“I had PE just now,” she explained smoothly, “We were running and I tripped.”
I nodded as I picked at a pizza slice, because I could understand that danger all too well. I couldn’t run to save my life.
“So, where do you live?” I asked carefully. I didn’t want to seem pushy or anything but I was curious about her if I was going to be her friend.
“Live?” Willow was looking at the wall, and she frowned and swallowed a piece of lasagne. “Um… out of town. I get dropped off by my dad… he’s a commuter.”
I knew she wasn’t telling the truth from her hesitancy and he way her fingers twitched against her tray. I didn’t know if she was lying about her dad or where she lived, or even both, but she was definitely keeping something from me. However, I wasn’t stupid enough to push it and pry. Maybe she had a good reason for keeping her privacy.
“How about you?”
I told her the name of my street, and she nodded to show that she knew where it was. I finished the last bite of my pizza and washed it down with some water, capping the bottle and throwing it at the nearby bin. My aim was off as always, and there were sarcastic cheers from the students nearby as it bounced off the rim. I hunched my shoulders in embarrassment, cursing inwardly that I hadn’t just gone and put it straight into the bin instead of throwing it.
Willow smiled, but not in a nasty way, collecting both trays and dumping them by the door. I followed as she walked out of the canteen towards her next class.
She turned round.
“Do you know anybody called Meena? I just wondered…”
“Meena Azura? Oh yes, I know her.”
Her wary eyes had a laughter in them which made me think that she knew something that I didn’t. I guessed that Azura was Meena’s surname as she had never told me herself. It wasn’t a very common name.
“Got to go, Ruby. I’ll see you around.”
Willow waved vaguely and walked away. The bell rang at that moment and I hurried to my History lesson. I expected Meena to be there, but she wasn’t.
I sat down at the furthest desk at the back, but she didn’t turn up for the rest of that lesson.
The History class seemed to notice me for the first time in almost two days. The teacher, Mrs Hewett, called on me several times for answers during the class which left me stuttering. The other teachers had simply ignored me from the initial introduction. The other pupils spoke to me as well, though when Meena was there it seemed like neither of us were. I felt a little disoriented as I scooped my World War II textbook into my school bag as the class was dismissed by the loud final bell.
I decided to catch the bus into town and find my way to my mother’s shop. I remembered being in it when I was little, but doubtless it had been changed a lot since then.
When I stepped off the bus I wandered along the high street. The buildings either side were a few storeys high, although all the shops were limited to the ground and first floors. There were lots of girls just arrived from school wandering about, but I didn’t recognise any of them. It took me a quarter of an hour to come across Alessia’s Art Gallery on a corner.