That night Joanne had the same dream that she had had in her maths class. Again she got to where the little girl was unfolding the leaves when her alarm clock went off. Joanne groaned and rolled over, burying her head into her pillow, trying to get back into the dream. But it didn’t work. Her mum called her downstairs for breakfast and then Joanne went to school.
Joanne spent the day in a day dream, trying in vain to discover more about the girl, her gift, and the clearing. She had nearly forgotten about Lunch time. But when her tummy began to rumble, Joanne remembered the incident on the bus the day before and she knew that Karen would not have forgiven her that easily.
After class, Joanne wandered over to the field where Catherine, Chloe, Laura, Rachel, Jess and Nicola were waiting. Joanne smiled at them. These were her only true friends that she had in the whole school. There were others, such as Sarah and Alice, who occasionally talked to her, but they weren’t the same. These were her real friends, the ones that you could always trust your secret’s to stay safe with and those that trusted you with theirs. She didn’t know how she could have coped at school without them.
They set out to where they normally sat to eat their lunch, under several large beech trees. But as they approached Joanne noticed several girls sat on the freshly mown grass.
“Oh no.” Said Nicola “We’ve got company.”
Joanne turned and started heading off to the benches on the other side of the field. “Come on, lets go over there.” she yelled back at the others. But it was too late. Among the group of girls sat the perfect brunette who, unfortunately for Joanne, had some unfinished business with her. She stood up and made her way through the group of girls calling after Joanne
“Hey you.” Karen had never used her name; she never had the need to. Joanne knew that she was talking to her. She sighed. There was no point in running away, Karen would catch her on the way home, and what would be the point; it would just make her look like more of a coward than what she already was.
“You guys go on ahead. I’ll catch you up later.” she whispered to the girls behind her.
“No!” said Jess. “We’ll stick by you no matter what.”
“Thanks.” She said, turning to face Karen. “Yes?” Karen grinned; she thought that she was in control.
“You tried flirting with my boyfriend yesterday. Didn’t you?” It was a rhetorical question and Joanne didn’t bother answering back. She knew that anything she said in defence would just get twisted around and thrown back.
“You’re trying to take him away from me, aren’t you?” Joanne rolled her eyes stopping halfway when she realized that that had been a big mistake. A cold white hand soon found her cheek. It stung and Joanne knew that it would leave a mark there for the rest of the day, but she didn’t cry out.
“How dare you!” screamed Karen. “How dare you not take me seriously?” Joanne just stood there and stared at her. Karen glared back. Then all of a sudden she lunged. All the air was pushed out of Joanne as she went flying backwards and the next few minutes were a bit of a blur. All Joanne could here were the screams and cries of other girls. But soon a new voiced joined theirs, and a little later Karen, who had been punching her in the face, was dragged of Joanne. She looked around. Catherine, who had been stood to Joanne’s right, grinned at her. Although she had been against three other girls, she seemed to have won the fight with just a nose bleed and a black eye. The other girls had had more of a fairer fight, being up against one other girl. All of them seemed to have done well, escaping with just a few cuts and bruises and none of them had done that much damage to their partners either. Becky was the only one who had sustained any real damage, a broken arm.
As Laura approached Joanne, who noticed that her cheek was bleeding, she said, “It wasn’t my fault really. She just twisted around when I knocked her to the floor. She landed funny.”
Joanne smiled. “Oh well. Are you OK and what happened exactly?”
“Yes, I’m fine. When Karen rugby tackled you, the other girls in her gang began running over to help her beat you up. So we decided to keep them occupied while you and Karen fought. You did a great job. She has a black eye and a nosebleed and, I would have thought, half her hair missing.”
Laura’s smile was soon wiped of her face as all the girls were crammed into their head teachers office.
“Do you know what you have just done?” He yelled. “You have made a bad image for this school.”
‘It already has a bad reputation’ thought Joanne and probably about half the other girls there.
He banged the table with his fist. Mr Warren was well known because off his lack of self control. “Who started this? Hey?” Joanne looked over at Karen and hoped that for once in her life she would keep her mouth shut. Karen caught her eye and nodded. They were even now and they would both face the consequences.
“I’m afraid a detention is not a strong enough punishment.” Mr Warren was now pacing up and down behind his desk. “I think you girls should join the cleaners each night next week until you have learnt your lesson.”
The girls groaned. It wasn’t too harsh a punishment but it was still annoying.
As the day wore on the clouds gathered closer together until finally they broke. For the last hour of the day the playground began to fill with water. Joanne hoped that it would stop before the bell rang, but it didn’t.
Joanne hadn’t had time to think about the girl in the dream all afternoon. The fight and the prom had distracted her. Already half of her year had dates. Alex had asked Laura out as soon as the posters had gone up and, to everyone’s surprise, she had accepted. Chloe had been asked out by three boys in her food technology class and she had declined the first two, favouring instead Jack. Of course, most of Joanne’s other friends weren’t overly fussed about finding a date. Nicola didn’t think she had a hope in hell in finding someone and Jess and Rachel were the only ones who didn’t seem to care. Joanne could tell that Catherine was desperate to attract the attention of one of Joanne’s brothers, who she absolutely adored and so Joanne made a mental note to herself to encourage him in the right direction. As for Joanne, she had never had a great love life and so she didn’t think she had a chance with anyone.
As Joanne trudged along through the puddles of cold murky water she sensed that she was being watched. She looked around. On the other side of the playground she noticed a group of boys. She looked closer, trying to see who was there. She could easily figure out her older brother, Ben, from among the group. His hair was like hers, auburn and wavy. He hadn’t had it cut for a while and it hung down over his ears. She could also see her younger brother with them. Charlie was in the same year as Joanne, but he was ten months younger, although he was just as tall as Joanne, but unlike Ben he looked nothing like her. His hair was strawberry blond and curly, and his eyes were bright blue, whilst Joanne’s and Ben’s were hazel. Joanne also noticed most of her friends’ brothers in the group, but the one that had been watching her was Catherine’s. Chris saw that he had been noticed and he nodded at her. Joanne blushed and kept walking. She didn’t want Karen to get annoyed with her again.
The bus stop was just outside the schools gates but Joanne was already soaked through by the time she got there.
For once the bus was on time and the kids, who lived in and around Andoversford, squelched up the steps and collapsed into the seats. Joanne settled down next to Catherine. There were only two of her friends who didn’t get on the bus, because they lived in Charlton Kings, Nicola and Jess.
One girl, Joanne thought she was called Emily, sat down on the other side of the aisle and smiled at her. After a few minutes Joanne began to feel slightly uncomfortable.
“Did you want anything?” she asked her.
Emily leaned over and whispered something.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t quite catch that. Could you repeat it again please?”
“I saw you fighting Karen at lunch. It was awesome. She always bullies me, but now I can stand up to her, because of you.” She turned away and began chatting to the girl next to. Joanne turned to Catherine, who just shrugged, pulled out her i-pod and began listening to her favourite band. Joanne sighed. Before the fight she had been one of the least popular kids in school and now she was being worshiped by them. She had always wanted more attention, but now she wasn’t sure whether this was quite the sort of attention she was looking for.
As the bus pulled up at the Andoversford bus stop a bolt of lightening zigzagged across the sky and seconds later a crack of thunder caused the bus to shack. Several girls screamed and huddled up to each other. Joanne jumped. This day just wasn’t going well. She had left her umbrella at home, although she wouldn’t have used it anyway because it was too windy, and her parents were working late that day. It was a ten minute walk back to her house and by the time she got there she was soaked through. She turned to wave to Chloe, who had got a lift home from her older brother, as she went to unlock her back door. Chloe quickly waved back before making a mad rush to the door, but it didn’t help. The rain was falling so heavily and densely that you couldn’t avoid getting wet. Joanne giggled to herself as she finally managed to get the back door to open. She didn’t mind getting wet. Infact she almost liked it. If it wasn’t so cold she would have ran out and danced around in it. As soon as Joanne entered her bedroom her cat Smudge came bounding over to her, meowing.
“Not now Smudge.” Joanne said to the black and white cat, “I need to get these wet clothes off before I catch a cold.” Smudge purred loudly and jumped onto her bed and waited for Joanne to sit down so that she could lie on the girls lap. Joanne ran her hand through the clothes in her wardrobe. There were a lot of clothes in there, some that she hadn’t even worn yet. She reached out and picked a strap top, a hoody, and a pair of jeans. She wasn’t going anywhere that night and so she didn’t need to look special. Before sitting down to let Smudge sit on her lap, she grabbed a pen and her science book. When Smudge decided to lie on you, you weren’t going anywhere for a long time. Joanne hated science. It was her worst subject and she never understood a word of it. Her homework was to write an essay on Darwin’s Theory and to make a case to why she thought it was correct so that she could stand up in front of the whole class in a one week’s time and embarrass herself whilst debating and arguing her case against someone else. She sighed.
“Come on Jo.” she said out loud, causing Smudge to jump. “Just another few weeks to go and then I won’t ever have to do science again.” Joanne had never known what had finally made her choose science and maths as two of her A-level subjects. She just had.
An hour later Joanne’s mum walked through the front door with some shopping. She called upstairs to Joanne to help her bring in the rest of the shopping that was still in the car. Joanne finished the last sentence of her essay, picked Smudge up of her lap and ran downstairs. It was still tipping it down outside so Joanne slipped on a raincoat and grabbed some shopping from the car. There wasn’t much to bring in. She made two more trips to the car and then locked it up. Her mum smiled at her as she walked through the door.
“How was your day?” she asked.
Joanne shrugged. “It wasn’t too bad I suppose.” But then her mum spotted the bruised check. She hadn’t noticed it before as it had been too dark, but now her mum had turned on the light it was very obvious.
“What happened to you?” She screamed. “I hope it’s not serious.”
Joanne backed away from her mothers’ hand which was checking her face for any other damage. “No mum, it was just Karen. She tripped me up and I yelled at her, so she punched me.” She didn’t want to go into to much detail about the fight. Her mother sighed.
“I told you to just ignore them and they’ll soon leave you alone.” Joanne glared at her mum and ran upstairs into her room. ‘Why didn’t she understand?’ thought Joanne, collapsing on her bed. She never had understood. No-one but her friends had understood.