When you only have a bike as a mode of transport, it’s not ideal to be pedalling in the rain. I make it to the college building the following morning with my clothes completely soaked through. I quickly pop to the toilets and place my head under the hand dryer.
I receive some odd looks from girls coming in and out of the lady’s room, but once I explain that I rode here in the rain, it seems to give them some clarity.
I head into class with an emerging headache and Ricky seems to be waiting for me when I get there, which I’m not at all prepared for.
“Now that we’re all here, I have an announcement to make,” he says.
This had better be good. Hopefully he’ll say we’re forecast for snow next week, or that afternoon classes have been cancelled for the day.
“I don’t know if any of you have watched the news recently, but Lakeside college has shut down.”
Lakeside is based on the other side of town and it’s where all the rich kids live. It’s a completely different world over there - one that I’m comfortable keeping at a safe distance.
“Why has it shut down sir?” someone yells from across the class.
Ricky runs a hand through his hair, unable to keep still for five seconds. I’ve never seen him this nervous before. It’s not exactly reassuring. “Well, unfortunately Lakeside was hit with some pretty bad thunderstorms over the weekend. The college in particular was badly affected by the flooding. It’s not safe for the students to return.”
“What has this got to do with us?” I speak up, growing impatient.
“The students from Lakeside won’t have anywhere else to go. The college might not be running again until next year.”
“That’s not our problem.”
“Oh gosh, this is awful!” Harper cries. “I feel so bad for them!”
“A solution has been made. Both our college and Lakeside have discussed the possibility of working together.”
Where is he going with this?
“As we are the closest educational facility in the area, students from Lakeside will be relocating here.”
There are a few shocks and gasps from around the room. Lakeside is coming to Barnett college? How is that going to work?
I feel the anxiety start to sweep over me, but before my thoughts can catch up, Ricky is speaking again and I’m forced to listen.
“This is only temporary, remember? There’s no need to panic. But we are going to have to make some changes around here.”
It doesn’t take long for the class to erupt. Panic rises, until almost everyone is expressing their concerns about this new arrangement. I sit there and try to process the news, but I can only feel anxious about what changes are going to be made to my comfortable routine. I’m happy with how things are.
As the voices get louder and tensions continue to rise, Ricky slams his hand down on the desk, cutting through the uproar.
“Quiet!” he orders. “Nobody is going anywhere. We will be splitting the journalism groups into class A and class B.”
This can’t be happening.
“I encourage you all to be nice and welcoming. We have to set an example.”
“What if they aren’t nice to us?” I ask.
“Treat them as guests, because that’s what they are. I want you to be on your best behaviour.” He looks at me when he says it.
It’s been hard enough communicating with the people already in my class, but to have new students join us is only going to throw me right back to the start of the year, where I found it difficult to socialize and familiarize myself with names.
It takes me a lot of time to be my true self and my classmates have had to get used to me, as much I’ve had to get used to them. I know that this might sound selfish, but I don’t want Lakeside to come here and ruin all the progress I’ve already made.
“I can’t believe we’ve got to share a class with a bunch of rich snobs from Lakeside,” I say to the girls at lunch, taking my frustrations out on the sandwich I’m eating. It’s all I’ve been able to think about since Ricky announced it earlier in class.
“It might not be as bad as we all think,” Harper says, popping a slice of melon into her mouth. She always sees the good in every situation anyway. I can imagine she’s planning a welcome party in her head as we speak.
“I don’t want to meet new people,” I moan, to nobody in particular. “Especially not some pompous rich kids who think they are better than the rest of us just because they have fancy cars and money up to their eyeballs.”
I try to tame my wild hair by running some fingers through it, only to add to its frizzy condition. I nearly got blown off the road this morning by the gale force winds coming at me from every possible angle. I can’t help that my hair demands special attention in order to avoid blowing up into a frizz ball.
It takes me a while to notice him, but when my eyes casually scan the cafeteria, Rory Keaton is sitting at the table in front of ours and he’s watching me. I glare in his direction and he seems to find it amusing.
He’s wearing a black t-shirt today, exposing the length of his arms. He has a silver ring on his middle finger and brings it up to his mouth as he takes a large bite out of an apple.
I quickly look down at the floor and try to ignore him the best I can, but it’s not working. My eyes keep finding him from across the room and every time I glance over there, he’s staring right back.
I can’t believe I kissed him!! What was my brain thinking at that exact moment?
I jump to my feet and stretch my legs. I’ve got to get out of here. “I’m going to get something from the vending machine. Anybody want anything?”
“No thanks,” the girls say together.
I get to the vending machine and sort out my change. Then I pop the money in and wait for my KitKat bar. As I’m bending over, I notice a shadow loom above me. I know who it is before I even turn around.
Rory leans against the wall. “Fancy seeing you here,” he says, with a smirk on his lips.
I clutch onto my chocolate bar with a clear goal in mind. I must return to my table and ignore his existence.
I start walking in the opposite direction. It’s not long before he catches up. “You’re off in a hurry.”
I’m quick to distance myself, so we’re not exchanging the same breath. “I’m trying to get away from you... if you haven’t noticed?”
“Ooh. You’ve got a bit of an attitude on you this morning. Is it because I haven’t been paying you much attention ever since our kiss the other night? If you’d like to recreate it, I’d be more than happy to help you out.”
I yank him by the arm and lead us both to a more secluded area under the staircase. Rory leans against one of the railings, looking very amused with my sudden attempt to kidnap him.
“Stop bringing that up! It’s old news! As far as I’m concerned, it never happened!”
His eyes widen and then he smiles. I hold his gaze and for a second or two we just look at each other. A wave of anticipation creeps up on me unexpectedly and I quickly push it back down, remembering my reasons for pulling him aside.
“Forget about it alright? I have.”
“It happened Skye. You grabbed me… like this.” He takes me by the shoulders and draws me closer to him. My heart begins to race. It’s an unfamiliar feeling.
“And then you got on your tiptoes...” he lifts my chin so I have no choice but to look up at him. A frown quickly takes over his face. “You’re actually quite short, aren’t you?”
I slap him across the shoulder and push him back. He knows exactly what he’s doing. “If I was sober, we would have been on opposite sides of the dance floor. I wasn’t in the right frame of mind.”
“Right... I believe you,” he says, sarcastically.
I laugh under my breath. “You think that I can’t help myself don’t you? That I’ll just sleep with anybody who will take me? You’re just like everybody else, so quick to judge.”
His eyes widen, but his smirk remains. “I could say the same about you. Don’t you judge me as much as everybody else? Isn’t it the same thing?”
When he puts it like that, it does sound like I’m being hypocritical. We both have reputations.
“Did you follow me out here?” I demand.
When he laughs, his whole face brightens and it’s a little infectious. “I was getting an afternoon snack. I thought the vending machines were available to everyone.”
“Whatever.” Ugh. That sounded better in my head.
Rory throws his head back and laughs wildly. It’s the kind of laugh that could sweep any girl off her feet, except for the one that is not prone to being charmed easily, which I intend to remain.
The door is open when I get home and my mother isn’t on her own. At first, I worry that Rob is with her again and that I’ll have to endure another night of their drunkenness.
Fortunately, that’s not the case.
Mum is talking to her support worker Cathy, who usually pays us home visits once every month to check how she’s doing.
I nearly trip over a load of shopping bags in the passageway, which is nothing short of unusual. My mother is always buying new clothes, perfumes and fancy objects for the house. Half of the time, I don’t know where she gets the money from.
I scan the room and notice that something looks different. Maybe it’s the fact that our old sofa has been replaced with a creamy leather recliner. As much as I find it adds a soft feature to the room, I can’t help but wonder how much it cost.
Mum leaps up to hug me when I try to sneak past them without being seen. She must be in a good mood because this doesn’t happen often.
“You bought a new couch?” I gesture over to the newest addition and mum’s eyes light up at the mention of her latest investment.
“Isn’t it gorgeous? It was on sale. Only three hundred quid.” I almost choke on my tongue. Only three hundred?
“How was your day Skye?” She quickly changes the subject.
“Dramatic,” I admit, as it’s the only word to describe the experience in a nutshell. “We found out that some Lakeside students are going to be joining our course soon, so that’s blinking terrific.”
Cathy must misinterpret my sarcasm for excitement. “Oh, well isn’t that lovely? It’s great that the colleges are coming together at a time like this. I heard about the flood on Facebook. Luckily nobody was injured when it happened.”
Mum nods, situating herself back on the sofa, tasting her tea. “I don’t know much about it, but Maggie was telling me this morning that the college has been shut down.”
“Do they have any idea when it’ll be up and running again Skye?”
I shake my head at Cathy’s question. “Nope. But I’m guessing it’s going to take a while, which means we’ll have to get used to some new faces.”
“I’m sure it’ll be fine, you’re chatty... you’ll make more friends,” mum says, turning back to talk to Cathy and forgetting that I’m probably the least chatty person in the entire universe.
I can barely keep the friends I’ve got now, and it’s taken a long time for me to form relationships with them. I still struggle to socialize with the girls at college. I’ve never had proper girls as friends before. It’s new to me.
Mum isn’t aware of my social situation, or how much I struggle to interact with people. Sometimes, it’s as if she doesn’t know me at all.