Written by Nicole Mousicos
Art by Darcy Lawrey

There is one bus that takes you into the village and we all get on it every day after school. You can usually smell the grass and the dirt caught beneath the studs of the football boys, and the mix of sweat and rain like sour milk. I’ve had to bring home my PE bag for a wash so it rests between my ankles, my backpack still attached to my spine for the lack of space on the bus. Today, everyone was having conversations over each other’s heads or past their cheeks, each one aware of the others, and voices rose naturally so they could be heard. This worsens my already pounding headache–my mum always does my ponytail too tight in the mornings, so by the time school ends, I’m sensitive to anything tight around my temples, like sports hats or headbands. 

When the bus neared the park, about five people pressed the stop button.  We piled off like animals loose from their cages. Someone made a joke somewhere down the line, and even though I didn’t hear it, not the first time, nor the next two times when I asked someone to repeat it, I laughed anyway to save future embarrassment. Sweat boiled under my shirt and jumper, my backpack sagged. The sky was like a blank canvas that had been rubbed out too many times. Grey swirls entwined with the clouds, the promise of rain a tussle in the air. The ground was soft and mud patterned my tights and school shoes, although I’d gladly ruin another pair before I missed going to the park after school. 

The cool people didn’t have to be picked up by their parents or get two buses home since they could walk home from school. They could swing by their front door, open it with their own keys, and announce that they were going to be late the night after. They could meet their friends for breakfast in the morning and then have a smoke. They could come home drunk and their parents wouldn’t care. They could bring someone home, even, and they would sleep in the same bed, most likely naked from the night before. That I was fine with. I had already decided I would never have sex, never get married or have children, because there wasn’t a boy I liked that much. 

We sat underneath the white building, the couples with their arms awkwardly around each other. My best friend Ava told me that Ben and Mia are having problems– apparently she won’t have sex with him. Harry and Isabella are in love, as always. I asked her if it was real love, like what you saw in the movies or read in books, and she said yes. That made me resent Isabella a little. Amelia and George are having problems, too. I watched George eyeing Amelia’s best friend Ciara, whose boyfriend Nick is eyeing Amelia right back. I didn’t really understand, if it was all mutual, why they wouldn’t break up with each other and be with the other person. 

Ava nudged me and tilted her chin in the direction of the road. “Look who’s coming.”

In the distance, I saw James and Freddie with their new friend, Tommy. They were all smoking weed and I could smell it as they walked up. It was exciting when Tommy came to our school, because he’d been kicked out of the last one for fighting. I think all the girls liked him, and that made me mad. I wasn’t sure why. Maybe it was because he was so typical, like all the boys I knew. I think Ava thought I had a crush on him, too, because we’d had a conversation about how we both loved Korean food during form time. I wanted to tell her that I didn’t, it had just been about the Korean food, but I kind of enjoyed not being asked why I didn’t have any crushes at the minute. 


Tommy sat down next to me, smelling like fish and chips and weed. Tommy had replaced his school blazer with an Adidas hoodie, and in his hands was a big, brown cigar. Not weed, then. 

“Alright.” I replied, and he laughed, showing his full smile. He wasn’t bad-looking, I supposed. Brown hair cut close to the scalp, green eyes and a sharp jaw. Just not my type. 

He held out the cigar in front of me, and took a drag. “You want to try? I stole them from my dad, they’re Cuban.”

“I’m okay, thanks.”

I didn’t ever want to smoke, either. Amelia and Ciara were watching, disappointed. I almost felt sorry for their boyfriends, enthralled in a conversation amongst the two of them. 

The boys started playing around with the football after this, apart from Tommy, who stayed by my side, laughing with the girls. He liked the attention, I thought. I sat there until three missed calls from my mum became five. Tommy offered to walk me to her car parked outside the bank, but I declined, knowing what my mum would say. 

Everyone waved goodbye, Ava hugged me. It started to rain as I walked down, the same way I’d go tomorrow, and the day after that.