'No, she's not in the living room,' Mr O'Grady informed everyone. 'She must've gone upstairs with those two.'

Lydia's mother's lips tightened, but she said nothing. Lydia's father nodded and wandered over to the pathetic little food tray on one of the kitchen units. He picked out a small pastry thing and ate it in one gulp. It was the last one.

'Probably in the bathroom,' Lydia's mother squeaked, pretending to laugh. Nobody commented, so she turned on her heel and took Mrs Smith by the shoulder. 'Teenagers are such a trial, aren't they? Ha ha ha ha.'

'Er, quite.'

'I did love her as a child, lord knows,' her mother said, taking a gulp of Shloer. She was surprised nobody else was drinking it. 'But now she's so... difficult.'


'Acting up in the mornings, walking around like a little scruffbag,' Lydia's mother sang unconvincingly between her teeth. 'And she never brings her friends home anymore. Sometimes I think she hasn't got any friends... which in a sense is understandable. She really can't be trying hard enough.'

'Yes.' Mrs Smith sipped the lovely burgundy that the O'Gradys had brought round.

'Maybe she thinks I'll be ashamed of her friends,' Lydia's mother continued. 'Still. I expect yours gave you your fair share of trouble, didn't they my dear?'

'Not really.'

'Lyddy won't look me in the eye anymore,' she went on, coughing and sighing. 'And she... well, she's just not being a daughter to me anymore. And it has to stop. Tonight's the night I tell her, I simply will not accept this behaviour. She's going to behave, and treat us like human beings from now on. That's my decision.'

'Good for you,' Mrs Smith said. She turned to speak to somebody else.


Lydia was busy exploring her image in the mirror. It has been more than half an hour. While the dye was setting, Amelia had insisted on making up her face, and she had eventually let her. Now, she didn't recognise herself.

She'd been worried the dye would turn her hair raven black like a halloween wig. Instead it was dark brown and glossy. Her eyes were lined, her lips were pale. She was getting used to the shoes.

Aiden and Amelia stood behind her, side by side, arms round each other. They admired their work.

Lydia turned. 'What do we do now?'

'Let's watch a film,' Aiden offered, looking at Amelia. 'No need to parade you about with those stuffy old folk downstairs.'

Lydia silently thanked Baby Jesus as the two led her into one of the bedrooms.

The End

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