“This… is humiliating.”
Lauren stood despairingly, examining how she looked in a nearby shop window. It’s fair to say that Lauren looked completely appalling in the bright orange suit. Being a hopeless comparison to Lauren like usual, I probably shouldn’t even start on myself.
“Lauren…” I started. “I wouldn’t use a window as mirror if I were you, because, you know…”
“Oh my god, they’re all laughing at me from inside the shop!” Lauren gasped, and in a seconds flash she was running down the street in her ridiculous costume, of course attracting more attention than ever.
The shop keeper was still looking out the window, chuckling at the sight of us.
What could be more degrading than this?
“Mum,” I urged, glancing frantically at her as she calmly unloaded baskets and boxes from the car. “Couldn’t we have parked a little bit closer to the fair? Seeing as me and Lauren have to walk… in these.”
Mum laughed. “It’s a good form of advertisement, I suppose.”
So Lauren and I ambled ahead, desperate to reach the fair (where we would at least not be the only crazy ones dressed up in bizarre outfits). Occasionally we’d pass the odd pedestrian who would either stop in their tracks to gawp at us in amazement, or to burst into laughter.
“Visit Sue Blackery’s organic cake stall at the organic fair!” I would gabble as we passed them.
Eventually, we reached the destination with Mum a good distance behind us, causing us to end up waiting awkwardly at the entrance gates, having no idea of where we were supposed to go.
Mum eventually caught up with us, chuckling. “Right, are you guys ready? I need you guys to move all the baskets from the cart onto our stall over there. Oh and can you help me put up the banner?”
The organic fair hadn’t even started yet but it was still pretty busy, with stall owners rushing around to displaying the products on time; the occasional person squeezing into equally humiliating suits; a mixture of sounds of urgency and laughter giving the park a pretty hectic atmosphere.
It was a remarkably hot day for October and as the mid-day sun beat down on our backs, I was already becoming aware of how hot and stuffy it was in my thick suit. It had rained for weeks before, and I began to question the odds of it being remarkably hot on literally the only day I didn’t want it to be. Then again, rain wouldn’t be that much better.
I wiped a bead of sweat off my forehead and loaded all the baskets onto the table.
“Girls, try not to chuck the baskets here.” Mum reminded us. “And besides, you need to make sure everything is presented nicely.”
Lauren swore under her breath.
“When’s your friend coming?” I asked, sighing.
“Ben? He should be about an hour – he’s not helping us with the setting up.”
I exchanged exasperated looks with Lauren. Just the thought of setting everything up, in the mid-day heat, in our stuffy suits alone was enough to drive any sane person crazy.
Well of course a sensible person would take off the suit until the fair actually started. But we’re talking about a sensible person here, and I may or may not have only been wearing underwear underneath that suit on that particular day. (What? It was so much more comfortable without clothes underneath. Got a problem with that?)
After assembling the stall exactly how Mum wanted it, she wandered off towards the organiser, leaving us under her trust that we’d look after the stall for her.
A few people had arrived at the fair now and were wandering from stall to stall, curiously. Many of which were drawn to the stall opposite us that served some sort of Mediterranean cuisine. The smell of spice and exotic food wafted in our direction - seeing as I had forgotten my breakfast that morning - I had to resist the urge to run towards it and to shovel the large paella dishes into my mouth.
“This kind of sucks.” Lauren admitted.
“Yeah.” I agreed.
Nobody seemed particularly interested in Mum’s organic carrot cakes, so the pair of us continued to people-watch, having few other sources of entertainment.
The fair was bustling with people now, who were chatting and laughing with each other, exclaiming how brilliant it was that they can wear shorts and t-shirts in October, little did they know that me and Lauren was scorching in our carrot suits nearby, fuming.
Mum returned back to the stall, biting into what looked like a pretty grotesque-looking health bar. By this point, Lauren has sprinted off to the toilet, after having a third bottle of water in desperate attempts to hydrate herself.
“Sold anything yet?” Mum asked.
“How about you and Lauren go around with trays? I’m sure if you interact with the customers more like the other stalls then you’d get a bit more attention.”
How about no?
“Yeah sure! That’s a great idea!” I grinned enthusiastically.
Lauren didn’t seem particularly pleased once she had returned and realised that she would have to humiliate herself yet further, by having to interact with the crowd.
“This stinks,” I muttered.
She nodded in agreement.
I sighed heavily then headed towards a nearby couple.
“Would you like to try some of our delicious carrot cake, located at Sue Blackery’s organic cake store?...”
An hour later, all our motivation to try and coerce customers towards Mum’s clearly hated organic carrot cake stall had faded, as we leant against the table, looking defeated.
“Girls! I think Ben’s here,” Mum called from the stall opposite (Seriously, if it was her stall, why were we the ones that had to look after it?).
I examined him as he approached our stall, noticing his ginger hair, his pale freckled skin, his square-shaped jaw and long, thin nose.
“Hey girls,” he smiled.
We greeted him back politely, if not awkwardly.
I continued to examine him, wondering what Mum had meant about the pair of us being really similar.
“Well it’s nice to finally meet you Varian, your mother talks about you all the time!”
And that was probably the last thing he said to me that evening, the rest of which he spent wandering around, trying to coax people to go to our stall like Lauren and I earlier on, yet somehow doing a much better job of it.
In all honesty, Ben seemed incredibly dull. And I wasn’t just annoyed, but offended that Mum had compared me to somebody who was so boring and irritating.
I slouched down in my seat, like Lauren, in a sulk. In a way it was sort of amusing, immediately repelling the customers that Ben had persuaded to come with our foul attitude. But I didn’t even feel guilty about it; if Mum really wanted her stall to well, then why the hell was she not here instead of us?
“We need to do something before I literally die from boredom.” Lauren sighed.
“Eye spy?” I suggested. I’m pretty sure I hadn’t played eye-spy since primary school, seeing as it was so mind-bogglingly dull. Yet even that was more interesting then just sitting there and doing absolutely nothing for another hour.
“I spy with my little eye… something beginning with… I Hate This Fair And I Can’t Believe I Agreed To Do This With You.” Lauren replied.
“Ha.” I laughed sarcastically. “But seriously, playing eye-spy’s better than doing nothing.”
“Well fine. I’ll actually do it properly this time,” she sighed. “I spy with my little eye, something beginning with… OH!”
“Uhhh…? Organic?” I suggested.
“No, not O, Oh!”
“What? They’re the same letter Lauren. Stop kidding with me.”
“No, I mean oh as in oh my god there’s a guy that goes to our school and is looking at us right now.”
Sure enough Luke from Life lessons had spotted us and was chuckling at us and shaking his head.
“Man, that guy seriously bugs me,” Lauren remarked. “Stuck up much?”
“Tell me about it.”
“Quick, maybe if we pretend we don’t see him he won’t walk up to us.” Lauren suggested. She turned around, pretending to be fascinated by the organic, fake chocolate stall next to us (which the pair of us both agreed, looked disgusting).
But Luke still made his way towards us, laughing still.
I exchanged a smile with him – siding with in Life lesson’s debates had made me grow quite fond of him.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
“Just looking around… what about you guys?”
Lauren rolled her eyes. “Just standing around in around in carrot suits for the sake of it,” she shrugged. “Just the usual.”
Luke raised an eyebrow.
“Well not to be rude, but those cakes look pretty disgusting so I’m going to be off.” He shrugged.
“What a rude creep,” Lauren muttered once he was out of ear-shot, even though Lauren had also said that mum’s cakes looked pretty disgusting earlier, and who I thought was equally rude. I was becoming very aware of how Lauren was starting to get on my nerves; I mean sure, it’s brilliant that she isn’t really two-faced and bitchy… but she could be really rude when she wanted to be.
Very much like Luke actually.
In a way it confused me how they weren’t friends, when in some ways they were remarkably similar. But Lauren had always insisted that she doesn’t have that much in common with most people… well before I moved and we became friends. But little did she know, even I had absolutely nothing in common with her.
Ben returned a while later, looking very proud of himself from convincing so many customers to come to our stall. All in all, looking extremely irritating.
He said nothing to us for the rest of the fair until Mum returned and started questions about how he was doing, exclaiming that it had been too long and that they should definitely meet up more often in the future.
He replied to her about his incredibly boring life and how much he loved his boring office job.
Sure, I’ve met plenty of boring people in my lifetime, yet something about him made my blood boil. Perhaps it was the fact that Mum had compared me to him earlier and about me supposedly being very similar to him.
But how was I similar to him?
Did I want a boring life, a boring office job and all in all be a very boring person?
Was I boring?
* * *
I always admire confident people.
I also admire people who are very sure of what they are doing in their life and who are not ashamed of showing their true self.
Luke was an example of one of these people who was never afraid to put people in their places and he frequently mentioned his dream of becoming a writer one day. But not a writer like Mum who wrote children’s stories about fantasy lands and magic. A non-fiction writer. Being a very opinionated person, this was the way that he wanted to get his thoughts of society across. But before this he wanted to study either something related to English or Science at university and then travel the world.
The first time I found out that this was what in a Life lesson when we were discussing about aspirations and careers. At the time most of the class said that they had no idea what they were doing when they were asked (whether this was true or not, I wasn’t too sure. Yet they all seemed to be pretty determined not to make a fool out of themselves in front of the class).
So when Luke stood up and declared that he wanted to become a writer in a know-it-all sort of way and stated that he wanted to make an impression in society, the rest of the class gave each other looks in amusement, because apparently having dreams and aspirations is totally hilarious. And apparently there’s something really nerdy about going to university as well. Yet somehow getting lots of qualifications seemed a lot more appealing to me than potentially working in McDonalds in future (not that I have anything against working for McDonalds, I mean, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be a world-famous burger flipper, but somehow this didn’t seem like something that was for me).
Although I usually respected the fact that Luke was so determined and stood for nothing and didn’t allow people treat him like a doormat, I found these particular traits of his quite irritating in the next lesson that I had with him.
Apparently he was annoyed about the fact I was really rude to him last weekend at the organic fair. But as usual he was over-reacting.
“I mean, you’re just really mean when you’re with Lauren. You wouldn’t even stand up for me when Lauren was being a rude cow.” Luke whispered. He continued to scribble on the page. He scribbled his pencil over the same bit, caused the sharp lead to rip into the paper.
I frowned. “Well I’m sorry, it’s not like it’s my responsibility to stand up for you. Besides you’re blunt as hell – you were insulting my Mum’s food,” I muttered.
Luke let out an exclamation, causing the whole class to turn around from the board.
I jabbed him with my elbow, but he jabbed me back.
I couldn’t help but add. “And it’s not like you’re the most polite person there is-”
“-Are you calling me rude?!” he hissed.
“Yeah,” I snapped. “Got a problem with that?”
Shut up, I told myself, what are you trying to prove, trying to be blunt back to Luke? Look where it’s getting you!
But perhaps it was because I just wanted to prove to Luke how blunt and outspoken he was. Maybe I wanted him to realise this and try to become more polite and a more manageable person in the future.
Or maybe I was just bored.
“Just because I stand up for myself and don’t allow total idiots take advantage of me, does not make me rude. Right now, you’re the one that’s coming off as the rude.”
“I’m not rude.”
“Yes you are.”
“I’m far from rude.”
“Oh Honey, you’re the Queen of rude.”
“You’re ridiculous!” I exclaimed.
It took me a moment to realise that we were, in fact still in a Life lesson and we now had the whole class’s attention on us.
“Ridiculous?” He snorted,”Well you should have seen yourself on Saturday!” Luke snapped, completely oblivious to the class’ sudden attention.
“Guys! Guys”” Mr Hanks yelled. “We’re debating about animal testing not what happened over the weekend!”
He was trying to turn the whole situation into something funny, yet Luke and I were still giving each other looks of pure evil, and in the corner of my eye, Amanda was grinning smugly to herself. Other members of the class had started to giggle.
“Awww look,” Amanda smirked, “They’re arguing like an old married couple.”
Luke rolled his eyes.
I let out a loud sigh.
“Would one of you like to move?” He asked, frowning in concern.
Luke was too stubborn to put his hand up, and continued to sit with his arms crossed.
I did the same. But when Mr Hanks turned towards the board again to draw a mind-map, I couldn’t help but smirk to myself.
It amused me how I had managed to get Luke fired up in minutes simply by being just as stubborn and outspoken as he was, and although Luke seemed incredibly annoyed and I probably risked our friendship by doing this, I found the whole thing hilarious.
So I couldn’t help but smile a little.
But just when I slipped out of character, I spotted a familiar face staring at me from opposite the class room.
Ciara was sat, simply watching me. And for a few moments, our eyes locked and everything seemed to freeze.
Even though she revealed very little emotion, I could just tell that she had seen the smile.
And I knew in an instant that she hadn’t bought my act for a single second.
* * *
The funny thing about copying a really confident, down-to-earth person is that it can be fairly easy to either get an argument, or just really get along with them in just minutes. On the other hand, it is almost completely different when copying reserved people, because you either get along very well, or just simply don’t communicate at all. Copying them is really interesting because you don’t really know what the outcome will be like once you get to know them properly. Sometimes they become really blunt and loud, other times the person remains reserved and quite collected. Sometimes both. This was probably why I found Ciara really interesting, because I couldn’t help but wonder if at home she was really loud and confident, and just reserved at school. Or whether she was silent at home as well.
Our table seemed to have made a decision to sit next Ciara every lunch time now, despite Ciara not actually having any input in this. We all decided that the fact Ciara didn’t seem to put up any fuss about us sitting next to her, meant that she wanted us to sit next to her. Although privately I thought Ciara probably wouldn’t care anyway, because she seemed to be in her own dream state whether she had company or not, so whether or not people bothered her and talked to her, wasn’t so much of a problem to her.
By this point, the rest of the table had confirmed that Ciara was in fact, “weird” as they called it. But personally I found her more intriguing than ever, so I didn’t join in by giving her that label. Besides, when does a person get to a stage when they get to be giving the word “weird”? I mean, pretty much everyone is a bit strange in their own ways, whether or not they decide to show it to everyone or not. Like Samantha, who tries to act all perfect and totally un-weird, may make it seem like she was the most normal person you could meet, but the fact that she tries to appear as flawless as possible just shows how she really is a bit weird, simply by trying to make herself appear less human. Even so, she tends to be given the “perfect” label by many of the guys at our school.
Coming to think of it, “perfect” was a pretty stupid label as well. Because although most of the boys in the school thought that Samantha was perfect because of her “hot bod”, perfect makeup etc..., from a shallow person’s point of view, you’d see that her pimpled, foundation-covered skin, her frizzled hair and totally unflattering eyebrows meant that she wasn’t perfect. And even from a less shallow person’s perspective, you may feel that parts of her personality didn’t make her perfect.
It makes you wonder what the definition of a perfect person really is. Although perhaps we all had our own definitions.
I was busy silently debating all this stuff about labels and being perfect on one particular lunch time where, as usual, we were sat on the same table as Ciara where, as usual, Rosie was trying to take the piss out of her when, as usual, she didn’t seem to care less. I had zoned out for quite a while, immersed in my weird, dreamy thoughts for quite a while. It was only when Lauren waved her hand in front of my face again and I realised that the rest of the table (well, excluding Ciara who was doing absolutely nothing) were laughing at me. I frowned; it sucked returning to reality, and realising that I was only in the grubby school canteen, rather than my own dream state.
In a way I was totally with Ciara about wanting to be alone with your own thoughts; sometimes it was a lot more interesting than every day life.
The table was still laughing.
“What?” I said, asking in a similar jokey tone to the others.
“You completely blanked out for like five minutes.” Rebecca said, with a good-humoured laugh, which you would realise wasn’t actually a good-humoured laugh but more like a sneer once you got to know her.
“Honestly Varian. You space out a lot!” said Rosie with a smile. She smirked at Katie who was holding back a snigger.
“People tend to space out when they’re bored.” Ciara said, speaking for the first time that lunch, possibly that week.
She didn’t say it in a matter-of-fact sort of way, as the very sentence was emotionless as usual.
The table glanced round at each other, feeling partly surprised that Ciara had actually said something without being asked, but also slightly awkward about the honesty of the statement. It was of course, nothing other than the truth; lunch-times were by far the most boring part of the day, because nothing particularly interesting ever happened. Unless you count bitching and gossiping and sneering as interesting.
So it of course annoyed me when I heard the three of them bitching about Ciara being so rude at the canteen and debating whether or not they should bother sitting next to her again or whether they should leave her “on her Larry” as they called it, because she “didn’t deserve their company.”
In all honesty, who deserved their company? Who actually wanted to listen to constant gossiping all the time? I mean, I suppose it was fun pretending to be really gossipy and making everyone’s lives a misery for like a week, even when all of my old class hated me for it. But after that I just wanted to copy new people and be somebody different.
Another thing that particularly annoyed me about Katie, Rebecca and Rosie was the fact that they spent so much talking about people behind their backs and sneering at people who are actually going out there and doing stuff. Like they always laugh and cackle about Luke because he was so opinionated and took his lessons so seriously. Yet he was the one who actually had ambitions and wanted to get somewhere in life. Whilst on the other hand, I wouldn’t be surprised if Katie, Rebecca and Rosie had the similar lifestyle as now, twenty years on, where they’d meet up for lunch so they can sneer about all their co-workers and what they were doing.
It all seemed incredibly dull. Ciara on the other hand, seemed far from dull.
After lunch I followed her as she got up, mentioning that “we both had the same History lesson so we should walk together.”
She said nothing in response as she grabbed her bag and headed through the bustle of school students.
“We haven’t really spoken much before.” I remarked.
“Sorry I come off as a bit rude, I promise I’m not,” I laughed.
We steered clear of a year seven who had managed to fall over in front of us, and had scattered his belongings all over the floor.
“We don’t have to sit next to you at lunch if you don’t want us to.”
“…I mean, I can’t really stick my group either-”
“Then why do you sit with them?” She said, just as we entered class.
I stopped in surprise. But before I had time to open my mouth to reply she was already at the other side of the room.