Her mum had squeezed her tightly at the train station, made a show of tears and promises to call and write everyday, and then put her hands on either side of her face and pulled her until their foreheads were almost touching.
"Jesus, Mum." She said, trying to back out of the embarrassingly close contact. They were in public for Christ's sake! There were people everywhere.
"Naomi, look at me." Her mother's eyes were boring into her own, and she desperately tried to look anywhere but into them. Finally, with an eyeroll and a sigh, she conceded. "Naomi. You be nice to your father, I don't care what he says about me, alright? He's your father."
"Fuck's sake." Naomi blew out a breath, and yanked her head out of her mother's hands.
"Naomi!" She felt her mother's hand grasp hers tightly, squeeze until it became painful. "Just. Have fun, dear." Her mum tried to smile, but Naomi could see more tears gathering, and this had already been ridiculously emotional enough.
"Don't worry, mum. It's not like I'll like him better than you or anything." Naomi smiled, bittersweet, took a moment to squeeze her mother's hand back, and started taking steps backwards until her mother was forced to let go of her hand or be pulled along.
"Naomi!" Her mother called out, as she turned her back to walk through to the platform. Naomi stopped walking, took a deep breath, and plastered a smile to her face before she turned around.
Her mother was wringing her hands together, had tears leaking out of her eyes, and an anxious look on her face. Naomi could see she was struggling to hold herself together, and for a moment Naomi's heart went out to her even if, the thought bitterly echoed in the back of her head, even if she was being sent away because her mother thought she was too much to handle.
"I just love you, is all, dear." Her mum gave her a watery smile, a little head nod, and Naomi bit her lip and adjusted her shoulder bag.
She felt the words on the tip of her tongue, had flashes of her mother's reactions to them floating across her mind, of the smile her mother would give her, of the way they would ease the guilty thoughts her mother was undoubtedly thinking. The relief, too, that her daughter didn't hate her even if she was being sent away. Naomi felt the words there, but couldn't push them through, couldn't help the sick little spike of anger that ran through her, and hurt. So she didn't say them, and when a meek little voice was whispering that she would regret it, later, she ignored it.
"Thanks." She said instead, and watched her mother try hard not to let her face fall. "Bye." She let the word fall from her mouth simply, without effort, since it was much easier to say.
Later, on the train, she opened a copy of Atlas Shrugged and hid her face behind the pages, and cried so much she thought at one point she'd stop breathing. Which would be perfect, she thought, if she died on the way to stay with her father, whom she barely knew, and how regretful her mother would feel then, and how much she would be missed. She disliked spite, on principle, but fuck she was good at feeling it.
She managed to compose herself when the train arrived in Bristol, was preparing a list of allergies she could have if her father pointed out how red her eyes were, or that regardless of her desire to appear fine she couldn't help sniffling, but he noticed neither when she walked over to him. Instead, he smiled so big she thought his face might break in half. When he hugged her, he held on for much longer than she anticipated, and so she stood there awkwardly, and somewhat limply, as he clung to her and murmured that he'd missed her into her hair.
He was much taller than she'd expected, or remembered, and there were lines on his face and grey in his hair that she hadn't anticipated at all. Which was silly, really, since everyone got old regardless of who they were. But she didn't notice it in her mum because she saw her everyday, because she knew her mother better than anyone else, because when someone ages in front of you it takes so much longer to notice. Suddenly, and awfully, she missed her mother. Good God, she didn't know this man who claimed to be her father. Why was this happening?
"Let's get your luggage then, sweetheart." Her dad was still smiling at her, and she tried to return it, tried not to panic at the prospect that she would have to live with this man she didn't know. He reached out a hand, patted her shoulder, shook his head slightly, and began to lead her to the baggage car. "You've grown up so much, Naomi."
Yes, she thought, that's what happens to your children when you abandon them. They grow up and don't know you anymore. But she didn't say it because she was sure if she tried to talk she'd just start crying again.
The good thing about dads though, which made her feel slightly happier, was they insisted on carrying everything to the car. And, she blinked as he held the passenger door open for her, treated their daughters like delicate flowers.
As they drove through Bristol, to the place she would have to call home whether she liked it or not, she threw surreptitious glances at her dad. He was fairly nice looking, she thought, examining the shape of his nose and wondering if it was the same as hers, or his chin. There was something familiar about him, regardless of the pictures she'd seen or the blurry memory of a fifth birthday party that had been the last time she had seen him. It was nice, in a way.
Her dad pulled over near a row of identical townhouses, and looked at her expectantly. "Well, this is home." He said, and reached over to pat her knee. She barely managed to resist rolling her eyes, and telling him she wasn't five anymore, instead held the words behind a tight smile.
When he led her up the stairs, she had a brief mental image of pink wallpaper and princess patterns as he opened the door to her new room, and couldn't help but let out a sigh of relief when she saw white walls and a green bedspread.
Her dad raised his eyebrows at her, smiled, acted as if he was waiting for something. It took her a moment, as she sat on her bed and bounced, once.
"It's nice." She said, hoping it would be enough and he would go do something else so she could take a moment to wrap her head around this entire fucking situation. "Really." She said after a moment, and he looked relieved.
"I wasn't sure, you know, what you liked. Your mum told me 'No pink!'…" He raised his voice at this, chuckled nervously. "… so I thought green could be a nice, neutral colour. But if you like, we can repaint it. Together." He took a breath, reached out to touch her shoulder, and then withdrew his hand. "Sorry, sweetheart, I just can't believe you're here." He said softly, and smiled at her again. She raised her eyebrows, forced herself to smile back at him. Resisted saying 'Me, either.' because she knew it would sound insulting, and she couldn't make it sound any other way. "Well." He said after a moment. "I'll let you settle in. I might make us some tea, ey? Oh, I might even have some of those short bread biscuits you used to love."
"That was years ago, Dad." She said, slightly exasperated, and wished she'd kept her mouth shut as he nodded quickly, and gave her a strained smile. "I just need to settle in, you know." She mumbled.
He nodded at her, and moved to leave her apparent new room. "I know, love. Pardon the excitement. I'll let you get settled in, and you come down when you're ready." He smiled at her so kindly, she had to fight to remember that she resented him as well as her mother for this.
He closed the door behind him, and she fell backwards onto her new bed and spread her arms out to either side of her. "Fuck." She said quietly. "Fucking fuckity mother fuck fuck." She sighed, and pulled herself back into a seated position, and looked around her room. It was nice, but not as big as her old room. It didn't have her bedspread, for one, it was in her suitcase but she couldn't be arsed getting it out just yet. It didn't have her mirror, or the stickers she'd collected and stuck to it over the years. There wasn't a patch of burnt carpet near her bed from knocking over a hookah pipe she'd nicked from one of her mum's hippy friends, or a spot of paint darker than the rest on her wall because Stevie Parish had drawn penises on it with black pen when they were seven and her mum had had to paint over them.
This wasn't home. Bristol didn't feel like home. As she angrily wiped tears away from her cheeks, she decided it never would be if she could help it.
Later that night, as her dad served her sausage and mash, with peas and gravy, she stared at her plate until he asked her if something was wrong.
"Oh, nothing. I just haven't eaten this kind of thing in ages." She picked up her cutlery, and prodded the sausage with her fork.
"It was your favourite, when you were little." Her dad said, cutting up his own. "You used to say 'Daddy daddy can we have bangers and mash?'" He chuckled as he forked sausage and potato into his mouth. "'Oh please!' you'd say, and turn your big baby blues on me. Oh and that little pout you used to do!" Her dad smiled fondly, and then cleared his throat and glanced at her. "Anyway. I can make you something else if you like?"
She pushed some of the peas around on her plate, reached for her glass of water and took a sip before looking at him. "It's fine, Dad." She ate some potato and remembered, suddenly, that she loved the way her dad made mash. "Thanks." She said after a moment, and they ate in silence for a while.
"So tomorrow, I'll take you to Roundview in the morning and get you settled in there, and I'll pick you up afterwards, alright?" Her dad wiped a napkin over his mouth as she looked at him startled.
"College starts so soon?" She felt her stomach flip and hated that she felt nervous.
"Yes, love. I thought your mother told you?" Her dad stood, and reached for her plate, stacking it onto his own and carrying them to the sink. "It's been back for a few weeks, so you'll have to do some catch up, but they'll give you everything you need tomorrow."
"Oh." Shit. She'd boycotted the first weeks of term at her old college, particularly since they hadn't fired Mr Jeffrey or, as she'd called him, Mr Inappropriate Handsie. She had refused to continue learning from him, had attempted to stage a student strike until justice prevailed, and had ended up suspended for truancy anyway. And then, her mum had had enough and sent her to Bristol. But still, it hadn't occurred to her that she'd actually have to go back now.
"You'll be fine, I'm sure you'll make some friends. It's a very good college." Her dad was trying to be reassuring, misreading the stricken look on her face for nerves rather than the realisation she couldn't do whatever she liked with her days anymore. "Do you want to watch some television?" Her dad asked, filling the kitchen sink and putting on a pair of pink washing up gloves that looked slightly too small for his hands.
"I might go to bed actually." She said, and stood up, biting her lip.
"Oh." She ignored that her dad sounded disappointed. "Alright then, well, goodnight sweetheart." He turned to give her a small smile, and she nodded at him.
But she didn't sleep for a long time. Just lay on her back and stared at her ceiling and counted the glowing star stickers that she'd forgotten were there, and remembered her dad putting her on his shoulders and standing on a chair, which made her mum laugh and yell for him to be careful and get down, but he didn't until she'd reached up and placed every star in the perfect place of her choosing.
Her dad drove off as she stood in front of Roundview College and debated whether it was worth walking inside or not. Her dad had insisted on coming in with her, and she'd been on the verge of violence when he'd finally chuckled, marvelled at how grown up she was, again, and let her go with a pat on the knee and plans to pick her up when the day was over.
There were people her own age all around her, walking up the front steps and chatting to each other, laughing and smoking, and she pulled out a cigarette of her own so she had something to do instead of stand awkwardly by herself. She looked up at the sky and exhaled. The weather was shit, cloudy as hell and it would probably rain. She sighed, stubbed out her cigarette, and began walking into hell.
Well, she thought as the office lady smiled at her and bustled about, maybe it wasn't hell. "Here you go then, dear. There shouldn't be anything missing, all your papers and where your courses are and, oh! Hang on, I forgot your sticker." The lady opened the top drawer of her desk and rummaged around until she pulled out a long thin sticker that had 'I heart Roundview' on it.
"Oh." Naomi took it. "And it says 'heart' instead of a picture of one." The lady beamed at her expectantly. "How hip and modern." Naomi said, and smirked as the lady's expression froze just slightly.
"Well. Good luck, dear." The woman said, and turned away from her abruptly as Naomi sighed and rolled her eyes. She was terrible at first impressions anyway, so whatever.
When she walked into her philosophy class, she felt her face heat up as every student turned to look at her. A boy in the corner leered at her, and then pursed his lips as she glared at him. The girl seated next to him cocked her head and stared at her, and Naomi was on the verge of walking out when the female teacher turned around and addressed her.
"Yes? What do you want?" The teacher asked, scrutinizing her and clearly feeling interrupted.
"I'm in this class." Naomi said haltingly. "I'm new, obviously." Naomi shifted her weight from one foot to the other as the teacher just continued to stare at her.
"Oh, yes." She said after a long moment. "Naomi. Yes. Well. Sit down would you and I'll get on with it, shall I?" The teacher turned back toward the board, and began scribbling on it again.
Naomi glanced around the room for an empty seat, did her best to ignore stares, and found just one next to a blonde girl with pigtails. She moved to the chair quickly and sat down, giving a brief smile to the girl next to her who smiled back far too excitedly.
"Whizzer! I have a desk mate!" The girl was grinning at her, and Naomi blinked. "I'm Pandora! You can call me Panda though, everyone does, even mum. And you're Naomi? That's such a posh name. Mum says Pandora's a posh name, but it won't suit me till I'm an adult so till then I'm just Panda."
"Pandora, please shut it." The teacher said without turning around, and Naomi contained a snort as Pandora's face fell just slightly.
"Sorry Miss Clark." Pandora glanced back at Naomi, and her excitement seemed to deflate as she noticed the look on her face. Naomi, for a moment, felt bad for her, and offered her an actual smile.
By lunch time, though, she had regretted the nicety since Pandora had declared them to be new best friends, and had offered to be her very own personal Roundview tour guide, which amounted to Pandora tugging on her elbow and dragging her around introducing her to everyone.
"And those girls are the beauty ones, but they're all sluts cos they surf and turf with boys, and I was one of them but I hated it cos it was bleeding boring all that nail stuff…" Pandora chatted away as Naomi ignored the group of girls Pandora was pointing at. She'd noticed a group of people lounging on some tables and chairs a little way off from everyone else, recognised the boy who had leered at her in Philosophy, and felt his eyes on her again.
"Who are they?" She asked, and nodded her head toward them when Pandora looked at her confused. Pandora followed her nod, and then quickly turned her head away from the people.
"Don't worry about them, Nai. Anyways though I didn't surf and turf until…" Pandora kept walking for a moment as Naomi stopped and shrugged out of Pandora's grasp.
The group of people had turned and they were all looking at her now, and it was unnerving. There were five them, two boys and three girls. The boy from philosophy was smoking a cigarette and standing, staring over at her and smiling cockily. Next to him, an alarmingly thin brunette was sitting on the edge of the table, leaning back on her arms, and gazing at her with a blank look on her face. The other boy was sitting on a chair, legs splayed out in torn jeans, and black hair falling across his forehead. He looked a bit mopey, Naomi thought, and then she saw the twins sitting on the other side of the table. Or what had to be twins, unless they were exceptionally best friends who tried very hard to look alike. One of them was looking at her with a blank expression, her face noticeably made up, even from the distance Naomi was from them, and a singlet top making her cleavage seem to have a life of it's own. And the other one, she recognised her from philosophy too, was gazing at her, her eyes wide open and curious, smiling when Naomi met her eyes.
"Come on Naomi! I've got to introduce you to my friends, they're whizzer, top notch fellows." Pandora grinned at her, and grabbed her hand. She was tugged around the corner of the college building, and she lost sight of the group. "Thomas! JJ! Look!" She heard Pandora say, and turned to see two boys sitting at a table. Pandora took her backpack off and swung it onto the table, knocking over a bottle of water. She picked it up quickly, and turned a sheepish smile to Naomi. "I'm useless." She said, and Naomi tried to smile reassuringly but she honestly didn't care. All she could think about was the group of people, and the way they had looked at her like those children from Village Of The Damned, or something.
"Hello, I'm Jonah Jeremiah Jones, though people seem to think saying my entire name is far too much effort so I've learned to respond to 'JJ' though I also respond to 'Jonah', or 'Jeremiah', or 'Hey you', or 'Freak boy'…" JJ had his hand outstretched toward her, and Naomi shook it after a moment, feeling a bit silly. "… not that I am a freak, or well much of one, but sometimes I get locked on to something and can't stop myself because of a defect in my social skills…" Naomi watched as the other boy, Thomas, put a hand on JJ's shoulder. JJ stopped talking and gave Thomas a slightly relieved look.
"What JJ is trying to say, is welcome." Thomas said, and gave her such a warm smile that she instantly liked him. "I am Thomas. You are?"
Pandora sat down at the table, and eagerly patted the seat next to her. Naomi threw a quick look around her, trying not to obviously search for better options, before she sighed and sat down.
"Naomi." She said, thankful that Thomas didn't want to shake her hand as well.
Thomas took his hand off JJ's shoulder, clasped his hands in front of him, nodding at her slightly. "Very pleased to meet you." He said, and she actually believed that he meant it.
"Naomi's from London! But she's been all over! I bet she knows loads of exciting stuff!" Pandora grinned at her happily, reaching into her bag and pulling out a box of food. She opened it, and her face fell as she looked at the contents.
"Vitamin rich, fat free bits of cardboard again, Panda?" JJ asked, lifting himself slightly so he could peer into Pandora's lunch box.
Pandora was quiet for a moment, before turning to Naomi with an embarrassed look on her face. "Mum keeps giving me seaweed crackers and oranges for lunch cos she says ladies don't get fat, only I think they taste like burning dog's bum." Naomi snorted, and JJ reached in and took one of the crackers, and began to eat it.
"They're actually quite good for you Panda, though not terribly filling."
Thomas was rummaging around in his own bag, and pulled a paper bag out of it with a flourish. Pandora's eyes lit up and she stood up with a squeal, leaning over the table to kiss Thomas quickly on the cheek. He gave her a shy look in return, for just a moment, and then reached into the paper bag and pulled out a doughnut, handing it to Pandora who sat back down and immediately began eating it.
Thomas watched Pandora fondly for a moment before turning to Naomi. "So tell me Naomi, why you are here." JJ turned his attention to her as well, blinking and smiling at her in anticipation, seaweed biscuit crumbs falling onto his jumper.
Naomi looked at each of them in turn for a moment, before opening her mouth. "Oh. Right. Well. My mum lives in London and she and I had, er, a falling out of sorts, and dad lives here so now I do as well." She shrugged her shoulders at them, holding her bag tightly on her lap. "I grew up here, before they split up. Then mum and I moved. That's it really."
Thomas nodded at her, handing a second doughnut to Pandora automatically. "And you like this place?" He asked.
Naomi leant back slightly as JJ launched himself across the table to grab another seaweed biscuit. He munched on it happily, as Pandora made little moaning noises as she ate the second doughnut next to her. Naomi looked from one to the other for a moment, before looking at Thomas as he just shrugged at her, as if to say 'Aren't they funny?'. Naomi attempted to smile, though it felt more like a grimace.
"It's alright." She said, squinting at a spot behind Thomas and JJ before meeting Thomas' eyes again and shrugging. "No real choice, was there?" Thomas looked at her for a moment, before he simply nodded, and a question bubbled up and out of her mouth before she could stop it. "What's with that group, do you know them? With the twins?" Thomas looked at her warily before JJ excitedly dropped his biscuit and launched into the conversation.
"They're a right creepy bunch, aren't they? They always hang out together, come to think of it I've rarely seen them interact with anyone other than teachers, and they spend every lunch and class sitting together and don't talk to anyone, except for Cook who sometimes chats up attractive girls, and that's really the extent to which they interact with other people, and…" JJ hushed his voice suddenly as the group walked around the corner behind Naomi and Pandora.
Naomi turned quickly, seeing the tall mopey one first, loping along with his hands in his pockets and his eyes cast down. He looked at her suddenly, lifting his eyes to give a sideways glance, before returning his gaze to the ground.
"… That's Freddie." JJ whispered to her, desperately trying not to look over at the group and failing miserably. JJ's voice cracked suddenly. "Effy."
Naomi saw the brunette next, her arms swinging by her sides and her hair being blown slightly by the breeze. She seemed to be looking at something away from the college, before her head turned quickly and she looked at Naomi and winked, smirking as if she knew a secret no one else would understand. Naomi raised her eyebrows slightly, though the other boy, Cook, had caught her attention as he jogged up to Effy and lifted her off the ground suddenly, carrying her as they both laughed.
"She winked at me she winked at me she winked at me she winked at me she winked at me she winked at me…" JJ's eyes were wide and when Naomi glanced at him it was like he was staring into nothing. Pandora had stopped eating her doughnut, and was sitting sullenly as the group walked past them. She nudged Thomas' hand with her own, and he immediately turned to JJ and shook him.
"Please be calm." Thomas said, and JJ nodded, blinked and sighed. "It was not you she winked for." Thomas inclined his head toward Naomi, and JJ frowned slightly in confusion.
Naomi had already turned back, and watched as the twins appeared. The made up one was first, striding along with her shoulders back and her head held high. Her dress sense seemed better suited for a night out than college, Naomi thought, and the twin turned to look at her. Naomi felt herself blush slightly as the girl looked her up and down, before raising an eyebrow at her and turning her attention away.
"Katie." She heard JJ whisper, and Katie looked over at him sharply, almost as if she'd heard him, before sniggering.
"Hey Gay-Jay!" She called out, curling her fingers into a small wave, and then laughing as JJ lowered his eyes from her and turned nearly as red as his bag.
Naomi would've felt sorry for him if she hadn't seen the other twin then, walking slowly and looking at her with her head tilted inquisitively. Naomi felt her brows furrow slightly as she watched the girl walk past them. She was dressed far more demurely than her sister, her shoulders slightly hunched. The girl gave her a half smile, and Naomi caught herself just as she was about to return it.
"Fuck's sake Ems, hurry the fuck up would you." Katie appeared in front of her twin, grabbed her arm and began to tug her forward at a faster rate. "Christ, stop staring at that fashion reject." And Naomi felt her eyes narrow as the girl simply looked down for a moment, before obeying her sister and looking away from Naomi. Naomi watched them as they all disappeared from view round the next corner.
"And the last one was Emily. She's the nicest by far but possibly to make up for her sister who is, undoubtedly, the queen bitch of hell." JJ's face was still red as he looked up at her, and Pandora started eating again without saying a word.
Naomi cleared her throat, though found it partially difficult to talk. "I thought, uh, you said Cook was the only one who interacted with other people." She did her best to look at JJ with something resembling sympathy as he took a deep breath, and then let out a small smile.
"Yes, well, I don't think you could call what Katie does 'interaction' as much as 'abuse'." He shook his head slightly, and then gave her an all out grin. "Thankfully I only have her in one of my classes and the teacher, Mr Roberts, lovely man, extremely professional in most situations, doesn't tolerate bullying or behaviour of the like, and Katie never talks back to teachers, possibly the only people she doesn't talk back to, and Mr Roberts particularly likes me because, as he says, I have a keen intellect and natural curiosity that belies my age." JJ smugly batted his eyelashes at her, and Thomas laughed and pounded him on the back.
"There is the confidence I love about you." He said, and ruffled JJ's hair. JJ laughed and swatted at his hand, and Naomi smiled despite herself. After a moment, she noticed Pandora looking at her seriously, and Naomi raised an eyebrow at her.
"What?" She asked, trying not to stare at the sugar coating Pandora's mouth.
"Oh nothing really. Just." Pandora bit one of her fingernails, looked alarmingly frightened for a moment. "Having attention from them, Effy and the lot, it's not a good thing, Nai." Naomi frowned at her, opened her mouth to say something but Pandora cut her off. "Be careful. It's all I'm saying." And Naomi couldn't stop the eye roll as they started packing up their bags and walking back into the college building. The three of them walked together, Naomi holding herself back just slightly, and wondering what episode of the Twilight Zone she'd stumbled into.
She waved off her odd, supposed new friends, and tried not to feel too relieved when none of them followed her into her politics class. She stopped walking as soon as she was inside the classroom, though, seeing Emily and the whole lot of them sitting in the back corner talking to each other. They looked over at her as she stared at them, and something Katie said made them all smile. Naomi flipped Katie off, couldn't help or stop herself, and Emily smirked at her, which made Naomi blink in surprise.
"Why are you in my classroom?" She heard a gruff, Irish sounding voice ask her, and turned from the group to look at the source of the question.
"Because I'm in this class, obviously." She said, and raised her eyebrows at him defiantly. He surprised her by chuckling.
"Fuel to the fire then. Only got one spot open, so take a seat over there and we'll begin. Oh, and if you call me anything other than Keiran I won't respond to you." He sat down at his desk, lifted his feet onto it and reclined with his hands in his lap as the last students trickled in behind her. She stood awkwardly, for what felt like the millionth time that day, until the only available seat seemed to be glaring at her from the corner. Next to Emily, of course. Of course, she thought, of fucking course.
She sat down in it, ignored that she felt like all the hairs on her arm had stood up at once, and turned her head slightly to nod at Emily. Emily was frowning, and as she turned to meet Naomi's eyes, she licked her lips.
"What's your name, Blondie?" She heard called out from the front of the room, and jumped a little.
"Naomi!" She said, slightly too loud, and Keiran blinked at her, before nodding and looking at a stack of paper on his desk, and starting to talk.
"Emily." She heard said softly next to her, the voice rasping.
Naomi lifted pens and paper from her bag, and let out a small smile. She was on the verge of saying something in reply, when she heard Cook murmuring behind her, and she turned to see him and Freddie sharing a desk behind them. Effy and Katie were next to the boys, one row over, and Katie was smirking at her as Effy stared out the window over Freddie's head.
"Hey there darlin." Cook's voice was low, and he reached forward and touched her hair. "Pretty and clever, aren't you?" She watched him grin, and his eyes narrow, and was about to slap his hand away when Emily reached over and did it for her.
"Fuck off Cook." She heard Emily say, but there was no real anger behind it, and they were smiling at each other as he sat back and Emily turned back to face Keiran.
"You didn't have to do that." Naomi said quietly, though she had wanted to say 'Thanks.'
Emily just shrugged slightly, and stared at her until Naomi felt herself blush and break the eye contact.
When the class finished, Naomi began to put her things back in her bag, and felt a strange disappointment when she turned and saw Emily's seat empty, and realised she hadn't noticed her leave.
That night she lay in bed staring at her ceiling, the faint sound of the television downstairs, and her dad clearing his throat every now and again, filtering it's way into her room. She barely noticed the sounds, however, or that it wasn't even past ten.
Her dad had seemed pleased that she'd made friends, though she hadn't told him. She'd been too busy hiding her face as Pandora, Thomas and JJ had all waved at her happily as she'd driven off, and her dad had waved as excitedly back. She'd seen, in the corner of the car park, Emily and her friends getting into a car, Effy in the driver's seat, and had sunk down in case they saw her getting a lift with her dad. Not that she cared about that sort of thing usually. Or ever, which downright alarmed her that all of a sudden she did.
She stared at her ceiling, at the glowing points of light, and ran a hand through her hair. They intrigued her, Emily and her friends, and she strongly disliked the feeling. It unnerved her that she couldn't stop thinking about them, couldn't help wondering who they were, and why they didn't hang out with anyone else. Were they Mormons? And she almost laughed when she realised Mormons didn't dress like Katie or Effy, and Cook seemed far too sexual. Could they be a weird sex club, then? She'd heard about them on the news, of a group of six teenagers in America who lived in a polyamorous relationship, to the shock and outrage of, well, everyone else. She frowned, not ruling the possibility out. She squeezed her eyes shut for a moment and had an image of the five of them in an orgy. Oh God, she thought, and opened her eyes. Out of my head. Out of my head!
She rolled over, facing the window of her room and stared into the actual sky, or what little she could see of it. The stars, the real stars, shone only the slightest bit brighter than the artificial stars on her ceiling, though she couldn't see many of them. As her eyelids began to droop, she had a sudden image of fire, of red hair and brown eyes, and a shy smile. Maybe they were murderers, or rapists. A cult of some kind? Or more likely, she thought sleepily, Pandora was just jealous that her new friend would probably be stolen away, and was trying to alarm her for no proper reason. Naomi half smiled in the dark, her eyes closed, as a sudden desire to be around Emily and her friends overwhelmed her. Because of the mystery, she told herself. That was all. She decided she would say something caustically witty and impressive in politics tomorrow, and they would want to become her friends, and then… Well. Then she would find out what the fuck was up with them. And maybe, she'd learn from them how to be so detached from everyone, but not have to be so alone while doing so. She kept smiling even as she fell asleep and didn't wonder for a minute whether this new desire of hers was the least bit strange.