I’ve been a pupil at St. Bart’s so long I sometimes forget what a normal school day is like.
Do they have to go through army drill assault courses in PE?
Do they have sofa’s in their canteen?
I moved here in year nine but I sometimes wonder when, if ever, I would have slipped up, been spotted by the scouting agents and given an invitation to come here.
Eventually, I would have snapped.
So in a way, I’m glad it was with Billy Jones.
I was walking home, chewing on a wad of bubble gum to keep myself entertained with no one to talk to. I remember it had been a hot yet cloudy day, the clouds blocking the suns light and seeming to trap the heat until I’d had to pull off my school jumper and stuff it in my school bag.
Turning down a narrow pathway that was sat snugly between the back of gardens, I sped up. It was infamously known for a being a bit of a back alley despite the flowers growing in the bushes on either side of me.
Then I heard a strange flick.
I turned and cursed myself for doing so when I found Billy Jones sauntering behind me, stupid swag walk and fag hanging out of his mouth limply, putting a lighter back in his pocket. He didn’t really know how to smoke it, just put it in his mouth and breathed through his nose.
It was all about reputation with Billy.
And he sure had an interesting one.
He bobbed his head at me, smiling around the cigarette.
“Hey, it’s Rose Silva.”
“Hi Billy.” I said in a monotone and carried on walking, gripping the handle of my bag and speeding up.
“Whoa not so fast. It’s rough around here, let me walk you home.”
“I’m nearly home, I’ll be fine. My dad’s a policeman.” I lied.
“Well I’m going that way anyway.” He limped along beside me and I tried to walk just a bit in front so I wouldn’t get the sour smoke blown in my face.
“What number you at?” He asked idly.
“The one round the corner.”
He had a reputation for a reason and I was hardly going to tell him where I lived.
“Oh, you won’t be all alone will you? I can join you if you’ll be lonely.” He threw me a smile, cigarette dangling off his lip, dark shadows under his eyes from staying out late, sallow, almost grey, skin and mad curly black hair that was shiny with grease.
He looked like a sad clown to me.
“No that’s alright, my parents will be home.”
“Shame, why don’t we pause here for a moment then. Savour the freedom. Drag?”
He’d held out the cigarette, sodden end and ash hanging off the tip. I thought it was strange how ash looked so cold, so much like dirty, crushed ice.
“No I’m alright and I better get home, Dad goes mental if I’m late.”
In truth they were both still working, it was the fact they were so out of reach that was making me so nervous. With the overcast day, no one was in the gardens that surrounded me.
I was completely alone with this sad clown who frightened me with how empty his eyes looked when he glanced at me. As if the blackness of his eyes was all he saw.
“I’m sure he’ll be fine. Here, sit down a moment.”
He grabbed my arm and dragged me to the floor where I landed heavily, scraping my elbows against a brick wall. I glanced towards the end of the alley, so close yet so far.
“You know, I heard you broke up with Brad.” He tossed the cigarette away and licked his cracked lips. “He’s a good friend of mine. What happened?”
Ah Brad. The pushy, controlling jerk I’d dumped as soon as he’d let me speak for long enough. But I was hardly going to tell Billy that.
I shrugged. “We just didn’t work out.”
Billy was chewing at the skin of his nails. “Really? He told me you were…unwelcoming. Closed up. You get me?”
I clenched my teeth, something hot and ugly starting to build in my chest. It felt sharp yet not solid, as if it were shocking or stinging my insides.
I shook my head but I “got” him.
I got him loud and clear.
And I had a bad feeling about where this was going.
“I need to get back.” I tried to stand but he grabbed my wrist, overgrown nails biting into the sensitive skin.
“You’re not going anywhere. I’ve come to collect what you wouldn’t give poor Brad.”
“Let. Go.” I said firmly, strangely I wasn’t scared, I was furious. The stinging, shocking ball of heat in my chest was growing and my vision tunnelled until I was focused solely on Billy’s face, so like a skeleton with the dark eyes and pale skin.
“I wasn’t asking.” He growled between his teeth. His beefy hand made a grab for my shoulder. That’s when the ball of heat began to grow smaller and I felt myself…emptying.
Billy cried out.
He writhed and screamed, tears streaming down his cheeks, leaving paler tracks like snail slime. I couldn’t look away, even when he eventually blacked out and fell still.
The heat had gone and my knees buckled at the sudden emptiness in my chest.
That’s when I’d heard the sirens.
Turns out there had been someone in the garden.
Billy had been rushed to hospital, but despite the numerous tests they’d carried out, they’d found nothing. I’d eventually been let out of the interrogation room and allowed home. It had been only a couple of days later I’d received the letter for St. Bart’s
I blink, coming back to the present. I was safe here, Billy couldn’t get me or my family. My parents had both been conveniently offered promotions at companies closer to the school and away from home.
Leo smiles, draping an arm around my shoulders while Roan strolls along beside me, hands in his pockets and lazily watching the other pupils dart out of his way.
“You zoned out. Where were you?”