Days pass in a blur in my school: Go to lessons, have lunch alone, more lessons, go home alone. And that's how I like it. I don't get bothered by Keira, Ashlin and Arianna anymore, and I guess they've given up on their attempts at a sort of friendship.
But everything good always has to come to an end.
The lunch hall is always crammed to the brim with teenagers and their teachers alike. Naturally, that means the queue is far too good to be interesting, so most of my time is spent daydreaming up ways to get to the front of the line. Like today. Right this minute in fact.
A large, heavy,weight slams at full force into my side, knocking me into the person in front like a domino. Ouch. The weight looks up at me, and extends a hand.
"Sorry," he apologises, as I gingerly take the hand and pick myself up. After staring into his cornflower blue eyes for a while, I let go, and suddenly feel much better, an elated feeling carrying me right through till I receive my meagre portion of food from the school cook.
Right through until someone bashes into me, and my tray knocks to the ground - spattering runny spaghetti all down my white blouse. My hands start shaking, my lip wobbling, my eyes downcast to keep myself from tearing apart. Through my lashes I see him, the weight who slammed into me shouting at another guy.
"What did you do that for? Whack her like that?"
The other boy sniffs. "Swot."
I blush, my cheeks gradually colouring crimson. I realise I don't exactly downplay my strengths, but I don't need to be teased for trying to stay true to myself.
"That's no excuse to shove her lunch down her front!"
I look up, surprised anyone is bothering to defend me of all people. I smile at the weight, my lips pulling up at the corners.
The boy who knocked me sullenly turns to face me. "Sorry."
I nod at him. "It's okay." And to the weight: "Thanks."
But whatever I say, whatever I do, an apology doesn't stop me running to the toilet and sobbing. Not hysterical, not uncontrollable, but deep heart wrenching cries I can't seem to stop. This was meant to be a fresh start for me, a new beginning. I don't want this to turn out like my last school. Or the one before that.
Someone comes into the bathroom, probably to sort out their lipstick in the mirrors. When I'm moving to wash my hands I generally can't even get through the throng of girls in my year who seem to haunt the spot, obsessed with their reflection.
I stay still, go very quiet. Maybe they haven't heard me. Maybe they just said hello to their friend.
I can't help it, I honestly can't - a small hiccup escapes my lips and I sigh before reverting back to my heaving, wheezing sobs.
"Um... Excuse me? I really don't think you're okay... If you just come out of the toilet I could help..." The voice is female, and seems friendly - though at the moment it's tentative and shy. I take a deep breath and slide the lock back.
Smoothing down my knee length navy skirt, I take a step out of the toilet to see the one and only Ashlin sitting next to the sinks. "Oh. It's you."
"What do you mean: it's me?" she asks shortly. She looks offended and I can't say I blame her - I don't think anyone's ever been disappointed to see her in her crystal clear, perfect life.
The life that, right now, I envy so badly.
The life I wish I had.
I shrug. "Not much. Just kind of wanted to be on my own a bit, you know?"
"No. I don't." She looks at my top and a look of understanding passes over her face, her delicate features wrinkling up in sympathy. "Hard time at your new school?"
I nod. "You think?"
She grins wryly. "On occasion." Her hand reaches out to pat my shoulder, albeit awkwardly. "Hey, look Ethel. I know you don't think I mean well... But seriously - I'm only trying to be nice! Keira, Arianna and I ... We know how it feels to be the new girl, trust me. And, honestly - we just want to help. But you won't let us..." She pouts, sticking out her bubblegum pink bottom lip. I can't help but feel guilty with that face staring at me, can't help but feel I've been unfair to her, to all three of them. When she invites me to her sleepover tonight, I can't help but say yes. Besides, it's Thursday night and I'm fifteen - I'll ring my mum to tell her and she'll be glad to have me off her hands till Friday.
Ashlin pumps her fist in the air triumphantly, cackling like a maniac. Her sapphire eyes glint mischievously as she hands me a wet tissue to wipe down my shirt. "It'll be awesome Ethel. Just you wait and see..."