The SearchersMature

Darcy Ward, a normal socially awkward teenager from Liverpool, will discover a dark secret from her past that will open up her future in front of her very eyes.

                                                                          Chapter One

The Bloody Lightning Bolt

                                               I woke up from a strange dream, wrenching myself from the bed and carelessly flinging the quilt onto the bedroom floor. I paused for a moment as I tried to endure the antagonising pains of a morning headache. I must have hit my head in the night, since the possibility of a hangover would be 1:100.

  After this, I looked up at my curtains – small sewings of spotted horses with red roses stitched into a background of sea blue. I sighed. There wasn’t any reason to draw the curtains; there wasn’t actually any reason for me to have windows at all, since my window only looked through into the drably bedroom of our neighbour Mrs Zhang. The estate agent told us that people used my window in the Second World War so they wouldn’t have to walk outside their house and expose themselves to bombs.

   I scanned my brain, trying to recollect the fragments of the dream last night.

Don’t you hate it when you try to remember a dream? There must be some reason why dreams that you so desperately want to remember can just disappear and be forgotten forever just like that. And yet, it’s the most horrific and traumatic nightmares that linger in our minds and torture us with the fact that it may happen to you in real life. I mean, dreams always mean something, don’t they?

     Trying to remember, I drew the curtains and looked into the dark bedroom of our next door neighbour. I leaned forward, opening the window as I did, to see if she was around. I couldn’t find any form of life, until Mrs Zhang appeared at the corner of the room near the door, with chicken Pot Noodles hanging from her mouth. The only light emitted from the television screen in front of her, with some trashy TV talk show – probably Jeremy Kyle or Springer – and yet again, another parade of unattractive, teenage mothers who cheated on their boyfriends with their best friends.

             Zhang – I had to admit – had the appearance of an ancient hag. Thick, black bags hung, like two large weights, from her mysteriously grey eyes, with her face riddled with a network of deep wrinkles and laughter lines from years of happiness and fun times and with a creased forehead from the confused or sad times. All I can say is: you would only needed a brief glance at this old woman to understand that this person had lived life to the full.

  The morbid state of the bedroom made me pity the poor pensioner. The room would be barren if it wasn’t for the small single bed, a half filled bookshelf, a television (that wasn’t working to the full potential the salesman guaranteed) and a beaten up armchair she was sitting in.

The place was dead.

A ghost of its former glory.

The funeral was peaceful, with Joe, my uncle, respectfully speaking at the church.

  She noticed me spying on her, and waved. With a weak smile, I waved back.

    ‘Darcy?’ My uncle’s voice called. ‘Are you decent?’

I examined the skinny shape that is my body. Like most teenagers, I’m completely insecure about my body: my almost nonexistent breasts, my average looks, spots, everything that could be branded ‘adolescence’ or ‘in the midst of puberty’, some of my most hated words in the English Language. I was dressed in my favourite Snoopy pyjamas, with my favourite rainbow socks with the individually coloured toes. Hopefully, in a normal person’s eyes, I would pass for decent. Although, I assumed that if a film was to be made about my life, I would get some Hollywood actress with the perfect everything.

But I’m waffling on.

    After assuring my decency, the door creaked open then slammed against the wall, as Rafe – our beautiful Alaskan malamute – charged into the bedroom, followed by Joe. Rafe barked as he scampered over to my bed and leapt onto it. Lovingly, he licked my face, as I wrapped my arms around his fluffy mane.

   ‘Rafe!’ Joe shouted, between laughs.

At this, Rafe stopped licking and shedding black and white hairs onto the bed sheets and returned to Joe’s side.

  He examined me up and down, and then noticed my worrying gaze at the day ahead.

His brow furrowed. ‘What’s got you so bugged up?’

‘Guess I’m just shattered. Do I have to go?’

‘Bloody ‘ell, Darcy! This may be your first day, but you still need to get up and go like everyone else. Everyone’s shattered!’ He exclaimed, trying the ‘responsible parent’ tone which – I thought – didn’t suit him at all.

‘But Liverpool is so boring. It’s just buildings and cranes!’

‘Hey, there’s…Liverpool One…and…Anfield. See? There’s a silver lining.’

  Joe sat next to me, and wrapped his arm around my shoulder; his other hand stroking Rafe’s fluffy neck.

  ‘It’s not that different to Southport, you know…except…maybe less old people probably, but moving to a new place is always different, and I’m not lying when I say I know what you’re going through. Come on, you’ll make loads of friends and have sleepovers and play…I dunno, hair braiding circles -’

‘I’m not five.’

‘Hey, once you’re eighteen, you can do whatever you want…you know what I mean; I’ve been through stuff like this when I was your age –’

‘Oh, when the dinosaurs roamed?’ I pitched in. Joe always did look like a caveman, no matter how hard he tried not to. He always seem to have a very unkempt, outdoorsman look, with the way he kept his Kurt Cobain hairstyle and his unshaven complexion with eyebrows – turning into a potential monobrow – that I desperately wanted to pluck.

‘Oy, I’m being serious here. Parents and Guardians need to get close with their kids to help them out with their problems. Lorraine Kelly said so.’

 ‘Depends on your meaning of ‘getting close’’ 

I had a foul mind.

‘When I was young, I had loads of life changing experiences. It’s all part of growing up. This’ll be a big change for you. You’ll see!’

  Rafe barked happily after the words left his mouth.

‘See? Even Rafe agrees!’ Joe pointed out.

 There he goes again about these ‘life changing’ experiences he never wants to talk about. I’ve always wondered what he meant about them. He’d always say that his childhood was filled with many ‘disappointments’ and ‘experiences’, but he would never go into any further detail, despite always bringing it up in conversations. This was an aspect of Joe that became increasingly annoying in the past few years. Every time, I tried to dig deeper into what he meant, he would always make some sort of pathetic excuse, like something was burning in the oven or Rafe was about to do one in the front yard, or he would go off in a huff and take Rafe for a walk, sometimes for hours.

 I didn’t want Joe to be angry, for whatever reason it was...

I just wanted to know.

We never usually kept secrets from each other.

 **************************************************************************

The drive, in Joe’s old car, still remains one of the most embarrassing experiences of my day, especially when the car you were sitting in was an old Ford Fiesta MK2. I caught glimpse after glimpse of onlookers pointing and laughing at the poorly painted glow-in-the-dark lightning bolt alongside the front car door. Joe assumed that the laughing crowd he always gathered were jealous of his car.

No, Joe, they aren’t.

And as usual, Rafe would sit in the front, secured to the seat with a dog harness.

  This had been another aspect of Joe I could never truly understand. He treated Rafe like he would a child. And to top all of that, he would even talk to him!

 For the love of Christ, Cesar Milan, come to my aid!

  Then again, this is probably why he was thrown out of his old job as a filing clerk. His co-workers and his boss would often wonder why most of the files had scribbles of his son’s name all over them and why he would be talking to himself about suicide and about the failure of his life in general. Beforehand, he had suffered a nervous breakdown over the death of his son. He still won’t tell me what happened to the mother – he didn’t even mention if my aunt, his own wife, was still alive.

   Joe parked near the college entrance, crowded to the brim with students - dressed in an array of different trends and cultures, who couldn’t help but stare and laugh at the bloody lightning bolt, or maybe it’s the fact that Joe began a conversation with Rafe about how it was going to work out on my first day back in education, like I was a trembling Year Seven starting high school. Once the mob of students began to push and shove each other into the dull grey building before me that was St George Community College, Joe, to my dismay, stepped out of the car, followed by Rafe.

   Like a butler or a chauffeur, Joe opened the door for me, and then extended his hand to help me out of the car.

‘Ma’am, and a good day to you,’ he said, attempting to sound like Colin Firth.

I scoffed at how his humour still managed to get to me.

  ‘Joe, I’m seventeen, not seven.’

Joe ignored this. ‘Do you wish for me to walk you into the college?’

I pressed my hand against the chest to push him away towards his car and Max. ‘I can manage. Unless…savage pit bulls try to attack me, I’m fine.’

                                                        St George Community College didn’t exceed my expectations. It was just a dull, grey building, surrounded by a large playing field with two football posts and a basketball court consisting of two badly damaged basketball hoops; one even missing a net. The bordering fences around the college were so high you couldn’t even see the chimneys of the houses on the other side, if there were any, and were lined with barbed wire. Where am I? What is this place?

   I approached the college nervously, and then saw the unattractive sight of a smokers’ group - two boys and two girls – next to the bike shed, lighting up and shooting vicious glares at whoever shot them a second glance. They must have noticed me watching them because, with a smug expression on his face, the tallest of the boys approached me with worryingly fierce intent.

  ‘Oy! What you looking at?’ The boy exclaimed with a heavy Scouse accent, towering over me by almost a foot.  He wore a filthy denim jacket over his tatty college uniform which smelled like he had doused in cheap aftershave. Obviously a futile effort to show off how much of a ‘big man’ he was.  A tie was wrapped around his head where, above, sat a mat of dirty blonde hair that spiked up like the leaves of a pineapple.

   My stomach leapt. Students must have deciphered ‘what you looking at’ as code for ‘let’s have a fight’ since me and the walking aftershave bottle were now surrounded by an excited bunch of adolescents waiting for a grizzly bloodbath to record on their phones. I felt like a Roman gladiator in front of a crowd of demanding Greeks.

I was speechless.

He wouldn’t actually hit me...

Would he?

  As if this crowd has shot a new burst of confidence up his arse, the boy pulled off his jacket and raised his fists playfully, as his friends laughed behind him. My brain screamed for me to run away or cower, at least. I could even feel my legs shaking and shouting angrily at my feet to start running back to Birkdale, where my friends are, but I stood my ground and waited for the boy to launch a powerful fist into my chest. I didn’t understand why no one stepped forward to stick up for me, then I realised that ninety percent of the crowd were male and the female minority were cheering for my defeat.

But then, he stopped in front of me, until he had become close enough to kiss me.

     I grimaced at the choking waves of odourous cigarette smoke and aftershave radiating from his clothes and mouth. I covered my nose at the stench and tried to back away but the crowds, expecting a fight, pushed me back into the ring. A smug smile stretched across his face, revealing an unbelievably white set of teeth. My teeth weren’t even that white.

   I wasn’t expecting that. He must have just started.

But, then again, I wasn’t expecting him to blow a thick cloud of smoke into my face either, sending a Mexican wave of degrading laughter and jeers throughout the crowd along with the boy who lavished in his new dominance over me.

 ‘You're dead custy, ye nah!’ he suddenly remarked, checking me out admirably. ‘Ay yous single, er wa'?’

  I felt a cold hand slither along my spine.

‘Get stuffed!’ I growled, pushing him back towards his group of admirers. His cheeks flushed a deep scarlet, as the tables turned on him and the crowd sniggered at the fact that a girl made him blush. With my new dominance, I joined in.

  I stopped sniggering when the boy had become increasing hot under the collar. He took one last drag of his cigarette, threw it away, then stormed over towards me and grabbed my tie.

  ‘Fight! Fight! Fight!’ the crowd jeered, the word getting louder and louder as more people joined in.

  ‘Yous picked de wrong kidda ter choss wi',’

I didn’t understand a word either. The boy clenched his hand into a fist. I closed my eyes and waited for the K.O punch.

‘That isn’t a good idea, there.’

  At the sound of this voice, I felt my tie drop. I opened my eyes and saw a hand gripped tightly around the boy’s wrist, with his clenched fist only a few centimetres away from my face. With one twist of his hand, the owner of the voice had the boy on the ground in seconds.

‘Jack Brown,’ he said, smiling and looking into the distance, as if this was the last thing on his mind. ‘I was expecting you to be in the middle of something like this. Nothing unusual, I guess.’

 I smiled. Jack managed to struggle out of my rescuer’s grip and back away towards his friends, and it became even funnier when his friends began to shrink away from him, as if trying to avoid the embarrassment of hanging around with the loser. The crowd began to disperse, as the fight came to a sudden and disappointing end.

   My rescuer looked around the same age as me, but his height may have suggested he could have been as old as 20. He held a tall and sturdy frame with cascades of rippling dark brown hair that sat neatly on his shoulders. His face supported two beautiful blue eyes, resembling two pieces of lapis lazuli, filled with the mystery of a troubled past.

  ‘I’m George. And yourself?’

‘Darcy!’ I replied, blushing at the hasty response. ‘I’m new here.’

‘Yeah, I guessed. This is usually what happens to the noobs.’

‘Noobs? Look, I don’t use slang, but I don’t think that describes a new person. It sounds like it, but it doesn’t...’

He laughed again, and then shrugged. ‘Oh, well, I’m not into slang either. It takes me too much time to understand what Jack is saying. I’m not a local.’

‘Should have figured that one out myself. You don’t have the accent...you sound like you’re from the South. You from London?’

‘Yeah, Golders Green. You don’t have the accent either, unless I’m hearing posh Scouse, or whatever it wants to be called. Where you from?’

‘I was born here, but I’ve lived in Birkdale most of my life after my parents died.’

‘Oh, sorry about that.’

‘S’okay, you learn to get over it.’

‘How?’

‘I guess you just never miss people who you never really got to know, that’s what my conscience tells me anyway.’

He scoffed. ‘God, you actually believe in all that conscience crap? (He creased his forehead in thought) This, strangely enough is the first thing I don’t believe in. I usually believe in everything.’

‘What? Like dragons and that?’

‘Dragons exist!’

‘Do they now?’

‘Yeah...komodo dragons.’

‘Right...’

‘Come on.’ George took me by the hand, and pulled me through the dispersing crowd as they marched towards the college entrance. I grew more and more wary as George refrained from talking or looking at me, so much that I had thought he’d forgotten about me. We pushed through the double doors and burst into the main reception area. Slowly, the students drifted off to their first lessons, leaving us alone in the quiet corridor.

‘So, where do you-’ I turned to George, but there was nothing there but an empty hand. The ear-piercing shrill of the bell echoed through the hall.

I shrugged, and approached the main reception. A beautifully polished silver bell sat at the window, which looked through into the main office, bolted to the corner of the table. What? Where people actually stealing them? I longed to see pens chained to the class desks. I rang the bell and waited for assistance, as the sign, blue tacked to the wall next to it, explained.

  Nobody answered. I looked inside to discover the room completely deserted. I sighed, and sat down on a very expensive looking easy chair, admiring the gracious surroundings that immediately made me feel out of place in terms of class. Despite its’ dull exterior, I felt as though I had stepped into Eton or Cambridge. The grey, dreary building outside gave me the impression that this school would be the epitome of neglected school-keeping: wallpaper peeling from the walls, old battered chairs outside the Headmaster’s office (with holes made in them for a whole variety of reasons) but this place...I needed to take a quick glance outside to make sure I hadn’t walked into a different building.

 As I did this, I felt something tap me on the shoulder. I froze, and then turned sharply to what seemed to be an elevated stick of a man.

 ‘Hello, there,’ the man greeted coldly. ‘Can I help you? Why did you ring my bell?’

 ‘Oh...um, I, I’m Darcy Ward.’ I replied hastily. ‘I’m new...’

   This must have been Mr Lovejoy, the Headteacher. Mr Lovejoy held the stature of a thin and gangly looking man, yet he had the enchanting look of an angel with dark brown eyes and short brown hair with long, sharply cut sideburns that met accordingly with his growing beard. To add to his handsome, yet emaciated formation, he wore a brown, neatly ironed pinstripe suit, and glossy black shoes that curved to an uncomfortable point. He pulled out a small piece of paper from his breast pocket, looked at it and then looked back at me, as if he had been trying to confirm my identity, like a security guard at an airport.

  ‘Ah, yes, Miss Ward. We’ve been expecting you. Follow me please,’ Mr Lovejoy turned away on the balls of his feet and strolled along the corridor with his head held high, like he was strolling in his own little kingdom. ‘Yes, my receptionist told me about this a few months ago. You attended Greenbank High School, did you not? Your teachers spoke highly of you in every subject so we were rather happy to get you started. You will enjoy life at St George Community College, so named, of course, aftertheSaint George –’

‘- the patron saint of England.’ I finished for him.

‘Very good, your generation tend to forget that.’

  We stopped at a door, bearing the words ‘A5’, in bold letters engraved into the elegant mahogany.

‘Your timetable. Read it, learn it, and obey it.’ Lovejoy told me then handed my timetable with the graceful twist of his hand. ‘Ancient History, Physics, Physical Education and English, correct?’

‘Yeah, that’s right.’

‘A rather widespread curriculum of lessons, is it not?’

‘Oh, I’m very broadminded.’

‘Excellent, we could use a few more of you here,’ he replied with a slight twang of sarcasm to his tone. He rapped rhythmically against the door.

‘Come in!’ A musical voice sung from inside.

  Lovejoy opened the door, and walked me into the classroom, where a dozen pair of eyes, with some eyes in blissful reminiscence of the ‘fight’ beforehand, turned their attention to me. Lovejoy and the female teacher exchanged brief glances, as if they were secret lovers having an affair, but then they turned back to their professional selves, with Lovejoy glaring expectantly over his minions.

‘Terribly sorry to interrupt you, Mrs Murdoch (Mrs?!), but we’ve got a new student. This is Darcy Ward, and she has ancient history now with you. Do you mind me putting her into your capable hands?’

Murdoch produced a large smile, baring her shiny white, Hollywood style teeth. ‘Not at all, sir. We’re happy to have her, aren’t we?’

  A wave of murmurs ricocheted lazily across the room, but no one seem to greet me with the same level of interest as Murdoch. A reaction both embarrassing and calming since no one would bother to talk to me, and would leave me alone. Not the most social of ideas, but hey! I’m not the socialising type, as you may have picked up.

‘I’ll see you in the staff room, Mrs Murdoch.’

Lovejoy left without another word, leaving a wooed Murdoch to her giggling class. I caught two friends at the front bickering away about a rumour that Mr Lovejoy and Mrs Murdoch are lovers, and that they were having affairs at the Malmaison, and that they were planning to elope to the Caribbean to get married and have tons and tons of babies together.

  Mrs Murdoch was a beautiful and willowy woman, setting the example of the ideal woman that all teenagers spend their pocket money or work job to look like at salons or at supermarkets for buying make up and spot cream. Her long and curly auburn hair draped over her shoulders softly, like two orange silk curtains, with her piercing light purple eyes that shined like amethysts on her lightly freckled face; an odd colour which reflected her bubbly and happy attitude.

 She wore a knee length, pink floral dress and red high heels; heels that looked too high for such a tantalizing woman. She was like a delicate porcelain doll.

  I walked to the front of the classroom with Murdoch, as a few eyes gazed up to me, and then averted their eyes to something more interesting, but then I saw, to my surprise, that one of the remaining eyes were Georges’.

She beamed. ‘Well, if you haven’t already heard, Darcy, I’m Mrs Murdoch. It’s smashing to meet you! We just need to look for a space to put you...ah! There’s a seat free next to Mr Olsen!’

  I looked at the empty chair next to the alluring George and immediately began to hate its existence. My stomach, once again, performed a circus act of somersaults.

‘Well? Aren’t you going to move, or are your feet glued to the ground?’ A childish giggle passed her lips after she finished the sentence. ‘You’ve come at a very good time, Darcy! We’re in the midst of revising for our May exam (some students shot out a sarcastic ‘Ooooh’!) Are you familiar with Ancient Sparta, my dear?’

I nodded, and she replied with a wide smile.

‘Hey!’ George called out, raising his hand to indicate his position. I took a breath and sat down next to him.

‘Right!’ Murdoch started her lesson. ‘Darcy, I always ask my new pupils to question. Just to see where they’re at, okay? Good! What was the name of Gorgo’s father?’

‘Cleomenes,’ I replied.

She beamed once again. ‘Well done, you!’

 With the air of an all-too-high-on-life spirit, she strolled gracefully over to my table and stuck a smiley face on the lapel of my blazer; along with the top of the brightly coloured sticker were the words: ‘Well Done!’ What was this? Nursery?

 Murdoch must have noticed my disapproval. ‘You don’t like it?’

‘Yeah, it’s nice and all that, but don’t you think we’re a bit...old to be having smiley faces stuck to our clothes?’

 She didn’t look too insulted, but her eyes narrowed.

‘You’re never too old to like smiley faces, I mean, what about those hippies?’ George suddenly butted. ‘They had smiley faces printed all over themselves!’

  My cheeks blushed as the class laughed in agreement, including Murdoch, who sneaked in a giggle from behind her hand. I wanted to shove my elbow into George’s chest, hopefully succeeding in breaking a few ribs, and maybe smack his head around a bit with my chair and then stick his lips together with Murdoch’s hippy stickers, but I brought myself back to the harsh reality dominated by the sound of humiliating laughter. Thanks, George.

‘Thank you, Mr Olsen,’ Murdoch thanked, looking at him with a wary stare that seem to oppose her once bubbly and happy demeanour. I grew suspicious at the general unfairness at the fact that she wasn’t addressing George by his first name.

‘You’re welcome.’

  In those brief seconds, they exchanged intense stares, as if they had some ancient grudge against each other, but I cleared my throat to stop the awkwardness of being in this invisible line of fire, and they broke out of their trances.

                 After the lesson, the bell rang for first break. I ventured into the courtyard and through the arch to the crowded field, dodging the smoking circles and the stray footballs until I got to the deserted bike rack. No one was there, and it didn’t smell like anyone had been there in a while, so I pulled the ancient history homework from my bag and started working, scribbling down the incredibly easy answers on the Spartan Political System.

‘Hey noob, working hard already?’

A warm hand planted itself on my shoulder. I shuddered at the unexpected warmth that radiated from his palm. George.

‘I’m-I’m not a noob,’ I muttered. ‘What do you want? Going to make a show of me again?’

‘Hey I didn’t mean anything by it, you know. I didn’t know it was going to offend you, just making some innocent joke. Just making a valid point.’

I stood up. ‘A valid point, eh? Why don’t you keep your valid points to yourself, and I’m so glad that’s not a euphemism – ow!’

Static electricity struck my hand.

‘Did you do that on purpose?’

‘Do what?’

‘You just shocked me! Did you rub your hands on your trousers or something...where’s the balloon?’

‘Why would I be carrying a balloon? I’m not a clown!’

‘You’re not funny, you know.’

He shrugged. ‘Didn’t I say I was. It...it was probably the carpets; I must have dragged my feet before I came out here. I’m sorry, okay?’

  I did nothing, but nod. Suddenly, something came over him that made him approach me until he was a hand’s length away from me, his potent gaze fixing into mine. He then grabbed my hands and rubbed them against his cheeks; that same comforting warmth that had radiated from his hands. Strange. As if the feeling of my hands were reminding me of something – or someone. I didn’t feel the same; in fact, I might as well have had an old man doing the same. It just felt disturbing. I knew he was staring at me, but I didn’t think the thought of me occurred to him at all. I wanted to know what was happening in that mysterious head of his.

  He gave my arms a gentle jerk and, before I knew it, we stood there, wrapped in each others’ arms, my cheek cushioned against his soft chest. I couldn’t put my fingers on it but, at that moment, I felt secure and safe wrapped in his arms, like these arms were shields, protecting me from the dangers of the world. At that moment, the world had gone quiet, like me and him were the only people left in the world.

   My heart leapt frantically. I didn’t know how to react and seem like some of the other girls around college and stroke him senseless, like a new and treasured teddy bear. He brought his face down so that his mouth was level with my ear, and whispered: 

  ‘Everything you know is about to change.’

A chill shot through my mind after he uttered the ghostly words.

‘You’ve dropped something, by the way,’ he suddenly pointed out. I unwrapped from my warm human blanket to see what had fallen.

I hadn’t dropped anything.

‘There’s nothing.’

He disappeared. I burnt inside with fury at the second time he had gone and done this! In a mood, I stormed from the bike shed to hopefully see him and catch up with him and ask him what he had meant about everything changing or whatever, or maybe so I could just watch him walk dramatically into the distance, like in the Clint Eastwood films (that Joe goes to great lengths to show me because he doesn’t want Hollywood to ‘contaminate’ me with some of the low brow, explosion every minute, trash they produce and label a film).

  I turned to the group of boys playing football in the playing fields, but I couldn’t see him there either. I shook my head in disbelief and returned to the college, after the lesson bell called everyone into the building. As I walked back, I kept a lookout for George, pushing and shoving people out of my way to catch a glimpse of him, as if I was a devoted stalker of a famous celebrity.

But again, it’s as if he had disappeared into thin air.

Giving up, I walked through into the college, where I found everyone pouring into the assembly hall, all in excited discussion. I pulled someone to the side, which I began to regret since he gave me daggers, and it was a dagger I assumed he would pull out, yet I managed to survive with an aggravated glare from this scruffy looking skinhead.

‘What’s going on?’ I asked nervously.

‘Emergency assembly, you mong! Weren’t you in Tutor this morning?’ He shrugged himself from my grasp and rejoined his friends who were loitering suspiciously outside the assembly hall doors.

  As I followed the crowd (something I hoped wasn’t going to be happening a lot), I listened in on the bantering about this ‘emergency’ assembly.

‘I bet it’ll be another boring assembly about smoking, or safe sex, or something,’ one girl suggested to her friend.

‘It’s going to be, like, a big speech about Lovejoy’s life in the school,’ another suggested. All of these reasons were possible, and I knew a handful of headteachers who lavished on the subject of obliviously reminiscing about pointless events that happened decades ago. I didn’t want to sit through a frightening lecture about condoms, safe driving, or Lovejoy a headteacher. Not that they weren’t important, it was just awfully embarrassing to stand in front of a bunch of hormone raging teenagers as you learn how to put on a condom using a banana.

                             The assembly hall stretched out and shaped to the style of a small cinema. There were rows and rows of comfortable, not to mention, expensive looking purple seats that got higher and higher towards the back of the hall, where a small window looked into the projection room. The seats surrounded a huge stage, where the teachers, including Lovejoy, were sitting in a semi circle. I felt like I was in the company of the Gods of Olympus.

   I found myself getting a seat in the front row. I dreaded this, like dreading to sit in the front row of a comedy show and worrying whether the comedian was going to cruelly poke fun at you and humiliate you before crowds of people you didn’t know. I imagined, in utter horror, at the thought of Lovejoy volunteering me to test a condom on a banana. But, on the bright side, it gave me a good chance to observe the teachers; all of them bearing their own individual image of godly beauty.

  I recognised Murdoch immediately, who sat at the end of the semi circle, chattering away to a fellow teacher, and occasionally sending flirtatious signals to Lovejoy every so often, who returned them with a devilishly handsome smile.

I leaned back, waiting for Lovejoy to proceed with this assembly, which gave me another chance to look around. I looked to my right to find a girl with her nose buried in ‘Crime and Punishment’.

  She had long, auburn hair that stopped at her unnaturally large breasts from what her white shirt was failing to contain, and her eyes were brown, like two chocolate buttons.

‘Strange,’I thought. ‘Usually it was me who was found with their nose deep in a book.’

I craned my head over her shoulder to see where she was at, but only found a smuggled fashion magazine. I envisioned Raskolnikov, posing for Vogue.

  Without thinking, I tapped her on the shoulder, and she responded with a friendly smile.

‘Excuse me, I’m sorta new...and that. Can you tell me who the teachers are?’ I asked. She folded the top corner of the magazine to save her page, closed the book and shoved it into a large pink Gucci bag.

  She started with the man talking to Murdoch.

‘That Mr Williams; he teaches Physics,’ she explained. ‘So fit. Everyone thinks he looks like Johnny Depp. See Murdoch, the redhead? You see, he’s married to her, right, but everyone thinks she’s having it on with Mr Lovejoy. Haven’t you seen the signals? I would never cheat on Mr Williams, or Johnny Depp, either. I mean, look at him! Ooh, I would!’

I laughed at this, agreeing that Mr Williams had the look of a God, and Johnny Depp in Public Enemies. Mr Williams, according to the girl, was branded the baby of the teaching staff, yet he had the brain of a supercomputer. She told me he had completed a master’s degree at Physics at Cambridge University,withhonours.

  Mr Williams had copper coloured eyes that seem to reflect the sunlight oddly. His silky, wavy fair hair stopped and curled at his ears, and I agreed with the girl’s confusion at why such a beautiful man would ever need to worry whether their equally beautiful wife was having an affair.

  The next teacher, the girl continued, was Mr Stanford, another good looking man who didn’t look a stranger to the gym and heavy weights. He was a P.E teacher and ran the college football squad. I waited in anticipation for the tight fitting sleeves of his Liverpool shirt to burst.

 ‘I’m Charlotte, by the way, but everyone calls me Lottie.’

 ‘I’m Darcy.’

 She pulled out her hidden magazine once again, and tore a corner from the top of her current page, then scribbled something with a fluffy pink pen which she produced from an even fluffier pencil case. 

‘We could go shopping in Liverpool One at the weekend. There are some sales on there. I’ll die if I don’t get there in time. Here’s my number.’

‘Thanks.’

Wow, she works fast.

   We went through the male majority of the teaching staff, discussing how amazing and lush – a word I couldn’t get used to using – they all were, like girls do! I began to wonder if I was in St George Community College, and I wasn’t some character in a Twilight story. New girl, handsome people. I wished this was true, since I always wanted to live in that world, and have George be my Edward Cullen, but, for some reason, my feelings for George were less of an obsession. I wanted to experience of a feeling of attachment to George, but something off-putting – if that’s the best word to describe it – made me back off.

   My mind had descended into another world, until Lovejoy finally stopped talking with the Deputy Head, and took to centre stage.

 ‘Can we quiet down now, please?’

He looked shaken at whatever this assembly was about. I furrowed my brow at this, and leaned forward to hear me. But the college behind me were still chatting away with her friends. After a few attempts of Lovejoy’s pointless efforts to shut everyone up, Mr Stanford rose from his seat, snatched the microphone from Lovejoy’s bony hands and pushed the microphone against the speaker system; the speaker then sent a screeching, ear piercing sound that reverberated sharply through the hall, silencing the chattering crowd immediately.

‘Thank you, Keith,’ Mr Lovejoy thanked. ‘Now that I have your full attention, I’d like you all to be vigilant in the next few weeks. Your teachers have recently come under information that, if it gets out of hand, may become a problem in this school and to yourselves.’

  The crowd murmured with concern, seconds after the last words left Lovejoy’s mouth but a thunderous ‘quiet down’ from Mr Stanford silenced the crowd once again. A boy in the far back put his hand up.

‘Yes, Matthew!’

‘Is it terrorists, sir?’ A wave of laughter rushed across the crowd.

‘No, it’s not terrorists, Matthew. And we do not have to evacuate the college, like what had happened with Sam Lennon’s bag.’

Another small wave of laughter ran over the crowd; as everyone looked back in joyful reminisce. I scanned all of the joyful faces on both the staff and the students. I thought this was an emergency assembly.

‘Now,’ Lovejoy continued, ‘we want you to keep your eyes peeled, okay? If you notice anything out of the ordinary, please contact one of the staff immediately.’

A hand rose from a girl sitting behind me.

‘Yes, Lauren?’

‘What’s going on, sir?’

‘I’m afraid we can’t tell you that. The information we have so far is classified.’

 The crowd moaned then engaged in angry conversation. What the hell did he mean by ‘classified’? I thought we were in a small community college in the middle of Liverpool, not a top secret base in America.

 I sighed, and contemplated on why Lovejoy had taken a time out of everyone’s day for an emergency assembly and wasn’t even going to tell us why we were sitting here anyway.                 I averted my eyes to the windows, yearning to go back outside and breathe in air that wasn’t conditioned.

‘What do you think this classified info’s about?’ Lottie asked, fluttering her fingers dramatically, like a gypsy fortune teller over a crystal ball.

‘It might be some maniac planning to shoot everyone in the college.’

Lottie then shot me an apprehensive glance, obviously not picking up on the very off-coloured joke.

‘I was messin’,’ I assured her.

She paused for a few seconds, until she stretched a wide smile across her spotless face, then let out a shrill laugh.

‘Oh, right! That’s sofunny!’

I opened my mouth to say something else, when I noticed something standing just outside the corridor. I blinked my eyes twice just in case my mind had started to play tricks to ward my attention from this god-awful assembly, but the figure – dark and alluring – still retained its position just outside the door. I couldn’t see the face – a shroud of black nothingness masked the figure’s face – but I could feel eyes burning into my own and a horrible sting of fear sat at the bottom of my stomach. Maybe there was some maniac hiding out in the college.

‘Lottie! Lottie!’

‘What?’

‘There’s a-’ the sight of an empty corridor stopped me in mid-sentence. I blinked and then look around to make sure I wasn’t looking through the wrong room, but the figure had disappeared.

‘Is this another joke?’ Lottie asked, with a slight tone of hope in her voice.

‘No, I think there’s someone in the corridor.’

I left my seat before Lottie could say anything further, slipping away as the crowd dived into another giant chat as Lovejoy tried pointlessly tried to talk about strangers. Nervously, Lottie slipped the straps of her bag onto her shoulders and followed.

                        How we managed to get out of the hall without being caught was beyond me but wasn’t a major concern now that we were out and able to continue. As I slowly managed to calm down, Lottie started fidgeting and hanging onto my sleeve, as if the ground was going to disappear under her feet at any minute.

 ‘It’s probably just some idiot messing about, let’s get back!’

 ‘Lottie, if you want to get back, just go alright? I didn’t force you to come along with me, you know!’

‘Oh good,’ and then she zoomed back to the hall without a second glance. I shook my head, damning at the chances that the only friend I managed to make was a clueless bimbo destined to become a footballer wife. I continued along the corridor, with Lovejoy’s voice getting further and further away and leaving me in a corridor that became too quiet for me to bear.

Suddenly, my heart stopped at the sight of the figure shooting into the Science Laboratories, followed by a spine-chilling, clown - like laughter you’d hear before the victim is severely mutilated in the films. Stupidly, and suddenly, my feet shot forward after the figure into the laboratory.

‘Hey!’

 I stopped at the doorway and looked around the classroom for the figure, but, again, there was nothing but an empty and slightly smelly laboratory. ‘Is-is anybody there?’

 There was no reply.

But then, the shuffling of beakers echoed through the classroom from the chemical storage room in the corner of the lab. I whimpered, before taking a deep and courageous breath:

‘Look, if you don’t come out, I’ll –’

‘You’ll what?’ a demonic voice grumbled from the storage room. ‘Kill us?’

  Another deep and spine-chilling laugh reverberated through the laboratory, followed by the familiar sound of hissing gas and the scraping sound of a match.

  I gasped; knowing what would come next, and darted to the door for dear life! I scrambled for the door handle; my hands were shaking, with a mind of their own, as fear and panic took over. Whilst trying to cover my nose and my mouth from the gas, I tried desperately to take a firm hold of the door handle and run home and never return until –

YES! Finally, I managed to hold the handle firmly and then turned the handle to the right, and then pulled the door back as hard as I could, and bolted out of the room. If only I had got out of there faster...

BOOM!

The End

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