Ocean Girl

When Toby meets a mysterious girl on a trip to the beach, he is facinated by her. Years later he has almost forgotten about this girl until he gets a chance to meet her once more . . .


3. Puddles

Toby rushed down the corridor, leaving behind wet footprints from his soaking clothes. He turned into his classroom and suddenly found his feet slip from beneath him. He reached out his hands to grab onto something to try and steady himself, but no – too late – he found himself crashing to the floor.

The class exploded with giggles and insults were fired openly at him. He saw, with a sinking feeling in his stomach, that Austin had managed to capture the whole thing on his phone and knew that in a matter of minutes Toby’s fall would be posted all over Facebook. Well, that’s one way to enter the classroom, Toby thought dryly, picking himself up. He went to sit in the corner of the room, away from all the staring eyes.

He removed his sopping wet coat and tried to squeeze out all the water but it didn’t make much difference. Hoping that he wouldn’t end up smelling like a wet dog on the journey home, he stuffed it in his locker then sat back down. Everyone seemed to have got over their laughter and had got back to what they were doing before, but Toby knew that this wouldn’t be the last he heard of it. Most of the floor was drenched in water after almost thirty wet teenagers bringing the rain into the building. Most of the class were doing a pretty good job at ignoring the puddles, but it had to be him who managed to slip over and look like a fool, didn’t it?

Toby was so full of frustration that he didn’t realise who had walked in the room until Mr Verso said loudly, ‘I’d like you all to welcome a new member of the school into our class today.’

He reluctantly looked up and saw Mr Verso, a small Physics teacher with practically no hair left, going to sit behind his desk. Standing anxiously in front of the whiteboard was –

His jaw dropped.

His stomach lurched.

He almost cried out in surprise.

It couldn’t be.

But it was.

After all those years of searching, there she was – right there! – in front of him. She was staring around the classroom, obviously nervous, and trying not to make eye contact with anyone. He was sure it was her – no, he knew it was her: the Ocean Girl.

He then started to wonder whether the girl he had seen this morning really was the Ocean Girl. She was splattered with rain too, but most of it had landed on a waterproof jacket which was tucked under her arm. Her hair had started to work itself into a frizz from the damp air and he could feel the other girls in the class judging her harshly on first impressions. She was wearing a pleated skirt which was cut to just above her knee; it was the complete opposite to the trousers and mini-skirts that the rest of the girls wore. Toby felt immediately sorry for her – he knew that she would be picked on right from the first day.

She looked exactly like he remembered. Her face hadn’t changed at all and the agelessness of it allowed her to fit into a class of kids a third of the way through their fourth year at high school. Her hair fell down in dark clumps and she was smiling that same shy smile and biting her lip.

She looked a little different too. Her eyes, although silvery grey, didn’t have blue swirls around them. She didn’t have any waterish qualities about her either, like he remembered – but that might just be because she wasn’t standing knee high in water, Toby reasoned. Her skin was pale yet – as he had noticed that morning – had no green tinge to it. But despite these subtle differences, Toby was certain that she was the Ocean Girl.

‘This is Angelica, everyone,’ Mr Verso continued, ‘and I want you all to show her around and look out for her.’

He told her to go and sit next to Amy, who sighed audibly then gave her a forced smile. She sat in the spare seat beside her, while Amy continued her conversation with her friends on the table to her right.

Toby stared at the new girl. He didn’t care what anyone else thought; he couldn’t help it. Angelica, hey? Toby thought. He whispered her name to himself, rolling the sounds round his tongue. The name didn’t seem to suit her – it was too . . . too long, too fussy, too loud, too quirky? It didn’t sum up her mystery or her tenderness and for some reason it felt wrong. He had never considered the Ocean Girl having a name before and supposed that whatever name she had he wouldn’t like, but he couldn’t think of a name which suited her less.

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