Just a girl who spends an awful lot of time on the bus.
You might think I’m an ordinary girl. That girl who walks to school every morning in her little black skirt, the bow in her black hair, those knee-high socks with ribbons. If you saw me you, chances are you wouldn’t think twice about me. I wouldn’t enter your mind again. Never.
Perhaps if you were one of the boys, those who hang around in tracksuits smoking weed on the corner of my street; the ones who try to lift my skirt as I walk by, who do more than whistle, shout obscene things to make their friends roar with laughter, those who follow me home, knock at my door, Bluetooth my phone … perhaps they take a little more interest, but that’s not what I mean.
I think that everybody on my street, living on my estate, think of me as the slightly strange girl who doesn’t seem to talk to anybody, who listens to her iPod constantly, and is only seen walking to or from an unknown destination, not stopping to hang around. Maybe that’s why they probably think I am a little odd; because I don’t wear tracksuits and I don’t smoke weed, I don’t stand on street corners and I don’t make my face orange with makeup, I also like to wash my hair. Maybe those are the reasons the chav boys take such an interest, because the girls they’re used to look little better than tramps.
When I was seven years old, I made a friend here. Her name was Jade. She was my best friend at the time. She had been my friend for many years, right up until year 8, when we were around twelve years old. She lives four doors down from me, on the street neighboring mine, called Westgate. She’d always been very loud, and she’d been slowly turning into the rest of them since the day she was born. She was clever. Cleverer than me, probably, but she was from the Estate. Born and bred. She started to miss school on occasional days, and then it was just one day a week in which she would actually come in. Eventually, she packed it in altogether. I didn’t see her again after that. This was at the end of year 9.
I bumped into her the other day, on the way home from school. We talked for a while on the street, standing outside her house in the cold. Her stomach caught my attention. She looked more than just a little bloated.
‘Oh, did you hear?’ she laughed.
‘Your not -?’ I said, my eyes a little wide. I couldn’t help it.
‘Pregnant, yeah.’ She grinned. ‘I’m Due June 12th. Just after your birthday!’
‘Oh … yeah … erm … congratulations?’ I stuttered, not knowing what to say. She looked completely unfazed. Happy, even. Oh Jade, I thought, what are you doing to yourself. She had only just turned sixteen, though she once told me her mother had given birth to her when she was just 15. I suppose she’d broken the family record for oldest mother, then.
So that’s the area I live in, and that’s the girl they think I am. Not many people really know who I am. Sam is probably the only person who really understands me, though I don’t like to admit it. He knows me. He really knows me. I know him better than he thinks, too. I can read every thought that passes his brain, I can hear every word he says before it leaves his mouth, I can see the things he saw just by looking into his eyes. This makes it very difficult for him to lie to me. He understands me, but he doesn’t understand me as much as I understand him.
I was on the bus one night, my headphones in, my head leaning against the cold glass as I watched people run under umbrellas, their coats, bags, books, or whatever else they had at hand. It was quite late, so the bus wasn’t that full, but the traffic was awful. Everybody seemed to need to get somewhere, and they would rather sit in a warm car than on the cold bus. My bag was up on the seat beside me. I had just been at a place called the House of Music. It’s nothing as grand as it sounds, trust me, but it’s one of my favorite places around here. It was made by God, I swear. He clearly took a visit to this sorry excuse for a town and thought, somebody needs to give these teenagers a reason to live; in comes the House of Music.
It used to be somebody’s home, a long time ago. It’s a very old house, with three floors. It has high ceilings and a creaky wooden floor throughout. The windows are huge, though they have been boarded up. The furniture has been removed, along with many of the downstairs walls, to create a large hall-like room. There is even a small stage-like platform. The walls and windows are draped with dark curtains. It’s beautiful in an old, quirky way. There is a piano and a keyboard on the platform, along with microphones. There are large speakers, and even a small bar.
I don’t know much about its history, when it started, who started it, but as I said; it’s a God-send. I sing there almost every week, along with the band that play along-side me. They’re cool. There’s Marky, Copper, George and Sam. When I am not there, George takes the role of lead singer as well as playing guitar. He makes the band sound a lot like Muse. His voice sounds so much like Matthew Bellamy’s, that he’s not so recently taken on a new and creative nickname. It’s ‘Museboy’.
So I was returning home from the night. I had to go early enough to catch a bus home, before it was too late. They don’t run that late on a week day, and today was Thursday.
My head rattled against the glass as the bus moved on again. Pendulum was blasting into my ears as I lifted my head from the glass and leant back against the ugly blue seat, closing my eyes. I could feel every bump in the road as we rumbled on. Although we were no doubt traveling slowly, I couldn’t help but jump up and down in my seat, as though I were perched on a galloping donkey, so it wasn’t long until my eyes snapped open again. Things I hated about not being able to drive … having to get the bus.
We slowed down as the bus driver turned left into the bus stop on the main road not far from my school. I pulled my feet up onto the seat with me and impatiently tapped my fingers on my black canvas shoes as I watched an elderly woman climb onto the bus and count a handful of change to give to the driver. I rolled my eyes and returned my gaze to the blurry lights of the streetlamps outside. It was getting steadily darker, and the lights in the bus were starting to reflect in the windows, making it harder to see outside. I watched a drop of rain crawl slowly down the outside of the glass. As it crossed paths with others, it fell quicker and quicker, until it grew large and fell out of sight.
I felt the bus jolt back to life as it turned out of the bus stop and joined the stream of traffic towards Higherbred. The song I was listening to drew to a close, and in the couple of seconds of silence I heard an old man’s cough, a loud woman’s laugh, and a hungry babies cry. At the same time, I felt something touch my arm.
I turned around and above me stood a boy with messy blonde hair, no older than seventeen. He indicated the seat next to me, the one where I had dumped my bag that was at bulging point with music, schoolbooks, and my school uniform (I had recently been forced to get changed at the House as I had little time to go home to get changed every Thursday after school).
I pulled one of my headphones out, the one on my left – on his side.
‘Oh crap, sorry. You want to sit here?’ I asked him as the bus trudged on.
‘Yeah, that OK?’ he smiled. I deliberately looked him up and down. I wanted him to feel on the spot and awkward, like girls are always made to feel by every lad that walks their way.
‘Sure.’ I shrugged, at last. I looked up ahead of me and then behind, noticing more than a few empty seats. So he wanted to sit next to me? I dropped my feet from the seat and pulled my heavy bag onto my lap and continued to look out of the window. I felt him sit down beside me.
The rest of the journey went quite quietly. At one point, the boy must have heard what was blearing from my headphones and made an approving comment on the band I was listening to. I simply smiled in his direction before turning back to the window.
When it was time to move past him to get off the bus at my stop, he watched me a little too closely. I didn’t like it. He stood up to let me pass, but as I did, he leaned forwards and spoke into my unoccupied ear ‘Next week?’.
I looked at him, puzzled. He simply grinned and sat back down. I walked unevenly down the bus as it slowed into the stop, thanked the driver, before returning the other headphone to my left ear, and pulling up my hood as I stepped off the bus. As it drove past me, the rain falling onto my face, I distinctly saw his face, his eyes following mine.
I stood there for a moment, after the bus had gone. My iPod had reached the end of the album, and was now silent. I looked around, but couldn’t see anyone. Cars passed me, and all I heard was the splashing of rain. I pulled my iPod from my pocket and played Interpol – Evil, as I began to walk briskly towards the Estate. Oh, the joy.