LIBRA SEASON 1 Conversations with Taylor Swift I cannot stop dreaming about Alison Bridgewater. This could be because it's Libra Season . . . Love and relationships are on everybody's minds during Libra Season, according to my Bible to the Stars --or my Book for Blithering Idiots , as Dad calls it. But it could also indicate that I'm reaching dangerous and dizzying new heights of my Alison Bridgewater Obsession, which is not good news, as I'm dizzied almost to death already! They're very innocent dreams: Alison and me walking hand in hand across Tower Bridge in London . . . Alison and me playing tag on a white-sand beach . . . Alison and me lying side by side on a queen-size bed and then, just possibly, shuffling close enough that our lips can touch, and we brush fingertips, and I say under my breath, "I love you," and in my dreams, Alison's perfect face will glow, her smile like pure sunlight and rainbows . . . She opens her mouth to say, "Love you, too . . . !" But I always seem to wake up before that happens. It's Tuesday morning in Lambley Common, Kent, and I have school soon, where I'll have to see Alison face-to-face and not be awkward: not easy when you're a born clown like myself! I stay in bed for ages feeling troubled. Specifically, about the fact I just dreamed about kissing Alison again! Then I hear Mum's singsong morning call. "Cat, come down for breakfast! I've made porridge!" In that case, I might as well stay in bed forever! Mum is far from competent in the kitchen. Her porridge is like cat food! But when I've raised this with her, she just says, "It's a good thing we named you Cat, then!" Then she laughs a lot with Dad. But woe alas, I do have to get ready (a time-trousering process indeed if your gang has the überest of standards like mine does), so I stumble to my mirror and examine my blond curls. They're basically a bird's nest, so I quickly comb my fingers through them, then add mascara. To my eyelashes obviously, not my hair, though a bit does get caught in the wand. Then I sigh a tragic sigh--because I do this every day . . . My morning routine is simple: Get up, get dressed, pray to Almighty Aphrodite (she is the Goddess of Love, and nothing is more important than that), then make myself as beautiful as possible for my friend and romantic obsession, Alison Bridgewater. But today, before I've even applied my lucky lavender deodorant, my phone buzzes and my eyes almost explode. Which would be really messy and traumatic, to be honest. But I have a text from Alison herself! Alison, 8:09 a.m.: Hey bb! Can we talk after school, just us? xox "Gooseberries!" I exclaim (my favorite curse word). Alison Bridgewater wants to talk to me ALONE? After school? ON A TUESDAY? About what?! Then my bedroom door flies open, and I Frisbee-fling my phone and shriek, "I'M NOT ON MY PHONE, MUM, HONESTLY, I'M JUST COMING DOWN!" My phone smashes through my nail polishes on the dresser and right into the pinky-purple lava lamp, which teeters dangerously. I have to jump to catch it and end up face-planting in the pile of dirty underwear on the floor: a true moment of knickerbocker glory. Then I look around and see it's not Mum but my tree-hugging terror of a sister, Luna, who is interrupting my celestial flows. She really is the WORST person--this text from Alison could be the most important conversation of my life! And that includes my conversation with Taylor Swift (Luna says it's "not a conversation" when she's never once replied, but I disagree). Oblivious to my woes, Luna waves her phone around and says, "Cat, have you seen your horoscope? Apparently, Aquarius Lives are being blessed today. Maybe that fungal infection on your leg will clear up!" "It's just a bruise, Luna!" I snap, swiping her phone. "I've told you already!" Usually, I'd be deeply unamused that Luna is rabbiting on about astrology now. I'm the one with the Bible to the Stars , and she's already claimed pacifism, anti-consumerism, intersectional feminism, and radical veganism! Can't she leave anything for me? But reading her phone, I realize I may have to Elsa-style Let It Go. Because my sister, who is so bizarre that she grows mushrooms in a shoebox for fun, might actually be right. According to my horoscope, my life is about to change forever, which sounds pretty outrageous for a Tuesday morning. Deep in my knickers pile, my phone buzzes again. I dig it back up and gasp. Alison, 8:10 a.m.: I really need u!!! xxx Head spinning with a thousand Taylor Swift lyrics, I feel the stars align . . . Well, that might be my stomach rumbling. But could today really be the day Alison Bridgewater falls in love with me?! It's a lot to take in. Especially given that, as I might have mentioned already, it's a Tuesday. I'm in an Alison-induced coma all through Mum's horrendous breakfast and all the way to school as well, which is a wonderful distraction from Luna raving on about Mum's "anti-animal" shopping agenda. Last night's dreams are all over my skin like pollen . . . You can't see it, but you can feel it clinging to you. Gosh, that was a very poetic thought! Maybe I should be writing Alison one of my amazing poems . . . She's bound to fall in love with me then! I try to think poetically, but Luna won't shut up! It's no wonder I never get anything done. ". . . just because it said 'farm fresh' on the label--farm fresh?! Everybody knows that's code for factory farm!" Luna gasps in annoyance. It isn't unusual for my sister to be angry at our parents--or "symbols of a capitalist dystopia," as she calls them. I'm only fourteen, but she makes ME feel like a boomer. I guess I'm nearly fifteen, so I'm not far off. "Mum seemed to think the picture on the front justified it as well," Luna rants. "As if that chicken ever really saw a field! Then she's bought those sausages for dinner--again!" My sister (a Scorpio, Aphrodite save me) is very passionate. Last Christmas, aged twelve, she announced she wanted to change her name from Lauren Anna Phillips to "Luna Anaïs Celeste Phillips." She'd printed the official forms and everything! Apparently, she wanted this or nothing as her Christmas gift. "At least she's keeping the surname," Dad grunted, not even lowering his paper. Mum told her to "try it out" before making it legal. Then when Luna left the room, she turned to my utterly shocked face and said, "Don't worry, love. It's normal to play with identity at this age. Just let her work through it, and she'll be Lauren again before you know it." Nine months on, Luna is more Luna than ever! No one calls her Lauren anymore, so I suppose I'll have to start taking her seriously . . . But seeing as she's currently wearing an embarrassingly enormous pin saying vegan from my head tomatoes on her blazer, perhaps I won't call her Lauren or Luna. I'll just call her ridiculous instead. But you know who isn't ridiculous? Alison Bridgewater. She really is so perfect. She's half-Ghanaian and her hair is gorgeously dark and curly, and her golden-brown skin glows even in the depths of winter . . . Gosh. I actually slightly hate how poetic and stunning she is. "Perfect . . ." I sigh out loud, then my eyes widen. Oops. Luna stops talking about the crimes of the farming industry. "Excuse me? Did you just say 'perfect' when I was talking about animal genocide?!" "No?!" I pause walking. "I'm tired. I was thinking about something else!" Luna rolls her eyes. "You know, if you listened to me, you might learn something! Why are you tired? Were you writing Frozen fan fiction until four in the morning again?" "Yes," I say. "I mean, NO! I've never done that!" Gooseberries . . . how does Luna know about that? "Whatever." Luna adopts her peak zen face. "Libra Season is sending everyone into a frenzy. Just because they're scared of being alone another year. Maisy McGregor literally fainted over it yesterday . . ." That catches my attention. I pause trying to mentally compose a sonnet. "Wait, for another YEAR? Luna, what do you mean?" Luna gives me a smug smile. Which is also a very annoying smile, but that's just her face. "Haven't you been reading your Bible to the Stars ? Some people believe if two don't become one in Libra Season, you'll have to wait until next year to find someone. And that's a long, long time. Eight million metric tons more plastic will have gone into the ocean by then, which is a lot of tons, Cat . . ." She rambles on. But I am ozone-layering out all over again. A whole year?! I'll basically be almost sixteen and I won't even have had my first kiss! Suddenly, my conversation with Alison Bridgewater is even more important. Really, I deserve some sort of award just for holding it together! I'm like Florence Nightingale, if she was a blond fourteen-year-old with a crush on her best friend. Which she isn't, so I suppose I'm not actually like Florence Nightingale at all, but I'm still very virtuous and saintly. Today could be bigger than Disney's silence on Elsa's true romantic persuasion! Because no way, Swift-Tay, am I going to wait another year to find true love. Excerpted from Never Trust a Gemini by Freja Nicole Woolf 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.