"I can’t believe we have to travel in these hideous things. It’s so humiliating. It’s like being in a prison gang.”
Cynthia was livid that the school choir were being made to wear dark blue sweatshirts when they travelled. They were printed with the school’s name and logo in bright white on the front, with “St Gillian’s Choir” in large lettering on the reverse.
Having looked forward to showing off her expensive clothes, the last thing Cynthia wanted was to look like everyone else.
Juliet didn’t think it was such an issue. After all, who would see them on the plane? “They’ll be like pyjama tops,” she suggested. They were taking a night flight to Paris so it would be dark for most of the way and passengers would probably sleep.
Cynthia looked at her in disgust. “I expect you wore this kind of thing at juvie,” she said. “If only it were orange. Then you’d really feel at home.”
Juliet chose to ignore her. They were in the departure lounge and she was conscious of Mr Spencer hearing Cynthia’s spiteful words. It was all in her file which he surely must have read by now, or one of the other teachers must have told him. No wonder he hadn’t wanted to kiss her, even if he admitted being attracted to her.
However Cynthia was determined to needle her. “I’m surprised you can even accompany us. Don’t you have to wear an electronic tag if you leave the country? No wonder a poor foster slut like you has no fashion sense.”
“At least the sweater’s baggy enough to hide your sagging ass,” Margot said, losing patience with her. “Shame there isn’t a hood to go over your fugly face.”
“You skanky black ho!” Cynthia tried to hit Margot but Juliet managed to get in between them.
This resulted in Cynthia hitting her, and as Juliet tried to defend herself the two girls ended up in a heap on the floor, Juliet struggling to get away. “Get off me you racist bitch,” Juliet said as Cynthia grabbed and twisted her hair. She was determined not to hit Cynthia, knowing her father would sue for assault if his precious daughter ended up with so much as a broken nail.
Cynthia, who had always loathed Juliet because of her poor background and the way she constantly did well in school, was only too happy to lay into her.
Within seconds they were pulled apart by a horrified Miss Mead and Mr Spencer. Juliet was dishevelled and bruised and furious, and even more furious that Cynthia had goaded her into a fight.
“Young ladies this is the most disgraceful behaviour I have ever witnessed!” Miss Mead told them. “Fighting like alley cats in a public place, while bearing the school’s logo. I barely know what to think.”
Juliet muttered an apology, knowing that it was useless trying to point out that Cynthia had started it. Cynthia remained silent and simply glared.
“If we were the other side of the gate I would send you both home,” Miss Mead said. “Since neither of you can be trusted to behave, you will stay next to myself and Mr Spencer for the duration of the journey. Cynthia, you will sit with me,” she told the outraged girl, “and you, Juliet, will remain under the eye of Mr Spencer.”
Appropriate seating exchanges were made, with Juliet feeling so shocked and numb that she didn’t even react when Cynthia hissed “I’ll get you for this, foster slut” as Miss Mead made her take a seat next to her.
She was going to sit next to Mr Spencer for eight hours. Granted he probably thought the worst of her now and would probably insist she remained silent unit they reached Paris, but at least she got to be near him.
“Could I please visit the bathroom?” she asked. She felt a total mess and wanted to see the damage that Cynthia had done. “I promise I will just come straight back.”
“That’s fine. I imagine you’re a little shaken up. Take your time.” He smiled, his expression kind.
“I saw what happened. I will have a word with Miss Mead so you aren’t blamed for trying to defend yourself.”
Juliet was amazed. She was so used to being painted as the troublemaker whenever there was a row: it was unheard of for a teacher to give her the benefit of the doubt. This was why she had ended up playing it so safe at school, trying to avoid ever reacting to Cynthia. It was also why Margot frequently go involved instead, because Cynthia was secretly scared of Margot even though she hated her.
The only powers Cynthia respected were money and status. Juliet had neither, Margot’s family had both.
Margot snuck away to join Juliet in the bathroom. “Thanks for getting into trouble for me. It was all my fault.”
“It was that bitch’s fault,” Juliet said, trying to fix her hair. She had scratches on her face and a bruise starting on her cheekbone. “I owe you multiple times over.”
“You owe me nothing, for something that gives me such pleasure,” Margot told her. She took out her camera and took a couple of snaps of Juliet. “Evidence. You should have her done for assault.”
Margot touched up her own make-up in the mirror, pouting at her reflection. “I can’t believe we don’t get to sit together now. I’ve got to spend the whole flight next to Sister Stephanie.” Stephanie, another girl in their class, was nicknamed “Sister” because she was so devout. There was even a rumour that she might be doing a novitiate after graduation.
“Whereas you,” Margot turned to Juliet, “get to spend the entire flight next to holy lover boy. So I expect some progress there at least.”
Juliet had a giddy feeling in her stomach just thinking about it.
“Just don’t fall asleep and drool with your mouth hanging open, or he might go off you,” Margot warned.
“I don’t do that!”
“You might. You never know. It’s not an attractive look. If Sister Stephanie mouth-breaths over me I’ll drop olives in her pie-hole. That will wake her up.”
Or choke her to death, Juliet thought. “Please don’t you get into any trouble as well. I’m still hoping we can share a hotel room.” God forbid they got separated and had to have Stephanie or someone like her as a roommate. It would ruin any ideas of sneaking out and other mischief they were planning.
Margot tipped her head on one side in mock thoughtfulness. “I wonder if I did, whether Miss Mead would make you share a room with Mr Spencer instead?”
Juliet shivered. She couldn’t imagine a more lovely punishment.