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Our series about a girl band, called the chiX, and their brainy little sister Gladys arrives at its final episode. The chiX have come second in the Eurovision Song Contest. They think that perhaps their dream is at an end. But Arny their manager is convinced that success lies ahead.

Read by Natasha. Story by Bertie. Proofread by Claire Deakin. Duration 11.47

It was Monday morning, the first after the chiX had returned from Istanbul and the Eurovision Song Contest where they had taken second place. The girls were waiting for the bus to take them to school. An old lady who was sitting on the bench by the stop looked them up and down warily, as if she thought they were going to mug her.

Then she commented, “You look like them girls what was singing on the telly on Saturday evening.”

“Yeah, lots of people have said that,” replied Laura.

“I thought the boy what won it was nice, but our lot looked like they’d never seen a hair brush,” continued the old lady. “It’s surprising anyone voted for them really.”

When the bus arrived, they went upstairs and sat at the front of the top deck. The bus followed the river on one side, and a row of suburban houses on the other. The girls sat silently, each of them wondering how Monday mornings would have changed if they had won.

They didn’t know that a reporter from Breakfast TV was waiting for them at the school gate. Various school girls were pulling faces and waving at the camera and saying, “Film me, I’m Laura.” Or, “I’m Gladys. Ask me a clever question.” Or, “Listen to me sing, Life is a Circus, Tra la la!”

When the real chiX walked past, the reporter asked if they would mind telling her what it felt like to be going back to school. Laura looked annoyed and said, “What do you think it feels like? Is this a wind up or what?” Fortunately the camera wasn’t filming. In the interview that went out live on TV, Gladys said that they were all looking forward to going back to school and that nothing would have been different if they had won.

“And what about those who are predicting a glittering future ahead of you?” Asked the reporter.

“Yeah, that’s what our manager keeps on saying,” said Mandy. “But we’ll see.”

But they didn’t have to wait long to find out. Their manager, Arny, left six messages on Gladys’s mobile phone that day, each with an offer for the chiX to perform on TV or at a special concert or to go to a party. And for the rest of the week, Gladys’ phone kept on ringing. It seemed that the public and the music business loved the chiX, and didn’t care at all that they had come second.

On Saturday morning, Laura went into the convenience store for some biscuits and as she was waiting to pay, she cast her eye over the magazine rack. She noticed that a picture of the chiX was on the cover of the weekly rag about celebrity gossip.

The headline read: “The Un-Glamour Girls.”

Laura felt annoyed that she had to pay £2 just to read about herself and her sisters. And she felt even angrier when she saw that the article was about how the chiX were the first chart-topping girl band not to care about how they looked in public. It had snap shots of the girls in jogging pants and old trainers as well as in school uniform with laddered tights.

The article concluded: “Scruffy is the new smart.”

When she showed it to the other girls they were all seething with rage. “How dare they write that?” Sam demanded. “Gladys, can’t you get Arny to stop them saying things like that about us?”

Gladys looked at the article and thought out aloud, “Well, I don’t know. It’s not trying to be nasty about us. It’s sort of saying that we are setting the trend.”

But the chiX spent all afternoon shopping and getting ready for the evening when they were invited out to a swish nightclub for the birthday party of Nigel Newcastle, the lead singer of the Joywheelers. Laura and Mandy went to the hairdressers.

As they trooped down the stairs on their way out, Dad took a double-take. “Who are those gorgeous ladies? Are they my daughters?”

“They’ve done themselves up,” said Gladys, who wasn’t going to the party because she was too young to spend all night in a club.

The following Saturday, Laura came back from the convenience store beside herself with rage. She was clutching a copy of “Hi There!” magazine. On page 22 there was a picture of her walking out of the party on the arm of Nigel Newcastle:

“Nigel Picks a Chic,” it said, adding that he was “romancing” the scruffy sixteen year old singer of the school-girl band sensation, the chiX.

“If there’s any romance, Nigel’s not told me about it,” claimed Laura. “They just make this stuff up. And why do they keep on calling me scruffy?”

Gladys told the girls to ignore what the media was saying, and just to make the best music that they could. She continued to write songs, and the chiX went to regular rehearsals, as well as dancing and singing classes. They were performing on TV shows and giving interviews on radio about once a week now. Their songs were topping the download charts on the internet and they were getting used to seeing their pictures in the papers.

The next Saturday, Gladys went out to the convenience store with Laura because she wanted to buy a new notebook. As they were standing in the queue for the till, a girl who was about the same age as Gladys came up to them and said, “I really like your songs. Can I take your photograph on my mobile phone please?”

Before Gladys could answer, Laura snapped, “No buzz off. Can’t you see we just got out of bed?”

When they were outside the shop, Gladys said, “That wasn’t very nice. Now we’ve lost a fan.”

“Plenty more where she came from.”

“We’ve got to be nice to the public,” insisted Gladys. “It’s part of the deal.”

“I don’t remember signing no deal like that,” said Laura.

“Well it’s an unwritten one. It’s like this: we owe everything to the fans, so we’ve got to give something back to them. Or the word will get around that we’re a bunch of spoilt brats.”

And sure enough, the following week, Hi There! Magazine had a grainy picture of Laura snarling and pointing at the girl in the shop. Her mum had taken the photo and sent it to the magazine. This time Laura didn’t even bother to complain.

The bad publicity didn’t hurt the chiX popularity. The newspapers were never exactly polite about them, but they also admitted that the girls were the “Real Deal” and it was refreshing to see their youthful faces, unadorned by bright lipstick and false eyelashes. They were a new type of Girl Band, that didn’t seem to have been invented by the Music Industry, but who sung their own music straight from the heart while continuing to go to school, dress badly, and live normal lives.

But Gladys was no longer achieving straight A’s at school on a regular basis. At parents’ evening, her teacher told her dad that Gladys had to choose between music and work. In a few years’ time the chiX fame might have faded, and Gladys would have lost her chance of going to University.

Dad told this to Gladys, and she felt really bad and decided to spend less time going with her sisters to performances and TV shows.

“After all,” she said to herself, “I’m not in the band, and I’m not old enough to have a boyfriend. The newspapers have nothing to gossip about me, anyway.”

Gladys spent more time on her homework, but she was often up late answering emails from Arny or their Public Relations manager, and most often of all from their fans. Quite often she was tired at school, and struggled to pay attention.

Her report said: “A disappointing term for Gladys.”

A week later after school broke up for the holidays, Gladys joined her sisters for a big night at the Music Industry’s annual awards ceremony. Their song “Life is a Circus” had been nominated for Best Debut Single.

“I don’t care if we win or not,” said Sam.

“I’m rooting for The Throbinsons,” said Mandy. “That way I won’t be too disappointed whatever the result is.”

But in truth, all the girls were sitting with tensed up stomach muscles as Nigel Newcastle stood on stage and opened the envelope for their category.

“And this year’s winner for the Best Debut Single is… Life is a Circus by the chiX.” Their song started to play through the loud speakers and the three girls walked through the dining tables and up onto the stage to accept their trophy.

“Yay, for once we won something!” Said Sam, into the microphone.

“But where did Gladys get to?” Asked Laura.

Gladys had stayed behind at the dining table, because she wasn’t in the band. She only wrote the songs and managed things behind the scenes.

“Come on Gladdy!” Called Mandy. “We couldn’t have done it without you.”

And Gladys saw that her three sisters were beckoning to her. She shook her head, but they kept on insisting, and Nigel Newcastle said into the microphone, “Gladys, come and get your award darling,” so she had no choice but to climb up the steps onto the stage. Nigel handed her the trophy and her sisters lifted her up onto their shoulders. The audience clapped, whooped and cheered.

In the taxi on the way back home, Gladys sat silently.

“Hey Gladdy, are you feeling sad or just tired?” Asked Mandy.

“Both,” said Gladdy. “Because you see, I can’t go on like this. I mean, I don’t have time to do all the work for the chiX and revise for my exams at school. It’s just too much for me. It’s not just writing the songs, there’s the emails and the phone calls, the accounts and the contracts to keep an eye on. It all takes much more time than you seem to think. I mean, anyone can sing and go to parties, but if you want to succeed you’ve got to be smart and stay on top of everything.”

And Mandy said, “You’re right Gladdy. We never understood how important all that sort of stuff was. We don’t do enough to help you.”

“But we will,” said Laura. “From now on we’ll all share the boring work, because Gladdy’s got brains, and it would be unfair if she didn’t do well at school because she spent all her time helping us make it big.”

“Promises, promises…” said Gladys.

But over the past year, the girls had learned far more than Gladys had realised. They did now understand that the boring stuff was as important as all the exciting part of being famous. Mandy started to take more of the phone calls and answer the emails. To begin with, she often lost things, and wasn’t quite as efficient as Gladys, but she soon started to learn. Laura learned to appreciate the fans and be nice to them, and Sam worked harder at school, though not quite so hard as Gladys. And Gladys continued to write the songs and to read the important contracts, but she had time to do her homework and get a good night’s sleep.

In the summer exams Gladys got straight A’s in every subject. Her end of term report said:
“Gladys has worked hard and deserves her success”

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