black market in alcopop sales, but as there were hefty fines for anyone caught selling them, they tended to go for ten pounds a bottle. This had the effect of making them extremely popular with the prosperous over-30s, who were often to be found holding very hush-hush ''Alcopops Parties'' every weekend. It also meant that the bouncers outside the night clubs were not searching the punters before they went inside, but rather, everyone was frisked on the way out, just in case they had an illicit bottle or two of WKD or Breezer on their person. The aforementioned bouncers were, needless to say, rather pleased when they did catch a would-be alcopop smuggler, as it meant another tenner in the back pocket for them.
Patricia leaned back in the seat of the bus. With her dribbling best friend in the land of nod, she had no-one to talk to. She thought of nudging Jemima to wake her, but the idea of rousing her and being shouted at made her giggle nervously again. The middle-aged man in the seat in front of her lowered his newspaper and turned round to glare at the teenager, who giggled even more nervously in reply, her fat cheeks colouring.
She closed her eyes and thought of ''Triple-B'', the almost continous subject of her almost constant daydreams - and night dreams, for that matter. Big Blond Boris, the very-soon-to-be-ex-Deputy Prime Minister. She had had a massive crush on him for the last year. She had a pile of letters from him in her school bag, and she took them out several times a day to read them. Despite her mother, and Jemima, and everyone else, telling her that as they were signed by a secretary, they weren't really from Triple-B at all, she knew different. She knew that her future lay with ''Quadruple-B'', which was her own name for him. Big Blond Beautiful Boris. She sighed, and pulled out one of the letters, running her fingertips over the embossed ''House of Commons'' on the envelope. For the second time that day - she always read at least one of them as soon as she woke in the morning - she read the familiar words on the high quality notepaper inside: ''Dear Miss Thompson, The Deputy Prime Minister has noted your concerns, and this office will issue a full reply in due course.'' He had noted her concerns. He had read her letters. As her letters were full of declarations of undying love, and long descriptions of how beautiful his hair was, he was probably trying to think of a suitably loving reply. She had sent a photograph of herself with the first letter. It wasn't a very good photograph, but then no photo of her ever was. It was a cut-in-half photo of her with Jemima, taken in a photobooth last year. In it, she was giggling, probably nervously, but she looked quite nice, for her. She hoped he had it in his wallet.
The bus was stopping. It was the last stop before theirs, The man in front folded his paper, dropped it on the seat and walked to the door to get off. Patricia bobbed up and snatched up the discarded paper, going immediately to the front page, where there would surely be a photo of the object of her desire. There was, of course. He looked very sad. Poor, poor Boris, thought Patricia, tears pricking the backs of her eyes. If I was there, I could make him feel better, and she stared at the photograph of her sorrowful-looking love, imagining for probably the thousandth time, their first kiss.
She skimmed the rest of the front page. In the bottom left corner, there was a photo of Mr Portillo. She read the text under the picture and her mouth fell open.
''Ooh! Jemima, LOOK!'' she squealed, shaking her friend roughly awake. ''Look what Mr Portillo's done!''
Jemima rubbed her eyes, and wiped the drool from her chin, then groggily read aloud:
''As one of only a handful of returned Tory MPs, Mr Portillo has celebrated by announcing his forthcoming marriage to an ex-Labour MP.'' She and Patricia turned and looked at each other, open-mouthed, then Patricia continued reading in silence, her lips moving as she read:
''The announcement will come as no surprise to most of the UK, who have been remarking for years on the obvious chemistry between the unlikely couple, who regularly snuggle close to each on a settee, on a Thursday night politics show on the BBC.''
''Blimey!'' They said, in unison.