A beautiful coming-of-age story, perfect for fans of John Green and Nicola Yoon. The Girl Who Cried Wolf is a story about believing in something, whether love, faith or simply yourself. 'The road is more difficult for some, but that does not make it less extraordinary or beautiful or worthwhile' Anna Winters is beautiful, reckless and entirely self-absorbed. She spends more time thinking up reasons to call in sick to school than she does studying for her A levels. She shies away from her family, from responsibility - from anything in fact that doesn't involve peach cider and endless parties with her friend Jules. Anna assumes that her headaches are an inconvenient symptom of her wild lifestyle, until a doctor tells her that she has cancer... As a terrifying black cloud descends upon her, Anna finds solace in Michael, another patient in the oncology ward. Michael shows Anna a chink of light in the darkness and sees beauty behind her illness and loves her sassy wit. He makes Anna forget she is ill. Michael recovers; but Anna's prospects worsen. And in emergency surgery, as she hovers between life and death, she is given a stark glimpse of why her life is so broken, and as she realizes the simple fulfillment of being truly content, fears it may now be too late... Readers love THE GIRL WHO CRIED WOLF: 'She will hold you to the last page with her tale of first love, broken families and the energy that drives us all to seek that which we desire' Amazon 5* review 'The story pulls you in, the character is well-rounded, multi-faceted and soon becomes someone whose life the reader cares about' Amazon 5* review 'A wonderful read. Bella James has created a very realistic protagonist in Anna - she's a complicated and yet sympathetic character' Amazon 5* review
Release date: September 15, 2016
Publisher: Accent Press
Print pages: 244
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
The Girl Who Cried Wolf
Calling in Sick?
You name it, I’ve done it.
I’ve had every ear, nose and throat infection known to man. I’ve lost countless aunties, uncles and grandparents. In fact, I think during Year 11 I made the amateur mistake of losing a particular grandparent more than once. A rather weary-looking tutor asked me, ‘Anna, didn’t you already lose your father’s mother not long before last term’s essays were due?’
If anyone finds it unethical using a loved one’s demise to avoid handing in coursework, you won’t be terribly impressed to know that before her actual death, the same granny’s passing was also the reason I made it to Ayia Napa for Jules’ eighteenth birthday instead of producing a paper on Shakespeare’s sonnets. She managed a fairly decent spell of good health after that, until sadly being cremated a third and final time when Ashley in Year 12 had tickets for Rihanna.
Now I attend sixth form, a note from my oblivious mother no longer suffices. I have to do the unpleasantries by means of telephone, but I am perfectly happy to report that at the tender age of seventeen, I have this down to a fine art.
Essentially, the trick to a compelling ‘calling in sick’ is to really believe your afflictions. Sound effects are good, like holding six grapes in your cheek when feigning a dental emergency, but nothing beats the actual enactment. Heart and soul. When using the age-old stomach upset, actually feel the cramps. Hold your tummy and bend over slightly with imagined pain, then adopt a defeatist tone when you speak. Aim for suffering, with a hint of despair.
Of course, this only ever works on the school secretary, who doesn’t really give a flying fuck whether you’re ill or dying. Having said that, the non-judgemental answering machine is always a most welcome and sympathetic listener.
However, if you are one of those unfortunate souls whose sick call goes straight to Head of Year, you can forget about it. Once a term, they attend a secret seminar that enables them to detect the fakers immediately.
In such a circumstance, you must bite the bullet. Take a shower, haul on yesterday’s un-ironed clothes, squeeze onto the bus with the other unfortunates, and go to school.
It was because of my atrocious attendance record of forty-six per cent that I received a summons to the dreaded School Welfare Officer, Maddy Nettleship. This mountain of a woman took one look at my extensive paperwork and proceeded to inform my suitably shocked mother of all my absences, making it compulsory that we attend an official appointment with a doctor to avoid suspension. Not a fabulous fictitious one who would diagnose all of my aforementioned ailments, either. An actual General Practitioner of Health, with certificates and probably a very cold stethoscope.
I looked over now at a drunk Jules, who sensibly left South Bank Campus after her final GCSE exam, and beckoned her to top up my glass. We have bravely made the sophisticated move from cider to my mother’s expensive Chablis.
‘I’ll brave it out,’ I tell my best friend. ‘I’ll say I have a weakened immune system, something both genetic and hereditary. I wish I had something grim. That would show them.’
She squinted at me through intoxicated eyes.
‘Show them you’re a lazy pisshead who can’t be bothered to get up at six every morning.’
‘Well, you’d know,’ I slurred back at her, having expected a bit more sympathy from my so-called confidant.
Only Jules knew the true extent of my feigned illnesses as I struggled my way through English Literature and Sociology. Last week we’d squealed with laughter at having left a drunken message recounting the sudden onset of hand, foot and mouth disease. The fact that we had just survived four days at Glastonbury went unmentioned, leaving us to focus on the truth that the body parts in question were incredibly sore and swollen.
I’ve actually not been quite so on-the-ball lately. I’ve let things slip – a combination of excessive fooling around and an abundance of late nights.
It’s gone three in the morning and I have no idea how I’m to defend myself tomorrow. I’ve always had somewhat optimistic inclinations and I am truly hoping the doctor will be a like-minded soul. If I was in such a powerful position I would share conspirators’ giggles with the shirkers who came in and tell them not to worry, that of course I could scribble something illegible on a form and tell their evil teachers not to be so insensitive to the stresses of teenage angst.
Jules is quoting something from our school handbook. I have no idea what she is talking about, possibly because, since the wine has run dry, we’ve made the desperate decision to drink my father’s treasured port. I would never drink it sober, but I need oblivion. I need to forget that in five hours I will be showered and dressed. My teeth will be brushed until my gums bleed to hide the unmistakable breath of the three a.m. drinker. I will be standing outside the room of a doctor, who is undoubtedly going to contribute to my early exclusion from Year 13.
At precisely nine a.m., I had to bite the bullet and shuffle sheepishly through the door of a tiny office and plonk myself unsteadily into the patient’s chair. I had managed to persuade Mother to wait outside.
Dr Braby, they call her. Just my luck to get an uncaring, probably never had a sick day ever, bespectacled jobsworth. I feel utterly sorry for myself. My saving grace is that I am definitely still a little bit pissed, and that has taken the edge off my morning’s grim humiliation so far.
‘I see that you’ve suffered Legionnaire’s Disease on more than one occasion, Miss Winters. Extraordinary. Can you elaborate?’
At this point I shamefacedly muttered something about the mouldy tiles in the school shower block. A lone brain cell was ferociously scouring my memory bank for a snippet of info regarding the ailment, to no avail of course. I was high and dry and she knew it.
‘You also suffer from chronic migraine, dizzy spells and gout?‘
I try to muster up some indignation at this point because I actually do get a lot of headaches, which Jules tells me is a result of attempting to down one’s body weight in peach cider every weekend.
‘My headaches are awful,’ I tell her truthfully. ‘Sometimes they wake me up when I’m sleeping.’
She keeps tapping with irritating efficiency on the keyboard, seemingly oblivious to my solitary genuine complaint.
I looked at her a little more closely. Bespectacled, but by Gucci; she looked clean and well-groomed: a woman who looked better at forty-five than I ever would. She had sculpted, baby blonde hair that looked natural but could not possibly be unless her father was Nicky Clarke and her mother a Swedish supermodel.
‘Did you hear me, Miss Winters? I asked who it was exactly that diagnosed your early menopause.’
I’m sure I saw the slightest hint of a smile playing at the corner of her coral painted lips. I relaxed a little. Sure, she had been seventeen herself a few decades ago. Sure, she could remember what it was like to put partying before the daily grind of pointless exams and coursework or trying to impress your reptilian tutors.
I gave her my most charming smile. Apparently this was a big mistake, as I received a lecture on the seriousness of our (when did it become me and her?) situation.
I decided the best way to handle this was to remain confident. I told her firmly that I’d had many allergies since birth, probably the result of an unpredictable and weakened immune system.
Perhaps this last statement was not the sole reason I spent the next forty-seven minutes being poked, prodded and downright violated.
I heard nothing from the doctor for seven days. Most of which were spent kicking myself and asking Jules questions such as ‘How could I have been so stupid?’ and ‘How much do you get on the dole these days?’ To which she replied rather bluntly with things like, ‘Because you’re too reckless’ and ‘About sixty-five quid.’
Even my partner in crime didn’t have the decency to console me and tell me everything would be fine, that our Head of Year didn’t have a leg to stand on. She should be telling me to sue him for unjust allegations and become a wealthy lady of leisure, dressing in Prada and Chanel. No, my teammate had become a little too pious for my liking. Usually the first to be thrilled by my cavalier attitude to all things regimented and conforming, ‘Like, maybe going to school once in a while?’ she now bleats.
This prim new attitude is more disconcerting than the impending report from Doctor Barbie. I referred to her as this twice in front of my friends during lunch break and only Miles sniggered. Miles, who still thinks ‘Pull my finger’ is funny. I know what’s wrong with them; they think I’ve drawn too much attention to our happy camp.
Now that one of the unnoticeables has been singled out for a grilling, they think we’ll all be dragged into the spotlight. Perhaps we were being paranoid, but certain teachers have been spotted lurking in the foyer, whispering and glancing in our direction at the canteen. None of us will be seen leafing through Glamour during assembly this week. We are still in the very back row behind the assistants and the wheelchair users, but now we’re actually listening to the droning voices at the front of the school hall – not pretending to listen while texting and Tweeting, not mastering the art of falling asleep with our eyes open – actually listening.
The smallest of fish in Year 13 – once the blissfully inconspicuous bottom feeders in a sea of teachers and year leaders – have attracted the scrutinising gaze of the Great White: Mr Petri, Head of Sixth Form.
Everyone has heard about my drunken message. They’re all privy to the fact our clique spent a long weekend at Glastonbury. They’ve seen the evidence. While I’m still the favoured target for most of the daggers fired by my peers, Miles is thankfully taking some of the heat for posting the incriminating photos on Facebook. They show none of us in a particularly generous light, although I secretly thought my hair looked really good in most of them, and was most thankful (not to mentioned incredibly surprised and relieved) for an experiment involving my sister’s limited hairdressing skills and a bottle of L’Oreal Super Blonde the night before the festival.
I’ve always thought a woman’s hair is her distinguishing feature. A lot can be said with style, colour and the length. The night before Glasto we had just finished watching Girl with a Pearl Earring starring Scarlett Johansson, a film based on the portrait. You don’t see her hair till near the very end of the film, it’s all tucked tightly under this bonnet she wears, so you’ve no idea how it looks. This really bothered me until Izzy told me that that was the point. It gave the character an air of mystery that inspired a masterpiece. ‘Like burlesque,’ she said. ‘It’s a visual seduction, a tease rather than giving too much away at once.’
I thought burlesque was more about making tassels swing in frantic circles from your boobs but considered what she said and sighed disconsolately.
‘I’m not really into subtlety. A long, blonde mane catches the eye and that’s the job done. Anyway, Scarlett what’s-her-face is so stunning she doesn’t need hair. I do.’
Having never liked my dark blonde tresses, I passed Izzy the bleach…
Needless to say, despite the successful experiment, I’ve had a dreadful week since then and just wish someone at school would fall pregnant or catch chlamydia – anything to take the heat off us. No one knew we existed until this sorry affair was exposed, and now the teachers think we’re a bunch of cider louts being influenced by either a raging hypochondriac or an unmotivated imbecile.
The Mad Hatter
My mother received a letter from Dr Braby seven days after our first meeting. I skilfully intercepted it, wanting to keep its contents to myself for the time being. It said that following her assessment of my health and fitness, she had referred me to a Mr Raj at the Milton Keynes General Hospital, Friday, 23rd September. How very strange, I thought, because obviously I knew that there was nothing wrong with me.
Perhaps she was punishing me in some sort of ‘Boy Who Cried Wolf’ way and I would have to humour her. Another seven days of waiting and I’m definitely beginning to feel a little apprehensive. I’d guessed that the two possible outcomes of our initial appointment were a) I would receive a warning to the effect of needing to improve my attendance at school, or b) I would be suspended. I did not foresee being sent to hospital to see a Mr Raj. Who the hell was he, anyway?
Later that day, Jules and I Googled him. Up comes his picture from the hospital website. He’s dark skinned, in his late fifties perhaps, with a serious expression but reassuringly kind eyes.
‘It says hear he specializes in neurology.’
‘What in the world might that be?’
‘Sexual diseases,’ pipes up Miles, whom I look at in horror.
Obviously it was the reaction he had hoped for. He goes on to inform me that neurology is the study of sex-related diseases, primarily gonorrhoea and syphilis.
‘Shut up, Miles, just because you’ve got pubic lice doesn’t mean everyone else has. It’s to do with the brain, Anna,’ said Jules.
‘She’s sending me to see a shrink?!’
I slam down the laptop and put my head in the fold of my arms on the table.
‘This is beyond a joke. Now they think I have psychological problems … because I’ve tried to blag a couple days off school here and there?’
I don’t see Jules snort but I hear her.
‘I mean it’s normal to hate exams, isn’t it? They’re the ones who need their heads tested. Not me.’
I am angry now, and beginning to sense imminent disaster. A dark feeling creeps slowly over me. It’s still there as I’m called into Mr Raj’s office the following week.
‘Anna Winters? Please come in and have a seat.’ He points to an enormous wing-back chair facing his desk, as he sits opposite, eyeing me with interest.
‘Are you a psychiatrist?’ I ask, holding his gaze with my chin held up defiantly.
A hint of a smile and then, ‘No, Anna. I’m a neurologist; I specialize in the workings of the brain, among other things.’
‘Oh.’ I take this in while I literally have to pull myself onto the chair and scooch back. The chair is so huge I feel like Alice in Wonderland, when she is very small and the world is getting bigger around her.
‘Dr. Braby has asked me to meet with you today. She is studying neurology also, part time, and she has a keen interest in all things brain!’
I feel like I’m missing something, so I say nothing.
‘During your physical examination and having …’ He looked down at his notes at this point. ‘… attempted to separate fact from fiction … she picked up on a few things that may warrant further investigation.’
He takes off his glasses and comes round to my side of the desk, leaning against it and folding his arms.
‘I need to ask you some questions, some of which may seem strange but it is of the utmost importance that you answer them as accurately and as honestly as you can.’
‘OK.’ I try to sound as bored as possible but . . .
We hope you are enjoying the book so far. To continue reading...