Chapter 6

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I wake up to the shrill sound of my alarm the next morning with a splitting headache. I don't think I've ever experienced a worse headache before. It could also be a side effect of a bad night. I was up until eleven thirty last night doing homework and assignments, and then I woke up every hour with some sort of nightmare with Cody in it.

I pull the covers off my head and open my eyes. 6:30. I turn off my alarm and pull the covers back over my head.

A short while later I'm woken by someone shaking me. I open my eyes to see my mum leaning over me with a worried look on her face.

"Are you okay, Jess?" She asks.

I sit up and reach over for the bottle of water on my bedside table. I unscrew the lid and take a sip. "Just tired. I was up until late doing assignments, and then I got woken every hour by a nightmare."

Mum sits down on the edge of my bed, looking at me. "You're nothing like your usual self at the moment."

I close my eyes for a moment. "I'm definitely not. I'm not even sure if 'my usual self' is even me anymore."

Mum sighs heavily. "Maybe not. But you'll find your way; you always do." She looks at me sympathetically as I run my hand through my long, straight brown hair. "Tell you what," mum slaps my thigh from above the covers "I'll give you today off. We can go shopping, spend some quality time together."

I frown. "We're already spending Saturday night at a movie, and we're starting a new tradition of Sunday lunch starting this Sunday. Do we really need more time together?"

Mum silently laughs at me as she stands up. "When was the last time we went shopping together? And I don't mean grocery shopping."

I don't answer this question, because I can't even remember.

"That's what I thought," mum says as she walks out. She knows me too well.

*****

An hour later, I'm sitting at the dining table, reading a book, when mum walks in.

"Ready to go, sweetheart?" She asks me.

I put my novel down and sling my favourite shoulder bag over my shoulder. "Ready as I'll ever be," I say, and we head to the garage.

It's a five minute drive to the outdoor shopping mall nearest to us. Mum turns on the radio and I listen in to the news headlines. The first one's something about politics; something that doesn't really bother me. The next one's about a car crash that's killed two people and hospitalized three.

Drunk drivers, I say to myself. But that isn't even the most shocking headline. The third headline comes on.

"Cody Simpson was spotted yesterday at Surfer's Paradise with two girls. The trio sat on a beach towel for several minutes before heading to the water to enjoy the cool tide. The girls are approximately the same age as Cody, but their names remain unidentified."

I gape in shock at this. That's me and Chelsea. I pull my phone out of my bag and quickly send a text off to Chelsea.

Mum, sensing that something's wrong, speaks up. "Shocked?" She asks.

"Of course I am," I say, putting my phone back in my bag, "That's me and Chelsea they're talking about. Lucky for us, we were both wearing sunglasses, and I was wearing a hat. They wouldn't have gotten a clear look at our faces."

Mum pulls into a park a couple of blocks away. She turns off the ignition. "Just enjoy this, okay Jess? You haven't had a good break in a while."

I know what mum's talking about. I smile, even though its not the brightest thought. Mum gets out of the car and walks around to my door, opening it for me. I get out and mum closes the door. She locks the car and we start to walk the couple of blocks.

Mum and I shop our hearts out for the next few hours. We visit some of my favourite stores, including Valleygirl, Jay Jays and Cotton On. One of my favourite items that we bought is a peach-coloured, off-the-shoulder loose shirt with a split in the back, which is tied in a knot at the bottom. I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it.

After about three hours of non-stop shopping, mum and I stop at our favourite cafe, the Orange Sunset. We walk in and get seated at a booth.

"What are you going to order honey?" Mum asks me as she pick up the menu and starts looking at it.

I peer at the menu. "I'm going to go with the Gourmet Chicken Lasagne and the Mango Berry smoothie." I out the menu down. Mum decides on her meal and heads to the long line, preparing to order.

I sit at the booth, tapping my fingers on the table, when my phone buzzes in my shoulder bag. I pick it up and check the ID. Cody. I unlock my phone and check my messages.

DRESS NICELY

I stare at the message for a moment. I've bought some good clothes today, but I don't think any of them would be worthy of a night out.

I think of what I have at home that would be appealing for this occasion, but I don't like any of them. I've worn all of my dresses before and they all hold a special place in my heart. For this 'date' with Cody, I want a dress that would be unique and also hold a special place in my heart.

When mum arrives back at the table ten minutes later, I still haven't though of anything.

Mum looks at me as she sits down and places my drink in front of me. "Everything alright?" After all that's gone on last night and this morning, of course she's going to be worried about me.

I hesitate and take a long gulp of mango and berry. "Cody texted me a few minutes ago. He told me to dress nicely for tomorrow night. The problem, though, is that all the dresses I have are either casual or have already been used for a special occasion. I really don't have anything."

Mum takes a sip of her water. "Well, how about we finish our meals before we go back out and find you a beautiful, unique dress." Mum waits until the waitress puts down our basket of garlic bread before continuing. "We could also get some accessories to go with it, and maybe even some more makeup."

I giggle and take another sip of my smoothie. "That sounds like fun." I grab a piece of garlic bread and begin to eat it.

Mum hasn't finished. Clearly, she's excited because this is my first date and neither me nor mum will ever forget it.

"Tonight, we could try some hairstyles that would make you look even prettier. What do you say, are you in?" Mum holds her glass up, ready for me to cling my foam cup against it.

It sounds like a brilliant idea. Nothing could sound better.

"I'm in," I say. Mum smiles, and I smile back.

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