The final bell of the day had just rang out through the corridor as Kate and Isobel made their way down it, causing the narrow passageway to fill with eager students and the loud squeak of rubber soles against slippery floors. It was still bright outside, the glare from the sun casting long streams of light across their path as it beamed through grime filled windows and across the old wooden flooring, highlighting the odd streak of blonde in Isobel’s hair as the pair walked. It was fairly warm, many of the students sporting jumpers around their waists causing a little tail to bob behind them as they ran about and rocketed up and down the corridor like the ball of a pinball machine. A distant yell of a teacher added a rather fitting accompaniment.
Isobel was grimacing as she tried to manoeuvre around the younger students, lifting her arms so that they were out of reach of kids from the lower years bustling by. “Ugh, I told you that we should have left an hour ago!”
Kate smirked before easily side-stepping a young boy running down the corridor. “You may have said.” When her friend glared at her, she tilted her head. “We were like this once, remember? If anything, you were worse.”
Isobel’s huff of indignation made Kate’s smile widen. “How was I worse?”
“You used to stand in the middle of the corridor trying to flirt with Harry and no one could get round you.”
“It worked didn’t it?”
“Yeah, right up until he dumped you two weeks later to date Megan from year nine.”
She pouted. “Yeah, what a-” A loud shout from a teacher nearby cut through the corridor and some of the students around them slowed to a slow paced jog. “Oh come on, I was never like that, surely!”
“Yeah, you were. Your taste in lads hasn’t changed, either.”
A coy smile came across Isobel’s face. “Oh, I wouldn’t say that.”
Kate looked her companion over for a moment before her expression settled into a small frown. “Have you met someone?”
Her expression smoothed out as she tried to think. “Is it someone in our sixth form?”
She shook her head causing her multi-toned hair to flutter around her face. “Nope- like I’d get involved with any of them, you have seen them, right?”
Ignoring the jibe, Kate thought harder. Isobel had been focussed on her phone more than usual lately, usually with a dreamy smile and the odd giggle, but she hadn’t mentioned her interest in anyone that they knew. “Do I at least get a clue?”
She was about to reply when the low buzz of her mobile drew her attention and she eagerly fished it out of her jacket pocket. There was a momentary pause as her eyes surveyed the screen before her cheeks flushed and she held the device tightly in her palm. “It looks as though you might.”
Kate was about to question her further when the light haired girl grabbed the material of her sleeve and tugged her down the corridor, her cheeks still a rosy shade of pink and as she beamed. “Come on! Do you want to find out or not?”
Suddenly finding herself infected by her friend’s enthusiasm, she allowed Isobel to drag her down the rest of the way down the corridor, minding the other people crossing their path.
They soon found themselves out on the school playground, the fresh take of air providing a welcome relief from the claustrophobia of the hallway as Isobel continued to march forward, tugging Kate behind her as though she was an errant balloon. Kate fought the urge to roll her eyes, despite her good humour she couldn’t help but remain curious as to the mysterious new stranger that had somehow entered her friend’s life without her knowing.
Abruptly, Isobel stopped, almost causing Kate to barrel into her and effectively pulling her out of her thoughts. There was still a lot of chatter around them, small clusters of people were gathered across the tarmac causing a mixture of different coloured ties to stand out against the gathering of black and grey. Isobel rocked onto her tiptoes, her neck craning over the gathering of small group as she looked about.
The hold she had on Kate slipped free as she peered around and the brunette took a moment to smooth out the stretched material. “Who are you looking for?”
Isobel waved a hand at her as she continued to scan their surroundings before the small crease of concentration eased from between her brows and she was smiling once more. She lowered her heels back to the ground and glanced back over her shoulder to where Kate was waiting for a reply. “Wait here, I’ll be right back.”
She had already begun to scurry off. Sighing quietly to herself, Kate rested her weight onto her right leg and pulled her bag higher up onto her shoulder. She could just about see Isobel in the distance, her familiar gait and bright bangles heading towards the gate at the other end of the playground. Kate tried to see who she was aiming for but a couple of the older male students came in front of her and blocked her view. She tried to see around them but due to her unfortunate small structure, she was forced to give up. Spying a bench nearby, she slunk over to it and dropped her bag on the seat before pushing herself up so that she could sit on the table, her trainers resting comfortably next to her bag. Kate tried to find Isobel again and, after a few moments of difficulty, her gaze settled on her again and she finally found who Isobel had been after.
The first thing that she noticed about the man was the way he was stood. He was leant back against the gate, one knee bent slightly as he watched Isobel, a lazy smile resting easily across his face. His arms were loose at his side, seeming completely at ease with the students around him and the curious glances people were shooting his way. He was wearing sunglasses, the aviators covering part of his pale cheek bones and making it difficult to decipher how old he was. The stranger was also wearing a leather jacket and scruffy jeans, the glint of a belt buckle catching the light as he stood up to meet Isobel as she approached.
Kate felt her brows furrow as she continued to watch the pair. There was something about him that she couldn’t quite put her finger on. Something about the man left her uneasy, leaving her gut in a tight knot and the nagging feeling in the back of her mind that she was missing something obvious. Something just struck her as wrong. She narrowed her eyes slightly, allowing her gaze to rake over his dark hair and strong jaw line down to his leather boots.
Her friend finally reached him and without any hesitation he wrapped an arm loosely around her waist and pulled her closer. She could see their lips moving, in what she could only suppose was greeting, when he looked up.
He was looking right at her.
The knot in her gut clenched. Her fingers dug into the wood of the bench, causing her fingers to ache as her legs quivered against the plank beneath her feet.
As if sensing her unease, he smiled before returning his attention to Isobel. Kate swallowed heavily before her own eyes found her friend who was speaking once more. The light haired girl was looking towards Kate and frowning but, after a few more words from the man at her side, she gave a sad little smile and waved.
Kate opened her mouth to say something or call out but they were already slipping out of sight. She lowered her head, ruffled by her discomfort.
A dreamy sigh next to her caught her interest and she looked to the other side of the bench to see one of the older students sat there, a hand fiddling with a loose thread at the bottom of her tie. “She’s so lucky, he’s absolutely dreamy.”
Still coming to terms with her negative reaction, it took a moment for Kate to formulate a response. “What?”
“Your friend’s boyfriend- he’s gorgeous.”
Confused, Kate drew her eyes away only to find herself looking at a small cluster of girls nearby who seemed to be looking towards the gate, each giggling with the others and giving equally wistful sighs. She could hear snippets of conversation about the man with the leather jacket and she soon tuned them out. Had she been the only one to notice that something seemed wrong?
It wasn’t until her fingers began to scream out in protest that she realised that she still held a death grip on the bench and, after some careful persuasion, managed to peel her hands from the table and flex her fingers. Distracted, she rubbed her hands, her attention fixed towards the gate.