That's life.

This is story about a girl, a boy, and the person that stands between them. It's about a brother, a useless aunt and a missing dad. It's about an overworked Mum, a twin and 7 year old that grew up too quickly. But most of all, it's a story about love, in all its forms, and the damage it can do.

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4. Stella

I glance at the calendar hanging in my bedroom.  It’s been 2 months since Dad was arrested, 6 days since we’ve moved here, 3 days since I met up with Maddie and an hour until I start school.  I don’t know why, but maths has always calmed me down.  As soon as I start counting, everything seems to make more sense.  At my old school, most of the girls thought I was weird for liking maths. They were all creative, good at English and Art and Tech. I on the other hand was good at maths and music, couldn’t write a poem to save my life and struggled to draw stick men. I check my school bag, then double check it. 2 notebooks, 4 pens, 3 pencils, a rubber, a ruler and a water bottle. I look at the clock and sigh. It’s only been 5 minutes since I last checked.  Suddenly my phone beeps, and grateful for a distraction, I check my messages:

 

U ready for schl? Meet me at the station at 5 past eight to get the ten past eight train. C u there xxx Maddie xD

 

I’ve only been on the train once before since we came here, to get our school uniform.  I did my best to make it fashionable, rolling up the grim grey skirt, shortening the black and grey tie and pinning badges on the black cardigan, but I still look like I’ve just stepped out of a funeral. The thought of funerals makes me want to throw up, so I grab the mirror and start applying mascara to my eye lashes, trying ignore the fact that my face is as pale as ever. I decide to leave my hair loose and it falls down to my hip, shining in the summer light.  I've never loved my bright auburn locks, but hey, at least it’s something to hide behind. I change my mind about my customised uniform, and roll down my skirt and unpin the badges. If I want to survive today, I need to be invisible. I know from my old school, when you first join, you’re immediately judged by what you look like, how you first act. If you blend into the background, you’re fine. But if there’s something different about you, you’ll get attention, whether you like it or not.

I grab my bag and head down the stairs, figuring that if I was going to get through today I should probably eat something. As I’m helping myself to musili, Sara stumbles into the kitchen, still in her pyjamas.

‘Why are you up so early?’ She groans, pressing buttons on a coffee machine she must have brought here from London.

I stop munching. I can’t believe how hopeless she’s being. ‘School, remember? It starts today?’ Sara looks confused as she stirs her coffee round and round with a teaspoon.

‘God, is that today? I forgot…’ She runs a hand through her messy hair, frowning.

‘Well, at least someone remembered!’ I snapped, and slammed my empty bowl on the counter. I don’t know how I’m going to survive 2 weeks living with her, never mind years. I stomp back up the stairs to check on Sam. I'm going to yell for him to come downstairs and eat something when I hear a strange noise coming from his room, and I look through a crack in his door to see what’s going on.  Sam’s sitting in the middle of the room, head in hands, crying. There’s a picture of Mum and Dad next to him. I haven’t seen Sam cry since he was about 8, but there he was, 12 years old, and sobbing his eyes out. I’m about to go in and comfort him when I realise that might not be a good idea. He might be embarrassed, and probably didn’t want anyone to see him crying like that. So I quietly go back down the stairs. 5 minutes later, he emerges, only slightly red eyed, and starts buttering bread. He looks up and gives me a small smile. Sometimes I forget that I’m not the only one in the world who can be sad.

After what seems like a lifetime, but is only 30 minutes, it’s time to leave. As we step out the door, I yell ‘We’re going now!’ but there’s no reply. Guessing Sara’s probably fallen back asleep, I sigh and make my way down the long road, with Sam at my side. We don’t speak, and the further we get down the road the queasier I feel. As we go further down the lane I can see a boy about my age opening his front door. He looks tall with short dark brown hair, and is smiling at a girl as she steps out the door. She’s  pretty, with shoulder length dark brown  hair, and looks basically like a female version of the boy. However, as I study their faces I can see that the boy’s looking at the girl with concern, as if something’s wrong. He then starts to talk urgently, and it sounds like he's asking her questions, his voice rising. The girl just shakes her head and pushes him away. She then takes two steps, and stumbles, her hair gleaming in the early morning sun as her body collapses onto the concrete.

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