Sarah was quiet in the back of the car. She stared out of the window as her Mum drove her through the new, unfamiliar streets. These streets didn't look like the ones she was used to in her old town, the town she had left just day before. Those streets had been wide, they had been lined with large shady oak trees, there had been children playing in gardens and riding bikes. The road they drove down now had no trees, there were no big front gardens for children to play in. The roads were just narrow and dull.
Sarah fiddled with one of the two neat braids that fell either side of her head, a habit she always displayed when nervous. Sarah's mum, who had been stealing glances at her daughter in the rear-view mirror, noticed this.
"First days are always intimidating," she said light heartedly, trying to ease Sarah's nervousness, "but once you get to know the place and make some friends it will feel like you've been there for years,".
Sarah's only reply was a small nod as she continued staring out of the window, wishing that she was going to her old school where she loved all her teachers and she already had lots of friends, with whom she'd sit under the big leafy trees at lunch time or run around and play tag.
The car pulled up just short of the school gate. Sarah got her first view of her new school and it didn't make her feel any better. The school was a big, grey building with a small courtyard. She couldn't see a big playground with colourful paintings on the walls or big trees to sit under, like her previous school. This building didn't look welcoming at all. Sarah's mum turned around in her seat to look at Sarah properly. She read Sarah's expression and felt the familiar feeling of guilt that had followed her since she had left her abusive ex-husband and moved her and her daughter to a new home at a moments notice. The guilt she felt was for changing Sarah's life so drastically without a proper explanation. But Sarah was only eight years old, how much does an eight year old really understand about such situations?
"Ready? Got everything? You'll be fine, everyone will love you," she smiled down at Sarah. Sarah nodded quietly and got out of the car. She could see a few other kids in the same uniform as her walking towards the big building so she followed them. Sarah had point blank refused to let her mum escort her into school on the first day, she knew that wouldn't help with making new friends.
Sarah found a teacher inside watching the children hang up their coats and bags in the cloakroom.
"Hi," she said anxiously, "um, it's my first day, where should I go?" the teacher looked down at her curiously at first and smiled.
"Sarah? You're in my class!" she gave Sarah a kind smile and walked her over to an empty peg on the wall, "You can put your coat and bag here and come with me". Sarah followed the instructions, starting to relax a little, as she did so she did not notice a small group of children nearby giggling and looking in her direction.
"You're very brave to be starting your first day here without bringing your mum," the teacher commented, "I'm very impressed. I think you'll fit right in to my class, we like brave people,"
"I've had to do a lot of brave things since Mummy said we had to leave our big house," Sarah replied, remembering when she'd been woken by her mum in the middle of the night, the last night she had spent in the house she had always loved so much. The teacher had been made aware of Sarah's circumstances and gave an understanding, slightly sad, smile. She knelt down to look Sarah in the face and said quietly "well you've done very well," then she stood up, took Sarah's hand and said brightly "let's go and find your seat,"
An hour later Sarah was sat at a table with five other children and they were supposed to be filling in a blank clock face with the correct numbers together. Sarah had learnt about time and clocks in her old school and so felt confident she could get this right and impress the other children. However, when Sarah picked up a pencil and began writing in the numbers the other children had sneered at her.
"Teacher's pet," one of them had said loudly and the others all laughed. They had then ignored her, and the activity, and instead spent the time flicking small pieces of scrunched up paper at each other while Sarah finished filling in the clock. This was strange to Sarah, at her old school everyone would have joined in together, they wouldn't have being playing with little pieces of paper.
The morning went by slowly, Sarah had raised her hand to answer as many questions as she could, eager to start making herself known so people might want to talk to her at break time, but the more she raised her hand, the more snickers and giggles she heard around the room. As the bell rang for break the children in the class all erupted into loud chatter and laughs as they all filed out of the classroom and out into the courtyard outside. Sarah followed them, hoping she might find someone to play with. As she left the building someone slammed into her from behind. "Whoops! Sorry posh girl, didn't see you there," a short, chubby boy said as he ran passed. Posh? Sarah was beginning to feel worse than she had in the car this morning. She made her way onto the courtyard and looked around.
"Oh look, it's the posh girl!", someone shouted as they noticed her standing there.
"Look at her stupid braids, they look like worms coming out of her head!" sniggered a girl standing nearby.
"I've had to do a lot of brave things since Mummy made me leave my big, posh house," another kid mimicked her accent. Sarah recognised him from the cloakroom earlier today, he must have heard her conversation with the teacher.
"Oh Mummy I was ever so good at school today, I answered ALL the questions," mocked another girl.
Sarah began to feel her eyes sting with tears, she couldn't understand why all the children were saying these things. She wanted to run away and hide but the courtyard was too small and there were no trees to hide behind. She just stood there, looking back at all the kids that were mocking her for all the things she had loved about her old life.