Sunday went by
in a blur and Monday morning arrived far too soon for my liking.
My sister's sonorous knocks yanked me from a dreamless sleep way
too early in the morning and I opened my eyes to a bleak, grey
day. A light drizzle was falling from the sky and splattering
against my window.
My first impulse
was to pull the duvet over my head and stay there was a very,
very long time, but I had to face the real world one day or
another, so I dragged myself out of bed and into the bathroom. A
brief, cold shower was all it took to finish waking me up, but
nothing in the world could have dispelled the gloom hanging over
my head like a stinking, black cloud.
Today was going
to be trying, very trying, and I dressed accordingly: sturdy
white cotton underwear, jeans, sweatshirt, thick white socks and
trainers. I pulled my hair into a ponytail and applied minimal
makeup. I didn't look as bad as I feared. The cut along my left
cheekbone wasn't much more than a scratch today, the swelling in
my cheek had gone down, and the bruising around my eye was dealt
with thanks to a little concealer.
downstairs to the kitchen. I never used to bother with breakfast,
but since Jennifer arrived to take control of our lives, we all
ate breakfast, just like we all eat five fruit and vegetables a
day and we all fold the towels in the bathroom. What Jennifer
wants, Jennifer gets.
holding court in the kitchen, somehow managing to cook porridge,
press oranges and butter toast at the same time. Mum and Ruby, my
eight year old sister, were already seated at the table.
Mum said as I slid into my chair.
mumbled, picking up a piece of toast and nibbling at a
"How are you
feeling this morning?"
"Can't you be
ready in ten minutes?" Jennifer asked, placing a bowl of porridge
in front of me "I'll take you to school on the way to
For once, I
didn't protest against Jennifer's bossiness. Normally I would
have objected to her trying to boos me around, and told her in a
snotty voice "I am quite capable of catching the bus to school,
thank you. I do not need to be driven there like a kid". Today I
just nodded meekly. Probably an effect of the bump on the head I
had received on Saturday. Or maybe I knew that today would be
difficult enough without adding yet another argument with my
"I can be ready"
I said, pushing my plate away and standing up.
me off in front of the school and sped off to do important things
in her office. I stood at the bottom of the steps for a while,
ignoring the flow of people going past on either side, and looked
up at the big, ugly grey building. Just the idea of climbing
those steps and going through those doors made me feel slightly
You can do this,
I told myself, as I wrenched one foot off the ground and placed
it on the bottom step. You can do this, I chanted again as I
placed the other foot on the next step. You are seventeen years
old. You are not going to be frightened of going to
There are six
steps between the street and the main entrance to my school, but
that Monday morning, it felt like sixty. I eventually reached the
top, mentally wrung off and paused to gather myself again. My
stomach clenched as I pushed the door open and threw myself into
Nobody paid any
attention to me as I walked down the corridor. It was Monday
morning, cold and wet, and they were caught in their own
problems. They didn't care about mine. They streamed past me,
heading to their various classrooms, calling out to friends,
talking on their mobile phones. No-one even glanced in my
made the panicky, trembly feeling in my knees lessened slightly.
This was a familiar place, and the smell, the never changing
corridors, the boring "everyday is the same" aspect of the place
was soothing in a way. Civilisations might rise and empires may
fall, but Annabeth Genkins was just as much a nobody as she had
ever had been the week before.
I closed my eyes
and groaned inwardly. I didn't feel up to dealing with Ashley
right now. I wished her to be a long way away from here. I opened
my eyes. She was still bouncing towards to me. Ashley was so
perky it hurts. She was hard enough to deal under normal
circumstances. Right now, when I was feeling grumpy and tired and
pissed off with the world in general, the task seemed
"Hi Ashley" I
said, making a valiant effort not to sound too put-upon "Did you
have a good weekend?"
Ashley let out a
small scream. Ashley would let out this little screamlets at the
slightest provocation. Yet another of her many delightful
"Oh my god,
Annabeth!! What happened to your eye?"
cover-up job wasn't as good as I had thought.
"I walked into a
door" I said, pulling my pocket mirror out of my bag. "It's not
that bad, is it?"
her head to one side and stared at me.
she said doubtfully. "If you don't look too closely"
I never knew
whether Ashley was deliberately insulting or not. Ash and I had a
slightly tense relationship. She thought I was bad-tempered and
unsociable, and I found her vapid and grating at times. But we
got along well enough most of the time. She would regale me with
the latest school gossip, and I would pretend to be interested
and say "right" from time to time so she would believe I was
listening. I didn't show my exasperation at her silliness and she
didn't bug about being weird.
"Where were you
on Saturday?" she squealed "You were supposed to meet us at
Battery Beat was
possibly the lamest bar/club in the world, a slightly decrepit
place with a shoddy eighties decor and loud sound system had only
ever plays those songs that seem to be written solely to annoy
you. The loos were unspeakable, the drinks were expensive and
strictly non-alcoholic, but Battery Beat was the only bar/club
around here that let in under-eighteens. It was usually stuffed
full of the kids from school on Saturday night.
"Oh, yeah" I
vaguely remembered saying something about meeting Ashley and her
latest boyfriend at Battery Beat. "Jennifer flipped out and
wouldn't let me go out. And my phone was out of juice" I added
"You didn't miss
anything. It sucked, big time"
on about her night out with Darren, and about the rest of her
weekend, as I collected my books from my locker. She continued
talking as we made our way to English class. Ashley doesn't
anyone to actually listen to her; she just needs an ear to direct
her words at. I felt a bit of the tension in my shoulders ease a
little. For all her faults, Ashley did have a way of infecting
you with her bubbly happiness. She even managed to shake me out
of my worse moods sometimes. Maybe today wouldn't be so bad after
By the time we
reached the classroom and had sat down in our usual seats in the
third row from the front, my feeling of despair had lessened
significantly, and a little flower of hope dared to blossom in my
heart. I smiled slightly as I pulled my notebook out, but the
smile froze as I caught sight of David Rifer, sauntering into the
room as if he owns the place. My eye locked onto to him and
followed him as he crossed the room. He saw me staring and he
nodded at me, the instinctive response of a player when he sees a
girl looking at him, even if he doesn't know her name. He greeted
several friends. He looked utterly carefree; clearly he didn't
know what had happened to his friend. He sat down in his usual
seat, casting a causal glance to the one next to him, which was
still empty. Connor's usual seat. Second row from the back, the
seat by the window. My heart clenched and the dark cloud came
back accompanied by several friends.
alright, Annabeth?" Mrs Ritcher, the English teacher, asked me as
she dropped her things on the table. I swallowed hard, blinked
several times and unclenched my fingers from the edge of the
"I'm fine" I
said. My voice rung strangely in my ears, as if it wasn't my
"Are you sure?"
she said. I nodded.
"Good. Now let's
get back to Pride and Prejudice"
My hands shook
slightly as I retrieved the book from my bag, but I ignored
fast in my school. The first stories came to my ears at
lunchtime. I was standing in line in the cafeteria, sandwiched
between Ashley, still regaling me with stories of her wonderful
weekend, and a couple of fourteen year olds having an intense
discussion over the merits of pink lip-gloss versus purple
lip-gloss, when Charlotte Merring and a couple of her cronies,
Fiona and Dinah, came up to us.
Ashley squeaked. Unlike me, Ashley didn't accept her standing as
a social nobody. She yearned to climb the steps of the social
ladder and elevate her position within the school hierarchy. Her
method of getting this was mainly to toady up to people like
Charlotte, who were right at the top.
flicked her beautifully highlighted hair off her shoulder and
glanced in Ashley's direction. Charlotte didn't have time for
people like Ashley, though she was useful for gathering all the
she said flatly.
"Have you heard
about Connor West?" Charlotte said, inspecting her manicure for
"The really cute
guy from English? The one who's going out with Kathy?"
him?" Ashley was almost jumping up and down. She could sense a
juicy nugget of gossip coming her way. Charlotte paused,
savouring the moment.
was in some horrible car crash on Saturday"
the reaction she had been hoping for. Ashley, Fiona and Dinah all
gaped at her.
I didn't wait to
hear the rest. I dumped my tray and fled the cafeteria, charging
down the corridor before diving into the girls' toilet and
locking myself in a stall. Why I chose this particular place I do
not know. My panicked brain seemed to think it was the safest
place to be.
I leant against
the door and took a deep breath. This was it. I was finished. It
had started. They knew. It wouldn't be long before the whole
story was dragged out into the light and there was no reason to
believe my part in it would be overlooked.
I felt like
collapsing in a heap and weeping. This was hopeless.
Get a grip, I
told myself sternly. You'll just have to suck it up. You got
yourself into this mess and you'll have to get yourself out of
it. And you can't start falling to pieces whenever someone
mentions his name. This isn't going to go away, it fact it is
only going to get worst.