LET’S GO ROUND AGAIN
The rain is making my hair stick to my face in fat, damp clumps. My shoulders are starting to ache with the weight of my backpack. And, d’you know what, right now – even for a penny - I might just go back, before Mum gets home; pretend I was never here at all.
‘Have you got change for a fiver, love?’
I turn cautiously towards the voice and can feel my eyes narrowing as I start to worry, idiotically, that maybe my mother has somehow planted someone at this Bus Stop to try and coax me back home. I say idiotically of course, because for my mother to do something stalker-y like this would be so totally out of character that I’d have to start questioning the details on my birth certificate. She’s alright as far as Mum’s go, I suppose. But she’s very liberal – if you know what I mean. If she knew I was standing here right now with pretty much the entire contents of my bedroom stashed away inside a Glastonbury-sized bag she’d probably hug me encouragingly – delightedly even - give me a peck on the cheek and tell me to let her know how my little adventure in personal enlightenment goes. She might even ask me to drop her a line sometime and make sure I tell her when I want my bedroom back so she can give notice to the twelve Polish immigrants who needed it more than I ever did. My heart sinks a little. Actually make that a lot. I guess she’s just as much a part of what I need to get away from as everything else I want to put behind me right now. And that’s saying something.
The woman who needs change has turned her head away from me; now she’s asking the guy next to me for some coins so I try to keep my head down under my spotty umbrella. Thank god it’s chucking it down with rain; to passers-by I could be anybody under here and not Casey Summerfield making a hasty exit from her non-existent existence.
Anyway, I don’t expect I’ll be at the forefront of her mind at the moment – Mum I mean. She’s been looking forward to this “Womanspace” gala presentation evening for months now. So the last thing she’s going to be doing is debating whether or not her sixteen year old daughter is finishing off her Graphics coursework, web-camming with her boyfriend or running away from home. And anyway she probably thinks I’m round at Tash’s house. That’s where best friends normally spend their Saturdays, right? Unless I’m with Zak of course – and there – as I think Shakespeare once said – is the rub. And stupidly, just thinking the word “rub” at the same time as thinking the words “Zak” and “Tash” makes my eyes start to spike hotly. Nobody will miss me, that’s for sure. Especially not them. Not now.
Sighing deeply helps. No, seriously, I think it does. It almost keeps my mind off of wanting to wail loudly. Although with all this rain I doubt anyone would even realise I was crying. And, I have to really work hard at trying to imagine my mother displaying any kind of grief at my disappearance when she gets home later. She’ll probably have some of her cronies with her anyway and they’ll all be droning on about how wonderful everything was and how Women are soooo Up Front. “Women Up Front” – WUF is their slogan which I think is asking for trouble personally, but what can you do? And topping up their adrenalin levels with high-fruit-high-energy drinks – courtesy whatever can of gunk they get open first. Bleurgh. Although I have caught them slip some Vodka in a couple of times too. So they must be semi-human underneath their united Man-hating front.
I try a pleasant smile at the woman who needs some coins for the five pound note she’s holding as she now stuffs it under my nose again, pleadingly.
‘I think I might have,’ I bend down to my rucksack. I’ll need my purse in a minute anyway if the bus is on time, and I’m sure I remember putting a few extra pound coins in one of the zipped-up sections. ‘Just let me have a look.’
God, I can’t believe the amount of stuff I’ve managed to get in here. Anyone would think I was going on a six month hike up the Himalayas or something. Although I haven’t packed much in the way of emergency aid. Unless I bump into somebody who’s desperate for a good book to read or some decent music to listen to. So I could probably save a creative life. I’m sure I put my purse up higher than my GHD’s. Yeah, I know, I know… surely the last thing to pack if you’re running away from home is your hair straighteners, right? Well, like I said, I’m sixteen – not six-ty – I still take pride in my personal appearance. I still want to look nice whether I end up in Bournemouth (a great beach and pier) or Bristol (the last place I remember Dad being). And right now I’m not particularly fussed which one. In fact I could flip a coin while I’m down here – that’s if I ever find my damned purse. Oh – wait - what’s this?
‘Bus’s here – have you got some change love or what?’
The woman is leaning down beside me now, her impatient hand clutching the five pound note, and as I peer up briefly I can just make out the single-decker through the rain as it splashes through a massive puddle near the T-junction where McDonalds is still being overhauled with those new garish colours. I’d better hurry up and find my money pretty soon otherwise we’ll both end up wet and cross.
‘Ah, here….’ I start to straighten up, unzipping my purse and counting out some coins in my hand to see how much I’ve got. I turn to face the woman whose head is now making Watching Wimbledon-type movements from the oncoming bus and back to me. ‘How did you want the change? Pound coins. Fifty pees? twenty pence’s ? here…..’ I cup my hand out to her whilst trying to blow rain away from my lips as it rivulets down my forehead and into my eyes.
Then, as I’m lifting my head from my palm to the woman, I feel a heavy, warm, tunnel of air rush by my face really quickly. I peer up to see what it is, and then startlingly, from out of nowhere, something hard and weighty CRACKS against my ear. And it’s not until my face hits the pavement that I realise something huge has bashed me round the side of my head and knocked me to the ground…
I don’t feel hurt anywhere – not even wet which is odd, because I must be. As my brain tries to re-engage and convince my trembling arms and legs to push my body back up, I hear whooshing far-away voices coming and going like a tide and feel hands reaching down to help me. Then I hear a rhythmic banging like drums inside my head and everything goes black.