Linda came over to talk to John that morning. She normally sat amid her friends in the basketball quad.

“You’re not going to go all weird, if I sit down next to you?” she said.

“Go on, then,” he said, not knowing what else  to say.

She smiled and put her bag alongside his on the wall and pulled her lanky frame up onto it.

“Got a nice view of the school from here,” Linda said.

The car park stretched out before them, and beyond to the concrete Tupperware box that was Manor Comprehensive.

John could see the three hairbands on her wrist. They were of three distinct colours. She wore them every day, even when she went swimming. That’s what John’s mate, Tim, said.

“My mates say you fancy me,” she said.

“Do not so,” John said.

He couldn’t meet her gaze preferring to stare at his fingers knitting themselves together. When he looked up they made eye contact. Her eyes were the same color as Lara Croft’s, a kind of hazel, but Linda was not like the PC adventurer at all. For a start, Linda’s blazer hung off her like it was on a metal frame, not like Lara  who was dead fit. And he was certain that she wouldn’t want to shoot endangered animals even if she had twin Desert Eagle semi-automatic pistols because she had a Greenpeace badge on her exercise book.

“They say you are always staring at us in class,” said Linda.

John found himself obsessed by her pencil case ritual when they had Physics together. At the start of the class she would take out her pens, pencils, rubber, ruler, and sharpener and put them in a line in front of her. When this was done, and only when this was done would she reach into the bag for her exercise book with the Greenpeace sticker on it. One time, Tim, his best mate, knocked her stuff off her table and she scratched his arm until he bled, and Mr Bentley made them talk to the headmaster. Tim said she was mad.

“Do you like it here?” said John.

It was like she had pulled a smile from her face it was so sudden.

“Who doesn’t?” she said.

In truth, John hated the timetable that made him late to every class. He hated the tall boys who waited by the school toilets and took his dinner money. Most of all, he hated the way his friends used him to get cheap laughs because he had a stutter.

“Yeah,” said John. “Who doesn’t?”

Just then, Linda’s mate, Jenny, came along swinging her bag.

“Got a minute,” said Jenny.

“Go on,” said Linda.

“It’s like private and I don’t want j-j-j-john listening,” said Jenny.

John looked up. He hated it when they took the rip out of his stutter but he didn’t want to say anything because he liked it that she was talking to him. Normally he read his comics until the dinner bell sounded.

“Do you know what happened at the party last night?” said Jenny.

“No,” said Linda. “Tell us.”

“I ain’t telling til he fucks off,” said Jenny.

The two girls looked at him.

And that is how John lost his spot at the front of the school.


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