Constable David Stafford pulled into the parking bay of the petrol station just off of Lyefield high street. The dark rubber wheels of his neon green and white police cruiser rolled over the Tarmac, grinding down on the gravel embedded in the treads.
Walking from his car, he snatched up a copy of the Times from the newsstand; readily avoiding the neighbouring issue of the Mayfair Star. Walking inside the store, his shoes squeaked against the dull linoleum floor as he traversed the aisles. Paper still clasped underneath his arm, David picked out a tub of fruit and a sandwich from the refrigerated shelves, before making his way to the register.
Meeting him with a bright smile, the cashier greeted him cheerfully. At around forty years old, her neatly groomed blonde hair held a few flecks of grey that caught the light. Crow's feet extended from the corners of her eyes, betraying her friendly attitude. In her younger years, she may have been considered quite pretty.
"Morning Dave," she said, slowly reaching out to scan his items.
"Morning Paula. Not very busy in here is it?"
"It never is at this time of day. Eleven in the morning isn't exactly rush hour."
"I guess not."
David's eyes creased slightly as he smiled. A kindly man of thirty eight, the signs of middle age were slowly beginning to creep onto his face. Mousey brown hair clung to the top of his head in a thin crop, offsetting his deep brown eyes.
"You seem distracted?"
"I was just thinking... Things have been too quiet recently. Not that I'm complaining, it's just I get a bad feeling from it." David placed his large hands on the counter in front of him and sighed. "I don't know. Maybe I'm just being paranoid."
"I think you need to take a break, get your mind off work."
"Is that right?"
"I'm free Friday at seven."
"Well, aren't you a bit forward today?" He broke into a grin.
Paula met David's sarcasm by leaning forward against the counter and smiling back. "Helps me get what I want."
"Well I can't exactly say no now, can I?"
"I should hope not."
David laughed and lifted up the food items in his hands in a half wave. "I better be getting back to work now."
"Uh-uh." She pointed to her lips. "Aren't you forgetting something?"
"Oh how could I forget?"
Leaning over the till, David planted a quick peck on her lips before making his way out of the shop and waving at her through the window.
Paula Stafford stifled a blush and laughed under her breath. After ten years of marriage, he was still as charming as when they first met. Granted his hair was thinning and he had packed on a bit more weight around his mid-section, but she still found him every bit as attractive as she did in her youth. He was still tall, dark and handsome. The thing she loved most about him were his broad shoulders; the way he held himself.
Beginning to busy herself behind the counter, Paula rearranged the packets of cigarettes displayed on the wall behind her. In front of her eyes, the multitude of colours threw flashes of rainbow colours over her dark pupils.
She started to think of ways that she could help take her husband's mind off of work. The train of thought soon elicited a slight giggle, in response to some of her naughtier ideas.
David had always been that way. When work was particularly quiet was when his mind worked the hardest. Paula guessed that it was his way of staving off boredom. He couldn't stand having nothing to do.
There was a dull hiss as the automatic doors to the shop swung open.
Sighing to herself, Paula returned her attention to the till.
Scott sat in his class staring across the room at the door. The sounds of pens scratching against paper scraped through his head, numbing him and drowning out the subtle sound of the clock at the front of the room ticking away. Every so often a mutter would rise out of the silence as two students quietly spoke. The sound of a chair slowly scraping against the floor suddenly pierced through the atmosphere as someone readjusted their sitting position.
As he broke into a soft sigh, he allowed his mind to wander across Tom's soon to be party. Despite his earlier reluctance, Scott was actually beginning to look forward to it. While he wasn't old enough to legally drink in a bar, at seventeen years old, he really enjoyed the drinking and party atmosphere. He'd been to enough house parties to know that much. The only reason for his earlier hesitation at saying yes to attending was due to a particular occurrence at a previous similar event.
He was suddenly snapped from his daze by the feeling of something tapping against his shoulder.
Glancing to his right, Scott was met with the smiling face of Alice Goodacre. She was a short girl stood at around five foot three, with honey blonde hair. Her fringe was parted at a seven to three ratio, framing her neatly plucked eyebrows and clear grey eyes.
"Are you going to Tom's on Thursday?"
"I should be, yeah." He kept his voice low, so as not to disturb the other students working around him.
"That's great. I haven't seen you out in so long."
"I've been hiding," he replied, slightly laughing.
"How are you getting there? I live down the road from him, so if you want you can come around mine after school Thursday. Then we could go together."
"Usually I'd love to, but I can't. My family's away right now, so I need be at home to feed the cat. Plus Pru already said she would take me."
"I can't believe you just blew me off because of your cat." Alice began to laugh.
"Hey, it's not my fault. If my family were home, we wouldn't be having this problem."
"Well at least I get to see you there."
"Do you know who else is going? Besides Tom and Pru, obviously."
"You know what he's like. Tom's probably invited half the school. Odds are, anyone you want to be there is probably going to be."
The bell signalling the end of the lesson began to ring, the piercing sound rattling through the air. Roused from their semi-silent study, Scott's fellows began to pack their belongings into their bags.
"Hey! Hey! The bell doesn't dismiss you, I do!"
The History teacher, Mr Smyth, placed himself between the students and the door. A tall, yet surprisingly frail man, his hair shimmered pale white, drawing even more attention towards his naturally red face. Two small and round blue eyes peered from beneath his stout brows. White saliva clung to the edge of his lip; a side-effect of his diabetes medication.
A number of the students began to groan and protest the situation.
"Looks like we're going to be here for a while..." Scott sighed, leaning back in his chair.
"Don't sound too disappointed about having to spend more time with me." Alice chuckled, however Scott sensed something serious behind her words.
"You mean to tell me you'd prefer to sit in this class, instead of going to lunch with your friends?"
She pulled a comical face. "Maybe."
Alice smiled and glanced out of the corner of her eye at him. Peering through her dark lashes, she studied Scott's profile. His skin was clear, lacking any form of bump or blemish. The faint signs of stubble clung to his cheeks and chin, having grown since his shave the previous morning. Muddled hazel eyes, flecked with tinges of brown, were set into his attractive face, beneath a light brown pair of eyebrows.
The feelings that she felt towards him were difficult to pinpoint. While it may have been closer to infatuation than genuine feelings of love, Alice undoubtedly felt herself strangely drawn to the young man sat beside her. An issue that she often came across, however, was that she was unable to figure out just what, if anything, Scott felt in return. Behind his quick-witted and charming attitude, he was increasingly difficult to read. As a result of this, Alice had spent endless hours reliving their conversations over in her head, in a vain attempt to discern his feelings.
Scott interrupted her brooding with a question. "So do you think Naomi is finally going to try it on with Leon? On Thursday, I mean."
"So are you implying she needs to be drunk to try it on with him?" Scott's reference to her friend earned a slight laugh from Alice.
Scott merely raised an eyebrow, suggestively.
"Okay, you may be right about that. Well, she better do is all I have to say. She's been crushing on him for so long, if she doesn't do anything about it, I'm going to kill her."
"Wow, that was a bit extreme."
Laughing off the remark, Alice pushed her hair behind her ear.
At the head of the class, Mr Smyth had finally relented and allowed the other students to leave. Rising to his feet and joining Alice in laughing, Scott slung his bag up onto his shoulder.
"So where are you going to be spending your lunch period?"
Without even hesitating, Scott responded. "The same place I always do."
"The grass bank by the Science rooms?"
"Got it in one."
"Well, I guess I'll see you next time we have a History class."
"So it would seem." Scott broke into a smile and waved Alice off as they both exited the class and ventured down different directions in the hallway.
Stuffing his hands into his pockets, Scott tilted his head back as he walked. Above him, the ceiling lights passed by one-by-one. Cracks in the plaster held his attention, spiderwebbing out from the plastic fixtures that held the bulbs.
Having been delayed in his departure from the classroom, the hallway was relatively empty, allowing him to settle into a casual pace. As he settled into the slow tempo of walking, his mind drifted back to Alice.
While not entirely oblivious to her advances, Scott still found himself unable to tell if she was being serious or not, whenever she expressed a particular interest in him. He found himself constantly second-guessing whether her advances towards him were earnest or in jest.
Pushing his thumb down onto the back of his middle finger, he cracked his knuckle. Lifting his left hand, Scott pushed one hand back through his messy light brown hair.
He considered running the Alice situation past his friends, to see if they had any thoughts on the matter. While not usually one to ask for advice, Scott had been curious of the girl's intentions since she had first sat next to him in their history class, six months earlier.
A positive of discussing it with his friends was that Pru would be present. She was never one to mince words and would undoubtedly tell him straight. Add into the equation that she herself was a girl, Scott felt confident that she would be able to help him.
Exiting the main school building, he made his way across the green stretch of field immediately opposite the exit until he came to a sloping grass bank. Purposely ignoring the stairs and path to his right, Scott scaled the incline and made his way towards the group of students sat on the lip.
"Smyth pitch a fit again?"
"It was pretty mild today. All he did was block the door for a few minutes."
Kyle Ballard leaned back against the turf, crossing his arms behind his short cropped black hair. His dark eyes twisted in amusement. "You remember the time when he locked us in the class and Adam jumped out the window?"
"And when he went out to go and chase him, we all just walked out." Scott began to laugh as he sat down amidst the group.
"How about last year when the bell was broken and we wound the clock forwards forty five minutes, when he left the room?"
Jack Gibson groaned and rolled onto his side, so that he could look at the others without constantly tilting his head. "Is that why you all got split up into different classes?"
"That's why Jack and Kyle got put into other classes. I had no part in any of it. All I did was watch." As Scott spoke, he splayed his fingers against the ground and leant back.
"You make it sound like I'm a bad influence." Kyle attempted an innocent expression but soon devolved into laughing, unable to keep a straight face.
"You are a bad influence," Pru said, leaning her head on the shoulder of Daniel, who was sat in front of her.
"What can I say; it helps me get the ladies."
Pru scoffed and abandoned her boyfriend's shoulder, so that she could lay back on the green. Her dark hair spread out on the ground around her head, stark against the bright emerald grass, like tendrils of seaweed.
As the rest of the gathered students began to talk amongst themselves, Scott shuffled over towards Daniel and Pru.
"Hey there, Scotty boy," Pru said, looking up at him. "How's life been in these four hours we've been apart?"
"Not bad. Hey… I've got a few things I wanna run by you. Get your opinion on."
"Having girl trouble?" She began to snicker slightly.
"You could say that."
"Aww, look at you growing up."
"So, this girl got a name?"
Sat beneath the undergrowth that bordered the school field, a small domestic cat licked its paws and basked in the midday sunlight. Its tortoiseshell pattern glimmered in the green-tinged light, throwing a bright glare upwards.
All of a sudden, it's lounging was disturbed. Rolling back onto its stomach, the cat addressed the noise of something wading through the trees that lay just past the ferns. Thrown into shadow by the overhead leaves, the fence that marked the perimeter of the school grounds was barely visible.
Cautiously edging towards the trees, the cat kept its centre of gravity low, in case it felt the need to either pounce or flee.
A figure approached, stepping out into the sun.
Reaching down, as if to pet the feline, it scooped it up and retreated back into the shadows.