Lottie blinked at the alarm and it blinked back. Slowly but surely its neon green numbers came into focus. “Shit!” She shouted, throwing off the covers and leaping out of bed. “I’m late!” She scrabbled around for her clothes and tossed an assortment of random items into the hold all her mum had left out for her, then tumbled down the stairs into the kitchen where her family were having breakfast. “Why didn’t you wake me?” She demanded. From behind his newspaper her dad raised an eyebrow. “If I remember correctly you told us in no uncertain terms the other night that you were-and I quote-‘perfectly capable’ of waking yourself up in the mornings.” Lottie stuck her tongue out and chucked a piece of toast into the toaster. “So,” said her mother, “are you looking forward to the trip?” Lottie shrugged and tossed her mass of frizzy hair over her shoulder. “I s’pose.” Her parents exchanged one of their unfathomable-and therefore infuriating-looks. “Isn’t it the first time your school and the boys’ school have done a joint trip?” Lottie rolled her eyes. “And?” Her mother smiled. “And nothing darling. You have a lovely time.”
When she reached the school car park the final few students from St.Anne’s were boarding. Lottie knew the boys from St.Swithans would already have been picked up. The thought of it made her stomach do an involuntary flip, though she wasn’t sure why. The last thing she wanted was a boyfriend. If her brother Tom was anything to go by boys were not only stupid but also gross in the extreme. Nonetheless, she hasn’t had much experience of them to date, which explained her nervousness at being about to spend two whole days with some.
She climbed up the steps into the coach. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness so her heart sank into her new boots-the only available seat was at the back of the bus in the boys’ section. As she trudged past them her best friends Ali and Sabrina shrugged apologetically. She scowled back at them. As she approached the back of the bus the boys whooped and cheered. Feeling faint with apprehension she sat down in the empty seat, casting a cursory glance at the boy beside her. He was slim but not lanky, with closely cropped brown hair and the longest eyelashes she had ever seen-even Ali’s weren’t that long with mascara on, she thought. The boy caught her looking at him and she felt her face flush red. His lips parted into a lopsided smile, and Lottie noticed that he had dimples in his cheeks. “I’m Dan,” he said, extending a hand.” “Lottie,” she said, holding out her own. From behind them there came a series of disgusting slurping noises as the boys took the mickey out o their exchange. But because Dan seemed so unphased by it, Lottie found she didn’t mind at all.
When they reached the ferry port everyone was told to get off the coach. Most of the boys sprinted off to get the best seats at the front, the girls in hot (but doing their best not to look it) pursuit. Dan, however, held back, choosing instead to saunter towards the back of the boat by himself. Lottie hesitated, torn between following her friends and seeing where this new acquaintance might lead to. As if reading her mind Dan stopped and half-turned towards her. “Coming?” He asked. She nodded and followed him. There were no other people at the back of the boat so they had their pick of the white plastic seats. Dan sat down and busied himself untangling a knot in his headphones. Lottie walked to the railing and leaned over, feeling the sea’s salty breath against her cheek. “You an only child?” Dan’s voice beside her made her jump. “No,” she said. “Are you?” He nodded and pulled the hood of his coat up over his head. “How old are you?” “Fourteen,” said Lottie. “You?” “Fifteen.” They stood in silence for a few moments until, emboldened by the bracing sea air, Lottie asked, “Why didn’t you go with the others just then?” Dan shrugged. “Dunno. Sometimes they just get a bit much, with all the stupid jokes and messing about.” Lottie smiled. “I feel that way with my friends sometimes. All they talk about is makeup and clothes. Sometimes it’s just easier to be by myself.” Dan nodded. “I know the feeling.” “Not in a sad way or anything. I like reading books and stuff like that.” Dan’s eyes widened. “Yeah? What books do you like?” “Fantasy mainly. I’m reading the Hobbit at the moment.” Lottie reached into her bag and pulled the corner of her battered copy out of her bag so he could see it. “Cool. Can I borrow it when you’ve finished?” “Don’t see why not.” Dan smiled his lopsided smile again. “And maybe we can hang out sometime after this trip. You know, be by ourselves, but together. Only if you want to though…” Lottie’s stomach did another flip. “I think I’d like that,” she said, feeling the redness creeping back up her neck. She looked at her watch. “We’d better get back to the bus.” As they both made to move their hands brushed together, and Dan’s fingers tightened around hers. Perhaps, she thought as they walked back to the bus, boys weren’t so gross after all.