Chapter 3: Flying like a drunk Finch

"Oh...uh… hi." I managed to stutter out. This guy didn't just seem to look; he stared intensely at you, not glaring as such, but almost as though he were trying to scan your image into his head, imprinting it into his brain in case it was of any use later on. "I'm Jane. The third oldest. Of the Thorns."

"Right." Ryan said, glancing down at his watch. "I've got to go. See you at home." And as quickly as he appeared, he disappeared. It was quite odd actually; almost as though he were a ghost. Maybe his internal scanner rejected my image or something. How weird. Well, not necessarily, since he may have been repulsed at the sight of me, but I didn't get the impression that he was that kind of person. Oh well.

His short, black, leather jacket flapped against his sides as he strolled off down the side of the school, past the smoking corner, and out of sight. The shimmer of flaming dark red hair was the last thing I saw. I sighed. I seriously was the worst at 'people skills': I think I repel people when I talk to them, rather than attract. I'm like a magnet that switches to the opposite of another's negative or positive; whenever I go near me, they're like 'shit!' and slide away. Like the real magnets. Okay, whatever, it's a crappy analogy, but you know what I mean.

After that, I sat on the grass by myself, scribbling down little stick men falling off a cliff in my notebook. I was so engrossed in my masterpiece that I failed to hear the bell. About ten minutes after it rang I looked down at my wrist, swore and stumbled up before racing off towards the door to the school. I grabbed the torn timetable from out of my pocket and scanned over it as I paced, realising that my next subject was Biology. Great.

I lifted my eyes to see whether there were any signs like there were when I was going to English. Unfortunately, it was to no avail. I really should have taken that map of the school.

"Hey, you new here?" The voice made me jump. He was really tall and lanky, with white blonde hair, shortly cut, and a massive smile gracing his face, seeming to be stifling a laugh at my reaction to the tap on my shoulder.

"Uh, yeah," I replied intelligently, "how could you tell?"

"Ha ha, got myself a 'newbie-dar', ya see." He drawled as he tapped his head with his index finger. "Ain't much else goin' on in there, to be honest, so at least it's something." He winked. "So, which lesson you goin' to?"

"Biology."

He made a face as he began walking down the corridor to the right. "Eugh, Biology!"

"I don't really like it." I stated, following him.

"Huh?" He made a sound, turning his head to mine. "Why'd you take it then?"

"Lesser of the evils." I shrugged.

He grinned at that. "True, I guess." He stopped in the middle of the corridor and held out his hand. "Name's Finch. Yours?"

"Jane," I replied, shaking his hand, "is that your actual name?"

He shook his head, returning back to walking. "Rupert's my actual name, but it's awful, so I'd rather go by my surname. My mum must've been watching kid's cartoons when she picked out that name… ah, here we are!"

We had stopped outside a navy painted door, slightly peeling at the edges. I could already hear the chatter from inside the class, and a voice that boomed against the walls. "That's Mr Larsson for you," Finch answered my unasked question, "he tends to shout a lot and never seems to teach anything, so beware." He grinned. "Good luck." And then he drifted off. God, the people in this school were pretty weird. But then again, I'm one to talk.

I knocked lightly on the door before creaking it open to a class of bored looking students chatting away to each other while a man stood before them, looking distinctly similar to Santa Claus, though his beard wasn't so long. Chalky tufts of hair grew in odd directions on the top of his head, while a snowy beard curled itself around his chin. He seemed to give up on the class and twisted his head towards me and frowned before asking "why are you so late?"

Scratch that: he looked more like a mad professor with his beady eyes and spectacles balanced on the rim of his protruding nose. "I'm new, sir. I got lost."

He cleared his throat before swivelling his head around the class. "Very well. You'd better sit down." I shuffled over to an empty seat at the back of the class. A few eyes wandered up to look at me before quickly flickering back to the person they were talking to or their work. I must have muttered 'excuse me' at least twenty times as chairs scraped across the floor to let me past to my seat. Most sighed heavily as they did so, while some didn't even bother to move, so I had to squeeze past them as I sucked in my breath as best as I could.

I retrieved a piece of paper and a pencil from my bag before shoving it under the lab desk. The person beside me didn't even bother to look up and say hi or anything; he kept to himself, staring at the paper before him with strange doodles of dragons and men with large eyes on one side of it. Strange.

"What's your name?" I heard the teacher ask, raising his voice above the talking among the students in the room.

"Jane Thorn."

"Ah!" He replied in recognition, causing some of the students to look up from what they were doing. The guy sitting next to me didn't. I was almost sure that nothing disturbed the small bubble world he was in as he had his eyes glued to the desk below. He wasn't drawing anymore; just staring. "I heard about you and your family in the staff meeting; I hope you all find it pleasant here." He smiled. I don't believe he was trying to be malicious, but I wasn't exactly comforted to hear that the teachers were already gossiping about our family.

I simply nodded at him, not wanting to draw any more attention to myself. Thankfully, no one had really been listening, and after our short exchanging of words, he got back to attempting to settle the class and teach. Throughout the class, I found myself almost falling asleep as he was talking about 'cell structure'. To be honest, I don't really bother with work that much; it's just such a hassle when you do all that work and then move schools and have to start it all over again: there's no point. I did alright in my GCSEs; mostly As and Bs, with a few Cs and A*s slotted in. I wasn't expecting much at A Level though; just enough to get into a half decent University would be fine for me, perhaps to do English. Or maybe Art. I don't know, but I know for certain not Biology.

To say that I was relieved once I heard the bell go would have been an understatement. People practically flew out of the class to join their mates outside or go to their next lesson. The guy next to me was no different, except that he simply barged his way through people, not looking for anyone in particular, and went off by himself.

"Jane, could I talk to you for a second?" Mr Larsson asked me as I stuffed my paper and pencil into my bag. Inwardly I groaned, but walked over to his desk at the front. "I'll photocopy all of the notes that we've made so far so that you can catch up on what you've missed. I've also got some textbooks that you can take home, which may help a bit?" He handed me a thick, maroon coloured textbook. "I'm sorry I can't be of any other help to you, but if you don't understand anything, feel free to come to me at any time during the day."

I really should stop judging people by appearances. This guy actually seemed quite sweet for trying to help me so much; you see, I'm not really used to it, since most teachers that have taught me just get annoyed at my arriving so late in the year that they don't even bother helping me catch up. Which is fair enough, I suppose, since they aren't exactly getting paid any extra for it.

"Thanks." I smiled. Wow: first smile of the week. He waved dopily at me as I left and headed to my next class, which was Graphics. It was much of the same, really, what with people glancing up in curiosity for a brief second before turning back to what they were doing previously. A few people in that class attempted to be friendly towards me in that lesson, but I guess my icy exterior deterred them from making anymore inquires as to whether I had a dog, cat, brother, et cetera.

I stretched out my fingers as I felt the light breeze hit my face, whipping the stray strands of my hair back. In the distance, among a few other guys, Eddie was running about, playing tag I presume, by a few tall pine trees. To my left, I noticed my sister, blonde ringlets and all, in deep conversation with a few girls and a boy, laughing occasionally. I also saw Fitz, with a girl, smiling and nodding gently as she talked animatedly. It was always like this.

I sighed. I know I shouldn't be like this, since I brought this on myself, but I couldn't help feel really lonely when I saw all of them getting along with people so easily. The thing is, I'm not at all like that; I'm automatically distrusting of people, seeing the worst in most than the good and keep to myself. The thing is, I'm fine with it most of he time. It's just when I realise how much of a loner I really am that it gets slightly depressing.

Oh well. I slung my bag over my shoulder before heading over to where Fitz was standing. "Hi Fitz."

"Oh, hi Jane." He swivelled his head back to the girl he was with. "Jenny, this is my sister Jane." She beamed at me before greeting me, telling me the usual 'I've heard a lot about you' thing.

I tried my best to be polite, but I couldn't be bothered to say the 'all good things I hope' reply for the hundredth time, so instead I cut to the chase and turned to my brother. "I think I'm gonna walk back today; I want to check stuff out, so can you tell mum to call me if she needs me?"

He nodded. "Sure. Make sure you get back before nine otherwise I'll have to tend to her 'full scale panic attack mode'." I smirked at that, but agreed and went on my way down the path and out of the school grounds, passing a few people I recognised from my classes. I followed the brick wall, staring off into the distance until I felt an arm slide around my shoulders.

Out of pure instinct, I swung around, placing my hands on their arm, and threw them against the wall. It was only then, that I realised that it was Finch.

"Oww…" He moaned, rubbing his head. "You're bloody strong, y'know!" He grinned, which made me flow relief.

"Sorry about that." I apologised as I helped him up. "I assumed that you were going to mug me or something."

"Mug you?" He exclaimed, brushing the dirt off his jacket. "Have you had previous experience of that or something?"

I shrugged. "Yes."

His eyebrows shot up. "Seriously?!"

"Well, it was bound to happen at one of the many schools that I've been to." I reasoned as I began to walk again. He strolled a few paces to catch up with me.

"Wow. Well. I've heard of muggings here, but never really to girls for some reason…" He paused in thought, bringing his fist to his lips. "It's never happened to me before. What's it like?" I raised an eyebrow. "Okay, stupid question." He laughed.

We passed a café and I found my head automatically swivelling towards the smell of roasted coffee beans and freshly made, crumbly, shortbreads. He grinned knowingly. "Wanna grab a coffee? Annie's is the best in town and the great thing is that it's right next to school."

I took a step towards the café entrance as I said "sure, why not?" Inside, round mahogany tables scattered across the scarlet painted café, the cakes and biscuits displayed behind glass by the counter where a large blackboard displayed the prices of the numerous coffees, teas and confectionary items. After we had paid for our coffees (mine an espresso, his a latte) we sat down in seats by the large window, looking out onto the grassy hills that hid the school that we had just left.

"I can't believe that you drink espressos; they're disgusting." He made a face, which made me snicker, since it really didn't suit him. "I've heard that you can tell what type of personality a person is by their coffee, you know?"

"Really?" I commented, tilting my head to one side as I lifted an eyebrow. "Are you hinting that I'm disgusting then?"

"No!" He gasped, so sincerely that it took me all I had not to burst out laughing. "I'd say that, by your taste in coffee, that you're… uh…" His eyes wandered off in thought for a second or two before coming back to me, wide and excited. "Mysterious! Lurk in the shadows… Like horror films… Favourite colour is black… Friends with vampires…" By the end, his arms were flapping about the place so much in excitement that I had to jump in before he bounded off his chair.

"You know, for someone who got that from my taste in coffee, that's pretty precise… well, except for the 'friends with vampires' part…" I grinned at his enthusiasm; he really was like a little kid.

"So what do you think my coffee says about me?" He asked innocently.

"Uh… that you're white?" To that answer, he let out the largest bellow of laughter, tears almost streaming down his eyes as he said in between guffaws: "No… shit… Sherlock! I'm hardly Jamaican, am I?"

"You never know." I shrugged. I seemed to be doing that a lot recently. He wiped his eyes with back of his hand, lips still drawn to his ears, his bright olive eyes glittering in the rays of sunlight that shone through the bamboo blinds over some of the windows.

Our conversation flowed pretty well after that… well, he mainly talked and I listened but still, it was better than most conversations I've had with people. He seemed like such an easy-going guy that I felt relaxed in his presence-he was one of those people that, because he was so happy himself, made you feel happy too just by looking at him.

"What subjects did you pick?" I asked as we got onto the lessons that we had just had today.

He stroked his chin with his thumb and finger as he rolled his eyes in the back of his head to think. "PE, Drama, Dance and… Maths."

"Maths?"

He shrugged. "I like it. Plus, I like to have something different from the rest… it's bloody hard though…"

"Yeah." I agreed. "I could never do Maths for A level. Even if my life depended on it." I slid my hand into my pocket to get my phone to look at the time. "I'd better get going; my mum will have a nervous breakdown if I get back late."

Finch grinned. "Same here; my mum's a total nutcase. She starts mixing her coffee with salt if it's five minutes after when I'm supposed to be home."

We left the empty mugs on the table and walked outside, which had grown darker since we had first entered the café, the sun only slightly peaking out from the hills in the backdrop. I wandered over to the bus timetable pinned outside the bus shelter and scanned the times; the next one would come in fifteen minutes.

"You ok with getting home and everything?" He asked.

I nodded. "Yeah; my mum and stepdad told me the buses I could take from around this area."

"Good. Ok, well, see you tomorrow then!" He shouted as he began strolling off down the road, body twisted around enough so he could still see me and waved once more before turning back. His short, bristly blonde hair ruffled slightly in the strong wind as he crossed the road and walked out of sight.

I shivered slightly as the wind bit at my cheeks and hands. I crossed my arms across my chest before sitting down on the bright, red, plastic seats beneath the bus shelter, where the coldness was kept at bay. A boy in the uniform and an elderly man both sat beside me, checking their watches every so often out of boredom and for something to do. The man's face stared at the ground, contemplating something, his eyebrows knitted together amongst his creased, paper-thin skin.

After five minutes of Finch leaving, it seemed to get a lot darker, and as the bus headlights neared where I was sitting I was almost blinded. And once it left, I realised that the elderly man and boy had gotten on it, and I was alone. If I had to be honest, I was jumpy as I sat there, constantly tapping my foot and checking my phone (which was slowly dying because I had forgotten to charge it the night before). So, when a group of guys neared me, I snapped straight up and waved down the next bus, regardless of whether it was the bus I needed to take or not.

Unfortunately, it wasn't. And I found myself, somehow, stranded in the middle of what I assumed was the town. There still weren't many lights though apart from the dim streetlights and car headlights as they whizzed past.

Laughs and shouts echoed to the left of me down an alleyway, causing me to turn in the opposite direction, head swivelling from side to side as I tried to recognise any street names I had been told. None came to mind. I honestly don't know why I didn't stay at the bus stop and try to get the bus back; I guess I was just being even more stupid than usual.

I wandered around for god knows how long, dragging my feet along behind me. I passed many clubs where a dozen or so people stood or staggered outside, either throwing up or dancing around merrily. It was weird how lively it was when it was only a Monday night. It was never like this in the place I'd lived before. The liveliest thing I'd seen in there at night was the bingo hall on a Saturday.

"You got a blacksmith?" A man stumbled towards me as he clasped a Stella Artois beer can in his hand. "Have you? I fuckin' need one!"

"Huh?"

"There's too many in this country…" He slammed his fist down into the palm of his other hand. "But I need one now!"

"A blacksmith?" I'm not sure why I bothered answering him; he was completely out of it, almost collapsing every time he took a step.

"Blacksmiths!" He shouted incredulously. "All they do is cause ya trouble. They fuck you over! Never get involved with blacksmiths…there's too many, ya see…"

"Right…"

"Fuck blacksmiths! If I want iron, I'll go to an ironer… Ironer, get it?!" He burst into hysterical laughter.

"Not really…" I shifted away from him. "I'd better go now…" I began walking away from me when he hollered after me "remember: don't get involved with a blacksmith! Ha ha ha!"

Note to self: don't pause to talk to a drunk man; you just end up having a pointless conversation. It must have been around ten when I sat down on a bench by the backstreet of a nightclub. I could smell the spliffs from where I was and didn't venture further.

A crash sounded. A door banged open and a man was thrown against a wall, another holding him up by the scruff of his black silk shirt. He was leering at his offender as he said something, only making the man opposite him shove him against the wall harder. The guy opposite slid a hand into his shirt pocket, withdrew something before putting it into his own pocket and throwing him onto the dirt ground. The man on the floor spat at him, got up and tried to punch him, but missed. He narrowed his eyes, mouthed something at him and went inside.

The man who had thrown the other against the wall stayed where he was, his scowl still evident on his face as he drew a cigarette from the box and flicked down on his lighter to light it. He inhaled and exhaled heavily he paced towards where I was, not looking my way. As he neared me, his features became more visible. He drew a hand through his dark crimson hair and stopped when he saw me, eyes growing wide.

"What the hell are you doing here, Jane?"

_________________________________

AN: Sorry about the week delay guys-it's a little longer than last time, so I guess that's a bit of a consolation... keep the reviews coming :) I really appreciate them.