Life lessons were always the lessons my year looked forward to.
There were several reasons for this: A, our Life teacher was insanely attractive and young and awesome. B, there was not a single Life exam to revise for at the end of the year and so C, Life was just a perfect excuse to mess around and do absolutely nothing.
You can imagine my delight when it happened to be that particular day of the fortnight (not that I was counting down days or anything).
The debates were everyone’s favourite part of the lessons because it almost always ended up with two people ranting across the classroom at each other; sometimes with a pair storming out to cool off (and occasionally resulting with a crazy fight in the school corridor outside).
Today’s debate was Feminists. It was a topic I looked forward to debating about for a while, seeing as Luke, my partner was a very defensive feminist. To Luke, about a quarter of my Life class were “narrow-minded fools” that needed their “eyes opened” and in a way, I sort of respected the fact that he could say this so openly in front of everyone without caring about the their reactions.
Luke made his way to be the least stereotypical guy possible, refusing to agree with the idea that only girls wore makeup (by wearing eyeliner, which he somehow managed to pull off) and refusing to follow the baggy jeans/show your underwear trend that literally every other boy had going on at the moment. He’s also insanely smart and witty, and wouldn’t pause to make those who deserved it, look even more stupid.
As a result, his sexual orientation is frequently used to insult him, which he often exclaims just shows “yet more problems in society”. Basically, he couldn’t care less.
But he’s not exactly the most liked member of the class, and on my first day, I pitied the fact that he was as usual, sat by himself. So I decided I’d sit next to him and basically made the best decision I ever made.
That lesson I watched him as he sat down, noticing the way the corner of his mouth twitched into a smirk when he spotted the word Feminists written on the board in Mr Hanks, scrawly, tiny handwriting.
“Is it me, or are we going to find this debate particularly more interesting than usual?” I grinned.
“I dunno. I have a feeling this lesson is going to be pretty boring,” he replied, and we both snorted at the exact time.
Mr Hanks raised an eyebrow comically at our direction. “Do you two get along so well you even sync your sneezes now?” He joked.
The class laughed and a few wolf-whistled.
“Get in there, guyliner,” somebody called.
“Anyway. I must say class, I put a lot of thought in whether or not we were going to have a debate on this, due to the uproar that will almost certainly happen at some point sooner or later.” Mr Hanks cast a glance at the two of us. “But then I realised that this is a pretty important topic on our society.”
Luke nodded determinedly.
“So, is there anything anyone would like to start the topic off with?” He asked.
“Sexism needs to stop,” Luke called out.
“True that,” I added.
“Explain?” Sir tested.
Luke raised his eyebrows as if to say, “where do I start?”
“Well.” He began. “I don’t understand how people still don’t notice, or even worse, see a problem in the fact that some girls still think that their main goal in life is to be sweet and pretty so that a handsome prince can save them. The fact that many girls simply wear makeup to impress boys rather than express themselves. The fact that some girls would rather be a receptionist or a hairdresser than, like and engineer or something. The fact that guys are treated like a god if they sleep around whilst girls are called dirty sluts-”
“Good point Luke,” he interrupted. “…But try to keep the bad language out, we don’t need a repeat of last week.”
“It was relevant sir-”
“Sir?” A girl called Amanda asked - both me and Luke agreed she was the blondest a person could possibly be, without actually being blonde.
“Yes Amanda?” He answered, flipping the board rubber in the air and catching it, rather impressively.
Amanda flipped her hair. “It’s a bit unfair Luke saying that being a hairdresser is a bad choice for a career.”
I rolled my eyes. “But did he even say that Mandy?” I tested, narrowing my eyebrows threateningly.
“Did he even say that, Amanda?”
“Well then, don’t say I did!” Luke concluded.
“We’re just saying that girls and boys shouldn’t be expected to have different career choices based on their gender.” I defended.
A boy called James called out: “Well guys and girls should like different things anyway.”
“They can doesn’t mean they should!”
Amanda narrowed her surprisingly untamed eyebrows. (You’d think she spent so much time straightening her frizzled hair every morning that she’s at least give those bad boys a wax).
“But… you were making it seem like becoming a hairdresser is a bad thing-!”
“Okay that’s enough guys,” Mr Hanks clapped his hands together.
But he was completely ignored when Luke snarled: “no I didn’t!”
I shrugged, “I’m a girl and I’d rather design planes.”
“Well I’d rather cut hair,” Amanda remarked smugly.
“Well, have fun sweeping the floor and making cups of tea for the rest of your life,” Luke snorted.
By this point the class were laughing again and were only silenced when Mr Hanks eventually yelled, “enough!”
He sighed and shook his head. “Honestly guys. There is nothing wrong with hairdressers, and there’s nothing wrong with engineers. Amanda would rather be a hairdresser and that’s fantastic, Varian would rather be an engineer and that’s also fantastic. Both are fantastic, got it?”
I spotted him smirk a little as he turned to the whiteboard to brainstorm our comments. To be honest, I wasn’t that surprised that Mr Hanks - although he would never admit it - was slightly lenient to mine and Luke’s opinions.
Amanda by this point was either incredibly constipated, or incredibly infuriated. (From the recent class humiliation, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the latter, and that she was trying to think of all the types of furniture she could make out of Luke’s bones once she had killed him).
She stared down at her desk in concentration as if her life depended on it whilst she added her own contribution to her vandalised desk. I sniggered at the thought of what she may be writing - something which would most likely be about Luke, or even me if I was lucky.
However, as I often prided the fact that I was quite a perceptive person; I noticed Amanda’s lip wobbling slightly, which for the first time that afternoon suggested that perhaps there was something about her which she was far too proud to show off.
I would be lying if I said that Amanda was a stereotypical, dumb blonde; for a start, she wasn’t blonde, but more importantly she wasn’t dumb; she had higher grades than me in literally every subject and was surprisingly witty when she wanted to be. The surface view of her – the dumb stereotype – seemed very deliberate, and couldn’t help but wonder whether there was a reason for this.
“…Anyway!” Mr Hanks suddenly exclaimed, causing me to jump a bit out of my seat. “Since you guys have cooled down a bit, shall we continue with the debate? Perhaps with a few less insults thrown at each other this time?”
Luke sat up eagerly.
My hand shot up instantly.
He raised an eyebrow at us, “Guys, do you not think that you should allow other members of the class to contribute?”
“But… nobody else is contributing with anything.” Luke frowned.
“That’s because you’re not letting us get a single word in!” James called out again. “No offence Luke, but what we have to say is equally important.”
I caught Amanda smirking smugly at Luke’s obvious frustration.
“I mean… you act as if you’re superior or something.”
“I don’t think I’m superior. I’m just right.” Luke snapped defensively. “Half of this class have no clue what they’re talking about – you just mention a word with the word “sex” in it and half of you are giggling like a group of primary school kids.”
Amanda rolled her eyes. “Jesus Luke, why should it even bother you so much how girls act? You’re a guy so why should it bother you?” But then she paused, and smirked. “Unless you’re not exactly what you say you are. If you get what I mean.”
A few giggled uncertainly at the silence that followed afterwards. Luke closed his eyes, clawed his hands through his hair and sighed heavily. Then he opened his eyes and began to clap slowly.
“Well done, Mandy-”
“Well done Amanda, I applaude you. You successful brought up yet another problem in society. The fact that you’re trying to imply I’m a girl just to insult me, just shows how distorted our perception of equality is. You are just another example of why society it the hell-hole it is today. Well done, Mandy.”
“For the love of God, it’s Amanda, idiot!”
“Either way, both names sound stupid-“
“Guys! Guys!” Mr Hanks exclaimed, “why must I always remind you that this is a debate and not an opportunity to throw random insults at people?”
“I wouldn’t go as far as calling Amanda a person,” I muttered.
Amanda let out a parrot-like screech.
“Guys, quiet okay? The pair of you have put your opinions across very persuasively, but now I want the rest of the class to contribute.”
In an instant, Amanda raised her manicured, razor sharp talons in the air.
“Amanda.” Mr Hanks nodded.
“I strongly disagree with the ideas of sexism in society,” she stated. “As far as I’m concerned, unlike the past, we barely have sexism nowadays. To be honest, there’s always going to be somebody who wants to make a big deal out of something,” she remarked, giving a very deliberate glance in our direction.
I mimicked Luke, clenching my fists to make them shake and by gritting my teeth.
Amanda continued to have the same, infuriating expression, so I pictured high-fiving her. In the face. With a brick.
The bizarre image caused me to let out a loud, uncontrollable giggle, making the whole class turn to me in surprise.
Luke raised an eyebrow at me in confusion.
Whoops. That was out of character.
I forced myself to remain focused for the rest of the debate, fidgeting uncomfortably at such a strange, unpredictable outburst.
What even was that?
I glanced around the class, searching their expressions in hope to have an idea of what they thought of my weird actions, but they seemed to have returned their attentions back to the debate, which was now going on between two unnamed members of the class I hadn’t bothered to get to know yet.
It was then when the very same, unexpected person caught my eye.
I couldn’t believe I had spotted her again.
Before I had never even noticed she was in the same Life lesson as me, but here she was… laughing. And I know what you’re thinking. Seriously Varian, most people laugh - you nutcase.
I dunno, I guess it would have been totally normal to see her laugh if I wasn’t so used to her completely confusing expressions.
And this was the point when I realised I was 99.99998% close to becoming a stalker.
It wasn’t that I fancied her or anything, it’s just that I found her a bit confusing; how was it that I only just began to notice her everywhere?
I experienced a shove in my direction by a certain wannabe-blonde after class, but I didn’t hesitate about giving her an equally powerful shove back, causing her arms to spiral round like windmills.
“How was Life?” Lauren asked, who waited outside class.
“Life in general?” I humoured. “Torture – school being the main reason.”
* * *
You know what my favourite part of Saturday mornings are? Probably having Mum as an alarm clock every morning at the crack of dawn, and being forced listen to her whilst she does her weird hippy, yoga routine.
Bizarrely, I used to join in with her weird routine, simply because I believed in all the crap she said about it (I seriously thought if I became so in tune with myself that I’d be able to teleport or something).
I grown to hate the crazy routine pretty quickly, mainly due to the fact it made me bored as hell.
Now I just prefer to stay in bed as much as possible. To be honest the only valid excuse to get out of bed is to raid the cupboards for chocolate, and that’s if it’s not the organic rubbish Mum usually buys.
Mum’s all crazy about healthy eating; as well as having a healthy mind; she insists that we just eat loads of organic junk rather than get the processed stuff that everyone else gets.
On this particular Saturday morning, I was raiding the cupboards in search for chocolate – decent chocolate. And eventually I settled for an apple, seeing as even fruit tasted significantly better than our organic health bars. Returning from the kitchen, I spotted Mum doing her weird yoga fitness workout. Bearing in mind she had her 100% focused, serious routine workout face, I did a pretty good job at concealing my amusement.
“Varian.” Mum called as she stretched, rather impressively towards her toes.
“Are you doing anything next weekend?”
“Good. I need you to help me with the organic fair on Saturday. Mandy’s decided to completely reschedule her hiking trip to that very day, and so I’m afraid I’m a few hands short.”
“Yeah. Well, Bob’s working on Saturday. So why don’t you invite that friend of yours? You know, the dark one?”
“Yeah, ask her. She seems like she’d be into organic food.”
I was pretty sure Lauren was the least healthy person I knew. The amount of snacks and junk she could eat throughout the day was crazy, and to be honest I slightly envied the fact that she could eat like a pig, yet still have a stomach as flat as a pancake.
“Hmmm, yeah,” I said eventually. “I’ll catch up with you on that one then.”
I left Mum to continue her workout as I stifled back a laugh.
I rolled back under my covers, trying to muffle my ears as much as I could with my pillow, and then stared at the swirls on my ceiling until they blurred. Downstairs Mum’s workout music was still blasting. I groaned.
The swirls reminded me a little of the sea; the tiny ripples of waves before the reached the shore. I pictured myself in the sea, paddling along the water’s edge, my feet sinking into the sand. The waves rushed past my feet, causing tiny pieces of sediment to swirl around my ankles like whirlpools.
I exhaled heavily, longing to be away from the noise and pandemonium and for once be somewhere silent and peaceful, where I wouldn’t be questioned about the meaning of life or asked to join in with some weird yoga workout.
And then I realised how boring that would be and how much my life would suck just having myself for company.
Moments later Mum burst in, asking whether I wanted a vegetarian fried crunchy okra or bean and potato hash for lunch (unfortunately Mum’s strongly against eating meat, something that Lauren seriously struggles to understand), yet for some reason I pondered for a while, just like Mum would, over the extremely important decision.
“I think I’ll go with the bean and potato hash,” I concluded eventually, and Mum nodded, remarking on my good choice.
Seeing as there was little else to do, I grabbed my Samsung Galaxy, deciding to ask Lauren whether or not she wanted to endure a whole day of torture with me next Saturday, just for morale support.
I flipped the Samsung Galaxy with a careless attempt of catching it, causing it to skid across the splintered floorboards. I shrugged, just like any spoilt middle class teenager would.
It was strange to think that only years ago I’d probably self destruct to see it crash against the floor in such a way. Then again, that was when most people still had flip phones and touch screen smart phones were seen as bizarre futuristic devices that most of the chavs in the area couldn’t afford anyway.
I decided pretty soon after moving that becoming friends with Lauren was one of the best decisions I made in a while (believe me; I’ve made quite a few bad decisions. Agreeing to move here being one of them).
Aside the fact that she was more interesting than many friends I made at my old schools - unlike most people I’ve met, she wasn’t shallow, two-faced or boring – she also isn’t that sort of person that prefers to stay at home for the weekend and do sod all. Being one of those people that are completely unmotivated to do absolutely anything, I kind of admire how, whatever the event, she’ll be up for it, even if it was just to help out at a horribly boring organic fair and dressing up in a horribly degrading carrot suit.
She also responds to her texts super quickly, which of course is a plus.
Sounds… fun, she replied, As long as there aren’t any photos of us on Facebook afterwards, I’m in.
Don’t worry there will be PLENTY of photos of Facebook, I replied, grinning.
They’ll be profile pic worthy
I snorted. I can see it now. 100+ likes for our carrot profile pictures.
We’d still be less orange than Amanda though judging by her most recent profile pic which she got 221 likes for btw!?
Well… NOBODY can be more orange than Amanda.
True that. Amanda: Queen of Orange
Don’t you mean? Amanda: Queen of Orange and Blondes that Aren’t Actually Blonde
No. Amanda: Queen of Orange and Blondes that Aren’t Actually Blonde with Frizzled Hair and Bushy Eyebrows
By this point I was gasping for breath and Mum had to come in to confirm that I was laughing and not actually dying.
Then she told me that apparently this friend of mum’s was visiting us next weekend to help out next weekend, and seeing as Mum insisted that the two of us were very similar, I was pretty keen to meet this guy. I couldn’t help but wonder what Mum meant by us being similar; unless this guy was a chameleon just like me, I highly doubted that we were alike.
In fact I don’t think I have much in common with anyone - how can I when I have little to relate to people with?
It made me wonder whether or not my mother actually knew anything about me, or did she like everyone else, believe that I was just like her?
In that case that probably meant the he was a lot like Mum, in which case, I began to brace myself for next Saturday because having one Mum is bad enough, with her weird hippies regimes and her crazy quirks.
Sometimes I longed for a lazy Mum that would rather stay at home and watch Coronation Street than do anything remotely challenging – I would certainly have no problem with it, seeing as doing absolutely nothing was my second main source of entertainment (I’m a fascinating character, I know). But unfortunately Mum would wrinkle her nose at that sort of thing and if she were to watch TV at all, she would probably change to some boring nature channel or something.
But it’s not just my indecisive personality that makes me a bit out of the ordinary. For example, do you ever notice totally random people at school, and just start to see them everywhere?
Probably not. But if you’re even remotely like me (if so, I sympathise with you), then it’s kind of difficult not to see them.
Like when you happen to notice an insanely attractive year eleven one day and all of a sudden you start to spot him everywhere and you start having unavoidable, awkward eye contact moments with him every time you look around. Or you catch yourself staring at some ridiculously stunning girl and you can’t help but envy her naturally flawless skin and effortlessly perfect hair and you find yourself examining her enviously literally every time you see her. Or it could be just a completely random person that you are unfortunate enough simply have awkward eye-chemistry with every time you pass each other in the corridor.
I think you already know what (or who) I’m leading to.
I just didn’t get it. Before I never even knew she existed like practically everyone else in the school. Yet now, I can’t help but realise, and admire how she just… walks in the shadows at school, effortlessly unseen and unnoticed by the rest of the crowd.
I myself had only been at Roundview for just over a month, yet pretty much everyone knew or recognised me. Generally this is the same for everyone; you may not realise it, but over time after being around the same people you begin to recognise them as familiar faces. Usually people have small thing about them that helps me become familiar with them. For example, you may pass a boy with really long hair and a pony tail, and you’ll be like hey that’s the guy with the long hair and the pony tail. And if you pass somebody with the interesting lip piercings, you’ll be like hey that’s the person with the interesting lip piercings. But whenever I passed Ciara, it was more like: hey that’s the girl who… I don’t really know anything about and seems kinda strange. It doesn’t have much of a ring to it. After a while, being a very observant person - I can pretty much sum up a person in minutes - it annoyed me how little I knew about this girl who so far had no identity apart from liking the same music as Lauren and sitting by herself in the canteen.
In fact we were midway through eating our lunch when I spotted the girl with no identity again, sitting by herself just a few tables away.
Our table on the other hand, was almost completely occupied: Lauren sat next to this boy called Sam who she was currently Flirting But Not Currently Dating with, whilst I sat on the other, shamefully (but understandingly) flirting with him as well. Too bad he wasn’t even nearly as interested in me as with her (not that I found him attractive or anything).
The rest of the table consisted of Katie, Rosie and Rebecca who were Lauren’s other friends, and supposedly mine as well, although I wouldn’t be surprised if I were literally stabbed in the back in the future. Go figure. But I’m not sure whether I like them anyway – they are all seem so remarkable similar and boring.
I sneaked another glance in Ciara’s direction. She looked completely out of place with the rest of the canteen’s chatty, excited atmosphere as she sat emotionlessly - yet somehow clearly very deep in thought.
“What’s up Varian?” Katie asked, giving an unconvincingly sympathetic smile.
“Nothing’s up,” I shrugged, causing Katie and Rosie exchanged not-so-sly smirks.
I sort of hate the phrase. I mean, how can anything be up? Things could be wrong, or not going as planned, but not up.
I watched the girl in the corner of my eye as she continued to stare directly ahead, but not really at anything in particular. I wondered what she was thinking about. Clearly something more interesting than what Rosie and Rebecca were debating about right now.
“Diet coke definitely has less calories than coke!” Rebecca snapped. “That’s why it’s called diet coke. Genius.”
This time it was my turn to exchange a not-so-sly smirk with Rosie, even though I disliked Rosie probably even more than Rebecca.
But Rosie was easily the smartest one out of all of us and so didn’t mind explaining smugly why diet coke, was in fact worse than actual coke, due to the added chemicals in it or whatever.
I was pretty sure everything was chemicals. But I didn’t bother mentioning this.
So Rebecca and Rosie continued to have a completely pointless debate about whether diet coke or ordinary coke was more unhealthy, when really, they were probably just as bad as each other.
After a while I no longer began to register what they were saying because seriously, the pair of them are so dull I was almost proud I had managed to take in most of the conversation before.
My mind must have wondered a bit because I was suddenly aware of Lauren’s hand being waved in front of my face.
“Hello?” Lauren humoured, “anybody there?”
“What?...Yeah.” I jumped up from my slouch, realising that I had been staring at one particular pea on my plate for the last five minutes.
I hesitated. “Hey guys. Ever wondered why Ciara always sits by herself in the canteen?” But I made sure I asked in Katie’s gossipy tone that she frequently used whenever she had the desire to discriminate somebody in the school.
“Ciara?” Rosie raised an eyebrow, exchanging yet another look with Katie.
“You know, that girl.” I pointed to her, and the table turned their heads to examine Ciara, who was currently tapping against the table whilst she continued to stare at nothing in particular.
Me and Lauren sniggered.
“Seriously - I don’t think we’ve noticed that girl before.” Rebecca realised.
“Well she just keeps herself to herself,” Lauren shrugged in disinterest.
I longed to ask whether we could sit next to her – I pitied the fact that she always sat by herself everyday – yet that would be totally out of character.
Amazingly, Rosie suggested, “well perhaps we should keep her company?” Which by itself sounds like a pretty decent thing for her to say, but come on, this is Rosie I’m talking about, and at the same time she had a pretty smug expression as if to say, come on, let’s take the piss out of this loner.
The others grinned. I wondered whether any of the others forced one like I did. Probably Lauren – despite being close with everyone, she had confided to me before that all the bitching that occurred every lunch time sometimes disturbed her.
With that, Rosie jumped up from her seat and sauntered across the canteen, throwing back her sleek black hair that she had grown impressively long (Lauren had told me that she used to have a bob in year seven and so I began to question whether or not this hair was actually of her own).
The others followed, exchanging constant glances with each other as they approached the more isolated part of the canteen - in which most people would try to avoid.
But Ciara did not seem to register our arrival and continued to be in her own dream state.
Ciara turned towards her spectators, not at all surprised, or annoyed by the sudden attention.
“Yeah?” she asked.
Rosie fidgeted awkwardly.
“Well. Our lot’s noticed that you’ve been sitting by yourself loads and was wondering if you wanted to sit with us?”
There was silence. Usually people pause when they are struggling to think up of what else to say, but she didn’t seem puzzled at all. In fact, the pause simply made her next response more dramatic and confusing as ever.
“Do you want me to sit with you?” She then asked, slowly.
But she didn’t say it in an anxious tone; somehow I could tell that she wasn’t worried about what we actually thought and whether we genuinely wanted to sit with her (although most of the group didn’t want to anyway). Perhaps she was testing us - as if she knew what we were planning on doing.
The group raised eyebrows at each other, smirking.
“Uh… well we asked you so clearly we do, don’t we guys?” Rosie insisted hesitantly.
The others responded unenthusiastically.
“Well?” she repeated.
Ciara’s lips barely moved, so her expression was entirely up to our interpretation.
“Are you going to answer or what?” I asked in Rosie’s spiteful tone.
Ciara dark eyes locked, almost knowingly, onto mine, and I was suddenly aware of how guilty I really was.
In stark contrast, I had no idea how she herself was actually feeling inside her practically emotionless body (I mean, there’s Bella Swan… and then there’s Ciara).
Eventually she replied.
“Sit here if you want to. But don’t expect me to try and keep a conversation with you guys.”
The group looked more surprised than ever, clearly deciding that Ciara was in fact, not just a loner but a freak. An oddball. Yet still the whole group still sat down at her table, uncomfortably.
And so the rest of lunch was spent rather awkwardly, consisting of Rosie continuously trying to ask Ciara random questions in which Ciara would occasionally answer if she was lucky.
But by the end of lunch I still knew absolutely nothing about her.
And it was starting to annoy me.