Cover image for Following Flora
Title:
Following Flora
Author:
Farrant, Natasha, author.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York, New York : Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., [2014]
Physical Description:
245 pages ; 22 cm
Summary:
"Fourteen-year-old Bluebell Gadsby picks up her camera, once again, this time to document her sister Flora's budding romance with Zach, a troubled teen who happens to be Zoran's new charge"--
General Note:
Sequel to: After Iris.
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780803741287
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

The Gadsby family will capture your heart yet again in this heartwarming sequel to Indie Next List Pick After Iris

Life with the Gadsby family is always chaotic, but now things are spinning of control. Blue's parents are back home, alternating between rekindling their romance and wondering why they're still together, and Zoran, the au pair who used to keep them all sane, has moved out. What's more, he has taken in a reclusive teenage boy, which leaves Blue and her siblings feeling utterly abandoned. Naturally, Blue is determined to bring Zoran home--and to document every moment of her family's trials and tribulations. Fans of The Penderwicks and Counting By 7s will find an insightfully funny narrator in the irresistible Blue Gadsby.


Author Notes

Natasha Farrant is a literary scout specializing in children's and young adult literature, and is the author of After Iris . She lives in London with her family.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Being a combination of conventional diary entries, attempts at film scripts and transcripts of short films shot by the author with the camera she was given for her thirteenth birthday. INTERIOR. EVENING. The Gadsby family kitchen in the basement of the big house in Chatsworth Square is a mess. Bubbling pans crowd the stove. A collapsed chocolate cake balances on top of a fruit bowl. The sink is piled high with dirty dishes. Water drips, steady and unnoticed, onto the floor. FATHER sets the table, looking grumpy. FLORA sits at one end of the sofa under the window. She wears leopard-print leggings, an emerald-green sweater, and the fedora she has refused to take off since she had her hair cropped and dyed peroxide blond last week on her seventeenth birthday. She is reading a play. At the other end of the sofa, nine-year-old JASMINE is her complete opposite--tiny, with tangled black hair falling down to her waist, a long black tunic over black jeans, and silver high-tops. She is reading a poem called The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe. MOTHER, covered in flour and melted chocolate, stands by the cooking range. She is flustered. She tastes the contents of a pan (tonight she is making goulash), burns her tongue, and throws the spoon in the sink. NOTE 1: For the past year, Sunday night dinner has been prepared by ZORAN, the Gadsby family's au pair, who started out being able to cook nothing but sausages, but by the time he moved out a month ago he became a seriously good cook. He is coming for dinner tonight for the first time since he left to become a full-time music teacher, and Mother is determined to make an impression. FATHER I should be writing my book. I should not be setting tables. Remind me again why we are doing this?   FLORA (smirks, still reading her play) Mum wants to show us she cooks just as well as Zoran.   MOTHER I am simply throwing together a meal for an old friend.   FATHER It doesn't look simple to me, it looks . . .   MOTHER What?   FATHER Excessive.   Mother glares at Father. For a moment, it looks like she is going to throw the goulash at his head, but then a football sails in through the garden door (left open despite the cold night air because it is so hot in the kitchen), followed by TWIG. The football crashes into the set table and breaks several glasses. NOTE 2: Since Twig turned eleven last summer, the family joke is that his legs have grown so fast he doesn't know what to do with them. And sure enough, no sooner does Twig burst into the room after the ball than he trips over his legs, and ends up sprawled on the floor, leaving a trail of mud and wet leaves. TWIG (somewhat awestruck by the damage he has done) I swear I didn't do that on purpose.   Telephone rings. Mother answers, looking increasingly dejected as she murmurs phrases like "of course I understand" and "please let us know if there is anything we can do to help." MOTHER (hangs up the phone, looking like she wants to cry) That was Zoran. Someone has had a heart attack. He's not coming.   FATHER (surveying the ruined table) After all that?   MOTHER David, someone has had a heart attack.   She notices CAMERAMAN for the first time. MOTHER Blue, what are you doing with that camera?   CAMERAMAN (BLUEBELL) I'm starting up my diary again.   MOTHER Turn it off, now.   SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 3 I have noticed that people only write in diaries when there's something wrong, write properly I mean. Over the past few months I've only used up about half a notebook, and most of those entries are all "I can't believe how long it's been since I last wrote" or "oh dear I feel guilty because the holidays are over and I haven't once opened this notebook," but today I have got right back into it because Mum and Dad are fighting again. Last year, when Zoran came to live with us as our au pair, we were falling apart because my twin sister, Iris, had died three years before and we still missed her so much, but things started to get better after he arrived. In fact, they improved so much that when he tried to resign last Christmas, we wouldn't let him go. Even after Mum and Dad decided to leave their old jobs so they could be at home more (Dad is a full-time writer and Mum works for a smaller makeup company that doesn't make her travel), he stayed with us right up until the summer, when he finally completed his PhD in Medieval History and told us it was time for him to move on. "I cannot be a nanny forever," he explained when we asked him why. He has been giving music lessons all year, and now he wants to be a full-time music teacher. At first, after Mum and Dad resigned, they made a real effort, not just with us but with each other. They stopped fighting and started to slope off for romantic weekends in the country instead. Apparently they had a lot of catching up to do, and it just wasn't possible to be romantic with four children in the house. Flora said it was a scandal. She said that at seventeen she was the one who was supposed to be skulking off to canoodle in secret, and that they were making a complete spectacle of themselves, but they were happy, so we didn't mind. And then, around about when Zoran left, Mum and Dad's canoodling stopped. This morning they had a huge fight, and they have barely spoken to each other all day. Flora says we should Resign Ourselves to the Inevitable. We were all quite ready for the parents to divorce last Christmas, and apparently the intervening months have been no more than a Temporary Reprieve. I don't know if Zoran leaving and Mum and Dad quarreling are related. I just know that, even though he wasn't always very good at looking after us, things were better at home when he was still around. The reason Zoran didn't come for dinner is that the grandfather of one of his students has had a stroke. The difference between a heart attack and a stroke, Dad says, is that a heart attack is what happens when blood stops flowing to the heart, and a stroke is what happens when blood stops flowing to the brain. "So it's a brain attack," Twig said, and Dad said yes, he supposed it was. "But why does that mean Zoran couldn't come for dinner?" Jas frowned. "Because he was at the boy's house giving a music lesson when it happened. The boy lives with his grandfather and has no other family. Zoran offered to look after him." Mum stared at the goulash, the green beans, the potato gratin, the red cabbage with apples and raisins, the chocolate cake, and the custard and sighed. "Those poor people," she said. "Is the grandfather going to die?" Jas is fascinated by death. "Will the boy be an orphan?" "I'm sure it won't come to that," Mum said. "Please stop asking questions." "I still don't get why they couldn't come for dinner," Twig said. Flora said, "Oh, what, Zoran should have been like, I know your only relative just nearly died but why don't you come and have dinner with a group of total strangers?" "We're not strangers," Twig said. "I can't imagine only having one relative," I said. "That's so sad." As usual, nobody listened to me except for Mum, who gave me a little smile. Zoran says every family has a child who is less loud than the others, and sometimes I feel like I'm invisible. Maybe it's because unlike Flora and Jas, I don't have statement hair and clothes. My hair is brown and normal, my clothes never seem to go together, and at fourteen I'm still wearing the little round glasses I got when I was twelve, but I don't really care about any of that. I just wish once in a while someone would pay attention when I finally get a word in edgewise. "But why is Zoran looking after him?" Jas ploughed on. "I thought he didn't want to be a nanny anymore. If he was still living with us, would that mean the boy with the grandfather would come and live here too? Couldn't they come and live here anyway?" "STOP ASKING QUESTIONS!" said Dad. "She's only asking because she's wants to know," said Mum. "You just told her exactly the same thing." "That was different." "No it wasn't." "Yes it was." "Sometimes," Jas said, "I wish I were an orphan." "That is a terrible thing to say," Flora scolded, but then she added that sometimes she did too, and everybody sulked for the rest of the evening.   MONDAY, NOVEMBER 4 (THE FIRST DAY OF HALF TERM) Jake has asked me to go out with him. He left for Australia today, to go to his auntie's wedding. The holidays are only a week long, but because Australia is so far away and it is A Genuine Family Reason as well as a Highly Educational Trip, God (aka Mr. Kelly the headmaster) has given Special Dispensation for him to stay away for a month. On Friday Tom, who along with Colin is still Jake's best friend for reasons I sometimes find hard to understand, was all, "WHAHAY, DUDE, NO SCHOOL FOR A MONTH AND THINK OF ALL THOSE HOT SURFER CHICKS," but Jake went all serious, and then this morning he said could I meet him at the Home Sweet Home café before he went to the airport, and he asked me. Clearly, I am not invisible to Jake. "The thought of a whole month without you," he said, "made me realize how much I like you." He asked if I would wait for him and I nearly choked over my cappuccino because, even though I've known Jake since primary school, I have never thought about him in that way, and it was the last thing I expected him to say. He taught me to skateboard last year when I was still so unhappy about Iris, and he's been one of my best friends ever since, but being best friends with someone is not the same as going out with them. I was trying to find a way of telling him that, but then he said, "Blue, are you okay?" and he looked so worried and nervous that instead I said yes, going out with him would be very nice. As soon I got home I climbed onto the flat roof outside my bedroom window to call Dodi (it's the only place in our house where you can be really private). Dodi is about as different from me as a best friend can get. She's blond and girly, she loves fashion, and even though she's never actually had a boyfriend, she's very interested in boys. "Tell me exactly what happened," Dodi said. "He said, would I wait for him, and then he kissed me on the cheek and held my hand for a bit and made me promise to e-mail him every day." Dodi sighed and said that made us practically married. "It wasn't very passionate," I said. Dodi says that's because we are such good friends. She says it's hard to be passionate when you know someone so well, but after a month apart, the flames of our passion will be incandescent . Seriously. Incandescent. Dodi is the sort of person who has an opinion on everything. I can't imagine how it would feel to be like her, always so sure that you are right. "So you think I should go out with him?" I asked. "You've already said yes, haven't you?" She sounded really excited. I tried to explain about friends not being the same as boyfriends and everything, but as well as always having opinions, Dodi also often doesn't listen to me. "You two are going to make the cutest couple," she said, but then our conversation was interrupted by my family starting to scream at each other in the garden. "What's going on now ?" Dodi's parents are very quiet, and she doesn't have any brothers or sisters. She is endlessly fascinated by us. I crept to the edge of the roof. Beneath me, Dad stood by Twig and Jas's pet rats' cage, surrounded by the rest of my family, who were all yelling. "I'll call you back," I told Dodi. What happened was, Dad let the rats escape this morning. Normally Jas feeds them, but she was staying with her friend Lola last night, so Dad said he would do it, but then he forgot to close the cage and they ran away. Jas found the cage wide open when she came home. Dad tried to defend himself saying the rats were probably happier living free as God intended. Jas cried, "But they are not used to the wild." Dad said Chatsworth Square was not exactly the wild, and Jas started to sob that her heart was broken forever, which is when Mum jumped in saying, "Really, David, murdering the children's pets is the last straw." "I did not murder them!" cried Dad. "It was an accident! And they are rats! They can live anywhere!" All seven of the rats have escaped. Twig, who had promised to sell Betsy's babies to his friends, informed Dad he had ruined his career. Jas cried even harder because she hadn't even realized Betsy was pregnant, but nobody was listening to her because Dad was yelling "Freedom! Freedom!" like some deranged rat revolutionary. Mum said he couldn't use political idealism as an excuse, especially applied to rats, and then he started waving his arms around crying how no one understands how difficult it is for him to be locked in his study all day trying to write a novel and knowing that the responsibility for his ENTIRE FAMILY'S WELL-BEING rested on his shoulders, and we all tiptoed away because it was clear our father had finally lost his mind. I e-mailed Jake before writing this, to tell him all about it. Now that I have agreed to go out with him, I feel that I should tell him everything, even though it's not always easy to find the words. Nobody wants people to think their father is a lunatic. Then I called Zoran to see if he could help, but he says there is nothing he can do. Rats, once they are gone, are gone forever, in Zoran's opinion. His student's grandfather from last night, who is called Mr. Rudowski, hasn't woken up from his stroke yet. His student, who is called Zach, is still staying with him because even though Zoran has tried to call the boy's mother, she hasn't replied. "Zach says she lives abroad," he said. "How come he lives with his grandfather?" I asked. Zoran said it was complicated. "Why hasn't she replied?" "I don't know, Blue. Believe me, I wish she would." I wish Zoran would come home and live with us, but unlike Jas, I have no desire to be an orphan. I'd rather have two parents yelling at each other than no parents at all.   THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 7 Jas came to find me in my room this afternoon, and I knew something was up because she didn't comment on my wall, which I have spent the whole day painting from floor to ceiling with metallic silver radiator paint. This is the sort of thing you do when your grandmother, who you would normally spend half term with, decides to defy the passing of the years by going on a three-month riding holiday in Arizona. I was just working on the final coat when she slunk in (Jas, not Grandma) and said, "You have to help me." "If I stop now," I told her, "I will forget where I got to, and the paint will be uneven. Go and ask Flora." "Flora is at a play audition. I'm not supposed to know." None of us are supposed to know about Flora's play auditions, because Flora is not supposed to be going to them. Flora is taking her finals in June, and all theatrical engagements are Strictly Banned. "What about Twig?" Jas's expression darkened. "He's gone to have his hair cut," she sniffed. As well as suddenly becoming tall, Twig is obsessed with how he looks. It makes Jas cross because she says he never has time to play anymore. We always used to call the two of them together the Babes, but that's all changed now, mainly because they no longer ever seem to be together. "It could be worse." I tried to cheer her up. "He could be one of those boys who never wash at all." "It's disgusting. It's all because of stupid Maisie Carter at school. He fancies her. You have to help me." "I have to finish painting my room." "Then I'll stay until you change your mind," she said, and she sat down on the floor. "I'm ignoring you," I told her. "Fine," she replied. I stopped feeling her glare at me after a while and had almost forgotten she was there when suddenly she said, "I found two kittens in the graveyard," and I dropped my paintbrush. There is a spray of silver paint all over my bedroom floor, but under the circumstances it hardly seems to matter. The graveyard is several streets away, and though I don't think anyone has ever told us not to go there, I'm also fairly certain it's not a place Jas should be going to on her own. "What were you doing in the graveyard?" I asked. "I go there quite often," she answered. "It's quiet, and there's a lovely gravestone of an old lady called Violet Buttercream where I like to sit." "Violet Buttercream?" Jas told me I was missing the point. "I've hidden them in the shed," she said. "And you have to come now. " So much for eternal heartbreak. I think she's already forgotten all about the rats.   SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 9 Orphaned kittens need constant attention, which is particularly difficult if you have to keep them a secret. "Why?" I asked. "Why do they have to be secret?" "Because they're mine ," she growled. "Dad would let them run away, and Twig would probably try to sell them." "But are you quite sure they don't have a mother?" "I've been watching them for two days. She never usually leaves them for more than a few minutes, but today she didn't come back for hours. I think something must have happened to her." So now the kittens have a nest of their own in the shed. We plugged an electric radiator in so they wouldn't get cold, and we filled a cardboard carton with old fleeces and blankets, and then we went to the pet shop where Jas bought a litter tray, cat litter, and kitten food with money out of her savings. The kittens are the scrawniest creatures I ever saw, but they are also completely adorable. There are two of them, a boy and a girl, and they are completely black with green eyes and enormous black whiskers, which look much too big for their bodies. Jas made me take a photograph of them on my phone to show the girl in the pet shop, who says they are about twelve weeks old. She also says Jas should take them to the vet, but Jas says that's too expensive. I don't know how long she thinks she can keep them secret. Zoran came around to see us this afternoon. He came on his new electric scooter that Flora thinks is ridiculous, but even though it normally makes him really happy, he looked so depressed when he walked in that the first thing Jas did was drag him out to the shed to show him. "I've named the boy Ron," she said. "And the girl is called Hermione." "They're adorable," said Zoran, but he looked really glum. We went back into the kitchen where Twig, who for reasons nobody knows is teaching himself to bake, was pulling a tray of perfect raisin and hazelnut cookies out of the oven, but even that didn't cheer Zoran up. As we ate them, Flora told us all about her audition. She is down to the last three for a small but very important role in a West End production, but we're still not allowed to tell the parents about it. She went through the plot, down to the minutest detail, and then she said, "All right, Zoran, what's wrong, you haven't been listening to a word I said." " Nobody has listened to a word you said," Twig pointed out. "Is that boy still staying with you?" Flora asked. Zoran sighed and said he needed our advice. Mr. Rudowski woke up from his stroke this morning, but he can't come home yet. Instead, they are moving him out of London to a hospital in the country where they will teach him to walk and eat and sit up again, because one half of his body has forgotten how to do all these things. He has asked Zoran if Zach could carry on living with him "until other arrangements can be made." "What other arrangements?" Flora asked. "Until his mother gets in touch, I suppose." He explained again what he'd already told me, that he'd tried calling her but that she still hadn't replied. He also said that she and Zach had lived with her parents ever since Zach's father left them when he was little, but after Zach's grandmother died two years ago, there was a quarrel and ever since his mother and grandfather have been estranged. "She left Zach with his grandfather and they haven't seen her since," Zoran said. "What does estranged mean?" Jas wanted to know. "They don't talk to each other." "Ever?" Jas looked appalled. "What about Zach?" Twig asked. "Does he talk to her?" "I know they e-mail occasionally, but he hasn't heard from her either." "What did you say to Mr. Rudowski?" Flora demanded. "Did you say you would do it?" "Well how could I say no?" Zoran asked. "Poor kid, it's either me or a foster family he doesn't know. And I like Mr. Rudowski. He's still in mourning for his wife, and he doesn't talk much, but he's a kind old man and he's a friend of Auntie Alina's. She's the one who put us in touch." Alina is Zoran's great-aunt, who brought him up when he came to live in England after escaping the war in Bosnia. Zoran adores her. "So you are going to be his nanny." Jas's lower lip started to wobble. "Not his nanny, exactly," Zoran said. "A seventeen-year-old boy doesn't need a nanny. More a guardian, I suppose. And just for a short time. It's not like it was with you. You do understand, don't you, Jas? He needs me." "Like you looking after the kittens," I whispered in her ear. Jas nodded reluctantly. "You said you needed our advice," Flora said. Zoran sighed, and said that he had always liked Zach, but the problem was there was a big difference between teaching a person for an hour a week and them actually living with you, and how could he get Zach to talk to him? "At the moment," Zoran said, "he barely acknowledges me at all. I understand that he's worried and angry, of course, but this morning, he wouldn't even have breakfast! He just said he wasn't hungry." "I never have breakfast," Flora said. "I made pancakes !" Zoran looked so indignant we all had to try really hard not to laugh at him. "I'm not used to not getting on with people," he said. "I thought I was good with teenagers." "You can't lump all teenagers together, like we're all exactly the same," Flora lectured. "We're people too, you know. You can't get on with every single one of us, just because you think you're good with us ." "And sometimes people don't want to be helped," I added. "You can't make them talk if they don't want to." "Is he playing in your concert?" Twig asked. Zoran has got a load of his students working toward a sort of family concert, except us because Flora says it will be terrible, and we all secretly agree. If our own musical standard after nearly a year of lessons is anything to go by, I don't hold out much hope for his other students. Zoran said he had asked him, but Zach had said no. "Flatter him," Flora advised. "Boys love that. Tell him the concert will be rubbish without him." "We'll all come to support you," I said. "We'll all cheer him like crazy and he'll feel amazing and it'll be like an unbreakable bond between you." "Either that or everyone'll hate him, and he'll never speak to you again," Flora said. "He's not speaking to him anyway," Twig reminded us, and Flora said that was true, so there was nothing to lose. Zoran looked unconvinced, but said that he would give it another try.   SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 10 Today I got an e-mail from Jake in which he told me that the weather in Australia is awesome and that surfing is a bit like skateboarding but a lot more wet. Yesterday was his aunt's wedding. They had their reception on the beach, and all the wedding guests did a giant conga in the sea, and apparently that was awesome too. He also said my e-mails are hilarious, and he reads them out loud to all his Australian relatives, who nearly died laughing over Dad releasing the rats and say my family is nuts, which I am not very happy about, because even though it's a little bit true, it's not for him to say so. Excerpted from Following Flora by Natasha Farrant All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.