When I woke up in the morning I couldn’t remember where I was. Then it suddenly hit me. I was on the floor in Mikey’s bedroom with Rick’s arm round my waist. With Maria motioning at me to get up and come and talk while the boys were still asleep.
“What happened between you two?” Maria asked as she sipped her coffee.
“I er. We…I kissed him,” Joanna replied, stirring her own drink.
“Finally!” Maria exclaimed. “It’s only taken you two forever.”
Joanna laughed nervously. “Well I only realized last night.”
Maria smiled. “Better Rick than Benji.”
“Yeah,” Joanna said bringing her mug to her lips. “A lot better.”
So apparently we’d liked each other since we’d met. Maybe. But we weren’t going out. Not yet. All we’d done was kiss. We walked home together, they way we’d always done since we met, because our houses were in the same direction. We didn’t talk about the kiss. We talked about why 1984 was such a good book and why Rick didn’t like his brother. We said bye at the gate to my house. I walked into my house with a smile on my face.
“Sweetheart? Is that you?” Her mother’s worried voice rang through the house.
“Yeah Mom,” Joanna called back. She was about to step up the stairs when her mom came running out and pulled into a hug.
“Darling! We’ve been so worried. We phoned Eva but she said you weren’t there. We were so worried.”
“Is that her?” An unfamiliar male voice came booming through from the lounge.
“Mom?” Joanna questioned, just before the police officer walked out into the hallway. “You called the police?” She shrieked.
“As the situation has been now been rectified I’ll leave,” the police man intoned, before walking out of the house.
“You called the police?” Joanna repeated, still hovering on the first stair.
“We were worried,” he mother replicated.
“Mom! What is this? Some kind of imprisonment?”
“We were worried stiff,” Mrs Wilkinson yelled back. “Do you know where we live now?”
“Yes! Belleville, New Jersey, the U.S.A!” Joann screamed. “I know that there’s bodies found in lakes. I know that there’s a risk when you change your plans! But I took that risk and I’m still here! Why the hell did you wasn’t to get in touch anyway?! You never normally do!”
Her mom’s face went blank. “Your Nan’s died.” She stated flatly. “We thought you’d like to know.”
Joanna froze. “W…what?”
“Nana Wilkinson’s died. Yesterday. Your father and I are flying out for the funeral. You’ll stay here. I do hope you had a good time doing whatever it was you were doing.”
I couldn’t believe it. Nana had died. And I couldn’t go to the funeral. Nana was my favourite family member. She didn’t try to make me into what she wanted me to be. I spent the rest of that day in tears.
Her eyes were lightly outlined in kohl and a black scarf tied round her neck. She scuffed her trainers as she walked into the school grounds.
“Jo!” A girl called icily polite. Joanna looked up.
“Yeah Mia?” She asked as the brunette reached her. The only answer she got was a sharp slap across her face. She stared at Mia in astonishment.
“What was that for?”
“Don’t pretend you don’t know,” Mia snapped and, turning on her heel, stalked off. Joanna watched her go.
That was when Kelly came over. “Just so you know I think what you did was really crummy.”
“What did I do?” Joanna asked in bewilderment. Kelly just gave her a pitying look before walking off.
Joanna slowly raised a hand to her stinging cheek. Mia sure could slap. But what the hell had she done?
I didn’t find out what I’d done till lunch. But until then I had to suffer getting called a slut in the halls, girls blanking and lessons with no Rick, Will, Maria or Mikey. A real fun morning.
She was sitting on her own at the table she usually sat at when the girl walked past. She “tripped”, obviously faking it, conveniently managing to spill the entire contents of her lunch tray down Joanna. That included Coke, mashed potatoes and some kind of meat in gravy.
“Oops,” she said. “Sorry.” The problem was, the way she said it made it obvious she really wasn’t. Joanna looked at her in shock for a couple of seconds before finding her voice.
“What. The Hell. Was that for?” she growled. The cafeteria had quieted to watch the potential fight between the English rocker cheerleader, and the American prep nobody.
“What?” The girl looked mock hurt. “I didn’t mean to.”
“Sure you didn’t,” Joanna replied, rising to her feet. “Just like nobody’s meant to blank me and Mia didn’t mean to slap me.”
“She had every right to, you whore.” There was a sharp intake of breath from some of the people around.
“What did I do?” Joanna yelled, some off the food dropping to the floor. “What the hell did I do?”
“Sleeping with someone’s boyfriend maybe acceptable in the primitive small time village you came from in England, but here it means you’re a whore, a slut, and every other word that means the same,” the girl replied nastily.
Once more there was silence.
“So I’m meant to have slept with Mia’s boyfriend. Slight snag sweetie,” Joanna cooed. “Mia doesn’t have a boyfriend.”
“Oh yes she does,” was the quick answer. “Benji.”
Joanna paused then laughed. So that’s why his hair had been sticking up when he’d come out on to the balcony. He’d been making out with Mia. “Let me guess. Did he tell you this? And you believed him?” She continued to laugh the sound filling the room. The stony faces showed that that they had. She grinned, before walking over to the boy in question. “Oh honey,” she began, leaning down to him. “It seems like everybody’s believed you. So if I told them that you wanted to sleep with me and not the other way round none of them would believe me right? No-one would believe that I rejected the great Benji Richards?” She laughed once more, walking away from him. “So,” she addressed the group of people. “Even if I did have sex with him I’d be called a slut and disloyal but he’d be…he’d be what? Revered because he shagged the new girl first?”
No-one made a sound.
“I have a few things to say,” she continued. “I’m not a slut. And I have never slept with Benji Richards. I rejected him. You got that? Can your tiny little brains comprehend that? And further more I know that you’ll all still believe him. What I say makes no difference. So…who wants to be the first to call me a slut now that I know what I’m accused off?”
There was a pause before someone shouted. “Slut!” Then everyone did. The cries of whore, tramp and floozy mingling with the rest. Joanna smiled and merely walked out of there closing the double doors behind her.
And then she ran. Pounding down the corridor, skidding round corners till she reached the soccer field and reached the furthest corner of it. She collapsed in a sobbing heap on the floor. That was when she realized there was someone had followed her.