Death and all His Friends

By CoffeeAndDonuts All Rights Reserved ©

Humor / Mystery

A little bit of teambuilding hell.

It felt like the walk of death as I dragged my bag behind me down the hallway towards my hotel room.

My room number was 109 so I was on the first floor. I guess that was something positive. At least if there was a fire then I’d be one of the closest people to the exit and I didn’t have to go down as many flights of stairs.

The hallways of hotel Noir were pretty extravagant. The carpet was black, of course, but the walls were white with gold antique lamps every metre or so.

The doors were also painted a luxurious gold which, though looked slightly gaudy, also looked somewhat impressive at the same time.

I found my room relatively easily but it was the person waiting for me inside that I was dreading to see.

After fiddling with the lock for a bit, I got the door open and gagged at the smell of deodorant and hairspray.

It was a nice room with a mini bar, two beds, a massive window facing the harbour and an ensuite bathroom.

The only thing ruining it was Sabrina’s pinched face when she saw me come in.

“Well look who it is.” She said in a snide voice with her hands on her hips. She was wearing a tight singlet, extremely short denim shorts and electric blue pumps. Her legs seemed freaking endless.

“Hey, I’m not happy about sharing a room with you either.” I said angrily as I slammed the door shut behind me and dumped by suitcase on the remaining bed that wasn’t covered in clothes and other random crap.

“Yeah right. I saw you following me in the holidays you freak.” Sabrina snapped, putting on massive sunglasses that covered half her face. Why was she even wearing sunglasses in doors?

I also didn’t know how to respond to her accusation without sounding like a delusional freak so I ignored her and started unpacking.

“Oh what’s this? You have nothing to say?” Sabrina asked behind my back.

I just gritted my teeth and tried to block out her stupid voice. I only had to spend three days with her.

“It’s because it’s true isn’t it? Jeez I never knew you were a lesbian. I thought you had a boyfriend, though I heard you dumped him.”

Oh my God she was so annoying! I was even considering pouring hot wax in the ears just so I wouldn’t have to hear her talk.

“I don’t blame you though. I know I’m gorgeous. I just hope you don’t try anything now that we’re sharing a room.” Sabrina carried on. “Because I’m not interested in girls. Especially not a girl like you.”

“Shut up!” I turned and yelled at her. “Shut up and leave me alone!”

Sabrina’s mouth curled into a sickly smile.

“No need to get angry. I’m just letting you know that you can’t have any of this.” She waved a hand down her body and I wanted to vomit in her face.

“I don’t like you.” I spat, my voice venomous.

“Then why were you following me? And why did your creepy friend ask me for my number for you?” Sabrina retorted, picking at one of her perfectly manicured nails.

Freaking CJ!

I was about to strangle Sabrina but instead I tried to do some breathing exercises to maintain my composure.

“Anyway, we need to go down to the ballroom together because we’ll be doing some team building things. There was a letter left in the room.” Sabrina said matter-of-factly, strutting over to the door.

I didn’t say anything and just followed the brunette out of the room, imagining putting a bullet through her little head.

The ballroom was on the top floor of the hotel so Sabrina and I stood in silence in the elevator, me attempting to meditate to get the homicidal thoughts out of my head while Sabrina checked herself out in the reflective walls.

When we reached our floor, both of us got out without a word and approached the door that lead to the ballroom.

There was another teacher there who I had never spoken to in my life but she seemed to know Sabrina because they had a good chat and a few laughs while I stood awkwardly nearby.

Then the teacher told us that we were in group number 12, whatever that meant.

“Come on. You made us late.” Sabrina said and pushed me through the door to the room.

I made us late? You’re the one chatting up the teachers.” I said as calmly as I could, glancing around the massive empty room.

It was extremely pretty, with ornate gold and white walls and a plush deep red patterned carpet. There were even paintings of cherubs and clouds on the ceiling surrounding an enormous chandelier that was at least 3 times the size of the one in the lobby.

Sitting in groups on the floor were students from Kensington, Sheridan and Dellacruse, each positioned in a circle around a white piece of paper with a number written on it.

“Group 12 right?” I said to Sabrina as I walked past everyone, trying to see what number group they were.

“Duh. Obviously.” She drawled.

Gosh I hate this girl.

Lizzy and Gina waved at me as we passed them and I tried not to be too jealous that they actually managed to be in the same group while I was stuck with Sabrina. I should have known that something like this would happen with my bad luck.

After more searching, we finally found group 12 and sat down with eight other people. Along with Sabrina and I were two guys who I’d seen around school before but whose names I’ve forgotten, three boys and one girl from Sheridan and two guys from Dellacruse.

I was already dreading the coming group activity when Mr. Balls seemed to pop out of nowhere.

“Hello kids.” He said with a toothy smile, sitting down next to Sabrina. I cringed. He was wearing an ugly sweater, short shorts and knee length white socks. His hairy legs made me want to gauge my eyes out with rusty nails.

“Hi Mr. Balls.” Sabrina said with a bright smile, taking off her sunglasses and fluttering her eyelashes.

“Hello Sabrina.” Mr. Balls beamed back at her and I actually gagged a little. Sweet Jesus what had I done to deserve this? Seriously?

While I was having a mini breakdown, Mr. Ball was smiling merrily at everyone around the circle, no doubt creeping out the majority of the group with his bushy eyebrows and paedophile beard.

“Now everyone, my name is Mr. Balls and I’ll be your supervising teacher over the weekend.” He said brightly.

I started mentally crying while the two Dellacruse guys said “Mr. Balls?” at the same time.

We then proceeded to play awful ‘get to know each other’ games like we were back in primary school. We started by saying our names and three interesting things about ourselves, then memorising everyone else’s names around the circle.

I think the reason I hated activities like these was because I was probably the most boring person on the planet. At least everyone else had cool things to say about themselves like how they can play an instrument or a sport. What did I have to say? Nothing. Not unless I wanted to go on a spiel about ghosts and angels and supernatural jerks.

To my relief we had a break after about an hour and I took this time to escape from my group and meet up with Gina and Lizzy.

“How’s it going?” Gina asked me when I found them lining up to get muffins at the snack table.

“Awful. I’m stuck with Sabrina and Mr. Balls and a bunch of other randoms who I don’t even know.” I complained.

“Aww cheer up Tegan! Make some new friends.” Lizzy said with a heartfelt smile, punching me lightly on the arm. Her good mood was so irritating sometimes.

“Easy for you to say. You make friends as easily as breathing.” I mumbled, staring at the ground.

“At least we get muffins.” Lizzy added happily.

That was true. I felt my spirits lifting the closer we got to the tray of refreshments. Maybe Lizzy was right and I needed some practice making new friends. If I wanted to move away after high school then I better brush up on my people skills. Maybe I could manage to get through this weekend after all.

Then I felt someone tap me on my shoulder.

The three of us turned around and stared at the two guys standing behind us. One was really tall with spiked up brown hair while the other was around my height with pitch black hair and thick rimmed glasses. They were both wearing grey Sheridan sweatshirts and jeans with Nike sneakers.

“Yea?” I asked, slightly baffled because I had never seen them before in my life.

“You look familiar.” The tall one said slowly.

Gina, Lizzy and I glanced at each other in confusion.

“You three don’t happen to be the girls from the bus, right?” the black haired one asked suspiciously, peering at us intensely from behind his thick glasses.

The moment he said the word ‘bus’ I knew this wouldn’t end well.

“No.” the three of us said at the same time, all the while praying that these guys had a bad memory and would think they were mistaken.

The two seemed to stare at us a little longer than necessary so I decided it was time for us to leave.

“I’m not hungry anymore. Let’s go.” I said to my two friends, hoping they caught on to what I was trying to do.

“Ugh yea, me neither.” Gina said quickly.

“Really? But I am.” Lizzy mumbled, staring at me and Gina with a look of absolute perplexity.

Sometimes I wanted to beat some sense into the girl.

“We’ll eat later.” I said firmly before grabbing Lizzy and pushing her out of the line before the two Sheridan guys got even more suspicious.

We wandered as far away from the line as possible and sat down in an empty space on the floor.

“Phew, that was a close one.” I said once I was sure no one could over hear the conversation.

“I still don’t see why we couldn’t have eaten a few muffins first.” Lizzy said, pouting.

“Lizzy, the last thing we need is everyone from both schools finding out that the three of us are the reason why we’re having this stupid teambuilding weekend!” I hissed.

“Oh.”

We then made a pact to avoid those two nosy boys at all costs. Geez, what were the odds that we’d see them here? I freaking hate coincidences.

We returned to the muffin line when it was safe but the only muffins left were the really gross flavoured ones.

“I think I’m going to cry.” Lizzy said with a fallen expression.

“Me too.” I added, clinging onto her arm.

“You two are way too dramatic.” Gina said expressionlessly. “Let’s just go to the vending machine.”

After a wholesome snack of Doritos and Coke, the break was over so we all returned to our groups.

Upon my arrival to lovely Group 12, Mr Balls paired us all up with people we didn’t know so that we could do more ‘bonding’.

My partner was one of the guys from Dellacruse and for the next ten minutes, we were meant to get to know each other…whatever that was meant to mean.

“Hey. I’m Tegan.” I started off when we had been silent for about 2 minutes.

The guy just glared at me from behind his long black fringe. He was an incredibly skinny boy, with two lip piercings and an insanely large, crooked nose. At least he wasn’t one of those big, intimidating tattooed guys. He was still a bit of a douche.

“Are you liking it here in Fishbowl?” I continued the one sided conversation. The guy just gave me another dark look and I wanted to give up. So much for making new friends. There’s nothing I can do if this doofus isn’t going to make any effort at all.

I looked at the other people in my group and saw the Sabrina was actually making the other butch, muscly guy from Dellacruse laugh. I gritted my teeth and tried not to be so annoyed that I got the dud.

Turning back to my partner, I decided to try a different approach.

“Is Dellacruse really such a hell hole?” I asked seriously, remembering what Raith had told me.

That seemed to break through to him because the boy suddenly cracked a smile and I was taken aback by how much younger and healthier he appeared when he wasn’t looking so miserable.

“Yea pretty much.” He said. “Actually some of us think that it’s haunted by the ghost of a guy who killed himself ten years ago.”

He meant it as light-hearted chitchat but I felt a trickling sense of unease run down my spine.

A guy who killed himself ten years ago.

I remembered what Raith had told me about his death and it made me feel cold. I had a feeling I knew who everyone thought the ghost was.

The skinny boy watched me with warm yet slightly calculating eyes and I laughed nervously when I realised that I wasn’t reacting the way my new friend expected me to.

“Ghost hey?” I asked in a sceptical tone, trying to sound surprised.

“Yea.” He said, seeming to relax a little. “The legend says that he comes in the middle of the night to roam the hallways of the fourth floor.”

“That’s, uh, creepy.” I said hesitantly.

This guy smiled widely, his love for the occult tainting his words with a feverish ferocity.

“But there’s more.” He said softly, leaning close to me so he could share his burning secret.

“Oh?” I prompted, genuinely curious about what other BS this legend had conjured up.

The boy lowered his voice even more and I resisted the urge to roll my eyes at the overly unnecessary dramatic display.

“They also say that if you do something that upsets his spirit, he’ll rip the soul from your body and leave nothing behind but the stench of the grave.”

I feigned a look of shock while I mentally scoffed.

Okay this was getting ridiculous. Raith isn’t a ghost and he doesn’t wander around the corridors of Dellacruse at midnight. He certainly doesn’t smell like ‘the grave’ either, whatever that was meant to mean. Most of the time he smelt like crème brulee or whatever dessert he had been eating beforehand. They may have been right about the soul thing but Raith doesn’t just go around sucking out people’s souls randomly.

It seriously irked me that such a rumour like this existed but it also surprised me that I felt the need to defend Raith.

“I’m Thomas by the way.” My partner told me, breaking me out of my reverie.

My eyes focussed again and saw that Thomas had backed up and returned to sitting a good metre away from me. He was now much more subdued after his little supernatural spiel. What an odd boy.

“Nice to meet you Thomas.” I said.


They decided to end the day with a nice movie to get everyone into the spirit of togetherness. However, because it was optional, only one or two people actually stayed in the ballroom to watch it. The rest of us retired to our rooms to get some much needed rest after an incredibly stressful couple of hours.

“How awful was dinner?” Lizzy complained as we joined the hoard of people bustling and pushing their way towards the staircase. The lift seemed to be broken but I preferred the stairs anyway because they were wide and allowed lots of people to move through faster than taking an elevator. The carpet was also a really pretty pattern and the banister was made of thick oak painted gold. It felt nice to run my hands along it and feel the grains of wood against my fingertips.

Lizzy kept going on about the poor quality of our dinner and Gina and I agreed with every word she said. It made me sick just remembering the pitiful yellow sludge we were served that was meant to resemble macaroni and cheese.

“I sure hope breakfast is better.” I said, putting a hand on my stomach and hoping that it would forgive me for consuming such a pathetic meal.

“Isn’t this meant to be a five star hotel? They shouldn’t be allowed to serve food like that.” Gina grumbled, gripping the handrail of the staircase as several people pushed past us to get to the front.

“Since when did you three become food critics?” A girl’s voice interrupted and we were all shoved out of the way as Sabrina walked through, her nose in the air and her sunglasses on again.

I resisted the urge to stick my food out and trip her over just in case someone saw. Lizzy, on the other hand, yanked Sabrina’s shirt so that she toppled backwards into me.

“Oh God.” I cried as I almost collapsed under her weight and tried my best not to also fall backwards and create a domino effect. Why was such a skinny girl so heavy? Jesus she was squashing me!

I tried to push her back up but Sabrina struggled like a turtle on its back.

“Stop trying to feel me up!” she bellowed in my ear so loud that this time I did fall onto the person next to me.

“I’m not trying to feel you up!” I shouted back at her as Gina and Lizzy pulled me off a poor skinny boy who looked anaemic.

Everyone had stopped moving to stare at us now. Bloody hell, I was sick of being the centre of attention.

“Then keep your hands to yourself!” Sabrina screamed. Her sunglasses had fallen off and she glared at me, using the full force of those blue eyes.

If she was trying to intimidate me then it wasn’t working. I think I’ve toughened up a lot in the last few months.

Instead of giving in to her little game, I just rolled my eyes and walked past her, well aware that we had gained a bit of an audience.

I strutted up the rest of the stairs and everyone moved out of the way for me, creating a little clear path to the first floor. I was freaking out on the inside but I didn’t let any emotion show on my face as I said goodbye to Lizzy and Gina, who hadn’t moved from our previous spot and looked stunned at my carefree attitude.

Then I walked calmly to room 109, opened the door, went to the bathroom and let out a frustrated scream.

I locked myself in and turned on the shower, all the while cursing Sabrina and her stupid antics.

Seriously, she had the nerve to accuse me of pervy behaviour in public in front of people from three different schools? Oh I couldn’t stand her!

I looked at myself in the slowly fogging up mirror and saw that I had a massive vein throbbing on my forehead.

Damnit why was Sabrina so nasty? If she had been anyone else then it would have been easy to be nice to her and get Babu to stop trying to kill me. Who did she think she was?

I didn’t realise I was growling until my throat started to hurt so I quickly undressed and hopped in the shower, hoping that the hot water would sooth my temper.

It started to work until Sabrina started hammering on the door and telling me to get out because she needed to use the toilet.

“Go to someone else’s room!” I shouted at her, squeezing the bar of soap so hard that it squished into an icky, sludgy mess in my hands.

“No! Get out!” Sabrina screamed.

I ignored her but eventually she started banging on the door non-stop and with each sound I got angrier and angrier.

“Fine!” I shouted, turning off the water and wrapping a towel around myself.

I pulled the door open and gave Sabrina my stoniest look.

“It’s all yours.” I said with clenched teeth.

“Thank you.” Sabrina said sarcastically, knocking me out of the way. “By the way, your face looks terrible. Where did you get all those bruises?”

“None of your business.” I snapped with my back to her, self-consciously making my hair fall over half of my face.

I stomped my way to my bed and fell face first onto the soft mattress.

If the rest of the weekend was going to be like this then I might just beg Babu to kill me here and now.

I’m pretty sure even death would be better than this nightmare.

Sabrina must have spent over an hour in the shower because I fell asleep before she came back out.

Even though I went to bed early, it didn’t feel like I got much sleep at all. Before I knew it, the alarm on the hotel clock was going off and I was waking up feeling groggy.

I slammed the snooze button with the palm of my hand and ended up knocking the clock off the bedside table and onto the floor.

“Damnit.” I grumbled, rubbing my face into my pillow and then sitting up.

It was only six thirty and the sun hadn’t even risen properly.

I leaned over the bed and felt around for the clock in the dark. My hand met several shards of hard plastic and I realised that I must have broken the stupid thing.

“Aww man.” I muttered, combing back my knotty hair and deciding that I might as well get up now.

I switched on the lamp and looked over at Sabrina’s side of the room. To my surprise, her bed was empty.

“Typical.” I said out loud with a sour face. She probably snuck off to make out with Josh or something in the middle of the night.

I got dressed slowly in a comfy sweatshirt and shorts and put on my makeup before wandering out of my room towards the elevator. Breakfast was at seven and I was determined to be the first one there and get my pick of the breakfast selection.

The hallways were strangely quiet and I wondered if everyone was still asleep, drifting around in dreamland somewhere. It made me think about what normal people dreamed about; whether their dreams were also plagued by little boys and people from the past.

My feet barely made a sound against the soft carpet and in the early morning quiet, I felt a stillness come over me.

I had that feeling again; the feeling that something huge was going to happen. I didn’t know why but it was strange sensation that kept trickling into the back of my mind like grains of sand in an hour glass.

I eventually reached the elevator and waited as the numbers changed from the ground floor to level 1. I was glad it was working this morning because in my tired, lazy state, I really didn’t want to take the stairs.

However, when the elevator doors opened, I came face to face with Sabrina Saintly.

“What the hell?” I muttered, staring at the girl. Sabrina was wearing sweat pants and a singlet complete with bright pink sneakers. She had her brown hair tied back in a high pony tail and a water bottle clutched in one manicured hand.

“What?” she snapped as she used her free hand to wipe her sweaty face. “I like to go for a run in the mornings. Just because some people don’t exercise doesn’t mean we’re all fat slobs.”

Then she slammed her shoulder into me as she got out of the elevator and walked towards our hotel room.

As she passed, I almost ripped her hair out.

“Stupid Sabrina.” I muttered as I stormed into the elevator and pressed the ground level button five times.

I had to wait about a minute for the doors to close and the actual thing to move but eventually I was stepping out into the shiny marble lobby complete with classical music and the chill of unnecessary air-conditioning. As I stared out at the polished walls and countless vases of roses, I felt incredibly daggy in my sweatshirt and denim shorts.

I was just glad that for some reason, the lobby was totally deserted at this hour of the morning. Maybe the hotel was completely booked out with students from the three schools so no one was really needed at the reception area. Either way, I was starving so as long as there was a buffet of food waiting for me in the dining hall, I was happy.

I was totally ready to eat until I exploded.

As I walked through the lobby, the marble floor felt really hard against my feet so I stopped to fiddle with my shoes.

My feet were pretty much healed from stepping on all that glass earlier this week but there were times when my skin still felt sensitive and funny.

A grumble from my stomach reminded me of my purpose and after wiggling my toes for another second, I proceeded into the large, black and gold hall filled with long tables and soft Persian rugs.

The classical music was playing a little louder in here and it was almost as if it was coming from everywhere at once. I glanced at the sweeping ceiling that reached so high above my head that I could barely make out the individual tiles. My suspicions were confirmed when I saw tiny black speakers hidden in the corners of the roof, placed subtly behind hanging pot plants.

There was something about the music that made me feel drowsy so I shook my head and headed towards the enormous long tables draped in white table cloths.

There was only one thing on my mind and that was food.

It was about ten minutes til seven so there was no line at the buffet table. Actually, it was so early that there were only two or three other people sitting at the polished wooden tables eating breakfast. I didn’t know any of them but it didn’t bother me much being alone anyway. I wasn’t one of those people who depended on the company of others to feel comfortable.

I picked up one of the pristine white plates sitting on the buffet table and filled it up with bread rolls, jam, scones, waffles, maple syrup, bacon, sausages and scrambled eggs.

Then, with the heavenly smell almost making me salivate all over my shirt, I sat down at an empty table and basically attacked my breakfast, not taking a breath as I crammed bacon into my mouth, cut up and buttered the bread roll and sipped my orange juice.

It was a strange combination, jam and scones and bacon and eggs all at the same time but for some reason it tasted like I was eating something directly from heaven, like an angel or something. Maybe this is what Babu tasted like if I cooked him in a frying pan with lots of butter. Actually, scratch that thought.

As I tucked into my waffles, I realised that I was missing something. Waffles just didn’t taste the same without a side of ice cream.

I suddenly remembered eating ice cream and waffles with Raith and my breakfast turned sour in my mouth.

Stupid Raith disappearing on me like that.

I munched on a few more rashers of bacon and scowled. I bet he’s starving wherever he is right now, wishing that he could be eating something sweet with me. Well, not with me. He probably doesn’t even think of me. Why would me? Who am I to him anyway? Bah, who needs boys? I sure don’t. As long as I have my scrambled eggs then I’ll be fine.

During my internal mental dialogue and fight with my food, I was aware that someone else had sat down next to me.

Taking another sip of my orange juice, I turned to my right, expecting to see Lizzy or Gina.

Instead I saw a skinny crouched figure with shaggy black hair and a lip piercing.

“Oh hey Thomas.” I said with my mouth bulging and jam on my face.

Thomas gave me a small smile and started nibbling on a piece of toast.

His petite bites made me feel like a fatty so I also took small, miniscule mouthfuls of my breakfast, aware that this emo kid kept glancing my way every now and again.

“So how are you?” I asked him after we had been sitting together for a good couple of minutes and so far all I could hear was the sound of my squishy chewing because Thomas seemed to make no noise at all.

In response to my question, the boy just shrugged and flipped his dark fringe out of his eyes.

I guess he didn’t have much to say after the enthralling dialogue of yesterday.

I continued to eat, this time looking up from my plate and observing the flood of people who were now walking through the massive double doors.

I was so glad I got here early because there was an enormous line forming around the buffet table and all the good food was running out.

“You really like food.” I heard Thomas say quietly.

I turned and smiled at him.

“Yea.” I replied, surprised that he was actually starting a conversation.

“I like fire.” Thomas whispered softly, looking back down at his toast.

I choked a little on my bacon and had to drink more juice to unclog my oesophagus.

Great, I just made friends with an arsonist who liked ghosts. Way to go, Tegan.

I heard some commotion up ahead and watched as a large group of girls walked into the hall chatting loudly. At first I thought Sabrina was with them but to my surprise, I saw Lizzy was the centre of attention.

It made me envious as I watched Lizzy practically dance across the marble floor with a glowing smile on her face, dressed in a simple white dress and ballet flats. Her straightened hair was done up in a high ponytail which revealed her high cheekbones and flawless complexion.

I sighed.

She looked like she was some garden princess out of a storybook. Sabrina may be model pretty but Lizzy had a fresh, natural kind of beauty.

Lizzy swept her arms out wide and spun around before prancing her way towards the buffet line. She linked arms with a girl I had never seen before and they laughed together, telling some secret joke that made the rest of the group giggle hysterically.

I just pouted and slumped in my chair, looking at my new friend who wasn’t nearly as interesting at Lizzy’s group.

I wondered where Gina was.

As if on cue, my other best friend sat down on my left and glared at the pancakes on her plate.

“They had pancakes?” I asked, shocked because I hadn’t found any when I ravaged the buffet this morning.

“Can you believe her?” Gina grumbled, ignoring me and starting to stab her food with her fork.

“Lizzy?” I clarified, looking back over at our bubbly friend, who was now obscured by the group of girls. “What about her?”

“Like you don’t see it. She’s gone and abandoned us for that group of Sheridan girls. Honestly, I thought she was loyal.” Gina spat venomously.

Even though I completely agreed with Gina, I knew we were being selfish.

“She’s allowed to have other friends.” I said slowly, reaching over and stealing a bit of Gina’s pancake to scrape up the last bit of my maple syrup.

“Yea but I had to put up with those girls all of last night while they gossiped about some stupid reality TV show and boys.” Gina jammed her fork into her pancake so hard it cracked a bit of the plate underneath it.

Oh dear. Gina was absolutely furious. I could feel the waves of anger just rolling off her.

“Do you think she’ll sit with us?” I asked in disinterest as I watched Lizzy make her way through the buffet, picking all the healthy fruit options.

“Probably not.”

Gina was right. Lizzy finished collecting her breakfast and followed the group of girls to a table nearby.

She caught my eye and gave me a toothy smile which I only half-heartedly returned.

“I know I’m not like her but if she wanted to talk to me about things like that then I wouldn’t mind too much.” Gina mumbled, her eyes downcast.

I shrugged, finishing off my juice and slamming the glass down with a satisfying ‘ah’.

Thomas jumped at the noise and Gina, upon realising that there was a boy present, quickly went red and quiet.

With no food left and not very stimulating conversation partners, I was almost glad when Ms Etherington announced that we would be breaking into our groups again and going out to the harbour to play more teambuilding games.


Thomas was my only friend in Group 12.

This was mainly because of 2 reasons.

Reason number 1: All the other boys were in love with Sabrina, even the other guy from Dellacruse who looked like some heavy set body builder.

Reason number 2: The only other girl wanted to be her best friend, the Sheridan suck up.

So that left me and Mr. I Like Fire standing together awkwardly as we watched everyone else hang on Sabrina’s every word like they were all under her spell, which I suppose they were.

Then Mr. Balls came strolling onto the scene in even shorter shorts, suspenders, knee length socks and a buttoned down top complete with red bow tie.

I think I gagged.

With an airy authority, Mr. Balls told us to sit in a circle and fill out a stack of worksheets about our dreams, aspirations and what makes us stressed.

I really couldn’t be bothered. I didn’t even have a pen. Instead, I decided to just enjoy the moment of silent bliss.

There was still a bit of a morning chill in the air as I sat on the damp wooden walkway and stared out across the deserted harbour area.

It was peaceful here. I think that would be one of the only things I loved about Fishbowl. Unlike the big city where I grew up, Fishbowl was never too crowded or too busy. There were some really quiet, tranquil moments like now. It gave me space to think and dream. Some might think the lack of people was creepy but I enjoyed it.

Sitting here made me realise what a recluse I was. There was so much about this town that I was missing out on. I never really liked to go out and because of that, I really knew nothing about Fishbowl or the people in it.

I looked at all the unfamiliar faces around me and felt a pang of regret. This town was so small that I must have seen these people before, whether it was in the mall or at some social event. I was leaving this place soon and in the five years I’ve been here, I haven’t made a single impression at all. I never used to care but now that I think about it, should I have tried to do more with my time here?

Then again, why am I putting so much thought into this? I shouldn’t be so reflective and philosophical. I sound like a freaking 50 year old man going through a midlife crisis. There’s nothing wrong with being in the background of things. There’s nothing wrong with feeling like an outsider.

Everyone else must have finished the worksheet because Mr. Balls suddenly cleared his throat and gave us a cheesy smile.

I cringed. He must have been a chain smoker or something because his teeth were the colour of cheddar cheese.

“Now how about we go around and read out our answers to worksheet number one. You can start Tegan.”

The horror must have shown on my face because Sabrina started to giggle which made everyone else start laughing which made me want to drown myself in the lake.

“I…um…I didn’t have a pen.” I said weakly, knowing my face was probably going as red as Mr Balls’ bow tie.

“Tegan, Tegan, Tegan.” Mr. Balls said with false bravado and clucking his teeth. “You need to actually participate and make an effort.”

Douche.

While I cowered and wished I could disappear, everyone else went around and read out all their ambitions. I was surprised when Sabrina revealed that she wanted to be a doctor.

“Destined to do great things, eh?” I muttered to myself as I watched her read out her worksheet confidently. Was Babu around somewhere, watching her every move and making sure she didn’t get hit by a bus?

We then joined with another group and played a game of tug of war.

For some stupid reason, Mr. Balls set up the two groups right by the edge of the water so we were all three steps away from drowning in the puke coloured liquid.

“Okay, now work as a team to win!” Mr. Balls yelled enthusiastically, his smile making my stomach churn.

I reluctantly put my hands around the heavy, hay coloured rope and had a feeling I’d have blisters by the end of it, especially because I was right at the end, directly behind Sabrina’s pretty little head.

The other teacher, some stocky butch woman from Sheridan, blew a whistle and everyone started pulling and tugging and yelling at each other.

I was useless. A few times I stumbled into Sabrina which made her curse at me and elbow me in the ribs.

Whose idea was it to stick me at the end? I thought the heaviest person was meant to be at the back. Did I look that fat to everyone?

After a lot of disturbing grunting from both sides, we reached some kind of stalemate where both teams seemed to have equal strength and the taught rope was moving nowhere.

“Pull harder.” Sabrina shouted at me, turning her head so that she was giving me a frosty death stare.

“I am pulling.” I yelled back, my hands feeling red and raw.

“Well not hard enough!”

“That’s what she said.”

Sabrina let out a frustrated yell but at that moment, the body builder from Dellacruse also made a strangled noise that sounded like he was constipated. Then the whole rope was flung towards us and we all fell over by the sudden lack of opposing force.

“We won! We won!” Sabrina cried as we both stood up. “We won!” She yelled so happily that one of her outstretched arms elbowed me in the face and I lost my balance again.

This time, however, I stumbled sideways and I knew it wouldn’t end well the moment my foot met air instead of solid ground.

I briefly saw the look of shock on everyone’s face before I fell backwards into the polluted depths of Lake Longtom.


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