Read The New Girl Online

Authors: Cathy Cole

The New Girl

BOOK: The New Girl
10.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

1. The New Girl

2. The Trouble With Love

3. More Than a Love Song

4. A Date With Fate

5. Never a Perfect Moment

6. Kiss at Midnight

7. Back to You

8. Summer of Secrets

9. Playing the Game

10. Flirting With Danger

11. Lovers and Losers

12. Winter Wonderland

With special thanks to Lucy Courtenay and Sara Grant

 

ONE

“Mum?” Lila Murray began hesitantly.

Her mum looked up from the half unpacked box on the kitchen table. “Hmm?”

Now it came down to it, Lila couldn't speak.

You've practised this
, she told herself.
Just put it out there!

She had gone over the words she would use as she got out of her bed in the unfamiliar house and felt the hard floorboards under her feet. She had repeated them stubbornly to herself as she brushed her glossy shoulder-length brown hair and tried to fix it into some kind of style that didn't shout “troublemaker” the way it always had back in London. She had rehearsed them in her head as she wiped off the thick rim of eyeliner she had put on and switched instead for a light flick of mascara to frame her big blue eyes, and straightened her tie so it actually met the button on her shirt collar for once, and resisted the urge to roll her skirt up. Why couldn't she say them now? Was it because they made everything too . . . real?

“I want to be called Lila in Heartside Bay,” she said in a tumble. “Not Lil. If I'm ever going to settle in around here, I have to start again. It's time for me to be someone else.”

She lifted her chin, challenging her mother to say something. Her mum was a psychotherapist, and tended to ask gentle questions that made people open up and bawl out their problems. Lila hoped she was strong enough to stick it out in the face of her mum's questions and sympathy.

“That's nice,” said her mum. “It makes me think of flowers. Lilacs, and lilies.”

That was it? Lila couldn't believe her luck.

“See you,” she said, backing out of the house with her schoolbag on her shoulder.

Flowers were good, Lila told herself firmly, heading down the path and on to the street. Flowers marked out someone who didn't go round wrecking lives and falling in love with the wrong people. She'd done too much of that already.

It was pretty bad, moving to the love capital of Britain a week before Valentine's Day. Everything here was so perfect and neat and happy, the complete opposite of how broken and messy Lila felt. Even with her toned down make-up and her neat, regulation uniform, would she ever fit in here? As she walked, all she could see were perfect little houses, matching front doors, gum-free pavements and brightly coloured window boxes. And hearts. Hearts
everywhere
. The wrought-iron lampposts, metal dustbins, even the manhole covers were covered in hearts. Like she needed reminding about love!

She turned her face to the fresh breeze blowing in from the sea. From up here by the cliffs, the famous heart shape of Heartside Bay was clearly visible, with a sweeping pier forming one arm of the heart and a natural outcropping of rocks forming the other. It looked more like a bum than a heart, Lila decided.

She corrected herself.
Lil
would have thought it looked like a bum.
Lila
would think it was cute. Lila would be taken seriously around here. Lila would get it right.

Her phone vibrated. She glanced at the screen.

Miss u. Call me xx

She ignored it without responding. Then, absent-mindedly tracing the S and G hidden in the little swirling heart tattoo on her wrist, she sped up. Her mum had offered her a lift. She wished she'd accepted. A sweaty hairline was not the best way to make a first impression.

Schoolkids were flowing down the high street in packs. The Valentine's Day banners on the buildings, the strings of heart-shaped lights above her head and the pink-painted tarmac beneath her feet made Lila feel dizzy. Trying to ignore the tinny sound of love songs blasting through the town speakers, she jogged after them.

The beginning of a nervous headache was starting behind her eyes as she caught her breath on the steps of Heartside High. A bell started ringing deep inside the big white building. Running up the steps in a flash of panic, Lila looked down to give her blazer sleeve a tug to cover her tattoo.

She crashed into something hard.

“Whoa!”

A warm arm grabbed her. Grabbing it back, Lila managed to stop herself from falling backwards down the steps.

“Holding hands with me already? Whatever happened to ‘I'll call you'?”

Flustered, Lila dropped the hand and straightened her tie. She couldn't believe she'd been so clumsy. “Sorry. First day. You know?” She gestured vaguely. “Steps. Bad id—”

She looked up. Her rescuer was tall and broad, his blond hair shiny and dishevelled. Without thinking, she scanned him. Tie undone at the neck, lightly tanned skin. He was hot.

He raised his eyebrows. “Like what you see?”

Lila could feel her face turning pink. It always betrayed her like this. She hated her pale skin. She would have to work extra-hard at hiding all the feelings she used to show to the world without caring.

“I need to find, uh. . .” She rummaged in her bag and pulled out a piece of paper. “10Y?”

“That's my class,” he said. “We have English first thing with Mr Morrison, our class tutor. I'll take you in if you like. I'm Ollie.”

“Lil. I mean, Lila.”

A second bell went. He was looking at her in that lazy kind of way that made her stomach flutter.

“Shouldn't we, you know. . . ?” She waved at the double doors. “Go inside?”

What was wrong with her? He would think she had half a brain, but she couldn't help it. Every time she looked into his deep blue eyes, she lost her ability to speak in full sentences.

“You're new. You can be as late as you like.”

“But what about you?”

“I'm helping you,” he pointed out, as they walked towards the office. “Right?”

The receptionist gave Lila an armful of paper and a map. Without thinking, she pushed up her sleeves to get a better grip.

“Nice tat,” Ollie remarked.

Lila almost dropped everything. He'd got up quite close to her ear without her noticing.

“I . . . thanks.” She cursed her idiocy. Lil was already making her presence felt. Now Ollie would think of her as the girl with the stupid tattoo.

Ollie set off at a light jog. “Let's find your locker first. You can dump some of your stuff.”

Everywhere people were flitting into classrooms, laughter cut short as doors slammed shut. Several people looked curiously at Lila. She was half glad to be walking with someone – especially a hot guy – and half wishing the floor would open up beneath her. She felt ridiculous in a uniform, which she'd never had to wear before. Her hair had a kink in the side, which she normally dealt with by tousling up her whole head. She could feel it sticking out sideways. She wanted to fling open her arms and shout: “This isn't me!” But it
was
her. It
had
to be her.

“So,” said Ollie. “This is it. The dump. The joint. The state penitentiary.”

Heartside High didn't look like any of those things. It was bright, light, modern and strangely clean. Lila, who was more used to graffiti on classroom doors and kicked-in lockers than polished concrete floors and hung artwork in stairwells, found it impressive.

“Just moved to Heartside?” Ollie asked as they found Lila's locker in the Year 10 corridor.

She put a few things away, then shifted her armful of paper to a more comfortable spot. “We moved from London last week. My parents have new jobs here.”

She wondered if he would ask for details. What would she say if he did? There would be way too much explaining to do, and she wasn't feeling up to it.

But to her relief, he didn't ask any questions. He pointed at a room they were passing. “Staffroom. Avoid unless someone's dared you to put washing-up liquid in the coffee machine.”

Lila laughed, starting to relax. “You've done that?”

He grinned. “How did you guess?”

They headed up some steps, past a gleaming trophy cabinet stuffed with cups and brightly polished dishes. A tall guy in a tracksuit came out of a room beside the trophies. He looked at Ollie with narrowed eyes.

“If you've come to tell me you can't make practice today, Wright, you're on the bench this weekend,” he began. “I don't give a pig's butt if—” He noticed Lila. “Who are you?”

“Lila Murray.” Her new name still felt weird. “I'm new.”

“And I'm showing her to class,” Ollie put in.

“10Y is that way, last time I looked,” said the teacher.

He pointed back down the corridor.

“Short cut,” Ollie said with an innocent shrug.

Lila's gaze was snagged by the name inscribed on the base of a small silver football trophy directly in her eyeline. OLIVER WRIGHT.

“Is that you?” she asked, peering at it more closely.

“Top scorer last season,” he said casually. “See you later, sir.”

“I'm watching you, Wright,” the teacher called after them.

It was obvious that Ollie had brought Lila this way to show her his trophy. She fought down the reckless feeling rising inside her. She wondered what he would do if she put her arms round him and kissed him on the spot. Lil would have done it in a heartbeat, but Lila didn't want to spend too much time thinking about boys, however cute they were. But where was the harm in a little flirting?

“I liked your trophy,” she said, glancing up at him through her lashes.

His teeth flashed into a wide smile. “Did you?”

She suddenly felt uncertain. Was this Lila flirting, or Lil?

“10Y?” she said, with a sudden briskness in her voice.

Ollie was big into football. Lila let him talk as they walked down the white corridor.

“. . .so we beat these schools from all over this area. Actually, it's probably more accurate to say we whipped them. Seven-nil in one match. Five goals scored by me. But you know, obviously, it's a team game, so the guys get all the credit. Most of the credit. Some of the credit.”

“Wow,” said Lila as they reached a classroom door marked 10Y: MR MORRISON, ENGLISH. “I feel like we just found the source of the Amazon.”

“You're funny,” Ollie said admiringly, leaning against the door above her head. “Funny and—”

And then, like in some kind of horror movie, the door swung open and deposited them both on the classroom floor, Ollie on top.

BOOK: The New Girl
10.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Tiger Men by Judy Nunn
The Color of Hope by Kim Cash Tate
Confiscating Charlie by Lucy Leroux
Single White Vampire by Lynsay Sands
Ricochet by Sandra Sookoo
Fortunes of War by Stephen Coonts
Temptation Released by Ayla Ruse
Indigo Christmas by Jeanne Dams
Cry For the Baron by John Creasey