"I am the champion! I am the tops! Nobody can beat me!" chanted Abby. She danced down the road holding the silver trophy high in the air. It was as big as her head. And it had her name on it.
"We are the champions," said Liam, walking behind her. "Us. Two of us. It was doubles, remember?"
Her older brother was not nearly as excited about the trophy as Abby. He did not dance: he trudged.
"I played the winning shot!" she reminded him.
"And I made eighty per cent of the other winning shots. That means eighty out of a hundred. Four out of five."
"I know what per cent means! Anyway, you didn't."
"Yes, I did, and you know it," growled Liam. "I won four times as many points as you because I'm four times as good."
"No, you're not!"
"Yes, I am," said Liam. "So I should have the trophy. Give it here."
With three loping strides, he caught her up and tried to wrench the trophy from her grasp.
Abby shrieked like a steam train. She kicked him in the shins and sprinted off with the trophy. Although she was three and a half years younger than Liam and a good deal smaller, she was quicker off the mark. The more Liam grew, the clumsier he seemed to get.
So she reached their house a fraction before he did. She burst through the door, yelling,
"Mum Mum MUM look look LOOK! I won, we won the trophy, isn't it beautiful?"
She thrust it out to show Mum her name.
"Wow," said Mum. As Liam came in, Abby hugged the trophy to her chest.
"I want to put it in my room," said Liam.
Abby shrieked like a steam train again.
"NO!" said Mum, clapping her hands to her ears."Not in the house."
"Sorry," said Abby. "But why? Why should Liam have it? I've never won a trophy before, and I'm younger than he is. Why can't I keep it?"
"We can put it in the living room," said Mum.
"He'll nick it."
"She'll nick it."
They glared at each other.
"Here," commanded Mum. She held out her hands. Reluctantly Abby placed the trophy in them.
"I am not having a ping-pong ding-dong in this house," Mum announced firmly.
"It's table tennis," said Liam.
"Whatever." Mum took off her glasses and peered at the lettering. "That's very good. Well done to you both. I see Liam's name is first, so he gets to keep the trophy first."
"Yes!" Liam punched the air.
Abby was appalled. She opened her mouth to shriek, and then thought better of it. Instead she shouted at the top of her voice.
"That is so unfair! That's just because he's older! He gets everything first, because he's older."
"And better," said Liam.
"Stop it, Abby," said Mum. "You are not five. Liam gets to look after the trophy for a week. Then you get it for a week."
"But that's too late!" yelled Abby.
"Too late for what?"
"The prize assembly in school! It's on Friday!"
"Tough," said Liam.
Mum took her glasses off again and rubbed her eyes. She looked tired. "Abby, they have a prize assembly every month. You can take the trophy in when it's your turn to look after it. Or if you're very nice to your brother, he might let you have it this Friday."
"No chance," said Liam. "She kicked me."
Abby turned round and kicked him again. Mum handed the trophy to him over Abby's head. Liam grabbed it and ran upstairs.
"Abby, you are grounded for kicking," Mum told her sternly.
"I hate Liam."
"No, you don't. You're just not good at sharing."
Abby did not attempt to answer this. She did not want to think about it. Instead she said, "Can I be grounded in the garage?"
Mum sighed. "If you must. Anywhere that Liam isn't."
"Excellent!" Abby ran off to the garage, leaving Mum shaking her head.
There was no car in the garage. It was not actually big enough for a car: as Mum said, once you'd driven in, you would have no room to open the car doors and would therefore be trapped inside for ever. Abby had declared that having a car with a sun-roof, or possibly a built-in blowtorch, would solve this problem. Having any sort of car would be nice, said Mum.
Instead of car, the garage was full of ping-pong table. You had to climb over or under it to get to the other end. Over was easier, because under it were toolboxes and paint tins. However, this did mean that there was a long crack in the table, as well as several dents and scratches.
Abby crawled over the table and set up her smash-board at the far end. This was a sheet of hardboard which Mum had cut for her so that she could practise against herself.
Then she crawled around the floor to collect the scattered ping-pong balls. When she had twenty-three, she began to practise her smashes. She was already pretty good at smashes and really should, she knew, be trying to master topspin: but she felt more like smashes.
Today the smash-board was Liam. He was hopeless. Lame. He returned her smashes with limping shots that barely made it back across the table. She smashed again and wiped him out.
After ten minutes of this she felt better. She felt calm enough to sit on the table cross-legged and contemplate revenge.
She would get that trophy. Easy. Liam's bedroom door had no lock.
No, not so easy. She couldn't just walk in and take the trophy: Liam would complain to Mum, who would make her give it straight back.
Abby let out a deep sigh of longing. She wanted to see that trophy. To hold it. To read again those magical words engraved on the silver surface: Winners. And her name.
It occurred to her that Liam might well hide it. But if she found out where it was, she could sneak it out of the house on Friday morning and take it into school for prize assembly. Liam would be as mad as a wasp in a bottle, but so what?
"Easy peasy," said Abby. "Lemon squeezy. Nothing is too hard for me. I am ingenious. Bring on the ping-pong ding-dong. I want that trophy - and I'm going to get it."
Abby told everybody at school about winning the trophy. She wasn't sure if they were all that interested, but it was important. They needed to know.
Especially Maya, who went horse-riding and was inclined to be snooty about it. She was always going up in prize assembly to be given rosettes that she had won.
"It's only ping-pong," Maya said.
"Table tennis," corrected Abby. "It's an Olympic sport."
Maya rolled her eyes in an incredibly annoying way. "It's not a sport at all, if you ask me," she said.
"I don't ask you," said Abby.
"How many people were in the competition? One?"
Abby thought about kicking her. "Loads," she said. "It was a proper tournament at the sports centre. We had to play six matches."
"My brother Liam helped me."
Maya looked down her nose. "My brother Bradley plays football with your brother. He says he's got two left feet."
Abby was startled. "Well, he's good at table tennis."
"Ping-pong," corrected Maya. "I bet it's not a real trophy. I bet it's a little pimple, just like you."
"I am not! And it's this big!" Abby cried. "You'll see, on Friday. I'm going to bring it in for prize assembly."
Maya shrugged and strolled away.
"She didn't have a smart answer for that!" said Abby with satisfaction to her friend Kate.
Kate was quiet, as always. Miss Lewis said she didn't have much choice when Abby was around. Now Kate said, "Is it a real trophy?"
"Of course it is! I'll show you it on Friday," Abby assured her.
If she told enough people, she reckoned it would have to happen. She could say to Mum, "I've told everybody I'm going up in assembly on Friday. So I've got to have the trophy now!" And Mum would be forced to agree.
That evening, over tea, she said, "I've told everybody I'm going up in assembly on Friday. So I've got to have the trophy now!"
"Then you'd better untell them," said Mum. "And tell them again next month. Don't you dare scream at the tea-table."
Abby managed to restrain herself. She wanted to finish her pizza. But it turned to cardboard and old socks in her mouth as she thought of how Maya would sneer on Friday, if she arrived at school with no trophy.
She turned to Liam. "Dear dear lovely favourite brother, I'm ever so sorry I kicked you, and I'll share my pocket money with you and I promise not to kick you any more for, ooh, three weeks, if you'll only-"
"No," said Liam.
"But you don't-"
"Yes, I do," said Liam, "and the answer is No."
"I only want it two days early!"
"No, NO, NO. It's mine for a week. That's not much to ask." He pushed his chair back.
"Neither is borrowing it for one measly morning!" yelled Abby after him. But Liam had grabbed his last slice of pizza and marched out.
Abby turned to her mother. "Mu-um!" she wailed.
Mum helped herself calmly to more salad. "You're reaping what you've sown, Abby. And you have sown an awful lot of kicks. It's entirely up to Liam what he does with the trophy."
Abby smouldered. It was absolutely, totally not fair. But it was also obvious that Mum and Liam had no intention of being fair. It was up to her to impose fairness.
So after tea she skulked in her bedroom, waiting for the right moment. She heard Liam go downstairs to use Mum's computer; he didn't yet have his own.
As soon as the coast was clear, Abby scuttled out of her room. Liam's door was slightly ajar.
She inspected it carefully. Yep, sure enough, he'd done exactly what she would do herself. The door was booby-trapped with a lunchbox balanced on top of it.
Abby fetched the laundry basket from the bathroom and stood on top of it. She held the lunchbox steady while she opened the door wide enough to lift it down.
It was full of forks. "Nice one," she muttered. Prickly and clattery at the same time. She tossed them in the now somewhat squashed laundry basket and returned it to the bathroom.
Tiptoeing back to Liam's room, she saw the trophy straight away. It had pride of place on the shelf above his bed. On the point of running over to it, Abby stopped.
This is too easy, she thought. What would I do next?
She looked down.
In the middle of the floor there was a multicoloured rug. All over the rug, well-camouflaged, were marbles. One more step and she'd have gone flying.
She picked a way around them carefully. She knelt on Liam's bed, reached up for the trophy: seized it, hugged it, screamed.
Mum came bounding up the stairs and burst into the room.
"What have you done? Have you hurt yourself?"
Numbly, Abby held out the trophy. It slid from her hands. Mum caught it deftly before it hit the floor. "Oh," she said.
Abby couldn't speak properly. The words lurched and staggered out.
"Look what, look what he's d-done to my tr-trophy! He's slimed it! He's ruined it!"
Mum wiped a cautious finger round the trophy. It was slick with something greasy and transparent. She sniffed.
"Vaseline," she said. "Liam?"
He was behind her, grinning widely. "Gotcher," he told Abby.
Mum held it out at arm's length. "Wash this. Now."
"She shouldn't have been in my room," said Liam, taking the greased trophy. "Little sneak. Little thief. Little sneak-thief."
"Half of it is mine!" yelled Abby.
"I don't know what to do with you," said Mum.
"Why me? I didn't slime the trophy. You never say I don't know what to do with Liam!" shouted Abby.
"Do not go in his room," commanded Mum. "And do not touch that trophy. You can have it in a week."
"Six days," corrected Abby. "Am I grounded?"
"Why can't the pair of you just get on?" asked Mum despairingly. "You should be a team. You won a tournament together, for goodness sake." She ran her hands through her hair.
"He's a drongo," Abby said.
"She's a muppet," yelled Liam from the bathroom.
Mum took her hands from her head and looked at them. "Oh, good grief. Now I'll have to wash my hair."
"You can't," called Liam. "The trophy's in the shower."
"Can I be grounded in the garage?" demanded Abby.
Mum closed her eyes. "I think you'd better."
Abby raced down to the garage. Her smash-board was still in place, and she needed it badly.
"That trophy's mine," she panted as she smashed a ball. "It's mine, you drongo muppet. You're a loser. You're a pimple. You've got two left feet. It's mine, mine, mine."
Want to read more? The whole book is too long to fit on one webpage.
However, you can read it all on screen at the Smashwords website here.