It was raining the next day and Reuben was busy, meaning Ana had to battle the typical British weather by herself. She layered up in a raincoat and a thick jumper with jeans and converse.
By the time she had arrived at school she looked like a drowned rat. Her mascara had run, creating dark smears that ran along her cheeks and her hair fell in wet tendrils. She headed into the girl's bathroom, relieved at seeing it empty, and began drying herself under the hand dryer. Scrubbing her skin furiously to get rid of the make up, she remembered the new student arriving today and groaned inwardly. It was all she needed.
She was greeted with the familiar sea of disgusted faces as she entered the form room. This time however, the teacher was there with a new student stood awkwardly beside her. Ana kept her eyes to the ground as she half ran to the back of the room and sank down in her chair.
'Thank you for joining us Ana,' Miss Bridge remarked.
Ana ignored her completely.
'Right class, I want you all to meet Lukah. He will be joining us from now on and so I want you all to do your best to welcome him.'
The room was filled with murmured 'hello's'.
'Why don't you tell us a bit about yourself Lukah?'
For the first time, Ana dragged her eyes from the desk to study the new student in proper detail. He was tall, probably a head and a half taller than her with ivory skin and short black hair. He wore black stretchers in each ear which only seemed to match his eyes, so dark they might as well have been black. They were now fixed on Ana with an unreadable expression. Ana flushed and looked away quickly, embarrassed at being caught staring at him.
'There's nothing to tell really.' Lukah murmured in response.
'Okay... Well. Why don't you sit with Ana at the back? That's the only seat available, I'm afraid.'
She said "I'm afraid" as though she really did pity this stranger for being stuck with Ana.
The seat shifted slightly as Lukah sat down, but Ana didn't look at him. She didn't even say hello.
'Ana, you can show him to your first class.' Miss Bridge told her.
She nodded quickly.
Lukah sat in silence beside her as the teacher waffled on about some crap to do with the start of a new term and how everybody was expected to leave their Summers behind and get into the right mindset for studying for the upcoming exams. As soon as the bell rang, Ana stood up hastily, dragging her bag which had latched itself onto her chair with her, causing it to topple over. She flushed and picked it up.
Lukah stood watching her.
'So, um, you probably want to follow me,' Ana muttered, not looking at him.
They walked in complete silence to English, and once again Lukah had to sit beside her, one of the many disadvantages of being a "loner" was that Ana never had anybody to sit next to her in any lessons. He never spoke to her, never properly looked at her, and the silence was so awkward Ana wished the ground would open up and swallow her, saving her from this embarrassment.
The end of the day came as a blessing and she was halfway out the room before she heard a quiet voice speak behind her.
She whirled round to find Lukah standing directly behind her.
'I don't know what lessons I have tomorrow. Where is the office so I can pick up a timetable?'
'You didn't pick one up today?' she frowned. 'You should have been given one.'
'I guess they were preoccupied,' he shrugged. 'I only know today's lessons.'
'Okay,' she sighed, frustrated at having to spend more time with this awkward stranger. 'Follow me.'
'I'm sorry for putting you out,' he apologized. She instantly felt guilty.
'Don't be sorry, it's not your fault,' she decided to speak directly to him for the first time that day. He still had that unfathomable glint in those dark eyes of his, but the corner of his mouth was turned up slightly, into an attempted smile, something that made her heart flutter.
'How are you finding Rupe Forti then?' she led the way to the main office with him following closely behind.
He sighed. 'A little different than what I'm used to. Are the girls here really that bitchy?'
Ana had to stop the hysteric giggles from erupting out of her mouth, the sudden urge to shout YES at him and the wonderful delight from coursing through her at finally having someone who understood. Instead she just laughed.
'Yeah, they are.'
'And nobody talks to you?'
Ana's face fell, mortified.
'I'm sorry,' he shook his head. 'I didn't mean to offend you. It's just something I noticed today. Two girls in particular kept giving you death stares. Paige and...Samantha is it?'
'Sarah,' she mumbled quietly. 'Yeah, they don't like me too much.'
'I don't know,' she shrugged her shoulders. 'I guess it's because I'm different.'
'Huh,' was all he said, much to Ana's aggravation.
'This is it,' she stopped outside a glass window. A large woman with narrow glasses and frizzy hair glanced up on the other side. 'I have to go now.'
'Okay, thank you for showing me the way.'
'See you tomorrow Ana,' he waved her off.
Ana didn't allow herself to smile, to really, really smile, until she was out in the car park. Warmth and hope settled nicely in her stomach as she thought of the wonderful possibility that she may have just made a friend.