My Monday morning started in such a rush that I almost left all of my history research at home.
“Olivia, don’t forget that your father is picking you up tonight,” Mum shouted to me as I walked out the door. “Don’t be late.”
My parents had recently gone through a divorce. When I was younger, I used to just assume that they’d be together forever, but then everything started going wrong last year. They tried their best to be civil about it though, not wanting to disrupt my exams and coursework. I knew it was coming before they even sat me down to tell me, they’d been fighting for months. At least there was no tension at the dinner table anymore.
Dad moved out into a small apartment not too far from away. I missed having him around the house a lot, his pathetic jokes and his amazing cooking skills. I knew he hated leaving the house he’d spent so much time working on, but it was his decision to leave. He wanted Mum and I to continue living there.
I couldn’t wait to tell him about the sailor who used to own the old place. He always suspected that there would be plenty of stories about a house that had been around for so long. He’d done a bit of research before but never really found anything, apart from the fact that the old man who had owned the house just before we bought it had dropped dead in the kitchen. Nice little fact to know. I was beginning to detect a theme with the owners of this house.
I shut the door behind me as I left the house. I walked down the driveway and sat myself down on the garden wall to wait for Sophie. The minute I saw her head bobbing around the corner I jumped down and walked to meet her.
“You might not want to talk to me right now,” she said as she fiddled with a giant floral bow. “I’m having a bad hair day.”
I rolled my eyes before linking my arm through hers, causing her hand to drop from her head.
“Your hair looks fine, as always,” I laughed.
Sophie is obsessed with her red hair. It’s curly and wild and looks gorgeous with no effort required, but of course, Sophie doesn’t see it like that.
“I’m sick of it,” she wailed. “I just can’t keep it tamed!”
“Then leave it as it is,” I insisted. “I thought you liked looking like that Disney Princess with the wild hair?”
She ignored me and attempted to flatten down her curls again.
“So, did you find anything interesting for this history project?” I asked her as we walked. Yes, I’d dragged Sophie into doing extracurricular history with me.
“I asked my mum and she said that my grandparents met during the war,” she sighed. “I suppose I could make it sound like a tragic wartime romance.”
Trust Sophie to turn a history project into a love story, the hopeless romantic that she was. She saw love in everything.
“I found out something,” I told her, “about a guy that used to own my house in the 1930s.”
She looked at me with curiosity in her eyes, so I began to tell her all about sailor Richard W. Thompson as we continued our walk to sixth form.
“That’s so awful,” Sophie said as we walked through the school gates. “His poor family, they must have been devastated.” She looked genuinely upset. Sophie was always one for dramatizing anything and everything.
We got into class just a few minutes before the bell and sat down at our usual desk in the front of the room. Our area of seating wasn’t a choice we made for ourselves. We both got lost on our first day and arrived late to the class, meaning we had to take the seats that weren’t already taken. The only two seats available were two at the front, of course.
It was how we became friends. Sophie probably wouldn’t have spoken to me if we hadn’t have been table buddies that first year. It felt like only last week that we’d walked through those doors as wide-eyed Year 7s. Many of our classmates had chosen to stay on as sixth form students here, so it still felt like we were in high school, same buildings, same classrooms, same teachers, but harder work.
Just as the bell rang, Nick Roberts strolled through the door. Sophie dug her elbow into my side and shot me a sly smile.
Nick is that guy. The one who just walks into a room and all eyes fall on him, including mine. Unfortunately, he knows it. He struts around the school with confidence, or arrogance, whichever way you want to look at it. I was still surprised that he wasn’t dating Amy Talbot. I thought the school’s ‘It’ boy was supposed to date the school’s ‘It’ girl? He ran a hand through his curly, dark hair as he walked to his seat near the back of the class.
“I swear he just keeps getting more attractive,” Sophie whispered.
Our teacher, Ms Carr, walked in a second later and the class chatter silenced. She had the ability to do that to a room. After a dull ten minutes of being told the latest news around school, we were sent on our way to first period. The morning’s classes went by in a swirl of exam preparations, further education applications and ‘you only have a few months left’ speeches. It was actually a relief when the bell rang to signal lunch and I was able to head to the history block for our first meeting of the week.
“I hope you all have stories for me!” Mr Davidson’s overly excited voice rang through the classroom as he walked through the door.
The meeting consisted of Mr Davidson randomly picking students to tell him what story they had found, which he would then decide whether it was suitable to do a whole project on. Most people had some story about their grandparents and the war and Mr Davidson was slowly starting to lose his enthusiasm.
Then it was my turn. I expected him to just nod a few times and continue to look bored, like he had been doing for the majority of the time. However, he sat up a little straighter when I started talking about the boat accident.
“Is that all you know about it, Olivia?” he asked me curiously.
“That’s just what I found out from the internet,” I replied, pointing down to the web page that I’d printed out.
He looked at me over his thin framed glasses. “If you can find out more about that accident, maybe a bit more about the sailor who died, then you can definitely use that to do your project on.”
At the end of the class, we were told exactly what our project must include. We had to create a project book with all of our research in it and then we had to present our research to the rest of the school in an assembly just before the end of term. We certainly weren’t expecting that.
“A presentation,” Sophie panicked as we walked out of the room. “I can’t stand up in front of the whole school. There’s no way I can.”
We walked to the canteen to quickly grab something to eat in the last ten minutes of our lunch break.
“He never mentioned anything about having to do a presentation at the start of the year,” Sophie continued with a frown on her face. “Why did we choose history, Liv? Why couldn’t we have done art or something, I could live with having to draw a bowl of fruit.”
“Stop worrying, Soph, it won’t be so bad,” I reassured her. “The minute the school hear the word ‘history’, they’ll all mentally shut down anyway and no one will pay attention to anything we’re saying.”
“We’ll still have to stand up there, in front of everyone!” she said shrilly. “They’ll all be staring at us, waiting for us to screw something up.”
“It’ll be fine,” I told her.
Standing up in front of the whole school, babbling on for five minutes about some boat that sank in the 1930s?
Yeah, it was so not going to be fine.