The morning sun's rays streamed in through the window, a slight breeze waving the trees. I blinked, adjusting myself to the light, and squinted. The TV was still on – BBC news. I got up, and rested on my elbows. I couldn't fully get up since Alfie was on my stomach. I smiled. "Good morning." I croaked out, my voice raspy.
"'Morning." Imogen mumbled, rolling over to her side, and blinking up at me. "It's a surprise we slept. What time is it?"
Apparently Maryam was awake too. Eyes closed, she said, "Seven o'clock."
Imogen and I shared a look. Maryam's such a weirdo.
"It's too early." Imogen groaned suddenly.
"I know, but what about the pancakes we promised each other last night?" I asked Imogen, raising my eyebrows. "Mine are amazing. And we have to go to school too, get up." I picked up Alfie, ruffled his fur, and put him on the couch, where he slowly woke up.
"Ugh. Can we just say we're sick?" Imogen said, pretending to sneeze. I kicked then both softly.
And as slow as sloths, they obeyed. "Mum put out clothes for you guys, but if you don't like them, you can hunt for some other stuff in my closet." I told them. They nodded groggily and rubbed their eyes.
I swiftly ran up to my bathroom, freshened up and put two dashes of mascara. I looked at my mascara brush. Ella had gifted it to me on my eleventh birthday. She had said I look good in mascara. Heart feeling heavy, I washed off the mascara and put on another one that I had bought myself.
Quickly, I changed into a dress, draping a cardigan over my bare arms. I checked the time. Seven thirty. Dang.
Grabbing my converse – I didn't care if it matched or not – and ran back downstairs. On the way, Grams told me that Mum had gone to an interview to get a job. It was surprising that she had already. I don't remember her getting a phone call or anything of that sort. But then again, Mum's very secretive.
I met Maryam and Imogen in the kitchen, both downing bananas. "Oh, you guys were quick."
"I know, we're great."
We had pancakes, and soon, after packing our bags, we left for school.
"Right everyone, we'll be having a pop quiz today, so pull out your pencils!" Mr Hikings exclaimed. He looked unusually happy today. I did as he asked and rolled my eyes up to the ceiling. "You have twenty minutes, it's very short."
He handed out the papers, tossing a half-smile in my direction. Mr Hikings. Just smiled at me. Mr Hikings just smiled at me. I thought he hated me!
Since his mood was so joyous, I decided not to ruin it. I turned to Duncan, who's hand was at the back of his neck, and a frown etched on his face. "Please don't annoy me." I said flatly, "Or get me in deten–"
"Ms Portman?" A deep voice bellowed.
Duncan winced at me and gave me a crooked smile. I scowled at him, and slowly turned around. "Yes?"
"What might be the problem?" Mr Hikings asked, staring into my soul.
"Nothing," I said, and quickly making up a lie, added, "I was just telling Duncan how excited I am for this quiz."
He speculated me, nodded curtly, and stood back at the front of the room. "You may begin."
When was America founded?
I wish I had paid attention in class.
First part of the school day was over, and I headed to the cafeteria, Imogen and Maryam with me. "You guys go ahead, I'll be right back." I said, suddenly turning around and leaving. I could feel their eyes on me, but I brushed it off.
Weaving through the many kids in the hallway, I stumbled upon Duncan. Just the person I wanted to see. I looked up at him.
"Uh, hi?" he looked at me warily. "You're looking at me like I have two heads, what happened?"
I smirked. "What happened to you? Ever since I came back, you’ve been kinder to me, and I noticed you haven’t been poking me in class.” It really was true, he seemed different all of a sudden. As if he had switched souls with someone.
“Um… I, uh, heard about your mother.” he said quickly.
Taking in a breath as what he said settled in, I said, “Are you pitying me?”
“N-no, of course not!” he stuttered, blushing. “I… No. I’m not.”
“Good.” I turned on my heel and stormed off, my cheeks warm and pink. Who told who and when?
When I sat at the table my friends were sitting at, they gaped at me and Imogen spoke up, “You look like you just got into a fight.” she commented.
“Who told Duncan – and God knows how many others – about Mum?” I seethed. “Duncan’s starting to change his attitude towards me because now I have a mum. Wasn’t he supposed to pity me before I found out about Mum?” I jabbered.
“Julia… Social media is a thing nowadays in case you haven’t noticed.” Maryam said as quiet as a mouse. “Also, your face is really pink and I feel like you’re going to blow up.”
Seeing her cower, I softened a bit. “Sorry. It’s just… How does everyone else know?” I asked, holding my head in my hands. My stomach rumbled and I stole a fry from Maryam’s plate, and she slid the latter closer to me.
“I mean, would you rather have him poking you all day long?” Imogen pointed out. I shook my head.
“It’s fine, Julie. Don’t stress it.” Maryam patted my hand.
I smiled at her uncomfortabley. “Yeah. I guess.”
On my way out to the field for track, I bumped into Ella. “Watch where you’re going.” No one was around, and I felt hurt at the scowl she threw at me. As if we’d never talked. But this was my only chance…
“I’m sorry about your –” I started.
“Don’t.” she held up her hand. “Stop.”
“Just shut up!”
I flinched at her tone. She walked away, and got ready on the race track. As she walked, I watched her brown hair swish in the wind. She still had a strand of pink-dyed-hair at the back – I had done it for her last year. My heart ached as she joined Maddie and laughed at something she said. I sighed. This was going to be a hard period.
The hour dragged as Ella and Maddie giggled and laughed, the latter’s clique around the two like bodyguards. After a while, it was time to go home. I showered real quick in the locker room and grabbed my clothes and backpack.
I added Samantha to the group chat that Imogen, Maryam and I were on and texted them to meet me at the front gates. The only notification before the one I just made was “Ella Rowe left the group chat” and a picture of her and her mom grinning. I sighed.
Samantha: already there
Imogen: packing up
I dropped my phone into my cardigan’s pocket and jogged around the school to the front. Maryam and Samantha were both sitting on the bench, talking. “Hey.” I said as I reached them. “Ready to go to my place?” I asked.
As soon as the words left my mouth, Imogen came running up to us. “Oh my god, guys!” Her face had turned pink. “Come, look at what’s happening!” she rushed to the back of the school, into the field.
Samantha, Maryam and I shared looks and followed her there. I gasped at the scene in front of me. Mark and Duncan were fighting.
There was a crowd, cheering them on. Why did everyone have to cheer on fights? I panicked. Who to help? Mark? Duncan?
I rushed to Duncan’s side, who was on top of Mark, strangling him. He held his arm to Mark’s throat. “Duncan, stop!” I exclaimed, pulling at him. Duncan’s face was red and his hair was a mess. He didn’t hear me. “Duncan!”
Maddie and Ella were smirking, standing there, arms folded.
Samantha rushed to my aid, going to Duncan’s other side, and we both pulled him off Mark.
He looked at Mark and scowled. He looked back up at Maddie. “Watch it next time, you–” the next word he said was very inappropriate, so I didn’t bother thinking about it.
The four of us walked away, me and Samantha on both sides of Duncan. We walked into the school and found our way to an empty classroom and settled Duncan down there. Maryam went to get a cup of water.
Samantha, Imogen, Maryam and I watched as he gulped it down. He ran his hand through his hair, straightening it, and soon his skin color rushed back to it’s normal tone.
Finally, he looked as if he’d cooled down some more.
“You have some explaining to do.” I said.