Cooper practically raced inside the school in her eagerness to see The List, Florence, Madison and Lauren stumbling in her wake.
Once they reached the front doors and walked in it was pretty impossible to miss the hundreds of pale pink papers emblazoned on everywhere.
Cooper walked up to the wall and practically tore one off.
Her eyes went very, very wide.
“Oh my God...” she said.
“What? You got it” asked Florence, already ready to offer her almost sincere congratulations with a wide smile on her face, her arms ready to hug her friend.
But something was so, so wrong.
Cooper looked like she was about to cry.
Florence, feeling a sudden knot growing in her stomach grabbed one off the locker nearest to her.
The List 2016
1. Prettiest Girl In The Year-
2. Ugliest Girl In The Year-
3. FBPG Of The Year (Fat But Pretty Girl)
4. Most Improved Since Last Year
The world was actually going to give way beneath her feet, this had to be some kind of sick and twisted joke, no one hated her this much that they’d do something as cruel as this to her.
But they had, and the entire corridor was now fixated upon her waiting to see how she would react, waiting to see the fat girl would take the news that everyone saw her for what she truly was now.
She had a sudden flashback to that morning, her skirt hadn’t done up, her skirt that should have done up.
And as for her best friends?
They stood there looking like someone had simultaneously slapped the three of them.
“We have our new FBPG ladies and gents!” came an obnoxious shout, Hudson Travers was the source of the comment and more than one person was cracking up, laughing at her expense.
And Cooper, Madison and Lauren still stood frozen, no hugs, no comforting words or promises that this changed nothing.
Florence turned and tried to walk calmly down the corridor in the opposite direction, this all felt surreal like she would wake up in bed and it would all be a horrible, horrible nightmare.
She didn’t hear one of her friends shout for her to stop, to wait up for them.
Two girls stood in front of the bathroom were she was headed.
“Excuse me” she said, a quiet mutter.
She didn’t know their names, the girl with the nose piercing sniggered.
“Sorry fat girl, didn’t realise we were blocking your way”
She sniggered again and then linked arms with her friend and strode down the hall, one hand on her slim hip.
Florence waited until she was in the stall before she began to cry, not graceful crying but the ugliest tears she had ever cried.
Great big drops fell down onto her skirt leaving damp patches, she slumped against the door, the waistband of her skirt was straining against the expanse of her stomach.
She couldn’t believe this was happening to her, horrible things like this never happened to her and the three people she would expect to be lifting her up right now weren’t here.
She sobbed, bringing her hands up to her face and only then did she realise she was still clutching the list balled up in her fist.
She unwrapped it, praying that this was some kind of reading error on her part, the words would rearrange themselves, there would be another name on that piece of paper, she wouldn’t care who, just anybody but here.
But there clear as day was her name.
She took out her mobile and messaged her Mum.
Florence: Mum, I don’t feel too well, got cramps please come get me?
Mum: Okay honey, but are you sure its your first day?
Mum: I’ll be there in ten minutes x
She couldn’t be here a second longer, not with the jeers.
Florence almost jumped out of her skin when she heard two knocks from the other side of the door, she heard the squeak of her shoes and then a quiet voice.
“Flo are you in there? It’s Cooper”
Her heart jumped with relief, she hadn’t been abandoned, on the other side of that door her friend was here for her.
She heard Cooper slide down the side of the door and saw her friends fingers slip under the door, offering her hand which Florence took and clung onto like it was her lifeboat, she stood up and unlocked the door.
Cooper stood on the other side, her perfectly made up face was a complete mess, Florence looked behind her at the mirror and saw her friends willowy frame and then her own taking up almost the entire gap between the door. Cooper reached out a hand as if she was going to hug Florence and then turned and looked in the mirror herself, she stared at their reflections for what seemed like years and then withdrew her arm.
“I’m sorry...” she whispered and then let out a sob that sounded like she was choking before running out of the bathroom faster than anyone wearing high heels should have been able to and Florence was left feeling like the scream building up inside of her would shatter every single mirror in this room and bring Cooper back begging for her forgiveness.
Because unless she was terribly misjudging the situation.
She’d just lost her best friend.
When Cooper’s parents had divorced, Florence’s mother had looked after her for almost a month as the custody battle over their daughter became ugly, Florence had given up her bed and her belongings, she had shared everything she had with the distraught seven-year old.
When Lauren had first joined Primrose Primary, afraid and alone when everyone already had their friendship groups Florence had persuaded Cooper and Madison that the lonely new girl deserved a chance.
And when Madison’s grandmother had died she had wept for an hour on Florence’s shoulder, Florence had attended the funeral and lay a bouquet of Lilies on her grave though Madison’s grandmother had branded her “The girl with unfortunate looks” And she had visited her grave every single year without fail with Madison and patted her arm consolingly.
And now as she headed through the front doors with giggling, whispers and jeers she had no one by her side.
She had fought every single one of her friend’s battles, and now that she was facing the hardest thing she had ever had to face in her life, they had abandoned the battlefield.