The Tide that Turned in Spring

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7. Naive

Chapter 7: Naive

It’s only afterwards you realise it’s nights like that you wish there were more of. I check my phone and that  night has become nothing more than a blurred memory and a badly taken background on my phone. I swear Mrs Lambert eyeballs me so I go back to paying attention. I think of her when we danced and they way she looked at me. It was a look that saw something very bad in me.

"Education. Leadership. Individualism. Teamwork. Elite. We raise students based on these five founding principles; students who are well educated, strong and wise leaders, who flourish both as individuals and teamworkers but are always  exceptional. So my message to you is to be live by this as you navigate your way through the sometimes stormy seas of this term. We will now sing the school song; 'When a knight won his spurs."

Our school song goes like this:

 

When a knight won his spurs in the stories of old

He was gentle and brave he was gallant and bold

With a shield on his arm and a lance in his hand

For God and for valor he rode through the land

 

No charger have I, and no sword by my side

Yet still to adventure and battle I ride

Though back into storyland giants have fled

And the knights are no more and the dragons are dead

 

Let faith be my shield and let joy be my steed

Against the dragons of anger the ogres of greed

And let me set free with the sword of my youth

From the castle of darkness the power of the truth

 

As usual we sing it very loudly as well playing the hymnbook game and trying to shove Gwebe off the end of the pew. We all came straight from Jel's party back to school and I'm still slightly hungover but not as bad as I was two days ago.  After assembly, Brad goes off to find Lulu and we head back to house for house meeting.  I think Brad and Lulu must be about to go out. Brad's been in the friendzone for months.  When we get back, Jake, one the year 12's has challenged a guy in the year below us to an arm wrestle and so everyone is sitting around cheering and yelling. There are about ten new year 12s, five new years nines and three new year tens so there quite a few people looking terrified and not knowing who to support, what to say or where to sit. Archie James (yes, brother of Ivy James) eyeballs Jel.

"Oi, Armstrong, you're playing whoever wins."

It's tradition for the older ones to call us by our surnames.

"You're on."

Being in year 11, we've moved off the piano in house meetings and now we all have to squish onto the windowsill as the sixthform get all the sofas, not that any of the newbies know that.

"Hahaha Farnsworth you SUCK!" Cas yells, tackling Farnsworth to the floor. "And Armstrong, you're on! Get your arse off that windowsill!"

Jel scrambles down and is in the middle of a very intense match when a door slams when Brad comes quietly in.

"Brad! King of the friendzone!" Zook shouts and the whole house stops watching.

"King of the friendzone no more." Brad says and he double high fives Zook. The whole house start clapping and cheering and wolf whistling and Brad takes a small bow. Everyone is making so much noise that we don't  hear Mr H's inevitable heavy thud coming towards the comm.

"Will you all shut up? God, I can hear you from my office! We scramble  back to our seats and Mr H sits down on the sofa at the front, taking up most of it and making two of the year 13s move.

"Jake, take the register please."

He works his way through the register until he get's to our year.

"Armstrong-"

"Yes."

"Gwebe?"

He sort of squeaks something. I think someone might be sitting on him.

"I'll take that as a yes."

"Higgins?"

We look around and amongst each other.

"So no Brad."

Mr H sighs heavily.

"Middleton-Jones?"

"Yup."

"And I can hear the other two from hear. Ingleston Reid and Thorton. I could pick you out anywhere."

They're actually taking selfies on Jel's phone.

"Now, I want to welcome you back after the holidays. I hope you've had a restful one and are ready for a hard terms work..." and he proceeds to spend the next ten minutes or so droning on about house rules and washing machines and times to send off laundry etc. Peterson comes stumbling in about ten minutes later and he keeps fidgeting and checking his watch, like for some strange, unknown reason, he doesn't want to be here.

"Now, this is mainly for the new members of the house. Each year group has a duty that they must carry out. Year Nine are in charge of outside tidiness, year 10's have to collect crockery-"

Did we? I didn't do it once last year.

"And year 11, you've got the highly coveted role of cleaning the tearoom. I've made a rota so you better stick to it."

We all groan. The tearoom is disgusting and not something I look forward to having to deal with, at all.

"Year 12's are wake up and year 13s, you have your captaincies which I will discuss with you tomorrow. Oh and year 11, you have a meeting tomorrow night in the theatre."

We groan again.

"Look's like some sort of compulsory show."

Everyone else laughs.

"Well if that won't keep you busy, I don't know what will."

Oh great. I can't wait. Not. I don't do things on stage. Not now and not ever.

"Well that's it. Go and get ready for your lessons. Oh year nine, I need a word."

We have lessons after break which is in about twenty minutes.  We file out and along, up the little steps, past  Matron's office, into CC and up the main flight of stairs. However, instead of going along corridor to our rooms that we had in year 10,  we continue up the stairs to get up the next floor where the year 13 corridor is. This is strictly forbidden, unless you're in year eleven like us and heading towards the loft which is at the end of the corridor, on top of the right wing. It's three rooms all squished together and completely cut off from the rest of the house.

"Come on roomie." Jel says, draping an arm around my shoulders and heading into our tiny room. It's got two low beds this time, a desk each as well as a wardrobe. Jel flops down onto his bed, kicks off his shoes and turns up his stereo. Jel is love with Avril Lavigne and as well as having a huge poster of her above his bed, he has a couple of her songs which he insists on playing all the time.  However, his song today is 'Teenage Dirtbag'. If you haven't heard of it, have you been living under a rock?

"Oi loser!"

Zook and Henry come crashing in and start singing along really badly and really loudly. It's not singing so much as shouting.  Brad comes in and joins us. We all look at him expectantly.

"So, give us all the goss! Did you kiss her?" Zook asks, turning the music down and we all sit down, eager to hear.

"Yeah."

"Well, what did it feel like?"

"It was very quick but I think it will get better with practice."

We're all so relieved they're together, after however many months.

"What did you say to her?" Henry asks.

"I told her that she was beautiful and she said thank you and that she spends an hour everyday getting ready so she was glad someone noticed. But it was really awkward because neither of us knew how to...I don't know...implement it. She's never actually been anyone like this."

We all look at each other .

"I find that hard to believe." Jel says, running a hand through his hair.

"Well, she has her reasons. She's got with people at G&T's and stuff but never a proper relationship. And I'm hoping it will be like how it's always been."

We all look at each other.

"How it's always been? You've been in love with her from the start." Henry says.

"We'll still be best friends, just some touchy feelyness as well. No gross PDA."

PDA means public display of affection. Jel and Henry both laugh.

"It never says like that. Trust me. Once the first love fever hits, you guys will be all over each other. You'll be inseparable and so in love." Jel says.

"He's right. You guys will be making out in the woods and in random toilets and dark corners." Henry adds.

"I always forget you had a girlfriend."  I say and Henry laughs rather ruefully.

"Yes, well, that makes one of us." He says. Jel changes the subject.

"Brad, if you and Lulu are gonna do the dirty, don't do it at school. Seriously."

"Thanks. You've lost your virginity haven't you?" 

Zook and Henry laugh. I should have guessed Jel wouldn't be a virgin, apart from being a year older and someone who can have almost any girl he wants.

"Oh Jel, you're such a loser. For someone so pretty, you couldn't find it!" Zook says, wiping tears from his eyes.

"Find what?" I ask.

"The hole." Jel replies, with his head in his hands. "It was dark though and I did find it eventually. God it was disgusting. I think, you either have to be really drunk or really love them for it to be a great memorable experience. Neither applied in this situation.  Brad, we're gonna have to have a wee talk."

Brad looks terrified.

"I'd think you'd rather Jel than your Dad, wouldn't you?" Zook says and we all laugh loudly. The thought of Mr H talking about the birds and the bees is enough to give me nightmares.  The song changes to Naïve by the Kooks comes on so we turn the music up really loudly and dance and sing along. And that's pretty much how it goes all week until Sunday after assembly

On Sunday, we come out of assembly and head back to Arkansas for yet another check in before Sunday Prep. Sunday prep is the hour and a half between Sunday Assembly and lunch which is closed house and we're either supposed to be tidying or studying. Usually we just watch movies or listen to music really loudly. At the end of check in, Mr H keeps us back.

"There's three things I want to say. First, remember your compulsory meeting this afternoon in the theatre. Second, after this, you're duty is to go and clean the tearoom. Apparently we have one of the worst ones on campus so have fun. Third, next time my son decides to get a girlfriend, please help with his choice. Leather wearing bass players usually aren't the academic type and if you want to go to Oxford, I have a feeling she may not get you there.  That's all."

Brad is mortified but as soon as we've left,  we just go into hysterics. We only stop laughing when we see the tearoom.  The floor is covered in a thick layer of jam, crumbs, cereal and noodles which stick to my socks as I walk in. You can't see the surfaces because they are covered in so much shit. Empty jars, bread crusts, empty small bottles of milk, butter both left on and smeared over the surfaces as well as jam, marmite and honey. There are dirty knifes, bowls with half eaten cereal, empty bags of crisps and a half eaten cake, left over from Mr H's grub with the year 9s, covering the table as well as a few large bottles of coke and irn bru which people have been drinking and backwashing into al weekend. There is also houmous going mouldy and half of watermelon which has a few forks in it which people have also been picking at all weekend. There are also more mugs than I can count. There are also bowls with two days old noodles on the floor and the bins are overflowing. Don't get me started on the sink. It is filled high with dirty crockery and noodles block the plughole. It smells like, well, shit. And there is a faint smell of vomit. I think someone may have been sick over the fire escape stairs. God. We really do live like animals. The sound of year 9s who have been here for less than a week fills the corridor and Jel stands in the doorway not letting them in.

"No. You're not coming in here. Not until we've cleaned it."

They cower and start to dissapear.

"Jel, we should have got them to take the bins out. None of us want to do it. Think of all the shit we did in year 9."

"Fine."

He yells down the corridor:

"Year 9!"

They turn around and scamper towards where Jel is standing.

"Take the bins out." He orders.

"What?"

"Take the bins out. It's one of your duties."

They do absolutely as he says.

" You do this every week ok?" Jel orders as they struggle outside. Oh the joy of the hierarchy. Then we put some music on and divvy up jobs. It takes us half an hour.

"Oh have you guys heard, we're getting some new people in our year." Jel says, sweeping the floor again because Zook just stood in what he had previously swept up and trailed it everywhere.

"Who did you hear it from?" Zook asks.

"India. They're arriving today I think. She used to be at school with them and says one of them is like Rome and the other is a total drip. Sounds like they'll totally fit in in Gallagher."

We all agree.

"Jel, if one of them is like Rome, you mustn't pick any fights with them." Brad says, scraping marmite off the table.

"Brad is right, we don't need anymore enemies. Shall we just throw the table cloth away?"

We agree cause we know neither Mr H nor Matron will notice.

"Wait, where's Gwebe. He should be here."

"He can do the washing up

"I'll go." Jel says, dropping his brush. He comes back two minutes later, dragging Gwebe by his uniform. He shoves Gwebe towards the sink.

"Well. What are you waiting for? You're not coming back until those dishes are done." Jel orders and then we leave him to it.

 

 

After lunch, we head to the theatre.  All of our year have actually showed up and as usual when we're made to wait for about more than 10 minutes, we all start to get rowdy and people start play fighting, throwing cushions across the theatre foyer and there are two people really getting with each other in the corner. Despite the fact Jel is sitting with his popular friends and doesn't react to the cushion that comes flying at him, we know secretly, he is still up for a cushion fight.

"Look at him, pretending he isn't phased. Henry, shall I throw this big one?"

"We'll  both throw them. Wait, I'll go first."

Henry throws it and Jel pretends he isn't phased.  Zook then lobs one and Jel sits up and eye balls him.

"Do you mind you little shit?"

Zook just giggles and throws another one. Jel jumps up, makes his way across the foyer and tackles Zook to the ground and whacks with the pillow he has just thrown.

"Get him back Henry! Draw on his face!"

One of the Alvie girls throws him a pen and Henry tries to get pen on Jel's face who is viciously assaulting Zook with a pillow and I take one of the scarves from the bench and try and tie Jel's ankles together.

"Get off me TJ! You little-"

"Eh hem."

We all look up.  Well everyone else looks up. The four of us get up and sit on the bench.

"So what they say about this year group is true."

She eyeballs the five of us. She's maybe about five foot 8, wearing something very long and floaty with a short bob hair cut and a stern look of discontent on her face. She really doesn't want to be here and especially not with all of us.

" I'm Miss Nelson, your new year group leader."

She strides down foyer and we all sit up.

"Benedict. Can you please pass me the scarf?"

"This one?"

"Yes. The one you were trying to garrotte Jel with."

I pass to her and she drapes it around her neck.

"And yes, it is mine. Now, I have called you all here for a very important reason."

She begins to waffle on about something to do with a play. Zook gestures to Henry that he has something in his hair and if he wants him to get it out. Henry nods and on the other side of me, I can see Jel googling the definition of garrotte.

"Zachary, are you a chimpanzee?"

Zook stops trying to get whatever is in Henry's hair out. We all look at each other. Well...

"Then stop acting like one and leave Henry alone. God, it's like walking into a zoo."

"It's not a zoo I'm ever gonna come on a day out to." Jel mutters and we all giggle.

"This show. It is just year 11 and it is compulsory for all of you."

We all groan and she ignores it.

"You all need to be more creative and really let out those teenage emotions into some art. Art is a beautiful thing when done well and if all of you contribute, it should be a fantastic show..."

She continues to talk about drama mumbo-jumbo for a bit and that's when I notice two people sitting with Rome. Two people I've never seen before in my life. Newbies.

"Now I want to talk to each house individually. Arkansas, you can be first."

We follow her and she sits us down and I try to work out how long it will be before one of us does something stupid.

"Now Arkansas, are you all here?"

We nod.

"Wait, where is ummm..."

"Gwebe. It's pronounced Gweeb."

We wait for a moment.

"Well we'll just have to start without him. Now as you know, we're holding a year 11 cabaret.

The door swings open and Gwebe shuffles in.

"Ah so you have finally decided to join us."

He goes to sit down but Zook moves his chair and goes straight for the floor.

"I said a chair Gwebe."

He clambers in and sits there, arms  crossed and huddled into the chair.

"Now, each house will be expected to enter an act and we're also looking for two Compères."

"Err...Miss..."

"What Zachary?"

"What's a compare?"

"Somebody who presents the show." She explains.

"I'll do it." Jel says.

We all turn to look at him.

"Okay, auditions are on Friday afternoon."

"Seriously dude?" we ask and he nods.

"Why not?"

I can think of all the reasons why I wouldn't. But that's just me.

"So are you going to do an act or video?"

We look at each other.

"Video." Henry says.

She scribbles some notes down and then hands Jel a memory stick.

"This is for you to put your video on. You must not loose it.

"Now, go on your way and send in the boys from Gallagher."

We let Jel do that and then we all sit down in the corner of the foyer.

"Hey Arkansas."

We look up and a bunch of Alvie girls are all standing over us, the one who asked being called Felicity (I think.)

"Are you not going to talk to-" Jel asks but  Felicity (if that is her name) shakes her head.

"She's going to talk to us in house."

Then she sees me.

"Oh my god! You're Ben Middleton-Jones right?"

I nod.

"And you're Flick."

"Yup. I sure am."

We shake hands.

"And this is Elise, who is one out of two German girls in our year, this  is Nicola and you know India-Jane."

Nicola is dyed blond and quite buff in a sporty sense while Elise has very long flowing russet hair and is strikingly beautiful. I notice they don't introduce me to Abbie but I assume it's cause they know I sit next to her in chemistry. Nicola is texting animatedly but looks up when she hears her name and flicks her hair.

"Oh you don't need to introduce me to Ben," She says, crossing her legs.  "I've heard all about you. You remember Jennifer?"

Errr...how could I not?

"She was my roommate you see." Then she laughs very loudly and uncrosses her legs.

"She thought you were the most beautiful person in the room."

She laughs again. It's a very fake laugh, the kind that girls assume boys find attractive when actually after a bit, it slight reminds me of a harpie or my mother when she pretending to find something funny.

"Then why didn't you get with her?" Nicola asks, giving me a really accusing look. "You really missed out."

"It's complicated." Jel says, stepping in and saving me from having to explain the whole bet.  Jel is the focal point of both groups and because what he says always goes, the conversation about Jennifer fizzles out, like a bulb in a spotlight that was keeping me centre and has finally been switched off.

"So Henry, how is the horse riding going?" Nicola asks and I've had too much of a long day to try and bother working out how they know each other. Abandoned by Henry, Zook suddenly turns to Elise.

While Nicola does a lot of hair flicking and leg crossing, Elise just sits, like she has a book on her head or a rod down her back and with her hands folded in her lap; like a beautiful porcelain skinned sculpture. That's until Zook pokes her in the ribs and says with manic laugh:

"Hahaha, you and Gwebe are painting set!"

She smiles a very cheeky smile.

"Shut up! It's not funny!"

They start on some in jokes so I decided to join in with Jel.

"And Flick, you and Akash huh?" Jel is saying, draping an arm around Flick's shoulder and she goes bright red and nods.

"I had to ask him out. I was getting too impatient waiting for him to do it."

Flick then laughs and continues to go red at the memory.

"You guys are the cutest couple. We just have to find someone for India now." Jel says, leaving back with his head behind his hands.

"Well I know someone who'd be fantastic for India." I chime in and they all turn to look at me, as if I've just fallen through from the sky or something.

"Who TJ?"

"Yeah, go on, you can tell us."

"Well he's tall, very tall in fact-"

"Thinks he's good looking-" Zook adds. "And really charming."

"When actually he's a real twat." Henry finishes with a smirk. Jel does not look impressed at all.  But he never gets a chance to reply. The door to the theatre swings open and the Gallagher boys coming strutting out and we are immediately approached by Akash, Flick's Indian boyfriend.

"Hey Arkansas, hey girls." He says and sits down next to Flick but he won't stop continually shifting and drumming his fingers on the seat. I suppose sitting with the scariest boy in the year and his band of loyal weirdos as well as a group of fiercely protective  girls who still see him as maybe a bit too nerdy, he's clearly a bit out of his comfort zone. Akash continues to drum his fingers and it gets faster and faster and none of us want to get on the wrong side of Flick by telling him to stop. Well all of us is apart from Jel who is leaning back with his hands behind his head. I don't think Jel is afraid of anyone. He makes direct eye contact with Akash.

"Look Akash, can you please just stop with the drumming? It's driving everybody here insane."

He obeys instantly and his shoulders slump. Flick puts an arm around his shoulders and their back in their own little bubble.

 "Wait, is that Ivy James?"

We all turn to look at her. And by that I mean the whole room. Ivy James has let herself in through the foyer doors and is completely oblivious to the fact that all the eyes of the room are on her.

"Wait, isn't that Gwebe's girl?"

We all nod.  The Alvie girls just look so confused.

"Are we missing something?"

Jel throws his head back and laughs.

"Oh you have no idea."

He throws a coy look at Valerie. They really don't. There is a tinkle of some kind of music and we all jump up. An ice cream has pulled up outside. Of course. It's a Sunday afternoon and possibly the only exciting thing that happens. There is a stampede and of course we end up at the back of the queue. The sugar makes Zook even hyper than usual and that afternoon after our meeting in the theatre, I don't even remember what we did. I just remember laughing all the way back to Arkansas. We have to go to check in Mr H as soon as we get back and as soon as we've checked in, Zook changes in his trousers and Brad goes to see Lulu. Then we sign out in the book of lies that we're 'going for a walk' and we have a cigarette.  At five o'clock, we check in again and each order a kebab to have after dinner. It's a pretty average Sunday. Apart from when Zook accidentally pissed on the road  cause he was laughing so much. But that's another story.

We go into dinner, sign out with border control aka. Mr H and meet Elise and a few other Alvie girls in the queue. Jel of course gossips with India and Nicole and Henry talk about horses and that kind of thing. Zook goes to queue for pasta and so I'm left to talk to Elise.

"So, how are you?" I ask.

"I'm good. What about you?"

"Fine. God, I hate all of theze controlled assessments. I just vant to paint and zhat's ze one zing they von't let me do."

"I know right. Its so stupid."

There's an awkward pause in the conversation. I fidget while she twiddles with her hair.

"So whereabouts are you from in Germany?"

"Bavaria. I live in ze country and it is so very... vhat's the vord..."

"Scenic? Lush?"

"I do know vhat those vords mean. I vas going to say zhat it is very good to paint. My mama wanted to move into Munich wiz her new..."

She struggles for the word.

"Not lover...more than that..."

"Boyfriend?"

"Ya but I zaid no. I couldn't leave my house or Hans."

"TJ!"

"Who is Hans?"

"Are you coming to sit with us you Moron or what?"

"I have to go. Great chatting to you Elise."

"You too Ginger boy."

I wonder who Hans is whether he is a sibling or a lover or simply a friend. I wonder if he is the equivalent of Elliot. Then that subconscious voice says:

"Ah but she couldn't leave Hans. You left Elliot."

"What's up TJ?" Zook asks. It's just three of us as Brad hasn't shown up with Lulu yet and Jel is sitting with his various other friends.

"Oh nothing."

I know Zook isn't convinced.

"You're being usually quiet. In fact both of you are."

Henry looks up from his phone and runs a hand aggressively through his hair. I sprinkle salt over my lamb kofta and then pass it to Zook.

"Sorry. Shit kicking off at home on our WhatsApp group.  I think the day when I have to stop being the family rescuer will never come."

"Actually Henry, can you pass me your phone?"

"Why?"

"Just pass it here."

Henry reluctantly passes it over and Zook puts in the pocket of his blazer.

"There. Now you can stop worrying."

Henry folds him arms across his chest. Then I realise as I do everyday, I forgot to get the one thing I crave most.

"I'm gonna get some salt, do either of you losers want anything?"

"No thanks. That salt isn't good for you TJ..."

I give him two fingers and go and get salt and that when I see those Newbies again.

!Hey guys, don’t all look at once but I spy a newbie.” I say as I sit down. Zook and Henry both turn instantly.

“Wait where?”

“That guy, with the shaved bit on his head. The one who looks like a total ned.”

We all turned and look.

“Doesn’t he look like a right tosser?”

“Totally.”

 “Hey, can I umm… sit here?

We all turned around. A guy who was obviously a) new b) not in Arkansas c) terrified d) and e) knows nobody  is standing at our table.

Looked like I was going to be the one speaking.

“Yeah sure. Go for it.”  I gave him my best smile and he sat down right on the edge.

“Hey, come and sit round here.” Zook gestures to the seat next to him and he sits down, hunched over his food.

“So what’s your name?” Zook asks the new kid.

“August. But most people just call me Augie."

My turn.

“Whereabouts are you from?” .

“Cambridge. You?”

“Yorkshire.”

 “Nice place. But how come you don’t have an accent?”

“Everyone asks me that. When I was a kid I had such a strong Yorkshire accent but when I came here it started to fade.”

“When you started it was quite strong.”

“Thanks for that.”

“Wait are you in Gallagher?” Henry asks, leaning back in his chair, his arms folded across his chest.

“Yeah. I just thought I’d come and sit with you guys because you looked easier to talk to.” He referenced to the lad table.

"Well it's nice to meet you." Henry says with a half smile.

"Wait, you know India right?"

He nods.

"Apparently one of the reason she hates me is because I remind her of someone she hates. If you knew who, I'd love to know what this person has done so wrong to be like me and also to be India's sworn enemy."

Augie takes a really good at Henry.

" Oh my god. She's right. There's someone. Oh my god, who is it..."

"Brad alert." Zook mutters.

"No he doesn't remind of anyone I know called Brad..." Augie mutters.

"Dude, it's fine. Just if you remember."

"Hey guys." Brad says and Lulu just looks terrified.

"Hey." We all say practically in sync. He sits down and then sees Augie.

"Augie, how are you doing?"

Augie sits up a bit.

"I'm okay."

"Wait, how do you guys know each other?"

"We met in the dinner queue."

None of us are convinced.

"Lulu, you've met Augie right?"

"Oh yes, we've met before, haven't we?"

"Yup."

Something has changed on the table.  I can't tell what it is but there's an underlying tension that wasn't here five minutes ago.  I mean, I like Augie. He's shy, nice and pretty genuine it seems. I've absolutely nothing against but there is something between him and Lulu. I have no idea what though.

"I'm gonna have a hot chocolate, do you want one sweety?" Brad asks and Lulu nods.

"Yes please, thank you honey."

As soon as he disappears, we all look over at Lulu.

"Shall we tell you funny stories about Brad?"

Zook and Henry look at each other. Then they laugh in sync.

"At the end of year 9, Brad came for a taster session for three days and one of the days happened to be when we had a whole house leaving dinner for Mr Birlas, our previous housemaster. Then we came back and because he was an alcoholic, he gave us a glass of wine and we had a toast." Zook begins. "We'd had some wine at dinner and because he kept giving it to the sixthform after we had the toast, they started giving it to us because we were sitting nearest them.

"And Brad of course was a fucking lightweight so after about six glasses, he was all over the place. He ran outside and-"

Henry adds but has to stop because he is laughing so much, as is everyone else.

"He tried to make out with a bin lid and he kept yelling 'I love Angela, I want to get with her! I want to get with Angela-"

I've never seen Lulu laugh so much.

"Oh shit, he's coming."

We all contain our laughter. I can actually imagine Brad doing that, after a few glasses.

"What have I missed?"

"We're sharing funny stories." Henry tells him with a straight face.

Brad smiles and hands Lulu her hot chocolate.

"Oh yeah. They're about all you." Zook adds.

"Me?"

"Yes Bradley Higgins. You." I say.

"Oh god no, no, come on guys..."

"So you and Angela huh?"

We break into shrieks of laughter.

"Oh come on guys, that's not fair. Seriously?"

"Oh there are many others." Henry says, wiping his eyes.

"Do you remember in the first week of year 10, when we decorated your room with millions of the same picture of her that we found on the school website? You can back and she was all you could see, all over your room."

"I remember all right, trust me. I kept finding them for months."

Zook and Henry high five and keep laughing.

"Shall we go to the comm?" I ask and they all agree.

"Sure."

Zook, Henry and I make a quick getaway and Augie tags along.  We go into the Comm which is a year 11 privilege and has two rooms, one for Ping-Pong and watching TV and one with leather sofas and a stereo where someone is blaring crap music. It's very crowded, with everyone in their little cliques sprawled over the leather sofas and its stinks of damp and sweat. Everyone stares at us as we walk in and go and sit on the two spare sofas in the corner. Jel is sitting with his girls and Lance on the opposite side of the room and raises his eyebrows at us.

"Whose that?" Augie asks.

"That's Jel. He's in our house too."

"Really?"

"Yeah. He's not actually like that at all." Henry explains as  Zook is signals something to Jel in some sort of weird sign language.

"What did you ask him?"

"When he wants to go back to house."

Jel signals something back and Zook bursts into a snort of laughter. It's one of their many many injokes that nobody can remember the origin of.

"What is it?"

"Oh Henry. You remember the donkey and the waffle."

Henry bursts into laughter.

"I think it was more of a damn it Sheila moment."

They both continue laughing.

"Oh Screwdinger."

Augie and I just sit there like lemons. This is pretty much what our Facebook messenger group consists of and I can't wait till oneday I will finally understand.

"Care to explain?" I ask.

"Another time TJ, another time. Can you go over and tell Jel we've gone fishing and will be back in five?"

I obey and go over and tell him which makes him jump up and come storming over.

"You're a little shit Zook-"

Then he see's Augie. The way Jel looks at Augie is the way Jel once stared down at me. That feeling you’re about to shit enough bricks to build a sandcastle that actually stays up.

“Who the fuck are you?”

Augie looks so terrified.

“Augie.”

“You’re not in Arkansas? Are you?”

“No.” he squeaks.

“Dude. Enough.”

Zook puts a hand on his chest and sits him down.

“ I can go if you want. I just didn’t have anywhere to sit and you guys were the only approachable ones.”

“No don’t go. Jel is just being a prick.”

“I’m not being a prick.”

“You are.”

They probably would have argued all day if the door hadn't been slammed so hard and Rome hadn't come strutting in, followed by some really chavvie looking punk with half a really shaved head and the other half long and floppy a lot of piercings in both ears, his lips, his nose and his eyebrow. I think he's also wearing eyeliner and he seems like the type of guy who would dye his hair crazy colours and blare My Chemical Romance really loudly, convinced he's the next Fall out boy or Billie Joe Armstrong.  He just looks at all of us clean cut posh kids in our blazers and styled hair and shiny shoes.  We all just stare.

"What are you all looking at?"

Rome  just skulks in the corner and lets this stupid looking punk take centre stage.

"Have you never seem someone different before? Someone not like all of you?"

"Oh hello. Aren't you a little beauty?" He says, approaching Lulu.  He stretches a hand towards her face, as if to run a knuckle down her cheek.  Lulu looks up dolefully and watches him tentatively for a moment. Then he hand flicks up and grasps his wrist tightly.

"Don 't you dare touch me."

Then he sees Jel staring.

"What are you looking at?"

"Not you, that's for sure."

Zook whispers something to him and Jel stifles a laugh.

"What's so funny?"

"Nothing."

"You're Jel aren't you?"

Jel nods.

"I thought so. I've heard all about you and your band of loyal freaks."

He turns around and all the Alvie girls are looking at him. He eyeballs India.

"Which one of you is Akash's bitch?"

Like a bunch of cats who've just been provoked, all their haunches goes up. India get's up and faces up to him.

"I think you'll find Tris-"

She raises her hand as if to slap him but Jel jumps to catch her wrist when it's behind her head and holds it there. He whispers something to her.

"we're nobody's bitches."

And with that, they get up and all disseapear out of the comm.

"Come, let's go." Jel mutters and we get up to go. Then Tris turns back to us. Oh great.

He eyeballs Henry.

"Have we met before?"

"No trust me, I would remember you." Henry says, turning away but Tris grabs him by the shoulder.

"You remind me too much of somebody I hate."

I notice India's eyes flicker towards Henry and then towards Tris. Then she exits with the Alvie girls.

"This won't be the last time we speak." Tris says and then shoves Henry back towards us.

"Tris! For fucks sake!"

We all turn around. Augie has got up from his chair and Tris turns to him.

"What now Augie? Standing up for your new little friends eh?"

Augie squares up to him

"Just quit it! For Christs sake! Are you trying to humiliate us? We've been here for less than 3 and half days!"

Tris doesn't retort.

"Just leave it alright! You may not want to have a fresh start here but at least let me have one!"

The whole room is now on edge as to find out what it going on.

"We made them a promise Tris-"

"No Augs, you made Mum and Dad a promise not me. I plan on doing precisely what I please."

"Fine. You do that. And leave me out of it."

Woah. Mindfog. Augie get's up and storms out. We follow but go in the opposite direction back to Arkansas in silence. Jel is furious because we've befriended Augie, Henry is completely shaken by Tris and Zook is also furious because Tris had the nerve to threaten Henry. But we're not the only ones completely unnerved by him. But it wasn't Tris who was the turning point in Arkansas. It wasn't because of Tris, things disintegrated they did. I don't know who's fault it was. But after they showed up, everything as I knew it, changed.







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