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A Stupid Mistake
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It's Stef's first week at a new school. But she doesn't know the excitement (and trouble) that it will send her way

 

Chapter 1

 

I stood in the doorway, and gave a small cough. Gradually, the class stopped chattering and eyes swivelled towards me. There was an uncomfortable silence.

Then a deep-voiced "Excuse me" came from behind me. I stepped aside quickly, and turned towards the voice. The man was middle-aged, with brown hair that was threatening to turn grey, and he was very tall. He smiled at me.

"Ah, you're the new girl, aren't you? I'm Mr Bulger, your new form teacher. Whats your name?"

"Stef Crouch," I answered, grateful for some friendliness.

"Can you sit in the third desk back?" he asked. "This is Kian."

I smiled at the boy I was now sitting next to. He didnt return the smile. But Mr Bulger had already turned away, and didnt see.

I had moved to Ireland at the drop of a hat. My father, owner of an electrical company, had decided that it was best to move to Ireland, where the companys products were manufactured. But it had meant that Id had to leave my boarding school in Sussex, and come to school here in Sligo, at Summerhill College. I'd missed my friends so much that I had wasted loads of money on the phone bill, and had been banned from using it. I didnt think that I'd ever fit in here.

The first lesson was French. Seeing as I'd lived in France for the first five years of my life, I was fluent in the language, and found the work and speaking easy. I finished the written exercise long before anyone else, and so I put down my pen and relaxed for a few minutes. Suddenly a piece of paper flew across the room. It was obviously a note, so after a surreptitious look at the teacher, I unfolded it.

 

STOP SUCKING UP TO THE TEACHERS, YOU ENGLISH BITCH! OR YOULL HEAR IT FROM ME!

 

I glanced around quickly, but all the faces were impassive. Then I looked at my desk-mate. He was reading the note with raised eyebrows. Then he glanced at me and smiled reassuringly. I smiled back.

 

Chapter 2

 

Mr Bulger came back into the classroom as we were about to leave for lunch.

"Stef?"

I felt my face reddening, as once again, all eyes swivelled towards me.

"In the afternoon, we don't do lessons, we do sport instead. You can choose from football or basketball. Which would you rather have?"

"Football, please!" I said quickly. It was my favourite sport. There were a few raised eyebrows and mutters of 'tomboy', but nothing else, as a teacher was there.

"Thats fine. Two-fifteen outside the gym, okay?"

"Yes, sir."

As soon as he was out of the room, the girl across the aisle sniggered.

"Are you a boy then, swot?"

I went even redder than before, and quickly shoved my books into my bag. As I left the room, I heard the girl laugh again, and say, "Ugly little bitch, isn't she?"

Tears welled up behind my eyes, and I ran down the corridor, not knowing where I was going. Then I heard a shout behind me.

"Hey, wait!"

I turned and saw Kian and two other boys running after me.

"Dont worry about Tonya," he panted as he caught up with me. "Shes a real cow to most people. You just happened to be the one she picked on. Its only because you're new. Don't let her get to you." He smiled at me again with that wonderful grin. "This is Shane and Bryan, my best mates."

"Heya," said Bryan.  "You wanna come and eat lunch with us?"

"Yes, please. That'd be great!"


After lunch, I found the changing room (eventually) and changed into the school games kit. A couple of the girls had football boots, so I decided to wear mine. They were my most prized possessions, and I was very protective of them.

I arrived at the gym five minutes early, so I practiced kick-ups.

"Nice boots!" Kian exclaimed, as he ran up. "Do you play a lot of football?"

"Yeah, loads! It's my favourite sport."

"Mine too!"

"I'd never have guessed."

He laughed. "Well, I guess it's what you'd expect from a bloke."

The blast of a whistle sounded across the field, and we all clustered around the teacher.

"Right, we'll have two captains. How about Bryan and Kian? Kian can pick first."

"I pick... Stef!"

"Theres no-one here called Stef, you eejit!" someone at the front called as I pushed my way through.

"Yeah, there is... she's new, that's all!" Kian said defensively.

"Whoa! Get in there, Kian!" a blond-haired girl laughed. Kian blushed bright red.

Once the rest of the teams had been picked, our team pulled on orange bibs, and ran onto the pitch.

"What do you play, Stef?" Kian asked.

"Striker, mainly."

"Okay, then. Stef, me and Shane are strikers, Colm, Anna and Tom, you can defend, and Nicky as always can be goalie!" He grinned at the small, skinny, brown-haired lad standing beside him.

The whistle sounded, and we began to play. The ball was soon passed my way, and I intercepted, dribbled it down the field, and passed to Shane, who passed it right back, kicking it high. I jumped and headed the ball into the goal! My team all cheered, and Kian gave me a high five.

The game ended with a 2-0 win to us, with a goal each to Shane and I.

 

Chapter 3

 

Thankfully, when I returned to the changing room, Tonya wasnt there, and I showered and changed as quickly as possible. As I headed towards the front door I caught sight of Nicky, Kian, Bryan, and Shane in a huddle outside. As I opened the door, they looked up and smiled.

"Hi, Stef!" Kian called as he walked towards me. "Can we walk you home?"

"Sure!" I exclaimed happily.

"Where do you live, then?" he continued, as we started down the drive.

"Erm The Abbey In Wood Road."

The guys eyes widened, and I felt myself blush.

"In the white mansion? Jeezus..." but Shane was cut off by Nicky.

"Shut up, you eejit! Don't mind him, he's a bit of a deutz."

"Erm... a what?"

"It's an insult... means you're stupid, or an idiot... something like that."

"Oh..." I felt embarrassed, even though Id no reason to be. I'd only been in Ireland for six days, so how could I know any Irish slang?

Eventually we reached the mansion.

"Do you want to come in for a drink?" I invited.

"Sorry!" Kian said regretfully. "We've got loads of homework. I can't believe we have to do that essay in one night!"

I agreed, laughing, and waved goodbye as I opened the gate, and walked up the drive.

 

"So, darling, how was it?" my mum asked when shed returned from the shops.

I pushed all thoughts of Tonya's insults to the back of my mind, and forced a smile. "Yeah, it was good."

"Well? Is that all? A little detail, please! How was the work? Did you make any new friends?"

"The work was fine, and Ive already done my homework. I have four new mates, called Bryan, Shane, Kian and Nicky."

"No girls, then?"

I rolled my eyes. "No, mum!"

"Okay, I was only asking! I just thought that... well... you can't always do the things that boys do. I know you still hang on to this childish obsession with football, but... there are other things you should be doing. You should be interested in clothes and makeup."

"Mum... I hate makeup. And I am interested in clothes!"

"They're not very... feminine."

She was right. I was wearing a blue T-shirt, baggy jeans and Vans.

"No wonder you only have boys for friends."

"Mum, theres nothing wrong with that. The girls didn't talk to me anyway. I tried at break-time, but they just walked away. Now, please, just leave it!" I groaned as I switched on the TV.

 

A few days later, in the morning, I was met at the gates by a very excited Kian.

"Hi, Stef! How are ya?"

"Alright, Ki. How about you?"

"Couldnt be better!"

As we hurried up the drive, Kian explained the reason for his excitedness.

"Look, Stef can you sing?"

"Yeah! I had lessons back in England. I got to grade seven. Why?"

"Well, there are auditions for the school play today. Are you up for it? Its a musical; Bugsy Malone."

"Yeah, sure! I love things like that!"

"It's in lunchtime, in the assembly hall. You have to sing a piece. I was thinking that we could do a duet."

"Yeah!" I said enthusiastically. "That'd be so cool"

 

When we reached the chemistry lab, the teacher warned us about the dangers of sulphuric acid and then set us to work on an experiment.

A few minutes later, another note landed on my desk, but again, I didnt see where it had been flicked from.

 

SULPHURIC ACID IS CORROSIVE. DO YOU WANT SOME OF THAT IN YOUR FACE? THEN STAY AWAY FROM KIAN!

 

I tried to hide the note from Kian, but he prised it from my fingers and unfolded it once more. His face grew serious. He screwed up the paper, and went to burn it in the Bunsen flame, but I took it away from him, and shoved it into my pencil case.

"Don't take any notice, okay?" he said. "It's just someone being stupid... they'd never do something like that really."

I nodded. "No, probably not. It's still sick though."

"And don't stay away. We're mates, aren't we?" His blue eyes twinkled at me.

"Yeah..." I answered, and smiled.

Just then a crash from behind us made us jump. Tonya had managed to knock over a bottle of copper shavings. It was almost as if she was creating a diversion.

 

Chapter 4

 

"Right, next!" The drama teacher's voice echoed through the auditorium to the backstage area where we were standing, waiting with anticipation to audition for the play.

Kian and I had gone to the music library, and had decided to sing 'Against all odds', by Phil Collins. As soon as we'd practised together, it had become clear that our voices clicked, and the song sounded brilliant (even if I do say so myself)!

As we were now at the front of the queue, Kian and I walked onto the brightly lit stage, and I handed the accompaniment music to the music teacher. He played the introduction, and Kian began:

 

Kian: How can I just let you walk away,
 Just let you leave without a trace,
         When I'm standing taking every breath,
         With you, ooohhh,
         You're the only one who really knew me,
         At all.

Stef: How can you just walk away from me,
        When all I can do is watch you leave,
        Cause we shared the laughter and the pain,
        And even shared the tears,
        You're the only one who really knew me at all.
        So take a look at me now,
        There's just an empty space,
        There's nothing left here to remind me,
        Just the memory of your face,
        So take a look at me now,
        There's just an empty space,
        If you're coming back to me it's against all odds,
        And that's what I've got to face.
 
Kian: I wish I could just make you turn around,
          Turn around and see me cry,
          There's so much I need to say to you,
          So many reasons why,

          You're the only one who really knew me at all.

Stef: So take a look at me now,
        There's just an empty space,

        There's nothing left here to remind me,
        Just the memory of your face,
        So take a look at me now,
        So there's just an empty space,
        But to wait for you is all I can do,
        When that's what I've got to face.
        Take a good look at me now,
        Cause I'll still be standing here,
        (Kian: Standing here)
        And you coming back to me is against all odds,
        And that's the chance I've got to take.

Kian: Take a look at me now
 
Stef: Ooh, Take a look at me now

Both: Take a look at me now.

 

Kian gave me a hug as we walked offstage. "You were brilliant!"

"You, too!" I whispered back. "Well done!"

 

Shane, Bryan and Nicky had also auditioned and everyone was waiting excitedly in the auditorium to hear the casting.

The drama master entered in a hurry, and started speaking as soon as he had got to the front.

"Firstly, I must congratulate those who have gained the parts they had hoped for, and to commiserate those who have not. Dont worry, there will be other opportunities!"

"Just get on with it!" Kian muttered through gritted teeth, making me giggle nervously under my breath.

"Now Ill announce the parts. Bugsy Malone Kian Egan!" There was a burst of envious applause, and I leant over to kiss him on the cheek.

"Blousey Brown..." I saw Tonya sit suddenly straight up in her seat, and realized that she wanted this part really badly.

"... Stef Crouch!" There was more clapping, and Kian and Nicky tried to hug me from either side at the same time, nearly suffocating me. I just sat there in shock. I couldn't believe it!

"Oh my god!" I squealed. I was so happy!

Then I remembered what Id just seen, and glanced over at Tonya. Her look towards me was as cold as ice, and I realized that this would only make her hate me more.

"Tallulah Tonya McLeod!" Tonya shrugged, and sat back in her chair, keeping her cold gaze fixed on me.

"Fat Sam Bryan McFadden!"

This was ironic, as although Bryan wasnt fat, he got teased about his weight, and was sometimes called Mc-Fat-den. Shane poked Bryan in his middle jokingly, but he just grinned and punched Nicky playfully.

"Nicky Byrne, Shane Filan, Mark Feehilly and Graham Philips Fat Sams gang!" We five were ecstatic. Wed all secured major parts in the play!

When the rest of the parts had been handed out, the drama teacher gave us a script each, and then left the room. I left the boys, because I needed the loo. Little did I know what was waiting for me.

 

Chapter 5

 

I left the auditorium, and had only moved a few steps down the corridor, when a huge shove came from behind. After regaining my balance, I spun round to see who it was.

Tonya glared at me from a few feet away. She flicked her ginger hair over her shoulder and scowled.

"I told you to stay away from Kian, and not to suck up to teachers, but you didnt listen. Now youve taken my part, you cow!"

With this, Tonya sprang forward, and swung her fist at me. I ducked, and she missed, losing her balance and falling onto the floor. I let out an accidental snigger at how ridiculous she looked. Bad move. Humiliated Tonya sprang to her feet, and slapped me with all her might. I stood there, too shocked to do anything until Mr Bulger pushed through the crowd and took Tonya by the shoulders.

"Tonya, what do you think youre doing?"

Kian and Bryan came up behind me, and Kian gave me a hug. I was struggling not to cry by this time.

"All right, everyone," Mr Bulger said. "Stop hanging around, and get to class."

The crowd moved away, muttering under their breath.

"Stef and Tonya, please come with me."

"But sir, she cant..."

"Stefs too upset..."

"Bryan and Kian, thats enough! Stef may be upset, but we have to sort this out."

 

"Miss Crouch, your version of events, please," the headmaster, Mr Pemberton frowned.

I swallowed. "Well, I came out of the auditorium, and Tonya accused me of taking her part, and..."

"Which part? Tonya, could you explain?"

"It was Blousey from Bugsy Malone. I wanted that part so badly, and she had no right to it... she's only new. They only picked her because..."

"Tonya, thats enough! Now, Stef, please continue."

"She swung a punch at me, and fell over, and then jumped up and slapped me."

"She laughed at me!"

"Tonya, thats enough! If I want your opinion, Ill ask for it."

Kian was there too, as he'd come in to give me moral support, and he spoke up for the first time.

"Shes also sent Stef horrible notes, too."

"Do you have any of these notes?"

I nodded, and reached for my pencil case, and handed the notes over to the headmaster. Tonya looked furious.

"Right, Stef, I think you can go now. Kian, can I count on you to see Stef home?"
"Yes, sir." Kian took my hand, and led me out.

 

"What'll happen to Tonya?" I asked as we strolled down my road.

"I don't know. She's been bitchy to a lot of people, and beat a few up as well. Shes been suspended before. She might be expelled."

"Oh, no!2 The idea of ruining someone's school career dismayed me.

"She won't bother you anymore. C'mon, she deserves it."

"I don't think anyone deserves that."

 

When we got in, I poured us a coke each and we headed into the living room and flopped down on my bed.

"Stef..." Kian began.

"Yes?"

He was fiddling with the silver charm bracelet on his left wrist, a sure sign that he was nervous.

"I like you more than any other girl I know... and I think you're really pretty... and what I wanted to ask you was... will you be my girlfriend?"

My eyes widened, and I felt shocked. "Kian Im sorry, but I don't feel that way. We're good friends, maybe even best friends, but I don't feel that way. I'm so sorry..." but he cut me off.

"No... don't be sorry. I shouldn't have asked. Bye!" He snatched his schoolbag and ran out of the room. Moments later I heard the front door slam.

I felt myself beginning to cry. I didnt mean to upset him! Why did he have to ask me? I just didnt want to ruin our friendship!

The words that wed sung together came back to me:

 

        I wish I could just make you turn around,
        Turn around and see me cry,
        There's so much I need to say to you,
        So many reasons why,

        You're the only one who really knew me at all.

Then I lay down and sobbed.

 

Chapter 6

 

The next few days at school were hell for me. There was no sign of Tonya, but as I approached Nicky, Shane, Bryan and Kian, they fell silent and shuffled about uncomfortably. None of them would look me in the eye, and they gave one-word answers to my attempts at conversation. Finally, exasperated, I walked away.

I tried again at break time and at lunch, but it was the same old routine. In the end I gave up, and didnt approach them at all. But it wasn't just them. No one acknowledged me, even if I spoke to them. Finally, I went to Mr Bulger. I had to know what had happened.

"Sir... what's happened to Tonya?"

"Didn't you know? Shes been excluded."

"Oh, no!" So that was why everyone was being so cold towards me. I had, in their eyes, had someone chucked out of school. Well, except for the guys. They were angry that Id rejected Kian, and thought that I was just out to hurt people.

I thanked Mr. Bulger, and rushed out of class.

 

At lunchtime, I was reading the notices on the board, when I suddenly saw a notice about football:

 

URGENT

TO ALL FOOTBALLERS

 

There is a match against Plunkett College on Friday afternoon at 1:50pm. Will these people play:

Kian Egan                    Mike OConnor

Stef Crouch                  Colm Reilly

Shane Filan                   Dan Roland

Bryan McFadden            Nicky Byrne

Ronan Fosham            Russell Mensch.

 

I stared in bewilderment. As people had avoided me like the plague, no one had told me about this! Today was Friday! The time of the match was 1:50, and as I glanced at my watch, I realized that it was 1:40!

I started running towards my locker, barging past people. I snatched my sports kit, slammed my locker, rushed into the changing room, threw on shorts, T-shirt and shin-pads, laced up my precious football boots, and ran onto the field.

"About time too!" the coach, Mr Wells, shouted furiously. "We were about to call on a reserve. Miss Crouch, what were you thinking?"

"I'm sorry, sir!" I panted. "I I didn't know!"

"I'll deal with you later!" he threatened, tossing me a bib. "Get on that field!"

I took my place, and play started. But even though I scored two of the three goals that won the game, nobody congratulated me. I felt so lonely, I could almost cry.

 

After the coach had told me off thoroughly, I sloped back to the changing rooms, which were empty by this time, and took a long, hot shower. When I came back, however, I saw a horrible sight on the changing room floor. My football boots had been cut to shreds with a knife! And even more shocking was the glint of silver that I saw lying next to it, as I stooped to look more closely.

Kians charm bracelet.

 

After throwing my clothes on, I sprinted into the auditorium. The rehearsal for 'Bugsy Malone' had just finished.

"Where were you?" the drama teacher snapped.

"I was kept behind by Mr Wells, sir."

"Well, next time, have a bit more dedication, please!"

"Yes, sir!" I humbly replied.

Kian was standing in a huddle with the other three lads. I tapped him on his shoulder, and he spun round. Then I slapped him with all my might.

"What was that for?" he exclaimed, after a shocked pause.

"My fucking football boots, you bastard!" I shouted.

The auditorium grew quiet.

"I haven't touched them!" he denied, reaching for his charm bracelet so he could fiddle with it. Not finding it on his wrist, he gasped in shock.

"Looking for this?" I taunted, waving the bracelet in front of his face.

"Where did you get that? Give it here!" He made a grab for it, but I pulled it out of his reach.

"It was on the floor, next to my ripped up football boots!"

His eyes widened as he realized what I was implying.

"Stef! I wouldn't do that to you! I know how precious those boots are to you! C'mon, Im your friend!"

"Well, you haven't been acting much like it lately!" I yelled, my voice beginning to crack. "To to hell! I shouted, flinging the bracelet at him, and sprinting away, hot tears running down my face.

 

Chapter 7

 

I kept getting calls from Kian on my mobile, but I ignored them, and when he started towards me at school, I hurried away.

One day, Mr Bulger handed me a note.

"I found it on the floor, in the corridor, and saw it was addressed to you. Don't worry, I haven't read it."

I fumbled it open apprehensively, as I thought that it would be from Kian. However, it wasnt.

 

ENJOY YOUR SURPRISE? HOPE YOU LIKED IT. IT WAS LUCKY FOR ME THAT KIAN HAD DROPPED HIS BRACELET JUST WHERE I COULD FIND IT, AND THAT YOU TOOK SUCH A LONG SHOWER.

YOU WONT SEE ME AGAIN, AS IVE MOVED AWAY TO ANOTHER TOWN.

TONYA.

 

I gasped. Tonya had sneaked in and done it. It wasn't Kian! She'd dropped his bracelet there to frame him and break up our friendship, and also to get her revenge. I made it through the rest of the lesson and rushed to my locker to put my books away. I pulled out a shoebox with a letter on top:

 

Stef,

I had to search for ages to find these! Please accept them and believe me when I say I didn't do it!

Love Kian XxX

 

I lifted off the lid, and saw a pair of football boots, exactly like my old ones. My eyes blurred. He had even gone to the trouble of finding me identical football boots to win me back! And he hadnt even destroyed them in the first place! I shoved the box into my schoolbag, slammed my locker, and ran into the playground. I spotted Kian and rushed over to him.

"Thank you so much, Ki! That was really sweet! It made me really happy! Thanks a lot!"

He grinned. "Thats okay. But," and his face clouded over, "do you believe me?"

"Read this!" I told him, holding out Tonyas latest note. As he read it, he looked dismayed. "Oh my god! What a bitch!" he exclaimed.

"Hit me where it hurts!" I joked. "But seriously, Kian, I'm sorry. I was wrong, and I should have believed you." I suddenly hugged him, and felt him hug me back. And at that moment, I knew what I had to do.

"Kian, I made a stupid mistake a few weeks ago. I said something that wasn't true... I do feel that way about you... I love you, Ki!"

"I love you too!" he replied unexpectedly. "So, I suppose you want me to ask you again?"

"That would be good!" I smiled.

"Stef, will you be my girlfriend?"

"With all my heart!" I answered, and he began to kiss me passionately.