1. Laura

In This Life – Delta Goodrem

I was late. It was almost half past seven when I tumbled out of bed, being nearly frightened to death by Wolf's bark near my ear. I usually awoke when she scratched at my bedroom door signalling it was time for his morning walk, yet I had dreamt and the scratches had been incorporated in my dream, rather than woken me up.

I stared at my alarm clock in a moment of dozing incomprehension before bolting out of bed. I had to be at college in an hour and due to the fact that my father and I usually shared a lengthy breakfast together I knew that if I didn't hurry I would be late. Again.

I rushed my showering, scrambled on my clothes, thanking the Lord that I'd laid them out the night before, yanked my useless hairbrush through my short wet hair and nearly tripped over Fluffy, Wolf's puppy, as I sprinted down the stairs. Fluffy, rather than being annoyed by my hurry, seemed delighted and snapped one of my shoes, his tail waggling with such furry his whole behind moved from left to right. I couldn't help but smile at this uncurbed enthusiasm.

"No, Fluffy." I reprimanded through a smile, trying to grab his collar. He evaded me however, his tail mirroring the excitement in his eyes. He jumped up the stairs to; I was sure, lie on my bed and wait until I needed my shoe. I sighed and looked down at Wolf who had watched the spectacle with a detached gaze.

"He's your child!" I scolded her, while opening the back door to let her out in the yard. Wolf looked up at me in scorn as she walked out. The dew was still wet on the grass and I watched the fast advancing clouds signalising rain with a sigh. I couldn't wait for summer, when the rain was hot and large and rare. I hated rain and I hated this spring with its in-between, not quite sure weather even more.

"Morning sweetie." My father greeted me as I entered the kitchen. I quickly observed, even due to my 15 minute lateness, my father had yet to begin breakfast and I was grateful. I loved the way we always ate breakfast together; it was a ritual few people still valued these days.

"Morning Daddy." I said while slipping into the wooden chair next to his. He folded his newspaper, dropped it on the floor next to his seat and bowed his head to say Grace. I followed suit and he thanked the Lord for the food we were about to receive. He handed me a piece of toast and an egg he had kept covered in a futile attempt to keep it warm.

I wolfed down my breakfast in a great hurry, whereas my father calmly buttered his toast, serenely talking about his idea for the morning service.

"You know Mrs Grange?" I nodded, shuddering at the taste as I tried to wash down my egg with orange juice, "well she's going into Hospital for her chemo, you know she is fighting lung cancer, and she requested that morning mass be held in the Hospital from Wednesday onwards so she doesn't miss too much time communicating with the Lord and the Virgin Mary who will surely help her with the pain she's going through. George and Belinda agreed, so if you want to drive today's your only chance."

"Jeez." I groaned and my father laughed. I had recently received my provisional license which made me eager to drive everywhere, even though I was usually an environmentalist. I comforted myself with the fact that my father rarely let me drive, and I had spent the first seventeen years of my life watching my carbon footprint. I deserved a break!

"Can't Catherine drive with me?" I asked, gesturing to the empty place opposite me where Catherine usually sat, angry that my driving was being cut short.

"She's leaving on Sunday, but if you could deal with being early, I'm sure she'll be ready to do that unless she needs to pack. Taking the bus to school isn't that hard an ordeal though, is it?"

"She's leaving again!" I complained, ignoring the second thing my father had said. "Where's she going now?"

"Afghanistan again." My father said and from his voice I could tell he wasn't so pleased about her leaving either, though his were different reasons than mine. I sighed and decided not to breach the subject.

"I'm finished!" I hiccupped after crammed my egg and toast in to my mouth in record speed.

"Calm down Sweetie!" My father smiled, "What time is it anyway?"

I checked my watch. "Crumbs!" I cursed and almost tripped over Wolf, who had re-entered the house and had been lying next to my chair. Wolf just glared at me as I sprinted upstairs.

"Brush your teeth!" He called at my retreating back. "I'll be ready when you are."

I hurried my make up application, adding some eye liner and mascara to my face before stuffing my lip gloss in my pocket, brushing my teeth and tripping downstairs, running upstairs again, wrestling my shoe of Fluffy, running downstairs again, finding my matching shoe and slinging my bag over my shoulder.

"Come on Dad!" I shouted into the kitchen, from which my father emerged grumbling about the fact that any other girl in the world would spend hours with her makeup, yet his daughter just needed a maximum of three minutes which meant he couldn't even finish breakfast in peace.

I giggled and followed my father and Wolf to the car (Wolf often accompanied me to school when we took the car, my father often joked that she was my guardian angel), thanking the Lord for such an amazing father.

* * *

On my first day at St Clare's college I had been intimidated by the busy corridors, multitudes of subjects and people, but by the end of my first year that fear had worn off with the experience and by now I associated the busy hallways with the success and pitfalls of my school life.

It was the beginning of the final term and I could almost feel the tension that accompanied the time so close to the public exams. Last year I had been as caught up as everyone else in the exam fever, but after having achieved five As on my AS levels I no longer worried about my A2s this year. I was one of the school's top students, and this year the exam fever seemed a sickness for the young and the lazy.

I smiled at the thought as I came through the door and almost ran into the deputy head, the most popular teacher in school, Andrea. "Hey Andrea!" I grinned. She smiled back at me.

"Hey Laura. Cool new hair." She answered, acknowledging my new bobbed auburn hair in which I had incorporated some blond highlights. My originally boring auburn hair looked fiercely stripped now.

"Thanks." I said, grinning at the compliment. I quickly messed my hair up by running my hand through it. I felt like I looked more exciting with my hair's new radical shortness stripes.

"Are you going to bring our school as much fame this year as you did last year? You know I'm counting on you, your rival has had an abysmal 29% attendance this year, so she might not wow us again." Andrea confided in me, and I grinned, pleased that I was top. It was my competitive spirit emerging again, but it gave me the good grades, so there really wasn't anything wrong with it.

"Well," I laughed, trying to imagine failure for me, "I defiantly hope I will make you happy Andrea."

I carried on into the hallways, trying to reach my politics classroom before the buzzer signalling the beginning of classes rang. I caught sight of my two friends on their way to their Geography class, but neither of us had time to stop so they just waved and gestured towards my hair with thumbs up. I waved back before sprinting towards politics as the buzzer rang.

I entered the classroom breathless. It was still completely empty, which surprised me. I may be the only attending politics student (one other girl had signed up to do the class, but had never appeared), but my teacher, Miss Warner, was always on time. I sat down confused and took out all my text books and started making notes on one of the questions we were planning to discuss today.

When the door opened about three minutes later I looked up expectantly. "I was just- oh." Instead of the tall slight figure of Miss Warner I saw a completely different person.

Rayne Hatton-Smith stood at the door, the school's resident drug addict and whore. My eyes skimmed her outfit, unsurprised to find another outrageously tight and revealing outfit dressing her slim figure: dark skinny jeans, a dark top, a black leather jacket and very heavy eye makeup. She was pretty, it had to be admitted. With tanned skin, hazelnut hair, swirling brown eyes and perfectly accented curves there were few flaws to be found. Except her character.

"Fuck me if it isn't Little Miss Perfect." Rayne sneered as she slammed the door behind her.

"Good morning." I said through tight lips. This was my rival in the school's top grades. I had only found out this confidential information from Andrea's too talkative mouth and I hadn't been able to believe it. Last year, to be fair, her attendance rate had been better, and yet she had scored identical marks to mine.

I knew 'hate' was a strong verb, my father reminded me every time we discussed Rayne, yet I often believed it was suitable in this situation.

She sat down in front of me and without looking at me, though probably hearing the contempt in my silence, she said: "Don't worry bitch, I won't attend anymore lessons than this. I got an A in this subject in my AS by attending four lessons. I'll do that again."

I couldn't help but scoff. She wasn't that bright.

She turned around to face me. "Don't you believe me bitch?" she snapped; I had obviously provoked her.

"The name's Laura." I answered, "And, yes, I don't believe a word you're saying."

She smirked before gathering up her bag and heading towards the door. She paused at the threshold and turned to face me. "Guess what?" her fake smile evaporated, giving room to an angry and belligerent stare. "I don't give a fuck."

And she left. I turned back to my notes only to be disturbed by another commotion at the door. Rayne's re-entrance into the classroom was obviously everything but voluntary; Andrea was close on her heel, telling Rayne how glad she was she had just caught her.

"Oh look, you're here too! This must be the brightest class in the whole school! Oh Rayne, come forward a little. Sit there next to Laura!" We looked at each other in disgust as Andrea's happy chatter continued away and Rayne slid into the seat, giving into a rare moment of obedience.

"Now girls, I bet you're wondering where Miss Warner is, and the sad truth is she's caught a whopping cough on a camping trip in Scotland and will be ill until half term. She has given you loads of work to do, but I thought we could make it interesting!" Andrea smiled eagerly at us while both Rayne and I were tuning out. I sat there wondering how this fat little woman had become so popular while watching her wave around practice papers and questions.

"…so I thought you could do a project!" Both Rayne and I looked up in horror.

Andrea looked at us expectantly. "Come on, it'll be fun. You guys can get to know one another better!"

"Yay!" Came Rayne's sarcastic voice next to me, just quiet enough for me to hear it.

"I have selected some exam questions for you and I want you to find the most unusual country as your case study. You can then make a poster answering the question with that unusual country! What do you think?" Andrea looked overly pleased with herself.

Not wanting to disappoint Andrea I put a smile on. "Looks wonderful." I answered and pretended to look at the questions enthusiastically.

"Goody!" Andrea gushed. "Anyway, that'll mean that I don't need to babysit every one of your lessons. I'll just check that you're both here and then I can get back to my own work. Oh yes, Rayne, can I have a word outside."

I knew by Rayne's look she was already planning to skive the next lessons; our hate was mutual and there was no way she would attend a lesson during which she would need to talk to me. She glared at me as she slouched outside where she and Andrea conversed in whispers.

I looked at the sheet of questions. This looked fun. Real fun.

* * *

I only managed to actually catch Alice and Kate, my friends, during the long lunch break as I had so many A2 subjects I didn't have any free periods.

We ate lunch together, during which I got an update of their Easter holidays. Alice had invited Kate and some other girls to Menorca with her where they had met several hot young men, one of which Alice had pulled, even though she had a boyfriend.

After the third anecdote about their nights I started to tune out and wonder, once again, why we were friends. This nonsensical chatter was better than being alone, I knew that, but yet somehow I wanted to teach these girls some sense.

"… so then we climbed over this fence and Dana was like she wanted some chips, so we went to a chip place and we saw these buff guys and we were like hello, if you know what I mean and then Alice was like…What did you say again Alice…"

I suddenly caught Rayne's eyes. She was sitting with a bunch of like dressed girls, smoking. I couldn't tell what it was, though I guessed it was probably ordinary cigarettes because the headmaster felt very passionate about keeping skunk off the campus.

Alice noticed I wasn't listening to Kate's story and followed my gaze into Rayne's direction. "Fucking whore." She murmured and glared at Rayne, who looked away.

"Who?" Kate asked, stopping in mid sentence to follow Alice's train of thought.

"Her." Alice said gesturing out of the large glass panes which lined the cafeteria walls. Rayne and her friends seemed to be sharing a joke at the cost of a girl walking by, who turned red and ducked her head, running towards the entrance.

I didn't take my eyes off her as Alice whispered "I heard she slept with Freddy while he was dating Angela and then told Angela. And the next day she slept with Ricky, who was, back then, Freddy's best friend. She's a bitch. A real fucking whore. I heard she has several drug dealers who get her MDMA, coke and speed."

Kate nodded energetically. "Gia told me that she's had three abortions. And she's fucked Linda's dad."

Alice looked appalled. And as she and Kate indulged in some more gossip I examined the girl again.

There really wasn't anything sinister about her, and I was all too aware of the general grudge all females in the school held against her to believe all the rumours of her viciousness.

Suddenly she looked at me again, as if she could sense my gaze. I stared back at her defiantly. Perhaps I should feel sorry for her, rather than hate her. She had so little self respect that was really all one should do however hard it seemed.

A straw haired girl said something to Rayne following her gaze and probably asking Rayne what she was looking at. Rayne gave her a curt reply and looked away. The girl examined me for one more second before turning away too. I recognised her from my French class and watched how she whispered something in Rayne's ear, who in turn looked at me again, laughing.

* * *

To my surprise I encountered Rayne in the last lesson of the day too. I hadn't been aware we shared an English lesson too, though this didn't surprise me: she skived so many classes there was really no way I could know.

There was a great disadvantage to her not skiving today: though mainly the fact that our very eccentric English teacher changed seating plans at the beginning of each term and this time she had also changed the setting of desks. The desks were arranged in a semi-circle around the board and this time her very complicated seating plan (something to do with the third letter in our names) placed me next to Rayne and Mary, a very annoying, very hard working girl who hated both me and Rayne due to our superior grades. She huffed as Mrs Green instructed me to sit down next to her. Sadly we shared the same look of horror as Rayne was graced with the seating place next to me.

She took off her leather jacket, draped it over the back of her seat and sat down.

"Hey bitch." She whispered to me as Mrs Green instructed another girl next to Rayne. She looked at Rayne in disgust and obviously moved her chair away.

"As I have already said, the name's Laura." I answered, examining her top. It was expensive, designer probably. One of the rumours about her said she was 'fucking rich'. Greg, Kate's boyfriend, had once stated that she was 'beautiful, dirty, rich'. Then the comment had made us laugh, but as I considered her clothing I wouldn't have been too surprised if it was true.

"The face's up here." She said and I blushed and looked away, groaning when I saw Mary desperately trying to eavesdrop.

"Fuck off Mary." I snapped at the weedy girl, who huffed before opening Hamlet and pretending to read.

"So, Laura," Rayne said, turning in her chair to fully face me, "you and I will work so well on that project together. Cause I ain't skiving one lesson." I stared at her in disbelief.

"Ever heard of the game chicken?" she challenged me.

I looked at her, confused. "You mean the game where two people drive towards one another and the first to veer off course looses?"

"Yes, just we'll adapt it. The first to skive either English or Politics looses."

I scoffed. "Looses what? And what makes you want to play silly games with me?"

"I'll think about what we're betting on." She commented.

I lowered my voice to a whisper as Mrs Green began the lesson. "I'm not playing."

"You already are." She murmured back before lying down on the desk, so ending our conversation. Her head faced my direction and I saw her close her eyes. Typical, she was going to sleep through English.

I wasn't playing any game with her. Never. Nothing. I wanted nothing to do with this girl. I tried to listen to Mrs Green as she recapped Hamlet for those who hadn't read it. I had on the other hand read it, making it very boring for me to listen to.

I tried to keep my mind off the girl sitting next to me, but it was impossible as, while she lay there, I noticed six different boys checking her out. I looked at her. There really was nothing that special about her.

She was quiet thin, and while I looked at her I realised it was almost unnaturally so. Her slim figure and slightly tanned skin, topped with dark brown made her look almost South American. Her makeup centred heavily on her eyes, highlighting their deep brown texture and her lips formed an almost perfect smirk, which, to me, told the world that they didn't know her.

She opened her eyes and caught me looking at her. She smirked again.

"Can't keep your eyes off me?" she asked, raising her eyebrows, and I coloured again.

I decided to ignore the comment but as she lay there I saw a tattoo. It was a Chinese symbol between her shoulder blades. I knew what it meant.

My father's missionary work had kept him in the Congo before I was born and mainly in Brazil after I was born, though a year before we moved to England we spent a year in China where my father taught English and was a missionary through that. I had attended the local school then, where I had learnt the basic symbols and I knew this one well because it had been my nickname.

I was suddenly overwhelmed with a desire to touch the tattoo, stroke the supple skin surrounding it. I immediately looked away, desperately trying to think about something else than the tigress on Rayne's back. We were different and she was no more a tiger than I had been a tiger back then. They had called me tiger because my hair had been red and because I was a wild child. They had loved me.

No one loved her.

Hey, guys, here I am with a new story. As the v. observant of you have noticed, the title chapter is a song. This is the same for eveyr chapter and at the bottom I will have a note as to why I chose the song.

Song Choice: Right, this is one of the thousands of songs I found on YouTube during my Angelina Jolie obseesion, and in the clip that accompanied it was all about the meaning of Angelina's life (Her UNHCR work ect.) Anyway, nowadays whenever I hear the song I think of meaning in people's lives. So it is used here because Laura is certain she has found meaning to her life and she isn't insecure.

Right, now the important question, what do you think?