I dropped the bags onto a white rug in the middle of the room and began to unpack my clothes into the antique wardrobe. To brighten it up, it had been painted with mythical creatures. I recognised my mother’s handiwork in the flowers that entwined them all. To my surprise, there were already some clothes in there that had obviously been bought for me, including a black school uniform. I shut the doors on it and turned my attention to unpacking my books and DVDs onto the shelves above a large beech desk. They already held some childhood trinkets, snow globes and ornaments and a teddy bear called Mr Moon and a rag doll without a name. I had brought my laptop as well, carefully cushioned in my bag with some clothes. I plugged it in to the socket below the desk and fed the wire up behind it, setting the laptop up on top of it. Once I was satisfied with my new room arrangements, I opened the curtains and looked out of the window. It was at the side of the house but I could see half of the garden. There was a stone path and a little pond between some flower bushes. The poles of a child’s swing stood rusting in the corner and a wooden bench faced the pond. I didn’t remember the pond, but the swing must have been mine.
I shoved the empty bags under my bed and went back down the stairs slowly, trailing my fingers along the banisters. The house was cosier than the flat and I wanted to belong here, despite my misgivings about it. Since I was going to be staying for at least half a year, I hoped I would fit in.
When I got to the kitchen the smell of warm pizza and paint reached me. Drying paintings hung all over the primrose yellow walls, and two steaming pizza boxes stood on the pine table. It was square with three chairs, one side pushed against the wall. My mother was washing some dishes, and looked round guiltily as I walked in.
“Sorry, but I ordered delivery pizza. I didn‘t think I should cook.”
I shrugged and opened a box, pulling out a slice and almost dropping it as it burned my hand. Deftly a plate appeared and caught the slice just as I dropped it. I raised my eyebrows at my mother‘s sudden bout of dexterity and took the food into the living room, sitting in front of the TV. After a while she joined me and we ate in companionable silence in front of an American sitcom. It was an odd feeling that although I hadn’t been here, with her, for ten years, after an hour I already felt at home. I wasn’t even that worried about staying here anymore. Though when I thought of school, something cold twisted in my stomach. That I was definitely not looking forward to, and that fact wasn’t likely to change. As it was a Sunday, I was going to start at the secondary school in Slake the next day. It felt like being thrown into the deep end before you’ve learnt how to swim.
On Monday morning I was awake at five, feeling too sick with nerves to sleep. An hour later, I made the bed and reluctantly dressed in the school uniform. It consisted of black trousers, a white shirt and a blue striped tie. The blazer had a logo on the pocket, the outline of a city horizon emblazoned with the words ‘Slake Community High School’ in white. It was unfamiliar. It felt like I was wearing a stranger’s clothes.
My mother drove me to school at half past eight, cursing the traffic in every lane. The new car was too big to overtake others in the narrow lanes, so we sat restlessly as the clock on the dashboard kept ticking the minutes away. It was so typical for me to be late on my first day. Just what I needed - a dramatic fashionably late entrance with everybody staring at me.