The removal truck pulled away. Anna was sat on the ageing green sofa in her living room watching the Davidson family as they left the street. They had only lived in the house for 18 months. Anna’s mum had said that it had never suited the them, something about it not being fashionable enough. To Anna, that house was all kinds of beautiful. It was beautiful because the red brickwork matched her house exactly, it was beautiful because she remembered when she was six or seven watching Lewis Drake painting the dark blue front door. It was beautiful because somewhere in the slightly overgrown garden was a shoe box that herself and Matthew Drake had buried with toy spades the summer he had gone on holiday to Spain. Anna had not thought about Matthew and his family for a while now, she was young and the young often move on quickly. With Matthew gone, Anna had made friends with a group of girls at school, they had not understood her humour or inquisitive nature two years ago, but now she was nearly a teenager she liked having friends that she could talk to about make-up and hair. She had not thought about Matthew Drake for a while now. But then, with the red removal truck pulling away, Anna closed her eyes and that day nearly two years ago came flooding back.
Anna had spent a lot of time with Matthew sorting out his things since the day the ‘For Sale’ sign went up. She knew that she wasn’t a great help, but it was an excuse to sit together in Matthew’s room for an hour or so at a time. For Anna and Matthew, it felt like they were approaching some great tragedy that no-one else knew about, like in the films that they weren’t supposed to watch but had. It felt like the end of the world was coming.
“Do you want this Anna?” Matthew was holding up a doll that he had owned for years. It was a clown wearing dungarees and it was made to be drawn on with special pens. Then it could be put in the wash and would come out clean, ready to be drawn on again. This clown had been through the washing machine one time too many and faint graffiti was still visible. “I don’t really like it anymore; I find it a bit creepy.”
“Oooh, really Matty? Are you sure you don’t want it?” Anna reached for the doll, acknowledging to herself that there was something unsettling about it. The black bin bag that Matthew’s mum had given them lay on the floor nearly empty. Anna had not had the heart to throw away most of what he considered junk; to her if something had belonged to Matthew it was classified as a sacred object that must be kept and adored. “Hey! Matty, look at this etchy-sketchy!” The two children began doodling all over the strangely pink coloured plastic sheet. This was how they passed their time for a little over a month, until the date that was set arrived. The men in navy overalls had let Anna and Matthew carry the last box into the van; it was small and full of soft toys. They had cried, hugged and promised to always be best friends. Then Matthew had gotten in the car with his parents and driven away, to the other side of town. For a while they had dedicated themselves to seeing each other once a fortnight, when they would go swimming or to the zoo, but it wasn’t long before Matthew met new friends in his new school and Anna spent more and more time with Charlotte, Grace and Amy.
Anna felt a tear run down her cheek, which she quickly wiped away with gritted teeth. She hadn’t known the Davidson family at all, and she hadn’t thought about Matty in ages, so she had no right to be crying about anything. She turned away and walked out of the room. The removal truck was gone and the new family were moving in a week’s time. There was nothing more to see.
A week later, it was the first day back at school after the summer holidays. Anna was starting year eight at her middle school. She was sat on the floor in front of the full length mirror in her bedroom waiting for her hair straighteners to start flashing red, letting her know they were hot enough to use. A compilation CD was drifting quietly out of her Hi-Fi system, she decided to take a risk and knocked the volume dial up a bit and started singing along. She tied most of her hair into a strange bun on the top of her hair, leaving just a single bottom layer, ready to straighten. As she began running the hot irons over her light brown hair, she glanced over to the timetable she had stuck on her mirror. Maths first. She did not like the idea of having maths first. In the last three days of the summer term they had been sorted into their new sets for year eight. Amy and Grace were much smarter than she was and so had been put into top set, whilst Charlotte was dyslexic and went to the special support room to get one to one tuition for most Maths and English lessons. Charlotte tended to understand things much quicker than Anna because even though she found it more difficult, she got more help and Anna was only average with numbers at the best of times. Anna let out a sigh, looking down to see that she had French in block two. She was looking forward to French. In French they were not sorted into ability sets until year nine, which meant that she would be with all three of her friends for that lesson. The rest of the day looked acceptable as well; Anna was pretty good in English and double Art was the kind of lesson the girls could just sit and chat in, as long as they were careful not to draw too much attention to themselves. Fifteen or twenty minutes later Anna smiled at herself in the mirror, finally her navy V-neck school jumper was not too big for her and her hair hung straight and sleek over her shoulders. She let out a small noise as she looked at her watch, five minutes until the bus arrives! She galloped downstairs.
“Mum, I’m sorry, going to be late, have a good day, yeah?” she spoke three words a second as she skidded into the kitchen and grabbed the reddest looking apple in the bowl.
“Anna, dear, can you please not play your music so loud in the morning, you know your dad works late and don’t you think we might as well let him have some extra sleep, if we can?” Anna’s mum did that. She could phrase a telling-off as if it were a question. It made it feel like she had a choice whether to agree to behave or not. She was sure she did not.
“What? Oh, yeah, sure Mum. I didn’t realise. Bye!” She jogged out of the door and up the road.
“What room are you in then, Anna?” Amy and Grace were walking either side of Anna as they made their way up the maths stairs. Grace was lost in the screen of her mobile phone.
“Maths 4, I think, what about you guys?”
Grace made no response. “We’re in 3.” They pushed through the double doors into the maths corridor and headed for their rooms, two maroon doors were opposite each other in the dull grey hallway.
“See you later Amy.” Anna turned a knowing eye to her still silent friend, “Hey, Grace!” She caught her attention “Try not to get caught texting Adam in class again.” Grace rolled her eyes, grinning at the shared memory of the number of times she had been told off for texting in class. Anna never bothered to bring her phone to school, she had about seven contacts and any that were not relations were her three best friends, who she saw all day anyway. And Matty, he was one of her contacts too.
As Anna walked into the classroom, she realised that she was the first one in. There had been a new boy in her registration class; she hadn’t heard his name, too busy catching up with friends after the summer break. But it had meant that they were let out of registration early, because their teacher had to sort out this new boy’s timetable. She headed straight for a one of the double tables, 3 rows from the front and took the seat next to the wall. She opened her bag, taking out a brand new pencil case, orange with flowers spiralling across it. Other students began filing into the room, Anna knew most of them and waved and exchanged quick questions about holidays, but as people sat down no-one took the seat next to her. Anna let out her second sigh of the day as Mr Barrymore wrote his name on the board for those who had not had him in years six or seven. Anna had him in both.
There was a knock on the door five minutes into Mr Barrymore’s revision of brackets.
“Late on the first day, eh? I suppose you’d better come in.”
The door opened slowly and the new boy walked in, he was tall with blond hair that hung over his face and flicked to the side. “I’m sorry, er” he glanced at the board “Mr Barrymore, I’m new, you see, and had to get my timetable sorted out.”
“Oh, I see, find a seat. It looks like there’s an empty one next to Anna.”
The boy looked around the room, Anna realised that he would have no idea who she was, so gave him a little wave. A dorky little wave. He raised an eyebrow, maybe two, it was hard to tell because of his hair, and made his way to the empty seat next to Anna. He sat down in silence.
A few minutes later, Mr Barrymore’s back was to the class as he wrote on the board and Anna turned her head to whisper, “what’s your name?”
Anna realised he already knew her name, so tried a different question, “where have you come from?”
“London,” that was all he said.
Anna decided he probably just wanted to pay attention to brackets, but asked one final question just to be sure “did you get your timetable sorted out then?”
He turned his head towards her this time, “yeah, I did. I’m quite smart, but top set maths was full, so they stuck me in middle for now.”
Anna’s gaze snapped back towards the board. She decided that she would have preferred the empty seat, thank you very much.