First Category -Life and Death Opening Line – I looked over at Jenny. She had fallen asleep again. It made me wonder what she did at night. I could see old Beaver coming our way. She’d get it in the neck if he caught her snoozing in class again.
“Jen!” I muttered into a cough. “Jen, wake up.” I was too far away to reach her with my hand so I stretched out my toe and just managed to nudge her table with the very tip of my shoe. Beaver strode down the corridor made by our desks, his pointed fox nose leading him instinctively towards us. The impact from my ballet-stretched foot made Jen’s head drop off her hand, her neck snapping sharply like a collapsing puppet. She lifted her face and shook herself slightly; a dog fixing its damp coat. I saw her pick up her pen and start writing, just as Beaver passed her. Phew. He could be a real shit when he thought people were disrespecting him. And I’d got away with it too, he hadn’t seen me warn her. My heart rate slowed to its normal rhythm as I bent my head over my desk, my arm curled around my book.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure why I cared whether she got in trouble. Jen was new and nothing much to me, we’d barely spoken more than a couple of words to each other. She’d arrived in the middle of the year, which was kind of strange. Most people – by which I mean parents – had the decency to time their life changing events for after the summer holidays – or at the very least after Easter or Christmas – but one day in the middle of term, there she was, being shown around by Tanya, the teachers’ go-to goody goody. She’d stood at the very back, next to Tanya with her plaits and her long white socks, put one hand on her hip and glared, as if to dare anyone to try messing with her.
I liked looking at her. She was a skinny girl, with dirty blond hair that was always dishevelled and sort of curly in places. She had huge blue eyes and long eyelashes and the sort of cutesy turned up nose that idiots on reality TV pay thousands for, but the thing that made her not just normal pretty but freaky pretty were her wicked eyebrows set firmly in her spiky cheek-boned face. We weren’t allowed make up at school but I was pretty sure she was wearing something. The only thing that stopped her from being annoyingly perfect was how tired she looked.
Despite her attitude, she didn’t seem like the sort to be a mad clubber and I hadn’t seen her out hanging about the rec, drinking or getting high. Maybe she was just studying hard, or maybe she was an insomniac. Maybe she had a baby, or a baby brother or sister. Who could tell? I was suddenly desperate to know why she was so knackered. I’d have to find a way to talk to her. My cheeks reddened even thinking about it. If her face gave away that she was tired, with its dark shadows so deep they almost seemed to dent her cheeks, then my face gave away my shyness every time.
I hated it. Even hanging around with my lame pals who were all as dorky as I was, they still managed to make me blush, and Dan in particular would crow with delight as he saw the colour start to spread up my cheeks like a spilled drink on a table cloth.It didn’t help that my skin kept having mental zit storm flare ups as well, I just didn’t want anyone to look at me.
I’d started working out at the gym to try and distract people from looking at my face. I reasoned that if my body looked better, perhaps people might ignore my pizza face, but so far it hadn’t really been working. I wondered if Jen ever went to the gym, perhaps that might be my way in.
As people started to leave the classroom, I hurried just enough to draw level with her desk, but not enough to let any of the top dogs of the class see what I was up to, I didn’t need them ripping the shit out of me.
“Hey Jen,” I managed to speak without stammering – a good start. She looked up from her desk, seemingly surprised. “Yes?” she pushed a curl of blonde hair out of her face. It fell back again almost immediately. “Oh nothing much. Just wondering, er, how you’re getting along, being new and that.”
“Fine, but thanks so much for pointing it out – again, there was me starting to think I was blending in.”
“Oh you could never blend in,” I felt the heat begin in my cheeks, as though someone had lit a fire on my shoulders. “That is, you’re far too gorgeous to blend in.” I couldn’t believe what I’d just said. Incredible! Was I actually chatting a girl up?
“Crikey you’re a bit forward, aren’t you?” She was picking up her bag now, moving off out of the classroom. I fumbled, following her out, trying to keep the conversation flowing. “I was just wondering…”
“Yes?” she was impatient to go now, I was keeping her waiting.
“I was just wondering whether you ever go to the gym, or would want to come some time, I have passes, it’s got a pool and that.”
She paused, slung her bag over her shoulder, threw me a smile, as casually as chucking a dog a biscuit. “Thanks for the thought. Maybe. But I’m a bit busy at the moment, I’ve got a lot going on at home.”
And with that she was gone.
The house was quiet when I got home, no tv or radio on. I let myself in and went straight to the kitchen. It was 3:45pm – mum would need her tablets soon – and she’d want the dinner on soon, too. Ever since she’d