'Oi! Goffs!'

The shout muscled its way through the still, evening air of the park, followed by an eruption of laughter in voices of both sexes. I took a deep breath and looked sideways at my best-friend Annabelle, who was sitting on the bench next to me. She was thumbing through the music on my phone in the dimming light.

'Nobs,' she said without looking up from the playlist.

A small gathering of girls of around fourteen years old, were draped over the low roundabout passing compliments back and forth and taking selfies as they poofed up their hair. They were the only other occupants of the park when we'd arrived. But it hadn't taken long for their preening to attract the attention of a group of passing boys who, in turn, wasted no time in trying to elicit some reciprocal interest by swaggering about and leaping on each other's backs to demonstrate their masculinity. Up until they'd yelled at us, their efforts had been ignored.

I shrugged. 'They're just trying to show off to those girls.'

Annabelle's tone was snippy with righteous indignation. 'Well, maybe they should have a bit more respect for social sub-groups like us and at least get it right. We're obviously Emos, not Goths.'

I drew another slow, deep breath and made no response to what was now becoming a regular declaration from Annabelle. Goth, Emo, it was all the same to me. I got my dark hair and light skin from my mum. That, combined with a habit of wearing practical clothes in muted shades might make someone who didn't know me think I'd manufactured my look in order to fit in somewhere. A conscious projection of an image with the intention of making a statement to the world and any fellow clique members who wore the same uniform. Annabelle, however, should have known better. She was perfectly aware that my colouring was nothing more than an accident of birth and my dress-sense - well, that was just camouflage, one that let me pass through life unnoticed. I was no part of any social group, sub or otherwise. Annabelle, however, had taken the embryonic idea of my style and run with it, albeit with more colour and heavier eyeliner. I could never work out if she did it out of admiration or from some flock-driven sense of safety in numbers - I didn't ask as, for both of us, it was too fragile a subject for discussion. I thought back to the time before Annabelle's transformation into whatever it was she wanted to call herself now.

I was five when my mum and I moved out of Gran's bungalow into the semi-detached house in Peterborough where we live now. The first time I saw our new neighbour from my bedroom window I flew down the stairs shouting about the golden princess living next door. My mum took me round to introduce us to the family and once Annabelle and I found that not only did we live next to each other, but that we had the same teacher at school, we decided to be best-friends forever. As I got older and developed an understanding of metaphor, I abandoned the childish idea of Annabelle being a fairy-tale character and began to see her as the personification of a summer's day. She had this radiance to her. She was all coppery skin, sky-blue eyes and masses of blonde hair. Both of her parents were fair and energetic and they passed on their impressive genes to their daughter. Sadly though, one person's Diana the Huntress is another's man-in-a-dress. It was just before we started our GCSEs that Annabelle began to notice she was bigger than the other girls in our year. When they all took turns trying on each other's shoes or jackets, as girls do, Annabelle could only look on and smile as she watched me join in. I would cringe every time someone exclaimed about my tiny feet or the skinny arms on my blazer. I could see she felt out of place. She went on one reckless diet after another as she tried to lose weight, never heeding my reassurances that she was beautiful and that tall and strong did not equate to fat. The worst part was the other kids. With her imposing build, a surname of Magnusson and the inevitable comparison to me - her ever-present and petite companion - she had to put up with taunts of 'Viking,' or even 'Thor' by some of the crueller ones. By the end of our last year of school, her summer's day had clouded over and been replaced by a version of my cloak-of-invisibility-wear. All that was left of her magnificent, sunshine hair that inspired such delight when I first saw her, was a sweeping fringe that fell over one eye. The rest, flowed down her back in an artificially-coloured river of inky black.

I re-directed my attention back to the present. The boys had given up on the wrestling and moved onto the swings. They were seeing who could jump the furthest once the seat reached its highest point. One of the girls was marking the landing spots with her foot, while the others cooed oohs and aahs at their bravery.

'Let's go,' I said. 'They'll just keep it up until one of those girls is impressed enough to let them stick their hands down her bra.'

Annabelle scowled and I could see the internal struggle between her defiant spirit that wanted her to march up to the morons and force them to understand how much damage words could do and the defeated girl that had learned hiding was the easiest course of action. After a moment, she nodded her agreement, unplugged her earbuds from my phone and handed it back to me.

'Got a date with Dracula then, Goffs?' came the shout as we stood up and began making our way across the open park. The route to the exit would mean walking straight past the swings.

'Don't,' I said hearing Annabelle's intake of breath and realising she was about to retort, 'just don't.'

Annabelle swallowed whatever she was going to say with reddening cheeks and wrapped protective arms around her middle as a second male voice spoke, in mock conversation with his mate, 'Well, it would have to be the skinny one, 'cause Dracula don't do fat birds.'

The resulting raucous laughter was drowned out by whoops as the first boy leapt from the seat of the swing at a point higher than the others had achieved and flew in an arc towards the ground.

I felt the involuntary movement of my fingernails digging into my palms as I watched his carefree antics. His casual intimidation of Annabelle and the resulting anguish it had caused made me sick. This idiot's mob-mentality tactics for scoring with a girl, would be, in Annabelle's mind, chalked up as yet further confirmation she was a hulking, unfeminine, brute.

The boy was nearing the grass now, limbs flailing, a huge grin on his face as he realised he was going to beat the best distance so far. I could see the spot where he was going to land and wished he could have just made it a little further; that way he might have cracked his stupid head open on the roundabout and sprayed the giggling girls with blood and brain juice.

Holding that parting image in my mind, I took a firm grip of Annabelle's bent elbow and pulled her along.

The thud from behind let me know he had landed on the grass; his screams told me it wasn't pretty. I lifted my eyes up to meet Annabelle's and we both turned to survey the carnage.

The source of the noise was blocked from sight by a huddle of crouched bodies. The girls had left their lounging spots on the roundabout and were pacing about with their hands pressed to their mouths and repeating, 'Oh my God,' to each other while they watched the group of lads who were tending to their friend. One of the boys, the one that had called Annabelle fat, started shouting at the others and pushing them back.

'Give him some bloody room, then.'

The crowd parted and I could see the boy on the ground. His screams had quietened into gasps and whimpers and he was lying on his back with one leg elevated. His foot was hanging down at an angle it should never have been able to reach.

'My ankle.' He was sobbing now. 'My fucking ankle.'

Most of them had their mobile phones out. Some were filming the boy's suffering, others were babbling to the person at the other end in urgent voices and at least three of them were calling for an ambulance. I guessed, by the sycophantic behaviour, that he was the leader of the group and each of them wanted to say they were responsible for getting him the help he needed.

'Ouch,' said Annabelle, wincing at the sight of the damaged joint, 'I bet that hurts.' She was smirking and I didn't blame her.

I shrugged. 'That's Karma for you.'

The boy rubbed at the tears on his face with the back of his hand and in a shaky voice said, 'Will one of yous get my mum?' He pulled a phone out of his pocket and dropped it on the ground beside him.

'Do you think we should try and help?' said Annabelle, a note of doubt softening the hardness in her voice.

Guilt at wishing the accident on the boy, nob or otherwise, began to grow inside me and the plea for his mother reminded me that despite the bigotry and ignorance he had shown earlier, he was still not much more than a child.

I watched as one of the girls positioned herself behind him, on her knees and in a show of possessiveness, lifted his head into her lap. 'I'll get her for you, mate,' she said, reaching for his phone. He smiled up at her, the unfamiliar proximity to a female body distracting him from the pain. 'Thanks babe. Tell her to be quick though, she's got my weed and this is well caning now.'

I snorted in contempt.

'I'll take that as a "no" then,' said Annabelle.