Here's the blurb:
A silent cry for help…
Suspecting self-harm, newly qualified teacher, Abriella Garside, risks everything for a troubled pupil. An incident with a craft knife and unexplained injuries are not enough to secure help for the girl.
Unsure whether Beth is being bulied or has problems at home, Abby tries to win her trust and the two begin a friendship. But has the teacher gone too far?
In the midst of Abby’s own complicated life, Beth diappears. Rumour and suspicion ignite, fanned into an inferno with Abby at its heart.
Two lives hang in the balance.
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Intent, she watched the thin blade press a shadowed hollow in her skin. With fractionally more force, the delicate tissue split. Red buds blossomed along the razor’s trail. She repeated the macabre ritual three more times. The breath gripped in the prison of her ribs sighed loose, as her wickedness dripped in the open where she could ‘treat’ it. Only then could she see, with sickening clarity, what she’d done to herself. Her breath caught once more at the thought of what she might need to do the next time.
The shriek scraped down my spine. Hugging my black cardigan more tightly around myself, I stopped. The noisy teenagers flowing in the direction of the school cafeteria barely paused.
Scanning the crowd, I fervently wished for someone more senior. But only chattering children, shuffling and laughing, pushed past. A deep sigh deflated me. Clearly, I still had plenty to learn about vanishing during break times. Tempted to pretend I hadn’t heard, the memory shivered along my back and forced me to respond.
Wading through the torrent into a shadowy side corridor in the direction of the scream, the small knot of gawpers melted away. Megan, a tall year seven girl, slumped against the grubby wall squeezing her hand in front of her like a gun. Blood dripped from two fingers pointed at the other girl. Freckles glared from Beth’s pale face cowering beneath bushy ginger hair. The low growl of obscenities pouring from Megan’s white lips stopped as soon as she saw me.
It didn’t make sense. Megan was a pretty girl, confident and always followed by a crowd of hangers-on. She was too polite in class, all angel-eyes standing in the midst of the trouble she’d stirred up. Beth, on the other hand, sat alone in the furthest corner. Watching the river of young people cascade through the corridors, this girl had seemed an island protected by a reef of sadness. Not your classic bully. A craft knife, glittered amongst the spilled contents of a discarded bag on the floor.
“Well?” I asked, pushing my dark rimmed glasses back up my nose and looking from one girl to the other. Brilliant, Abby, just brilliant, you are way out of your depth here. Trust you to land up in the middle of Marfield High School’s first ever knife crime!
“It was an accident, Miss.”Pulling herself upright, Megan flicked back her carefully styled hair. The shiny blonde layers settled over darker roots. “I picked up Beth’s bag by mistake. Isn’t that right, Beth?”
I was surprised Megan’s laser fierce glare hadn’t set Beth’s school uniform on fire. The child looked smaller than ever beside an in-charge Megan. The ginger head dipped in agreement.
“I was scrabbling around for my phone when I caught my fingers on that blade.” Megan pointed with her dripping finger.
“Beth,” my tone was as gentle as I could make it, “why did you have a knife in your bag? You must know it’s against school rules?”
The girl opened her mouth and furrowed her brow a few times before any words came. “Art class… didn’t realise… must have dropped it in my bag without thinking.”
Beth looked as though she’d been caught running naked down Marfield’s High Street and would disintegrate if any more fuss were made. But she was lying. Despite my inexperience as a teacher, I could tell. Scenarios flashed across my mind and none of them were pleasant. I didn’t know what to do. I thumbed my glasses back into place. My university lecturer’s voice sang in my memory. When in doubt, feign confident authority. I took a deep breath.
“Right, Beth, you go on your way to lunch. I’ll make sure this craft knife gets back to the art department.”I swooped down and plucked the blade from the rest of the debris. “Megan, you come with me and we’ll put something on those cuts. Perhaps you’ll be more careful whose bag you pick up in future.”
I stormed off, my heels rattling in the now empty corridor. Megan marched beside me, radiating fury.My mind spun and fizzed. Megan always had an answer for everything so why wasn’t she kicking off now? I peered at her through the corner of my eye and noticed she had a leather bag slung over her shoulder, quite different from Beth’s canvas one. The bag she claimed to have picked up by accident.
Slamming through the door into the office I stopped. Anger wouldn’t help. I took a deep breath and reached for the first aid kit.
“Show me your hand, please, Megan. Are you allergic to plasters?”
She narrowed her eyes and shook her head. Her jaws were clamped tight.
I cleaned the wounds and applied butterfly plasters, careful to follow school procedures to the letter.
“Please sign here.” I pointed to my brief entry in the accident book.
“Can I go now?” Megan glared at me.
Unable to think of a single sensible question, I nodded.