Joanna laughed, opening up the dormitory door and wandering in with Phoebe and Sally.
Sitting there in the middle of the room was Katie, Lily and Rose digging inside of two cardboard boxes. They seemed to be holding six large books in each box. One box held red books and the other held black books with the Foxswift shield on the front.
‘What’s this?’ Phoebe laughed, stepping through the door and over to the boxes.
‘It’s the Yearbooks!’ Lily cheered, grabbing a red back that held the Phoenix silhouette on the front with fancy writing saying, ‘Phoenix House Yearbook, 2000-2008”. ‘It’s so pretty!’ she opened it up with a broad grin over her face and started flicking through the pictures. ‘Yay, Alexander included all of mine and your photos, Rose!’
Rose gave a little fist pump before grabbing a book of her own.
‘I made sure he did,’ Sally said, ‘he was going crazy with the editing and the look of the whole thing.’
‘Well he did a very good job,’ Lily nodded.
Katie laughed, taking a black book out of the other box and looking at it. ‘This is the yearbook with all of the eighth year,’ she informed them. She flicked through the pages and gasped with a grin, pointing at one of the photographs and showing it to Joanna. ‘Hey look, Jo! It’s you and Philomena. You look so pretty! I forgot about that day!’
Joanna ran over and knelt down beside her friend, peering over her shoulder at the photograph.
It was a photo from their sixth-year, only a couple of weeks after Riley and Phoebe had kissed. Joanna had been with Lily and Katie, walking around the grounds when they had bumped into Philomena and her friends.
Philomena had stopped them to see if Joanna was alright.
When Joanna had answered how she wasn’t, Philomena took Joanna and the girls to the bathroom, took off Joanna’s makeup that she had plainly done in the morning and instead got out her makeup bag from her school bag. She made up Joanna in bold, dark and light colours. It was art on her face. Joanna could hardly recognise herself.
‘I took that,’ Lily gasped, shuffling over to look at the photograph.
Joanna, standing there in the bathroom, leaning against the sinks, looking at the camera, smiling and chuckling slightly. She gave a glimpse at Philomena who immediately jumped on Joanna for a tight hug. Over and over, the photograph repeated making Joanna smile wider each time.
‘I wonder if they included the photo I took of Philly doing your makeup, Jo,’ Lily sighed, grabbing a black book of her own and flicking through the pages, ‘where did you find the photo?’
‘House Collaborations,’ Katie explained, ‘there’s so many photos of the Scorpius and Cassiopeias.’
‘The amount of self-photographs I had to look through were ridiculous,’ Sally shook her head, ‘Rose and I almost vomited looking at the Cassiopeia’s pouty mouths.’
Rose shook her head. ‘It was excessive,’ she said, ‘Philomena and a couple of her friends were fair though and didn’t add in all of the photos of their photogenic friends.’
‘Ah shit,’ Phoebe moaned, ‘the photos of me look like mugshots!’
‘Shut up,’ Joanna laughed, taking a red and black book of each and flicking through the pictures, ‘you look beautiful!’
Sally took up the Phoenix Yearbook and pointed at a photograph for Phoebe. ‘This one of you and Riley are adorable!’
Rose beamed. ‘I took that.’ She was proud of herself.
‘Found it!’ Lily announced, shoving the photograph of Philomena doing Joanna’s makeup under her nose.
Philomena was doing her eyeliner smoothly, laughing. Joanna remembered when she started laughing because Lily had left the flash on when taking the photo, and Philomena yelled jokily to stop because she would mess up the makeup. Joanna watched, reading Philomena’s lips silently, hearing her voice as if she had said it just then again.
‘Shit,’ Rose sighed.
Everyone turned to her as Joanna handed the yearbook back to Lily.
‘What?’ Phoebe asked.
Rose grinned. ‘Look at the back of the Phoenix Yearbook,’ she said, ‘they have all of our school photos from year one all the way to last January.’
‘Shut up!’ Katie gasped, grabbing at her yearbook and turning to the back.
Sally laughed. ‘We had to add them,’ she said, ‘Professor Butter-Ash said it was tradition.’
‘Oh wow Sally, you look so dorky!’ Rose laughed.
Sally rolled her eyes. ‘I had a box fringe and a bob,’ she said, ‘we don’t speak about those days.’
‘You look so cute!’ Lily beamed.
‘Fuck off, miss buck teeth!’ Sally teased, pointing at the page which Lily’s school photos were being held.
Lily made a noise of disgust. ‘I was an ugly eleven and twelve year old,’ she said, ‘I cheered for the day I was finally able to go to the dentist and get a Doc to straighten my teeth so they look nice and white.’
‘You were thirteen when you were allowed to do that?’ Katie gaped at her. ‘I had to wait until I was at least sixteen!’
‘Ha,’ Lily winked.
‘Joanna, you look so batted,’ Rose said sadly, looking over at Joanna.
Joanna looked down at her first-year photo glumly.
The photo had been taken only a week after she had got back from the Christmas holidays. Her face and body were still covered in bruises and scars. She looked so tired in her photo, having stayed up late at night from nightmares and fear that one of the girls would say something mean.
Instead, the girls started being apologetic and sensitive towards her.
‘Even with scars you’re pretty,’ Phoebe complimented, ‘you lucky bitch.’
Joanna coughed a laugh. ‘You all hated me then,’ she said and all of the girls fell silent, ‘you didn’t want anything to do with me. You were obsessed, thinking that I was evil and out to kill you all. Time was so different then.’
‘And now we all love you!’ Katie cheered, throwing her arms around Joanna’s shoulders and hugging her close.
‘We were wrong then,’ Phoebe said, ‘me definitely. We judged way too quickly about you.’
‘After you got back from Christmas, having gone through that we all felt so crap,’ Rose admitted, ‘we didn’t realize how bad it was, or that it was bad at all.’
‘It’s okay,’ Joanna smiled weakly, ‘you didn’t know.’
‘We never let you explain,’ Sally said, her voice quiet just like it had been in her first year.
‘You’re all my friends now,’ Joanna beamed, ‘and that’s what matters. I wouldn’t be here now if it wasn’t for you all being here for me, one way or another. I know we have our friendship groups but we’ve lived together for eight years in this room. When given the opportunity to have our own room, no one accepted because we’re all family.’
‘Sisters,’ Lily mumbled.
‘That’s disgustingly cheesy,’ Katie laughed, giving Lily a shove.
‘But true,’ Joanna laughed, ‘thank you for giving me a chance I guess.’
‘Come here,’ Phoebe laughed, holding out her arms.
Joanna got up, walking around the boxes and gave Phoebe a hug.
With coos, the other girls also got up and all joined in on the hug, jumping up and down and laughing. They all squeezed each other, squealing as they started tripping over one another’s feet.
‘I’m going to hate not seeing you guys every day,’ Rose admitted, ‘I’ve gotten used to Katie’s farts in the morning, Sally’s silly sneezes in the summer and Joanna’s compulsive need to have a shower every morning.’
– An extract from an upcoming book, from the Phoenix Series by Becky Willson –