Glove-Truffle’s Girl School was always horrendously chaotic on the first day back after the holidays. Giggling teenagers, teachers with lessons that seldom went to plan and dinner ladies with never enough of everyone’s favourite sandwich filling made up the school’s population. The canteen was swarmed by girls with backpacks the size of a camel’s hump, all queuing up impatiently at various food stations. Ceri had settled for a cheese and tomato toastie and was waiting for one of the dinner ladies to heat it up. She dressed in the same uniform that was required by all canteen staff – a pristine white cap and apron, a hairnet and a navy polo shirt that was embellished with the school logo.
Ceri finally stopped jiggling her tray about as the dinner lady returned with her toastie. She thanked her sweetly, giving a brief smile before slowly twirling to watch for a path through the sea of school bags. The glaring, wintery sun shone its dazzling spotlight through a high window onto a small charm hooked onto her zip. It glinted in the light, casting a specular reflection on the wall. A shocked gasp of awe arose from the other side of the room and a red-haired girl rushed over, slipping through the crowd.
“Damn, Ceridwen! You never told me you were a Yuni fan!”
“I – err – yeah! She’s such a fantastic singer,” she gushed, glancing at the charm that was now hanging off her bag – in that moment, the glittery pink figure suddenly became her little symbol of good luck.
“You should come sit with us; we can talk all about Yuni!”
Immediately after they exchanged terribly excited grins, they were both sat in a circle with three other girls. Ceri recognised Cherry and Jillian from various classes and regularly saw them accompanying Bella, but the last girl remained a mystery. She looked older, yet still wore the familiar Glove-Truffle’s uniform, her tartan skirt brushing her kneecaps and all buttons fastened. She looked very neat – even her tightly-coiled hair was kept secured in a tidy bun.
Ceri was delighted to be included in a friendship group. Usually, she’d be the outcast of another classmate’s circle, awkwardly sitting on the side lines as they ignored her. However, once she had been formally introduced to Cherry, Jillian and Tasmin, and spoken to Bella a little more, she found herself to be accepted. Despite the occasional questioning glances at her right arm, Ceri was really enjoying herself.
“Did you see all her Christmas pictures with the puppies?”
“Yes! Doesn’t the moustache dog look like Ace?” Jillian said enthusiastically, slamming her fist on the table.
“So, you’ve got a dog?”
“Nah, Ace is my dog,” Bella mumbled through a mouthful of buttery pasta, “but he’s a Giant Schnauzer – not a ‘moustache dog’!”
“He’s got a cute moustache…” Cherry whispered with a giggle.
Her laughter sounded like a fairy’s; a soft twinkling of bells in a summer wind. In fact, her entire aura was that of a magical garden creature, one who guards ponds, talks to dead nettles and wears dresses made of flower petals and sewn together with spider silk.
“Hmm, what? Sorry.”
“I said, do you have any pets?” Bella repeated, seemingly annoyed.
Ceri told the group of her two pop-eyed goldfish, Blobby and Lotta, including some little fantasy stories about them. “I always used to pretend they were actually mermaids,” she said sheepishly, realising how embarrassing it was to confess something so childish to her peers.
“That sounds wonderfully creative! I make up backgrounds for all my pets, too.” Cherry leaned forward, encouraging the group to follow suite. “Gidge the chicken actually used to be a shoemaker in Brazil.”
“You are being ridiculous. You know that’s not true.”
“Uh-uh, Tasmin. You’ll have to ask Gidge if you don’t believe me.”
Tasmin mockingly rolled her eyes with a mischievous smile, catching sight of the big clock as her eyes revolved. Her smile instantly disappeared as her mouth dropped open and the minute hand clicked one space nearer to quarter-past eleven.
“I’ve gotta run. See you later!” She called over her shoulder, still zipping up her backpack as she sped towards the sixth form section of Glove-Truffle’s, “nice to meet you, Ceridwen.”
“Did you see Serena today, whatsit?”
“No, I think she’s still on holiday.”
Serena was the first student to take Ceri under her wing when she moved. They had been part-way through their last year of primary school, and both equally friendless. Unfortunately, they had drifted apart over the past couple of years and Serena had made new friends that barely acknowledged Ceri.
“I did meet some fellow Yuni fans, though!”
And she excitedly unfurled her day spent with Bella, Cherry, Jillian and Tasmin, ecstatic at the fact that they still hadn’t asked about her hand. Tammy smiled at her daughter’s overjoyed tone, relieved she had finally met some like-minded girls to share her interests with. She had been concerned for a while about whether the big move had been right for Ceri or not, but this set her straight.
“Sounds like they’re lots of fun. Why don’t you invite them over sometime soon?”
That was exactly what she did.
Three weeks later, when the slush on the pavements had nearly melted and everyone had settled back into school life, Ceri was followed into her mum’s car after a day full of lessons. Cherry and Ceri were spilling out sentence after sentence, with Tammy popping questions in whenever they paused to breathe. From the hasty words uttered from the girls’ mouths, Tammy gathered that Yuni was the topic of conversation – again – and had recently released a new song. Her thoughts were confirmed as an ear-piercing cover served as a radio replacement. Despite narrowly avoiding an accident, she drove on with a smile. Cherry seemed to be the perfect friend for Ceri.
She was a polite yet puzzling friend, always delivering a message intended to draw out a large reaction. Every word she spoke was like a mystical prophecy; her voice had a mysterious edge to it as if it had just drifted in through the window, caught on an ancient breeze. One thing Ceri’s parents caught onto as soon as the girls walked through the front door was that Cherry made their daughter laugh and grin more than anyone since they moved to London a few years ago. The girls shared a common history – Cherry had moved from Cornwall just a couple of years prior to the Hillam family.
“Thanks so much for coming over!” Ceri said, enveloping Cherry in a squishy hug before she stepped back out into the miserable weather.
“Thank you for having me,” Cherry whispered, her bubbly tone still present even though her volume was lacking. “Your room really was amazing.”
During yet another conversation about Yuni, Ceri had exposed her collection of merchandise. The girls all imagined a stack of every album released and pastel bedding, but nothing could’ve prepared Cherry for what she walked into. Although their assumptions were correct, Ceri had additionally plastered her walls, the door and even the ceiling of her room in posters and magazine cut-outs; the desk, which should’ve been buried in school work, was littered with letters addressed to Yuni. Ceri wrote and kept them just in case the impossible was to happen and they met by chance.
“She seems like a lovely girl, whatsit.”
“She’ll be a good friend for you,” her dad agreed, resting his arms on his wife’s and daughter’s shoulders.
This is the second of a short story by Heather. Follow Heather on Instagram and Wattpad @meandponycow. Stay tuned for the next part!