“Stay close fam. don’t let them see you,” Ravi whispered.
Zangi pulled her legs in tighter to her chest, away from the edge of the curtain.
They had decided that the spot they usually bunked in, wouldn’t be good enough for this level of hiding. Usually they hid in a stairwell at the back of the school. It joined the music/citizenship rooms upstairs, with the dance studio and exit downstairs. The stairwell was painted white and blue, with one window right at the top. It was a CCTV blind spot. The only way to see if anyone was there was to look through the doors at either end, but a support wall hid a level turn on the steps. This square was long enough for the six girls (and sometimes their friend Neha) to hide on for hours.
However there was always a risk of a support staff member to go upstairs and find them, or Miss Lugess (the only music teacher there) to come down and find them.
Instead, Zangi, Tiana and Ravi were crouching below the windows in the corner of the sky room.
The sky room was a hut at the back edge of the school grounds which was used as a spare drama, dance or PE room when everything else was taken. As a result there were bad studio lights around the ceiling, a rack of black out curtains around the walls, and mirrors mounted along the length of one wall, and a dozen benches shoved against another. Both of which could be hidden by the blackout curtains. The sky room was built by the original owners of the building, ten years before it had become a school, making it seventy years old. Twenty years before these girls joined the school (so twenty five years ago) it had been painted, and rebranded “the sky room”.
The entire building, inside and outside, was painted bright blue. Of course most of the paint on the outside had chipped off, revealing the brick work, but inside was still fine. Faded by time, but still visible. As were the large blooms of white that were supposed to represent clouds. Most were streaked by the sponges that had painted them. They were clearly done by students. Some of the paint had dripped onto the faded blue lino and the dried lumps were still there.
As they had done nothing to improve it but paint it, the sky room looked its age.
The slates on the roof kept slipping and falling off. The caretakers kept placing them back where they had fallen to keep the room in use until they could call in a builder. They had yet to call in a builder and the first slates had fallen eight years ago. Half off the roof wasn’t held down by anything other than hope and each other.
There was damp across the walls and ceiling, which had developed black mould. Parts of the blue lino floor was curling up, to reveal the concrete underneath. A projector was laying on the desk after having fallen off of its ceiling mount and cracking its plastic shell, rendering the interactive white board useless.
It sat beside a broken computer which had no screen, and broken plastic which revealed its circuit board. They both took pride of place on a cluttered desk full of broken pens, ink spillages, a plug-less boom box, a box of lice infected wigs and hats, abandoned costumes, “lost” books of girls who had bunked lessons in here, and a box of messed up face paints. The desk its self was propped up by some sixth formers half-competed art coursework.
To try and prevent girls bunking off – or smoking – in there, they had installed a lock. Originally only three people were given keys. The head of drama – Mr Roberts – the head of dance – Miss Warren – and the head of PE – Mr Conduit. Mr Conduit left his key in his office, with his office unlocked, and someone made a mould of it, and recreated the key to sell on. Now anyone could have it.
Not that anyone needed it, because there was a fire escape at the back which didn’t properly fit its frame. If you used a pen to jiggle the edge of the door, it came flying open.
Once, that fire door had been left open, and there had been an infestation of wasps as a result.
The nest was still there, clinging between two corners of the wall above the main entrance. Wasp corpses scattered the floor. Some were even caught on the radiator, behind the cage, so they couldn’t be removed. Whenever the heating was turned on, you could smell them burning.
Of course the heating turned on automatically in October, when the rest of the schools heating did. And it didn’t turn off until the rest of the schools heating did.
And there was no way to disconnect it.
The sky room was to the school, what the portrait was to Dorian Grey.
It should have been the perfect place to hide, as the door was locked and they had gone thought the fire exit, and hidden behind the curtain for extra cover. They hadn’t counted on the caretaker.
Ravi screeched when the caretaker pulled back the curtain, which made the other two scream in response. Terrence the caretaker adjusted his hearing aid in pain.
“What are you three doing here, being loud?” he tutted, “don’t you have classes?”
Terrence was the kind of old man whose skin looked like paper that had been scrunched up and smooth out. He had developed calloused hands and a crick in his back from years of labour. He moved like his limbs were too long for his body, which gave him a strange kind of sway as he went. Even so he would smile at the girls and staff like a kindly grandfather. Even his smile was crooked. He would whistle while he worked, even in the rain. If you lost the key to the padlock on your locker, he would let you use the cutters yourself to break it. The girls were rather relieved that it was him that had found them.
“It was our fault the fire alarm went off!” Ravi blurted.
Guilt crushed her easily. Zangi elbowed her sharply in the ribs which made her yelp.
“It was an accident!” Tiana insisted.
“We’re not even sure why it happened, it was just an oopsie!” Zangi insisted.
Terrence’s bushy eyebrows rose in surprise. “So you’re the ones the head is looking for are you?”
The three of them glanced between each other. One by one they hung their heads. Terrence sighed.
“Well then. You know how to make this right, don’t you?”
There was a long pause as the girls were unsure what to say.
“Go and apologise to the fire men. Explain that it was an accident. The CCTV footage will back you up. The worse you’ll get is a day in the exclusion unit,” he promised.
The exclusion unit - or EU - was a dirty shack by the canteen, fully surrounded by CCTV, where the worse behaved students were excluded from lessons. It was the step before suspension.
While SLT insisted that this was somewhere no one wanted to go, it was actually a rather relaxing place. Most of the girls there were chavs who would rather stay there as Practice for jail cells, than go to lesson. They weren’t very judgemental, because they couldn’t care less. Since there was only ever up to ten people in there, it was quiet. You were given class work but if you finished early, there was a ready supply of colouring pages. They always had an early lunch too.
Although the thought of going there was unappealing, it was a rather nice bubble outside of the usual bitchiness of the all-girls atmosphere.
“How did you get to be so smart Terrence?” Ravi sighed.
“I’d say school, but it’s all in age, dearies. Once you escape and learn how to find your own way in the world, you’ll get smarter too,” he promised.
That time was alarmingly close already. Their GCSE exams were already at their heels. The light at the end of the tunnel was creeping ever nearer.
And beginning to look hauntingly like a train.
He could see the disappointment on their faces clearly. Like lambs heading to the slaughter. He forced a cheery smile. “Come on. I’ll give you a lift!”
The girls grinned immediately.
Students weren’t allowed in the golf cart that the caretakers used to haul heavy equipment, but Terrence liked giving them rides. Especially years seven or eleven, or antisocial students, because sometimes it was the only chance they would have to smile, all day.
It was a squeeze to have all four of them squashed into the front seat. Zangi was sitting more on Ravi’s lap than on the seat. Even though she was all bones, and her elbows dug in, she was oddly comfortable.
“Hold on!” Terrence teased.
As the ride began, Ravi and Tiana immediately latched on to Zangi, to ensure she didn’t fall out of the space where the door should have been. The cart was faster and bumpier than they had expected. Terrence swung it out and around a bend, and they slid so quickly that Ravi almost fell out of the cart herself. Zangi only just caught her in time.
“Stay close. We don’t want you to fall out and be left behind,” Tiana said.
“Thanks. Bit late,” Ravi said, sarcastically.
The cart swung around another bend, and skirted down a road behind the science block. It was a familiar sight in the science rooms, to glance out of the window and see the cart roof swish along past it.
The wind swept through them, tangling Ravi’s thick hair. It grew stronger as they shot away from the building which acted as a wind block. Then they spotted the fire engine. Huge and scarlet, and gleaming in the mild sunlight. It was swarming with hunks in yellow jumpsuits with florescent strips. The vast majority of female staff (and a few men) came out to gawp.
Ravi muttered a prayer to Vishnu under her breath as Terrence slowed down. Tiana grew a slightly darker shade of pink as the staff turned to stare at them.
“Right. Go up to the chief, and explain what happened and how you’re so very sorry,” Terrence encouraged.
Tiana gulped anxiously. Ravi’s legs felt numb. Zangi hauled herself out of the cart. She was so used to being yelled at by teachers and being in trouble with her brothers and mother, she was completely numb to shame or guilt. In cases such as this anyway.
She dragged the others out behind her. Seeing that both of them looked nervous, Zangi stepped in between them. She linked her arms through theirs – even though she really, really hated this kind of personal contact – and forced them to stand tall with her.
“Remember what Mr Roberts said in drama. Hold eye contact. Keep your head up. Walk like you’re planning a murder. Remember to breath,” she recited.
Mr Roberts had taught them a lot about how to fake confidence, as well as how to act as if you knew what you were doing. In fact, he basically taught them how to lie convincingly. Unfortunately, it was just Tiana and Zangi in this class. This information was rather unhelpful to Ravi. However, with Zangi and Tiana faking confidence convincingly, Ravi just copied them.
They strode across the car park, and straight up to the man with “chief” on his helmet. He looked down at them in confusion and suspicion.
“Can I help you?” he asked.
Zangi looked over at Tiana. Ravi did too. Zangi was willing to walk the walk, but dealing with people was something usually beyond her. Tiana was often forced to deal with them instead. She took a deep breath.
As anxiety gripped her chest, she sped up her words. “We are the ones who started the fire. But it wasn’t a fire, it was just a small explosion because of the gas around the Bunsen burner. It would have happened anyway, because there was a lot of lit Bunsen’s about, but if it had reached them, it would have been bigger and could have injured more people. So really, the fact she lit the match and exploded it early is a good thing. Even so, we’re sorry that it caused you to waste your time in coming here when you could have been dealing with a real fire.”
Her head was spinning cartwheels and her chest was tight with nerves as she explained. The other two nodded frantically in agreement. Both looked just as nervous.
The old fire chief peered between them, slowly and thoughtfully. It took so long for him to reply that it made them feel worse. They could feel the beady eyes of the staff bearing down on them, eagerly awaiting them being yelled at.
Finally, he cleared his throat.
“Well, it was good of you to come out and apologize. You’re all grown up young ladies, so you know the dangers of this situation,” he explained gently. Then in a louder, sharper tone, he added, “It makes you wonder why so many teachers are out here, leering at my men, rather than inside watching over your classmates. Isn’t that right guys?”
There were shouts of agreement from the fed up firemen. Suddenly the teachers looked sheepish. They started to slink off, pretending that they had just heard someone calling their name to deal with something rather important. Terrence chuckled smugly. He loved seeing the smug, sneery teachers get their comeuppances.
“So – we’re not going to be punished?” Ravi asked, shocked.
The chief shrugged. “Not up to me. Ask your teacher.”
With that, he went back to talking with his men, and left the girls to wander back towards the school entrance, bewildered. As they came to the ramp heading to the doors, they heard slow, sarcastic applause. Tahati’s frizzy plait peered out from behind a potted tree before the rest of her did.
“What are you doing here?” Tiana asked.
Tahati shrugged. “Fire engine.”
Ravi hurried back inside, pushing past Tahati as she did. Even though she wasn’t getting into trouble, a rush of guilt had gripped her already. She was heading directly to the year eleven bathroom, ready to hide for the rest of their next lesson. Ravi hated making a bad impression, but she didn’t care what people who already knew her thought. They were a lost cause. So she missed yet another lesson, for the sake of missing a lesson. Zangi went with her, to make sure she was alright.
“Everything alright?” Tahati asked.
Tiana’s face was etched in a frown. She was worried about Ravi, but more about Zangi. Zangi had a problem with after shock and panic attacks. When this settled in on her, she’d have one. Tiana didn’t want her to feel alone when it hit.
“Ti?” Tahati clicked her fingers infront of Tiana’s face. “I said are you ok?”
Tiana’s eyes flicked from the door to Tahati. She suddenly grinned for no reason.
“Nah fam, But who cares? Here, smile!”.
Once again she pulled out her phone. Tahati looked slightly awkward because she didn’t like being in photos, but she smiled anyway. It wasn’t the best photo, but it got the job done. Tahati was centre focus, but the fire engine was clearly behind her. Tiana posted it to Instagram with the caption:
“Fire men at Coulson Higher Academy of Vocational Studies come for my girl Tahati for being too flaming!!!”
Tahati blushed a little when she read it, and muttered a swear at Tiana, but couldn’t help feeling smug.
“Why do you keep taking photos of everything?” Tahati asked.
Tiana shrugged. “I live in hope someone will turn up and pay for me to go off around the world taking photos and ignoring my responsibilities.”
“So you take photos to get out of homework?” Tahati asked.
“And PE,” Tiana grinned in agreement.
“If you get out of history, bring me with you.”
“Honey my plan is to go down in history. You can come too if you want.”
Tahati scoffed. “Like my mum would let me.”
“You need white parents like mine. They don’t give a-”
“Tiana and Tahati get to class!” Mr Chaudhuri yelled down the corridor and made them jump.
The pair of them walked backwards to face him as they hurried away.
“Yes sir,” Tahati said.
“I’ll check my register to make sure you get there. If not, you’ll be in serious trouble!” he warned.
“What else is new?” Tiana said to Tahati.
Tahati smirked, but made her hurry up anyway. The history teacher hated her, and she couldn’t afford another phone call home to her mother.
“Urgh, it was horrible! He had us work for half an hour in complete silence because we “went off topic”. We were talking about weddings, when we were supposed to be talking about multi faith couples!” Tiana rolled her eyes.
She had religious in the shack in front of the scrubby dance studio every time Ravi had dance. They walked together from class to break in their form room.
“You can have a wedding between two faiths. Just plan it right,” Ravi said.
“Exactly! It’s not like burning a Muslim because they married a Hindu!” Tiana agreed.
There was a kind of knowing tone in her voice, that made a point to Ravi that she was referencing something.
“I said I wanted a coffin one time!” Ravi groaned.
“And you’re still not getting one!” Tiana grinned.
“One time! Once!” Ravi sighed.
“Friends never forget!” Tiana winked.
Ravi groaned but smiled. Tiana linked her arm through Ravi’s and lead her on. Ravi regaled her with talks about how many times she was called lazy, because she stopped for a drink of water mid dance.
They collected Tahati and Zangi on the way up to form. This gave them enough time for the stairs to empty of squabbling younger years, before they got there. It’d be easier to go up the down stairs if there was no one to pretend to avoid hitting.
They climbed the uneven, slippery steps to the glass door that led to the upper corridor of classes. It was here that they found Zangi’s form tutor.
He was a short, scrawny man, with bleached white hair, and a scrappy beard. It was the beard - and stubbornness - that won him the nickname “Goat-man”. He wore a padded green jacket on top of his suit, clung to his caffeine like a life source, and had the audacity to have a go at someone wearing an extra layer that was “non-school uniform”.
It was his duty today, to stop students using the wrong set of stairs to get up to the corridor.
He stopped them.
“You’re going the wrong way!”
If you leaned forwards from where they stood, you would see two steps up to the corridor, and a door opposite a window, above a radiator. All of these things were one – albeit large – step from the top of the steps. This was also the room they wanted to get to.
“Our form is right there!” Ravi pointed and practically hit the door.
“I don’t care. Go the right way. You’re blocking the stairs,” goat man declared.
They turned to check the, otherwise abandoned, staircase.
“There’s no one on the stairs!” Zangi argued.
“Then you’ll cause havoc in the corridor by blocking the tide,” he corrected.
There was no body in the corridor either. Tahati opened her mouth to point this out, but Goat man crossed his arms firmly and she lost her nerve. Instead she silently willing him to accidentally spill his coffee down his shirt.
“We’re literally going there!” Ravi insisted.
“Then Go the correct way!” Goat man ordered.
Zangi took a step forward, willing to fight him. Probably physically. Tiana grabbed her arm. Break time wasn’t long enough for this.
“You know what, sod him! Let’s go the long way!” She said to the others.
He grumbled at the use of her language, but he had been stuck in this dump long enough to know to take support wherever it came from. If he said anything and she turned on him, it would be four against one, and he wasn’t allowed to touch them. Granted they weren’t supposed to touch him, but they cared less.
For example, Zangi had to be practically yanked away to stop her from attacking him. As they rounded the corner to go back down the stairs, he took a well needed sip of coffee. Not for the first time, he knew he had to leave his job.
As soon as him form left year 11, he’d leave to.
As soon as he wasn’t needed.
“Mind my Jumper!” Zangi yelled.
“He’ll make you a new one from his wool!” Ravi spat.
“Bloody old goat!” Zangi spat.
“Baa!” Tahati added.
When they got to the foot of the stairs, Tiana wriggled back to Tahati’s side.
“Baa?” She repeated, trying not to laugh.
“Best I could think of in the time given!” Tahati admitted sheepishly.
Tiana laughed. Ravi and Zangi were already fuming a path over to the “Up” stairs at the other end of the corridor. Tahati and Tiana hurried to keep up.
When they got to the other stairs there was one person on them. The head of year - Mr. Edwards. Coming down.
“Sir you’re going the wrong way!” Tiana called out.
“The rules don’t apply to the staff,” Mr. Edwards explained pointedly.
“Nothing applies to the staff, that’s why they’re all leaving,” Tiana muttered, a little too loudly.
Mr. Edwards stopped on the step in front of her so she couldn’t pass. She looked up into his eyes with stubborn defiance. She wouldn’t move either. He couldn’t pass now. They were both trapped in stubborn spite of the other. The other girls carried on walking to the level between the sets of stairs, leaving space for other to get past. (This happened more often then you would think)
“You know you’re developing an attitude. You should take care of that,” he warned.
“I wouldn’t have an attitude if you took care of your year group instead of yourself,” Tiana spat.
Mr. Edwards rose an eyebrow. He was a patient man. He could see his student’s side of the argument, understand why it was how to help them, and explain in a reassuring way that he would do what he could, while knowing fully well that he wouldn’t.
No one would.
This was public school. If you didn’t help yourself you weren’t getting help.
Tiana had fallen for his promises too often to trust him. Too often to like him. Even with his cheery smile and friendly welcome he gave whenever he saw someone he recognized.
“Watch your attitude. You don’t want to end up in the EU,” he warned carefully.
“Oh that’s ok sir. I was anti-brexit anyway, so I’d quite like a spell in the EU,” She retorted.
He didn’t look as impressed as Tahati did. “You know fully well I mean the exclusion unit. It’s no somewhere someone as smart and well behaved as you can be would like.”
Tiana opened her mouth to argue, but didn’t get the chance. Mr. Edwards turned to the others in their shelter. They froze. He didn’t usually pick on them when Tiana made trouble.
“Girls, keep an eye on Tiana for me. And each other. Friends don’t like friends get in trouble!” Mr. Edwards smiled.
“Yes sir,” they lied.
“You’ve got the wrong friends sir. Best friends are side by side in that prison cell, aren’t they Ti?” Sapphire grinned as she came to the bottom of the stairs.
Tiana grinned at her, grateful for the support. Sapphire winked mischievously and leaned against the wall. She wasn’t moving until Tiana did.
Mr Edwards ignored her and gave Tiana a warning smile. She scowled in return. He walked past them both, and down the stairs without looking back. With no other option, Tiana blew a raspberry at the back of his head. She turned back to see Sapphire’s unimpressed face, backed up by everyone else’s.
“That was worse than baa,” Tahati stated.
“Best I could come up with at the time,” Tiana shrugged.
“Stay close to the wall on this step remember,” Ravi warned.
Sapphire and Tiana each pinned against the wall to avoid the middle step. Over the years the concrete had been worn smooth into a dip. When it rained, the water from shoes and coats that fell on the stairs, pooled here.
It was a lawsuit waiting to happen.
“He does take care of other years first though. He should take more care of his year elevens,” Tahati agreed.
“He doesn’t take care of himself, look at the beard!” Zangi scoffed.
His “beard” was stubble. Red stubble. Mr. Edwards had almost no interesting features. Everything but his hair colour was easy to miss. He was thin as a rake, with a sharp nose, pink cheeks, and sky blue eyes, topped with a mop of sandy hair. And brown eyebrows. And red stubble. He vaguely resembled a multi-coloured sailor. This had inspired a cryptic doodle of pirate captain with an eyepatch, parrot and hat, giving people detentions, entitled “Captain J. Hook!”
Ravi was the first to get to the window opposite their form room.
“He takes care of year sevens though. Look at that,” she said.
The others gathered at the radiator to look out of the window. Bits of mint green paint came off on their navy blazers. The radiators had been painted to match the corridor, but the paint was dried off constantly.
The window looked out onto the car park at the front of the school. Parked across the blue gate, was a coach. Lining along the grey gate that separated the school from the park opposite, were countless, over excited year sevens, bobbing constantly and unable to stay still.
They were going on a school trip. Again. The year elevens retched in jealous disgust.
“Do you remember ever going on school trips?” Zangi asked.
“I went on one in year seven, one in year eight and one last year,” Tahati said.
“I went on one in eight, the free trip. And I went on the forced trip that was after school so doesn’t count because it doesn’t benefit us at all!” Ravi spat.
“I fought the head of religion for a whole year until he caved ad agreed to take us to a Buddhist temple last year, so the history department deliberately set up a GCSE immersion day on that day so we couldn’t go,” Tiana snarled.
She was convinced it was personal.
“And hoe bag Holland won’t let year elevens go out on trips anymore,” Ravi spat.
“Why not?” Tahati asked.
“Because year eleven is for exam studying, not having fun!” Ravi mocked the old woman who had too much power and not enough common sense.
“High school is not for fun,” Zangi corrected, again mocking another member of Senior Leadership Team who had too much power and not enough sense.
There was a lot of those.
Tiana let out a groaning laugh that sounded pained. She dropped her head into her hands and leaned against the radiator.
“I bloody hate it here,” she muffled.
“Don’t burn your face Oreo Cream. You’ll go strawberry flavoured!” Simi chuckled as she walked up the “down” stairs.
In a new and sudden fury, the girls slowly turned to glare at Simi. She didn’t even know what she’d done. It made her incredibly uncomfortable.
Tiana turned her head to glare too, but kept close to the radiator. It was on as low as possible, but it was on. And God it was cold!
“Where have you been?” Tahati spat.
“Toilet. I wasn’t allowed to go during lesson,” Simi shrugged.
“How’d you get up the stairs?” Zangi demanded.
“I walked?” Simi offered, confused.
“How’d you get past guardian goat?”
“What you talking about man?”
The others looked over at the top of the stairs. There was no one there. Goat man had trotted back to the staff room, leaving the stairs unguarded. The girls groaned in annoyance.
“Are you hoes coming in or what?!” Sapphire called from their usual seat in the back corner of the room.
It was break. Their only - and limited - free time. They hurried in to gather around Sapphire.
The form was so full of enemies that they had segregated themselves into secluded groups.
This group stayed in the back corner. By the window. They wanted the warmth of the pipes, and cool of the breeze, and were willing to give up easy access to the lockers for it. Each of them dropped their things and climbed into their usual spots around the table. Well two tables. They were pushed together into a row in typical high school fashion.
Tiana sat on the table top, pressed against the windows ledge. Zangi either sat on the table beside her, or on the chair in front of her. Ravi beside her, or sometimes on her if there were no chairs. Tahati and Simi sat opposite, wedged between this table and the row in front. Or behind, since they had their backs to it. Sapphire sat at the end with Neha, and whatever guest was joining them for lunch that day.
To the onlooker, they looked like a council meeting for a village.
Loud and chatty and opinionated. The only thing that changed the view was the packet of sweets or crisps in the middle of the table that all of them were sharing. Sometimes it was a sandwich. They could split a shop brought sandwich between ten people.
“Do you realize that asking the teacher for permission to go to the loo is asking permission of someone older than you to perform a function that keeps you alive?” Sapphire asked suddenly.
“Do you ever realize that age is just how many laps of the sun you’ve done?” Simi added.
“Or that the sun is just a ball of flames,” Ravi added.
Zangi furrowed her eyebrows and looked up to the corner of her eye as she thought. “So essentially, you need permission of someone who’s done more laps of a ball of flames than you have, to perform a bodily function that keeps you alive?”
“Welcome to high school!” Simi chuckled sarcastically.
“Wish I could leave,” Tahati got there before Tiana.
Tiana gave Tahati playfully proud punch. A twinge of pride noted in her eyes to show it was genuine.
“If you could go anywhere in the world, where and why?” Sapphire asked as she tore apart a sandwich, and handing half to Zangi.
“Easy, Finland. From what I hear it’s a beautiful country, and incredibly anti-social. I get beautiful scenery and don’t have to deal with strangers, it’s a win-win!” Tiana smirked.
“Home. I know where everything is, and there’s Netflix, and I don’t need to deal with anyone else either,” Zangi agreed.
“Anywhere where there’s food. Man’s hungry!” Simi said.
“How?! You ate more of the Sensations than anyone else did!” Sapphire laughed.
“Because I’m fat!” Simi spat, pinning back a laugh.
The others yelled in protest.
“You’re short and slim! You only look fat because you’re short so there’s nothing stretching to look skinnier,” Sapphire explained.
The others all turned to stare at her, in confusion or suspicion.
“How would you know?” Ravi asked.
“It’s biology, innit!” Sapphire shrugged.
“You failed biology,” Zangi said.
Sapphire kissed her teeth, “err, actually I got a C, thank you very much!”
“That’s barely a pass,” Simi said.
“Still a pass though so,” Sapphire stuck up her middle finger.
Sapphire grinned as she did because her mother was a biology technician in this schools sister school. She should have been good at biology. But Tiana’s mother was the chemistry technician at another school, and she was awful at chemistry too. Sapphire decided it was impossible for a technician’s daughter to be good at what the technician is.
“What about you Tahati?” Simi asked.
“I’d go to Eden-bra.”
“Edinburgh? Why?” Tiana asked, wrinkling her nose.
“Because it sounds really friendly and nice. It’s got both Eden, and bruh in its name, how can it not be nice?” Tahati shrugged.
“Tahati, have you got any idea where Edinburgh is?” Tiana asked.
Tahati looked down sheepishly. Her eyes went even wider behind her glasses when she didn’t know the answer to something. When she did know the answer, she would stare at the person asking, with such intent that she looked like she was willing them to burst into flames. The teachers didn’t like asking her things.
“It’s Scotland. The capital of Scotland. It’s not a paradise, and it’s not that friendly. It’s like London, but better,” Tiana explained.
“Better how?” Ravi asked.
“I can’t really explain it. Or describe it. When you’re there, in the streets, you just feel it,” Tiana shrugged.
“What would you know? You’re Irish!” Sapphire laughed.
“I’m not Irish!” Tiana groaned once again.
“Oh sure, and Tahati’s not welsh!” Zangi grinned.
“It was one traumatic incident with a sheep - let it die!” Tahati snapped.
While they were laughing, the bell rang. It was time for class again, and so soon! They had to split up for this lesson again, like they usually did. Sapphire and Simi had media, Tahati had sociology, Ravi had child development and Tiana and Zangi had drama. As always, they were the last to leave the classroom, because they didn’t want to go to lesson.
This meant they passed everyone who was wandering around, searching for somewhere to bunk. They always did. It also meant that they passed by lots of teachers, who completely ignored them. This meant that they could walk in their group to each classroom, going the long way to waste even more class time.
Which meant that they missed the arrival of the publishing crew. But that didn’t matter, because they would meet soon enough.