A lot of words go around about Alesha Daydrop. It’s probably because she is one of the loudest people in school; second only to the dinner lady leader, Miss Trout, who’s booming voice can, impressively, fill an entire canteen. However, whenever you’re in one of the massive, bustling playgrounds or a small, quiet classroom, you can always tell if Alesha is around. Not only her voice, but she also has an aura of one particular perfume she always uses- Smoky Lips- and most girls don’t use it in case they’re mistaken for Alesha. Some people think she has ADHD. Loads of people think she should become a singer because she has such a great voice. No one dares challenge her or take the mickey out of her because she will defeat you in any argument, hands down. One time, Corey Mug- the school pop punk fanatic- whispered to one of his mates, giggling about her “childish” ‘My Little Pony’ t-shirt she was wearing that day. Alesha caught wind of it, mocked his platform black boots in front of hundreds of students and teachers (resulting in millions of laughs), and smashed his head against a wall. He’s fine now. But, of course, Alesha got away with it, because she just used the excuse of her rumoured ADHD. She’s bold, bright and brilliant, and she’s Sophie’s best friend.
People outside of their circle are surprised to find out that Sophie Mulligan is Alesha’s certified “best friend”. She’s able to get away with everything- she has what they call the Daydrop VIP Ticket- but Sophie is often too afraid and/or too humble to take liberties. On the other hand, she does find it useful for hiding away from bullies, which, because she’s quiet and reserved and does silly things like reading and not talking to anyone, pester her like flies. Most of them already know not to mess with her, but whenever there’s a newbie, she always proudly announces how she will tell Alesha about what they’ve done, and they immediately scarper.
This doesn’t seem to be working today, though.
It’s a sunny Tuesday and she’s sitting in one of the free rooms used for general chilling out or knocking about. Sophie comes here whenever Alesha is in singing class to read. Someone new to her year, a skinny, tall boy with pale ginger hair and a sly fox’s grin called Callum Markitt (they were in maths together), is suddenly interested in her for some reason. He’s standing over Sophie, grinning down at her.
“What’re you reading?” He snarls.
He has two other boys standing precariously behind him, one Sophie recognises as plump-faced Tom Joby, and the other she has never seen before, with shoulder-length brown hair and a nose piercing. Piercings are strictly forbidden.
“Hey, uh, Callum-” Tom perks up. He shares eye contact with Sophie for a split second, displaying something between fear and sympathy. “Maybe we should back off. That’s Sophie Mulligan. She’s friends with Alesha Daydrop.”
Callum doesn’t back off. His grin falls into a disgusted snarl.
“Who’s she?” He grumbles.
Sophie raises her head.
“My best friend. She’ll beat you up.”
Callum laughs. It’s loud and cruel.
“Sorry, I don’t fight imaginary friends.”
“She’s not imaginary!” She argues.
The boy with the piercing sniggers.
Callum towers over Sophie yet again.
“Well, tell your friend Alesha there’s a new boss in town, ‘kay?”
As if that isn’t enough (it never is), he snatches her book (‘Tracy Beaker’) and tosses it away from Sophie. She watches it land with a thump onto the musty, grey floor.
“-And then I told Miss Mouldy to go eff herself and everyone laughed- including Miss!” Alesha is exclaiming as the two best friends stroll home, the sun resting on their heads. “Can you believe that?”
She pauses for a moment.
“Yeah?” Sophie asks faintly, forcing a smile.
“What’s wrong?” Alesha asks. “I’m the only one who knows when you’re being quiet in a sad way.”
Sophie doesn’t want to tell her at first. She doesn’t want to admit that she got scared and didn’t stand up to some weasley boy, and now her ‘Tracy Beaker’ book is all dusty.
“C’mon, Soph,” Alesha persists. “You can tell me.”
“There was a boy. He’s new. He’s called Callum-”
“Oh, no. Callum is a bad name, I can feel it. What happened?”
“He told me to tell you there’s going to be a new boss, and he threw my book.”
“What a knob. Oh boy, he’s really going to get it back…”
It’s Friday, and instead of running around outside with Alesha like a pair of idiots, Sophie is having to sit on her own yet again at a table in the free room, trying to finish off her ‘Tracy Beaker’. She has one leg crossed over the other, and sits very nicely, her mind away in the book. She hears the double doors slam open, breaking her daydream, so she looks up briefly, only to find that in strides Callum, Tom, and the boy with the piercing Sophie now knows is Jason, because Alesha had been researching the trio since Sophie had passed on Callum’s threat.
They mess around amongst themselves for a bit, spraying juice cartons at each other and laughing like hyenas, almost covering everyone else’s casual chatter. Mostly everyone just glances at them lazily- oh, just some boys fooling around- and go back to what they were doing. Sophie’s heart races as she tries to concentrate on the words on her page.
Then, out of the corner of her eye, she notices Callum stopping, turning to face her. He starts walking over to her and eventually his mates follow suit.
He stops when he’s about half a metre away from her.
“Tell your imaginary mate about what I said?” He demands.
Sophie decides not to react, staring straight into her book.
“Oi!” He shouts, walking closer to her. “Do you hear me? Or are you just stupid?”
“I hear you,” Sophie mutters, not looking up.
“Rude as well. You ought to learn some manners with me around.”
“Only if you’re polite to me,” Sophie points out, looking up now and shrugging at him.
Callum clenches his teeth. With an enraged growl, he raises his fist. Sophie can’t think, or move, or anything. Tom tries to call out, to stop him. Jason seems to be looking on in some dark interest. Then, suddenly:
“Fuck off, Callum!” A female voice hollers, and the audience of other students Callum has managed to gain, all cheer. A fight only gets interesting if Alesha is involved.
Callum looks dumb struck, and whirls around to see who the voice belongs to.
Alesha Daydrop: 16 years old; long, wild, brown hair; multicoloured wristbands; small school bag with a cute teddy bear key ring which Sophie bought for her for her 11th birthday; pink lip gloss; smart green eyes; one proud stance and two clenched fists.
Callum backs away slowly.
“How dare you talk to my best friend like that?” Alesha demands.
Callum looks back at little Sophie, then back at the, albeit not taller, but more confident, Alesha.
“Why did you target her, huh? Why her of all people? ‘Cos she’s quiet? You think she’s just gonna take it? Well, she isn’t, because she knows me, and I fucking run this school, so you’d better back off.”
Callum has nothing to say. He just stares straight at Alesha glumly, his mouth hanging open helplessly.
Everything seems to be going well, when suddenly, in the middle of Alesha’s little gloat, Jason suddenly leaps out and punches her in the chest. Alesha lets herself fall backwards, taking Jason with him.
“My tit!” She screams. “He punched my tit!”
All the other students are gathering around now, desperate to see some action. Sophie stands, unsure of what to do. Callum and Jason high-five. Tom backs away from them.
“Not that strong, are you?” Callum growls. He strides over to Alesha and stands over her as she lays on the ground.
“I’m stronger than you, bitch,” she snarls, and spits in his face.
Slowly, Callum wipes the spit from off his face. He raises a foot over her stomach.
Then, Tom runs out from nowhere, grabs Callum around his waist, and, using his weight, hurdles him away.
“Stop it, Callum. You’re punching girls. You’re not supposed to punch girls.”
“Shut up, Fatty,” Jason snarls.
“You can piss off, too, freak,” Alesha shouts, now standing and striding towards Jason.
“Uh, c’mon Callum, let’s go,” Jason squeaks. He hurries over towards his friend and lends him a hand. They shuffle miserably out of the double doors of the free room together, leaving Tom behind.
Alesha turns to him and smiles.
Sophie perks up:
“Yeah, thanks, Tom.”
Tom blushes as he turns to Sophie.
“You’ve read ‘The Secret Jade Spell’ series, haven’t you?” He asks.
“Oh, my God. I have. I need to reread it, it’s so amazing.”
“Well, apparently the author is gonna be writing a kind of sequel to the series, ‘The Majestic Blue Spell’, about Kirean’s daughter.”
“Oh, yes, I was hoping they’d do that!” Sophie enthuses.
“Okay, nerds,” Alesha sniggers.
She turns toward their bemused audience.
“‘Kay, you weirdos can all go away now, too. Watch boxing on your phone or something.”
They all wander away, pretending that they got uninterested and started leaving of their own accord. They still did whatever Alesha said, anyway.
“Let’s go, nerds,” Alesha tells Sophie and Tom, “we’ve still got about fifteen minutes left for running about like hooligans outside.”
“Yes!” They both exclaim, and they both fall in step behind Alesha, honoured by what she had selflessly given them.