Four words: Once Upon A Time, were written and crossed out so much in her school notebook that they looked liked punishment lines. Gheeta shifted about on the park bench. She used the end of her pencil to scratch above her ear, just under her Hijab. Sighing, she squinted into the late September sunshine, across the parched grass that divided the blocks of Park Hill flats, searching for inspiration.
Like a mirage Keisha, her neighbour and ex-best-friend (XBF) appeared. Keisha was older than Gheeta by a single day. Their mothers had been in Jessops Maternity Hospital together, Keisha being born on the 31st August and Gheeta on the 1st September. The girls had both just turned eleven. The day that separated their birthdays had meant nothing before the start of this school year and everything since.
Keisha’s shadow flickered before her as she walked. She was on her own. Where was Courtney?
Gheeta felt something inside her, like a pulling from her chest, but Keisha had barely said a word to her, not since the chilli pepper thing, not since she had started in Year Seven at the scary Secondary School and definitely not since she’d replaced Gheeta with Courtney (the swan-necked, gold-blinged, Year Eight, Goddess).
Gheeta watched the XBF, but carefully, from out of the side of her eyes. Keisha was swinging her school bag, skimming the tops of the sun-scorched grass. A memory came, of the pair of them planting the tiny Poblano chilli pepper plants into the growing box they shared on their conjoining terrace. They were giggling, Gheeta had forgotten what about, but she remembered the magic of making things grow and the feeling of friendship. It had felt solid enough to hold. She missed her friend. Sometimes it felt too painful to think about it.
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