Mum straightens my tie and steps back, tilting her head as she looks at me. I can tell she is worried because the two lines between her eyebrows get deeper. I shuffle, uncomfortable in stiff new shoes and a scratchy shirt. I watched mum cut the label off, but the traces of the stitches still scrape the back of my neck, and even though I saw her put fabric softener in the machine, the cuffs irritate my wrists.
‘I hope you’ll be okay, Sophie. It’s a new beginning. A chance to make friends.’
There is a bark of laughter and I know that my brother, Matthew, is not happy but something mum calls sarcastic. He catches my shoulders and turns me so I have to look into his eyes, which he knows I hate, ‘I don’t fancy your chances,’ he says. His top lip curls. It means he’s not being nice. When he smiles both lips turn up. It doesn’t happen much now. Mum says it’s because he’s a teenager. I miss the boy he was, back when he liked me.
‘She’s a freak. She’ll never cope with that many kids, or changing rooms with every class. She’ll stick out like always and get bullied.’
I shrug. It doesn’t matter to me. It’s how it has always been, so I don’t know any different.
‘When they find out she’s my sister, they’ll pick on me too.’
‘Don’t be so selfish, Matthew.’
Mum's voice is loud and I know she’s cross - she strides out of the room, bangs the door. Matthew says a naughty word, not loud enough for mum to hear.
He speaks to me again, without the curl in his top lip, ‘If any of them pick on you, you come and find me. I’ll sort them out.’