Out of the corner of my eye, I notice a body to my right, where a vacant seat usually resides. Autumnal tresses glint in the sunlight. A quick, hopeful smile flashes forth. It’s her, I think, pupils widening involuntarily. It’s – that girl! The crazy skipping one! I gape, unseeing, at the vast smartboard on which our learning objectives are typed, trying to get my head around this development. I need to say something. I can’t stop myself from saying something. “Sooo…you’re Florence?”
“Yea.” she responds, unexpectedly coy, though with a rough undertone. “Or Floss. If you want.”
“OK…” I agree, working to hold my smile in place. I’m so out of practise in getting to know people it’s almost unbelievable. A muteness stretches out between us and it seems that I’m going to have to be the one to initiate conversation. “I, uh, saw you with your friend on Saturday.” I say, some part of me actually wanting to start a discussion for once. Perhaps the recent lack of social life has gone to my head. “In swimsuits.” I add, failing to keep a straight face.
Florence looks embarrassed, understandably. “Ahh…” Her response sounds like a slow-motion scream that has had its pitch lowered. “Yeah, Eva was staying at mine ‘cause she has no school today and we were bored and I suggested…yeah.” She’s blushing now. “I had to drag her out the door.” Somewhat evil grin.
“Were you drunk?” I laugh and Florence’s mouth twists impertinently.
“Maybe you could join us sometime!” She giggles at the horrified look on my face. This common memory seems to have been the ice-breaker. “Hey, what’s your name?”
“Oh, yeah, sorry – Saffron.” I don’t give her my nickname; no one gets in that easily, especially new girls.
Mr Cain ticks everyone off the online register in his own time, so we get straight on with our work, although we’re well into the lesson by now.
“You OK Addie?” Florence asks the girl in front of us, concern simmering in honey-coloured retinas.
“Addie” currently has her head clutched in her palms, elbows gripping the table, an empty Excel document open on her computer. For the first time, I notice that her hair is chopped rather roughly, with uneven ends, as if she herself has cut it. “Headache.” She mumbles without turning. I get the impression that it was Florence who decided to bring this relationship into existence.
“I have some tablets if you want.” Florence offers.
Gradually – miraculously, it seems to me, Adalyn comes to face us and Florence pulls out some paracetamol from her rucksack. I give her a weak smile as she waits silently for a strip to be detached, receiving a hesitant one that closely resembles a grimace in return. I can’t be sure if this is because of the pain or my acknowledging her; with a guilty jolt it occurs to me that the latter could well be the case. I’m not one of those that tease her – for her shabbiness, her solicitude – but I don’t stand up for her either. In fact, I don’t believe I’ve spoken to her at all in the three years we’ve been in the same form, apart from a few ‘what do you thinks’ during group projects, to which I usually receive a shrug.
Adalyn gives the brightest smile she can muster to the blonde, accompanied by a moderately loud “Thank you.”
Florence then looks, beaming, to me. I am amazed at how speedily she’s come out of her shell. I guess even the bubbliest of people appear shy in an unknown environment. “I think we should start working now.” She sighs.
“Oh. Yeah.” I agree reluctantly.
“Don’t you like I.T.?” She chuckles.
I wrinkle my forehead instinctively. “It’s OK. I prefer stuff like Science and Maths but I’m not especially good at any of those.”
“Oh, I’m sure you are. I’ll have to see”
I shake my head, disbelieving. She can’t seriously be implying that she’s going to stick around. I don’t know what I make of that, to be honest.