I flinch. I know she’s not going to hit me, we’ve got in arguments a hundred times before and she’s raised her hand – she’s never hit me in the face. But I flinch anyway.’
I put that because whenever you pick up a book at the shop there’s always a quote on the back, and because I’m trying to put off writing the blurb. I don’t know what to put.
This is just a book about me, Iris, and the things that I do, the friends I make, well, try to make, and everything else that happens to me – good, bad and, uh, very bad.
That sounds really boring but I promise, it’s much more extraordinary. I might seem normal, (well, not normal, a bit weird really), little Iris, but there’s so much more to it than that, more than most people can even begin to understand.
Whatever, I have more important things to talk about because this morning feels different. When I walk in everyone is gathered around Miss Paige’s desk, heckling around something like a gaggle of irritating seagulls. I walk straight past and sit down at my desk, putting my bag down in the chair next to me because no one ever sits in it anyway.
I want to stick my head in my book and try to forget all about my rubbish maths homework, but everyone is jabbering so loudly over each other. Instead I crane my head, trying to get a good look at the source of all the commotion. When I see her, this new girl, I kind of want to jump up and gaggle and jibber around her as well.
Right, I think we’ve already established that I’m the last person to ask if you want to know anything about cool, and you’d think I wouldn’t be able to recognise it, but I just can’t think of another way to describe her, she’s just so cool. Sitting on the teacher’s desk like she owns it, she swings her legs back and forward, with these amazing chunky black boots kicking into the desk. Yes, of course she isn’t wearing a school uniform (I don’t care who wears it, no one can look cool in red dungarees), but paint spattered jeans with rips, and a black button shirt tied on her hips. The clothes are fine, but it’s the rest of her that makes her look too fierce to care. She has inked black tattoos all the way up her arm (if you look you can even see them between her shirt and her jeans), all of these striking Celtic symbols. I have to admit I usually hate long hair, especially blonde hair; it’s so princess, and makes me think of little girls at twee tea parties. But her hair is different, dyed blue of all things. The blue is pulled through the blonde so it looks like her whole head is crowned in ice, with shimmering glass beads twisted into little plaits.
She looks at me, so I look away and back down at my book. I don’t want to be the weird kid that stares, so I don’t look at her again. I keep my eyes fixed on my book, reading the same sentence over and over and over. Although, call me crazy, I get the feeling she keeps looking over at me.
For once it’s a relief when Miss Paige walks in, because at least I’ll have something else to think about, even if it’s just another stuttering explanation of why, yet again, I have ‘failed to meet the requirements of an upstanding student’ as she would (and often does) say.
All the other students scuttle to their desks, but the new girl just stays where she is, yes, just sat on Miss Paige’s desk.
I see all this out of the corner of my eye because, silly as it is, I get it in my head that I can’t look at her. Since she caught me staring I feel like such a creeper. I get the feeling the new girl could just squash me flat in a second.
“Hi, I’m Lotus, your new student.” I hear her jump down off the desk, my eyes still glued to my book, even though it annoys Miss Paige when I read during lesson time.
“Ah yes.” Miss Paige bustles in, her baggy cardigan™ drooping off her shoulders so it almost looks like a duck-egg blue cape. “Now dear I know this is your first day but we still need to wear uniform, hm?” You see Miss Paige always ends her disapproving sentences with this kind of raised question mark. I should know, I am the queen of making Miss Paige disapprove.
“Whoops,” Lotus laughs, “Sorry Miss Paige, we only arrived two days ago. I’ll get one as soon as I can yeah.”
I hear footsteps, big confident strides, and I can see Lotus out of the corner of my eye. I swear she’s looking at me, and my knee jerk reaction is to put my book in front of my face. Yes, I know, like a toddler.
“Um, where are you going Lotus, hm?”
“Sitting down so we can get started.” I swear, I can feel Lotus still looking at me.
“I like a girl that’s eager to get started,” Miss Paige says as she pauses pointedly, “But aren’t you going to introduce yourself to the class first, hm?”
“Oh I already did that Miss Paige, no worries, I’ll just sit down – here.”
I feel Lotus standing next to me, and glance out the corner of my eye to see her grinning at me. I blink and look away, frozen solid. I wonder if she wants me to move my bag. But how can she really want to sit next to me, I mean, I am obviously a bit of a loser since I can’t even look at her properly.
“Right.” Miss Paige stumbles, clearly not expecting to be completely ignored, “Well class Lotus has just moved here from London, isn’t that exciting?”
“More exciting when Lotus told us about it.” I hear Melissa mutter in the back, making her little gaggle chuckle. Then she raises her voice. “Hey Lotus, there’s a seat back here for you, come sit with us.”
Right before you ask, yes, it is pretty normal for the class to walk all over Miss Paige like this; she is a bit rubbish.
As for what I’m doing? I think you’ve already guessed, I’m still not moving, I just stay with my head stuck in my book. Waiting for Lotus to walk past me and sit with Melissa. I know in the next few days she’ll have her uniform and she’ll just morph into part of that gaggle of girls.
“No thanks,” Lotus says casually, “I’ll sit here.”
I finally look up at her to see her looking pointedly from me to my bag. I grab it and pull it onto the floor beside me, feeling even stupider now because, why (seriously, why!) did I not move it earlier? I want to apologise, but I can’t seem to make words in my head, just a kind of faint gibbering noises, so I keep my mouth shut.
Lotus just slides into the seat next to me smiling and stretching her legs out.
The class takes a cue from Melissa and just starts to talk over Miss Paige. But at our table, mine and Lotus’, we’re just silent, and despite the noise around us I can hear the silence between us. I want to fill it so much; I really want to say something interesting (and preferably really funny), but I feel so tongue tied and I don’t know what to do.
“I’m Lotus.” she says again. Great, she must think I’m an idiot if I need simple things that were announced to the whole class re-iterated specially for me.
“Yeah.” I say, shrugging my shoulders. I don’t want to explain to her that I’m not an idiot, nor do I want to pretend like I didn’t already know her name.
Silence settles on us again.
“And your name?”
“Iris.” I just about manage to blurt out. I’m thoroughly ashamed of only being able to manage mumbling agreements and my own name.
“That’s so cool, I’ve never heard that name before.”
I shrug, because she is obviously lying. My name is not cool; it belongs to an old woman who spends her days crocheting tea-cosies.
“Both of our names are flowers. That’s awesome. Lotus and Iris.” I savour her saying our names together, almost like we’re an awesome duo. “In my last school we had clubs and stuff. We’d be something like Flower Power, you know, with our names.”
I blink at her.
Girls here have faux “clubs” too of course. I’m not in any of them, and I’ve never wanted to be. They don’t do anything; they just kind of declare themselves a “club”, then someone might make a “club” badge, and that’s it. Sometimes it’s different when they want to keep secrets, then only “club members” can know. They’ll gaggle around each other and exclude anyone who isn’t in the “club”.
I’ve always hated it and thought it stupid, but I would hand-draw a million club badges to be in one with Lotus.
Why am I acting like an uncaring mute then? Well because I’m scared, I don’t know what to do. People usually make fun of what I say, and I’m scared the second I open my mouth Lotus will do the same.
I’ve left it too long.
“You’re right,” Lotus says, cool as anything even though she’s a little red. “That is a bit silly. Clubs are a bit young for us now.”
Miss Paige manages to finally get the class under her control, and we have to pull out our maths books. I slip mine out of my bag and onto the desk, not even opening it. The scribbles Waltz made are so big that Miss Paige would probably see them from the front of the class.
“Right Class, we’re going to go round the room, and give an answer each. So let’s start at the back. Patrick, what did you get for question one?”
I can feel a snake coiling in the pit of my stomach. I hate it when Miss Paige does this. Especially now, as I don’t have an answer to read out, even a wrong one.
Lotus disappears from my head as I count the number of people ahead of me. I calculate that I have to answer question nine. I crack open my exercise book just a little so I can just see inside and scan the pages. Evidently even Waltz got bored by nine. All he’s done is written the number nine, and given it an antenna and a dinosaur tail. Fantastic.
I feel like it’s that moment you get in books, where all is lost, and the villain has set up their evil trap, and it’s closing around the hero, but there’s nothing they can do about it, as they slide into quick sand or move along a conveyor belt towards a death machine. Well, I imagine that’s the same as how I feel, even though I’ve never been stuck in quick sand or a death machine. I think I would rather that than be in maths class though.
See, this is why I’m so weird; most people would have tried to work out their questions quick as a wink before their turn came round, but I just sit here rambling about villains and quick sand rather than doing something, I don’t know, useful.
But then it gets worse, when Miss Paige comes to me. She opens her mouth and looks over me, her eyes sliding on to William at the next desk. She asks him for number nine instead. I can hear this kind of ghostly giggle running through the class room.
“Miss, you forgot Iris.”
I don’t think she did it to be mean, I really don’t. I mean Lotus hasn’t been around long enough to know what an idiot I am. I really think she was trying to help. But the snickers do get louder.
Miss Paige was obviously not expecting to be called out, especially when we both know she hasn’t forgotten me; she just doesn’t want to have to deal with my answer. She blushes, giggles and apologizes, then asks me for number nine. I swear I can see a flicker in her eyes, kind of like she’s laughing, but maybe I’m just paranoid.
Everyone else is giggling openly now. I sit there sullenly, blinking at my maths book and trying to look like I’m not about to burst into tears and that I don’t care. I can’t stop myself going red though.
I take a side long glance at Lotus, who’s just looking really bewildered. To be fair, no one else has such a big song and dance made out of their question, even if they get it wrong.
“I couldn’t be bothered to do it Miss Paige.”
My voice doesn’t even crack, and it actually comes out a lot fiercer than I expected it to. It even makes everyone go quiet. I stick my chin in the air to give myself a defiant face to match the voice.
Miss Paige clearly doesn’t know how to deal with this either. That little amused flicker in her eyes is gone. I can almost see her brain cogs ticking, wondering if she can put me in my place, or whether she wants to risk another outburst.
In the end she stutter mumbles something like, “Well make sure you can ’be bothered’ next time, hm?” She then actually does move on to William.
I can feel everyone’s eyes on me. Stunned. I’m not usually like that; usually I just roll over and stammer and make everyone laugh (not in a good way). But today, I don’t know, I’m kind of aware of Lotus beside me; I don’t want her to think of me the way everyone else does.
I glance at her out of the corner of my eye, and she gives me a thumbs up. I manage a weak smile and a little nod back. I tell myself at break time I’m going to stay behind at get to know Lotus.
About the Author:
I’m Toni, the mug on the right.
I hope you’ve already had a read of my books and games and enjoyed them, for anyone who doesn’t know I write Interactive and Middle Grade Fiction. The Interactive is usually in the fun romance way of things. My Middle Grade Fiction is character driven stuff, usually aimed at young people.
Anyone who follows any account that I own will have probably seen my dog – Caspian (I am, like every other author in the world, a fan of C.S.Lewis). I’m also a bit of a fitness buff, I dress make, have a soft spot for board games and read (I know, an unusual hobby for a writer.)
I’m lucky enough to be able to write full time now, so taking on more projects every day. Hope you all find you love reading them as much as I enjoy working on them.