Becky’s eyes snapped open a few seconds before her alarm starting chirruping happily on the small table next to her bed. She raised a hand and silenced it. Instead of getting up straight away, she hovered for a moment on the edge of sleep, enjoying being snuggled beneath the covers and the warm sunlight on her face. It was tantalising and she wished to allow herself to fall back into her dreams. She’d be dreaming about something so vivid…but it was gone. The phantoms of the night before had fled, and now she was truly awake.
“Becky! Are you up? You’ve got school!”
Her mother’s voice drifted up from the bottom of the stairs and she sighed. Did her mother really think she didn’t know that she had school? Swinging her bare legs out of the bed, she mused that at least it was Friday, which meant no school for two days afterwards. It also meant that maths would be the final lesson of the day, where she could sit next to Andrew and pretend that she didn’t understand the lesson. He would then explain it to her, very patiently, and…she stopped halfway to the bedroom door. She didn’t want to think about it. It only made the rest of the day go more slowly and anyway rumour had it that Andrew was seeing Cynthia anyway.
“Becky? Are you up or not?!”
Perhaps it was thoughts of Andrew and Cynthia together, or else that her mother insisted on asking the same question every day, when she knew full well that Becky always woke up before her alarm, Becky could not say. However, as her mother’s voice came once more from the bottom of the stairs, Becky wrenched her door open and stomped bare foot to the top of the stairs.
“Yes, Mum! I’m up! See!”
And with that she stomped back to her room, her mother’s admonishments not to talk to her like that were completely lost on her as she slammed the door shut and began getting ready for the day. She showered and dressed as quickly as she could, conscious that even with the amount of time she had allotted today might well be the day the bus came early. When she was satisfied with her appearance, she packed her schoolbag and headed downstairs to join the family for breakfast.
Everyone was in a rush – her Dad was running late for work, trying to iron his trousers for the day and drink coffee at the same time. His efforts were not aided by the cat, which wound itself around his legs, miaowing to be fed.
“You’ve got food in your bowl, you stupid animal!”
The cat paused and gave him a look which could only be expressing utter disdain for the food that was in the bowl, perhaps suggesting that it was not up to the very high standards that were expected. This look delivered, she stalked haughtily from the room with her tail in the air. Becky petted her as she went by and received a purr for her troubles. The breakfast table was almost completely covered by the newspaper that her father had clearly abandoned on discovering just how late it was. His toast lay half eaten on the plate and the business reports page was dipped in the marmalade. Her mum was so busy trying to get Mikey to find a matching pair of shoes so that she could take him to school, whilst also preparing for her own day at work, that she forgot to say more to Becky about her earlier outburst. Taking a bowl from the stack on the table and pushing some of the newspaper aside, Becky poured cereal in, followed by milk, and listened to the sound it made with a satisfied smile before tucking in. She’d heard it said that breakfast was the most important meal of the day, but it was also her favourite. Not even her mother’s frequent encouragement to hurry up and get to the bus stop could make Becky do anything but save the meal. She loved breakfast and she was not going to let a silly thing like school get in the way of that.
Breakfast done, there was just time to brush her teeth before setting her school bag on her back and heading out the door. In the drive way her Dad was screaming at the car to start, still clutching the cup of coffee in one hand, his tie hung untied about his neck. Her mum was strapping Mikey into his child’s seat, whilst he fidgeted, refusing absolutely to sit still. Locked in this Sisyphean struggle, she did not hear Becky’s goodbye, given as she passed. Becky was out of the drive way and halfway along the road before she heard both her parent’s cars pulling away and heading in the opposite direction.
She sighed and wondered if all families were as disorganised as her parents. They seemed to get worse as the week went on, and though she sympathised with her mum about Mikey – he was at a difficult age apparently – she also couldn’t help thinking that they made things more difficult for themselves. She sighed again and tried to put her parents from her mind. The sun was out and though there were clouds in the azure sky, they were but a few and looked like bits of fluff that the gentle breeze had picked up. It was not a good day to be going to school, to be locked away all day in a stuffy classroom, trying to get her head around Shakespeare’s humour – he wasn’t funny – or remember what year Henry VIII took the throne – 1485 or 1584, she couldn’t remember, but it was in her notes probably. She longed just to bunk off and spend the day in the nearby park, sitting in the shade of the large oak tree and talking with friends. This was her standard idyll whilst walking to the bus stop in the summer. When it was raining she thought about sitting in a rocking chair in a little cottage with a fire roaring in the grate and the smell of fresh bread drifted in from the kitchen. She had never worked out who was baking the bread – it was all too much effort to get up from the chair and find out, but it didn’t really matter.
Arriving at the bus stop, she rearranged her bag slightly and took a seat in the shelter. The plastic was hot and she had to arrange her skirt so that it didn’t scorch her legs. From the bin came the sound of buzzing, and she shifted uneasily fearing that it was a wasp. She didn’t like wasps – it was the only thing she didn’t like about the summer. She gave a small relieved smile when it turned out to be a bee, which drifted lazily off towards the flowerbeds on the opposite side of the road. Sparrows littered the roofs of the houses, calling to one another and playing chase, their little wings beating fast against the windless air. She closed her eyes and turned her face towards the sun, allowing its warmth to spread over her skin and her thoughts to drift aimlessly.
She was roused from this state by the sound of an engine pulling up close to her. She reached for her school bag thinking that it would be the bus arriving, but when she opened her eyes she saw that was wrong. It was not the bus, but Fraser, driving his old red Ford. All the windows were down and there was music of a sort coming from the stereo. Caitlin was in the front seat adjusting the dial, whilst Emily advised her from the back seat. They were talking about the song, Becky thought, but she couldn’t see why. It sounded repetitive and boring, though it was very cheerful, which went well with the weather. It was driven from her mind however when she saw Andrew also sitting in the back. He gave her a smile and she felt a melting sensation that had nothing to do with the sun.
“I stopped at your house,” Fraser said through the open window, “but there was no one in. Did you forget I said I’d pick you up?”
“Yes,” Becky replied, turning towards him and away from Andrew with some difficulty, “I forgot.”
“Well, get in then, or we’ll be late.”
She didn’t need to think about where to sit. She walked around the car and got straight in next to Andrew, who moved along to give her room. It was stuffy in the car, the open windows making little difference when the car wasn’t moving.
“How are you?” Andrew asked as Fraser pulled away from the bus stop and started them off towards school.
“I’m okay,” Becky replied, smiling at him, “though I wish we didn’t have school.”
“Yeah,” he nodded, “can’t wait for the party tonight. You are coming, aren’t you?”
“Of course, you know me, I never miss an opportunity for fun.”
“Good. I can’t wait.”
He smiled at her and their hands brushed together on the seat beside them. She looked out of the open window, smiling to herself, and thought about how glad she was it was Friday.