Chapter One - The Boy in the Canteen

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CHAPTER ONE – The Boy in the Canteen

Venus Matthews shuffled down the dinner queue, sliding her tray along the gleaming chrome rack. Somehow, it had turned out that she was in the canteen at lunchtime on her own. Yet again! And this was her second year at Sutton and Cheam Secondary. You’d have thought she’d have found a new dinner mate by now. She sighed and eyed the food on display. What to have? Tuna melt or the chicken and salad baguette? They both looked tempting. Decisions decisions! She spotted Amy’s sleek dark bob just up ahead of her. Yes! Maybe this was her chance to get talking to her again.   

‘Hi Amy!’ she said brightly, scooting up behind her and getting a few dirty looks on the way. ‘I can’t decide whether to have the chicken and salad baguette or the tuna melt. What do you think?’  

Amy looked her up and down. 'Maybe you should go for the healthy option salad Venus.’

Venus felt as though all the breath had been knocked out of her. She was speechless for a moment, trying to think of something smart to say in reply. But she couldn’t. She just stood there with her mouth opening and closing like a goldfish.

‘W-why d’you say that?’ she stammered at last.   

‘Oh, just a friendly word of advice.  Put it this way. I’m watching my weight for the School Disco,’ she informed Venus rather pointedly, patting her stomach. She snatched a healthy option salad and banged it onto her tray. ‘And so should you. If you carry on the way you are, you won’t fit into anything and you’ll have to come to the disco in your pyjamas. Ha ha!’

She burst into gales of laughter. Gemma Woodhouse, who was directly in front of Amy, glanced over her shoulder and joined in. Venus felt her cheeks burning. What had got into Amy? She didn’t used to be this bitchy. It was as though she’d been taken over by an alien life force or something, like in that corny old sci fi film ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers.’  Or maybe it was just hormones. She seemed to have quite a lot of them lately.

Swallowing hard and deciding to brazen it out, Venus grabbed a Healthy Option salad and followed Amy to the checkout. She would probably die of hunger half way through the afternoon but maybe she should make an effort. The checkout woman started changing the till roll. Amy made a sort of hissing noise and tapped her foot impatiently. Venus glanced round the school canteen. It was hot and steamy and full of dark blue uniformed kids jostling for space. The hubbub of their voices rose above the din. She wondered where she would end up sitting today and started scanning the tables.     

Craig Austin and his crowd of louts, definitely a no no. A small spark of hope as she saw some space left on Tiffany’s table, where she knew Amy would be heading. Maybe today Venus could squeeze in there too. She tried to avoid looking at the Geeks Table. It was a toxic zone for sure, a seriously no go area. They were all laughing like hyenas about something that was probably incredibly inane. Michael Thompson was gibbering like a demented baboon, shaking his shoulders up and down, Jonathan Purvis was making a honking sound through his elephantine nose and, presiding over it all, at the ghastly epicentre of this appalling ensemble, was Colin Drummond, waving his gangly arms about like an octopus.

He caught sight of Venus and began nervously twiddling his spiky hair tufts, which stood straight up on his head, but not in a cool way. Colin Drummond, Archgeekon of Geekdom throughout the Entire Known Universe.  Really into astronomy. Had built his own telescope. If he had been anything approaching a normal human being Venus might have asked to go and look through it one night, because she had a secret thing about all that Patrick Moore stuff herself…. or rather Brian Cox, he was the big thing now in astronomy, but far too old for Venus and her so called friends ; Justin Bieber was more their line. But if she did approach Colin it would open the floodgates to heaven knows what kinds of nerdy misunderstandings….

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