Leafing through the third chapter of Animal Farm, I scoured the text for any relevant quotations. Semi-legible scrawl filled in the margins. Along with the ink underlining, it was rather hard to focus on the text, especially as Taylor's arm flew across the A3 page that lay between us. Combining my ability to pick out language devices and Taylor's superior knowledge of the novel, we were the fastest pair in the class for this kind of exercise.

I stared back at the passage, the back of my neck beginning to warm at the emptiness of my brain. Someone's humming buzzed in my ear, and I glanced back across at Taylor. He had sprawled across the desk as he tried to cramp his writing into the edge of the sheet.

"Is that 'Save yourself, I'll hold them back'?" I said.

  Ink spluttered onto the sheet as the pen hit paper and Taylor's head jerked up. With his ruffled hair and wide eyes, he gave the impression of startled meerkat.

"Taylor FM was playing out loud wasn't it? Oh, sorry," Taylor said with a sheepish grin, "But no, My Chemical Romance are so two weeks ago. That was Placebo's 'Broken promise'. I've had it in my head all day."

"Oh yeah, I've heard of Placebo! They covered 'Running up that hill' for pilot of Vampire Diaries."

Sighing melodramatically, Taylor shook his head as he set about erasing the ink.

"What?" I asked.

"I can't believe that's how you heard of Placebo is all."

The bell dully rang out from outside, barely audible beneath the stampede of chairs pushed back in anticipation.

"See you in the hell of Rochdale high," Taylor muttered as he shoved his things into his bag.

"Yeah, see you at physics," Grabbing my own bag, I rose and headed for the door.

For the first few days, I had walked with Taylor to each class.  Having quickly learnt his way around, Taylor understandably seemed to prefer walking alone than with the girls. Whilst he battled his way through the heaving mass of students trying to get through the temperamental automatic doors, I slipped through the crowd to meet Amy outside of her English classroom.

"Wish I could get out of an hour of boredom like you," Amy moaned as we walked back down the corridor.

"What do you mean?"

"You've got that orthodontist appointment, remember?"

I groaned at the reminder, a little envious at Amy's memory for dates beneath her seemingly empty-headed appearance. "Oh god yeah, Mum's picking me up at quarter to. I better get going."

Quickening my pace, but without looking like I was power-walking, I hurried out of the block, which involved pushing my way through a load of students with a garbled flurry of excuse me and apologies.

Rounding the corner of the science block was a crumpled figure with spiky hair.

This time I did run.

"Taylor! Taylor, wait up!"

He didn't hear me, probably too lost in his mental radio station. Finally catching up with him, I grabbed onto his arm. Taylor turned around, his meerkat appearance now bewildered.

"Missing physics...orthodontist appointment," I panted, "Can you message me...what the experiment's about?"

Taylor frowned down at me. A bunch of year nines were charging towards us and I grabbed his other arm to pull us against the wall.

"Ask Amy, she's in our science class and actually uses her phone," he muttered.

"She doesn't pay any attention!" I pouted up at him. "Please, just let me copy your notes?"

"Fine, but I'm such a loner that I don't have a mobile," Fishing out a crumpled sheet and taking the biro that I thrust at him, Taylor scrawled down a few numbers. "There's my home number. I won't be back 'til four though. Do you want me to lend you my book too?"

"Thanks, that'd be great. You're a lifesaver!"

I faintly heard him call something about that literally being the case with Mr. Jenkins as I set off past science to reception. By the time I'd signed out, it was already ten to three. Stepping out of the main doors, I apprehensively scanned the car park for Mum, dreading the lecture she'd probably prepared whilst waiting.  But there was only the dim chatter from nearby classrooms. I made my way to the gates, checking registration plates and car models as I walked.

'Where the hell is she?'

I jumped at a sharp honk from behind me and spun around in the direction of the noise. I scanned over the cars. None of them were Mum's. The panicky sense that the minutes were creeping past niggled in the back of my mind, and I wandered back towards reception. The horn blared another few times, growing increasingly louder. As I walked past an oldish, aubergine Clio, a window wound down and Jadwiga's head popped out.

"Let me guess, Mum had some emergency at the estate agents and couldn't pick me up?"

"She said something about chains and contracts. But it's no matter Lily, I don't mind taking you. You two girls are like siostrzenicąs," Jadwiga's head vanished and  the passenger car door was flung open. "Now get in, we don't want to be late."

"Chloe and I aren't actually your nieces though. So you don't have to do this, I mean, you're our cleaner, not slave," I pointed out as I clambered into the car and inhaled the scent of cough sweets and alpine air freshener that clung to the grey upholstery.

"Your Mum's a busy lady," The engine revved into life as Jadwiga spoke, and with a firm slam on the pedal, the car veered back. "Don't you worry about me darling, I told you, I don't mind."

I was unconvinced, but knew there was little point in pursuing the conversation any further.

"You alright? Not worried about the dentist?" Jadwiga's concern made me smile. After so many years, she was aware that silence with me was never a good thing.

"Yeah, yeah I'm fine. All they're doing is a review to check my teeth are still straight and then I'm done. Plus I get to miss physics."

"You'll copy up all the missed work, won't you?"

"Of course I will, my lab partner's gonna fill me on what I've missed and lend me his book-" I was flung forward slightly as the car screeched to a halt behind a delivery lorry that had pulled out.

"Bloody idiot!" Jadwiga cursed, enthusiastically slamming on the horn. Exhaling, she composed herself. "Excuse my French. So is this your boyfriend lending you his book?"

"What? No, Dan's not even in my science class. This is Taylor, the new guy I told you about?"

"Yes, I remember now. He seems nice, helping you out."

"I kinda made him," Seeing her pursed lip expression in the rear view mirror, I explained, "Only cause I hadn't realised I was missing last lesson, and he's one of the few people in my class who's good at physics, despite claiming he hates it. Actually, Taylor's pretty good at lots of things, but seems to hate them all..."

An elbow slyly jabbed into my side as I finished rambling. "You sure he's not your boyfriend? You sound rather fond of him."

"It's not like that! He's just my friend. We spent most classes sat together, so I notice these things."

Pursing her lips again, Jadwiga gave a dubious hum. Taking opportunity of her being side-tracked by the broken set of traffic lights that we were approaching, I slid out my mobile phone.

Multiple texts from Amy, master of under-the-desk-texting, flashed up, assuring me that I wasn't missing much, despite our physics teacher's claims. Dismissing them, I got out the slip of paper from my blazer. It took me a few minutes to decipher the hasty scrawl before I entered Taylor's number into my phone.

I had to admit, I was quite intrigued by the thought of being able to talk to Taylor outside of school, without my friends judgmental stares or the confines of lesson time. Even if it was about physics.

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