'Bridget and my Geography Field Trip' by Jacquie Wyatt
We went on a coach for the school trip to the Devil’s Punchbowl. The rest of the class were looking forward to it. I was late on and lumbered towards you at the back as the driver set off. The gang’s henchman had taken my seat next to you. I sat down as close as I dared. The gears grouched and the atmosphere was charged with the smell of cheap cheese and onion crisps. It was as if some chemical had been released and the gang’s taunts got louder and more focused. Frigid Bridget they chorused as if it rhymed. I sat alone on the seat, two in front of you. Thinking of sparrows and how they just turned on one bird and pulled its feathers out, then ten minutes later, it was all forgotten. I was trying to work out if that bald bird ever recovered and to remember what frigid meant. I couldn’t see but I knew what your face would look like. Your prominent teeth would be biting your lip and you’d be doing that stirring gesture with your fingers. The one you used when things were worse than you could take. I knew it but I couldn’t look back because it would make it real and would put me right in their line of fire. Instead, I tried to send panic signals forwards. But the harassed teachers didn’t come beyond the tenth row from the back. They looked and shrugged like it was my choice being late and like we'd wanted to go there, like we’d survive. As soon as we were out of the coach in the car park, still juggling coats and bags and regrouping, you ran. The bullies muttered their refrain but you were only just in earshot and heading for the edge. You didn’t stop when you hit it. There was the sound of flesh connecting with ground – that marrow chilling inert brutality. The others all screamed. The shock ran right inside my silent open mouth and hid like a tiny animal I must protect from everyone. I swallowed, remembering when you smelt of the sweetness of your dog’s puppies and were briefly, bemusedly, popular. When I’m alone at night I try to tempt the tiny animal out with my dream of going back to insist on sitting next to you, stilling your stirring fingers with my own plump ones and making a solid fist.