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Radio Silence

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From critically
acclaimed author Alice Oseman comes a smartly crafted contemporary YA
novel, perfect for readers who love Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl. This is an utterly captivating and authentic new teen novel from the author of Solitaire, which VOYA said “could put her among the great young adult fiction authors.”

Frances Janvier spends most of her time studying.

Everyone knows Aled Last as that quiet boy who gets straight As.

You probably think that they are going to fall in love or something. Since he is a boy and she is a girl.

They don’t. They make a podcast.

a world determined to shut them up, knock them down, and set them on a
cookie cutter life path, Frances and Aled struggle to find their voices
over the course of one life-changing year. Will they have the courage to
show everyone who they really are? Or will they be met with radio
HarperCollins Children’s Books
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So why isn't there any book review?????? There should be.
28 August 2020 (13:47) 
I loved this book, I laughed, I cried at a point, and this book is just so amazing, and the podcast is nice
26 September 2020 (22:51) 
Holy shit!!!!! It was GREATTT. Wasnt able to put it down. Such a sweet, pure and relatable book????
29 September 2020 (01:01) 
if i could marry this book i would
26 December 2020 (16:33) 
Follow me on GoodReads @: Ink&Paper

"I wonder-if nobody is listening to my voice, am I making any sound at all?"

There are certain books that you read knowing that you would like them, but at the end you end up LOVING them. Radio Silence was such a book for me. I knew this book was quite famous and now I can understand why.

"I wonder-if nobody is listening to my voice, am I making any sound at all?"

There are certain books that you read knowing that you would like them, but at the end you end up LOVING them. Radio Silence was such a book for me. I knew this book was quite famous and now I can understand .

I think this is a book that readers should dive in not knowing anything about it.
All that I can tell you is that Radio Silence is a book about Frances, who is a study machine, and her love towards a podcast named Universe City,(for which she draws fan art) whose creator is unknown.

I hadn't read anything by Alice Oseman, and when I read Radio Silence, I instantly fell in love with her writing, as well as her characters. When you read Radio Silence, you become the characters, you aren't just an outsider. The writing was so swift that the pages flew by, and before I knew it, the book ended, and I just felt empty. Now that I know that I will never experience that 'first time' feeling, I am dejected.
Coming to the characters, each character is so fresh and their emotions so raw, their confusions at times, reflecting my own. I saw myself in the overachieving trait of Frances, and the sadness that Aled felt. At times, the emotions of the characters mirrored my own, that I felt I'd fit in better with them than in this world. This is easily the BEST YA Contemporary that I read this year.
The diversity represented in this book an element that I found beautiful. Frances, the protagonist, is bi and of mixed race. Most of the characters are from different backgrounds. There were Indian and Asian characters, and I really liked the way everything blended together.
The core element is the issue that this book talks about and I have to say I've never seen such a successful attempt at this particular issue. It is clearly executed . Even though the book talks about topics like mental health, it remains hopeful till the end, which again points to the fact that Alice Oseman is a unique author.

No matter where you are, or who you are, you will deeply connect with this book and the words will provide you bliss which you will cherish forever.

A highly recommended read if you are looking for a platonic relationship trope rather than a romantic one.

(There are so many elements that are left unsaid in the review, only because I feel that these are the things that readers should read for themselves and enjoy)

14 January 2021 (14:20) 
a booknerd
great and that's all
04 April 2021 (17:06) 
08 April 2021 (06:38) 
The girl with a book
After reading a super long thriller, I was looking for a fun, goofy and a life-affirming read. Luckily, I stumbled upon this book. Very interesting book with an unique concept. I guarantee you'll be obsessed with it.
06 July 2021 (10:48) 

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My One and Only

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First published in Great Britain by HarperCollins Children’s Books in 2016

HarperCollins Children’s Books is a division of HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd,

HarperCollins Publishers

1 London Bridge Street

London SE1 9GF

The HarperCollins website address is:

Copyright © Alice Oseman 2016

Cover photographs ©;

Cover design © HarperCollins Publishers Ltd 2016

Lyrics from ‘lonely boy goes to a rave’ courtesy of Teen Suicide © 2013. All rights reserved.

Alice Oseman asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of the work.

A catalogue copy of this book is available from the British Library.

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins.

Source ISBN: 9780007559244

Ebook Edition © 2016 ISBN: 9780007559251

Version: 2016-02-12



Title Page



1. Summer Term (a)

I Was Clever

The Narrator

Dying, But In a Good Way

Do What You Want

I Always Wished I Had a Hobby

A Normal Teenage Girl

Different Carriages

Somebody Is Listening

Made It

1. Summer Term (b)

Aled Last In My Bed

I Know, Right


We’d Make Millions







Something Before We Continue

We Are Out There

Daniel Jun



2. Summer Holiday (a)

Your Art Is So Beautiful


Really Dumb

A True Fact

Laugh and Run


February Friday

The Big Scheme of Things

The Circle of Evils

Power Station

Kanye Wouldn’t Have Liked It

Blanket Bundle

Dark Blue

2. Summe; r Holiday (b)

The Worst Episode

5 Weird Things I’m Obsessed With

Sleep Now

3. Autumn Term (a)

Confused Kids In Office Suits


Artistic Was Disappointing?


Like This

In the Dark

Youtube Famous

Lying Is Easier on the Internet

Time Vortex


3. Autumn Term (b)


School Frances

Winter Olympian



Guy Denning

Press Play

What Else Were You Supposed to Do

Unhelpful Things

Old White Men

The Only Special Thing

Childish Kisses

Extremely Tired

Hours and Hours

4. Christmas Holiday

An Internet Mystery

Galaxy Ceiling



Rusty Northern Hands

My Friend


Fuck You All

5. Spring Term (a)

White Noise

You Must Have Come From a Star


Silver-Haired Girl


London’s Burning

Golden Child


The ‘Incident’

5. Spring Term (b)

Art Reflects Life

A Computer With a Sad Face


No One

We Hoped

On Your Own


5. Spring Term (c)

Universe City


A New Voice


Also by Alice Oseman

About the Author

About the Publisher

School sucks.

Why oh why is there work? I don’t— I don’t get it.


Look at me. Look at my face.

Does it look like I care about school?


‘lonely boy goes to a rave’, Teen Suicide

UNIVERSE CITY: Ep. 1 – dark blue

UniverseCity 109,982 views

In Distress. Stuck in Universe City. Send Help.

Scroll down for transcript >>>


I hope somebody is listening.

I’m sending out this call via radio signal – long out-dated, I know, but perhaps one of the few methods of communication the City has forgotten to monitor – in a dark and desperate cry for help.

Things in Universe City are not what they seem.

I cannot tell you who I am. Please call me … please just call me Radio. Radio Silence. I am, after all, only a voice on a radio, and there may not be anyone listening.

I wonder – if nobody is listening to my voice, am I making any sound at all?



“Can you hear that?” said Carys Last, halting in front of me so suddenly that I almost crashed into her. We both stood on the train platform. We were fifteen and we were friends.

“What?” I said, because I couldn’t hear anything except the music I was listening to through one earphone. I think it might have been Animal Collective.

Carys laughed, which didn’t happen very often. “You’re playing your music too loud,” she said, hooking a finger around the earphone’s wire and pulling it away from me. “Listen.”

We stood still and listened and I remember every single thing I heard in that moment. I heard the rumbling of the train we’d just got off leaving the station, heading farther into town. I heard the ticket gate guard explaining to an old man that the high-speed train to St Pancras was cancelled today due to the snow. I heard the distant screech of traffic, the wind above our heads, the flush of the station toilet and “The train now arriving at – Platform One – is the – 8.02 – to – Ramsgate,” snow being shovelled and a fire engine and Carys’s voice and …


We turned round and stared at the town beyond, snowy and dead. We could normally see our school from here, but today there was a cloud of smoke in the way.

“How did we not see the smoke while we were on the train?” Carys asked.

“I was asleep,” I said.

“I wasn’t.”

“You weren’t paying attention.”

“Well, I guess the school burned down,” she said, and walked away to sit on the station bench. “Seven-year-old Carys’s wish came true.”

I stared for a moment more, and then went to join her.

“D’you think it was those pranksters?” I said, referring to the anonymous bloggers who had been pranking our school for the past month with increasing ferocity.

Carys shrugged. “Doesn’t really matter, does it? The end result is the same.”

“It does matter.” It was at that moment that it all started to sink in. “It’s— it looks really serious. We’re going to have to change schools. It looks like the whole of C block and D block are … just … gone.” I crumpled my skirt in my hands. “My locker was in D block. My GCSE sketchbook was in there. I spent days on some of that stuff.”

“Oh, shit.”

I shivered. “Why would they do this? They’ve destroyed so much hard work. They’ve messed up so many people’s GCSEs and A levels, things that seriously affect people’s futures. They’ve literally ruined people’s lives.”

Carys seemed to think about it, and then opened her mouth to reply, but ended up closing it again, and not saying anything.



“We care about our students’ happiness and we care about their success,” said our head teacher, Dr Afolayan, in front of 400 parents and sixth formers on my Year 12 summer term parents evening. I was seventeen and head girl, and I was sitting backstage because it was my turn to speak on stage in two minutes. I hadn’t planned a speech and I wasn’t nervous. I was very pleased with myself.

“We consider it our duty to give our young people access to the greatest opportunities on offer in the world today.”

I’d managed to become head girl last year because my campaign poster was a picture of me with a double chin. Also, I’d used the word ‘meme’ in my election speech. This expressed the idea that I didn’t give a shit about the election, even though the opposite was true, and it made people want to vote for me. You can’t say I don’t know my audience.

Despite this, I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to talk about in my parents evening speech. Afolayan was saying everything I’d scribbled down on the club-night flyer I found in my blazer pocket five minutes ago.

“Our Oxbridge programme has been particularly successful this year—”

I crumpled up the flyer and dropped it on the floor. Improvisation it was.

I’d improvised speeches before so it wasn’t a big deal, and nobody could ever tell they were improvised anyway; nobody ever even wondered whether they were. I had a reputation for being organised, always doing homework, having consistently high grades and having Cambridge University ambitions. My teachers loved me and my peers envied me.

I was clever.

I was the top student in my year.

I was going to Cambridge, and I was going to get a good job and earn lots of money, and I was going to be happy.

“And I think,” said Dr Afolayan, “that the teaching staff deserve a round of applause as well for all the hard work they’ve put in this year.”

The audience clapped, but I saw a few students roll their eyes.

“And now I’d like to introduce our head girl, Frances Janvier.”

She pronounced my surname wrong. I could see Daniel Jun, the head boy, watching me from the opposite side of the stage. Daniel hated me because we were both ruthless study machines.

“Frances has been a consistent high achiever since she joined us a few years ago, and it’s my absolute honour to have her representing everything we stand for here at the Academy. She’ll be talking to you today about her experience as an Academy sixth former this year, and her own plans for the future.”

I stood up and walked on stage and I smiled and I felt fine because I was born for this.


“You’re not going to improvise again, are you, Frances?” asked Mum, fifteen minutes previously. “Last time you ended your speech by giving everyone a thumbs-up.”

She’d been standing with me in the corridor outside the stage entrance.

My mum always loved parents evening, mostly because she loves the brief, confused stares people make when she introduces herself as my mother. These occur because I’m mixed-race and she’s white, and for some reason most people think I’m Spanish because I did Spanish GCSE last year with a private tutor.

She also loved listening to teachers telling her over and over again what an excellent person I was.

I waved the club flyer at her. “Excuse me. I’m extremely prepared.”

Mum plucked it out of my hand and scanned it. “There are literally three bullet points on this. One of them says ‘mention the Internet’.”

“That’s all I need. I’m well-practised in the art of bullshitting.”

“Oh, I know you are.” Mum handed me back the flyer and leaned against the wall. “We could just do without another incident where you spend three minutes talking about Game of Thrones.”

“You’re never going to let me live that down, are you?”


I shrugged. “I’ve got all the main points covered. I’m clever, I’m going to university, blah blah blah grades success happiness. I’m fine.”

Sometimes I felt like that was all I ever talked about. Being clever was, after all, my primary source of self-esteem. I’m a very sad person, in all senses of the word, but at least I was going to get into university.

Mum raised an eyebrow at me. “You’re making me nervous.”

I tried to stop thinking about it and instead thought about my evening plans.

That evening I was going to get home and I was going to make a coffee and have a slice of cake and then I was going to go upstairs and sit on my bed and listen to the latest episode of Universe City. Universe City was a YouTube podcast show about a suit-wearing student detective looking for a way to escape a sci-fi, monster-infested university. Nobody knew who made the podcast, but it was the voice of the narrator that got me addicted to the show – it has a kind of softness. It makes you want to fall asleep. In the least weird way possible, it’s a bit like someone stroking your hair.

That was what I was going to do when I got home.

“You sure you’re going to be okay?” Mum asked, looking down at me. She always asked me that before I had to do public speaking, which was frequently.

“I’m going to be okay.”

She untwisted my blazer collar and tapped my silver head girl badge with one finger.

She asked me, “Remind me why you wanted to be head girl?”

And I said, “Because I’m great at it,” but I was thinking, because universities love it.


I said my piece and got off stage and checked my phone, because I hadn’t checked it all afternoon. And that’s when I saw it. I saw the Twitter message that was about to change my life, possibly forever.

I made a startled coughing noise, sank into a plastic chair, and grabbed Head Boy Daniel Jun’s arm so hard that he hissed, “Ow! What?”

“Something monumental has happened to me on Twitter.”

Daniel, who had seemed vaguely interested until I said the word ‘Twitter’, frowned and wrenched his arm back. He wrinkled his nose and looked away like I’d done something extremely embarrassing.

The main thing that you need to know about Daniel Jun is that he probably would have killed himself if he thought it’d get him better grades. To most people, we were exactly the same person. We were both smart and we were both going for Cambridge and that was all anybody saw: two shining gods of academia flying high above the school building.

The difference between us was that I found our ‘rivalry’ absolutely hilarious, whereas Daniel acted as if we were engaged in a war of who could be the biggest nerd.


Two monumental things had happened, actually. The first was this:

@UniverseCity is now following you

And the second was a direct message addressed to ‘Toulouse’, my online alias:

Direct Messages > with Radio

hi toulouse! this might sound really weird but i’ve seen some of the Universe City fan art you’ve posted and i love them so much

i wondered whether you’d be interested in working with the show to create visuals for the Universe City episodes?

i’ve been trying to find someone with the right style for the show and i really love yours.

Universe City is non-profit so i can’t exactly pay you so i totally understand if you want to say no, but you seem like you really love

the show and i wondered if you’d be interested. you’d get full credit obviously. i honestly wish i could pay you but i don’t have any money

(i’m a student). yeah. let me know if you’re interested at all. if not, i still love your drawings. like, a lot. ok.

radio x

“Go on then,” said Daniel, with an eye-roll. “What’s happened?”

“Something monumental,” I whispered.

“Yes, I got that.”

It struck me suddenly that there was absolutely no way I could tell anybody about this. They probably didn’t even know what Universe City was and fan art was a weird hobby anyway and they might think that I was secretly drawing porn or something and they’d all hunt down my Tumblr and read all my personal posts on there and everything would be awful. School Brainiac and Head Girl Frances Janvier Exposed as Fandom Freak.

I cleared my throat. “Erm … you wouldn’t be interested. Don’t worry.”

“Fine then.” Daniel shook his head and turned away.

Universe City. Had chosen. Me. To be. Their artist.

I felt like dying, but in a good way.

“Frances?” said a very quiet voice. “Are you okay?”

I looked up to find myself face to face with Aled Last, Daniel’s best friend.

Aled Last always looked a little like a child who’d lost their mum in a supermarket. This was possibly something to do with how young he looked, how round his eyes were, and how his hair was soft like baby hair. He never seemed to be comfortable in any of the clothes that he wore.

He didn’t go to our school – he went to an all-boys’ grammar school on the other side of town, and though he was only three months older than me, he was in the school year above. Most people knew who he was because of Daniel. I knew who he was because he lived opposite me and I used to be friends with his twin sister and we took the same train to school, even though we sat in different carriages and didn’t talk to each other.

Aled Last was standing next to Daniel, gazing down at where I was still sitting, hyperventilating, in the chair. He cringed a little and followed up with, “Er, sorry, erm, I mean, you just looked like you were about to be sick or something.”

I attempted to say a sentence without bursting into hysterical laughter.

“I am fine,” I said, but I was grinning and probably looked like I was about to murder someone. “Why are you here? Daniel Support?”

According to rumour, Aled and Daniel had been inseparable their whole lives, despite the fact that Daniel was an uppity, opinionated dickhead and Aled spoke maybe fifty words per day.

“Er, no,” he said, his voice almost too quiet to hear, as usual. He looked terrified. “Dr Afolayan wanted me to give a speech. About university.”

I stared at him. “But you don’t even go to our school.”

“Er, no.”

“So what’s up with that?”

“It was Mr Shannon’s idea.” Mr Shannon was the head teacher of Aled’s school. “Something about camaraderie between our schools. One of my friends was supposed to be doing this actually … he was head boy last year … but he’s busy so … he asked if I’d do it … yeah.”

Aled’s voice got gradually quieter as he was speaking, almost like he didn’t think I was listening to him, despite the fact that I was looking right at him.

“And you said yes?” I said.



Aled just laughed.

He was visibly quaking.

“Because he’s a turnip,” said Daniel, folding his arms.

“Yes,” Aled murmured, but he was smiling.

“You don’t have to do it,” I said. “I could just tell them you’re sick and everything will be fine.”

“I sort of have to do it,” he said.

“You don’t really have to do anything you don’t want to,” I said, but I knew that wasn’t true, and so did Aled, because he just laughed at me and shook his head.

We didn’t say anything else.

Afolayan was on stage again. “And now I’d like to welcome Aled Last, one of the boys’ school’s wonderful Year 13s, who will be setting off to one of the UK’s most prestigious universities in September. Well, if his A levels go to plan, anyway!”

All the parents laughed at this. Daniel and Aled and I did not.

Afolayan and the parents started to clap as Aled walked on to the stage. He approached the microphone. I’d done it a thousand times and I always got that little stomach flip beforehand, but watching Aled do it then was somehow three billion times worse.

I hadn’t really spoken to Aled properly before. He caught the same train to school as me, but he sat in a different carriage. I knew next to nothing about him.

“Er, hi, yeah,” he said. His voice sounded like he’d just stopped crying.

“I didn’t realise he was this shy,” I whispered at Daniel, but Daniel didn’t say anything.

“So, last year I, er, had an interview …”

Daniel and I watched him struggle through his speech. Daniel, a practised public speaker like myself, occasionally shook his head. At one point he said, “He should have said no, for fuck’s sake.” I didn’t really like watching so I sat back in the chair for the second half of it and read the Twitter message fifty times over. I tried to switch my mind off and focus on Universe City and the messages. Radio had liked my art. Stupid little sketches of the characters, weird line drawings, 3am doodles in my 99p sketchbook instead of finishing my history essay. Nothing like this had happened to me, ever.

When Aled walked off stage and joined us again I said, “Well done, that was really good!” even though we both knew I was lying again.

He met my eyes. His had dark blue circles under them. Maybe he was a night owl like me.

“Thanks,” he said, and then he walked away, and I thought that’d probably be the last time I ever saw him.


Mum barely had time to say “nice speech” once I met her at our car, before I was telling her all about Universe City. I once tried to get Mum into Universe City by forcing her to listen to the first five episodes on our way to a Cornwall holiday, but Mum’s conclusion was, “I don’t really get it. Is it supposed to be funny or scary? Wait, is Radio Silence a girl or a boy or neither? Why do they never go to their university lectures?” I thought that was fair enough. At least she still watched Glee with me.

“Are you sure this isn’t some sort of giant scam?” said Mum with a frown as we drove away from the Academy. I lifted my feet up on to the seat. “It sounds a bit like they’re trying to steal your art if they’re not even going to pay you.”

“It was their official Twitter. They’re verified,” I said, but this didn’t quite have the same effect on Mum as it did on me. “They liked my art so much that they’re actually asking me to join their team!”

Mum said nothing. She raised her eyebrows.

“Please be happy for me,” I said, rolling my head towards her.

“It’s really good! It’s brilliant! I just don’t want people to steal your sketches. You love that stuff.”

“I don’t think it’s stealing! They’d give me all the credit.”

“Have you signed a contract?”

“Mum!” I groaned exasperatedly. There wasn’t much point trying to explain this to her. “It doesn’t matter, I’m gonna have to say no anyway.”

“Wait, what? What d’you mean?”

I shrugged. “I’m just not gonna have time. I’ll be in Year 13 in a few months, like, I’ve got so much work all the time, and Cambridge interview prep on top of that … there’s no way I’d have time to draw something for every single weekly episode.”

Mum frowned. “I don’t understand. I thought you were really excited about this.”

“I am, like, it’s so amazing that they messaged me and thought my art was good, but … I have to be realistic—”

“You know, opportunities like this don’t come around very often,” Mum said. “And you clearly want to do it.”

“Well, yeah, but … I get so much homework every day, and coursework and revision will only get more intense—”

“I think you should do it.” Mum stared straight ahead and spun the steering wheel. “I think you work yourself too hard for school anyway and you should take an opportunity for once and do what you want.”

And what I wanted to do was this:

Direct Messages > with Radio

Hey!! Wow … thank you so much, I can’t believe you liked my art! I’d be absolutely honoured to get involved!

My email is if it’s easier to talk there. Can’t wait to hear more about what you’re thinking in terms of design!

Honestly, Universe City is my favourite series of all time. I can’t thank you enough for thinking of me!!

Hope I don’t sound too much like a crazy fan haha! xx


I had work to do when I got home. I almost always had work to do when I got home. I almost always did work when I got home because whenever I wasn’t doing schoolwork I felt like I was wasting my time. I know this is kind of sad, and I always wished I had a hobby like football or playing the piano or ice-skating, but the fact of the matter was that the only thing I was good at was passing exams. Which was fine. I wasn’t ungrateful. It’d be worse if it were the other way around.

That day, the day I got a Twitter message from the creator of Universe City, I didn’t do any work when I got home.

I collapsed on to my bed and turned my laptop on and went straight on to my Tumblr, where I posted all of my art. I scrolled down the page. What exactly had the Creator seen in these? They were all crap. Doodles I did to turn my brain off, so I could fall asleep and forget about history essays and art coursework and head girl speeches for five minutes.

I switched over to Twitter to see if the Creator had replied, but they hadn’t. I checked my email to see if they’d emailed me, but they hadn’t.

I loved Universe City.

Maybe that was my hobby. Drawing Universe City.

It didn’t feel like a hobby. It felt like a dirty secret.

And my drawings were all pointless anyway. It wasn’t like I could sell them. It wasn’t like I could share them with my friends. It wasn’t like they’d get me into Cambridge.

I continued scrolling down the page, back months and months and into last year and the year before, scrolling through time. I’d drawn everything. I’d drawn the characters – the narrator Radio Silence, and Radio’s various sidekicks. I’d drawn the setting – the dark and dusty sci-fi university, Universe City. I’d drawn the villains and the weapons and the monsters, Radio’s lunar bike and Radio’s suits, I’d drawn the Dark Blue Building and the Lonely Road and even February Friday. I’d drawn everything, really.

Why did I do this?

Why am I like this?

It was the only thing I enjoyed, really. The only thing I had apart from my grades.

No – wait. That would be really sad. And weird.

It just helped me sleep.


I don’t know.

I shut my laptop and went downstairs to get some food and tried to stop thinking about it.


“Right then,” I said, as the car drew up outside Wetherspoon’s at 9pm several days later. “I’m off to drink the alcohols, do lots of the drugs and have lots of the sex.”

“Oh,” Mum said, with her half-smile. “Well, then. My daughter’s gone wild.”

“Actually this is my one hundred per cent real personality.” I opened the car door and skipped out on to the pavement with a cry of, “Don’t worry about me dying!”

“Don’t miss the last train!”

It was the last day of school before study leave and I was supposed to be going to this club in town, Johnny Richard’s, with my friends. It was the first time I’d ever been to a club and I was essentially terrified, but I was on the verge of being so uninvolved with our friendship group that if I hadn’t gone, I thought they might stop considering me a ‘main friend’, and things would get too awkward for me to deal with on a daily basis. I couldn’t imagine what awaited me besides drunk guys in pastel-coloured shirts, and Maya and Raine trying to make me awkwardly dance to Skrillex.

Mum drove away.

I crossed the street and peered through the door into Spoons. I could see my friends sitting in the far corner, drinking and laughing. They were all lovely people, but they made me nervous. They weren’t mean to me or anything, they just saw me in a very particular way – School Frances, head girl, boring, nerdy, study machine. It’s not like they were completely wrong, I guess.

I went to the bar and asked for a double vodka and lemonade. The bartender didn’t ask for ID, even though I had a fake one just in case, which was surprising because most of the time I look approximately thirteen years old.

Then I walked towards my friends, barging through the packs of lads and pre-drinkers – more things that make me nervous.

Honestly, I need to stop being scared of being a normal teenage girl.

“What? Blowjobs?” Lorraine Sengupta, known to all as Raine, was sitting next to me. “Not even worth it, mate. Boys are weak. They don’t even want to kiss you afterwards.”

Maya, the loudest person of the group and therefore the leader, had her elbows on the table and three empty glasses in front of her. “Oh, come on, they’re not all gonna be like that.”

“But a lot of them are, so I literally can’t be arsed. Not even worth the effort, tbh.”

Raine literally said the letters ‘tbh’. She didn’t seem to do it ironically and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it.

This conversation was so irrelevant to my life that I had been pretending to text for the past ten minutes.

Radio hadn’t yet replied to my Twitter message or emailed me. It had been four days.

“Nah, I don’t believe in couples falling asleep in each other’s arms,” said Raine. They were talking about something else now. “I think it’s a mass-media lie.”

“Oh, hey, Daniel!”

Maya’s voice drew my attention away from my phone. Daniel Jun and Aled Last were walking past our table. Daniel was wearing a plain grey T-shirt and plain blue jeans. I’d never seen him wear anything patterned in the year I’d known him. Aled looked just as plain, like Daniel had picked out his clothes.

Daniel glanced down and saw us and momentarily caught my eye before replying to Maya, “Hi, you all right?”

They struck up a conversation. Aled was silent, standing behind Daniel, and was hunched over, as if he were trying to make himself less visible. I caught his eye too, but he quickly looked away.

Raine leaned towards me while Daniel and the others were talking. “Who’s that white boy?” she murmured.

“Aled Last? He goes to the boys’ school.”

“Oh, Carys Last’s twin brother?”


“Weren’t you friends with her back in the day?”

“Er …”

I tried to figure out what to say.

“Sort of,” I said. “We chatted on the train. Sometimes.”

Raine was probably the person I talked to the most out of the group. She didn’t tease me for being a massive nerd like everyone else did. If I’d acted more like myself, I think we’d have been pretty good friends, since we had a similar sense of humour. But she could pull off being cool and weird because she wasn’t head girl, and she had the right side of her hair shaved so no one was very surprised when she did something unusual.

Raine nodded. “Fair enough.”

I watched as Aled took a sip of the drink he was holding and looked shiftily round the pub. He appeared to be deeply uncomfortable.

“Frances, are you ready for Johnny R’s?” one of my friends was leaning over the table and looking at me with a shark-like grin.

As I said, my friends weren’t horrible to me, but they did treat me like I’d had next to no major life experiences and was generally a massive study nerd.

Which was true, so fair enough.

“Er, yeah, I guess so,” I said.

A pair of guys walked up to Aled and started talking to him. They were both tall and had an air of power about them, and I realised then that it was because the guy on the right – olive-skinned and a checked shirt – had been head boy for most of last year at the boys’ school, and the guy on the left – stocky physique and an undercut – used to be the boys’ school rugby captain. I’d seen them both give presentations when I attended a sixth-form open day at their school.

Aled smiled at them both – I hoped Aled had other friends apart from Daniel. I tried to catch threads of their conversation: Aled said, “Yeah, Dan managed to persuade me this time!” and the head boy said, “Don’t feel like you have to stick around for Johnny’s if you don’t want to. I think we’re going home before then,” and he looked at the rugby captain who nodded in agreement and said, “Yeah, let us know if you need a lift, mate! I’ve got my car,” and to be honest I wished I could do the same, just go home when I wanted to, but I couldn’t, because I’m too scared to do what I want.

“It’s pretty grim,” said another of my friends, dragging my attention away.

“I feel bad!” said another. “Frances is so innocent! I feel like we’re corrupting you by dragging you to clubs and making you drink.”

“She deserves a night off studying though!”

“I want to see drunk Frances.”

“D’you think you’ll be a crier?”

“No, I think she’ll be a funny drunk. I think she’s got some secret personality we don’t know about.”

I didn’t know what to say.

Raine nudged me. “Don’t worry. If any disgusting guys come up to you, I’ll just accidentally spill my drink on them.”

Someone laughed. “She actually will. She’s done it before.”

I laughed too and wished I had the guts to say something funny, but I didn’t because I wasn’t a funny person when I was around them. I was just boring.

I downed what was left of my drink and looked around and wondered where Daniel and Aled had gone.

I felt a bit weird because Raine had brought up Carys and I always felt weird when people brought up Carys because I didn’t like thinking about her.

Carys Last ran away from home when she was in Year 11 and I was in Year 10. Nobody knew why and nobody cared because she didn’t have many friends. She didn’t have any friends, really. Apart from me.


I met Carys Last on the train to school when we were fifteen.

It was 7.14am and I was sitting in her seat.

She glanced down at me like a librarian looking down at someone over a tall desk. Her hair was platinum blonde and she had a full fringe so thick and long that you couldn’t quite see her eyes. The sun silhouetted her like she was a heavenly apparition.

“Oh,” she said. “All right, my little train-compadre? You’re sitting in my seat.”

That might sound like she was trying to be mean, but she genuinely wasn’t.

It was weird. Like, we’d both seen each other loads of times. We both sat at the village station every morning, plus Aled, and were the last people to leave the train every evening. We’d done this since I started secondary school. But we’d never spoken. That’s what people are like, I suppose.

Her voice was different to how I’d imagined. She had one of those posh London Made in Chelsea accents, but it was more charming than irritating, and she spoke slowly and softly as if she were slightly high. It’s also worth noting that I was significantly smaller than her at this point. She looked like a majestic elf and I looked like a gremlin.

And I suddenly realised it was true. I was sitting in her seat. I had no idea why. I normally sat in an entirely different carriage.

“Oh, God, sorry, I’ll move …”

“What? Oh, no, I didn’t mean move, wow, sorry. I must have sounded really rude.” She sat down in the seat opposite me.

Carys Last didn’t seem to smile, or feel the need to smile uncomfortably like I was doing. I was extremely impressed by this.

Aled wasn’t with her. This didn’t strike me as odd at the time. After this incident, I noticed that they sat in different carriages. That didn’t strike me as odd either. I didn’t know him, so I didn’t care.

“Don’t you normally sit in the back carriage?” she asked me in the tone of a middle-aged businessman.

“Erm, yeah.”

She raised her eyebrows at me.

“You live in the village, don’t you?” she said.


“Opposite me?”

“I think so.”

Carys nodded. She kept an unnaturally straight face, which was weird because everyone I knew always tried so hard to smile at you all the time. Her composure made her look significantly older than she was and admirably classy.

She rested her hands on the table and I noticed that they had tiny burn scars all over them.

“I like your jumper,” she said.

I was wearing a jumper that had a computer with a sad face on it underneath my school blazer.

I looked down because I’d forgotten what I was wearing. It was early January and it was freezing, which was why I was wearing an extra jumper over my school jumper. This particular jumper was one of the many items of clothing that I bought but never wore around my friends because I thought they’d laugh at me. My personal fashion choices remained at home.

“D-do you?” I stammered, wondering if I’d misheard.

Carys chuckled. “Yes?”

“Thanks,” I said, shaking my head slightly. I looked down at my hands, and then out the window. The train moved suddenly and we set off out of the village station.

“So why’d you sit in this carriage today?” she said.

I looked at her again, properly this time. Until this point she’d only ever been a girl with dyed blonde hair who sat at the other end of the village train station every morning. But now we were talking and here she was – she was wearing makeup even though she was still in lower school so it was against the Code of Conduct, she was large and soft and somehow powerful, how did she manage to be this nice but not smile at all? She looked like she could probably murder someone if she had to; she looked like she always knew exactly what she was doing. Somehow I knew this wouldn’t be the only time we would ever talk. God, I didn’t have a clue what was going to happen.

“I don’t know,” I said.


Another hour passed before it was the acceptable time to move to Johnny R’s, and I was trying to stay calm and trying not to Facebook message my mum and tell her to come pick me up because that would be lame. I knew I was lame, but no one else was supposed to know that.

We all stood up to head over to Johnny R’s. I was feeling a bit light-headed and like I wasn’t really controlling my legs, but I still heard Raine say, “This is nice,” and point at my top, which was just a very plain chiffon shirt that I picked out because it looked like something Maya would wear.

I almost completely forgot about Aled, but then as we were walking down the street, my phone started to ring. I took it out of my pocket and looked at the screen. Daniel Jun was calling me.

Daniel Jun had my number only because, being head boy and girl, we ran a lot of school events together. He’d never called me, and only texted me four or five times with mundane school-event-related things such as ‘are you setting up the cake stand or am I’ and ‘you collect tickets at the door and I’ll direct people in from the school gate’. This, added to the fact that Daniel disliked me, meant that I had no idea why he was calling me.

But I was drunk. So I answered the phone.

F: Hello?

Daniel: (muffled voices and loud dubstep)

F: Hello? Daniel?

D: Hello? (laughter) shut up shut up— hello?

F: Daniel? Why are you calling me?

D: (laughter) (more dubstep)

F: Daniel?

D: (hangs up)

I looked at my phone.

“Okay,” I said, out loud, but nobody heard me.

A group of lads barged past me, and my foot slid off the kerb and I was walking in the road. I didn’t want to be here. I needed to be doing work, revising essay questions, writing up some maths notes, rereading my message from Radio, drawing some sketch ideas for the videos – I had a mountain of stuff to do and being here was, to be honest, a complete waste of my time.

My phone rang again.

F: Daniel, I swear to god––

Aled: Frances? Is this Frances?

F: Aled?

A: Franceeeeees! (dubstep)

I barely knew Aled. I’d barely spoken to him before this week.

Why …


F: Er, why are you calling me?

A: Oh … Dan— Dan tried to prank call you, I think … I don’t think it worked …

F: … Okay.

A: …

F: Where are you? Is Daniel with you?

A: Oh, we’re at Johnny’s … that’s so weird I don’t even know who Johnny is … Dan’s … (laughter, muffled voices)

F: … Are you okay?

A: I’m fine … sorry … Daniel called you again and then he gave me the phone … I don’t really know what happened. I don’t know why I’m talking to you! Haha …

I walked a bit faster so I didn’t lose my friends completely.

F: Aled, if Daniel’s with you then I’m just gonna go …

A: Yeah, sorry … erm … yeah.

I felt pretty bad for him. I didn’t get why he was friends with Daniel – I wondered whether Daniel bossed him around at all. Daniel bossed a lot of people around.

F: It’s okay.

A: I don’t really like it here.

I frowned.

A: Frances?

F: Yeah?

A: I don’t really like it here.

F: … Where?

A: Do you like it here?

F: Where?

There was silence for a moment – well, silence except for the tinny dance music and the voices and laughter.

F: Aled, please just tell me whether Daniel is there so I can continue with my evening and not worry about you.

A: I don’t know where Daniel is …

F: D’you want me to come and take you home or something?

A: Hey … you know … it sounds like you’re on the radio …

My mind went instantly to Universe City and Radio Silence.

F: God, you’re so drunk.

A: (laughs) Hello. I hope somebody is listening …

He hung up. I felt my stomach drop at his final words.

“Hello. I hope somebody is listening,” I said, under my breath.

Words I’d spent the last two years listening to over and over, words I’d sketched again and again inside speech bubbles and on my bedroom wall. Words I’d heard in a male voice and a female voice, changing every few weeks, always in that classic World-War-II old-time radio accent.

The opening line of every Universe City episode:

“Hello. I hope somebody is listening.”


The bouncer at the door didn’t question the driver’s licence I presented to him, which belonged to Raine’s older sister Rita, despite the fact that Rita is Indian and has cropped, straight hair. I wasn’t sure how anyone could mistake an Indian girl for a British-Ethiopian girl, but there it is.

Johnny’s entry was free as it was before 11pm, which was good news for me, because I hate spending money on things I don’t actually want to do.

I followed my friends inside.

It was exactly what I expected.

Drunk people. Flashing lights. Loud music. Clichés.

“Mate, you coming for more drinks?” Raine shouted at me from fifteen centimetres away.

I shook my head. “Feeling a bit sick.”

Maya heard me and laughed. “Aw, Frances! Bless your heart. Come on, just one more little shot!”

“I think I’m gonna go to the loo, actually.”

But Maya had already started talking to someone else.

“D’you want me to come with you?” asked Raine.

I shook my head. “It’s fine. I’m fine.”

“Okay.” Raine grabbed my arm and pointed at somewhere indiscernible on the other side of the room. “The loo’s over there! Come meet us at the bar, yeah?”

I nodded.

I had absolutely no intention of going to the loo.

Raine waved at me and wandered away.

I was going to find Aled Last.

As soon as I was sure that my friends were sufficiently distracted by the bar, I headed upstairs. They were playing indie rock on this floor, and it was a lot quieter too, which I was glad of, because the dubstep was starting to make me feel a bit panicked, like it was the theme music for an action film and I had ten seconds to save myself from an explosion.

And then Aled Last was literally right next to me.

I hadn’t planned to go and find him before he’d quoted Universe City. But that— that couldn’t have been a coincidence, could it? He’d quoted it exactly. Word for word. With the exact enunciation, the hiss of the ‘s’ in ‘somebody’ and the slight gap between ‘list’ and ‘ening’ and the smile after the second full stop …

Did he listen to it too?

I’d never met anyone else who’d even heard of it.

It was quite amazing that Aled hadn’t been chucked out of the club, because he’d passed out. Or he was asleep. He was sat on the floor anyway, leaning against the wall in a way that made it obvious that someone had put him there. Probably Daniel. Which was surprising, since Daniel was usually kind of protective of Aled. Or so I’d heard. Maybe it was the other way round.

I crouched down in front of him. The wall he was leaning against was all wet from the condensation in the room. I shook him by the arm and shouted over the music:


I shook him again. He looked nice asleep, the club lights flashing red and orange over his face. He looked like a child.

“Don’t be dead. That would really ruin my day.”

He jerked awake, flying forwards off the wall and headbutting me square in the forehead.

It hurt so much that I couldn’t even say anything except a soft “Motherfuck,” a single tear emerging from the corner of my left eye.

While I was curling myself into a ball to try to minimise the pain, Aled shouted:

“Frances Janvier!”

And he pronounced my surname correctly.

He continued, “Did I just hit you in the face?”

“Hit is an understatement,” I shouted back, uncurling myself.

I thought he would laugh, but his eyes were all wide and he was quite clearly still drunk, and he just said, “Oh my God, I’m so sorry.” And then, because he was drunk, he just brought his hand up to my forehead and gave it a little pat, like he was trying to magic the pain away.

“I’m so sorry,” he said again, his expression genuinely concerned. “Are you crying? Oh, wow, I sound like Wendy from Peter Pan.” His eyes unfocused momentarily before looking at me again. “Girl, why are you crying?”

“I’m not …” I said. “Well, on the inside, maybe.”

That’s when he started to laugh. There was something about it that made me want to laugh as well, so that’s what I did. He rolled his head back against the wall and brought his hand up to cover his mouth while he laughed. He was so drunk and my head was pulsating and the place was disgusting, but just for a few seconds everything was absolutely hilarious.

Once he’d finished, he grabbed my denim jacket and used my shoulder to push himself off the ground. He instantly slapped a hand against the wall to stop himself falling over. I stood up too, not quite sure what I was supposed to do now. I didn’t even know Aled got like this. Then again, it’s not like I knew much about him anyway. It’s not like I had a reason to care.

“Have you seen Dan?” he asked me, his hand flopping back on to my shoulder and leaning in, squinting.

“Who’s— oh, Daniel.” Everybody I knew called him Daniel. “No, sorry.”

“Oh …” He looked down at his shoes, and he seemed very much like a child again, his longish hair more appropriate for a fourteen-year-old, his jeans and his jumper just looking kind of odd on him. He just looked so … I didn’t know what it was.

And I wanted to ask him about Universe City.

“Let’s go outside for a sec,” I said, but I don’t think Aled heard me. I put my arm round his shoulder and started pulling him through the crowds, through the low bass and the sweat, through the people and towards the stairs.


I halted in my tracks, Aled resting most of his weight against me, and turned to face the voice. Daniel was barging through the dancers to get to us, a full cup of water in one hand.

“Oh,” he said, looking at me like I was a pile of dirty plates. “I didn’t know you were out tonight.”

What was his damage? “You literally called me on the phone, Daniel.”

“I called you because Aled said he wanted to talk to you.”

“Aled said you were trying to prank call me.”

“Why would I do that? I’m not twelve.”

“Well, why would Aled want to talk to me? I don’t even know him.”

“Why the hell would I know?”

“Because you’re his best friend and you’ve been hanging out with him tonight?”

Daniel didn’t say anything to that.

“Or I guess you haven’t,” I continued. “Yes, I was just rescuing Aled from the floor.”


I laughed a little. “Did you just leave your best friend passed out on the floor in a club, Daniel?”

“No!” He held up the cup of water. “I was getting him water. I’m not a complete dick.”

This was news to me, but it felt a step too far to tell him that.

Instead, I turned to Aled, who was swaying slightly against me. “Why did you call me?”

He frowned at me, and then bopped me gently on the nose with one finger and said, “I like you.”

I started to laugh, thinking he was joking, but Aled didn’t join in. He let go of me and slung his other arm round Daniel, who staggered backwards a little in surprise, bringing up his other hand to steady the water.

“Isn’t it weird,” said Aled, his face literally millimetres from Daniel’s, “that I was the taller one for, like, sixteen years, but now you’re suddenly taller?”

“Yeah, that’s so weird,” replied Daniel, with the closest thing to a smile I’d seen from him in several months. Aled rested his head on Daniel’s shoulder and closed his eyes, and Daniel patted Aled gently on the chest. He murmured something to Aled I couldn’t quite hear, and then handed him the water. Aled took it without saying anything and started drinking.

I glanced between the pair, and then Daniel seemed to remember I was there.

“Are you going home now?” he said. “Can you take him home?”

I put my hands in my pockets. I didn’t really want to be here anyway. “Yeah, sure.”

“I didn’t just leave him on the floor,” he said. “I was getting him water.”

“You already said that.”

“Yeah, I just didn’t think you believed me.”

I just shrugged.

Daniel moved Aled over to me, where he immediately clung round my shoulders again and spilt a bit of water on my sleeve.

“Shouldn’t really have brought him here anyway,” said Daniel, but he was saying it to himself, I think, and I could honestly see a bit of regret or something in his eyes as he gazed at Aled, who was on the verge of falling asleep in my arms, the club lights flashing on his skin.

“What …” Aled mumbled as we stepped into the street. “Where’s Dan?”

“He said I had to take you home,” I said. I wondered how exactly I was going to explain this to my friends. I made a mental note to text Raine once we got to the train station.


I glanced at him, because he’d suddenly sounded so much like the shy Aled I’d spoken to on parents evening – the Aled with the whispery voice and the shifty eyes.

“You get my train,” he continued, as we started walking down the empty high street.

“Yep,” I said.

“You and Carys sit— sat together.”

My heart did a little jump at Carys’s name.

“Yes,” I said.

“She liked you,” said Aled, “more than … erm …”

He seemed to lose his train of thought. I didn’t want to talk about Carys so I didn’t press him.

“Aled, do you listen to Universe City?” I said.

He stopped walking instantly, and my arm fell from his shoulder.

“What?” he said, the streetlamps bronzing him and the Johnny R’s neon sign flashing softly behind him.

I blinked. Why did I ask that?

“Universe City?” he said, his eyes droopy and his voice loud like we were still inside the club. “Why?”

I looked away. Obviously he didn’t then. At least he wouldn’t remember this conversation. “Doesn’t matter.”

“No,” he said, stumbling off the kerb and almost falling on to me again. His eyes were wide. “Why did you ask me that?”

I stared. “Er …”

He waited.

“You just … I thought I heard you quote it. I might have been wrong …”

“You listen to Universe City?”

“Er, yeah,” I said.

“That’s so … unlikely. I haven’t even got 50,000 subscribers yet.”



Aled stepped forward. “How did you know? Dan said no one would work it out.”

“What?” I said, this time with more force. “Work what out?”

Aled said nothing; he just started to grin.

“Do you listen to Universe City?” I said, though by this point I’d forgotten why I was asking, whether it was because the idea that someone else loved it as much as I did made me feel less completely weird, or whether I just wanted Aled to say what he was seemingly refusing to say.

“I am Universe City,” he said. And I stood there.

“What?” I said.

“I’m Radio,” he said. “I’m Radio Silence. I make Universe City.”

And I just stood there.

And we said nothing.

A gust of wind whipped round us. A group of girls laughed from a nearby pub. A car alarm was going off.

Aled looked away, as if there were someone standing next to us that he could see but I couldn’t.

Then he looked back, put a hand on my shoulder, leaned in, and asked, quite genuinely, “Are you all right?”

“It’s … er …” But I didn’t quite know how to say that I’d been obsessed for two years with a podcast show on YouTube about the adventures of an agender science fiction university student who always wears gloves and uses special powers and detective skills to solve mysteries around a city, the name of which is the stupidest pun I’d ever heard in my life, and I had thirty-seven sketchbooks in my room with drawings that I’d done of this specific show, and I’d never met anyone else in real life who’d even heard of it, and I’d never told any of my friends, and just now, outside Johnny R’s on the last school day before study leave, I’d found out that a person whose twin sister had been my temporary best friend and who’d lived opposite me my entire life, a person who never said anything when he was sober, was the person who had made it.

This tiny blond seventeen-year-old who never said anything, standing on a high street.

“I’ll listen,” said Aled, with a blurry smile. He was so drunk – did he know what he was talking about?

“It’d take hours to explain,” I said.

“I’d listen to you for hours,” he said.



I don’t like other people inside my room because I’m terrified they’re going to uncover one of my secrets, like my fan art habits or my Internet history or the fact that I one hundred per cent still sleep with a teddy bear.

I particularly do not like other people in my bed, not since I was twelve and I had that nightmare about a Tamagotchi that spoke in a really deep voice while a friend was sleeping over. I punched her in the face and she got a nosebleed and cried. An accurate metaphor for most of my past friendships.

Despite this, that night, I ended up with Aled Last in my bed.


No. Not like that.

When Aled and I got off the train – or in Aled’s case, fell off the train – and walked down the stone steps that joined the station to our countryside village, Aled announced that Daniel Jun had his keys, because Daniel was wearing his jacket, which had his keys inside them, and he couldn’t wake his mum up because she would “literally chop his head off”. The way he said it was pretty convincing, and his mum’s one of the Academy’s parent governors, so for a few seconds I actually believed him. I’ve always found Aled’s mum intimidating, like with one word she could probably shatter my self-esteem and feed it to her dog. Not that that’s very hard.

Anyway, yeah. So I was like, “What, d’you wanna sleep at mine or something?” obviously joking, but then he leaned all his weight on my shoulder and was like, “Well …” and I let out this laugh like I’d seen this coming from the moment Aled had crouched down in the middle of the road.

So I just said, “Fine. Fine.” He’d fall asleep straight away anyway, and I wasn’t one of those weird forty-year-olds who thought that boys and girls couldn’t platonically share a bed.

Aled came into my house and fell on to my bed without saying anything and when I came back from the bathroom where I’d changed into pyjamas, he was asleep, facing away from me, his chest moving slowly up and down. I turned off the light.

I wished I was a bit more drunk too, because it took me a good two hours to fall asleep, like it always does, and for the whole two hours, when I wasn’t playing games on my phone or scrolling through Tumblr, I had to stare at the back of his head in the soft blue light of my bedroom. The last time somebody had slept in my big double bed with me was Carys, when I was fifteen, a few nights before she ran away, and if I squinted a little, I could almost pretend that it was her, with the same blonde hair and elf ears. But when I opened my eyes again, it was quite clearly Aled, and not Carys, who was in my bed. For some reason I found that kind of reassuring. I don’t know.

Aled needed to cut his hair, and his jumper, I suddenly realised, belonged to Daniel.


I woke up first, at eleven-ish. Aled didn’t seem to have moved for the entire night, so I checked quickly to see whether he’d died (he hadn’t) before getting out of bed. I briefly went over last night’s decisions. They all seemed to match up to my expectations of myself – pushover, will put self in awkward positions to guarantee the safety of people I barely know, will ask awkward questions and deeply regret them later … Aled Last being in my bed really was a classic Frances thing to happen. What exactly was I going to say to him when he woke up?

Hey there, Aled. You’re in my bed. You probably don’t remember why. I promise I didn’t bring you here by force. By the way, you know that weird podcast thing you make for YouTube? Yeah, basically I’ve been obsessed with it for years.

I immediately went downstairs. Better break the news to my mum before she found him and assumed that her daughter had gained a small, blond, apologetic boyfriend without telling her about it first.

Mum was in the lounge in her unicorn onesie watching Game of Thrones. She looked up as I entered the room and slumped down next to her on the sofa.

“Hello there,” she said. She had a packet of dry Shreddies in one hand. She popped one into her mouth. “You look a bit sleepy.”

“Well,” I said, but wasn’t quite sure where to go from there.

“Did you have fun at the disco?” she asked, but she was grinning. Mum pretended to be clueless about anything twenty-first-century teenagers did. Along with being sarcastic to teachers, this was another thing she enjoyed. “Did you get down? Did you turn up?”

“Oh, yeah, we were jiving and everything,” I said, and did a little rendition of a jive.

“Good, good. That’ll get you laid.”

I laughed loudly, mostly at the idea of me ever ‘getting laid’ in any situation ever, but then with exaggerated slowness she pressed pause on the TV remote, cast aside the pack of Shreddies and stared into my eyes, linking her fingers together on her lap as a head teacher might do over their desk.

“Speaking of which,” she continued, “I was just wondering who exactly the lovely young chap sleeping in your bed is.”

Oh. Okay.

“Yeah,” I said with a laugh. “Yes. That lovely young chap.”

“I came into your room to get some washing and there he was.” Mum spread out her hands as if reliving the scene. “At first I thought he was some sort of giant teddy bear. Or one of those Japanese cartoon pillows that you were showing me on the Internet.”

“Yeah … no. He’s real. A real boy.”

“He was wearing clothes so I’m assuming there wasn’t any hanky-panky.”

“Mum, even when you use the phrase ‘hanky-panky’ ironically, it still makes me want to plug my ears with superglue.”

Mum didn’t say anything for a moment, and neither did I, and then we both heard a loud crash come from upstairs.

“It’s Aled Last,” I said. “Carys’s twin brother?”

“Your friend’s brother?” Mum cackled. “Oh, wow, we’re turning into a bit of a romantic comedy here, aren’t we?”

It was funny, but I didn’t laugh, and Mum’s expression turned serious.

“What’s going on, Frances? I thought you were going to stay out later with your friends. God knows you deserve some kind of end-of-term celebration before you get stuck into your exam revision.”

She looked at me sympathetically. Mum had always thought I cared too much about schoolwork. Mum was generally the opposite of what you’d expect any normal parent to be, but somehow she managed to be amazing anyway.

“Aled was drunk so I had to take him home. He forgot his keys and his mum’s a bit of a dickhead, apparently.”

“Oh, yes, Carol Last.” Mum pursed her lips. She gazed off, reliving a memory. “She always tries to talk to me at the post office.”

Another thump sounded from my room. Mum frowned and looked up. “You haven’t seriously wounded him, have you?”

“I think I’d better go check on him.”

“Yes, go and check on your man. He’s probably clambering out the window.”

“Come on now, Mother, my romantic partners wouldn’t ever want to clamber out of the window.”

She smiled that warm smile of hers that always made me think she knew something I didn’t. I stood up to leave.

“Don’t let him escape!” said Mum. “This could be your only chance at securing a spouse!”

Then I remembered the other thing that Mum should probably know about.

“Oh, by the way,” I said, turning in the doorway, “you know Universe City?”

Mum’s laugh dropped into an expression of confusion. “Er, yes?”

“Yeah, so, Aled made it.”

I realised then that Aled probably wasn’t going to remember having told me that he was the creator of Universe City. Great. Another awkward situation I was going to have to deal with.

“What?” said Mum. “What d’you mean?”

“He sent me that Twitter message. He’s the creator of Universe City. I found out yesterday.”

Mum just stared.

“Yeah,” I said. “I know, right.”


I walked back into my room to find Aled crouching next to the bed, holding a coat hanger like it was a machete. As I entered he spun round to face me, his eyes all wild and his hair – too long – sticking out in all directions from where he’d slept. I guess he looked sort of … well … petrified. Fair enough.

It took me a few seconds to decide what to say.

“Were you … planning to decapitate me with a coat hanger?”

He blinked once, and then lowered his weapon and stood up straight, his terror subsiding a little. I gave him a once-over – of course, he was still in the same outfit as last night, Daniel’s burgundy jumper, and dark jeans, but for the first time I noticed that he was wearing these really excellent lime green plimsolls with fluorescent purple laces and I really wanted to ask him where he’d got them.

“Oh. Frances Janvier,” he said. And he still pronounced my surname correctly.

Then he let a long breath out and sat down on my bed.

It was like I was seeing an entirely different person. Now that I knew he was the Creator, the voice of Radio Silence, he didn’t even look like Aled Last any more – not the Aled Last I knew. Not Daniel Jun’s silent shadow, not the boy who didn’t even seem to have a personality at all. Not the boy who just smiled and agreed with you whatever you said to him and generally, to be honest, seemed to be the most boring, basic individual in the known universe.

He was Radio Silence. He’d been making a YouTube show for over two years. A beautiful, limitless, explosion of a story.

I was on the verge of having a fangirl meltdown, for Christ’s sake. How embarrassing is that?

“Jesus Christ,” he said. His voice was so quiet now he was sober, it was like he wasn’t quite used to normal conversation or something, like he had to force himself to speak out loud. “I thought I’d been kidnapped.” Then he put his face in his hands, elbows on his knees.

He stayed like that for quite a while. I stayed standing awkwardly in the doorway.

“Er … sorry,” I said, though I wasn’t sure what I was apologising for. “You, like, you did ask. I didn’t just lure you into my house. I didn’t have any ulterior motives.” He looked up at me, eyes wide again, and I groaned. “Oh, yeah, sounds like something someone with ulterior motives would say.”

“This is really awkward,” he said, his mouth twisting into a sort of half-smile. “I’m the one who should be apologising.”

“Yeah, this is really awkward.”

“Do you want me to just leave?”

“Er …” I paused. “Well, I’m not gonna, like, stop you from leaving. I’m seriously not a kidnapper.”

Aled gave me a long look.

“Wait,” he said. “We didn’t … did we, like, hook up?”

The idea sounded so completely idiotic that I actually let out a laugh. In hindsight, I think that might have been a bit rude.

“Oh, no. No. You’re good.”

“Okay,” he said. He looked down and I couldn’t really tell what he was thinking. “Yeah. That’d be really weird.”

There was a pause again. I needed to say something about Universe City before he went. He clearly didn’t remember anything about that. I’m a rubbish liar, and I can’t keep secrets either.

He finally put down the coat hanger that he’d been clutching in one hand.

“You have a really cool room, by the way,” he said shyly. He nodded towards my Welcome to Night Vale poster. “I love Welcome to Night Vale.”

Of course he did. Welcome to Night Vale was another Internet podcast show that I adored, just like I did Universe City. I preferred Universe City though – I liked the characters more.

“I didn’t know you were into stuff like that,” he continued.

“Oh.” I wasn’t sure where he was going with this. “Well, yeah.”

“I just thought you … you know … liked studying and … erm … being head girl, and … yeah.”

“Oh, right.” I let out an awkward laugh. School was my life and soul and everything about me. So I guess he was right. “Well, yeah … my grades are pretty important, and being head girl and stuff … like, I’m applying to Cambridge, so I need to— I have to study quite a lot, so … yeah.”

He watched me as I spoke, nodding slowly, and said, “Ah, yeah, fair enough,” but it didn’t sound like he cared half as much about that as he had about my Welcome to Night Vale poster. He then realised he was staring, so he looked down and said, “Sorry, I’m making this even weirder.” He stood up, flattening his hair with one hand. “I’ll just leave. It’s not like we’re gonna see each other much any more.”


“Because I’ve left school and stuff.”



We stared at each other. It was so awkward. My pyjama bottoms had Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on them.

“You told me you make Universe City,” I said so quickly that I was immediately scared he hadn’t heard me. My reasoning was that since there was no easy way to bring this up, I might as well just blurt it out. This is how I get through most of my life.

Aled said nothing, but his face dropped and he actually stepped backwards a little.

“I told you …” he said, but his voice drifted into silence.

“I don’t know how much you remember, but, like, I’m literally …” I stopped myself before I said something that made me sound truly insane. “I really, really love your show. I’ve been listening to it since it started.”

“What?” he said, and he sounded genuinely surprised. “But that’s, like, over two years …”

“Yeah.” I laughed. “How weird is that?”

“That’s really …” His voice got a little louder. “That’s really cool.”

“Yeah, I seriously love it, like, I don’t know, the characters are all just so well-rounded and relatable. Especially Radio, the whole agender thing is literal genius, like, when the girl voice first appeared I listened to the episode, like, twenty times. But it’s so good when you’re not sure whether it’s a boy voice or a girl voice, those are amazing. I mean … none of the voices are girl or boy voices, are they? Radio doesn’t have a gender. Anyway, yeah, the sidekicks are all so brilliant as well, but there’s not all the Doctor Who sexual tension, they’re just their own people, and it’s so good how they’re not always BFFs with Radio, sometimes they’re enemies. And every single story is so hilarious but you really can’t guess what’s going to happen, but all the ongoing plots are good too, like, I still have no idea why Radio can’t take their gloves off or what’s being kept in the Dark Blue Building or whether Radio’s ever going to meet Vulpes, and I’m not even gonna bother asking you about the February Friday conspiracy because, like, that would ruin the whole thing. Yeah, it’s just … it’s so good, I can’t explain how much I love it. Seriously.”

Throughout this, Aled’s eyes got wider and wider. Halfway through, he sat back down on to my bed. Near the end, he covered his hands with his sleeves. When I’d finished, I instantly regretted everything.

“I’ve never met a fan of the show before,” he said, his voice quiet again, almost inaudible. And then he laughed. He brought his hand up to cover his mouth like he had last night, and I wondered, not for the first time, why he did that.

I glanced to one side.

“Also …” I continued, thinking that was when I was going to tell him that I was Toulouse, the fan artist that he contacted on Twitter. It flashed through my head, me telling him, him freaking out, me showing him my thirty-seven sketchbooks, him freaking out even more, him calling me weird, him running away, me never seeing him ever again.

I shook my head. “Erm, I forgot what I was about to say.”

Aled lowered his hand. “Okay.”

“You should have seen my face yesterday when you told me,” I said, with a forced laugh.

He smiled, but he looked nervous.

I looked down. “So … yeah. Anyway. Erm. You can go home now, if you want. Sorry.”

“Don’t apologise,” he said, in that whispery voice.

It took quite a lot of effort not to say sorry for saying sorry.

He stood up, but didn’t go to walk out of the door. He looked like he wanted to say something, but didn’t know which words to choose.

“Or … I could get you some breakfast? If you want? No pressure, you don’t have to …”

“Ah … I’d feel bad,” he said, but he was smiling faintly and for the first time I felt like I knew what he was thinking.

“It’s fine. People don’t come round my house very often, so, erm … it’s nice!” I realised how sad I sounded as soon as I said it.

“Okay,” he said. “If you don’t mind.”


He glanced around my room one last time. I saw him spot my desk and the messy worksheets and revision notes scattered everywhere, including on the floor. He looked at my bookshelves, which had a mix of classic literature I was planning to read for my Cambridge interview and some DVDs on them, including the entire Studio Ghibli collection Mum got me for my sixteenth birthday. He looked outside my window towards his house. I didn’t know which window of his house belonged to him.

“I never told anyone about Universe City,” he said, glancing back at me. “I thought they’d think I was weird.”

There were a hundred things I could have said in reply to that, but I just said:


And then we were silent again. I think we were just trying to absorb what was happening. To this day I have no idea whether he was particularly happy about this revelation. Sometimes I think maybe everything would have been better if I’d never told him that I knew. Other times I think it’s the best thing I’d ever said in my whole life.

“So … breakfast?” I said, because there was no way this conversation, this meeting, this stupidly extreme coincidence was ending here.

“Yeah, okay,” he said, and though his voice was still all quiet and shy, he really sounded like he did want to stay, just so he could talk to me for a bit longer.


He actually didn’t stay for very long. I think he was aware that I was having an internal breakdown at this entire situation, but I made him some toast anyway and tried not to bombard him with questions even though I wanted to. After I’d asked who knew about Universe City (only Daniel) and why he’d started making it (he was bored) and how he did all the voice effects (editing software), I thought I’d better try to calm down, so I just got myself some cereal and sat opposite him at the breakfast bar. It was May, not quite summer, but the morning sun was burning into my eyes through the kitchen window.

We talked about the classic stuff like school and study leave and how much revision we’d each done. We’d both done our art exams, but he still had English lit, history and maths, and I still had English lit, history and politics. He was predicted all A*s, which was unsurprising for someone who’d got into one of the top universities in the country, and he said that for some reason he wasn’t really very stressed about his exams. I did not mention that I was so stressed that I was losing more hair in the shower than I probably should have been.

At one point he asked if I had any painkillers, and I suddenly noticed that his eyes were pretty bloodshot and watery and he hadn’t really eaten much of the toast. I’ve always been able to remember what he looked like on that first day at my breakfast bar. In the sunlight, his hair and his skin looked almost the same colour.

“Do you go out a lot?” I asked, handing over some paracetamol and a glass of water.

“No,” he said. Then he laughed a little. “I don’t really like going out, to be honest. I’m a bit of a loser.”

“I don’t either,” I said. “Last night was my first time at Johnny R’s. It was a lot sweatier than I expected.”

He laughed again, hand over his mouth. “Yeah, it’s disgusting.”

“The walls were, like, wet.”


“You probs could have set up a waterslide. I would have enjoyed it more if there was a waterslide, not gonna lie.” I made a weird waterslide gesture with my hands. “Drunk watersliding. I’d pay for that.”

That was a strange thing to say. Why had I said that? I waited for him to give me that ‘Frances, what are you talking about?’ look.

But it didn’t come.

“I’d pay for a drunk bouncy castle,” he said. “Like, there could be a room where the whole floor is a bouncy castle.”

“Or a room that’s basically a children’s play centre.”

“Did you ever go to Monkey Bizz?”


“You know they had that bit at the back with the tyre swings over a ball pit? I’d want that.”

“Oh my God, yes. We should make this, we’d make millions.”

“We really would.”

There was a pause while we were both eating. It wasn’t awkward.

Just before he left, as we were standing in the doorway, I said:

“Where did you get your shoes? They’re so nice.”

He looked at me like I’d told him he’d won the lottery.

“ASOS,” he said.

“Ah, cool.”

“They’re …” He almost didn’t say it. “I know they’re weird. They were in the women’s section.”

“Oh. They don’t look like women’s shoes.” I looked at his feet. “They don’t look like men’s shoes either. They’re just shoes.” I looked back at him and smiled, not quite sure where I was going with this. He was staring at me, his expression now completely unreadable.

“I have a coat from Topman,” I continued. “And I tell you what, the men’s section of Primark is the best for Christmas jumpers.”

Aled Last pulled his sleeves over his hands.

“Thank you for what you said about Universe City,” he said, not quite looking me in the eye. “I just … that really, erm, means a lot to me.”

This was the perfect opportunity to say it to him.

That I was the artist he contacted via Twitter.

But I didn’t know him. I didn’t know how he would react. I thought he was the coolest person I’d ever met, but that didn’t mean I trusted him.

“It’s fine!” I said.

Once he’d waved goodbye and walked off down our drive, the thought hit me that this was probably the longest conversation I’d had with someone my age for at least a few weeks. I thought maybe we could be friends now, but then again, maybe that was a bit weird.

I went back up to my room and I could see my sketchbooks peeking out from underneath my bed and I thought, If only he knew. I thought about Carys, and whether she was something I should bring up – Aled knew we’d been friends. God, he’d been there on the train all that time, hadn’t he?

I thought that I needed to tell him about me being the artist because if I left it too long he might start to hate me and I didn’t want that to happen. Nothing good comes out of lying to people. I should know that by now.


Carys never lied about anything. She also never told the full truth, which felt worse, somehow. Not that I realised that until she was long gone.

She dominated our train conversations with stories about her life. About arguments with her mum and her school friends and teachers. About terrible essays she’d written and exams she’d failed. About sneaking out to parties and getting drunk and all the gossip in her year group. She was everything I wasn’t – she was drama, emotion, intrigue, power. I was nothing. Nothing happened to me.

But she never did tell the full truth and I didn’t notice. I was so dazed by the way she shone so brightly, her incredible stories and her platinum hair, that I didn’t find it weird that she and Aled arrived at the train station separately in the mornings and he walked twenty metres behind us in the afternoons. I didn’t find it weird that they never spoke nor sat together. I didn’t question anything. I wasn’t paying attention.

I was blinded, and I failed, and I’m never letting that happen again.

UNIVERSE CITY: Ep. 2 – skater boy

UniverseCity 84,873 views

I’ll be taking on allies from now on. Until I hear from you, survival will be my priority.

Scroll down for transcript >>>


He has a brilliant bike, I can tell you that. Three wheels and glow-in-the-dark. And of course, it’s useful to have someone around who has the use of his bare hands. I can’t tell you what a pain it is to have to keep these gloves on all the time.

I’m still not sure why I asked for his help. I’ve survived for this long by myself. But since talking to you, I suppose … I suppose I’ve had a slight change of heart.

If I’m to get out of here, I’m going to have to team up with some city folk every now and then. There are things in Universe City that you cannot possibly imagine out there in the real world, creeping around in the metallic dust. Monsters and demons and synthetic abominations.

Every day you hear of the latest fatality – some poor loner wandering back from a lecture, a tired geek in the back corner of the library, a miserable young girl alone in her bed.

And this is what I’m getting at, old sport:

I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s impossible to survive alone in Universe City.



Mum and I were watching The Fifth Element while eating pizza when my phone buzzed, signifying I had a Facebook message. I picked it up, expecting it to be my friends, but nearly choked on pizza crust when I read the name on the screen.

(19:31) Aled Last

hey frances just wanted to say thanks again for taking me home last night, i realise i probably ruined your night … i’m so so sorry xx

(19:34) Frances Janvier

Hey it’s fine!! Don’t worry!! <3

To tell you the truth I didn’t reeeeally want to be there …

And I kiiiinda used you as an excuse to go home not gonna lie

(19:36) Aled Last

ah that’s good then!

i thought it’d be a good idea to get drunk because i was nervous about going to johnny’s but i think i overestimated how much i needed to drink haha

i’ve never been that drunk before

(19:37) Frances Janvier

Don’t worry!! You had Daniel with you as well so it’s all good! he was getting you water when I found you

(19:38) Aled Last

yeah that’s true

(19:38) Frances Janvier


Both of us stayed online for a few minutes after that and I wanted to say something else and I felt like he did too, but neither of us knew what, so I clicked my phone screen off and tried to focus on the film, but all I could think about was him.


The day after that was a Sunday and it was the day I’d decided to start study leave revision and it was the day I got an email from Radio Silence – Aled – while I was midway through a maths question on differentiation.

Radio Silence <>

to me

Hi Toulouse,

Thanks so much for getting back to me on Twitter! I’m so glad you want to work with the show; I’ve been wanting to implement some sort of visual aspect for a while.

The email went on for a few paragraphs and Aled talked about all his ideas for the show – repeating pixel gifs like the ones he’d seen on my blog, or stop-motion drawings on a whiteboard, maybe an update to the Universe City logo if it wasn’t too much responsibility. He asked me whether I was definitely sure I could commit, because he couldn’t let his subscribers down – if I was doing this, I was doing this, I couldn’t back out without a very good reason.

It made me feel sick.

I put my phone down on top of the maths answers I’d been writing in a notebook. The letters of the email and the numbers on the paper all fuzzed together for a moment.

I needed to tell him it was me.

Before I messed up another friendship.


It took until Monday evening for me to come up with a plan.

I was going to ask him about his shoes. That was how I was going to start another conversation with him.

Somehow that was going to turn into me telling him that I was Toulouse, the fan artist that he had emailed about the podcast that I’d already told him I was obsessed with.

Somehow. I didn’t know how.

It’d be fine.

I’m well-practised in the art of bullshitting.

(16:33) Frances Janvier

Aled!! This is really random but I was just wondering where you said you got your shoes from?? I’m kinda obsessed with them and have been scrolling through websites for the past hour lmao

(17:45) Aled Last

hi! oh errr they were from ASOS but they’re a really old pair of Vans, i don’t think you can buy them any more?

(17.49) Frances Janvier

Ah mannn that’s too bad

(17:50) Aled Last


if it’s any consolation Dan always says they look like shoes for 12-year-olds and makes a really disgusted face every time i wear them

(17:52) Frances Janvier

Well, that must be why I like them, most of the things in my wardrobe look like they belong to a 12-year-old. I am 12 years old on the inside

(17:53) Aled Last

whaaat you always dress so professionally for school tho!!

(17:53) Frances Janvier

Oh, yeah … well … gotta keep up my head girl study machine reputation

At home I am all about the burger jumpers and Simpsons shirts

(17:55) Aled Last

burger jumpers?? i need to see these

(17:57) Frances Janvier

[webcam photo of Frances’s jumper that she is currently wearing – it has burgers all over it]

(17:58) Aled Last


that is amazing


i have a jumper from the same website?? i’m literally wearing it right now?

(17:58) Frances Janvier


Show me now

(18:00) Aled Last

[webcam photo of Aled’s jumper that he is currently wearing – it has UFOs on the sleeves]

(18:00) Frances Janvier


I love it

I didn’t know you wore stuff like that?? You’re always in plain stuff when I see you out of uniform

(18:01) Aled Last

yeah i’m always scared people will laugh at me … idk it’s probably silly haha

(18:02) Frances Janvier

No it’s not I’m exactly the same

All of my friends look so cool and beautiful and classy all the time … if I turned up wearing a burger jumper they’d probably just send me home

(18:03) Aled Last

omg your friends sound mean

(18:03) Frances Janvier

Nah they’re cool they’re just … idk I feel a bit different from them sometimes. #specialsnowflake am I right!!!!

(18:04) Aled Last

no it’s all right i know the feeling! haha

In the end we chatted on Facebook until gone 10pm and I completely forgot about telling him I was the artist until 3am when I remembered, and started to panic, and couldn’t fall asleep for another two hours after that.


“You’re an idiot,” said Mum, when I relayed to her the entire situation on Wednesday. “Not an unintelligent idiot, but a sort of naïve idiot who manages to fall into a difficult situation and then can’t get out of it because she’s too awkward.”

“You just described my life.” I was lying down on the lounge carpet working my way through a maths past paper while Mum was watching a How I Met Your Mother rerun, cross-legged on the sofa with a cup of tea in her hands.

She sighed. “You know you just need to say it, don’t you?”

“It feels too major to say over Facebook.”

“Then go to his house. He literally lives across the road.”

“That’s weird, no one knocks unexpectedly on other people’s doors any more.”

“Okay – message him and say you need to go to his house to tell him something important.”

“Mum, that literally sounds like I want to declare my love to him.”

She sighed again. “Well, I don’t know what to say then. You were the one complaining that this is stopping you focusing on your revision. I thought that was important to you.”

“It is!”

“You barely know him! Why is this bothering you so much?”

“We’ve had a long conversation on Monday; it feels awkward to bring it up now.”

“Well that’s life, isn’t it?”

I rolled over so I was facing Mum.

“I feel like we could be friends,” I said. “But I don’t want to mess it up.”

“Oh, sweetheart.” Mum gave me a sympathetic look. “You’ve got lots of other friends.”

“They only like School Frances though. Not Real Frances.”


Despite doing well in all of the exams I have ever taken, I always panic about them. I know that sounds like normal behaviour, but it doesn’t feel normal when you’re reduced to tears because of exponentials and logarithms – a completely useless topic from one of my maths exams. I couldn’t find any notes on it in my folder, and the textbook was useless at explaining anything. I remember absolutely nothing from my maths AS level nowadays.

It was 10.24pm the night before my exam and I was sitting on the lounge floor with my mum, most of my maths notes and textbooks spread out on the floor around us. Mum had her laptop on her lap and was clicking through various websites to see if she could find any decent explanations of what logs were. I was trying not to start crying for the third time that evening.

The idea that I might go down a grade because I physically could not find an explanation of a particular topic made me feel like stabbing myself.

“Do you have anyone you could talk to about this?” Mum asked, still scrolling through Google. “Are any of your friends in your class?”

Maya was in my maths class, but she was terrible at maths and would have no better idea than I did. And even if she did, I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to message her. I’d never messaged her before, discounting group chats.

“No,” I said.

Mum frowned and closed the laptop. “Maybe you should just go to bed, love,” she said in a soft voice. “Being tired for the exam will make everything worse.”

I didn’t know what to say, because I didn’t want to go to bed.

“I don’t think there’s anything you can do. It’s not your fault.”

“I know,” I said.

So I went to bed.

And I just cried.

Which is pretty pathetic, to be honest. Which is what I am. I shouldn’t be surprised at myself.

It would explain why I did what I did that night.

I messaged Aled again.

(00:13) Frances Janvier

Are you awake?

(00:17) Aled Last

hello yes i am? are you ok??

(00:18) Frances Janvier

Ah sorry for just messaging you randomly again …

Just had a bit of a rough evening lol

(00:19) Aled Last

it’s honestly fine!!!! what’s up??

if you’re feeling crap it’s always better to talk about it

(00:21) Frances Janvier

Okay well I’ve got my C2 maths exam tomorrow

And I realised today I missed an entire topic in my revision

And it’s like one of the hardest topics – logarithms?

And I was just wondering (if you’re not doing anything else right now!!) if you knew any decent websites or anything that explained it properly?? I just can’t get my head around it and I feel like shit

(00:21) Aled Last

oh god that’s so horrible

(00:23) Frances Janvier

Like … if I get a B in maths … I don’t even know if Cambridge will want to interview me


This sounds really dumb I know I really shouldn’t be so upset about this haha

(00:23) Aled Last

no i totally get it … there’s nothing more stressful than going into an exam knowing you’re underprepared

let me see if i can find my notes, hang on

(00:24) Frances Janvier

Only if you’re not busy!! I feel really bad asking you but like … you’re the only person I can ask

(00:25) Aled Last

hey maybe this is a crazy idea but

i could come round if you like?

like, right now?

to help?

(00:25) Frances Janvier

Seriously!??? That would be literally amazing

(00:26) Aled Last

yeah! i mean i’m only over the road and i don’t have to get up early tomorrow

(00:27) Frances Janvier

I feel awful, are you sure about this? It’s gone midnight

(00:27) Aled Last

i want to help! you helped me home from johnny’s last week and i feel awful about that so … this makes us even? Haha

(00:27) Frances Janvier

Okay!! Oh wow you are a lifesaver

(00:28) Aled Last

on my way

When I opened the door at half past twelve the night before my C2 maths exam, I immediately gave Aled a hug.

It wasn’t awkward, even though I initiated it and he sort of went, “Oh,” and stepped backwards a little because he wasn’t expecting it.

“Hello,” I said after letting him go.

“Hi,” he said, almost a whisper, and then cleared his throat. He was wearing a Ravenclaw hoodie with grey pyjama shorts, bed socks and his lime green plimsolls, and he was holding a purple ring-binder. “Er, sorry I’m wearing pyjamas.”

I gestured to myself because I was wearing a dressing gown, a stripy T-shirt and Avengers leggings. “No judgement here. I actually live in pyjamas.”

I stepped aside to let him in and then shut the door. He wandered a little way into the hallway before turning to face me.

“Was your mum okay with this?” I asked.

“I may possibly have climbed out of the window.”

“That’s extremely clichéd.”

He smiled. “Okay. So … logs?” He held up the folder. “I brought my notes from last year.”

“I thought you would have burned them or something.”

“I put way too much effort into these to burn them.”

We sat in the lounge for over an hour and Mum made us hot chocolate and, with his tiny voice, Aled explained to me what exponentials and logarithms were and what sorts of questions could come up and how you solved them.

For someone who was so quiet, he was shockingly good at explaining things. He explained everything step by step and made sure we did an example question for each subtopic. For someone like me, who could probably ramble nonstop until I died, it was quite an amazing thing to listen to.

And when we’d finished, I felt like things were going to be okay.

“You’ve literally saved my life,” I said, as I led him to the door again.

Aled looked a little more tired now, a little watery-eyed, and he’d tucked his hair behind his ears.

“Not literally,” he said with a chuckle. “But hopefully I helped.”

I wanted to say he’d done more than that, but it sounded embarrassing.

Because it hit me then what he’d done for me. He’d got up in the middle of the night, in his pyjamas, climbed out of the window of his bedroom to come and help me with one topic of a maths exam. We’d only had a long conversation in person one time before this. Why would anyone do something like that for someone else? For me?

“I have something to tell you,” I said, “but I’ve been too scared to say it.”

Aled’s expression dropped. “You have something to tell me?” he said, instantly nervous.

I took a breath.

“I’m Toulouse,” I said. “Touloser on Twitter and Tumblr. The fan artist you messaged.”

And there was a long pause.

And then he said:

“Is this a lie? Is this … are you just having a joke? Was this Dan’s— Daniel’s idea or something?”

“No, I— it’s … I know it sounds like a joke … but I just didn’t know how to say it. When you told me you were the Creator I, like … I freaked out internally, and, like, I was about to tell you, but I had no idea how you would react and I didn’t want you to hate me.”

“Because I’m the Creator,” he interrupted. “The creator of your favourite YouTube channel.”


“So … okay.” He looked down at his shoes.

He almost looked sad.

“So … have you just … were you just pretending to be nice all this time?” he said, his voice so quiet and soft. “Like … erm … you know, taking me home, and … I don’t know … were you lying about your clothes and stuff? And asking me for help with maths? Just so you could be friends with the creator of your favourite YouTube channel and like … get secret spoiler access or …?”

“What? No! None of this has been a lie, I swear.”

“So why have you been talking to me then?” he said.

At the exact moment he said, “I’m so unimpressive,” I said, “Because you’re cool.”

We looked at each other.

Then he laughed softly and shook his head. “This is so weird.”

“Yeah …”

“I mean, like, this coincidence is insane. This shouldn’t be happening right now. We live opposite each other. We have the same taste in clothes.”

I just nodded.

“You’re head girl and you do fan art secretly?” he said.

I nodded again and resisted the urge to apologise.

“Am I the only person who knows?” he said.

I nodded a third time and we both had a moment of understanding.

“Okay,” he said, and then bent down to put his shoes on.

I watched him tie his laces, and then he stood up.

“You— I don’t have to do it, if you don’t want,” I said. “If it’s too awkward.”

He pulled his sleeves over his hands. “What d’you mean?”

“I mean, if it’s weird to let me do the Universe City art … I mean, I could just never see you again, you can ask someone else, someone you don’t know. I don’t mind.”

His eyes widened. “I don’t want to never see you again.” Then he shook his head slightly. “I want you to do the art.”

And I believed him. I really did.

He wanted to see me again and he wanted me to do the art.

“Are you sure? I don’t mind if you don’t want me to …”

“I do!”

I tried and failed to contain a grin. “Okay.”

He nodded, and we looked at each other for a moment, and though I think he might have wanted to say something else, he turned around and opened the door. He looked back one more time before he left. “I’ll message you tomorrow.”


“Good luck with your exam.” He waved slightly and then left. I shut the door and turned around.

Mum was standing behind me, looking at me.

“Well done,” she said, with a small smile.

“What?” I said, dazed, trying to replay everything that had just happened before I forgot it all.

“You told him.”


“He didn’t hate you.”


I stood very still.

“Are you okay?” said Mum.

“I just … have no idea what he’s thinking. Like ninety-nine per cent of the time.”

“Yeah, he’s that sort of person.”

“What sort of person?”

“The sort of person who doesn’t speak spontaneously.” She folded her arms. “Who won’t say anything if you don’t ask.”


“D’you like him?” she said.

I blinked, not quite understanding the question. “Erm, yes, obviously?”

“No, I mean like him.”

I blinked again. “Oh. Er, I haven’t thought about it.”

And then I did think about it.

And realised that I didn’t like him in that way at all.

And it didn’t matter.

“No, I don’t think so,” I said. “That’s a bit irrelevant, isn’t it?”

Mum frowned a little. “Irrelevant to what?”

“I don’t know, just irrelevant.” I stepped past her and started trudging upstairs, saying, “What a random question.”


We didn’t see each other in person for a while after that, but we carried on messaging each other on Facebook. Tentative ‘how are you’s became angry rants about TV shows and even though we had really only hung out with each other twice, it felt like we were friends. Friends who barely knew anything about each other except the other’s most private secret.

I just sort of want to say something before we continue.

You probably think that Aled Last and I are going to fall in love or something. Since he is a boy and I am a girl.

I just wanted to say –

We don’t.

That’s all.


The only person I’ve had an actual crush on in my life is Carys Last. Well, unless you count people I didn’t know in real life, such as Sebastian Stan, Natalie Dormer, Alfie Enoch, Kristen Stewart, etc. Not that Carys was particularly more attainable than any of those.

I think the main reason I had a crush on her was because she was pretty, and I think the secondary reason I had a crush on her was because she was the only queer girl I knew.

Which is a bit silly, the more I think about it.

“So I was chatting to this girl from the Academy, super pretty, and–– wait.” Carys paused and stared at me. This was probably two months after we started sitting together on the train. I felt very stressed about it every single morning and afternoon because she was very intimidating and I was scared about saying something stupid in front of her. “You know I’m gay, don’t you?”

I did not know.

She raised her eyebrows, probably at my expression of absolute shock. “Ah, I thought everyone knew that!” She rested her chin in her hand, her elbow on the table between us, and gazed at me. “That’s funny.”

“I’ve never met any gay people before,” I said, “or bisexual people.”

I almost added ‘apart from me’, but stopped myself at the last minute.

“You probably have,” she said, “you just didn’t know that they were gay.”

The way she said it was like she’d met every person in the entire world.

She fluffed up her fringe with one hand and said in a spooky voice, “We are out there.”

I laughed, not knowing what to say.

She continued her story about the girl from the Academy and how she thought people were generally more homophobic at the Academy because it was a mixed school rather than an all-girls’ school like ours, but I found it difficult to concentrate because I was trying to process what she had told me. It took me a moment to realise that my primary feeling about it was actually jealousy. She was living the teenage experience and I was doing homework every evening until midnight.

I hated her for having everything sorted and I admired her for being perfect.

I had a crush on her and I couldn’t help it, but I didn’t have to kiss her.

I didn’t have to and I shouldn’t have.

But that didn’t stop me kissing Carys Last, one day in the summer two years ago, and ruining everything.


On the morning of my first history exam, something pretty surprising happened.

Daniel Jun came to talk to me.

I was in the biggest room in the sixth form area, pretentiously named the ‘Independent Learning Centre’, or ILC, instead of what it actually was – a common room. I was reading some mind maps I’d made the week before, trying to memorise all the effects of the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan (not an easy task at 8.20am), when he strode over to me, winding his body through the tables of last-minute-panic revisers.

Daniel really did think he was the ruler of the school even though we were head boy and girl, and he frequently went on long rants about capitalism on Facebook.

I found it bizarre that someone as mellow and kind as Aled Last could be best friends with someone as horrendous as Daniel Jun.

“Frances,” he said, as he reached my table, and I looked up from my mind maps.

“Daniel,” I said, with obvious suspicion.

He leaned on my table with one hand, but not before moving my mind maps swiftly away to make room.

“Have you spoken to Aled recently?” he said, running a hand through his hair.

That was completely not the question that I was expecting.

“Have I spoken to Aled recently?” I repeated.

Daniel raised his eyebrows.

“Well, we talk to each other on Facebook sometimes,” I said, “and he helped me with some revision last week.”

This was true, even though ‘sometimes’ meant every day, and ‘helped me with some revision’ meant literally came to my house for two hours in the middle of the night in his pyjamas even though we’d only spoken properly in person once before.

“Right,” said Daniel. He nodded and looked down, but didn’t move. I stared at him. His gaze moved towards my mind maps. “What’s that?”

“This is a mind map, Daniel,” I said, trying not to get too annoyed. I didn’t want to be in a bad mood in my history exam. Writing about the division of Germany for two hours was sad enough.

“Oh,” he said, looking at it as if it were a pile of vomit. “Okay.”

I sighed. “Daniel, I really need to revise. It would be really great if you could go away.”

He stood up straight again. “Fine, fine.” But he didn’t move. He just kept staring at me.

“What?” I said.

“Did …”

He paused. I stared. A new expression appeared on his face, and it took a moment for me to realise that it was worry.

“I just haven’t seen much of him for a while,” he said, and as he said it, his voice sounded different, softer, not like himself.


“Has he said anything about me to you?”

Daniel stood, without moving, for a second more.

“Nope,” I said. “Did you have an argument or something?”

“No,” he said, but I wasn’t sure whether he was telling the truth. He turned to walk away.

But then he stopped and turned back.

“What grades do you need to get? For Cambridge?”

“A*AA,” I said. “How about you?”


“Oh, is it more for science?”

“I don’t know.”

We stared at each other for a moment, and then he shrugged and said, “Okay, bye,” and walked off.

Maybe if I’d known what I know now, I would have said something to Aled. Would have asked him more about Daniel, about their relationship. Or maybe I wouldn’t. I don’t know. It’s done now.


“Frances? Hello?”

I glanced up. Maya was looking at me from across our lunch table.

Our exams had come to an end and I was back at school. This meant we were starting our new A2 classes and I didn’t want to let my concentration slip and miss out on any important information so I didn’t think I’d get much time to see Aled before the summer holidays, but we’d agreed to meet up at the weekend anyway, and to be honest, I was pretty excited about it.

“Did you hear any of that?” continued Maya.

I had been doing some maths questions from the textbook. Homework that most people didn’t do, but I always did.

“Er, no,” I said, embarrassed.

My friends laughed.

“We were just thinking about going to the cinema on Saturday,” said someone else. “You in?”

I glanced around for Raine, but she wasn’t there.

“I think …” I paused. “Er, I’ve got too much work to do. I’ll have to let you know.”

My friends laughed again.

“Classic Frances,” said one, just in a teasing way, but it still hurt a bit. “Don’t worry.”

The irony was that I actually didn’t have any work to do at the weekend. We’d just finished our AS exams and we’d only just started our A2 courses.

But I was seeing Aled on Saturday and, to be honest, even though I’d only been speaking to him for a month, mostly on Facebook, I’d rather have hung out with him.

I was boring when I was with my school friends. I was quiet, work-obsessed, boring School Frances.

I wasn’t like that when I was with Aled.


The next time we saw each other in person after the midnight logarithms session was at his house, the Saturday of the week I went back to school. I didn’t even feel nervous, which I found a bit weird because, as previously mentioned, I was usually nervous when seeing my school friends, let alone a guy I’d known properly for about four weeks.

I stood in front of his door and checked I wasn’t wearing anything ridiculous by accident and then rang the doorbell.

He opened it within two seconds.

“Hi!” he said, with a smile.

His appearance was markedly different to the last time I’d seen him. His hair was longer, covering his ears and eyebrows completely now, and gone were the mismatched hoodie and shorts – he was back in plain jeans and a T-shirt. They didn’t seem to suit him.

“Hi,” I said. I sort of wanted to give him a hug, but I sensed that might be a bit awkward.

Despite being friends with Aled’s twin sister for a year, I’d never been inside their house. Aled gave me a tour. There was a to-do list blackboard and a chores rota in the kitchen, fake flowers in vases covering the windowsills and surfaces, and a greying Labrador named Brian who loped after us until we went upstairs. Aled’s mum wasn’t home.

His room, on the other hand, was a treasure cavern. Every other room in his house was cream and brown, but his room had no visible wall due to all the posters, fairy lights covering the ceiling and the bed, several houseplants, a whiteboard with scribbles all over it, and no less than four different beanbags. He had a blanket on his bed that had the pattern of a city at night on it.

He seemed pretty nervous about letting me in his room. The floor, desk and bedside table were bare, like he’d tidied up and hidden things before I’d arrived. I tried not to stare too long at any particular part of the room and sat down on his desk chair – a safer option than the bed. Bedrooms are windows to the soul.

Aled sat down on his bed and crossed his legs. His bed was a single, less than half the size of my bed, but Aled wasn’t very tall – we were the same height – so it was probably okay.

“So!” I said. “Universe City! Art! Planning! Stuff!”

I clapped my hands in between each word and Aled grinned and looked down. “Yes …”

We’d agreed to meet on that day to have a ‘meeting’ about Universe City. I specifically used the word ‘meeting’ when I suggested meeting up. It felt a bit weird to just ask him to hang out with me because I wanted to see him. Even though that was true.

Aled opened his laptop. “I was just looking at your blog because there’s a few particular drawings that I