A/N:So this is it. The final chapter. I have to admit, I'll miss this story. It's been a part of my life for a good few months now, and I'd like to thank everyone who's read and reviewed.
Kate - Ah, I'm sorry the previous chapter was such a downer. Perhaps this final instalment will do a little to lighten the mood?
DeathlyElegance - Robin and Allan really haven't been having a good time of it, have they? Nor has anyone really, come to think of it. I'm glad the Sheriff's punishment went down well, it's only what he deserved ) I hope you enjoy this chapter!
LittleMissSparkles - Thank you very much for your kind comments. You'll have to read and see, I hope you like it!
Mizco - All part of the struggle of growing up, I suppose. It's a wonder anyone bothers ;)
Bookflower - I'm so glad you've enjoyed this story. I was a pleasure to write, and I'm so grateful it went down well. Hopefully this last chapter won't disappoint.
Jinxywinxy - Thank you very much! You'll have to read on and see what becomes of the characters, but I couldn't really end the story on a sad note, could I?
Results day dawned bright and clear, light streaming in through my blinds and stinging my eyes as I blinked sleepily in the unexpected sunshine. And then, because this was Nottinghamshire and therefore not entitled to more than three days of nice weather each summer, the skies promptly darkened and it started to rain. I faffed around, picking out what I was going to wear and fussing unnecessarily over my hair, which would just go curly the moment I stepped outside anyway. When I finally went downstairs dad was in the hallway, pulling on his suit jacket.
"What time are you going to find out?" he asked as soon as he caught sight of me, and I knew what he was talking about once. I'd been thinking of nothing else since I'd woken up. After all, only the issue of getting into college, getting into uni and quite probably getting a decent job too rested on what I'd got in my GCSEs.
"We can get them from eleven until half twelve. I'm going to walk over there at about quarter to," I told him, then glanced at the clock and frowned slightly. "Running a bit late, are you? You'll have missed your train."
Dad smiled slightly. "I thought I'd take you over there."
I blinked at him, surprised. "Don't you have a meeting?"
"No, I rescheduled it," he told me then added, as I continued to stare at him, "Why, don't you want me to take you?"
"Of course I do. I just thought you were too busy," I hurried to reassure him as he started to look doubtful, and he smiled. "Wasn't the meeting important?"
"Not more important than my daughter," he put a hand on my arm and I laughed, shoving it off.
"Alright, enough of the soppy stuff!" I reprimanded, but I was smiling too now. It's silly how inconsequential things can mean so much, but suddenly dad's offer of a lift had brightened my grey and frankly quite frightening morning slightly. That didn't get rid of the nervous feeling that I was going to throw up if I tried to eat any breakfast, though. In fact, the closer the clock ticked to eleven o'clock, the worse it got. By the time I got into the car, a little over an hour later, I was feeling distinctly ill. Dad had already given me his speech about how it didn't matter what I got, so long as I had tried my best but it hadn't helped at all.
As we pulled up outside the school, dad negotiating his way through the maze of parked cars lining the streets around it, I spotted other people I recognised from my year walking towards the main entrance, either with family, friends or alone.
"I'll wait here. Come and tell me when you get them," dad told me, offering me a smile that was obviously meant to be reassuring. My stomach churning, I nodded stiffly and got out of the car, unintentionally slamming the door behind me. The short walk to the school's main entrance seemed to take an eternity.
"Hi, Marian," Eve smiled at me as I stepped through the doors.
"Yeah, hi," I answered, trying to smile back at her. I suspect that it came out as more of a grimace. I looked around, spotting a table with two teachers sitting at it. Stacked in front of them were boxes of envelopes, and as I watched students approached, signed their names on a piece of paper and took their envelope. Oh, God…
I turned around at the sound of my name being called and Will appeared behind me, looking relieved to have found someone he could talk to. On closer inspection, he appeared almost as worried as I felt.
"Hi." I didn't bother trying to force a smile, and he didn't either. We just looked at each other anxiously in an odd moment of complete understanding; we were both terrified out of our wits. Will swallowed hard, apparently reluctant to open his mouth, and then his eyes alighted on something over my shoulder and he looked momentarily less worried.
"Alright?" The something behind me turned out to be Djaq. She was looking paler than usual and there were dark circles under her eyes, as though she hadn't slept well the night before.
"Yeah, you?" I managed. She nodded, then seemed to change her mind and shook her head fiercely.
"No! I'm more scared than I've ever been in my life!" she admitted and Will smiled a little at this, reaching out to pull her into a sideways hug. She said nothing but didn't resist and I turned around, scouring the crowds for any signs of the others.
I spotted Much as he came through the doorway, pausing to talk to Eve. He seemed to laugh nervously at something that she said and then, excusing himself, fought through the crowd towards us.
"I've failed everything, I know it!" he said miserably as he reached us.
"I'm sure your results are fine," I soothed half-heartedly, too nervous myself to really be of any comfort. He just looked at me doubtfully, and I jumped as a hand clapped on my shoulder.
Allan looked far too confident to be allowed. Much pointed this out almost at once.
"Why aren't you scared shitless?" he asked.
Allan shrugged. "My results were gonna be rubbish all along, so why worry about it? I already know what I've got."
Djaq spoke up for the first time since she'd arrived, looking at him reprovingly. "You don't know that. You won't until actually get your results. You might have done alright."
Allan looked at her incredulously. "I fell asleep in the maths exam. What do you think I've got?"
She didn't answer, looking anxious and miserable, but I had stopped listening. A familiar face had just come through the doorway and was looking around somewhat uncertainly. Robin.
"Back in a sec," I told the others, not waiting for an answer before I ran off towards him, hardly caring who I pushed past to get to the doors. He looked up as I neared him and smiled slightly. I would have pulled him into a hug if I hadn't been worried that it might hurt him. He'd probably hate me for thinking it, but he was bound to be a bit more… well, fragile than normal. I remembered this as I reached him and there was an awkward moment in which I wasn't sure whether to touch him or not, or what to do with my hands. I settled for lowering them to my sides and returning his smile.
"Hi." I hated how uncertain that sounded, as though I didn't know how I stood with him anymore. Which I supposed was true, but you couldn't blame me. You try spending a whole hospital visiting hour with someone mostly delirious and barely aware of your presence and see whether you can think of a suitable topic of conversation the next time you see them. Other than "you moan in your sleep a lot when you're ill" which, clearly, would be both embarrassing and ridiculous.
Either he didn't notice my hesitation or he chose to ignore it, for which I was grateful. "Yeah. Well, prepared?"
I shook my head fervently as he looked around for the others, finally seeming to spot them a moment later. He took my hand without thinking so that we did not get separated as we pushed back through the crowd of students towards our friends. It felt like the most natural thing in the world.
"Terrified, more like," I corrected him, and found myself smiling as he looked over his shoulder at me with a grin.
"Yeah, me too."
I didn't interfere as Much greeted his friend enthusiastically, reminding myself that the boy had been missing Robin as much as I had. There was gentle teasing and laughing for the first time that morning as the others reacquainted themselves, and then silence descended again. As one, our eyes travelled towards the desk where our results awaited us.
"Shall we?" Djaq suggested reluctantly, with the air of one who is torn between wanting to put off the inevitable for as long as possible, and just wanting to get it over with. I glanced at Robin, who nodded slowly.
"Yeah," he looked around at us, "Come on, this is it."
"D-Day," Will remarked grimly, earning himself a half-amused and half-reproachful look from Djaq.
So that was it; the matter had been decided. It was time to get out results. So why was nobody moving?
"Oh come on, you bunch of big girl's blouses," I grinned, taking hold of Robin's arm and pulling him forwards. He didn't resist and the others followed our lead as we approached the desk. Walking to meet our fate, it seemed.
"Hello Marian," the slightly eccentric textiles teacher greeted me with what was clearly meant to be an encouraging smile. "Sign your name on the sheet and I'll find your results for you."
I picked up a pen from the desk and scanned down the list of names, picking out my own amongst others from my registration group. A quick glance around assured me that the others were doing the same, and I signed my name. As I pushed the sheet back towards the teacher she finished rifling through the box of envelopes and held one out to me. I smiled insincerely back at her and took it in shaking hands.
I turned around, stepping away from the desk to allow Allan to collect his results and stared down at the envelope in my hands. It was an innocuous little thing, just brown paper and a sticker saying my name on it. I knew that when I opened it there would be a few sheets of paper inside, but it might as well have been holding my whole future.
"I'll open mine if you open yours," Djaq appeared next to me, holding her own envelope. I nodded shakily.
I ripped through the envelope with shaking fingers, and three carefully folded sheets of paper fell out into my hands. One I scarcely bothered to look at; it explained the grade boundaries and what different things meant. The other two contained my results, a separate sheet for the two exam boards. I looked at the OCR one first, heart in my throat.
English Literature… A. English Language… A. Citizenship Studies… A. Religious Education… A.
English Literature… A.
English Language… A.
Citizenship Studies… A.
Religious Education… A.
And oh god, oh god, I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry so I just looked at the certificate from Execell instead.
Double Science… BB. Maths… B. Statistics… B. Food Technology… C. Geography… A. History… A.
Double Science… BB.
Food Technology… C.
I looked up, open mouthed and not even caring about how gormless I probably looked, and Much, Will and Allan were there too, all of them either still reading or just staring down at their results. I looked at Djaq, and her expression was unreadable.
"Do okay?" I asked her, my voice quiet and a bit croaky.
She nodded, dreamlike, and didn't look up from her results. "Yeah… You?"
"Yeah…" I nodded, and swallowed hard. It hadn't quite sunk in yet and so I reread them, double checking everything. It occurred to me that I should probably start screaming right about… now.
Djaq beat me to it.
"I got four A stars…" mumbled, then looked up, a grin slowly appearing on her face. She turned to Will, almost pouncing on him in her enthusiasm. "I got four A stars!"
He grinned back, looking both pleased and slightly bemused. "I got Bs in double science," he told her, quietly. She just looked at him for a moment, saying nothing, and he added, "So I can do Physics with you at college."
I turned around as she kissed him, unable to wipe the growing smile from my face. My attention turned to Much. He looked up, smiling a little to himself.
"What did you get?" I asked.
"Six C's and…" he hesitated for a moment, beginning to look pleased with himself, and I found myself grinning already.
"Come on, spit it out!" I urged him.
"I got an A star. In Food Tech," he sounded shocked as he repeated it, looking up at me. Before he could protest, I pulled him into a hug.
"Well done! How'd you manage that? I got a C!"
He disentangled himself from my arms, looking slightly embarrassed. "I betcha got a load of A's though, didn't you?"
"Five. And one A," I grinned. Much was one of the few people I know in this world who could be genuinely happy for other people, and he looked happy now.
Together, the two of us rounded on Allan. He was still looking at his results, frowning slightly.
"What is it?" Much asked, slightly hesitantly. Allan looked up, apparently confused.
"I got an A," he told us, and couldn't have sounded more surprised if he'd just told us that he'd grown an extra head.
My eyes widened, and I made a grab for his results. He pulled them away from my grasp but turned them around to wave them in front of my face. I squinted to make them out, and there it was.
I grinned suddenly. "We should have known. You've always been good at making stuff up!"
He stuck his tongue out at me, but seemed to surprised to come up with a witty response. Djaq looked interested now that she had disentangled herself from Will, and together we both took the opportunity to look over his results again. When we did she looked up, seeming half-surprised.
"Allan," she said slowly, "You do know that you've got four other Cs, don't you?"
"I…" he hesitated, realising what this meant. "Yeah I have, haven't I?"
Will smiled. "That's enough to get into the college, mate. They want five Cs or above. You've got it."
"Yeah…" Allan looked so dazed that I couldn't help but burst out laughing. He looked vaguely offended until I wrapped an arm around his shoulder in a sort of sideways hug.
"So are you going to stick with us for two more years?"
"Yeah… I think so, yeah…"
"'Yeah'. Is that all you can say?" Much teased and everyone laughed. Everything seemed so surreal, so dream-like, and for the first time since the incident with Robin and Sheriff I let myself believe that maybe things really were going to be alright. In fact, they'd be just about perfect if I could find Robin… And, as though my every passing whim was a command, I caught sight of the back of his head through the double doors. From what I could see he was standing outside, reading his results. I looked around at the others but they were still enthusing over Allan's unexpected success, and didn't seem to have noticed. Before they could ask me where I was going I was off, heading towards the doors.
"Hey," I called, stepping outside. Robin spun around at the sound of my voice.
"Oh," he said. "Hi."
The results were open in his hand, but both his expression and tone of voice were unreadable. I swallowed hard, eyeing the sheets of paper. He followed my gaze down to them, but said nothing.
"How did you do?" I asked, forcing the question out through a throat that felt as though it wanted to close up through sheer nerves alone.
He pulled a face. "Ok."
And what did that mean, then?
"Let me see?" I asked. He paused for a moment then nodded, holding out the results. It occurred to me that my fingers were shaking just as badly as they had been before I'd received my own results as I took the papers from him and scanned down the column.
A… A… C… D… B…B…B…B…C…C…C.
A… A… C… D… B…B…B…B…C…C…C.
He'd only achieved less than a C in Religious Education, but I doubted that he was all that concerned about becoming the next pope anyway. Four C grades, four B grades and two As. Which meant…
"So I'll get a place at the college, then," he spoke up at last. That meant that we were all in, we'd all got the required five C grades or above. The future, so dark and convoluted seeming over the past few weeks, seemed suddenly clearer. And brighter. Two years at sixth form college awaited us. And it would be different, certainly. No doubt there would be trouble in some form or another, but I was content in the knowledge that at least we'd be in it together. We still had two more years until the big wide world could snatch us up and tear us apart from each other. And, standing out in the school car park, the sun finally beginning to break through the clouds, two years felt like forever.
I grinned widely, and unlike my awkward greeting earlier this time I didn't even have to think about it as I grasped him in an enthusiastic hug. It was only when his arms came around me and started to hug me back that I remembered that he'd been hurt, and tried to pull away. He looked down at me, raising his eyebrows at my hasty retreat.
"Sorry, didn't think. Don't want to… You know…" and I gestured to his side, where the knife wound had been. He continued to look at me a little incredulously.
"Oh leave it out," he laughed, "I'm not a pansy."
I grinned. "I don't know about that!"
His eyes widened, pretended to be offended, and I started to back away. I'd hardly taken two steps when he caught up with me, pinning my arms to my sides. Immediately I began to squirm but it was no use, and I could not get free.
"No!" I shrieked, giggling, "Let me go!"
"Not until you say sorry," he refused, and I twisted harder.
"Never!" I cried, determined. But then he started to tickle me and it didn't take long for me to realise that I wasn't going to be able to hold out under such torture. "Alright, I give in! You're not pansy-ish at all, you're very manly and impressive," I gasped, panting and laughing as he finally let me go, looking amused.
He looked a little ruffled from our brief struggle, and it occurred to me that I probably looked considerably rougher, but I couldn't quite bring myself to care. The sun was shining, the future looked bright (but not orange), and everything felt right with the world.
It took me several seconds before I realised exactly how close our little altercation had brought us; his hands were still on my arms though he wasn't holding me any more, and I was close enough to be able to count his eyelashes. If I wasn't so distracted by his mouth, that is, which happened to be right in my field of vision. I tried to focus on it and went cross eyed, realising belatedly that Robin was laughing at me.
"Oh, shut up," I grumbled good naturedly. He raised his eyebrows.
So I did. In the most efficient way possible, of course. It's not my fault that this just happened to involve kissing him, thoroughly, until his look of surprise faded and he finally started to kiss me back. As I felt his mouth open enthusiastically beneath mine I grinned, eyes closed, and reluctantly pulled away.
"Erm…" he said, rather eloquently.
"Cottoned on, yet?" I asked innocently. Robin grinned in response; one of his full on I'm definitely up to something grins, which was slightly worrying.
"I think I got the message," he said slowly, "But I'm not sure. I think I should try it again."
And then his mouth was on mine, hands coming up to wind themselves into my hair and I marvelled at how right it felt. Just the two of us together, the way things were meant to be. I laughed into his mouth and he opened his eyes, looking at me curiously.
"Why are you laughing?" he sounded slightly suspicious.
"I'm happy," I answered simply, delighting in his change of expression as he grinned and kissed me again, brief and chaste this time.
"So is this us together, then? All official like." I tilted my head, content just to look at him.
"If you want it to be."
"Yeah, I do." I nodded, a satisfied smile slowly growing. Robin eyed my expression somewhat warily.
"What on earth have I let myself in for?"
I laughed, he smiled and that was that.
The end. Fin. Die Ende. Sfarsit. конец. Hasof… Story's over, sod off.
The end. Fin. Die Ende. Sfarsit. конец. Hasof… Story's over, sod off.