When Miss Adams calls the register, I swear I am the only one to realise that Florence’s name is missing. I bolt upright and whip my head about the classroom – frantic.
“What’s up?” Kitty asks, confused; the violent flagellation of my hair causes her to have to dodge its attack.
“Florence…isn’t here.” I mumble distractedly.
“Who?” She queries, touching her chin.
“New girl. Tallish. Blonde.”
“Ah, right, the one that got beaten up. Come to think of it, I heard you packed a punch of your own. Was that…the virus?”
“I – yeah. You see – I got to know Floss, you know, while you were away.”
Kitty is silent.
In a tenth scan of the classroom I pick out a tuft of discoloured hair belonging to the one other being who might give a crap about what’s happened to Floss. The bell rings and I scoot in front of her before she can leave the room, Kitty trailing, bewildered, after me. “Hey. Adalyn.”
“Uh, Saffron? C-can I help?” She has every right to her degree of perplexity. I only newly exist in her world, as she in mine.
“Yes actually. I was just wondering if you know where Florence is.”
After a momentary hesitation, she confides in a whisper: “She’s not coming back here.”
“Oh.” Comes my deflated response. I don’t ask why; I think I can deduce that for myself.
“Uh.” Adalyn says, fiddling with her hands. “If you want to – you know – say farewell and stuff, I could give you her number?” Her voice goes all high-pitched at the end, as if she’s sure that I’ll say no.
But I am determined to prove her wrong. “You can?” I exclaim gently, appreciating her courageous geniality. “That’d be amazing, thanks. I’d be really grateful.”
While Adalyn mumbles Floss’s number, I punch the digits into my phone, thanking her again. I make a mental note to talk to her more often in future.
Turning back round, I am confronted with a tilt-headed Kitty, scrutinising as if she doesn’t quite recognise me.
“I didn’t know that you and Adalyn were on speaking terms.” She states, incredulous.
“Um, yeah, recently – not a lot though.” I instinctively feel embarrassed by my friend’s observation; it must show on my face because, straight away, Kitty reassures me.
“No, no – I’m proud of you. You’re branching out.” She says sincerely.
“Ah, OK then. Thank you.” I accept the backhanded compliment with an addled smile.