The paper bag is damp in my hand and I peek inside – most of the sherbet pips are stuck together like frogs’ spawn. I pull free a chunk and it fizzes on my tongue. Angela’s got rhubarb and custard, she counts the sweets, putting them in a line along her thigh.
‘That’s not fair.’ She talks with a sweet tucked inside her cheek, making her look like a gerbil. ‘Last time I bought two ounces, I got eight sweets, but I’ve only got six this time.’
‘Don’t forget the one in your mouth,’ I say.
‘Oh yes.’ She nods and returns the sweets to the bag, inspecting the yellow and red sides. ‘This one’s chipped. D’you want it?’
‘Let’s swap.’ I take the sweet from her and spill some loose pips into her palm.
‘Is that all I get? ’ She downs the scattering in one go.
I’ve been walking home with Angela for a whole week now. She’s nice – she’s the friendliest person in my new school. She lives round the corner from me and she says I can call for her in the mornings, if I like. I wish I could sit next to her, but I’m stuck with Brian Reader. He takes more than his fair share of the desk and he rubs his leg against mine when he gets up from the chair.
‘Let’s have a look in the stream.’ Angela picks up her satchel and leads the way. I don’t have a bag so it’s easy for me to scramble over the rocks, but she has to make a path over the dried mud. Once we’re by the water, she dares me to walk under the bridge. I look at the sloping sides and water laps right up to the edge.
‘I can’t. I can’t get my sandals wet.’
‘You won’t get wet. There’s enough of a ledge to walk on.’ Angela points. ‘I’ve done it loads of times.’
‘You go first then.’
Angela clutches her satchel and takes side-by-side steps, her back against the concrete wall. I watch her until she beckons. I’m only a couple of paces in when there’s a splash. She’s dropped her satchel and it’s floating down the stream.
‘What are you going to do?’
‘Get it, of course.’ She steps into the ankle deep water, then trots along, chasing the bag. When she catches it, she swings the satchel onto the ground, splattering droplets into the air like a fountain. I find her sitting on the bank, her legs are soaked and she’s using a leaf to dry her satchel.
‘Aren’t you going to check inside?’
Angela undoes the buckles and finds her pencil-case, the new felt-pens are leaking. She takes off her socks and uses them to wipe the pens, turning her socks into a tie-dye of colours.
‘Won’t your mum mind about your socks?’
‘I don’t think so,’ says Angela. ‘Not if I tell her Brian Reader pushed me into the stream.’