I drew in a deep breath at the entrance door before I began walking down the main hall of the school. The new school.
I was a former student at a school in England, but my parents had decided to move away because of the riots that had begun rising there.
I did not know much because everyone was being very secretive about it. All I knew was that the English were almost at war with the Irish and that when a man came into my school and started shooting at all the students and teachers, my parents decided to move us away. Pull up all our roots within a week. It all went by incredibly fast - I barely got the chance to attend my best friend since kinder garden, Macy's, funeral before we were on a ship towards Isle of Man.
I guess they, my parents, never thought of that. That we were leaving everything behind. Every memory and every person that had ever been involved in our lives – we had never moved before. I had never known anything outside of Manchester. I had never even been to London.
So let’s just say that this entirely new change wasn’t something I appreciated. I liked it in Manchester. I liked the busyness of the people living there. You were never bored because there was always something to do, something to see, somewhere to go. And the fact that I had grown up with my best friend who was now dead, also had a little say in why I didn’t want to move away. All our memories together would be left behind. On the Island, there would be nothing to remind me of her. Nothing. From what I knew, it was a boring place, a closed community. I definitely would not fit in in a place like that.
This new school was nothing like my old, not that I had expected it to be. The halls were narrower. The windows were smaller. The doors were lower. The students were lesser. A lot lesser.
Everybody was hurrying to get to their classrooms while I stood rather awkwardly in the middle of their paths, not really knowing what to do with myself. Almost everyone I passed gave me a stare that in my mind looked like a ‘you don’t belong here’ stare, but probably wasn’t.
My head was one big buzz of voices talking and shouting to each other – a group of boys were yelling and throwing something into the air, above a smaller looking kid with glasses and bad posture who was trying to grab the object. I guess they had bullies on the Island as well.
A couple of girls stood in the hallway whispering together, the leader by the looks of it – a tall beauty with long blonde hair curled to perfection – laughing obnoxiously loud at something one of the other girls had said.
I shook my head in disgust. Cliques had never been my thing. I found the thought of being in something similar to a wolf pack, with a leader and all his or hers followers, repulsing. Everyone should be equal. No one should think they were worth more than others were. Macy and I had always just been, well… Macy and I. We never felt the need to join a clique – it was much more fun just to be yourself.
I began walking down the hallway in my worn out vans that I always wore – now along with the black and navy blue school uniform that was code. At my old school, uniform wasn't a code of conduct – we were allowed to wear whatever we wanted, and I can assure you that skirts and blazers was not my thing.
The one thing I’d been told to do was to report my presence at the principal’s office to retrieve my schedule for classes. I hadn’t signed up for any special classes besides the ones required, I hadn’t even bothered to look through the folder my parents had received in their mail.
The amount of students had begun thinning out and I found myself breathing in deeply at the sudden relieve of pressure. Crowds had never been my thing. I liked watching them but I didn’t like to be in the middle of it all.
Glancing to the sides as I walked, I noticed that every wall in the hall was bare, with no flag or symbol of either England or Ireland, like in other schools or public buildings.
Isle of Man is the only safe place we can go, Linda!, I recall my father telling my mother who was in tears at the point.
But William, our lives are here, we cannot just rip it all up and move away! It's just a small rebellion, it will end soon! , my mother had cried. I would have agreed with her, had it not been because I didn’t want them to notice I was eavesdropping. Then my father had run his hand through his messy mane of grey hair before telling her that the Irish were invading England, and that a war was beginning to rise. That it was an Irish man that had shot and killed all those people at my school. Who had killed Macy.
After that, my mother had kept quiet, and when they noticed me standing in the door they had sent each other these looks. The looks you give one another when you have said something you did not want your 17-year-old daughter to hear.
When a sign with the word ‘principal’ appeared on a door to my right, I got back to the real world and knocked on it a few times, my heart beating fast as a hummingbird’s.
“Come in,” a female voice said.
Carefully I opened the door and stepped inside. A woman about my mother’s age, maybe younger was seated at a huge mahogany desk in the middle of the room. Gigantic bookshelves covered the left as well as the right wall of the room, filled with old looking books in brown, red and golden covers. Above the desk hung a quite large chandelier, a bit too large for my liking, in what would seem like pure gold, but it couldn’t be. Could it?
The principal smiled welcoming and motioned for me to sit down on the chair across from her and the desk.
In complete silence, I took place in the chair and folded my hands in my lap.
“Jessie Adams, it is a pleasure to have you attend my school. My name is Alice Pearson and I am, as you see,” she motioned towards the little golden sign on her desk. “-Principal. How do you like the island so far?” she asked.
Her hair was pitch black, the kind that almost shone blue, and stick straight at least reaching down below the middle of her back. And her eyes. Her eyes were the sort of golden brown, almost yellow, just like. Honey.
“It’s quite lovely I think,” I answered. Actually, I hadn’t had much time to explore the island, other than our new house, and the local surroundings. None of these had any similarity to where we came from before.
“It is, isn’t it,” she mused. “I’d love if it stayed that way. You know about the war that is rising, don’t you, Jessie?”
That sounded more like a statement than a question.
“I know that you lost your best friend at your old school. You lost a lot of friends there. But I promise you that you are safe here.” She leaned in over the table and took my hand. It would have looked awkward if anyone else had done that but with her, it just looked graceful.
How did she know all this? Had my parents told her? Why did she have to bring up exactly that subject out of nowhere?
My eyes suddenly started burning, forcing me to look down at my lap while nodding. No one could see me cry. No one should. I hadn’t cried at Macy’s funeral. Why should I now.
“If you ever need someone to talk to about anything, my door is always open.” I continued my weak nodding.
“Good.” She smiled at me sweatly. Then she opened a drawer in the desk and drew out a piece of paper with the schools logo on it. “Here is your schedule. First class is, let me see… History. That is right down the hall to the right, third door on your right, I’m sure Mrs. Goulding won’t mind you being a little late,” she said and handed me the piece of paper with my schedule on it.
I got out of the chair and started heading for the door when she spoke up again.
“Have a nice day, Jessie. And remember, you can come to me anytime, with anything you need.”
“Thank you,” I said and nodded once towards her.
My old principal sure hadn’t been like that. He was a very serious and grim man, always in a suit and completely uninvolved and detached with his students. I guess you could say it was difficult to be involved with every pupil in a large school like the one in Manchester, but still.
Hurrying down the hallway to the room where History would be, I thought about the conversation I had just had with Miss Pearson.
Was the war really going to happen? Why had she asked me about it? It sure didn’t feel like the appropriate conversation to have with a 17-year-old pupil, but I guess she was just trying to comfort me.
Walking in my own thoughts, I didn’t notice the person walking towards me at as fast a pace as me, and of course we ran into each other, which resulted in me falling directly on my ass.
“Oh my god, I’m so sorry!” I stuttered and got to my feet, while the one I’d collided with tried the same.
“You should be!” the other person sneered back.
That made my eyes snap up from patting my crumbled skirt to look at the person before me. A tall, slender, but muscular boy, with wild brown hair and piercing green eyes.
“No need to be rude!” I snapped back, which made him look at me properly. The sarcastic look in his eyes dissolved and was replaced by a smirk.
“What do we have here, a feisty one.” He said, looking me up and down. “What’s your name, little bird?”
“I’m not your bird,” I snapped, trying to fold out my schedule, which had been crumbled in the fall. He just looked amused and not at all sorry for being rude.
He held his hands up in a surrendering gesture, but the pull at the corner of his mouth only made it look provoking.
“Well, excuse me,” he said sounding offended but not looking at all like he was. He still just looked amused. With that, he turned and disappeared around the corner.
God, what an ass hat.
I needed a second to collect myself before I could continue the way to class. This was the last thing I had needed.
With cheeks burning red but a normal heart rate, I started walking again. My hair swung soothingly back and forth across my back in the high ponytail it was in as it always was. At least one thing felt familiar and hadn’t changed.
Turning around a corner and finding the right door, I softly knocked and entered.
Every head seated in the room turned towards the door looking straight at me. Now I had red cheeks and my heart rate sped up making me a little lightheaded.
“Oh, you must be Miss Adams,” the teacher who was writing something on the blackboard, said smiling, when she realized none of her students were paying attention to her. She had round glasses, a round face, and curly hair that stood around her head like a lion’s mane.
“Yes,” I answered almost inaudibly.
“Class, this is Jessie Adams. She is a transfer from England, and will be attending this school from today.” The students in class didn’t even blink.
“You can take a seat where ever you like, Jessie. My name is Mrs Caroline Goulding by the way,” she said.
I nodded and turned to look for a seat clutching my schedule in my hands. I hadn’t received any books so I had nothing else to clutch desperately on to.
At my old school I had always been one of those kids that sat in the front of class actually caring about my education. But now, I didn’t really feel like being on show, so I chose a seat almost at the back of the room my eyes not leaving the ground. I couldn’t meet the eyes of anyone.
You could say I wasn’t the most outgoing person. I didn’t like changes. I liked my old life, and the chances of me coming to like this new one was zero.
I tried paying attention to what Mrs. Goulding was teaching, but it was hard with the continued whispers around me.
Being new at my former school wasn’t a big deal because there were transfers all the time, but I guessed that was a rare thing here.
“Psst,” a voice suddenly uttered right behind me. I turned my head slowly only to catch the eye of someone I had seen before. Of course, of course I had to be in the same class as Curly With an Attitude
“Pssst!” he continued louder and louder until almost everyone in a range of 2 meters had turned to stare at what was going on.
Afraid Mrs. Goulding would notice I finally reacted.
“What do you want?!” I hissed at him, closing my hands into tight fists.
“You’re attention,” he smirked shaking his head of curls. I vomited a little in my mouth.
“Well, you got it.” I sighed. Already now had I marked him as being annoying and not one I wanted to talk to.
“I want more of it.” I turned around again to stare at him. What kind of person said something like that? Pervert.
“That’s all you get, now leave me alone,” with that I turned back around in my seat facing the blackboard and tried to ignore him for the rest of the period.
But as soon as the bell rang he was at my desk placing two large hands on the ragged surface of it. Many years of usage and bored students was visible from the looks of it.
The curly haired boy grabbed my schedule out of my hands, staring at it intently as if it was the most interesting thing in the world.
“Oh what a coincidence,” he said sounding satisfied.
“What?” I frowned, taking the schedule from him looking at it myself.
“I’ll see you next period. And the next. And for the rest of the day actually,” he smirked rising up from leaning on my table.
I groaned. “Who are you even?”
“I won’t tell since you didn’t want to tell me your name earlier, little bird,” he said giving me an arrogant look.
“But you know my name now,” I exclaimed a little frustrated by him. Who did he think he was? I didn’t even know him.
“By coincidence, for that matter,” he made a dismissing gesture with his hand, and turned around to leave the classroom. “Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be late for class.”
With that he left the room leaving me sitting dumbfounded at my table.
When I caught up with him in the hallway a moment after, he shot me a smug look.
“Couldn’t find your way, little bird?” he smirked but luckily, he decided not to say anything else to me all the way to the next class, which I could only guess was chemistry judging by the looks of it.
Rows on rows with long tables were lined up through the room with gas burners, power supplies and other stuff attached to them. For as long as I could remember, I had always had a love/hate relationship with chemistry class. Sometimes it could be a little fun, even a little cool the things we learned but other times it could be the most boring time-wasting subject in school.
I took place in a seat near the window, trying not to notice the pouring rain outside. After all, we were still in Britain. The weather was just the same as in Manchester I guessed.
To my great despair, Curly decided to conquer the seat next to mine. Great.
“This is going to be so much fun,” he almost mused even though you could hear an undertone of something. “We could get to be lap-partners.” He winked at me, making me roll my eyes.
“Since we’re almost in the middle of a school year, you probably already have a lap partner. And if by chances you don’t, I guess you’ll have to continue being alone.”
He grinned showing a row of perfectly lined up white teeth. Definitely bleached. No one had teeth like that.
“I don’t think you will have a choice, bird.”
With those words, a round little man with a retrieving hairline and glass lenses the size of hockey pucks strolled in, dropping a stack of papers on the desk in the front of the classroom.
“Hello my dear students!” he smiled widely sounding very passionate. “We are going to have a test today!”
Every person besides me groaned out loudly. Curly even booed and threw the poor man a thumb’s down.
I couldn’t help smile into my sleeve.
“There, there, kids, we have been through this curriculum in the last couple of months so it shouldn’t be much of a problem for you, now should it. There even is a prize for the ones with the highest scores!” he mused clapping his hands together as if it made his words more exciting. It didn’t.
“So all I need you to do is to pair up, two and two and then we can get started.”
He almost hadn’t finished before every girl in the room had turned their heads towards me, staring at me eyes shining with hope.
It actually took me a couple of seconds to realize that it wasn’t me they were looking hopefully at. It was Curly.
I shot him a puzzled look, which he returned with a shrug and that never-ending smirk I really felt like wiping of his face.
Before any of the girls could get of their chairs and ask Curly to be their partner, his hand shot up into the air.
“I’m with new girl here,” he said loudly so that the teacher could hear. I froze in my seat.
The teacher looked up from his papers, adjusting his glasses.
“Oh, what do we have here, a new leaf to the branch. What is your name dear?”
My face turned red from the sudden attention from everyone in the room, including Curly’s intensive stare on me.
“Uhm… Jessie… Jessie Adams,” I spoke almost inaudibly. This sucked.
“Her name is Jessie Adams,” Curly repeated confidently and loud so that everyone could hear it. That made my cheeks even redder. Why did he have to be like that? So confident, I mean.
“Oh, oh,” the teacher mumbled, and stumbled over to where I sat. “A pleasure to meet you Miss. Adams. I am Dr. Baxter. Sherman Baxter that is, but you can call Mr Baxter,” he said looking at me with kind huge eyes behind his lenses. “Welcome to chemistry, I am sure you will have a lot of fun here!” Then he turned his attention towards Curly next to me. “And what a nice thing to offer, taking Miss Adams under your wings, Mr Styles. I won’t forget that,” he said laughing mildly and winking at Curly.
“It’s my duty to take care of a beautiful lady, am I right Mr B,” Curly joked and shot his hand out to high-five Mr Baxter. It took the poor man a while to realize that.
“It sure is!” Mr Baxter mused. “So nice to see young people acting like gentlemen. So nice.” Then he shuffled back up the desk.
“Has everyone found a partner? Yes? Fantastic. You can come up and retrieve a test and then you have the rest of this period to solve it. Remember the prize, my young folks!” He cheered an awkward fist in the air. No one reacted other than getting up to snatch a test paper.
Curly got ours, and sat down with a neutral face expression.
I looked at him with a judging stare, not knowing what to think of him. What kind of person was he? Clearly, he was very arrogant, sarcastic and dominating; I could tell just from the moment I met him.
“Do you like what you see,” he said, his eyes not leaving the test paper. A little tug was visible at the corner of his mouth.
“Does it look like I do?” I answered, scrunching up my face as if I smelled something bad.
“Well I just wondered since you were staring at me,” he chuckled resting the paper on the smooth surface of the desk.
“So, are you any good at chemistry or are you just all looks?”
I glared at him, while taking the quiz to look at the questions. They didn’t seem very hard, and I’d been through the subjects before. Most of them involved the periodic table.
“It’’s an easy test. Back where I come from, we had test on a higher level than this,” I said matter of fact not intending to sound superior. He huffed.
“Well, don’t mind me then.” He leaned back in his chair, eyes closed with his hands behind his head.
“You’re not going to help?” I asked a little annoyed. Another thing to add to his list - lazy.
“Not if I can avoid it, no. You seem to have it all sorted out, I’ll probably just be in the way,” he excused himself that smug smile still on his face.
I groaned inwardly, but started on the test without him. I decided only to write my own name on it, not his. Not that I knew what his name was besides ‘Styles’. What kind of name was that even? Styles. I huffed aloud without realizing.
He chuckled. “Am I getting on your nerves, little bird?”
I choose to ignore him and focus on the test instead.
“Are you really going to ignore me for the rest of the period? Well, good. I always liked my women silent and doing the work for me. Loud women have always been a bit of a pain in the ass you know. Always complaining about everything, never seeming to end. Silence is better. Silence and beauty is even better. I’m so glad we ran into each other, little bird, I’m sure we’ll become great friends-”
“Do you never shut up?!” I exclaimed loudly earning a couple stares from the people around us.
I had accidently pushed the pencil in my hand so hard that it had gone through the paper and the tip had broken off.
He grinned at me, showing teeth again. “Are you always this angry?”
I stared at the broken pencil. No, I was not always this angry. Actually, I was never angry. I haven’t been angry since I moved here, and ran into you, I thought to myself.
“No, I just can’t concentrate with your constant blabbering in my ear,” I said, answering another question on the test with what was left of the pencil. Five down, fifteen to go.
“I do not blabber,” he said closing his eyes again.
“Yes you do.”
“Teenage girls blabber. Do I look like a teenage girl?”
I took the opportunity to look at him. In the light shining in from the window his face stood out clear. Creamy white skin without a single imperfection. Soft looking full pink lips, pouting slightly in a natural way. His cheeks showed the beginning of what would turn out to be dimples if he smiled, and then I reached his eyes. Strong green orbs, with a lazy shine to them – the kind of eyes that showed nothing unless he wanted them too, but also eyes that could drown you if you stared into them for too long. Not to forget he had those kind of lashes that guys didn’t care about but girls would die for.
At last, there was his wild mane of curls, the colour of dark chocolate. I had never seen this kind of hairstyle on any guy, and if someone had tried to describe it for me, I would have laughed. However, it didn’t look the least bit ridiculous on this boy. It made him look sharp and interesting.
Not that I would ever admit any of these thoughts to him.
He looked at me as if he already knew exactly what I had been thinking, which I didn’t like at all.
“In fact, you do look a little bit like a teenage girl,” I stated, making his eyes widen for a split second.
He obviously hadn’t expected that.
Jessie 1 – Curly – 0.
“You know you weren’t actually supposed to answer that. It was a sarcastic question. Not literate,” he said, his tone neutral.
“Excuse me, Miss, from where I come from we don’t use sarcasm,” I lied.
“Oh my, that explains everything then doesn’t it?” he said. I had no idea what he meant, but he probably didn’t either. He just wanted to have the last word. Very mature.
I sighed and continued on the test in silence. Curly had apparently gone to sleep right there in his chair.
After about twenty minutes, I finished and was about to return the test back to Mr Baxter when Curly suddenly woke from his slumber and grabbed the paper out of my hands.
“I’ll return it. You shouldn’t do all the work am I right?” he winked at me before getting on his feet to return the paper.
But before he did so, he stopped at one of the front desks, borrowed a pencil from a ginger haired boy there and scribbled something on the test, before putting it in the stack of paper on Mr Baxters table.
On his way back down, he whistled carefree and slipped in next to me.
“What did you write on the paper? Did I make an error or something?” I asked confused. I was pretty sure every answer was correct.
“No, no it looked perfectly well; you just forgot to write my name on it next to yours. Honest mistake, but good that I saw it before it was too late right?” he smiled at me, but with a challenging in those horrible, horrible, beautiful eyes.
I gritted my teeth. “I didn’t forget.” I simply said, staring him dead in the eye.
“Oh, yes how silly of me. You wouldn’t know what name to write, because you don’t know my name.” He smacked his forehead with one of his large hands as if it was his fault.
“Yes, yes… That is the reason,” I rolled my eyes. What a dramaqueen.
“Well, it doesn’t matter now, problem solved.”
“Problem solved indeed,” I shot him the fakest smile I could manage, making him shake his head at me.
“You’re difficult you know that?” he said checking his fingernails.
“You don’t know me,” I simply answered. He didn’t know the first thing about me.
“I don’t but I will.”
It annoyed me that he sounded so sure of himself all the time.
“I don’t think so.”
“I think you find me a little bit intriguing. You just don’t want to admit it because you, little bird, are a very stubborn girl.” He leaned in over the table catching my eyes.
I laughed harshly at his words. “You? Intriguing? You have got to pull your head out of your ass for a second, so you can see that not every girl finds you… Intriguing.” He didn’t even blink at that, but just continued looking at me.
“And stop calling me that! you know my name and it’s not little bird! I’m not an animal,” I sighed exasperated.
“You know humans are animals, don’t you?”
I sighed deeply. “I give up.”
Before he could say anything else, Mr Baxter’s voice was audible.
“I have now found the test-winners,” he cheered earning everyone’s attention including Curly’s and mine.
He held up a basket filled with all sorts of sweets and chocolate.
“If…” he put the basket down to glance at the winning-test again, adjusting his glasses. “Uhm, If Jessie Adams and Harry styles will come up here I will hand them over, their prize,” he ended theatrically with a little wisp with his hand.
I looked at him intently, trying to see if the name suited him. It did. Even though Curly suited him better. But I guess you can’t go around calling people Curly.
“With a score of 20 out of 20, folks,” Mr Baxter almost shouted and clapped to get the others to join in on it. A few did while Harry and I made our ways to get our prize.
“So I believe this is actually my prize, since I did all the work,” I muttered on the way.
“Hey I encouraged you all the way through. We should split fairly – fifty/fifty.”
I almost snorted. “You must be out of your mind. Twenty/Eighty.”
“Thirty/seventy and that’s my last offer.”
He nodded in acceptance and took the basket from Mr Baxter who padded both of us on our backs.
The bell rang in the same second, and the classroom was deserted within seconds. That left Curly and me alone in the room.
“So. Your name is Harry Styles.” I stated, looking at him with amusement in my eyes. Finally someone spilled his name.
“It is indeed Harry Styles. Don’t overuse it now.” He chuckled and for the first time that day, he didn’t seem to make fun of me. At least for a couple of seconds.
“Well, since this prize is seventy percent yours,” he practically put the basket straight into my arms forcing me to take it. “You have the great honour of carrying it for the rest of the day until we hit lunch where we can share it.”
I almost couldn’t see him for all the plastic and ribbons attached to the basket. “Shotgun for that plate of chocolate right there, by the way. We should get going – English awaits us!” he hollered, an arm thrown in the air while exiting the room.
I had absolutely no idea whether I should laugh at him or slam my head against the wall. Instead of doing either, I just followed him to English class.
And maybe I smiled just a little.