It felt like all eyes were on me as I walked through the front gate, past the lady teacher who was checking that skirt lengths were acceptable. I knew her of course, she had been my form tutor in years 10 and 11, but she didn’t make eye contact. Perhaps she hadn’t seen me?
I walked down the side of the main building with the usual crowds of youngsters aimlessly scuttling around. Not a familiar face in sight which was fine by me. Then round the corner and the Sixth Form Centre came into sight. Faces that I recognised but nobody seemed keen to acknowledge my arrival. Why should they? They had no idea what was going on inside my head.
Sharp left, down the corridor to the second door. Deep breath. Emily, my best friend, was in her usual place in the front row with an empty space beside her. My space, the space that had been mine before I became an orphan. An orphan, a word I was to hear so often in the weeks and months that followed.
The room fell silent. Nobody wanted to look at me in case they had to say something. So I sat down and Emily slipped her hand into mine. “Oh Sally, I’m so very sorry.”
The silence was broken by the noisy arrival of my form tutor. He was one of those teachers who seemed to get on fine with the boys but who found dealing with girls put him well outside his comfort zone.
He took the register in his normal slightly over-officious way. He did make the effort to make eye contact with me but rather spoilt the effect by then saying, “Nice to have you back” as if I had been off with a cold.
My head was spinning and my brain and my body seemed to be several metres apart. It was a good job that I had a free lesson – sorry private study – on my timetable because counting to ten would have been beyond me at that stage.