Chapter no 2 – Everything has Changed Shannon

Binding 13

When I climbed off my bus, I was relieved to discover that the doors of Tommen College were opened to the students at 7 in the morning, obviously to accommodate the different schedules of the boarders and day walkers.

I hurried into the building to get out of the weather.

It was pouring rain outside, and in any other circumstance I might consider it a bad omen, but this was Ireland where it rained an average of 150 to 225 days out of the year.

It was also early January, typical rain season.

I discovered that I wasn’t the only early bird to arrive before school hours, noting several students already wandering through the halls and lounging in the lunch hall and common areas.

Yes, common areas.

Tommen College had what I could only describe as spacious living rooms for each year.

To my immense surprise, I discovered that I wasn’t the immediate target for bullies like I had been in every other school I had attended.

Students whizzed past me, uninterested in my presence, clearly caught up in their own lives.

I waited, with my heart, in my mouth for a cruel comment or shove to come.

It didn’t.

Transferring halfway through the year from the neighboring public school, I had been expecting a tirade of fresh taunts and new enemies.

But nothing happened.

Aside from a couple of curious glances, nobody approached me.

The students at Tommen either didn’t know who I was – or didn’t care. Either way, I was clearly off the radar in this school and I loved it.

Comforted by the sudden cloak of invisibility surrounding me, and feeling more positive than I had in months, I took the time to look around the third-year common area.

It was a large, bright room with floor to ceiling windows on one side that looked onto a courtyard of buildings. Plaques and photographs of previous students adorned the lemon painted walls. Plush couches and comfy chairs filled the large space, along with a few round tables and matching oak chairs. There was a small kitchenette area in the corner with a kettle, toaster, and microwave.

Holy crap.

So, this was what the other side lived like.

It was like a different world in Tommen College. An alternate universe to the one I came from.


I could bring a few slices of bread and have tea and toast at school.

Feeling intimidated, I slipped out and wandered through every hall and corridor trying to get my bearings.

Studying my timetable, I memorized where every building and wing that I would have a class in was.

I was feeling pretty confident by the time the bell went at 8:50, signaling fifteen minutes before the start of the school day, and when I was greeted by a familiar voice, I came close to crying with sheer relief.

“Oh my god! Oh my god!” a tall, curvaceous blonde with a smile the size of a football pitch squealed loudly, drawing mine and everyone else’s attention, as she barreled through several groups of students in her bid to reach me.

I wasn’t nearly prepared for the monster hug I was enveloped in when she reached me, even though I should have expected nothing less from

Claire Biggs.

Being greeted by actual smiling, friendly faces instead of what I was used to was overwhelming for me.

“Shannon Lynch,” Claire half giggled, half choked out, squeezing me tightly. “You’re actually here!”

“I’m here,” I agreed with a small laugh, patting her back as I tried and failed to free myself from her lung-crushing embrace. “But I won’t be for much longer if you don’t ease up on the squeezing.”

“Oh, crap. Sorry,” Claire laughed, immediately taking a step back and releasing me from her death hold. “I forgot you haven’t grown since fourth class.” She took another step back and looked me over. “Make that third class,” she snickered, eyes dancing with mischief.

This wasn’t a dig; it was an observation and a fact.

I was exceptionally small for my age, dwarfed even further by my friend’s 5’9 frame.

She was tall, athletically built, and exceptionally beautiful. It wasn’t a demure form of beauty either.

No, it shot out of her face like sun beams.

Claire was simply dazzling with big, puppy dog brown eyes and ringlets of light blonde curls. She had a sunny disposition and a smile that could warm the coldest of hearts.

Even at four years old, I’d known this girl was different.

I could feel the kindness radiating out of her. I’d felt it as she stood in my corner for eight long years, defending me to her own detriment.

She knew the difference between right and wrong and was prepared to step in for anyone weaker than her.

She was a keeper.

We had drifted apart since going to separate secondary schools, but one look at her and I knew she was still the same old Claire.

“We can’t all be beanpoles,” I shot back good-naturedly, knowing her words were not meant to hurt me.

“God, I’m so glad you’re here.” She shook her head and smiled down at me. She did this adorable happy dance and then threw her arms around me once more. “I can’t believe your parents finally did the right thing by you.”

“Yeah,” I replied, uncomfortable again. “Eventually.”

“Shan, it won’t be like that here,” Claire’s tone was serious now, eyes full of unspoken emotion. “All that shit you’ve suffered? It’s in the past.”

She sighed again and I knew she was holding her tongue, refraining from saying everything she wanted to.

Claire knew.

She was there in primary school.

She witnessed how it was for me back then.

For some unknown reason, I was glad she hadn’t seen how much worse it had gotten.

It was a humiliation I didn’t want to feel anymore.

“I’m here for you,” she continued to say, “and Lizzie, too – if she ever decides to drag her ass out of bed and actually come to school.”

Smiling brightly, I banished my demons to the back of my mind and said, “Here’s to a fresh start.”

“Yes, girl!” Claire said with keen enthusiasm, fist bumping me in the process. “A fresh start with the sunny side up.”



The first half of the day went better than I could have ever anticipated. Claire introduced me to her friends, and while I couldn’t remember the names of most of the people I had met, I was incredibly grateful to be included and, I dared say, accepted.

Inclusion wasn’t something I was used to, and I found myself working hard to keep up with the constant flow of conversation and friendly questions aimed at me.

Spending as much time as I did in my own company made it difficult for me to integrate back into normal teenage society. Having people other than Joey and his friends that were willing to sit with me, talk to me, and walk with me at school was a mind-blowing experience.

When my other primary school friend, Lizzie Young, eventually showed up to school halfway through the third class of the morning, blaming a dentist appointment for her absence, we immediately fell back into the familiar friendship we always had.

Lizzie rolled into school in a boy’s school trousers and runners, uncaring of what anyone had to say about her appearance. She honestly didn’t seem to care what people thought. She dressed according to her mood and projected vibes the same way. She could show up tomorrow in a skirt and

with a full face of makeup. She did what she wanted to do when she wanted to do it, unaware and uncaring of anyone else’s opinion.

She oozed a lazy sort of confidence with her long, dark blonde, swishing ponytail and makeup-free face, emphasizing those big, blue eyes of hers.

I also noted all through our classes that Lizzie received plenty of male attention regardless of the baggy trousers and messy hair she was sporting, proving the point that you don’t need to strip down and paint your face to attract the opposite sex.

A genuine smile and a nice personality went a long way.

Lizzie was a lot like Claire in many ways, but starkly different in others. Like Claire, Lizzie was blonde and leggy.

They were both tall for their age and both sickeningly beautiful.

But where Claire was outgoing and, at times, a little overly excited, Lizzie was laidback and slightly introverted.

Claire was mostly unfiltered and Lizzie took her time to make a decision on something.

Claire was pristine at all times with a full face of makeup and a perfectly coordinated outfit for any given occasion, while Lizzie’s style was unpredictable.

Meanwhile, I was the tiny brunette who buddied up with the best- looking girls in class.


“Are you okay, Shan?” Lizzie asked after big break.

We were walking towards our next class, English in the south wing, when I stopped mid-stride, causing a pile-up of students.

“Oh crap,” I muttered, suddenly realizing my blunder. “I left my phone in the bathroom.”

Claire, who was on my left, turned and frowned. “Go and get it, we’ll wait for you.”

“The bathroom in the science building,” I replied with a groan. Tommen was ridiculously large, with several classes taking place in different buildings around the vast property. “I have to get it back,” I added, feeling anxious at the thought of someone finding my phone and invading my privacy. The mobile phone itself wasn’t worth anything, it was one of the cheapest prepays on the market and didn’t even have a camera, but it was

mine. It was filled with private text messages and I needed it back. “Dammit.”

“Don’t panic,” Lizzie interjected. “We’ll walk you over.”

“No.” I held a hand up and shook my head. “I don’t want to make you both late for class, too. I’ll go and get it.” I was new. It was my first day. I doubted the teacher would go hard on me for being late to class. Claire and Lizzie on the other hand weren’t new and didn’t have any excuse for not being in their seats on time.

I could do this.

I didn’t – or at least I shouldn’t – need a babysitter to walk me across the school.

Claire frowned, her uncertainty evident. “Are you sure?” “Yeah.” I nodded. “I remember the way.”

“I don’t know, Shan.” Lizzie chewed on her bottom lip. “Maybe one of us should go with you.” Shrugging, she added, “You know, just in case…”

The second bell rang loudly, signaling the start of class. “Go on,” I urged, waving them off. “I’ll be grand.”

Turning on my heels, I hurried down the hallway to the entrance and then broke into a run when I reached the courtyard. It took a solid nine- minutes running at full speed in the lashing rain down a laneway that circled several sports training pitches to reach the science building – not an easy feat in heels.

By the time I reached the girls bathroom, I was breathless and sweating.

Thankfully, my phone was exactly where I had left it – on the sink next to the soap dispenser.

Sagging in relief, I swiped it off the sink, quickly checked the screen, sagged again when I saw the unperturbed locked screen, and then tucked it safely into the front pocket of my school bag.

If this had happened in my old school, a phone left unattended in a bathroom wouldn’t have survived fifteen seconds, let alone fifteen minutes.

You’re walking shoulder to shoulder with the wealthy now, Shannon, I thought to myself. They don’t want your shitty phone.

Splashing some water on my face, I shouldered my bag onto my back, using both straps like the nerd I was. I hadn’t been to my locker yet and I was carrying what felt like four stone in there. Both straps were entirely necessary in this situation.

When I stepped out of the science building and looked at the long, unappealing trek back to the main building where my class was, I bit back a moan.

I wasn’t running again. I physically couldn’t.

All of my energy was zapped.

Forlorn, my gaze flickered between the unappealing, uphill laneway and to the training pitches.

There were three pitches in total on this side of the school.

Two smaller fields, neatly tended, that were empty, and one larger pitch that was currently being occupied by thirty or so boys and a teacher shouting orders at them.

Torn, I debated my options.

If I cut across the training fields, it would shave several minutes off my walk.

They wouldn’t even notice me. I was small and quick.

I was also tired and anxious.

Cutting across the pitches was the logical thing to do.

Sure, there was a steep, grassy bank on the far side of the pitch that separated the fields from the courtyard, but I could make it up that without any problem.

Checking my watch, a surge of dismay rose inside of me when I saw that I had already missed fifteen minutes of the forty-minute class.

Decision made, I climbed over the low wooden fence that separated the training grounds from the footpath and powerwalked towards my destination.

With my head down and my heart hammering violently against my ribcage, I hurried through the empty fields, hesitating only when I reached the largest of the training pitches – the one filled with boys.

Huge boys.

Dirty boys.

Angry looking boys. Who were glaring at me. Oh crap.

“What are you doing?” “Get off the fucking pitch!”

“Jesus Christ!” “Fucking girls.” “Move, will you!”

Panicked, I ignored the shouting and jeering as I hurried past them, obviously disturbing their training.

Mortification seeped through my body as I upped my pace, breaking into a clumsy jog.

The ground was wet and muddy from the rain, so I couldn’t move as quickly as I – or those boys – would have liked.

When I reached the edge of the pitch, I felt like crying in relief as I hobbled up the steep bank. However, my relief was only a momentary, fleeting feeling that was quickly replaced with a searing pain as something very hard and very heavy smashed into the back of my head, taking the air from my lungs and my feet from beneath me.

Moments later, I was freefalling backwards, tumbling down the muddy bank, the pain ricocheting through my head making it impossible for me to think clearly or break my own fall.

My last coherent thought before I hit the ground with a thud, and a thick cloud of darkness cloaked over me, was this; nothing changes.

I was wrong though.

Everything changed after that day.


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