" ‘But Mum, I need this one!’ Gemma said. She pulled her mother’s arm and pointed at the phone.
‘You need new shoes and a winter coat, Gemma. You don’t need the most expensive phone in the shop,’ her mother said. She was tired of having the same conversation for ten minutes.
‘You don’t understand!’ said Gemma. Everyone at school has this one. I want a cool phone too! If I wear last year’s winter coat, can I have it?’
‘How many times do I have to say “no”? It’s good to be different sometimes.’
‘I don’t want to be different!’ argued Gemma. ‘I’ve seen your photos from when you were fifteen. Your clothes were the same as your friends’. They looked stupid, but they were cool then, weren’t they?’ Now her mother had to agree.
‘First, none of my clothes were as expensive as this phone. Second, you’re right, they did look stupid. People can sometimes look very stupid when they’re trying to be cool.’
‘But please Mum! I never get anything I want.’
‘No, Gemma. You can have any of the phones on this side of the shop or we go home right now. I’ll find someone to help you.’ She went to find the shop assistant.
Gemma pretended to look at the phones. She wasn’t really looking. She was too angry. She didn’t want one of those phones. They weren’t much better than her old phone. Her mother was so unfair!
‘Do you see what you’re looking for?’ asked a voice in her ear.
She turned round to find a strange-looking old man behind her. He was quite short, only as tall as Gemma, and he had light green eyes and a friendly, smiling face.
‘I …’ Gemma started. She didn’t know what to say. She could see what she wanted, but she couldn’t have it. ‘Do you work here?’ she asked.
‘Yes, I do and maybe we have something you’ll like,’ he said. ‘Your friends all have those phones, don’t they?’ He pointed to the phones on the other side of the shop.
‘Yes,’ said Gemma. ‘But it’s not fair. Mum says I can’t have one of those.’
‘Mums don’t always understand these things,’ the old man said. ‘Let’s show your mum something special.’
Gemma went with him to the back of the shop.
Gemma’s mother followed them. The man took out a box.
‘Now this is the new—’ he started to say.
‘I’m sorry,’ said Gemma’s mother. ‘I’ve told Gemma we can’t buy this kind of phone. It’s too expensive.’
‘But this one is free,’ the old man said quickly.
Gemma’s mouth opened, but she couldn’t speak. Her mother looked very surprised, too.
‘Free?’ Gemma asked.
‘What?’ asked her mother.
‘Well, it’s almost free,’ the shop assistant said. ‘There is something—’
‘I knew it was too good to be true, Gemma,’ said her mum quickly.
‘Oh,’ said Gemma. The smile left her face.
‘Do we have to pay every month?’ her mother asked.
‘But that won’t make it cheaper. I’m sure it’s still too expensive.’
‘As I was saying,’ the old man said, ‘this is new, so there are only a few in the country. It is very special, but it hasn’t been tested yet. The phone makers want to know what people think about it. Gemma can have it for free, but she has to come back in two weeks and tell me about it. Then
I can write a report for the phone makers.’
‘What special things can it do?’ asked Gemma.
‘Oh, you’ll see,’ the old man said.
‘Can I have it, Mum? Please!’
‘I can’t say “no” now, can I?’ her mother answered, but she didn’t look as excited as Gemma. ‘But I’m not very happy about it. What if you lose it? I’m sure it’s an expensive phone and maybe we’ll have to pay for it.’
‘Don’t worry,’ said the shop assistant to Gemma’s mother. ‘If she loses it, I can find it again.’
Gemma was only half listening.
‘Everyone at school will be jealous of me. They’ll all want one too,’ she said.
‘They’ll probably all want to try it, Gemma,’ the old man told her. ‘But you mustn’t lend it to anyone. It’s only for you.’
‘OK.’ Gemma didn’t care about that. ‘Can I have it,
Gemma’s mother couldn’t think how to say ‘no’ again, so she agreed. The man took the phone out of its box and showed it to Gemma. It was made out of something strange that changed colour when it moved. It was as light as air and very thin. Gemma loved it.
She didn’t stop looking at it all the way to the car. She turned it on and it changed from grey to red. That was cool, but the next thing it did was a bigger surprise.
On the screen was some text.
‘How does it know my name?’ she thought. ‘The man in the shop didn’t put my name in it. I was watching him.’
The screen changed again. ‘Gemma? Ready?’
She pushed ‘OK’.