A loud squawk brought my attention back to the vultures as the line lurched forward. Scornful giggles sounded and their seamless long hair rippled against their backs. Laughing the loudest was their queen. She was practically enveloped by the arms of her boyfriend. The minty scent of her shampoo turned sour in my mouth at the sight of them.
'Bet she was bitching about me in the loos- just another a heartless, vindictive bitch like the rest-'
"Well, what do you want?" The disgruntled voice of another dinner lady cut into my thoughts and I looked down at the array of wilted sandwiches. At the very edge of the metal counter was a lone bacon cob. My stomach begged me to take it before someone else snatched the only edible food remaining.
Hastily exchanging money for the cob, the greasy wrapper landed in my hand. Cupping the warm treasure as I walked, I searched for that elusive empty table avoided by everyone else, according to the unwritten rules of school.
But even the ones on the edge, usually for loners, were filled with chattering clusters of girls, or boys slouched in their seats. I headed to the back, where a table of girls looked finished (there was no food in sight, instead they were rolling a ball of tinfoil back and forth.) One of them glanced up at me and not-so-subtly nudged the girl beside her.
"You're that new guy right?" The nudging girl ventured, her smile ruined by the pasta caught on her braces, "I heard someone new was starting in year eleven..."
"Great. Now piss off so I can eat."
Her smile fell, glances flickering between the girls before haughtily got up. Each gave me their best glare, though one or two added a flutter of their eyelashes, unaware that my boyish good looks didn't extend to my sexual organs.
A gift of scattered of cake crumbs and the tin foil ball had been left, which I flicked away. Collapsing into the nearest seat, I unpeeled the wrapper from my skin, before attempting to free the bread and its glorious contents.
Just as I had unceremoniously crammed half of the cob into my mouth, the adjacent chair slid out and a sketch pad appeared on the table.
'Don't let it be that guy again....' I glanced across, catching the sight of the folder guy, face covered by a curtain of hair. With a start, I realised why I recognised him. He was the guy who had sat alone in form.
Trying to swallow the saturated fat heaven that was lodged between my teeth so that I could tell him to go, we sat together in silence, and I began to pray he wouldn't launch into yet another apology. Thankfully, he didn't speak, simply drawing. Most of the sketch pad was blocked by an arm, but I couldn't keep my gaze from flickering across as I ate. His fingers slid across the page as if coaxing the graphite onto the paper, with sharp lines visible.
"You better not be drawing me with half a cob stuffed in my cheeks."
A low whisper of laughter was exhaled, though he didn't raise his head. "That'd be cruel, considering I already knocked you over. Anyway, I'm not much of a caricaturist, more a graphic novelist."
"Don't try and make that sound any less nerdy than it is," I said as I wiped my greasy fingers down the edge of my blazer.
He didn't seem offended by the comment, simply going back to his sketching. The lack of conversation was preferable after Lily's chatter and people desperately introducing themselves to me all morning. Quite why people my age always seemed to be so obsessed over new students was something that I'd never grasped. I certainly wasn't about to try and extend that fascination. The sooner I became an insignificant student, the better.
Folder guy's voice suddenly intruded the silence that had lapsed between us. "I'm surprised that Lily abandoned you so quickly."
"Why? Just because she was assigned to show me around doesn't mean she actually wants to be with me."
He shrugged. "I don't think that. Lily's always been friendly. She can find a reason to like almost anyone. You two seemed to be getting along pretty well in Chemistry."
"I told her that some guy at my last school used way too much of some chemical and practically blew up half a lab, then she almost set herself on fire laughing so much. If anything, I'm more a hazard to her."
There was a flash of white as his sketch pad vanished beneath the table, his voice suddenly more hurried. "Tell me what lessons you've got this afternoon."
"I hadn't really looked?" There was a trembling of tables and stray chairs, and I glanced up to see several of the aforementioned buffaloes were charging towards us. "History and maths, or something like that."
"I've got History fourth, and we'll definitely be getting homework, 'cause McGrogan despises students' having any free time. Oh, and a word of warning. She'll probably pick on you loads..."
A shadow loomed over us momentarily, before the chair opposite gave a creak as a rock of a sixteen year old sat down.
"So you've found another loner then- where's that sketch book of yours, hey Doug?"
Folder guy didn't speak, swallowing as he glanced up at the wall of figures stood behind the chairs on the other side of the table. "Nice of you Dan to bring the whole rugby team for this little welcome back. "
"It's not you I'm here to welcome. You're that new guy, Tristan, yeah?" I didn't correct him, though he hardly gave me a chance, "I see you've been buddied up with Lily Baker, my girlfriend. Now, I'm sure it'll only take a couple of days for you to be shown around. After that, you stick with your doodling pal here, and keep out of Lily's way, yeah?"
I raised an eyebrow at his pathetic protectiveness. Was it not obvious that I had no intention of being around the bitch society and buffalo clan any longer than necessary?
"Glad that's understood. So I'll be seeing you on the rugby pitch?"
There was a ripple of grunted laughter from his mates. I simply sat, impassively waiting for them to leave, whilst Doug was suddenly very interested in a loose button on his blazer.
"See you in form then," shoving his meaty hands onto the table, Dan pushed back his chair and got up. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched as the force made the sketch pad slip from Doug's upper leg onto the floor.
Once they were out of the hall, Doug's still figure relaxed and he ducked under the table before emerging with a sketchpad coated in squashed grapes and this unidentifiable gloop that I really hoped was curry sauce.
"So yes, the popular girl does date a total dick."
"It's the same at every other school I've been to. Here, it's kinda sticky, but I don't think you want that shit all over your hands," I passed Doug the bacon wrapper as he tore off the cover of the sketchpad, which was the soggiest.
"I gave Lily this chibi style drawing of herself in year six," Doug said as he dabbed at the pages, "He wasn't even dating her then, but he just seemed to loathe me from that point onwards."
There was a slight derisive laugh, which settled the offer of friendship that I suspected had been intended the moment Doug sat down. Although I wasn't one for having a loner sidekick, having someone to discuss our shared animosity towards school and its rulers couldn't be such a bad thing.
YOU ARE READING
"If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, then it is a duck." Taylor Adams and Lily Baker: complete opposites in almost every sense. Taylor Adams: completely themselves when appearing and acting as androgynously as their name suggests, even if i...