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This Is The Story Of A Girl
The day dawned miserable, as did Kayla. Rubbing her deep blue eyes she sat up and looked around her, noting the sound of raindrops on her window. It was light enough for six o’clock, but in her groggy state the world might as well have been plunged into blackness for all she cared.
Her body yelling for warmth, she stepped relieved into the shower, and ten minutes later, refreshed and wrapped in a fluffy dressing gown, her wet blond hair tied up messily to keep her shoulders from getting wet again, she made her way downstairs, as she did every morning, to have breakfast, and to be shouted at by her mum.
Although it was true that she hated her mum, she had never let on, but somehow (probably from that annoying year 9, Tiffany, who enjoyed relaying anything she heard to her overly nosey mum) her mum had found out of her dislike, and was keen to use it in every conversation, every argument, every compliment, to gain sympathy/guilt points. It never worked. Kayla had left all feelings behind when she had slit last June, when her mum had gone and ruined everything. There was no emotion left now. Even her embarrassment, which used to follow her everywhere, had dwindled away to nothingness, leaving a blank void between her ears.
Her life was always the same, mornings spent readying herself for the day, evenings spent recovering from the boredom and humiliation she’d endured. That was how things had always been. She had never known any different, and had given up trying for something new. Life was not worth living but for the people she called friends, though she didn’t trust they were really her friends at all.
Come 7 o’clock she made her way out the door, heading off in the rain, her iPod earphones blaring out Fall Out Boy, making her way to the bus stop. In the beginning she had been interested in the sights she saw, but three years walking down the same roads on the same twenty minute journey had taken away her enthusiasm for it.
She rounded the corner as the bus pulled into the stop. Running full pelt, her umbrella by her side, her hair soaked, she just reached the bus in time, throwing two pound coins to the driver, collecting her ticket as she went.
“Hey Tiff,” she said as she fell into a seat opposite a dark haired, dark eyed girl with a pointed chin who sat with her arms folded, obviously having watched amused while she had caught her breath and took a seat just as the bus moved, resulting in the fall.
“What’s your excuse this morning?” her low voice was full of sarcasm, which Kayla could not be bothered with. Tiffany O’Donnell never let her forget that she could be counted on to be late every morning, generally with an excuse the dark girl never believed. While the two of them usually got on great, this morning Kayla was irritable and instead of starting an interesting conversation, she resumed listening to her iPod, which was now playing Pendulum at full blast to her through her badly broken headphones.
Several people got on, but she didn’t look up. Some of the guys said hi to her, some tried to start a conversation with her, her best guy friend sat behind her and was poking her shoulder, trying to get her attention, one looked over her shoulder to see what she was listening to, some laughed at the fact she was now listening to Hadouken, but she didn’t bat an eyelid. The fact was that she wasn’t listening. She had tuned out of her body, out of her life, and was focusing on not being there. She hoped if she focused hard enough she would cease to exist.
And things didn’t improve when an incredibly fit guy she really liked sat next to her. His name was Sam, and she loved everything about him from his hair to his laugh. He was always laughing, or making people laugh, if inadvertently. She had gone to her first, and as of yet only, gig with him and some of his mates, but they weren’t friends, though she often wished they were.
None of the guys, other than Rory and Ollie, had ever showed signs of being her friends, so she had never showed signs of wanting them to be. Tiffany and Georgina on the other hand were keen to keep pushing them to talk to them, to hang out with them, to go to gigs with them.
Feeling dejected was a common occurrence in her life now, so she didn’t take anything as offence any more. In this way she wasn’t at all offended when Sam didn’t even acknowledge her existence, apart from when the bus stopped suddenly, sending him flying backwards, landing him on top of her heavily, winding her slightly, and warranting her an empty ‘Sorry’ before he turned around to laugh about it with his mates.
No, she thought sarcastically, There’s nothing wrong with my life is there mum. She sighed and tried to concentrate on something other than his voice, his hair, and his eyes. It was almost a Mission Impossible, but made much easier when the guys got off, and the almost empty bus continued on to Hanndel Girls.
Every cloud has a silver lining, and for Kayla that silver, though somewhat dimmer and thinner now, was school. She was a geek, and she knew it, but she had plenty of ‘friends’ to hang round with and she wasn’t completely unpopular. She also had an excellent vocabulary of swears which she was willing to let out if she felt it was needed. Yet somehow she had never received a detention, which only increased her reputation as a geek, if she were to have a reputation that is. Kayla Davidson was a nobody to everybody.
It took 5 minutes to greet everyone, to ask how their weekends were, to hug 13 girls, to laugh at the jokes they made.
“How was Pigeon Detectives Mia?”
“Have fun with your dad Laura?”
Shuddering and pulling eight heavy books out of her locker, she mentally prepared herself for the first two lessons, History and English, both of which she was quite bad at.
Eight hours, she thought, Eight hours until I’m home, away from people. There was no joy in that thought. Actually, there was no feeling whatsoever in it. It was just a statement, a reflection on how long and torturous the day was, for once she was home she would be nagged by her mum, annoyed endlessly by her little brat of a brother and would have to wait until 8 o’clock before her dad got home from work with £60 in his pocket. Come 8 o’clock she would feel slightly more loved, though her good relationship with her dad was thinning somewhat lately, and she wasn’t sure if she quite held that same respect for him as she had when she was an innocent and ignorant little girl. Until then she just had to survive.
The bus ride home was the same as the one to school, just as boring. Only this time the guys didn’t even sit anywhere near Kayla, Tiffany and Georgina, as was the norm now. Instead they sat a few seats back from them, leaving enough room for the people of Washton Girls and Washton Boys to sit too. The guys had sat next to her and around her, and once or twice on top of her for a joke, been friendly and talkative to her even, all the way through Year 7, but when the other two girls had started getting the bus in their Year 7, Kayla’s Year 8, they caused the boys to move further back, and to stop talking to her for good.
Since her iPod had run out of charge she was left to listening to the boring conversations about people in Year 9s, which her Year 10 self wasn’t at all interested with.
She’d made it home, she’d eaten dinner, she’d stood patiently while her mum ranted at her, she’d even let her brother watch her TV to avoid his whining, but now he had gone to bed, her mum was watching soaps in the kitchen and her dad was working in the office downstairs.
The night was dark but cloudless. The stars were bright in the sky, and her radio was on full blast. On her bed lay a book, “Astronomy for Beginners”, open on the page telling about shooting stars, which had been abandoned when the news report had mentioned a comet shower overhead, and she had shot up and was now leaning out the window hoping to catch a glimpse of it.
Her luck was in. The comets passed right outside her window, and she shut her eyes tight, concentrating on what she wanted most in the world: “I wish we were all back 12 years, back to when I was three and life was better”. She didn’t expect anything to happen, and she certainly didn’t feel any different when she tucked herself under her blankets and fell asleep that night. But when she opened her eyes the next morning, in somewhat resignation, she found she was lying on her back in the bedroom she had had when she had lived in London, before she had moved just before her fourth birthday.
Outside it was still dark, but she wasn’t tired. She was curious as to what had happened. So she stood up, but something was wrong. She could only be standing three feet tall, and her legs felt a lot weaker. Nevertheless she continued, amazed at how easily she could remember the layout of her old house.
The stairs were a bit of a challenge, as she found her arms could barely reach the banister. It was then, with a strange sensation of half amazement and half sadness, that she realised her wish had come true. She was Kayla Davidson, three years old, with the mind of a fifteen year old. And she knew what she wanted to do.
With a little effort Kayla made her way down the stairs where she found a much younger version of her mum sitting on the sofa, watching a very old episode of Coronation Street.
“Hi mamma,” she said, scrambling up onto the sofa next to her.
“What are you doing up?” her mum replied, in a strict voice. But there was a hint of loneliness in that voice that Kayla recognised from when her dad would be gone for a week or two with work, and her mum was left with just her for company in the middle of London’s Asian district. But Kayla was by no means Asian; she had Irish blood flowing through her veins, mixed with a bit of Australian, a bit of Italian and even a little bit of French from her great grandmother who had passed away before she was even thought of.
“I couldn’t sleep mamma,” she said, wiping her eyes with the back of her tiny palm. She stared into her mum’s weary eyes, so much like her own, and smiled that cute smile all toddlers seem to have.
Before she knew it, her mum was confiding all her worries in her. “I just don’t think that house is right for us. I know you won’t understand any of this, and you haven’t even seen the house yet, but there don’t seem to be any children in Huntington. And I saw this lovely big house, cheaper than the one we’re going to buy, right next door to this little boy your age. And it’s nearer to the school I’ve applied for. It would be so much better for us.”
“I understand mamma. But then why don’t we move there instead?” replied Kayla, staring into her mum’s eyes with such intensity that the latter had to do a double-take, and after several moments hard thinking said:
“If you promise to go to bed now and be on your best behaviour, when your dad returns home tomorrow I’ll propose it to him. Now off you go” And for the first time in what seemed like a very long time to the Kayla from the present, her mum smiled a genuine smile.
The next day, as promised, Kayla’s mum spoke to her husband about the house in Leyton Town she had seen, and he made up his mind to take them all down to Kent to see this house straight away.
It was a large house, very long, on the edge of Hanndel and Leyton Town, and as her mum had said, next door there lived a cute little boy, the same age as Kayla, who was playing football in the front yard when they pulled up in their Mercedes. Kayla loved football because her dad did, and when she saw the boy, she tugged on her mum’s trouser leg and asked in a whisper if she could play with him. It was cleared with the boy’s mum, and soon the two toddlers were playing as though best friends.
In fact, Kayla had never had a best friend, in the present or the past, unless you counted the little girl across from her house in London for a few months, but she wasn’t very close to her either. They played for a while, but gave up soon after her mum and dad went to have a look around the house. Then they decided to have a rest and talk.
“What’s your name?” asked Kayla, smiling sweetly at the boy.
“Sam,” he replied.
“I’m Kayla,” she said, wanting the boy to speak, and feeling her heart beat a little faster at the sound of a familiar name.
“That’s a nice name,” said Sam, “Do you like football? I’ve never met a girl who likes football before.” Kayla started telling her new friend all about her favourite football team, Westham, and when Sam said he didn’t support a team, she suggested that he support Westham like her. It was the beginning of a strong friendship.
“Kayla!” called her mum, “It’s time to go.” Kayla got up off the step they had been sitting on, but before she had started moving Sam whispered:
“Will you be living next door?” She nodded and a smile spread over his face, “That’s good.”
A year later, the Davidson family having completely moved in, Kayla was sitting on the bench in Sam’s garden, sipping on a juice box, waiting while her best friend went to find his guitar. The two had been learning for several weeks now, on very small guitars it must be said. Kayla had also convinced her parents to let her learn to play the piano, to go to gymnastics and to learn to break dance. What her parents thought of this she couldn’t say, but these were things she had always wanted to do. She’d also persuaded Sam to learn the drums, thinking that when they were older they could start a band. To Kayla’s very much enjoyment, the two were inseparable, even when they met a boy named Elliot.
They had both started at the same private school, St Thomas’ Primary School, and were in the same class. The school was next door to a secondary school, so they walked with Sam’s 15 year old brother, Gerrard, who didn’t mind looking after his younger brother’s friend; she was as much a part of the family as he was, and they had only met her a year ago.
She and Sam were both tiny, short and thin for even their age. When they walked into the classroom Kayla saw loads of other children, most of them taller and generally much bigger than her slight frame, running around in the same grey blazer with red lining and funny grey hats, a very ugly uniform she thought. Still, she knew she could put up with the ugly uniforms for 100 years if she was friends with Sam.
One boy, with black curly hair and a cheesy smile, came up to them and asked why they were holding hands, which indeed they were, as they did often when they were nervous or scared.
“Because we’re girlfriend and boyfriend,” said Sam defiantly, making it up on the spot to hide his uneasiness “And there’s nothing wrong with holding hands when you’re girlfriend and boyfriend.” He sounded so sweet and innocent that Kayla could not help but grin, and then think EWW! when she realised she had just been told she was going out with a four year old.
“That’s cool,” replied the boy, “What are your names? I’m Elliot.” And that was how the friendship with Elliot began. Whenever they weren’t at clubs, and even then they took the same break dancing lessons, they were always together, at the park, or round someone’s house. And Sam and Kayla made frequent trips to the cinema and bowling and to McDonalds together.
For six years this continued, but then Sam met Daisy, a pretty brunette with startling green eyes who could count up to six in French. Kayla didn’t compare with this girl he thought, so he broke up with her. He went round Daisy’s house after school; he went to the park with her on weekends. Kayla and Elliot barely saw him outside of school. It seemed they had lost their best friend.
During Sam’s absence Kayla and Elliot became closer. They soon discovered they had quite a bit in common, even though he supported Liverpool and she Westham. They often went to the park together after school, and as they only lived 3 minutes walk apart they went around each other’s houses every other day. They were inseparable, just as she had been with Sam.
One Friday, when it was too hot to be running around after a ball, Kayla and Elliot walked around the corner to Leyton Park when school finished and sat on the round-a-bout, not bothering to move it. They talked about nothing in particular, but were each enthralled in the conversation, laughing openly, and acting as eleven year olds do, without a care for anything. Suddenly Elliot leant over and gave Kayla a little kiss on her little mouth.
Her first thought was to be disgusted, but she had been younger for long enough for that feeling to last less than a second, and then she felt happy. She was no longer a fifteen year old in an eleven year olds body; she was an eleven year old who knew what a fifteen year old should do and not do, as it were. The old Kayla had vanished long ago, leaving only the knowledge, confidence and stability she had wished to give her younger self.
So when Kayla was picked up by Sam’s mum, who had become more of a mum to her than her own, and was asked why she was so happy, she replied without hesitation,
“I’m going out with Elliot.”
“I thought you and Sam were an item?” Mrs Alpen questioned.
“No, he broke up with me and now he’s going out with.” replied Kayla gaily.
When the car stopped, Mrs Alpen invited Kayla in for orange juice and a biscuit, as she did every afternoon. Sam was sitting in his room, she said coming down the stairs half an hour later, so Kayla went upstairs and knocked lightly on his door. When she got no reply she entered, feeling something was wrong.
She was right. He was wrapped in his long dark blue curtains, so that only his trainers showed, but she could hear him speaking softly to himself, and then sobbing quietly. After she had counted five sobs she decided she had to take action, so she marched over to the curtains and pulled them so that Sam fell in a dizzy heap on the hard wood flooring.
“Ow,” he exclaimed, rubbing his head. His eyes were red and his t-shirt was wet from where he had used it to dry his tears. He had never cried openly as long as Kayla could remember.
“What are you crying for?” she asked gently, taking hold of both his hands and forcing him into a hug that said ‘trust me’.
“I don’t like Daisy anymore,” was his reply, just that.
“But what’s that got to do with the price of turnips?” It was an expression she’d often used in her Life Before the Wish as she called it, but not one an eleven year old had ever heard. He started to laugh, but gripped harder on her hands, and would not let her stop hugging him. He liked her soft hair, and her smell. She smelt of chocolate and oranges, an odd combination, but it summed her up he thought. Of course, being only eleven years old he didn’t know he was thinking any of those things.
His laugh died out as he said, “I can’t just stop going out with her,”
“Aww, my little Sammie’s’ growing up,” mocked Kayla, but he was still talking.
“I want her to be my friend because she’s nice. It didn’t matter when we stopped going out because I knew we’d be friends forever anyway, but she doesn’t want to be my friend. I asked her at McDonalds and she threw her chewing gum at me. Now I have to get a hair cut, and mum shouted at me when I got home because I fell in the dirt and tore my jeans.”
At first Kayla was offended, but she was a kind girl, and no matter how horrible he had ever inadvertantly been to her she had let it slide. So she ignored his comment about how it didn’t matter that he’d broken up with her, because she knew it was only out of hurt, and fear of the hairdressers. He had been scared of the hairdressers ever since the day a trainee had accidentally cut off one of his curly brown locks when he was five. Sam had never been the same about his hair, letting it grow out long and straight.
She gave him an affectionate peck on the cheek that said ‘I’m here’, but the meaning must have been lost in translation because he gave her one back that certainly didn’t mean the same.
“Are we all going to the park tomorrow?” he asked when they broke apart, as if nothing had happened, but she knew he had felt it too, though to him it had felt only like a shudder from the wind blowing in through the open window. Kayla shook her head before punching him lightly on the arm. From the door, Mrs Alpen looked on in amusement at how a girl so young could have the airs of a girl much older, and why on earth she could be so in love with her naïve little boy.
Now we join our three best friends as they prepare for Year 10. Sam and Elliot both went to Hanndel Boys and Kayla went to Hanndel Girls. They caught the same bus there and back and then went round someone’s house or to the park from there, unless one of them got an after school detention, in which case everyone would still all meet up after anyway.
As was tradition they went on holiday together, this year to Florida. Showing off her perfect tanned figure on the white sand imported beaches of Florida, Kayla was admired by almost every boy on their resort. But she had eyes only for her best mate, Sam, even though she was still going out with Elliot and Sam was going out with this girl called Brooke in her year. Kayla knew Elliot really liked her, for they were still really close after four years, but she didn’t like him like that exactly and more, and she only kept as his girlfriend because she liked to see the jealousy in Sam’s forced grin when they walked down the beach holding hands, or when she sat on Elliot while he sunbathed, just for a laugh. She was always so full of laughter, thought Sam, she would never like a boy always as depressed as him.
September 7th came, bringing with it the start of the school year. Sam and Kayla left their houses together and walked calmly to the bus stop. It was hot so they both hung their navy blazers over their arms. She hadn’t bothered wearing her navy jumper; it was too scratchy anyway. She was wearing a polo shirt, which the school had taken off the uniform list the year before they’d started there, but Kayla had contacts, and she refused to wear the horrible shirts they’d brought in instead. She’d rather wear the frumpy jumpers.
On the first morning the three had gotten the bus, they’d met two other year sevens who had called themselves Jason and Rob. The five had become best friends immediately. Kayla had made friends with the sixth formers as well, who had come in handy over the past four years.
When she had entered the form room on her first day of Year 7, her skirt had been rolled up twice to show off her slim legs, her soft, straight blond hair had been bouncing on her shoulders and her mascara had been framing her brilliant blue eyes; she had entered the hall to find she was already late - a drawback of the most unreliable bus in England.
It appeared her new form tutor hadn’t been too impressed with her lateness, her skirt length or her make up, but the rest of her classmates were, and looked on in somewhat awe as this eleven year old, though she might have passed as thirteen if she tried, entered the room, a bright pink Kamikasie bag on her shoulder, Kamikasie pumps on her feet (she was like a walking Kamikasie advert), her iPod peeping out of her blazer pocket, which was hanging on her arm.
“Sorry Miss Harding,” she had said, checking her map to make sure she had said the right room and tutor, “The bus was late.” All the teachers were still wary of this girl even now.
She had taken the last available seat, between a quiet looking brown haired girl, though most of them looked quiet, and a tall blond girl. Neither of them had seemed very friendly, so she scanned the classroom for someone who looked more sociable. No other girls from St Thomas’ Primary School had passed the 11+ with her, so she knew no one. None of her classmates caught her eye – she hadn’t been moved into the form her friends from the past had been in until Year 8 – but she decided she’d wait for them to come to her. She knew she’d have to bide her time to see which of her class would be best for her. Of course, none of them could ever be as close to her as Elliot and Sam, but she would need some sort of companion for in school as well as out of it.
It had been difficult to concentrate during a rather easy French lesson, followed by an easier Maths lesson, in which year seven work gave her Year 10 brain no grief and about ten girls tried to sit next to her in the back row; almost the whole of year seven (word spreads quickly) wanted to talk to this pretty, kind, rebel mystery girl. Come break time Kayla had calmly taken a seat in the courtyard, and while any other girl would have been basking in the attention she was receiving from her peers and thinking herself so big, she just took her phone from her pocket and sent one of her trademark humorous texts, guaranteed to make anyone smile, to her two best friends.
After break came PE with Mrs Redding, the dance teacher. Music and PE were where Kayla shone, having played piano, guitar and a bit of drums for over seven years, and being the best student in her street dancing/break dancing club, even beating Sam and Elliot in competitions.
“Right girls,” said Mrs Redding when they were all changed, “Who here learns any kind of dancing.” Kayla’s was the only hand to go up, which didn’t surprise her really, looking at the slightly chubby girl next to her.
“Excellent,” said the teacher, clapping her hands together, “And your name is?”
“Well Kayla, would you be brave enough to show us a dance?” She had handed over several CDs of classical and jazz, but Kayla had just laughed gaily in a way that could light a candle in a dark room.
“I can dance without music,” she had said, “I just need a beat. Usually Sam would give me it, but if someone could…” She looked round and felt somewhat exasperated when her classmates looked downright confused. Then one girl ran out the door. Everyone look puzzled until she returned with a CD from her bag, put it in, and on came Sean Paul.
“Thanks Shanta (for that was the girl’s name). Er… stand back.” The next few minutes stood out clearly in the minds of every girl that was there.
Kayla had stood in the middle of the gym, taken a deep breathe then ran at her classmates before launching into a double flip, landing in a perfect splits. After several seconds regaining her breath with a simple bit of gap-fill dancing, she had gone into an easy bridge, turning over and landing neatly on her feet. Then came her party piece. Ever since she could remember she had been a natural at the worm. She had suddenly dived and made her way half way down other end of the gym via the worm. She couldn’t hear the noises her audience were making, the cheers and the gasps. Following that she had gone into more gap-fill dancing, a forward flip and then balanced on one hand. Finally she had done a head stand, and as a finish to really impress these people she had spun before falling backwards and landing on her back on the final note of the song. A rush went through her body that came after every perfect dance.
There was silence all round, then a thunderous applause ruptured, led by Mrs Redding herself. Moments later Kayla was being crowded by girls, some still struck in a state of amazement at how an eleven year old could do that.
After class Mrs Redding held her back, saying “You wouldn’t fancy performing that in an assembly, or in the concert?” With a promise she would think about it Kayla walked at a leisurely pace to the canteen, sure that some girl would have saved her a space in line. Sure enough plenty of girls were asking if she wanted to sit with them, but she turned them all down, in her lovely way that made it sound as if it really was better if she didn’t sit with them, when the older girls from the bus asked her to join them.
“You’re already quite a legend in this school,” one had said as the queue moved forwards a few inches, “We heard about your dance display. That’s twice we’ve heard about this strange year seven in your first morning. Bloody hell you must be good. But you’re not walking round with anyone in particular?”
“I couldn’t find anyone I felt I could be friends with,” Kayla had explained, having to look up for she had been quite small and the older girls had been quite tall to her, “I need a friend who can at least begin to compare with the friends I have already.”
“If I were you,” another had said, “I would find some sort of friend soon, or that perfect one you’re looking for will go, and then you’ll have no chance. Hanndel Girls can be tough without friendship.”
The end of school bell had rung eventually, and Kayla had made her way quickly out to the bus, said hello to the bus driver, and taken a seat at the back, sending a text to Sam while doing this.
“And we’re off,” said the driver, “What’s your name blond girl?”
“Kayla,” she said, “And might I ask yours?”
“Call me Bob,” he said, “Everyone has always called me Bob.” Kayla laughed at the expression on his face reflecting in the wing mirror.
“Well hello Bob. How long until we get to the boys’ school?” And so the conversation had continued, and after no more than twenty minutes the bus had pulled into the stop in front of the boys’ school. There at the front of the queue had stood Sam, Elliot, Jason and Rob, amongst a horde of other boys. What must have been fifteen guys had sat around her, Elliot to her left, Sam to her right, Jason and Rob on the seat in front.
Now, in year 10 at Hanndel Girls, Kayla’s life was much the same. In school she was best friends with a pretty girl called Shanta, friendly and sweet, but mischievous with a wicked sense of humour, who loved to have fun and to go to gigs on Friday nights, and the two were inseparable. Outside of school she was best friends with Elliot, Sam, Jason and Rob, and they would spend every possible minute together. Shanta would often spend time with them, but now she was going out with Jason they would generally spend more time together than with the whole group. Still, life was great.
However, something changed on the September 7th, when Kayla was sitting on the bus after school, her bag stuffed with new books.
“Hey Kayla,” said Elliot in a cheerful voice, giving her a kiss which got some deserving wolf-whistles from the other boys, and an ill-hid envious glare from Sam.
“Hi. You alright?” mumbled Sam in a monotone, not looking at her anymore. Something was wrong; she could tell, but she couldn’t figure out what. He seemed distant with her. She let it slide, but on Friday four days later something was still wrong between them, like a wall was being built, and she didn’t like it at all.
That night Kayla wanted to talk with Sam; she felt they had something to sort out. They had built a secret door between their two top-floor rooms many years before, as they lived in a semi-detached. The door could be locked from either side, but they left it unlocked at all times in case they needed to talk. They had always left it unlocked. So why was it locked tonight?
Kayla knocked softly, called quietly and did everything in her power to get Sam to come to the door without waking her parents downstairs. Nothing. She had rarely used it, but she had a spare ‘skeleton-like’ key that would open the door in emergencies. To her this was an emergency. Sam hadn’t invited her in, or out, or generally spoken to her properly since the bus, and that was almost eight hours ago.
She found the key and was about to turn the lock when a note slid through from Sam. It read: “Kayla, meet me in the old tree house in next door’s garden in ten minutes, Sam xxx”
She pulled on a hoodie and made her way outside as silently as she could. It was quite easy to get out into the garden, for there was a vast tree outside her window, with branches as thick as a bed and strong enough to hold twenty elephants, just within climbing distance. She was soon in the tree house left by next door neighbours some forty years ago, with a few minutes to spare, but he was already there, sitting in the corner wearing his black hoodie and with tear stains down his cheeks, reflecting in the light from her phone.
“Sam,” she whispered, moving swiftly towards him, “What’s wrong?” He mumbled something she couldn’t quite catch, but she held him, the two of them sitting on the creaking floor of an old tree house at midnight. The scene sounded rather bizarre to her. Nevertheless she held him close, head in his hair, waiting for him to calm down. This was only the second time he had ever cried in front of her in their whole lives and as far as she knew he had never cried in front of anyone else.
“Is this about me?” she asked innocently.
“Why do you think everything has to f***ing be about you, you self-centred b****?” he whispered angrily, pushing her away with one arm and wiping the tears out of his eyes with the other. He shouldn’t have said that and he knew it, but you can’t take back what you’ve said.
“I don’t,” she said in a cool, icy tone, eyes narrowed, drops of blood leaking from the cut on her arm he had inadvertently caused, “I just wanted to find out what was wrong is all. But if you think of me like that then I’m leaving. Sometimes I really don’t understand you, but right now I hate you Sam Alpen, and you know what, I’m done with you.” She got up and started climbing back down the tree.
“No Kayla, wait.” His sleeve caught on the side of the tree house, revealing cuts up his arms, which Kayla saw and noted with mingled pity and disgust. She turned away from him, tears streaming down her face, letting her sobs escape freely.
A week passed, where Sam and Kayla didn’t speak to each other, and barely looking at each other unless it was completely necessary, and on the 15th day of the school year, the morning was bright as the summer, the Sun seeming to mock Kayla’s mood.
She couldn’t look at Sam, however much she wanted to, and it was killing her inside. She wouldn’t let it show though, even when he sat on the other side of Jason, as far away from her as he could get, and deliberately snubbed her and Elliot.
Rob picked up on this coldness between the two, and shy though he was, decided to do whatever he could to help Kayla. The fact was he liked her, and quite a bit it has to be said. They had never been as close as Kayla was to everyone else in their group, but she had his number and he had her number on speed-dial, though they did rarely converse over phone. At lunch he called her; this was important. He could never stand friends turning against each other, and he was determined to know what happened and to get them to sort things out.
“Hello?” answered Kayla’s soft musical voice.
“Hi Kayla. It’s Rob; well I suppose that’s a little obvious.” There was no reply, “I just wanted to see if you’re okay.”
“Of course I’m okay. Why wouldn’t I be?”
He couldn’t think how to answer this without being mean, so went right to the point, “You’ve been kind of a b**** lately. Not to me or anything, but to Sam.”
“Well maybe I have my reasons, and I don’t need you to point it out to me,” she snapped, but when she had calmed down a few seconds later she said, “I’m sorry. You know that’s the second time someone’s called me a b**** lately.”
“What happened?” he coaxed. She told him the whole story and he gave a long, low whistle. Then the bell rang for the end of lunch.
“I’ve got to go,” Kayla said, “Listen, do you want to meet up later? My house?” And that was what they did. On the bus she made room for him to sit next to her, and getting off she linked her arm with his, (for she was never shy), and as the two descended the steps, followed closely yet forgotten by Sam. Elliot felt a slight pang of jealousy. His girlfriend was laughing at the jokes Rob was making, sharing stories and secrets with him freely, not giving a damn what the other guys thought. They were all feeling rather confused, considering the two’s lack of closeness, and Rob always considering himself a sort of outcast.
So Rob and Kayla walked home, chatting amiably about this and that, not touching on any important subjects, the former trying endlessly to make her laugh, to make her smile, to make her happier if only slightly. Sam could finally bear hearing them talking no longer, and took a different road home. The two entered her empty house, and grabbed something to eat before heading up two flights of stairs to her spacious bedroom on the top floor.
She looked around, glad at least some of her bright blue carpet could be made out between the jeans, hoodies and books that littered the floor. Her walls, one plain white, one bright orange, one fluorescent pink and one a dark metallic blue, were covered in posters of her favourite bands: My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, Panic! At The Disco, and cut-outs from Vogue. On one side were her bunk and her computer and on another stood a TV. The room was lit not only by the silver bulbs set into her ceiling but by a large window at one end, and the view from it seemed to fascinate Rob for a moment, for from the window one could see as far as Essex.
Sitting on her bed, sharing a packet of digestives, the two talked at length about school, music and sports before turning to the pressing subject of Kayla’s relationship with Sam.
“What you need to do,” said Rob wisely, “Is work out how you feel about him and where he stands with you and all. You like him don’t you.” This wasn’t a question, it was a simple statement, and it was true.
“Well,” she paused, wondering whether or not she should be revealing her secrets to someone she had never been really close to. But she made up her mind in an instant, deciding to trust him completely. She sighed before saying “Yeah, I do. Always have.”
“Do you like Elliot?” he asked, slowly trying to figure out why his new friends had been so off with each other.
“As a really good friend, yeah,” she said, again pausing, trying to work out for herself how she felt, “But not like that. I guess I enjoyed making Sam jealous, and then Elliot really likes me, and he’s nice to me, and makes me laugh. But I don’t think I would like anyone as much as Sam.”
“Well that’s a start,” started Rob, feeling rather dejected but hiding it well, “You want to tell him that. I think he likes you too.”
“But Rob,” she cried softly, putting her head on his shoulder and shaking slightly, “It’s not as simple as that. I told him I hate him, and he really does hate me this time.”
“How do you know?”
“Go to that door,” she said, pointing at the door that separated her room from his, “Now try and open it.” He tried to open it, but it was locked from the other side.
“See,” she sighed, “He never locks…” She never finished her sentence for at that moment there was a bang on her wall and a small hole appeared. Slowly getting up, wondering what on earth had happened, Kayla peered through the hole, and the sight she saw disturbed her.
Sam was lying face down on his bed, shaking, his bleeding fist and arm covered in scars hanging over the side. Without hesitation she unlocked the door with the spare key and ran over to him.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, not caring that he didn’t want to talk to her. She took the hand that wasn’t bleeding, and pulled him upright.
“I’m gonna go now,” said Rob, “See you two tomorrow.”
That left Kayla sitting with Sam in an uncomfortable silence, and as though fate was guiding her, she kissed him lightly. Not knowing what he was doing, for this was the girl he meant to hate, who was going out with his friend, he kissed back. The kiss deepened, his tongue ran across her bottom lip seeking entrance which was granted, her hands ran through his hair. Then Sam pulled away.
“I’m sorry Kayla,” he whispered, shaking his head dolefully, “I didn’t mean to. I don’t know why I did. You’re going out with Elliot, and I know you’ll never like me. But I’ve got no one to turn to. I don’t know what’s wrong with me this year, but… but I don’t know. I’m sorry.”
He broke down in tears, lying back down on the bed, his head under his pillow, while she lay next to him and hugged him close. She held on to him tightly, not thinking how they might look, not even caring for they were closer than brother and sister. At times, they felt they were sharing each other’s thoughts. It was a sort of ironic shame they couldn’t tell what the other was thinking at the moment.
“Well I’m not,” she said eventually in a hushed voice, “Sorry about kissing you I mean.” She got up from the bed, said goodnight, and then went through to her own room where she fell into a troubled dream in which she was in a war, with snipers on either side, stuck to the spot. Behind her someone was screaming a scream of anguish. It terrified her. A shot fired, but before it struck her chest she awoke shaking with fright. She could still hear the scream, but realised it was coming from her own throat. She breathed in deeply, trying to calm down. But her whole body ached and her mind would not settle.
Her mouth was dry so she went downstairs to get a glass of water. Downstairs in the kitchen she leant out of the window and watched the cars go by. She had always been interested in the smooth way cars moved, even the old bangers. Then a storm of shooting stars went by overhead. She looked up at them in wonderment, feeling déjà vu though not knowing why.
A few roads away a boy was looking at the same storm of shooting stars, making a wish with his eyes shut tight. Hoping it would come true he went to bed, a satisfied smile on his face. Presently Kayla fell asleep too, slumped over the dining room table.
Another day dawned, the third week of the school year. To Kayla it seemed a year had passed since she and Sam had stood at the bus stop on the first day, laughing about anything and everything. This time they were solemn, and nervous. Neither knew what to say. They were both confused. Kayla didn’t know what to do now, and she couldn’t work out if Sam really did like her or not. How could he if he pulled out of that kiss.
As she climbed the steps of the bus, Kayla’s hand brushed against Sam's, and she felt an electric shock run through her. She refused to look at him for fear she might hit him, or kiss him. She didn’t know which. So she carried on as though everything was normal and good, not wanting to let on how turbulent she was inside.
When Elliot boarded the bus and took his seat next to her he tried to hug her, but she couldn’t do that to Sam now. They sat in an awkward silence until Rob got on, when the awkwardness turned to abhorrence. It was a curse, she thought, to be friends with guys who like you.
My wish didn’t work, thought Rob, they’re still not friends.
“Elliot,” said Kayla slowly, turning to face him, “We gotta break up.” He wasn’t really listening, because he was planning on how to break up with her nicely after five years together, but he caught on vaguely what she said and breathed a sigh of relief.
“Cool,” he replied, “We still mates though?” She laughed gaily, in a way that suggested there was no darkness, even though her mind felt as though it was being overtaken by shadows. They shook hands for a laugh and hugged, true mates.
One down, thought Rob, one to go.
“Sam,” she said, turning to face him now, but getting no reply, “Sam”. He was refusing to hear her, and was breaking her heart. She shook her head to rid her eyes of tears. She hated him for not talking to her. She hated him for hating her. She hated herself for him hating her.
The bus pulled into the boy’s stop and they all got off, leaving Kayla leaning on the window, trying in vain not to cry. Then she had an idea. She picked her phone up with shaking hands and dialled Sam’s number. She counted the rings… 1… 2… 3… 4
“You’ve reached Sam’s voicemail. Please leave me a message and I’ll get back to you when I…” She cut off there, screwing her face to stop her depression breaking through and showing. He had never let it go to voicemail when she rang, no matter where he was at the time.
When she reached school ten minutes later and sat down next to Shanta she didn’t look up. Her eyeliner was probably smudged, and her hair was probably a mess, but she would stick it out she decided.
She was the last to leave the form room, but waiting for her was her best friend, knowing the time was right for silence. So she didn’t speak, but walked next to Kayla in a comforting way. Her loose black curls bounced on her shoulders and her green-grey eyes looked at Kayla curiously, but still she said nothing.
This continued all day, Shanta sitting next to her in lessons, letting her use her pens and notes, standing in front of her in the lunch queue, teaming up with her in dance.
Finally she could bear the silence no more, as usually happens when one hasn’t spoken properly for a few hours to someone they’re worried about.
“Kayla?” she whispered during Geography, a lesson neither of them had any trouble with.
“What?” she snapped back, her grip on her pen intensified.
“I just wanted to ask what’s wrong is all.” she whispered, rather annoyed but still worried about the girl next to her, the girl with fire burning in her eyes. But the fire extinguished as Kayla answered.
“There’s too much wrong for you to understand at the moment,” she sighed, putting her head in her arms so that Shanta could barely catch the words she continued with “I don’t really understand it all myself.”
“Come on Kayla,” said Shanta, “You’re so different now. Why have you changed? You’ve got to have some idea.” But there came no answer, and she gave up, telling her to come round any time she needed a chat.
Kayla had had enough, and she was determined to let everyone know it. She didn’t talk to Bob, however much conversation he tried to make. She sat in the corner of the back seat, and when anyone tried to talk to her she’d turn up the volume on her iPod or snap at them to leave her alone. When one of them dared laugh at her about this she lost it. And she had a lot to say when she lost it.
“What do you think is so f***ing funny?” she hissed, “The fact that my best friend hates me? No? Maybe it’s the fact that I really like said friend as more than a friend, and now I know he obviously doesn’t f****ing like me back? Or maybe you just laugh because I’m an ugly, conceited, self-centred b****? Which one is it?
Because I’ve tried to be strong, and I’ve tried to be brave. But I give up. What do people want me to do? I can’t handle all this s*** at once. Why can’t I not have to handle it at all, and I can go around with a genuine smile on my face, and we can all be mates? No, I have to somehow manage to deal with all of that along with the fact that I can’t remember ever having more than one proper conversation with my dad since he got his new f***ing job in the city.”
There was silence on the bus. Every guy knew she had an expert vocabulary of swears, but she never swore unless there was a deep need for them. Instinctively, one by one, each boy moved towards her, to give her a hug. Elliot pulled her into a tight embrace like he had when they had been going out, and kissed her lightly on the forehead. With that out her system, though a few tears still ran down her cheeks every so often, she was worn out but felt safe in his arms. The one thing that broke through the barriers of safety the boys were building around her was the odd disappearance of Sam just after her little speech. It seemed he had gotten off the bus at the next stop and walked the rest of the way, even though they must still have another twenty minutes left of the journey.
Getting off the bus on her own gave her an empty feeling. Not wanting to go home just yet she sat down on a nearby bench, watching the cars drive past, watching the clouds meander through the sky, and admiring the subtlety in which the world works. She was so absorbed in appreciating the small things that made Leyton Town special to her that she did not notice a boy with a sweeping fringe and blue highlights getting off another bus, his blazer hanging off his arm, failing to cover scars of deep cuts.
She didn’t notice when he sat next to her, looking in the direction she was as though hoping to see what she was. But not many people can see what Kayla could if they are not truly sad. She was, and a small sigh that escaped her lips, coupled with the single tear that escaped her brilliant blue eyes let her sadness be known to anyone watching her.
Sam, having given up trying to see what his ex-best friend was, was watching her intently, but she seemed to be in another world entirely, and was not likely to return any time soon if he didn’t do something to pull her back. What he did was take her hand in his, and what she did, when she realised and stopped thinking about how wonderful things could be, was hold it back.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw a slight smile flash across the corners of Sam’s mouth, even touching his eyes if only for a split second. He wondered what she was thinking of. She wondered what he was thinking of. And what they didn’t know was that they were each thinking of the other, and when that happens something good always happens.
Kayla took a chance and rested her head on his shoulder, and the two of them sat in a pleasant silence on the bench by the bus stop, while the cars drove past and the clouds meandered high above in the sky.
“Kayla,” said Sam, “I’m sorry. I am so sorry.”
“No,” she replied, “I am. I should have given up on you liking me back ages ago. I shouldn’t have used Elliot like that. I should have… I should have done lots of things I didn’t and I shouldn’t have done a lot of the things I did.” She choked back a sob so he put his arm round her, stroking her soft blond curls soothingly. Presently she calmed down.
“You like me?” he asked, still holding her tightly, to which she nodded meekly, “Good.”
“It’s been so hard trying to stay mad at you,” she whispered, “I can’t even remember why I was so angry,” – he opened his mouth to say something but she put a finger to his lips – “No don’t tell me. I don’t think I want to remember.”
Sam’s hand went up and took hers, which was still resting on his lips. Both their hands came down resting on his leg. Leaning in their lips touched gently, like two moths, with no more pressure than that. Suddenly they were clinging to each other, fearing letting go. His hands were running through her soft hair. He loved the feel and the smell of it. Her hair always smelt of chocolate and oranges, an odd combination but it summed her up he thought. She draped her arms around his neck, lost in the moment. But eventually they had to break for air, and they sat in a pleasant silence.
A smile spread across his face, at which she had to laugh.
“Come on,” he said, standing up and holding out his hand for her to take, “We should really get home.”
“Yeah I guess so,” holding hands they walked down the road together, and before going into their separate homes, he leant over and gave her a gentle peck.
“See you later?” A smile flashed across her mouth, a genuine smile, and she felt happier than she had done in weeks.