Ceri’s shoulders tensed and she sucked in a sudden breath as a harsh pitter-patter of hot rain hammered down on her back. There was no time to wait for the water to steady and reach an acceptable temperature, the school bus was to arrive in less than half an hour and Ceri had procrastinated through every moment of her consciousness already. When her alarm had awoken her, the sun had been shining and the birds had been tweeting, just like in a fairy tale. That beauty sliced through reality, shattering horrific nightmares and endlessly filling Ceri with hope, until she realised how much it reminded her of Cherry.
For the first time since confessing her feelings, they’d have to face each other. Ceri reluctantly pulled on her uniform, fumbling with the top button of her shirt whilst kicking open the bathroom door and scurrying through to the kitchen. She still wasn’t ready to be thinking about Cherry yet. Besides, she was already in too much of a rush, having wasted so much time on ignoring the world.
“Have a great day, whatsit,” her mum called, “don’t forget to say ‘hi’ to Cherry for us!”
“I won’t,” Ceri mumbled before slipping out of the door.
Today, she was taking any opportunity possible to avoid talking about Cherry, and that meant distancing herself from her parents, as well. Instead of the usual drive to school through familiar back roads, Ceri hopped on the bus and sat in traffic for an eternity before finally reaching the grand gates of doom. Evil, judgemental glances bore down on her from the top of the staircase, jabbing at her ribs and kidneys and tugging on her handless arm. She rolled down her sleeve, letting it flop pathetically at her side. Ceri was a tiny doll in a child’s world, and no one wanted to play with a broken toy.
“So, heard you’re a lesbian now.”
“What? No!” Ceri spluttered as Serena sat beside her for the first time in the past year. “Who told you that?”
“Your brother? How…?”
“He’s going out with Bella now. You know, red-head Bella,” Serena explained, curling a shiny, blonde lock of her own hair around her finger.
Ceri fell silent again. It’s a bit of a punch to the throat to find out they’ve been gossiping about me all summer.
For the remainder of first break, Ceri politely nodded and shook her head while Serena quizzed her on her sexuality. Fifteen minutes sped by, and Serena ended her collection of concerns with:
“If anyone asks you any questions, you tell ’em straight!”
“But,” Ceri protested, taking a step towards her, “I’m not.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. Oh, and do you mind not getting so close to me? People might start thinking I’m a lesbian too. Thanks!”
She strode away before Ceri could even begin to answer, rapidly weaving between other students, chairs and tables to put plenty of space between the pair. The school rushed around before Ceri’s eyes, a film packed with drama, romance and slice of life – perhaps even a hint of musical – she thought as three girls wandered past, singing a song from Yuni’s English album in a slightly off key.
The rest of the school day dragged by, like how the children within the building dragged their feet from lesson to lesson. Usually, Ceri found the first day quite entertaining – there were name games, designing exercise book covers, drawing on fresh desks and so much more to pass the time. Meeting new teachers and classmates often led to humorous encounters too, but none of that altered Ceri’s boredom. All day she sat at various desks, next to girls she knew, and some she didn’t. Two girls in particular did know Ceri, although they ignored her for the full hour of their lesson together.
Maths couldn’t have ended sooner. Ceri spent the entire lesson avoiding eye contact with Bella and Cherry who, in return, refused to even acknowledge her. The three of them sat in one cluster of tables joined by two other students. Luckily, Ceri’s chair faced the window so she could longingly gaze down upon the school gates until the final bell chimed.
The buses were already waiting and students were chaotically piling in, squashing up against the windows so they could fit all their friends in one row. That’s one good thing about not being liked, Ceri thought as she picked a seat, hugging her bag to her chest and fiddling with her Yuni keyring. No one wants to sit with me.
Someone suddenly dumped their bag on the floor. Ceri flinched at the loud bang of heavy books hitting the ground. So much for the peace and quiet…
“Hey, Ceri,” Jillian said, plonking down beside her. “Sorry I didn’t really speak to you all summer. Tasmin was a bit…”
“Tasmin?! Doesn’t she like me?”
The bus rumbled into action and the wooshing sound of the doors closing signified the start of their journey. Once again, Ceri and Jillian were gladly speaking after a summer of silence.
“She’s really homophobic – didn’t you know?”
“Err…no. But it’s not anything to do with her anyway. I didn’t tell her,” Ceri grumbled.
“She doesn’t want to be friends with you. Bella wasn’t sure what to think – she doesn’t mind you liking girls, but she’s really good friends with Tasmin. Cherry was being all awkward, and I didn’t want to be the only one still in contact. I’m really sorry, Ceri. It sounds terrible out loud.”
“Thanks for telling me,” Ceri said with a small smile. “So, would Cherry still be my friend?”
“I’m sure she’ll get over it at some point. You should just join us for lunch tomorrow. It was really quiet without you and Tasmin.”
Ceri gave her a perplexed look, knowing Tasmin’s parents would never let her miss the first day of school.
“Oh, she’s finished sixth form now. She’s in uni a little further South.”
Ceri breathed a sigh of relief. Surely without Tasmin there, building a wall between them, she’d be able to be friends with Bella and Cherry again?
This is the fourth part of a short story by Heather. Follow Heather on Instagram and Wattpad @centaur_h. Stay tuned for the next part!