Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Two Girls on the Bus

The bus was running full and I was running late.   I scrambled on board, paid my gold coin and squeezed into an empty seat in the middle of the mini-bus.  Two young women sat on the bench seat in front of me, dressed with day-glo teenage bravura in tanks and microshorts and stripped blonde hair that they tossed back with their hands to punctuate their sentences, tickling my nose.
            "Do you know Will asked me to wag with him today?  I'm like- nah, and then I seen him with Carly at the shopping center this afternoon - he wagged with HER instead!"
            "He never - !"
            "So I told Rob and Rob told me that he and Mick'd help me roll Will if I wanted.  Only I said nah, because all them stupid dumb c**ts in the class were standing there listening.   Bitches.  Whatever.  Change the subject. Your birthday's next week.  What're you buying for your birthday party?"
            "How much?"
            "Dad's giving me money.  Thinks I'm going to buy a stereo."
            "You people's never seen me drink, have you?"  The one on the left giggled. "Give me a bottle and I'll disappear for a minute or two and come back and you'll never know me. I'm fun and -"
            " You can't drink around school, though.  Ms F-ing Friedman caught me yesterday and had a TALK with me about my ATTITUDE - I was so f***ing tempted to punch her.  Just 'cause nobody likes HER-"
            The one on the right shifted in her seat and twisted a strand of her hair between her fingers. "Mum gets paid today" she said. "Which means she'll do a bit of shopping, which means there'll be food in the fridge and - O.M.G!"  She bounced in her seat.  "Did you know, that if you go and say you have no food they'll give you food vouchers for Woolworths?  Yeah, really!  They're gift cards and you can't buy smokes or alcohol with them, and if you choose carefully, you can buy enough food for three days at least!
            And there's the Salvos - they'll give you ACTUAL food, not just vouchers.  There's SO many places that give you stuff, if you play your cards right - you can live on them for, like, a MONTH if you have to.  The Salvos gave me Milo Cereal - whoo hoo! And BREAD - OMG, they give you all the bread you can EAT.   Oh - wait!" She bounced to her feet   "Driver!  Next stop, please!"
            She was fourteen - with plugs in her ears, a stud in her lip, a pinched chin in a tight, tough little face, and her eyes rimmed with liner, black like a raccoon.  Stepping between the seats, she turned to look back at her friend and suddenly, she smiled.  Her eyes were bright, and her small pinched face was warm and wide - and wistful.
            "See you tomorrow, yeah?"
            "Wait - " Her friend jumped up.  "I'll come with you, yeah?"
            Her eyes widened briefly and she smiled again - sweet and tender and guileless and utterly, completely open.

She was only fourteen.

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