Chapter 1 - The Last Straw

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"I don't believe you have to be better than everybody else. I believe you have to be better than you ever thought you could be." - Ken Venturi


Codi twiddled her thumbs idly, staring at the floor. Currently seated waiting outside the disciplinarian’s office, she had little else to do but play over the event that had bought her here for the umpteenth time. Trouble seemed to follow her around like a pack of dogs.

The latest incident resulted in something a little more serious than usual, however, when she’d broken a sixth-former’s nose after a heated dispute about a foul in a game of tackle-ball. Maybe she had cheated a little by tripping him, but that didn’t give him the right to shoot his mouth off like he owned the place. Brushing a stray loop of her long black hair behind her ear, Codi sighed. As far as she was concerned they were both out of line, but she’d swung first. She always did.

“Miss James, you can come in now,” barked a muffled voice from behind the door. She took a steadying breath, brushed down her crumpled grey hoody and stood up. Time to see what her latest punishment would be; hopefully not an expulsion as she’d already managed to accumulate her fair share of those.

Opening the door she stepped sheepishly into the white-washed office of Mr. Barrow, the school’s head disciplinarian for the last ten years. Codi had been around for maybe six months of that time and was practically on first name terms with the man. He sat at the meticulously organised desk, giving her an exasperated look from behind his spectacles.

“Take a seat.” Barrow gestured to the empty chair opposite him with a pen. As she sat down he ran a hand through his short grey hair and sighed. “Codi, what am I going to do with you?”

“Well it’s not my-,”

“Enough,” he snapped. “I’ve heard it all before. ‘He started it’ – ‘she’s always giving me looks,’ – I get it. You’ve got a hair-trigger temper that you don’t even try and control.”

Codi frowned and lowered her gaze to the floor.

“And now you’ve sent a pupil to the hospital. Pranks, names, a cut or a bruise: that I can explain away, but this really is the last straw.” Barrow tossed his pen onto the desk, leaning forward and examining the screen of his computer. “In the last three years you’ve been shifted to eight different schools on the continent for one reason or another. What is it about education that you hate so much?”

“It’s not that,” she exclaimed. “I just…I don’t know. People just don’t like me. They don’t accept who I am.”

“So it’s everyone else that has the problem, not you?”

He was twisting her words again. She glared at him. “That’s not what I meant.”

“Well what did you mean?” He put his hands on the desk and looked her in the eye. “You have to understand, there’s nothing I can do for you this time. If the headmaster decides you’ve caused enough havoc and wants to expel you, then that’s exactly what he’ll do!”

“Then let him!” she shouted back, her voice wavering. “It’s not like I belong here anyway.”

Barrow turned his eyes skyward and leaned back in his seat. She bit her lip and looked at the floor again. Every school was the same; a bunch of self-entitled jack-offs looking down on her for a situation she didn’t ask for and couldn’t control. They could always spot somebody from the orphanages – the surplus supply clothes and belongings that made it seem like she’d raided a garbage dump – but she’d one-upped everybody. In ten years not a single foster family had even given her a second look. The orphanage workers told her to be patient, but she’d been patient for far too long.

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