On The Outskirts Of The Gang

Rosa is a pretty, self-conscious girl who wants to be cool. She's a bit afraid of Jessica, the most popular person in the entire year. As she clings on at the edge of Jessica's gang, she notices things that slowly make her realise that there is something odd going on...

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38. Thursday 4th November

I was watching myself getting ready for school. The Rosa in the mirror worked at a gentle pace, carefully smoothing down her uniform and fixing up her glossy black hair. I tried to push everything else to the back of my mind. Focusing only on the reflection, I thought, 'I wonder if I'll look the same this evening'. The apparent trick Jessica had with messing with people's looks... It could change me completely. I was, after all, going to shatter our friendship.

Walking to school, I was deliberately slow and dawdling. In no hurry to face the day, I made myself notice things. That flower's colour was rare and rich. That stone on the floor was an almost lilac shade. That front door - was Jessica's front door.

I reached my classroom and sat down an exact second before the bell rang. Perfect timing. There was no time for anybody to say something to me, and for that I was very grateful. I didn't think that I would be able to maintain a casual conversation. Not with such a big task looming ever closer.

During lessons, I listened more intently than ever before. I might as well leave a good image of my last day for the teachers to remember. My work - I made it as perfect as I could possibly manage. It was the least I could do to make up for my 'sudden' departure.

I spent the whole of break on the phone, using it as an important excuse for not talking to the gang. I rang Penny, then Sapphire, and even my mum. These calls just about got me through the entire time. It was essential that I avoided Jessica, Felicity, Katya, Imogen and Hattie completely until I was ready to give my explanation.

The clock seemed determined to race forwards. I willed it to ease off the speed, concentrating hard on all sorts of things to keep in regular time. If I was at all hurried into things then I was sure I wouldn't deliver my carefully planned words right. Everything and everyone must be patient with me for now.

At lunch, I savoured every tiny bite of food, dragging the process out as much as I could. I was sat on the end of a table that I had all to myself. I used other people to shield me whenever a member of the gang came in to the canteen, hunching over to make myself smaller. I needed the time on my own to practise my words in my head. It reminded me of learning the lines for Annie, running them over and over through my mind. This time, though, there would be a performance.

When school finally finished for the day, I rushed out of the classroom. I had decided to wait by the gates so that I would definitely see the others. Standing by the exit, I looked around at the school building, thinking to myself, 'I'll never have a school day here again.' It was so strange to think about it that I thought about scrapping my move, before I realised that I would be glad to leave. I was going to get a new start.

There was just one thing that I would have to do first.

Jessica's gang had emerged and were waving to me as they came closer. I gestured for them to step out of the flow of leaving students. They joined me by the side of the exit, smiling and chatting. Breaking off their conversation, Jessica spoke first.

"Hey, Rosa!" Her friendly grin showed her perfect teeth.

"Hi. There's something I need to tell you. It's important. Can you stick around for a bit to hear it?"

"Yeah, sure. What is it?" I certainly wouldn't miss the way she spoke for the others.

"Penny's still in hospital with her broken leg. She's a different girl now. She learnt from her mistakes and moved on."

"Yes. Is this really urgent? Because if that's what it's about..." Felicity interrupted me.

"Please listen to me. I know you were involved," I could see that they were going to protest and tried to cover,"in some way. I'm not saying you hurt her. I'm just saying that you won't get over it any time soon. The whole thing is probably my fault, I'm not blaming anyone else. So, I just want to go past this and I can't do that here."

"What are you trying to say, Rosa?" Katya asked. She was genuinely confused, not at all impatient or defensive. I took a deep breath.

"I'm saying that I'm moving schools. Tomorrow. This was my last day."

"You're leaving us?" Imogen was shocked, and I could tell from the others' expressions that they felt the same. Except Jessica, who of course expected it.

"I think I have to. When Penny comes back to school, I would see the hate in your faces for weeks. I don't feel annoyed at her any more. It would just make me irritated, and I don't want to have to be angry at you guys."

"So you and Penny are moving?"

"No, it's just me. Penny is a much stronger person than me, and way more understanding after what happened. I would be frustrated all the time. Nobody should have to face me in that mood. I'm moving to Herstony High."

"All your friends are here. Why leave?" Jessica was trying her weird mind-control act on me. I recognised the feeling from last time, the pull to doing what she wanted. This time, I could resist.

"I know one girl there. Her mum recently died of cancer and she doesn't have any particular friends at her school. She needs someone to be there for her if it's hard. I hope you can understand why I want to help."

"Well, if this sad little girly wants help, then it's fine for you to run off. To leave all your real friends." Jessica had switched into ice queen mode. The rest of the gang quickly changed their attitudes to back her up."

"Another thing that I don't like about being here is watching you control everybody. You boss them around like you own them. It's awful watching nice people get pushed down because you think that they're not as good as you."

"Excuse me? I don't do that. I never push anyone down."

"Really? Why don't I ask Megan Welder? Who definitely did not, by the way, trip on a stool."

"I didn't know you were so horrible! How can you even think those things?!" Jessica was getting angry. Very very angry.

"Because they're true. I don't know why I wanted to befriend you. Actually, I do - I was petrified of you. I didn't want to ever get on your bad side."

"Well, you've certainly made your point. I think you'd better give me that back." She ducked her head once, indicating towards my little gang badge.

"No." I tossed it into the bin. Jessica's eyes narrowed, glaring. "I don't think I've got anything else to say to you. Bye Katya. Bye Imogen." I nodded to them. "Hattie, Felicity." I glanced at each of them, before settling my gaze on Jessica. "Goodbye, Jessica." I filled my voice with frost. Swiftly, I sidestepped around all the girls and walked out of the exit.

That went well, didn't it?! At least they wouldn't bother phoning me after that.

When I got home, I ran to my room and stood in front of my mirror. To my relief, I looked the same as I had this morning. In fact, I was prettier. My hair had a better shine, my eyes were brighter and my skin looked even more healthy. It appeared that when I saw through Jessica, I lifted off whatever bizarre control she had over my appearance. That was something good I had got out of our argument.

I've finished everything that was left to do. Tomorrow will be a new beginning for me, and a much needed one. Next time I write, I will be telling you about my first day at Herstony. Until then, goodbye.

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