I've just wrestled the zip on my camping bag closed when the doorbell rings. I dash downstairs and open the door to my classmate Tia.
"Hey! Come in!" I grin, stepping back to let her pass.
"Hi!" she smiles back.
"I'll just go grab my stuff!" I dash up to my bedroom, grab my large blue camping bag and my bedroll, neatly wrapped in a groundsheet, and drag them down the stairs. Somehow Tia has a much smaller bag than me. I don't know how that's possible!
"So how cool is this?" I chuck my stuff by the door, next to hers, and sit on the back of our sofa. "A whole week with nothing but our companions!"
"Awesome!" she agrees as she sits beside me. Normally Tia and I don't get on. She's quite often really moody, especially with me as we share lifts every day from school due to us living so close to each other. However today she seems to be a good mood! "Talking of which, I've got Snowball with me!"
She extracts a small, fluffy puppy from inside her jumper where it had clearly been sleeping. To most people, the small ball of fluff would look just like a normal husky puppy, but Tia and I know better. Snowball is actually a two month old, extremely excitable Frost Wolf puppy!
"Oh, how sweet!" I exclaim, gently rubbing his head as she holds him out to me and he yawns adorably.
"He's wonderful!" She smiles proudly. "Although my mum probably wouldn't agree!" We both laugh. Then my mum appears from around the corner in the kitchen, and Tia quickly puts Snowball back in her hoodie.
"Hi Tia!" my mum smiles politely. She doesn't like Tia much.
"Hi!" Tia smiles back pleasantly for once. Then a large, silver car pulls up outside.
"That's Lisa! Gotta go!" I hug my mum tightly, kiss her quickly goodbye, and then Tia and I lug our heavy bags down the front stairs and load them into Lisa's already pretty full car.
"Hi girls!" Lisa smiles from the driver's seat as we climb into the back seats next to our friend Katie. Both Katie and Lisa are Flower Sprite companions, and Lisa is Katie's mentor. Katie is thirteen, like me and Tia, and is one of those people who are naturally cool and fashionable without really trying. I don't see much of her at school because she normally hangs out with all her equally "cool" friends, but when it comes to Society business, she's a lot of fun!
"Hi!" I reply happily. I slide in beside Tia, squashing her in the middle. She lets Snowball out again, and he happily begins to explore me and Katie, and the rest of the back seats.
"We've just got to pick Amanda up, then we'll set off for the campsite. It's called Graffham Camping and Caravanning by the way."
"Cool!" Katie nods. "Where does Amanda live?"
"Near the centre town," I reply. Amanda is my mentor, and I've been to her house several times after flying for biscuits and a visit, and once after some night flying practice, I stayed the night there. I'm very lucky that Amanda is in the same Chapter as me, because we're Phoenix companions, and Phoenix aren't all that common in England.
Five minutes later, my mentor is also on board, with all her luggage, and we head for the motorway. Tia zones out, and Katie starts texting her non-Society friend Milly, attempting to explain where she is going for the half term, and I stare out of the window.
"How far is it, Amanda?" Lisa asks
"Well, the sat-nav isn't too clear." she says. "It said thirty minutes, five minutes ago, but now, it says five hours!"
"I think it's about two and a half," I provide helpfully. They look at me in surprise. "My dad looked it up. And I've been to round there before. It's really pretty!"
"Oh cool!" Amanda replies, "I thought five hours was a bit unrealistic." She laughs, "Yeah, this sat-nav is a bit rubbish for stuff like that, but it tends to get me places alright!"
Then they start talking about Lisa's boyfriend, the unexpected success of the England Air Polo team, and their jobs. Lisa is a graphic designer, and Amanda plays the cello for the theatre band, and each of them thinks their job is more interesting.
Then I realise something. "Er, guys." I say slowly, "Where's Snowball?" Panic reigns in the car as everyone (not including Lisa, of course) begins to search frantically for the tiny pup. Eventually, we find him in the cool box - a discovery Katie makes, when she finds the lid off!
Then there's awkward silence. Amanda turns on the radio. "Sexy and I know it!" fills the car. "Turn it off!" I exclaim, covering my ears dramatically. "It's torturing me!" Katie looks offended.
"Too right!" Lisa agrees, turning it off.
Silence again. A very awkward one. So awkward, I start giggling. Everyone stares at me. I start giggling more.
"What's so funny, Alex?" Katie asks in frowning in puzzlement. I shrug helplessly; I don't even know myself. She starts giggling too. Tia eyes us as though she's worried about our sanity. She shouldn't need to worry. She ought to already know I'm totally nuts! Lisa starts giggling too and soon we're all helpless, including Tia, though I don't think anyone knows why.
Eventually, we manage to control ourselves and the awkwardness is all gone. We chat together about different things and soon I see a sign saying 'Petworth'.
The sat-nav tells Lisa to take this exit off the motorway, and for about another half an hour it takes us along windy county lanes and through the small town of Petworth, which is full of antique shops, and definitely not designed for cars!
When we arrive at the campsite to check in, there are a few minutes of panic while Lisa searches franticly for the booking reference, but she finds it eventually, in the right place of course, and someone comes out of the small reception to show us to our pitches.
"Yay!" My brother exclaims as the doorbell finally rings. "Diamonds!" I jump up, sending my chair sliding across the room, and run out into the hall. Then I remember that I am running to see my history teacher, and that's weird. I slow down, and go to the front door to open it while my mum comes out of the kitchen.
"Hi." I say, shyly, once I've opened the door.
"Hi, Isobel!" says Mr Scott. He was my history teacher in years seven and eight, and although he was friendly and a good teacher, he was always trying to make me talk. He also happens to be our Chapter Assessor and a Great Eagle companion.
I say goodbye to my mum, grab my bag and rolled-up sleeping bag and follow Mr Scott out to his car.
"You're late!" I accuse him, once I'm in the back seat and he's pulling out of the drive.
"Wow!" He says. "You spoke!"
"I can talk!" I protest. "And I was annoyed because I had to be treated to watching my brothers play on Minecraft while I was waiting for you!"
He laughs, but doesn't say anything else. I gaze out of the car window, watching Wycombe pass outside.
I never thought I'd be getting a lift from my history teacher, but here I am.
"Mr Scott?" I say.
"Yes, Isobel? Are you going to ask me a question?" Mr Scott is always going on about how I never talk in history, so he made me ask him a question every lesson.
I giggle shyly. "Yes, actually. What am I meant to call you?"
"Richard." He says decisively, "We're not in school anymore – in fact, I forbid you to call me 'Mr Scott'"
I giggle again. "Ok, Richard!" It feels so weird to be calling my teachers by their first names, but I guess I'll have to get used to it.
We collect Claire next, who immediately starts bickering with Mr Scott – I mean, Richard – about how best to get to Bethany's house.
By the time we pick up Ruby we're fifteen minutes late, and Lisa was probably early picking up the people going with her, so my best friend Alex will be at the campsite long before us.
"Eek!" exclaims Ruby on opening the back door, "a spider!"
I examine it. "It's not that big." I say, picking it up.
"Ew…" says Bethany. I wave it in their faces and giggle as they squirm away.
"Come on girls!" Mr Scott exclaims. I put the spider out the window, a little regretfully. Ruby and Bethany sit listening to music on Ruby's phone, not paying much attention to me.
Bethany is sixteen, and also a dragon companion. She mentors me for her grade ten exam, but Claire teaches me too sometimes.
Ruby is also in our chapter. She is fourteen, and has short, wavy brown hair. Her companion species is Great Eagle, and Mr Scott is her mentor.
There's a pause, in which Claire turns the radio on. Everyone apart from me starts singing along to 'What makes you beautiful'. Hang on- everyone apart from me?
"I didn't know you liked One Direction, Mr Scott!" I giggle.
"And I didn't know I'd given you permission to call me 'Mr Scott'!"
"Sorry!" I laugh, and when 'Call me Maybe' comes on, I join in with the singing. But now I'm boiling, so I open the window. To my surprise, as soon as it's open it starts scrolling up again. I scroll it down. It scrolls up. It goes down. It goes up. Down, up, down, up.
"You're doing this, aren't you Mr… Richard?!" I say.
Richard laughs, "Yes, but at least get my name right! Don't open the window, it mucks up the air conditioning"
"Air conditioning?" I say disbelievingly "What air conditioning?!"
"Ok, I'll turn it up…" As soon as the words have left his mouth, I'm hit by a blast of ice-cold air.
"Eek! Not that much!" I say hastily. The air conditioning goes down, but the car's starting to slow. Then it jolts, bumps, and stops. Richard presses the accelerator and I feel the wheels spin but then it finally moves. He manages to pull over onto the hard shoulder before the car stops completely. He jumps out wordlessly, followed by Claire. I decide to follow, because it's EXCITING!
"Flat tire…" says Richard. Understatement of the century! The back tire is as flat as a particularly smooth pancake.
"Damn!" Claire looks worried. "Where's your spare?"
Richard sighs, "I hate changing tyres!"
It turns out that flat tyres are actually not very exciting. Richard epically fails at getting the tyre out from the complicated part of the car where it is for some reason kept. Claire doesn't want do get dirty/ break her nails, so in the end it's me who has to stick my hands – and at one point most of my face – into the greasy blackness under my history teacher's car.
In a matter of a few stressful minutes, Richard has put the new tyre on and we're on our way to Graffham. I wonder how he knows the way.
Yay! Chapter one is edited so that it actually makes some sense! Hopefullly the other chapters will improve as dramatically and people might review! Did I mention that we really appreciate reviews?