"There's always a reason behind a smile – whether it's real or it's fake." –Unknown.
The wind lightly blew the autumnal leaves off of the oak trees onto the pathway. A hazy morning sun peered through the gap in the branches. The smell of rain and damp leaves lingered in the air, from the previous day.
Anxiously, I clenched my fingers around the nylon strap on my rucksack; my knuckles turning an unhealthy shade of white. The air was fairly warm but not enough to have beads of sweat forming on my forehead. I had barely slept from the intrusive thoughts about the unknown follower.
After almost twenty-five minutes of taking shelter behind the wall I decided to scour the field. The vast open space contained nothing but puddles, trees and damp air. It was unnerving how quick the looming figure had disappeared without a trace. Through the continuous down-pour I sprinted to my mother's house and locked the door immediately.
The sound of bustling students flooded through the hall as I heaved my way through. The retro-coloured tables and chairs were either toppled onto the pavement or students were clambering all over them. It baffled me the lack of respect individuals had these days. The main room had a retro theme but the roof of a greenhouse; which meant that it was constantly stifling.
I pushed down the metallic door handle to Rob's classroom door, blinded by the sunlight that shone through the widespread pane. Beth and John were already seated, their pens and notebooks spread across the table. I quickly followed suit, to be greeted with a sweet smile from Beth.
"Morning," they chimed in unison. I glanced at the white clock hung on the wall above the wipe-board. The black roman numerals took up nearly all of the clock face. I realised it was only 09:14AM, yet the pair of them seemed cheery. I was more perplexed by John after his uncertainty yesterday, as he seemed to be in good spirits with Beth.
"Morning," I muttered as I fumbled in my rucksack for a notebook and pen.
"Good morning class – today will we analyse the use of algebra," Rob stated, rising to his feet and hovering over his desk. Once I heard the term 'algebra' I then realised how much I truly did wish that I had achieved the standard qualification in school. Mathematics was definitely not my strongest suit.
Beth hoisted herself up; leaned across the scuffed wooden table; clasping her tiny fingers around a hefty textbook and placing it between us. I scanned the 'contents page' before flicking through the tattered pages. The computerised lettering was incoherent due to the excessive amount of blemishes on the glossy pages. Promptly, I stopped at page three-hundred and sixty-one. I ran my left-palm down the crease of the page, keeping the page in place - my silver-ring scratching against the paper.
Rob's indigo pen squeaked against the wipe-board as he choreographed several complex equations. I glanced across at John who casually leaned into the back of the rickety chair. He twisted the blue ball-point pen between his broad fingers, as he nibbled on the plastic casing. John's eyes were fixated on the wipe-board. Although this implied he was intently listening, my instincts seemed to believe otherwise – like it was merely a forced distraction method.
"You will need to write these equations into your notebook as homework. It must be completed by the next lesson," Rob stated as he turned to face the classroom. He continuously flicked the lid on and off of the board-marker pen with his thumb. Rob waved his right-hand up and down the wipe-board, gesturing to the equations he had neatly written down. "All of these equations will be easy to understand once you have worked through the textbook in front of you," he added. I nodded, clutching a pen between my fingers.
I miraculously managed to complete almost ten questions, before a sudden intense sensation of needles pricked the backs of my eyes. I blinked numerous times hoping it would stop but tears formed instead. The tears began to feel sour and the sensation continued. I glanced up at the clock; my eyes glossing over as I squinted at the numerals. The black lettering began to jumble together the harder I squinted. I faintly managed to recall an approximate time of 09:45AM, meaning there was less than fifteen minutes left of the class. Feeling an onset of sharp pain radiate across my forehead, I simultaneously packed up my belongings.
"I'm feeling slightly un-well, I shall see you later," I muttered, throwing on my black woollen coat. With my rucksack in my left-hand, I pulled open the classroom door. I figured the sensations were due to a lack of sleep and possibly the repercussions of yesterday's trauma. I finally threw the rucksack onto my back; placing my fingers underneath my glasses as I vigorously rubbed my eyes – desperate to see where I was going.
At this moment in time I was thankful for the bright coloured décor in the main-room, as I could partially establish where I was. I pulled out a lonesome upright chair and loitered across the seat, my head resting against the cold vibrant yellow wall. My head began to thud continuously, as I reached into my rucksack and unscrewed the lid on a bottle of water. The semi-warm sips of water flushed into my bloodstream. I reached into the front of the rucksack and pulled out a tray of paracetamol. As I crushed the plastic casing in my hands, two small capsules landed into my palm. I swiftly placed them onto my tongue and took a mouthful of water. I felt the capsules slide down my throat.
I focused on the abstract sketches on the opposite wall, slowly feeling the vigorous discomfort across my temple begin to fade and the stabbing sensation behind my eyes deteriorating by the minute. The sound of birds tweeting outside began to feel peaceful; rather than exasperating.
"You look like you could use this more than me."
I glimpsed in the direction of the voice – a slender young man. He perched on the seat beside me, sliding a chocolate bar across the marble-top table. His right forearm rested on the edge of the backrest and outstretched his left-arm across the table; the grey ring on his middle finger clanked on the counter. His slender, chiselled jaw outlined with chestnut stubble – making him appear aesthetically older. My hazel eyes locked with his, speckles of oak swirling in his iris; as he smiled amiably.
"Thank-you," I replied cautiously, as I tore the wrapper on the bar.
"How rude of me, I'm Liam," he began, placing his broad hand on his chest.
"Laura," I stated between mouthfuls of milk-chocolate.
I could feel the sugar kicking in and the levels in my bloodstream began to rise. I figured the blurred vision and intense pain across my brow were linked to the absence of yesterday's dinner. My stomach began to do continuous flips all evening and I therefore was unable to digest my Mum's home-made stew. The most I managed to do was aimlessly prod at the contents of the plate with my cutlery.
"I have a free period next. Perhaps we could go grab a coffee?" Liam suggested, checking the time on his silver-plated Rolex watch. I placed the empty wrapper in the bottom of my rucksack and pulled out my planner. I briefly scanned the page realising the next slot was empty.
"Yes, I also have a free slot. A coffee would be lovely," I smiled, crumpling the planner into the rear-left pocket of my charcoal grey jeans.