Extract - Family Secrets


"Don't worry, Darling, it'll be fine."

Those were Mum's words two months ago. Boy how wrong can one person be? If she'd only known, she would have re-packed everything, told Dad to quit his new job and moved us right back to Scarborough so fast our heads would've spun!

Anyway, back to that morning. I stood in front of my dressing table mirror frantically brushing my static infested hair, but the more I brushed, the worse it got. My face had lost its usual colour and something like a ghost looked back at me. Dark rings circled my stinging eyes. I hadn't slept at all, worrying about starting my new school. Scowling at the brown mist swirling around me, I reached for my blue hair band just as the telephone rang.

"Rachel, it's for you! It's Samantha!"

Hurriedly strapping my demented hair into the band, I raced out of my room and bounced down the newly carpeted stairs.
Pouncing on the receiver, I jammed it to my ear and shouted, "Hi, Sam!"

"No need to deafen me, girl!" Sam's voice was just what I needed. "Ready for the first day?"

"As if! Like, I really want to start a new school in the middle of year ten, I don't think so! I'd rather be back there with you, or at least have you here with me."

"No way! I've seen the uniform. You wouldn't catch me dead in it!"

"I know, it's a real fashion statement." I glanced at my reflection in the hall mirror. "Red shirt and blue skirt, it makes me look like a short, fat clown. I know the old black and white uniform made me look like a penguin, but at least it was a slim penguin and that's better than a fat clown any day."

"Oh, yeah, sure, as if you could ever look fat."

"I do now I'm wearing this!"

"Yeah, well, serves you right for moving away from your best friend."

"Oh right, like I had a choice!" My brown eyes stared dejectedly back at me. I've always been small for my age but I looked even shorter with my shoulders slumped in misery. "I didn't want to be bundled down here to Rotherham. It might still be Yorkshire, but it's nothing like Scarborough. There's nothing to do, no sea, no friends, a bedroom with peeling wallpaper ..."

"It can't be all that bad, there must be summat good about it."

"Well, I suppose. There're flowers and trees and stuff and a few parks. Other than that it's like any other town really, houses, a town centre with shops and a library and the odd hunk here and there."

"Can't be that bad then."

I smiled. "I suppose it's got some good possibilities. Mum says there's some places to visit, but I don't know what they are, there's not been time for anything yet. I suppose it'll be better when I've got some friends to hang about with. I just miss you all so much. And I'm not looking forward to a school where everybody already knows everybody else. Where I'll stand out like a zit on a clear face!"

"Chill, girl, you'll not stand out that much, it's a big school, isn't it?"

I shrugged. "It looks big, Mum drove me past it last week to have a quick look but I couldn't see much with it being locked up for the hols. All I could see were the iron gates and brickwork that looks about a hundred years old."

"You should fit in well then!" Sam quipped. Before I could answer back a doorbell rang in the background and Sam continued, "Oh, it's Kate. Got to go. Text me at lunch and tell me how it's going."

"Yeah, okay, see you."

'See you', that's what I said, only I wouldn't, not for ages. Loneliness swallowed me up like a thick fog, smothering me as I replaced the receiver. I pictured my friends walking to school together without me while I'd be going on my own to a school where I was a total stranger. I'd never felt so alone in my whole life.

Half an hour later, I stood shivering outside the gates of Riverside Comprehensive. It was February and freezing. I pulled the collar up on my blazer and gazed past the huge iron gates at the throng of red and blue uniforms inside. My stomach heaved. I'd put on some makeup and at least looked almost human but it hadn't done anything for my courage. I swallowed hard. The double green doors of the main entrance were in the centre of the horseshoe shaped building but to get to them, I had to cross the minefield of bodies. Voices and laughter swept towards me like waves on the shore. They all knew each other and I knew nobody.

As I tried to pluck up courage to go in, my mobile beeped. Lifting it from my bag, I flipped it open.

"Go get em girl, u'l b ok. Txt me @ lunch.  Sam

"Will do, ta. Rach."

I shut the phone with a sad smile and dropped it back into my bag. It was just like Sam to try and cheer me up. I missed her sooo much.

"Come on, Rachel, let's get this over with. Get in there." My brain gave the orders and my legs reluctantly followed. Keeping my eyes down I watched my feet cross the concrete, each stride taking me towards the stone steps and relative safety of the main entrance.

I wove between huddled groups of teenagers. Most didn't notice me slipping quietly past, those who did just stared before resuming their conversations and that's just how I wanted it.

I'd almost reached my goal when a voice stopped me.

"Where do you think you're going?"

Hope evaporated. Travelling upwards my eyes took in the legs like tree trunks, broad hips and even broader shoulders of the female giant guarding the steps above me.

Suddenly all I could hear was the BOOM BOOM of my heart pounding. I felt like Matilda facing Miss Trunchbull and stammered, "I, I need to go inside."

Glaring down at me like an eagle eyeing its prey, Giant's sharp grey eyes glittered as she leaned forward, hands on hips.

"If you want to go inside, you've got to get past me."