You Don’t Know Me – opening extract

‘In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.’
Andy Warhol

Fifteen Minutes: Part 1

It’s funny how fifteen minutes can change your life.
Sometimes people ask me: would you do it again,
knowing what happened? I’ve thought about it a lot and I
suppose the answer is yes, despite everything. Fifteen
minutes can be golden. They’re all you need to make
something beautiful, or save someone from disaster. They
can also be black. Either way, fifteen minutes is all it takes
to find out who you really are.

We were in Rose’s bedroom, at the end of the summer
holiday. I was sitting on her window seat, watching a
combine harvester in the fields outside and idly scrolling
through celebrity news websites on the phone my dad had
just given me. School was about to start: GCSE year,
where everything really matters and teachers keep asking
you what you want to do with your life. These were our
last few minutes of peace. Well, relative peace, anyway. As
peaceful as you can get when one girl – Rose – was
making up a mournful tune on the guitar, another girl –
Jodie – was moaning about her ex-boyfriend and a third
one – Nell – was trying to calm her down.

‘He’s evil and I hate him with a passion,’ Jodie
announced, slumping against the wall next to me with an
angry scowl.

‘Well, not evil exactly,’ Nell pointed out. Nell is calm
yin to Jodie’s ranty yang. Together they make a normal
girl. ‘I mean, he only changed his status on Interface.’

‘In public! ’ Jodie complained. ‘Without consulting me!
Just because I was going to France. He said he wasn’t sure
he could maintain a long-distance relationship. It was
TWO WEEKS. Kyle Stanley is a scumbag and that’s all
there is to it.’

It was our first time back together after weeks away. I’d
been visiting my dad in America, and Nell and Jodie had
only recently come back from family trips. Rose had been
stuck at home all the time, helping on her grandparents’
farm. She was still quiet and gloomy, making up sad songs
on her guitar.

I looked across to where she sat on her bed with the
guitar, and caught her eye. We shared a private smile about
Jodie’s ranting. Rose changed her tune from the sombre,
folky melody she’d been working on to something Spanish
and angsty. It involved lots of fast strumming and
dramatic crescendos. You could imagine a Latin singer
wailing her distress. Jodie pouted at her.

‘Shut up, Rose. I’m not that bad.’

Rose merely raised an eyebrow at her and smiled.

‘You need something to take your mind off him,’ Nell
said. She was on the floor, sorting out the pile of junk that
had accumulated at the bottom of Rose’s wardrobe. ‘You
can’t let a boy like that get to you. Oh look! Wow! Rose,
d’you remember these?’

She pulled out a pair of scratched yellow plastic sunglasses
with frames in the shape of flowers. Rose has very
eclectic dress sense, which means it comes from a variety
of sources. ‘Eclectic’ – a Rose word. She collects them, like
I’d started collecting apps for my new phone.

‘Oh, I wondered where those had got to,’ Rose said,
looking up for a moment.

Nell took off her smart red specs and replaced them
with the yellow flowers. ‘Where did you get them?’

‘Can’t remember,’ Rose said absently, looking back at
her guitar. ‘I think it was the Bigelow Festival.’

Luckily nobody was watching me at that point, so
nobody saw the sudden colour in my cheeks.
Nell went over to the mirror to admire herself. She
looked great in the glasses, even though they were
probably designed for ten-year-olds. Nell has a small,
pretty face and wavy blonde hair that looks good with
anything. Peering closely, because she’s practically blind
without her glasses, she grinned.

‘You can’t be unhappy in these,’ she announced.

Then she started to sing a little tune:

‘I put my sunglasses on
My yellow sunglasses on’

That’s how it started. I think I came up with the next

‘And I think of you
And all the things you do
And it doesn’t matter any more because . . .’

Nell laughed and joined in:

‘I’ve got my sunglasses on.’

Rose strummed a new tune on the guitar to go with
them. It was quite different this time: fun, silly and catchy.
Not angsty at all. And not like that folky, moody number
she’d been working on earlier, which had been starting to
worry me.

We liked the lines, so we sang them again, and Jodie
even added a little harmony. It was something we often
did when we were all together. We’d been doing it so long
we even had a band name. In fact, several. We called ourselves
the Powerpuff Girls. Or the Cheerios (Jodie’s
favourite breakfast food), or the Manic Pixie Dream Girls
(Rose’s idea), or the Xtremes, but only if Rose wasn’t
around – she’s a stickler for spelling. Jodie would choose
the music. Nell was our lead singer. Rose was makeup and
instrumentals. I was wardrobe and catering.

It had been like that since Jodie, Nell and I were in
primary school together. Rose joined us later, when she
arrived in my class at St Christopher’s. We’d get together
. . . we’d sing. We didn’t normally write our own stuff,
though: we were more of a cover band. But that day Rose
had her guitar out and Nell looked really funny in those
glasses, and the words and music just seemed to flow.
They weren’t Shakespeare, I admit, but they made Jodie
smile and that was enough.

Rose reached over to her bedside table and grabbed a
notebook from it. She always has one lying around in case
she’s inspired to write something, as you do. I used to
think of myself as a bit of a poet until Rose arrived, but
she is the real thing.

‘How does the third line go again?’ she asked.

‘Are you writing it down?’ I was flattered. She’d never
written my words down before.

‘It’s great, Sash! Really catchy. Except I’m not sure if
I’ve got that line right.’

‘I can only remember it if I sing it,’ I said, suddenly
realising this was true. ‘I know – why don’t we just record
it?’ I waved my new iPhone at her, thinking this would be
the perfect chance to get a new app. That phone was the
most beautiful present I’d ever received and I was a little
bit obsessed.

Rose agreed, curious, and I found a recording app. We
worked out some extra verses, then tried the song out, all
clustering round the phone, not sure where the mic was.
It sounded OK, but a bit tinny. It was totally working as
therapy for Rose’s gloomy mood and Jodie’s heartbreak,

Rose dug out the microphone she uses when she’s
recording her own songs and, miraculously, also an
adapter to fit my phone. We sang it once more, in
harmony, then played it back. Surprisingly, we didn’t
sound too bad.

‘That phone’s amazing, Sash,’ Nell said. ‘I know – why
don’t I video us on it, too? Can I?’

Great idea, I said. Go for it. We don’t have time now,
but why don’t we have a band get-together on my
birthday? We can dress up, like we used to in the old days,
and make loads of videos. It’ll be hysterical.


So we do.

My birthday is three weekends later, on the last
Saturday of September. I invite them all over for a sleepover,
and bring home a selection of spare dressing-up
clothes from my Saturday job at a vintage shop.
Mum cooks us Thai green curry for lunch, because I’m
turning sixteen and it’s the most sophisticated thing we
can think of. Then we nip upstairs to spend the afternoon
dressing up as our favourite pop stars, because we haven’t
totally mastered maturity yet. Not in secret, anyway. Not
when it’s just us.

Highlights include our Abba interpretation, Jodie as
Katy Perry, and Nell as Kylie Minogue, in gold sequin
shorts and a white hoodie. She could practically be Kylie:
it’s uncanny. Rose does a long, sad Irish ballad, not
entirely entering into the spirit of things, but it’s beautiful.
I am olden-days Britney Spears, in a mini-kilt and half my
school uniform. We are also, if I say so myself, quite brilliant
as Girls Aloud.

‘Sunglasses’ is last. We mime to the audio version we
recorded in Jodie’s room. By now we’re getting tired and
I’m half ready for bed.

It’s the perfect end to a perfect day. We eat warm
brownies and homemade popcorn. We watch two
Twilights back to back in our pyjamas and go to sleep at
about five a.m., peppered in brownie crumbs, all huddled
in a heap under our duvets on the floor.

Precisely four days later, my iPhone disappears.

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