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Authors: Caidan Trubel

Tags: #Romance, #Gothic, #Fiction

Staverton (7 page)

BOOK: Staverton
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I hoped that would be the end of it. Mary and Cindy left me alone when we entered the accommodation building, so I hurried to my room.

This year, I was sharing a room with a little mousy girl called Beatrice. At the start of the school year, I tried to make friends, calling her Bea, inviting her to watch television with Caroline and me, and encouraging her to join us on trips to town. But Beatrice held back. I wasn’t sure if she simply didn’t like me, or whether she didn’t want to be friends with a scholarship girl. In the end, I stopped trying to make friends and settled for curt nods and abrupt hellos and goodbyes each day.

Beatrice was sprawled across her bed, flicking through the pages of a magazine, when I returned. I said hello, and Beatrice gave a grunt of acknowledgement and pushed her glasses up to the bridge of her nose.

I rolled my eyes and dumped the heavy text books on the desk.

Beatrice sat up. “Don’t put them there. You’ve put them on top of my revision.”

I looked down at the desk. Beatrice had covered it with A4 sheets of handwritten notes. “Maybe you could make a little space on the desk for my books. It is supposed to be a shared desk.”

Beatrice got up and shuffled her notes into piles, muttering under her breath. I decided to go and see Caroline. I opened the door and saw Mary with her hand raised as if she’d been about to knock. Cindy and two other girls stood behind Mary.

My stomach tightened.

“Beatrice, get out,” Mary said, and Beatrice scurried from the room without a backwards glance.

I tried to close the door, but Mary was too quick and wedged it open with her foot.

“You thought you’d gotten away with it, didn’t you?” Mary said. She reached up and grabbed a handful of my hair.

I struggled, but two other girls held my arms. Panicking, I kicked out and screamed.

“Shut up! You stupid cow.” Mary slapped a hand over my mouth, and I reacted instinctively, clamping my teeth down on one of her fingers.

Mary squealed and pulled away. My arms were held back by two other girls while Mary snarled at me and raised her fist. Her punch connected with the bridge of my nose. The pain was incredible, and I could taste the blood in the back of my throat.

Mary lifted her fist for another blow, and I flinched.

Then I saw a hand come out of nowhere to clasp Mary’s wrist. Unbalanced, Mary wheeled backwards and then sunk to her knees.

It was Caroline. She held on to Mary’s wrist, bending it back until Mary whimpered.

“What the hell is going on?” Caroline’s voice was barely a whisper.

The girls, who seemed so menacing a few seconds ago, seemed to shrink in Caroline’s presence.

Caroline’s family background and money made these girls respect her. Maybe they were even a little afraid of her. She did look scary now. Her face was white and pinched, and her hair was a halo of red.

“Lucy started it. She stole Jason from Mary.”

“Mary?” Caroline looked at the girl kneeling at her feet and released her wrist. “You can’t be serious. Why on earth would Jason be interested in that? Look at the state of her. She looks like the back end of a hippo.”

Mary’s face crumpled, and despite my stinging nose, I almost felt sorry for her.

After the others traipsed out, I looked in the mirror and gasped. My nose was red and swollen.

“You’ll have a job explaining that to the teacher on breakfast duty tomorrow,” Caroline said, handing me a box of tissues.

“Do you think it’s broken?” I said and turned to face Caroline.

Caroline clasped my chin and tilted my face to the light. “I don’t think so. Do you want me to get the nurse?”

I shook my head and sat down on the bed.

Caroline sat down next to me. “Are you sure? You look a bit shaky.”

“I can’t believe she went for me like that. And the others, helping her, holding my arms. I couldn’t even defend myself.”

Caroline stayed silent for a few moments, her clenched fists resting in her lap, then she turned to me. “Don’t worry they won’t dare do it again.”

I shuddered. “We only have a few days left at school. Then I’ll never have to see them again.”

Caroline gave a tight smile. “Enough time for a little revenge, though.”

“I don’t want revenge. I want to forget them.”

Caroline frowned. “Really? You don’t want to get your own back?”

I touched my nose and flinched. “No, I want to go to bed and forget about it.”

Caroline went to get some ice and some painkillers, which helped a little. She snarled at Beatrice when she returned. Ignoring the mousy girl’s spluttering protests that it was her room, Caroline shut the door in her face.

I was glad. I couldn’t believe Beatrice had left me to get beaten up by four girls. She may have been too afraid to stand up to them herself, but she could have gone to get someone to help.

The following morning, some of the swelling had gone down, but the bridge of my nose was badly bruised. I covered the bruises with foundation, set with a little translucent powder. I wore my hair down. If no one scrutinized me closely, I thought I might get away with it.

The conversation hushed as I walked into the dining hall. Obviously, I had been the subject of gossip this morning. I felt a hundred eyes follow me as I walked up to the serving counter and picked up a bowl of fruit salad.

Caroline sat at a table near the window. She waved me over. The level of conversation in the dining hall gradually returned to normal, and neither of the two teachers on supervision duty noticed my bruise.

Unfortunately, the bruise darkened as the day continued, and the makeup wore off. Every teacher, for every one of my lessons, asked me what on earth I’d done to myself. I kept my head down and muttered an excuse, involving walking into a door.

Over the next few days, the bruise went from dark purple, to brown to yellow. Caroline had been right, none of the glitterati dared do anything else to me. I did hear some gossip about Mary, though. A rumour spread around the school that someone had broken into Mary’s room and cut up all her leisure clothes. Apparently, every item of clothing that wasn’t part of her St. Catherine’s uniform had been cut into little pieces. I knew from the looks some of the other girls gave me they suspected I had a hand in it, but I hadn’t. My money was on Caroline.

Chapter 10

Caroline and I sat side by side on the train to Devon with our heads bent over a piece of paper, giggling.

“He’s got it bad,” said Caroline, shaking her head. “You’re so lucky.”

I smiled and looked down at the note from Jason. “It’s understandable,” I said, fluttering my eyelashes. “I am irresistible.”

At that, we both dissolved into giggles again.

A business man dressed in a navy-blue, pinstriped suit, peered over the top of his newspaper at us. He scowled and snapped his newspaper shut. He got to his feet, grabbed his briefcase and stalked into the next carriage.

“We weren’t making that much noise,” I said.

Caroline yawned and settled back against the seat. “It’s what happens when you get past forty, you forget what it is like to have fun.”

I fingered the note from Jason, a smile playing on my lips. He wanted to meet up this summer, which was impossible. I’d be in Devon this week, then Scotland for the rest of the summer break, but it was nice to be asked. I glanced over at Caroline whose eyes were closed.

I angled my face to feel the warm breeze coming through the train windows. The air-conditioning wasn’t working, and the passengers had opened all of the windows on the train to keep cool. Despite the breeze, the sun shone relentlessly into the carriage, and my tee-shirt, damp with sweat, stuck to my back.

Caroline’s head lolled to the side. Breathing deep and steady, she nodded off to sleep.

I stretched out. The sun beating through the windows made me feel sleepy. I closed my eyes and wondered what Freddie would be doing right now. I smiled. I would see him in a couple of weeks, and then a few weeks later, I would be enrolling in university. The year had gone by so quickly. It was hard to believe a year had passed since my parent’s accident. They would have been pleased I’d gone back to St. Catherine’s, and I was sure they would be proud of my university acceptance.

All I needed to do now was get the grades.

I leaned over until my head rested on Caroline’s shoulder, and I tried to forget about exam results and university courses, and enjoy the fact I had a long hot summer ahead of me.

I felt like I had only just closed my eyes when Caroline said, “Hey, sleepyhead, this is our stop.”

As I woke, the train came to a juddering halt. The brakes squealed in protest. Caroline reached up for our bags on the luggage rack, and I stood and took each bag as Caroline handed them to me.

Carrying the bags, we disembarked the train and stepped down onto the platform. Staverton-on-Sea Station was tiny. Only one other person got off the train, and there were no rail staff that I could see. The station sign was attached to an old stone wall, and hanging baskets full of flowers adorned each side of the sign.

“It’s small,” I said.

Caroline nodded. “Yes, tiny. There isn’t even a ticket office anymore, and there’s only one train an hour, even at rush hour. My parents hardly ever take the train these days.”

Caroline set off towards the exit, and I followed. The bags pulled at my arms already, and I hoped we didn’t have to walk a long way. “How far is it?”

“About a ten-minute drive. I sent Mum a text to tell her which train we were getting.” Caroline turned and smiled. “Hopefully she’ll be waiting for us.”

As we rounded the corner, entering the car park, Caroline let out a whoop of delight. She dropped her bags, and ran to hug a dark-haired man, standing by a green Porsche.

He staggered backwards against the car, laughing at her enthusiasm.

“Hello, Caro,” he said and returned her hug.

As they chatted to each other, I hung back near the car, still holding the bags, wondering whether I should introduce myself.

But before I could decide, he turned to me. “Who’s your friend, Caro?”

Caroline turned. “This is Lucy, my best friend from school.”

“Nice to meet you, Lucy,” he said. “I’m Jake, Caroline’s brother.” His eyes were warm and full of laughter.

Jake, at twenty-five, was the elder of Caroline’s two brothers, and I had never met him before. I met her other brother Michael a few years ago when the Harringtons invited me to visit the South of France with them. I flushed at the memory, remembering my thirteen-year-old self trailing around after Michael like a lovesick puppy.

Before I’d met Michael, I expected both brothers to be male versions of Caroline, with red, frizzy hair, but they were both dark-haired.

After shaking Jake’s hand, I took the chance to study him as he talked to his sister. He was tall and very slim, with black hair he pushed back from his face. His skin was almost olive. With Caroline standing next to him with her bright red hair, pale skin and freckles, it was hard to believe they were brother and sister.

Caroline had moaned to me that her brothers treated her like a baby. But now she seemed to be playing up to that, hugging Jake and jumping up and down like an excitable puppy.

I wondered what Michael would look like now. I hadn’t seen him for four years.

“I’ll take those, shall I?” Jake said.

I stared at him for a moment, before realising he meant the bags. “Oh, right. Yes, thanks.” I handed them to him.

Caroline looked at me curiously.

We managed to fit all the bags in the car, and I wedged myself into the tiny back seat of the Porsche, insisting I didn’t mind the cramped space.

We travelled with the roof down.

“You’re not bothered about your hair, are you?” Jake asked. “Seems a waste to put the roof up on such a lovely day. I would ask Caroline, but her hair is always a mess anyway.”

Caroline, sitting in the front passenger seat, delivered a playful punch to her brother’s arm.

“No, I’m fine,” I said.

Jake caught my eye in the rear view mirror. “Are you sure you’re all right back there?”

“She’s fine,” Caroline said.

“You should have let her sit in the front. She’s your guest,” Jake said.

“I’m fine, really.” My words were carried away by the wind.

Jake accelerated, and the breeze caught my hair, whipping it around my face. At this rate, when I got out of the car, my hair would look like a bird’s nest. Jake’s hair looked casually windblown. I dug around in my pockets. As my fingers closed around a hair band, I smiled with relief and tied my hair back.

We sped through narrow, country lanes and hedges and shrubs on either side almost touched the car. If it were my car, I’d be terrified of scratching it.

I tried to make myself more comfortable in the back. I angled my legs so I could keep my knees together. Sitting with my leg’s akimbo was not a good look. Luckily I hadn’t worn a skirt today.

Jake braked as we neared a tight bend in the road, the roar of the engine reduced to a deep rumble, and I took the opportunity to talk to Jake and Caroline. I leaned forward and said, “This is a great car, Jake. Unusual colour for a Porsche.”

Caroline turned to look at me, frowning. “Since when have you been interested in cars?”

I slumped backwards. “Well, I’m not...but...” I saw Jake, his face reflected in the rear view mirror, struggling not to laugh.

Undeterred, I leaned forward to try again. “It is an unusual colour for a Porsche, though.”

Caroline cupped a hand to her ear. “Sorry, what was that?”

“Oh, never mind,” I said.

I watched as they chatted to each other, but their words were whipped away by the wind before I heard them.

As the countryside flew past, I forgot about missing out on Jake and Caroline’s conversation. The lanes were lined with trees, hedgerows, wild grasses and cowslips. Rich, red earth showed through between crops in the fields that stretched away from the road.

I took a deep breath of the fragrant summer air. The trees grew more numerous as we drove along the road, and dappled sunlight fell on the sports car. I tilted my head up to see the green canopy of trees arching over us.

BOOK: Staverton
2.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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