Chapter One – First Day Of School

Hi, my name's Phoebe, and all the kids in my year regard me as a champion. Well, maybe not all of them, but my friends do anyway. Do you want to know why?

It all started on the first day of school in year eight. You may like to know that I hate school with a passion. I only go because otherwise I can't see my friends. Anyway, it was the first day of school, and I was sitting on the floor with two of my friends Angela and Jenny.

Why were we sitting on the floor, you ask? Because we had no tables or chairs in our classroom. It was a new classroom built over the holidays because there weren't enough year eight classrooms, and it was yet to be furnished.

So I was sitting on the floor with Angela and Jenny talking about my holidays. I would have liked out whole group to be in the same class. But Lenore and Rachael got put in Class 2 and Cathryn and Hailey got put in Class 3.

Our teacher this year was Ms Mourtzious. She's Angela's step-mum. Ms Mourtzious married Angela's father last year, but I won't go into that.

As I said, Jenny, Angela and I were discussing our holidays. Well, rather we were pretending to discuss them. We were really checking out all the new girls to see which ones looked like they could be part of our group.

We're always looking for new members, but they have to be able to keep up with us. Our conversations are constantly changing topic and since I had known Lenore and Angela since kindergarten, Rachael since year one, and Hailey, Jenny and Cathryn since year three, we were all pretty tight.

There weren't many new girls in our class this year. Most of them had gone to the other classes, and we were relying on the other girls to recruit them.

The classroom was growing noisier and nosier, and soon it was full of twenty-four chattering girls. By that time, it was hard to tell who was who from the floor.

"Let's go and see Lenore and Rachael," suggested Angela. "Mum won't be here for a few minutes yet."

So the three of us stood up, and worked our way through the crowded room to the door. Unfortunately, just as we reached it, Ms Mourtzious came through the door.

"Angela, Jenny, Phoebe," she said. "Where do you think you're going?"

"Just to visit Rachael and Lenore mum," replied Angela, looking at her step-mother defiantly. Angela and her step-mum had never seen eye-to-eye so to speak, and she was determined to defy every rule her step-mum put in place.

"No, you're going to stay here and help us set up the classroom." Replied Ms Mourtzious, glaring down at her daughter. "Everyone needs to help. And anyway, we have a year level assembly later, you can see them then."

"But I haven't seen them all holidays," protested Angela. "You never let me out the house! Tim gets to go everywhere he wants to, and all I get to do is stay home and do homework. You're ruining my social life! It's not fair!"

In case you're wondering, Timothy, otherwise known as Tim, is Angela's step-brother, her step-mum's son. Angela reckons her step-mum loves him more because he is actually her own.

"Angela! That's enough of your nonsense!" exclaimed Ms Mourtzious, glancing around to see if anyone was listening on the conversation. Luckily for her, everyone was too busy catching up after the summer holidays. "I may be your mother, but you must treat me like you would your teacher when you are at school." She added in a lower voice. "Now I want the three of you to stay in the classroom while I go and check my desk in the staff room."

And with that, she had turned around and marched off down the corridor, towards the stairs.

The three of us stood in the doorway for quite some time, and I could hear Angela swearing under her breath. Thais was totally unfair. I already knew about Angela not being available over the holidays. Even when I had tried to call her house to ask if she could come to the annual New Year's Sleepover we had, her step-mum had said that she couldn't come before I had even got the question out my mouth properly.

Slowly, we made our way back into the room, only to discover that the place where we had been sitting before now had people standing in it. So we stood in a group, close together, not saying a word, although we could still hear Angela swearing at her step-mum under her breath.

Finally though, Ms Mourtzious returned and behind her were four of the maintenance men who worked around the school doing various jobs, like fixing cupboards and transporting desks, which was exactly what they were doing now. Three of them were pushing trolleys that carried our new desks, and the other was pushing a trolley stacked with chairs.

They deposited the desks and chairs out the front of the room and then left again.

"Alright girls!" called Ms Mourtzious from the front of the room. Slowly the noise in the room quieted down and everyone turned to face her. "We have one hour to set this room up and to get you organized for school. Then we will be meeting with Ms Flynn and Ms Fletcher's classes in the Drama Room for a year level assembly." Whispering broke out among the girls when she said this, we never had assemblies on the first day back.

"I have drawn how I would like the desks to be arranged and who I want to sit where on the board," said Ms Mourtzious. "Once the room is organized, you will be able to sit down and have a conversation while I work out how to log on to the school system."

I glanced at the board, and saw that we had been seated in rows. I looked closer and saw that she had placed Angela in the middle of the front row, and then she had placed Jenny and me next to each other in the back row. Even I was starting to get angry now. There was no need for Ms Mourtzious to be this cruel to Angela. She had never had a problem with either Jenny or me, nor our other friends, so why the sudden change of heart.

I thought I might be a family disagreement, but I didn't want to intervene. Instead, I moved over to help Amelia and Victoria move one of the tables off the top of the pile.

Soon the classroom was in absolute chaos. I found out later that night that I had received several bruises from having one desk or another pushed into me at some stage. Eventually though, we had the classroom in order, and soon everyone was removing their books from their bags and placing them on their desks.

I sat down next to Jenny, and we held a whispered conversation, watching Angela sit miserably at the front of the class in between Sabrina and Laura. Finally, with the help of Madeline, a new girl, Ms Mourtzious managed to get the Interactive White Board up and running, ready to take the roll.

Normally, I wouldn't pay much attention to the teacher when they took the roll. But the first day of the year is always an exception. It's the first time you get to put names to faces with the new girls. Of course we get sent our class lists over the summer holidays but they're only lists of names, we never get any pictures, they always expect us to automatically know who everyone is after six weeks of no school.

The only new students this year in our class were Sophie, Andrea and Madeline and none of them looked like they could be up to the challenge of being part of our group. Jenny confirmed my thoughts by slipping me a note.

There's no one who we want, is there? It read. I flipped the slip of paper over a scribbled a reply on the back.

No, let's hope the others find someone. We haven't had a new member in ages.

Unfortunately, I chose precisely the wrong moment to slip the note back to Jenny, because Ms Mourtzious looked up and saw me.

We just sat there staring at each other for a moment, then she stood up and moved over to where we were sitting.

"Please pass me that piece of paper Phoebe," she said, holding out her hand. I placed the folded piece of paper into her palm and waited.

Slowly, she turned and walked back to her desk. There, she sat down and opened the piece of paper.

I waited for a reaction, but all she did was read both sides of the paper and then toss it into the recycling bin.

I glanced at Jenny, and gave her a look which meant 'I'll tell you later.' Then we turned our faces back to the front, where Ms Mourtzious was telling us what we would be doing throughout the school year.

Finally, after what seemed like forever, but was really only about fifteen minutes, the bell rang signaling the end of homegroup. We all stood up to leave, but Ms Mourtzious stopped us.

"Don't go anywhere girls," she said. "We have a year level assembly in the drama room now, so can you all make your way down there, and make sure the new girls don't get lost."

As soon as we were allowed to move, Jenny and I raced to the front of the room to catch up with Angela. Together the three of us made our way down to the drama room.

Ms Flynn's class was already down there, and we immediately spotted Lenore and Rachael sitting with an unfamiliar person.

"Hi Rachael, hi Lenore," I called as we sat down next to them. "Who's this?" I asked gesturing to the blonde girl sitting next to them.

"This is Ivy," explained Rachael. "She's new this year and Ms Flynn asked me to be her buddy or tour guide, whichever one you want to call it."

"Hi Ivy," I said. "I'm Phoebe, and these are Angela and Jenny," I gestured to each of them as I said their names.

Eventually, Ms Fletcher's class arrived and Hailey and Cathryn came over to us with another new girl.

"Hi guys," called Cathryn. "This is Julia, she's new and Ms Fletcher put me in charge of her until she knows her way around the school."

Julia waved shyly at us, and when she saw a Ivy, a wave of recognition shot across her face. "Ivy!" she yelped. "I haven't seen you in ages." She ran round the group, and flung herself at who was apparently a long-lost friend.

"Hi Julia," she said. "I haven't seen you since year four…" the two girls gossiped away about one thing or another. From what I could tell they had known each other since they were really little, and had gone to the same primary school. Then Ivy had moved schools to somewhere else and they hadn't seen each other since.

There was a noise from the front, and we saw that it was Ms Fletcher clearing her throat to get our attention. I noticed that while we had all been chatting, some other people had come into the room and had set up a projector screen which was now flashing photo's of various outdoor activities.

The lights were dimmed so we could see the screen better, and the presentations began.