Chapter 1 – School...
It was a quiet autumnal morning in the outer limits of London. The sun gleamed in the cloudless sky, but did nothing to warm the city beneath it.
A teenage girl with messy black hair was making her daily trip to school.
Tamara kept her gaze to the ground as she plodded along a park path. She succumbed to a heavy yawn, rubbing one of her sunken green eyes. Playing video games until four in the morning certainly wasn't a good idea on a school night, and the result was clear on her pale face.
The sound of a ringing bell carried itself from ahead. She peered up, met by the glare of her school's gothic bulk. She was late, as always.
She slowed her pace slightly to not catch up with a group of other students ahead. She waited until they were out of sight before making her way through the entrance gates. Now on the grounds, she changed directions to a narrow path around the back of the school, a route hardly anyone used. Avoiding other students was something she'd gotten a knack for.
But before she had a chance to relax in the seclusion, a group of girls her age invaded the footpath. She lowered her gaze nervously as they met in the narrow space.
The female students eyed her uncomfortably as they passed by. She didn't need to look to feel their stare. It was a face she knew well. Something half way between a laugh and a wretch.
Anxiety held her throat tight, holding back any comment she'd like to make. Oh how she'd love to have the guts to stand up to people like this. Such things were reserved for her daydreams though. Pure fantasy.
Eventually she reached her form room. She sheepishly walked to her desk with her usual droopy posture. The other students didn't so much as glance in her direction. She stuffed her bag down by her feet and slumped into her seat, head low as she pulled her phone out of her pocket. It wouldn't be long before the teacher arrived, but perhaps she could cram in some game time...
A familiar male voice made her flinch. She lifted her head and glanced in its direction.
A slim year 11 boy was stood a few desks away. Silky shoulder-length hair, a neat fringe swept over his sparkling tender eyes. Justin Moore was his name. Probably her form's most popular boy; a natural female magnet. That smile... so handsome it could peel away a girl's sadness. He didn't know it, but he'd been Tamara's crush for a while now, despite their total number of conversations amounting to zero. She just admired him from afar, wishing she had the confidence to approach him.
That ever handsome smile formed on Justin's lips as he began to walk towards her.
Her heart leaped in her chest as she watched him close in on her desk.
But the moment of delicious suspense was promptly killed. A group of other girls bunched in front of him, and he happily stepped among them. Their voices dripped with flirtatiousness as they quietly bid him good morning. It made Tamara feel sick. She growled quietly and let her head hang low once more, her cheeks burning with embarrassment.
'Typical... fucking typical...'
After a dull double class of mathematics the students were allowed their short morning break. Tamara decided she'd get some snacks from the school vending machines. She'd completely forgotten to pack any food for herself this morning, so once again she'd be fueled by chocolate bars today.
She bought a couple of chocolate bars and a can of cola. She was about to open the can, but she halted with her finger on the tab, staring at it. '...I fucking hate this place.' She turned and looked out the windows behind her. Clear sky and a bright sun. She preferred it in the summer when the weather was hot, everyone would flock outside. That meant she could remain indoors without the bother of others. But in the winter she could find no such seclusion.
A heavy sigh passed her lips and she hung her head a little lower. 'As long as I keep my mind occupied the day will pass quicker...' She began making her way down the deserted hallway. Her next lesson would start soon, she didn't want to be late again.
She lifted one of the chocolate bars to her mouth and bit on the edge of the wrapper, tearing it open. The very smell of the chocolate brought on a rumble in her stomach. She hadn't eaten all day. Her jaws opened in preparation as she rounded a corner at the end of the hall. But something was ahead of her. Something that made her freeze in her tracks.
A few figures were stood ahead. Four in total, all boys. And it seemed they weren't all friends. One of the boys was being held against his will, lifted to his tip-toes by his collar.
His attacker was bigger than the others. A brawny and imposing student, with a bent nose and deep-set eyes. His dark hair was combed back with pomade and his uniform was scruffy.
He was immediately recognisable.
His name was Tommy Albano. He was in her year, but she didn't know him personally. Nobody did. He was a person who stuck to a small friend group. But his reputation was far from unknown. He was a tyrant. A violent bully, with a name that expanded further than just school. He was a thug, a bare-knuckle brawler, and someone she avoided like the plague.
She cowered back into the hallway, leaving only half a head exposed as she peeked at the boys. Tommy Albano was muttering something to the boy in his grasp. Hissed threats it seemed. She couldn't make out his words.
'Oh fuck...' A feeling of dread shivered up her spine. '...I have History next...' Tommy sat directly in front of her in History.
Her knees began to shake nervously. 'If I stay out of sight I'll be fine... they won't notice me...' After a few more seconds of watching, she forced her legs to move again. She walked stiffly from the hallway and headed in their direction. Her footsteps were deliberately quick, and she tried to stay as close to the far wall as possible.
Her stomach tightened as she got closer, and when she finally passed by them she held her breath.
They never reacted. They didn't even seem to notice her. She passed by without incidence. She waited until she was a good distance away before allowing herself to relax. Another potential confrontation successfully avoided.
The school bell rung through the hall. The next lesson had already begun. Great, she was late for the second time today. Her legs started a quick scuttle down the hall and up a set of stairs to her History classroom. She pushed the door open and stepped inside, instinctively lowering her head.
"Miss Jones, you're late." Mrs Trenton placed her hands on her hips and sent Tamara a heavy frown.
Tamara stared at the floor, hiding her face under her fringe. "...Sorry..." She made her way to her desk at the back of the classroom, pushing the snacks she'd bought into her pockets. If she was stealthy she might be able to eat a chocolate bar when no one was looking.
Mrs Trenton walked to the door and pushed it shut. But it jammed as a shoe wedged itself in the door frame. Someone opened the door from the other side... Tommy Albano wandered in. She sent him a low-browed glare. "Mister Albano, what a surprise."
The boy simply responded with a grunt.
The teacher shook her head and pointed to his desk. "Hurry up and get to your seat."
He turned with a scowl and walked to the back of the room, seating himself at the desk in front of Tamara's. She held her breath again as he sat, fearing that even a mutter would cause him to turn and send a fist her way.
"Now, I'm sure you've all forgotten about the class project we planned this month?" Mrs Trenton looked over the class with a raised brow. The students groaned, sinking further into their seats. "As I suspected. You flipping kids never take anything in. Since you all need reminding, the project is to create a powerpoint slideshow on the history of this school. You'll get to miss a couple of lessons on Monday to work on it." A few of the students let out approving hollers. Mrs Trenton sent them a sharp glare, before picking a clip-board up from her desk. "You'll be working in pairs. I'll read out your pairs so you can get some planning done over the weekend before we start next week."
Tamara felt her stomach twist. She hated group work. Any situation where she was forced to interact with someone she didn't know rattled her to the bone. The teacher began to read names off the board, many of the students grinning and waving to their chosen partners. Tamara began to look around the classroom desperately, wondering who out of all the students she would least mind working with. She didn't know or like any of them, they all thought she was weird.
Her heart jolted and she stared at the teacher with wide eyes. This was it, she was about to learn who she'd be forced to work with in the upcoming week. She swore she could already hear the sound of her partner groaning in disgust.
Her blood ran cold.
There was no way she'd just heard that name. Surely not. She must have imagined it.
Mrs Trenton looked at her with a serious expression. "You two will work well together, since you're both late all the time." She glanced to Tommy, then back at the clipboard.
It was true. She was working with Tommy Albano.
'FUCK. FUCK FUCK FUCK... maybe I should ask to get a new partner? I can't let this happen. I can't work with To-'
In one steady motion Tommy turned his head back to face her.
Her heart smashed in her chest as their eyes met. It'd been so sudden she couldn't react. Now she was pinned, frozen under his stare.
This was it. He was going to hunt her down at lunch break and slit her throat. She was going to die...
"Got a pen I can borrow?"
She flinched at his gruff voice.
This was the first time he'd ever acknowledged her existence. He didn't want her head at all, he wanted a pen. She let out a quiet whine and fired a hand into her pocket. "U-Urm, I... I..." She stuttered nervously and fumbled around for a spare pen. She found one with her fingers and hastily pulled it out, holding it in front of her shakily.
He took the pen with an unmoving and bored expression. "Thanks, partner." He turned back to his desk.
The back of his head was facing her once more, yet Tamara continued to stare, her heart pounding in her ears. That was the scariest thing that had happened to her in a long time. The most feared boy in school had actually spoken to her. And now she was doomed to work with him for an entire week.
She slowly looked down at her desk, allowing her fringe to cover her face with a shaky exhale. 'I'm fucked...'
"Hurry up." A boy groaned, having to move aside for a girl to enter the room he was leaving. "Watch where you're going, I was coming through."
Tamara lowered into timid posture. "...S-Sorry..." She briskly entered the classroom, not wanting to keep him waiting any longer than she had to.
The boy sighed. "Weirdo..." He mumbled under his breath and left through the doorway, letting the door swing shut behind him.
Her hands tightened around her schoolbag's handle as she heard the muttered insult. Any desire to talk back was strangled by her nerves. She hated being confronted by other students. She simply continued to her desk and pulled out the seat, dropping into it with a grunt. She retrieved her phone and a chocolate bar from her blazer pocket, placing them on the table in front of her.
She pushed her headphones into her ears, turning on her phone screen and opening her music folder. She chose shuffle and started a random playlist.
Her eyes drifted to the window beside her as she started tearing open the chocolate bar. There were some students outside walking together, a few playing football on the field. The weather wasn't great but still some braved the cold. Not her though. She didn't like being outside regardless of the season. Nor did she like being anywhere her fellow students congregated. Large groups of people made her nervous. In fact, any amount of people made her nervous.
She didn't like the other students. Weirdo, loser, dork, she'd heard it all. The insults weren't as often as they'd been when she was younger. But people still avoided her, and she avoided them. Hence her choice to spend lunch break alone in her form room.
She took a greedy bite of the chocolate, looking back forward to her desk. Her reflection stared back at her from the darkened phone screen.
Pale skin, dark rings around her eyes, hair messy and fringe over her face.
She grumbled and moved the phone screen to a different angle. She hated the way she looked. She wasn't as cute as the other girls. She didn't have a nice body, or tanned skin, or silky hair. She couldn't even do makeup like every other girl could. The way she saw it, she didn't fit in at all.
She swallowed her mouthful and took another bite, trying to distract herself from a creeping depressive feeling.
Eventually her mind returned to the History lesson earlier that day.
'Tommy Albano... why the fuck did she pair me with Tommy Albano...' One simple glance was enough to show how different the two were. They'd never work well together. Simply being near him made her anxious, so she couldn't imagine how sick she'd feel having to work with him. '...He'll probably make fun of me all lesson. Or threaten me like he does everyone else...' She thought back to the boy she'd seen him threatening that morning and imagined herself in his place. Her legs began shaking a little under her desk. 'I'm fucked. I'm so fucked...' Her hands balled up. '...Maybe Mrs Trenton will come to her senses and put me with someone else...'
The bully's face came to mind. The moment he'd turned back and locked eyes with her. He'd never acknowledged her existence before then. Even after years of sitting behind him, he'd never done so much as glance her way. But now that'd changed. He knew her name, her face, and she had to work with him.
'I am fucked...'
Finally, school had ended.
A cold gust of wind streaked across Tamara's face as she walked down the pavement toward her house. She lowered her head and watched her shoes as she walked. At least it was the weekend now, she wouldn't have to worry about school for a couple of days.
Her mind crept back once more to the incident at the beginning of History class, when Tommy had asked her for a pen. She'd relived that moment so many times throughout the day. It was terrifying. Of all the boys she could've been paired with, it had to be him. This could've been her one chance to break the ice with someone, a situation where they couldn't back out of talking to her. But she had to be put with him. Just her luck.
She stopped at her house, pushing the red door open by the door handle and stepping inside. She closed the door and began wiping her shoes on the doormat, just as her mother poked her head round the kitchen doorway.
"Just in time honey, dinner's ready."
Tamara looked at her mother and nodded. "Okay." She kicked off her black shoes and dropped her bag, before walking into the dining room. She pulled out the head chair and sat herself in it. Her mother walked in with two steaming plates of penne. She placed one of the plates in front of Tamara, before taking her own seat.
Tamara picked up a fork and pushed around a few pieces of pasta, her eyes glued to her food as she began to eat.
"How was school dear?" Her mother smiled at her.
No response was given, she simply shrugged silently.
"...Did you talk to anyone today?"
She shook her head and swallowed her mouthful. "No. Emily was off school today."
Her mother sighed. "You shouldn't rely solely on Emily. When she's away you have a great opportunity to make some new friends."
Her daughter snorted. "Like that's gonna happen. Everyone runs away when I get within five feet of them."
"That's because you're not being friendly! You can't be rude and expect to make friends."
"Psh. You don't know anything, do you..." She dropped her fork into her plate and stood. "I'm gonna eat upstairs..." She turned without another word, quietly leaving the room and ascending the stairs.
Her mother remained still in the dining room, staring at the doorway with a solemn expression. "I really hope you're okay..." She murmured to herself with a sigh, before looking back down to her pasta and beginning to eat.
This is a story I've been thinking about writing for a long time, it's good to finally get it started. I'm enjoyin writing this so far! I'm so used to writing action stories so I thought this would be a nice break from the norm.
I hope you enjoy this story, and please send a review my way telling me what you think so far! I'm new to Fictionpress so it'd be great to get some feedback ^ ^