The Inn On Bluebell Lane — Episode 19

Cora had started school yesterday, and she hadn’t messaged Jess even once.

All Jess had seen was the public post Cora had put up of her and Emily, and her stomach had clenched as she’d scrolled through the comments from all the coolest people in their year.

What was going on? Why was Cora suddenly hanging with the cool crowd?

She’d forget about her best friend completely while Jess was stuck here in the middle of nowhere, in the worst school in the world.

Tears smarted in her eyes as she remembered the miseries of the day.

First she had looked like a complete nerd when she’d boarded the bus; she’d seen some girls exchange snickering glances.

It didn’t matter that she’d pushed her socks down and shortened her tie, or walked off the bus holding her backpack like a bag instead of a rucksack. The damage had been done.

And it only got worse.

The teacher who was in charge of new pupils wittered on to Jess’s “shadow” – the year nine girl who looked like she couldn’t be bothered and was meant to show her around – making her cringe in embarrassment.

“Now, Bronwen, I know you’ll be friendly to Jess and introduce her to everyone,” the teacher had said.

“She’s come all the way from America and she might have a tricky time fitting in.”

Wow, thanks, Jess had been tempted to say sarcastically. Didn’t the stupid teacher realise she was making it worse?

Bronwen had rolled her eyes, sauntering ahead as soon as the teacher had gone, and left Jess to her own devices all day.

The result of that had been that Jess had stumbled from class to class, trying to find her lessons, late for everything, having to slink into a seat at the back, much to her teachers’ annoyance.

Then she’d tried to pay for her lunch with the money her mother had given her, and the dinner lady had barked that everything was on a Parent Pay system, no cash allowed.

The line behind her had grown longer as Jess had fumbled to put her lunch items back, and then left the line, trying not to cry.

She’d ended up spending the rest of lunchtime in an empty classroom, and then a teacher had yelled at her and told her to go outside.

Outside all the other students stayed together in tight knots, and Jess had sat on a bench by herself, trying not to look as if she minded being alone.

Students weren’t allowed phones during school so she couldn’t even hide behind a screen, pretending to look engrossed.

She sat there miserably before the bell rang and everyone shuffled inside.

By the end of the day, Jess had just wanted to get home.

She couldn’t even think about doing it all again tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after . . .

Her phone pinged with a text, and with relief she saw it was from Cora.

How was school?

Terrible, Jess texted quickly. I hate it.

Belatedly she wondered if she should have pretended she was having a good time, since Cora seemed to be.

But why should she have to pretend with her best friend?

Cora sent a flurry of sad face emojis. Sorry. Miss u.

How was your first day? Jess texted back.

Rlly gud! Cora texted. Emily and I are in Mrs Lerner’s class. She’s so cool.

Acid churned in Jess’s stomach. Mrs Lerner was the fun teacher who all the girls in school loved.

Jess couldn’t stand the thought of Emily and Cora sitting together with their cool teacher while she was stuck all on her own with teachers who didn’t know her name and just yelled at her for being late.

Life was so unfair.

Sorry, got to go, Cora texted. Homework.

Homework . . . or more important people to text?

Jess tossed her phone away without replying. The tears that had threatened all day started to trickle down her cheeks.

She had to get out of here.

Alan Spink

I am a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. I enjoy working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, I also write fiction and enjoy watching football and movies in my spare time. My one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.