‘Badminton in Threes’ by Fiona Hughes

Lucy Lucy Lucy Lucy Lucy Lucy Lucy Lucy Lucy, we wrote, on the squares in our maths books, in between neatly drawn triangles and beautiful algebra Xs.

We sat in maths, our heads held in concentration over desks as we drew lines with rulers and worked out equations, but, when there were gaps in the lesson, we wrote Lucy Lucy Lucy Lucy. We gave her curly Ys, tailing off into hearts and stars. Sometimes it was Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, which is the song we sang at the memorial service. We wrote these things even though the teachers told our parents we wrote them, and our parents said that we should stop.

‘Writing her name everywhere doesn’t help,’ they said.

‘The teacher doesn’t know what to say when you sit there writing it, and you have your GCSEs this year. You need to learn the syllabus.’

Everything about going back to school after the summer holiday felt wrong. But writing her name between the blue pages of our maths exercise books meant that she stayed on, a little bit. So she didn’t stop at year ten, her death – during the last week of term – wasn’t the end. She came to year eleven with us, in the pages of our maths books and up against the wall in the gymnasium, where we sat, refusing to play badminton.

The rest of the class changed into their PE kits. Cries rang out through the air and occasionally a trainer squeaked on the rubbery floor. We refused.

‘Lucy wouldn’t have wanted this,’ our PE teacher said, in an attempt to console us, to spur us into our short shorts and trainers.

‘You can wear your joggers, if you like?’ The PE teacher offered.

We had all started wanting to wear joggers the previous year when we realised our legs were disgusting and needed to be covered up. What if the boys looked closely at our legs and saw they were too fat or too thin or too white? So we made up excuses – got my period, miss, so I can’t wear shorts today.

None of us had wanted to play badminton with Lucy, who spent most of the lesson picking up the shuttlecock and starting again; or failing to hit it over the net. Sometimes she couldn’t even serve, and you’d have to stand around waiting for her to hit the thing in the first place.

‘You play with Lucy this week. I played with her last week.’ I would say.

Lucy was all the things that we said she was at the funeral, happy and kind and it was, oh, much too soon. But she could not play badminton; you’d be lucky to get as far as ten in a rally. My sides hurt from laughing when we played together, but I wanted to play properly, whacking the shuttlecock through the air, running from one side of the court to another to return shots. I wanted to burn enough calories to lose my double chin.

Sitting on the floor in the gym, without Lucy, we offered up our excuse once more. The dead friend; the new period. We couldn’t do PE because our friend was dead and how are you supposed to play badminton in a three, anyway?

I passed my exams in the summer and I left and I didn’t write her name anymore, although I took a piece of Lucy with me. A lock of her hair in a locket still sits in a box in a drawer.  But really she stayed at school. Lucy Lucy Lucy Lucy Lucy. The squeaky hall, the exercise books, and all the places she wasn’t, that year we went back to school without her.

Fiona Hughes is a writer and runner from Devon. She has three children and works on websites.  She tweets at @superfiona and blogs at 940 Sundays