28th November, 18:49
Hi guys! Hope you’re all having a great week and if you’re not, at least we’re at the halfway mark! Tonight I thought I’d share a little prelude I’ve been working on for my upcoming novel Beyond which will be released early next year. The story follows teenage boy Alex in his quest to discover what lies beyond this life after finding out his sister has been diagnosed with cancer. Find out below a little more about his character, and life before everything changes …
‘Now,’ smiles Miss Chang brightly, ‘we’re going to go around the room and tell everyone our names and one fun fact about ourselves!’
The class groan in unison. Great. Another stupid introduction game. I don’t want to sound rude here; I know the teachers are all doing their best. I get that they’re just trying to ‘ease us back in’ to life behind the desk after six weeks of sweet nothing. But come on. Aside from the fact that I’ve heard Judy Anderson describe her nine pet gerbils multiple times today already, the main reason I hate this get-to-know-each-other crap is because I have nothing to say about myself. Honestly. There’s nothing remotely interesting about my life whatsoever. People think I exaggerate when I say this; Cal always tells me to shut up and get on with it. But how? What can I say that will be of any interest to anyone at all? Hi, I’m Alex. I live with my Mum and Dad and sister and dog. I like football. Science is my favourite subject.Ugh. Already I can see people yawning, rolling their eyes. It makes my skin crawl, the thought of everyone looking at me, waiting to see what I have to say for myself. And what do I have to say for myself? Nothing. Nada. That’s what.
‘We’ll start here.’ Miss Chang nods at Daniel, sitting in the front right corner of the classroom. Not his choice obviously; he’s always put closest to the teacher. Probably because a couple years ago he set fire to his Maths book in the back corner.
Daniel turns and waves at us all. ‘Hi guys! I’m Daniel.’ He catches Callum’s eye and sticks his finger up. ‘And I love school.’ The class burst into laughter.
‘Well that’s… lovely, thank you Daniel,’ Miss Chang calls over the noise. ‘And your name is?’
I zone out as Eric starts describing his holiday home in Florida. It sounds like people are just re-using their facts from earlier. But this doesn’t make things any easier. I can’t talk about my dog again, can I? Or can I?
‘I’m Gee and I dyed my hair pink over summer.’ Gee Davis winds a strand of it round her finger.
‘Very unusual. And you are?’ Miss Chang moves onto Marley.
Oh God, she’s almost at me. Think, Alex, think. I mean, I could talk about Roscoe. The lads always laugh when I describe his dribbling and farting habits. But it’s not a story the girls are ever interested in. I overheard Gee Davis and her friends once talking about how a boy down the road brought one of those sausage dogs and how good he looked walking it. That’s been the one time I’ve ever wished, a teeny tiny bit, that Roscoe was different. But I quickly realised how weird I’d look walking anything other than my massive, slobbery bulldog. And I don’t really want to change Roscoe, not one bit. The girls would like him if they just got to know him…
‘I’m Marley and I’ve got four sisters.’
‘Four sisters!’ Miss Chang exclaims. ‘How lovely. No brothers?’
Marley rolls her eyes. ‘No brothers.’
‘Your Dad must have his hands full! And you, behind Marley? What’s your name?’
There’s silence for a moment as everyone turns to look. Callum kicks me under the table.
‘I dunno.’ I mean, I kind of know. I recognise her from our Science class earlier, but she managed to duck out before she had to introduce herself. She’s trapped now though, like a lion in a cage. Her hair reminds me of a lion – sorry, lioness. It’s red and wild, framing
her face like a mane. I’ve never seen anything like it.
‘What’s your name?’ Miss Chang repeats brightly. The girl looks like she wants to crawl under the table and never come out. I can feel my heart beat a little faster; I feel bad for her, I really do. I can’t imagine having to do one of these games as the new kid. She’s not red in the face or anything, though. She looks more angry than embarrassed, like Miss Chang’s just asked her a really personal question. Come to think of it, this game sort of is an invasion of privacy.
‘I’m Daisy.’ She answers finally.
Daisy. Like the flower.
‘Great.’ Miss Chang sounds relieved that she’s finally answered. ‘Tell us something about yourself, Daisy.’
She rests her head on her hand, elbow on the table, and scans the classroom. She catches my eye, just for a second. I feel myself go red.
‘I’m Daisy and I used to live somewhere else.’ Her gaze goes back to Miss Chang, in a way that says go on, ask me where. Ask me why. Before Miss Chang can open her mouth, though, Joe swoops in to save her.
‘I’m Joe and I learnt to ride a quad bike over summer.’
‘A quad bike!’ Miss Chang laughs. ‘My goodness.’
They keep going round, but I’m not listening. I’m just looking. Looking at the lioness. Looking at Daisy.
It’s not until the end of the day when I’m waiting outside the gates that I see her again. I looked a little at lunch, but not many girls come down to the football pitch. None with red hair and freckles, anyway. She’s making her way through the sea of blue jumpers towards the hill, clutching her bright yellow satchel like she’s got something really important in there. I want to talk to her. I need to talk to her. She’s all alone again, like she was in the classroom. I can’t stand to think of someone so lonely.
I say it before I can stop myself as she brushes past me. For a moment I think she’s not going to turn around.
Okay. What now? She swings the satchel onto her shoulder and folds her arms. She’s sort of scary.
‘Yeah, I know. And you have a bulldog called Roscoe.’
Crap, yes, she knows my name already. And the funest fact about me. So what more is there to say? This was a bad idea. Abort mission. ‘Um…’
‘Gum?’ She pops a piece in her mouth and offers me the packet. It’s a weird looking fruit-flavour that I don’t think I’ll like, but I take it anyway.
‘Alright?’ Callum appears, football in one hand, water bottle in the other. ‘Sorry, just had gym. You ready, Al?’
‘Sure.’ I wait awkwardly for a minute to see if Daisy says bye, but she doesn’t. She just stands there between us, chewing her gum. ‘Um… where do you live, Daisy?’
She holds the packet of gum out to Callum, who shakes his head. ‘I’ll show you. C’mon.’
Cal and I look at each other.
‘Come on!’ She spits her gum out and kicks it with her shoe; it flies through the air and lands on the back of Gee Davis’ head. Daisy laughs and beckons us again, tossing her red hair and skipping ahead. I look at Cal. His mouth’s hanging open. I’m probably wearing the same gormless look.
‘You can say that again.’ Cal and I trail behind her. ‘But she seems to like you.’
‘Me?’ I echo, laughing. ‘Shut up.’
‘She’s weird. But so are you.’ Cal gives me a shove. ‘It’s a perfect fit.’
I shove him back, but I’m too excited to feel mad. This is weird. I feel weird.
‘Come on! Stop talking about me!’ Daisy yells, grinding to a halt.
‘We weren’t… I mean, we would never…’ I trail off as I realise she’s smiling.
‘I was joking, Alex. But you covered that well,’ she laughs. Daisy nudges her way between us. ‘Everyone talks about the new kid, anyway. It’s only natural.’
Cal shrugs. ‘I don’t think that many people noticed you were new.’
Daisy laughs again. Her laugh makes me think of sunshine. ‘Thanks. I hope not.’
Callum asks her a question and, as Daisy answers, I completely zone out. I know I should be listening, drinking in every little fact about her, but I can’t concentrate on words right now. A far more exciting thought is flinging itself around my brain, making my palms sweat, my heart skip. And I know it’s stupid, I know I’m getting ahead of myself, but that doesn’t make it go away. I picture it; this time next year. First day back at school. Around the room we go with the stupid fun-fact game. Eric and his holiday home. Judy and her gerbils. Then me. And I look at the teacher, flash them a smile, and say, super-coolly; ‘Hi, I’m Alex. And I have a girlfriend called Daisy.’