Two Years Ago
"Bloody hell." The words escape my lips as I push myself up the stairs, struggling with the crutches. I should be using the lift really, but it's broken down, and the stairs are the only option. So I struggle up them, and it takes me ages to finally reach the top.
On the plus side, I had an extra ten minutes to get to my lesson. Which meant I missed the huge rush between bells.
I paused at the top, blinking behind my glasses as I leant against the barrier, pushing them further up my nose. I closed my eyes for a few seconds, wishing I had someone here to help me. But Faith wasn't in my last class, and god knows she would have been the only one willing to help me.
With a deep breath, I pushed myself upwards and began to wobble towards the doors. The bell rang, and I cursed under my breath, knowing I had a few seconds before the halls would be full of pupils rushing to their next class.
Suddenly the door in front of me swung open, revealing two boys in the year above me. The only reason I knew this was because they were wearing the same tie as me, but they defiantly weren't in my year.
Instinctively I turned my head downwards, avoiding both of them as I hobbled forwards. The taller of the two held the door open as I walked through, and I mumbled a weak thanks as I passed, before the door swung shut and they carried on down the stairs.
As I walked towards the History rooms I spotted her; Clara Richards with her gaggle of girls. Like hawks their gaze fixed on me, as I kept my head down and tried to move past them. But it was too late.
I felt Clara's leg kick the crutch from me, and unable to keep my balance I fell to the floor, my glasses flying off my face as Clara pushed her head down towards me.
"Like the last present I gave you?" One of her friends laughed as she shoved at my bandaged leg with her foot. "How about an arm this time?"
I whimpered from my spot on the floor, as classroom doors opened and pupils streamed out, walking around us, mostly ignoring what was going on before them.
"Fat cow." Clara laughed.
"Leave her alone."
I lift my head and see Alexandra Fox, glaring at Clara with a look of pure evil. I vaguely knew Alex from a few of my classes, other than that I never really spoke to her. Next to her was Gwen Tate, a girl I knew a bit better thanks to the fact that she lived quite near to me.
I was surprised to see Clara looking at Alex with fear in her eyes. She stood up, turning to face the blonde as she flicked her hair over her shoulder.
"Why, do you fancy her?" She crossed her arms in front of her chest, and the jibe sent out a chorus of laughs from her friends. Gwen rolled her eyes before moving towards me.
"Come on Jinx." She helped me stand, picking up my crutch as pupils stopped, watching what looked to be a building fight.
Alex shook the comment off. "You know what Richards, you ever hurt her again, and I swear to god your life will be a living hell."
"I second that." I felt a hand on my shoulder, and turned to see Faith standing beside me. She may have been small, but over the last few years Faith had built up a reputation as a fierce fighter, someone not to be messed with.
"Whatever." Clara and her cronies began to walk past Alex. "The fatty and the dyke suit each other." As she strode past, Alex lunged, only to be held back by Gwen. I watched in amazement as she turned around and walked towards me.
"You OK Jinx?"
"Yeah." I nodded, feeling a little shaky as Faith reached down and picked up my glasses. "Yeah, cheers."
"No problem." Alex clapped her hand onto my back. "Now, what are you two doing this weekend?"
An ugly face, perfectly round with glasses perched on it's nose stares out at me from the mirror, Clara Richards over it's shoulder, laughing manically.
"You'll always be fat." She laughs, shaking her blonde hair over her shoulders, eyes glaring at me from the darkness. "Inside you'll always be ugly; no matter how hard you true to change."
"No." I hiss, staring at my reflection.
"Let me out!" It cries at me, eyes wide, almost deranged in their look "You can't keep me hidden forever."
I slammed my fist into the mirror, smashing it and watching the shards of glass fall to the floor, the maniac laughter now coming from behind me.
Behind me, Clara stood with him at her side, her arm wrapped tightly around his waist. "Look at poor Jinx. No matter how much you get out, you'll never be good enough for him. He's mine."
"Get off him!" I found my feet carrying me forward as I reached out, wanting to pull him off her. "She's no good!" I screamed. "She's a whore! A cheat!" I wasn't moving. Just standing there, screaming and yelling at them as they kissed, realising tears were streaming down my face.
"Jinx, Jinx honey wake up!"
I opened my eyes, realising my pillow was wet with tears, my eyes sore from crying. Sleepily I sat up, staring at my mum where she sat on the edge of the bed.
I nodded, inching forward to hug her. She gave me a worried look as she wrapped her arms around me and held me there. I closed my eyes, resting my head on her shoulder.
When we broke apart, she held my shoulders, starring at my bloodshot eyes. "You ok honey?"
"Fine." I mumbled, wiping my cheeks. "I just…had a nightmare, that's all.
"OK." She nodded before standing up. "Well, look after yourself, and your brother, yeah?"
"Yeah, I will." I gave her a smile and a nod. "You look pretty mum." It was true; standing there in her flowery holiday clothes and long skirt, she did look pretty. "Have a good time."
She smiled at me before planting a kiss on her cheek. "I'll phone you when you get your results, OK?"
"And be good!"
"I will." I watched as she left the room, shutting the door tightly behind her.
With a sigh, I flopped down onto my bed and closed my eyes, wishing I could go back to being a kid; when parents were always right, were always there for you. Even if all you did was fall over a scrape a knee; they were there with a kiss and a hug, telling you you'd be ok.
Before you hit that age when you begin to notice boys, before the pressures of looking good start. But then, by that age, if you didn't care before there's not much you can do about it for a while.
After a few minutes, I checked the time, and realised with a bit of shock that it was only just gone nine in the morning. Well, I wasn't going to get back to sleep now. So I climbed off the bed and made my way to the second floor of the house, locking myself in the bathroom to get ready.
I removed my pyjama top and stared at myself in the mirror.
It had taken almost two years to loose all my puppy fat, and now it seemed I was starting to put it on again. I had to start keeping to a regime, instead of forgetting this day or that day; it had to be every day.
I stared at my reflection in the mirror.
A complete and utter sight, without make-up.
The words that had been drummed into my head for almost three years made themselves heard once again; "you're ugly. Fat. Ugly. Fat."
Clara Richards was a cow, with a capital C. Well, more than that, she'd made my life hell from Year Eight until Year Ten, when Alex and Gwen came to my defence. Now, she and her cronies mostly left me alone; I got a few harsh words but that was it. I was just thankful she didn't know about my crush on her boyfriend; Jake Brooks. The hottest guy in school.
Of course, he didn't know she'd slept with almost every guy in our year in Year Eleven. It was a well known fact in my year, but the thing was, you didn't mess with Clara, because she was a popular bitch with a lot of influence within the school.
I took a deep breath as I stepped towards the sink, gripping the sides of it with my head down and my eyes closed.
The usual rumblings took over my stomach, announcing it was time for breakfast.
Now came the most important choice of the day.
Skip it, and pay at lunchtime, or eat and pay at lunchtime.
My first day of freedom.
With no parents around, watching over my shoulder, looking out for me.
Not that they were always there, or even over-bearing. I just liked having the house to myself, liked being able to do whatever I liked, whenever I liked.
I draped myself on the sofa and pressed the power button on the DVD player, grinning as the Heroes logo appeared on screen. As I began to watch, I took a Mayfair out of my bag and lit it, using a cheap lighter I'd brought from the shop across the road. With a contended smile, I leant back, making myself comfortable.
"Shit." I swore as I leapt up, stubbing the cigarette out in the ashtray, throwing into in my bag as the ringing of the doorbell sounded in my ears.
I pulled the door open, readying myself to face my grandparents.
I was more than a little surprised to see my best friend Faith Powell standing there, gazing at me from behind her stylish glasses.
"Hey Faith." I grinned at her, standing back to allow her in. I frowned when I spotted her backpack flung over her back, bulging open at the top. "What's up?"
She was silent as I shut the door, following her into the living room. She fell down onto one of the armchairs, staring in silence at the screen, frozen on the opening credits of Heroes.
"Fay?" I stood beside the chair, looking down at her. "What's wrong?"
She turned her head, gazing up at me. Her dark-blonde hair was tied back in a loose ponytail, allowing some wisps to fall down and frame her thin face.
"I've had another argument with my mum." She muttered, still holding the backpack on her back as I sat back on the sofa, fishing out the half smoked cigarette from my bag and relighting it.
"What about?" I lean back, watching her carefully as I flick some ash into the tray.
"Your party." Her hazel eyes roll as she shifts her bag from her back to the floor, keeping it beside her feet. "She thinks it's just going to be all about guys and drinking and drugs…"
"She read your diary again then?"
She gave me a sheepish look before turning her head away.
"When's series two out?"
"September. I think. In America anyway, but my brother should be able to get them for me." I gave her a wink, wishing she'd smile more.
I stubbed the cigarette out, watching as the rest of the cherry glowed in the tray. "You know you can stay here as long as you like right?"
She gave me a small nod, wiping something away from under her glasses. "Yeah, thanks Jay."
I pressed play, and silently we watched Heroes.
Until, that is, it came to the Hiro and Ando scenes.
"What's it say?" I asked. Having watched the series before, I knew kind of what the subtitles said, but sometimes I needed to know exactly what they were saying.
"Why don't you wear your glasses?"
"They broke." I replied with a light shrug. "Then I lost them." It was true; just before Year Eleven I decided to stop wearing them, shortly after that I dropped them…against the wall. Then they disappeared, and I never bothered to try and get a new pair. They were just too expensive.
She gave me a look that let me know she knew the truth; I hated wearing them. They made me look…ugly. Glasses just didn't suit me.
With a sigh, she repeated the subtitles for me, and I gave her a thankful smile before sinking back into the program.
Alex's bloodshot eyes stared at me from under her bleach blonde fringe, blinking every few seconds she narrowed her eyes, watching me as I took another puff on the spliff held in my hands.
"Come on Jinx!" Gwen cried, stepping towards me, her strawberry blonde/ginger hair falling around her shoulders, her deep blue eyes as bloodshot as Alex's. "Share!"
I frowned at her, raising an eyebrow. "It's yours anyway."
"Oh yeah!" She giggled, holding her hand out. "Give me!"
A loud crash alerted us to Alex falling off the dustbin she'd been sitting on, and the pair of us burst into laughter. I passed the joint to Gwen, before wiping the laughter-tears from my eyes.
This wasn't an everyday occurrence; we didn't sneak out to the garden for some weed when my parents were asleep, not like my brother and his mates. But it was a party, and we had it here, so like we did on these rare occasions, we threw caution to the wind and thought why the hell not.
"The sky looks LOL."
I turned to Alex, who had now made herself quite comfortable on the ground and was staring up at the sky with wide, transfixed eyes. "Look at the stars!"
I did so, tilting my head backwards and starring up at the yellow dots above me, smiling. "It's so big!"
"So vast." Gwen muttered, as she flicked the butt of the joint down the drain. The three of us stood (or sat, in Alex's case) in complete silence, contemplating how big and huge the universe was.
"Do you think there is a God?" I asked, tilting my head to one side.
"If there is," Alex's voice was slow as she spoke, as if she was thinking over every word before she actually said it. "He's fucked up."
This sent me and Gwen into a fit of giggles, before she staggered towards me. "No. But the important question is do you think there's anymore weed?"
"I told you there wasn't." I turned around, before leaning against the wall. "God I'm starving."
"Me too." Alex cried, lifting her arms up towards the sky. I laughed at the ridiculous gesture, before she spoke again. "Hey Jay, where's Faith?"
"Up there." I pointed towards the open window of my attic bedroom. "She's there with some guy."
The party had lived up to expectations; with so many people inside that you couldn't move, some people passed out in the most random of places, and people I didn't even know; friends of friends kind of thing. The biggest of the three parties I'd thrown so far and Faith was currently with one of the random guys, a cutie who she'd spotted almost as soon as he'd walked in.
We all fell silent when we heard a slam coming from upstairs. I pushed myself off the wall, staring up at the open window.
Footsteps pounded across the floor above and behind us before another door slam. Moments later Jessica Combs came running into the garden.
"Jay, Faith's locked herself in the bathroom. She looked really upset."
I swore under my breath before pushing past Jess and leaping up the stairs, two at a time. Alex and Gwen followed me as I hissed under my breath. "Go upstairs and tell that prick to get out of my house before I see him."
Ten minutes later, my whole body was shaking from pure anger as I knocked on the door.
"Faith come on, let me in."
I'd seen the guy as he came down the stairs from my bedroom, Alex and Gwen trailing behind him. Both of their faces reflected the anger I felt as I stepped away from the bathroom door and faced him across the landing.
"You asshole!" I cried, feeling my feet carrying me forward until I stood toe to toe in front of him. "What the hell have you done?"
His casual attitude as he took out a cigarette and lit it in front of me made the rage inside boil over even more.
"Your friend," He took a drag, turning his head and blowing it into my face. "Is a little prick tease."
My eyes caught Gwen's, as she stepped back away from him, knowing this situation was about to explode.
I lifted my hand, and the slap echoed around us. The cigarette fell to the floor, and before it could burn the house down I'd picked it up and took a drag myself. "Get the fuck out of my house." I hissed, repeating his gesture and blowing the smoke back in his face. "And I swear to god, if I ever see your face again, you'll have more than just a slap."
"And what if I don't go?" His voice was quiet, calm as he spoke.
"You see some of the guys earlier in the front room?" I tried to make my voice as calm as I could. "Well let's just say they're not the type of guys you want on the wrong side of you, and they are very good mates of mine."
The threat worked. He nodded meekly, and I Gwen and Alex watched him leave before coming back to find me back at the door.
"Those guys?" Gwen asked, an eyebrow raised.
Despite the anger inside me, the uncontrollable shaking, I smiled. "You have to admit, they can look scary."
"Yeah, but they're…"
"I know." I nodded, throwing the rest of the cigarette out of the window. "But he doesn't know that."
She laughed, as Alex leant against the wall, sinking to the floor. I continued my knocking on the door.
"Faith come on, let me in."
I could hear her sobs, and each one made me wish I had done more to the prick.
"Faith." Gwen put her head against the door, calling inside. "Faith, you just missed Jinx's amazing performance."
"Yeah!" Alex cried, breaking out into giggles. "To be honest Missy, I never knew you had it in you."
"Yeah well…" I turned away from Alex. Truth was, I didn't have it in me. It was just adrenaline mixed with rage, if it had been me he'd done whatever he'd done to Faith to, I properly would have done what she was doing; locked myself in the bathroom and cried. But no one fucked with Faith, she'd been through too much for someone to get away with it.
"Why?" I smiled when I turned around, to see Faith poking her head around the door. "What did she do?"
So Alex told her with relish, causing me to blush before Faith stepped back into the bathroom. I followed, Alex and Gwen wisely staying outside as I shut the door. "Alright Fay." I watched as she sat on the toilet lid, picking her glasses up and wiping them. "What happened?"
She lifted her head, and the anger dissolved inside me, to be replaced by pity as I looked at her puffy red eyes. "He…he called me a slut." She choked out. "And said…said no guy would want me. Only my pussy." His words came out of her mouth with difficulty. "Just because I wouldn't…wouldn't..." She broke down then, hanging her head in her hands as her shoulders rocked.
"Wouldn't what Fay?" I asked gently, moving to sit on the cabinet top beside the toilet, putting my hand on her back and rubbing gently.
"Fuck him." She cried, taking her glasses off and holding them in her hand. I took them off her gently and put them back on the windowsill as she covered her eyes.
"Well good for you." I rubbed her back slowly. "He's a dick Faith. Like most men."
I smiled as she giggled.
"Come on." I stood, offering her my hand. "I know what'll cheer you up."
Gwen watched me with a curious expression on her face, her eyes following my fingers as I rolled the joint.
"Thought you didn't have any?" She questioned, her hand curved into a C as she held a Lambert between her fingers, crystal blue eyes narrowed.
"Emergency supply." I replied, my eyes indicating towards Faith. "And this is an emergency."
Alex was asleep upstairs, passed out in front of the toilet, as she had been when I left with Faith. I licked the paper and winked at Gwen, leading the pair out into the garden. Sitting on the dust bin, I lit the joint, taking a deep drag as the sweet scent filled my nostrils. After a few more, I offered the joint to Faith.
"I don't do drugs." She muttered, and I knew it was true; the accounts in her diary were about me and Gwen doing weed, not her. It was one of the reasons her mother hated me; she saw me as a bad influence.
"Come on Fay." I smiled at her. "When have I ever led you astray?"
I looked at her mistrusting, suspicious eyes as I took another long drag, letting out a contended sigh with the smoke.
"OK." I shrugged. "Here." I offered the joint to Gwen, surprised when Faith took it from my fingers and took a deep drag, coughing as the smoke twirled out of her mouth, the patterns making shapes in my eyes. I thought I could see a dragon, and frowned. A bad sign according to some culture, I thought.
"Well," She blinked her eyes, which watered with smoke. "It is an emergency."