A/N: Well hello! This is the first chapter of my new novel, and I'd absolutely love to know what you think of it :) I've really enjoyed writing it, so hopefully you enjoy reading it too; thanks so much for stopping by! Take care, Maddie xoxo
WAR OF ATTRITION
Rushing through the corridors, my arms full, I weave through the
crowds of rowdy, raucous students with an ease that makes it
obvious what an often occurrence this is for me. My feet
Dodging the smaller students, with heavy rucksacks and scared eyes, avoiding the larger students, propped against their lockers, surveying the world with sullen expressions, scathing glances, I grip my coffee tighter, and head to my right. Monday mornings. Never my favourite.
The smell of the coffee is devilishly tempting as it wafts over the other items in my arms. My caffeine fix is probably the only thing that gets me into school on mornings like this. One sip, and everything is suddenly a whole lot better. Though even coffee might not solve the aching of my feet. I knew I shouldn't have worn these boots: as gorgeous as they are, I get stabs of pain in the soles of my feet just looking at them, knowing the agony it'll put me through. It was a bad choice, but I was in a rush.
The corridors get quieter as I reach my destination. Reaching for my key (hard, when you have books, a coat, a cup of scalding hot coffee, a handbag plus another bag in your arms, not to mention aching feet which make every movement a torture procedure), I push open the door, and sigh. Peace and quiet. At last.
Going in, I let the door slam shut behind me, and stumble with my precariously balanced armful towards my desk. Putting everything down in it's usual place- coffee to the right of the key board, bags under the desk, notebook to one side, with a pen there for easy access, coat on the back of my chair- I switch the computer on, and sit down in relief.
I don't know what I'd do without this haven, I really don't. Tugging at my boots, I pull them off and shove them unceremoniously under the desk. It really isn't worth wearing them, I think, sadly. But I always say that, every time I wear them, and what do I do? Put them on again within a couple of days, sure I can deal with the pain. They really are a thorn in my side.
Getting up again, marvelling at the comfy feeling of walking on the carpet in just my soft, giraffe print socks, I head over to the side, where any notices should have been pinned. I went home early on Friday, and so any updates that should have happened in the afternoon I wasn't there should be pinned up.
Sure enough, my best friend, Felicity Meadows, has carefully attached a final copy of the article I wrote last week, small notes written in her neat, loopy handwriting in red biro within the margins. What would I do without Fliss?
'These are disgusting.' The sudden voice makes me jump, and I spin round, defensively, wielding Fliss's edited copy of my article like a sword.
Sitting in my chair, his feet up on the desk, a tall, brown haired boy surveys my boots with distaste. Isaac Herring: the much bigger thorn in my side. And the reason I wear the boots so often. They piss him off, you see.
'Get out, Isaac,' I say, aggressively, stalking over (not as impressive in giraffe print socks) and ripping the boots from his hands.
He smirks, looking down at my sock-clad socks. 'You have small feet,' he comments, completely ignoring my aggressiveness. Does he not realise he's not welcome?
Oh yes. He knows all too well that he's not welcome. He's here precisely because of that fact.
'They're not small!' I protest, stuffing one foot back into a shoe, ignoring the protests of my long suffering soles.
'Er, they are,' he comments, taking the other boot and peering at the heel. 'Size three and a half? Where did you get them from? Adams Kids?'
I scowl at him. 'You just have abnormally giant feet,' I retort. 'Now get out.'
He raises an eyebrow at me, taking a large gulp of his coffee. Wait, his coffee? That's my coffee!
Reaching out, I grab for the coffee, wobble unsteadily (there's a reason you wear both shoes, not just one) and almost fall into his lap. Thankfully the desk provides a nice firm place to hang onto. I'd rather not touch Isaac, if possible.
He shakes his head at me, gulping down some more of my coffee. I wince at the sight. It's like physical pain. 'Isaac! Give it right back here, now.'
He smirks. 'Ooh, I'm scared.'
I roll my eyes. 'You should be.'
Thankfully, at this point, the door opens, and in comes Hamish McKenzie. He's an ordinary looking guy; tall, with slightly long ginger hair, and large, wide rimmed glasses, but right now, he looks like an angel sent from heaven.
'Hamish!' I cry joyously.
Hamish gives me a nod. 'Alright?' He double takes at the sight of Isaac. It's widely known that Isaac and I absolutely hate the guts out of each other, so it's unsurprising that Hamish is startled to see us both in the same room together alone and uninjured. 'Er, hi Isaac.'
Isaac gives him a wide grin. 'Just on my way out.' Plonking the coffee down onto the desk, he salutes me, mockingly. 'Horrible coffee, anyway. Needs about three more sugars.'
Way to rub salt into a wound. I gather the coffee to me protectively, feeling it's soothing warmth through the polystyrene cup. 'Get out, Isaac.'
Thankfully, this time, he does. As the door bangs shut behind him, Hamish gives me a puzzled look. 'Any reason why you and Isaac were alone together?' he inquires, dumping his stuff under his desk.
I snort. 'He snuck in, for some reason.'
'And drank your coffee?' Hamish breathes in sharply, knowing how dear my coffee is to me. And, for once, he doesn't tell me how stupid it is paying for coffee when I could quite easily bring in a flask of my own. I've often been preached to on this subject, but coffee is my one indulgence, so I disregard it. Hamish is one of those people who is utterly obsessed with saving money and recycling. 'I'm surprised he escaped castration, Raina.'
'It was a close shave,' I reply. 'Bloody Isaac Herring.'
Hamish chuckles. 'If I wasn't so scared of being castrated myself, I'd set you two up on a blind date,' he tells me, sitting down in his chair and leafing absently through some loose paper.
'What?!' I exclaim, looking at him in disbelief over my coffee. 'Are you serious?!' I take a long draught of the dark liquid, letting it warm me up.
He nods. 'Completely. All those strong emotions you feel for each other: sure sign of something.'
'Strong emotions?!' I repeat, almost spluttering out my mouthful of coffee. 'As in hate, Hamish, not love.'
'Purely semantics,' Hamish replies. 'The sexual tension between you two is just…' he pauses, as if looking for a word. '… rampant.'
'Rampant?' I shake my head at him. 'Hamish, I thought you were meant to be clever.'
Hamish grins. 'I am, Raina. I am.'
Turning away from him, with a sigh, I look through the sheets of paper on my own desk. I have an article to write, but I'm almost there, almost ready for the launch of my paper. Well, the re-launch. After working for a year on the school newspaper, and getting extremely bored and fed up of writing dreary articles about things no one cared about, I applied to take the post of chief editor, and, through some incredible luck, managed to get the post. Sorting out a team of the best writers I knew, we'd all been working hard in the headquarters I'd set up: an old, disused classroom in which we'd begged a few computers and a scanner/photocopier Hamish's dad had lying around. Along with a kettle and a notice board, this little classroom had turned into quite a base for our paper. I can't wait to pull the last few bits of the paper together, and see the result of all our hard work.
'Have you finished your article, Hamish?' I ask him, looking up from my long list of things to check and to do. Hamish is in charge of the reviews section of the paper, writing reviews on the latest films, books and videogames, with help from anyone else whose read a good book or seen a good film lately.
He twists his lips. 'Almost. I need to just adjust it on the computer a bit. It looks a bit messy right now, and Fliss'll hate me for that.'
I laugh. Fliss, though a perfectionist, is unlikely to ever hate anyone. Quite possibly the nicest person in the world, my best friend is seemingly unperturbed by even the most horrible of people. Except for Isaac Herring. She's my best friend, it's a given that she has to hate my worst enemy.
The door opens again, and in comes a tall, immaculately dressed girl. Her blonde hair cut in a stylish pixie cut, accentuating her high cheekbones and slender face, wearing the latest fashion, yet in a way so entirely her own, Ramona is every inch the fashion columnist as she waves her greeting to us and sits at her desk.
I didn't know Ramona very well before hiring her to do the fashion columns, but I took the risk. I knew she could write, having been in an English class with her a few years ago, and she's well regarded as a fashion icon within the school: she does a bit of modelling here and there, and looks perfect every day, without fail. I was surprised when she accepted my offer. I'd expected her to be a snob, looking down her nose at the rest of us, but actually, she's turned out to be a really friendly person, who fits in with the team perfectly.
She glances over at my one boot clad feet. 'Got the boots on again, then?' she comments, with a knowing smile.
I grimace. 'Unfortunately.'
She comes over, picking up the other and looking at it with a wistful sigh. 'They are gorgeous,' she says regretfully. 'Shame they're so uncomfy.'
'Tell me about it,' I murmur. 'The things I do to piss off Isaac.' It's just that I don't want to admit he's right, I think. If I stopped wearing them, I'd never hear the end of it from him.
Ramona grins. 'It's quite worrying.'
'What is?' asks the next person to walk through the door: a pretty girl with careless blonde, bed head curls, mingled with little braids and feathers: Dora, our music columnist. A total indie chick, Dora somehow manages to be permanently away with the fairies, but simultaneously seems to know everything and anything about the latest music.
She's also incredibly busy. Recording her own music herself, singing in a distinctive, high sort of voice, and putting tracks up onto the internet, gaining popularity with her beautiful song writing, she's well regarded within the school, and the online communities. She's a brilliant help for the paper's popularity.
'The lengths Raina goes to piss off Isaac,' Hamish pipes up, from his desk. 'I was telling her only this morning, she's got some sort of love hate thing going on.'
Dora sweeps her blonde fringe out of her eyes, a sparkle coming into her green eyes. 'Oooh, really?'
'The launch of the paper's set, then?' I say, spouting out the first thing that comes into my head.
'Yes,' replies Ramona, raising a perfectly plucked eyebrow. 'It's been marked up on the calendar for about a month now.'
'Subtle subject change there,' Hamish comments, with a grin.
I roll my eyes. 'I don't have time for this nonsense,' I tell them all, sitting down firmly and kicking off the other shoe. 'Get on with your work, you lazy sods.'
Chuckling, they all sit down, switching on their computers. Glancing at the clock, I frown. It's unlike Fliss to be late: usually she's here immediately after I am. I pull out my phone, wondering if she's texted me. Nope, nothing.
As if on cue, the door flies open, and Fliss bursts through it, clutching her bag to her side, her cheeks flushed as she breathes heavily.
'Raina!' she cries. 'Oh, Raina, you will not believe what I just found out.'
I get up, half starting towards the door. 'Fliss! Are you okay?'
She nods, stumbling to her desk to dump her bag and recover her breath. Her cheeks are still pink, showing off her light dusting of freckles, a shade lighter than her long brown hair and dark, dark brown eyes. 'It's… well, I'm not sure how to break it to you,' she says.
My heart starts to pound. What's happened? My mind races with possibilities, ranging from the extremely unlikely, to the downright ridiculous.
'What?' I ask, my voice strained as it tries to remain steady. 'What is it, Fliss?'
She gulps. 'It's Isaac Herring,' she says. 'He's set up his own school newspaper.'
I sink into my chair as my mind spins with shock. A rival newspaper? Bloody Isaac Herring. Bloody Isaac Herring. This means war.