Tina, Chloë, Ruby and Jasmine strolled out of their first period English class, spewing out all the words that had been held in through their hellish exam.

"Ugh, we have PE now," Chloë moaned, as Ruby began a monologue on the supposed horrors of question three.

Chloë turned round. "Yes, I understand completely." she stated with tired sarcasm.

Ruby simply smiled back.

They all clattered down the steps to the sports hall, PE bags swinging by their sides. For some reason, the department had decided it would be "A brilliant part of your learning journey" (the words of Mr Phyto himself) to amalgamate the boys and girls today into one big unwilling herd for today's lesson. It was rumoured that they would be doing table tennis.

"Oh, joy, we're with the boys today." Jasmine remarked dejectedly.

"I know right. How could they do such a thing?" Chloë replied.

"Tina, please don't say you're going to partner with Daniel," Ruby commented. Tina smiled.

"Don't worry; I'll stay with you guys."

The foursome reached the PE corridor, but only to find the old gymnasium taped off. Mr Phyto brushed past them and Tina was the first to ask.

"Sir, what's happened?" He gave a feeble start and a sheet of paper dropped to the ground from the pile of folders he was carrying. He maintained eye contact.

"Don't worry, they're just having a full clean up. Floors, equipment, everything. We're all in the new hall today." He said quickly, then reached down to pick up the stray form and replace it on the top of the pile. He lowered his head and swept away briskly. Tina thought she might have seen a familiar name on the piece of paper. Detentions, no doubt.

"Well at least that's something," Chloë called over before entering the changing rooms, holding the door. The other three girls followed behind.


"Hey Chloë, can I go with you?" Tina asked as she picked up a ball from the battered Celebrations tin.

"Sure," Chloë replied.

It took just a brief meeting of eyes for Jasmine and Ruby to make their decision. They edged through the two inches that were between them.

"Well, that was easy," Jasmine remarked. The others smiled back.

As they got to the tables they started up singles games. Everyone was just doing a warm up, but the games were already competitive. Tina observed a burly girl called Tara already protesting at her partner and gesturing heavily at the net. Phyto walked around like a dictator, assessing everyone's skills and giving advice on serves and how to "catch your opponent out".

Chloë smashed the ping pong ball and it hit Tina's neck causing her to collapse to the floor in fits of coughing. Chloë ran round the table screaming.

"Tina! I'm so sorry! Please don't die!" Tina sat up slightly, leaning on her elbows and being careful to not knock her nearly-healed hand.

"Don't worry! I'm not dead yet!" Mr Phyto walked over.

"Tina, get up off the floor and focus please."

"But sir!" Chloë protested, trying not to laugh, "She's dying!"

"Get up!" he insisted, "I'm not filling out any more paperwork today." Chloë offered her hand and Tina gratefully clasped it, pulling herself up. My Phyto turned and strolled away casually. Tina and Chloë got back into a game with every hit using unnecessary force. Meanwhile on the adjacent table, Jasmine and Ruby were gently tapping the ball over the net with as much caution as was necessary.

"Nice work Ruby. Great technique," Mr Phyto declared as he walked past. She curled her top lip slightly. Was that supposed to help? He wasn't even trying. She sighed as the ping pong ball gently bounced past her and fell onto the floor. It carried on rolling behind her. Ruby trailed after it and dodged Miss Huxley as she bustled in with a tall boy following in her wake. She stooped to pick up the ball and returned to her table, mildly interested in what was happening.

Miss Huxley and the boy went up to Mr Phyto and started talking. Tina was transfixed. Even from a distance she could tell that his voice was deep and masculine, and he had palish skin with light brown hair which looked perfect, not a hair out of place. His eyes were a golden, hazel colour, which gleamed unusually brightly under the lights. Jasmine leaned over to Chloë and said,

"Who's that tall boy?" Chloë pulled a face.

"I have no idea. Why don't you go say hi?" Chloë laughed while Jasmine blushed and looked horrified.

"No way!" Chloë laughed harder as they started a doubles match against Tina and Ruby. Mr Phyto led the new student to the table next to the foursome. Tina stared pointedly, and even Ruby turned a couple of glances his way. As he passed he noticed the group's blatant staring. Turning his head slightly, he winked at them over his shoulder, which only made them blush even harder.The girls picked up on their conversation as soon as they returned to rationality. Mr Phyto had joined the boy up with Liam, Ben and Ollie, who had started asking questions about how much he knew about table tennis.

"When I left my previous school, we had just learnt table tennis, so I know all the rules."

All the rules. Chloe and Tina looked somewhat impressed by this new arrival, while Jasmine and Ruby looked at each other for reassurance that his statement was outlandish.

Ollie held the ball and got ready to serve.

"So Bradley. You think you're any good?" Ollie asked competitively. Bradley moved into a squatting 'ready' position (mimicking Mr Phyto's earlier actions) beside Ben and got ready to play.

"I like to think so." he replied.

"Okay then," Ollie suddenly served quickly and unexpectedly. It flew fast and low across the table, hitting both sides. Anyone not expecting it would have completely faltered, but Bradley jumped back and smashed the ball back over the table in less than a second. The ball hit Ollie's side and went hurtling across the hall. The three boys stared at Bradley.

"Wow, that was wicked!" Ben said. Ollie went to retrieve the ball, obviously annoyed at having been shown up on his first shot. The boys played a whole match and eventually Bradley and Ben won eleven-two. Ollie and Liam could not believe they had lost. Like anyone dared win against them? Ben offered Bradley a bro-fist, but the taller boy looked slightly uncomfortable. He quickly smiled and returned it, barely meeting his hand with Ben's before the whole class was let out to get changed.

"Whoa, did you see Bradley? Completely owning Ollie and Liam. Ha! They so deserved that!" Chloë said happily to the other three girls. They were just grabbing their bags, about to make their way to French.

"Yeah, he was lightning quick," replied Tina.

"I wonder where he learnt to play like that. Surely schools aren't that good at teaching PE." Jasmine added.

"He was adequate," Ruby said, clearly not interested in someone who was possibly better than her in something. But it was only PE so she let it go quietly. Any other subject, was not acceptable.

When they got to French, Corey had been moved onto another table which was probably wise, but in his place sat Bradley. The girls smiled awkwardly as they shifted in their seats, trying hard to think of something to say.