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Published by Terry Collett

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Published by: Terry Collett on Oct 24, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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LIKE IT'S A SIN.Elaine sits in the seat by the window of the school bus, she likes it by the window, it gives her that seclusionshe likes, away from the other kids, next to her sister who is younger and prettier. She hates getting on thebus; the walk down the aisle makes her feel vulnerable, open to others' stares and comments, she feelsnaked, exposed. The bus makes it way through the countryside towards the school, by hedgerows andtrees, houses and fields, the scene passing by, sights captured and lost again. She looks out, pushing outfrom her head the sounds of the other kid's chatter, laughter, gossip and music from the bus radio, easingthrough the cacophony of sounds like a skilled swimmer through waves of water. It'd been a rushedmorning; everyone in the household had overslept, her father moaning, rushing breakfast, puffing his firstcigarette, coughing, spluttering, cursing. Her mother, like some headless chicken going from kitchen tolounge with rushed breakfasts, quick instructions, loud rebukes, and she, Elaine, moving from bed like asloth, into the bathroom, after her sister had done with her beautifying, and sat on the loo, trying to wake her mind to another day, wishing it was Friday, knowing it was Monday. The bus turns into the drive to theschool. She hopes everyday that the driver would have some form of amnesia and forget where the schoolwas and take them on a mystery tour of the countryside. But he hasn't, he's turned up at the right place andon time. The kids move towards the exit door, pushing, shoving and talking over each other or at eachother. Elaine waits until they've all moved on and away, her sister long gone on with friends. She makes her way down the aisle, her squat figure brushing by seats, holding her satchel, by the bus driver who winks andsmiles. John was waiting by the fence. She is shy of him, lowers her eyes, steps off the bus, clutches her satchel, heaves it onto her shoulder. He is talking to a friend, she wonders if he will talk to her today as hedid on the Friday. The whole weekend wondering if he would talk to her again. Imagining he did, thinking hewould walk with her at lunch recess as others did, boys and girls, on the school field, if it was dry. Shepasses them by, feeling shy, thinking herself unattractive, squat hen, her father calls her, and she thinksherself so, and maybe others at school, also think that. She passes through the playground, by girls withskipping ropes, chatter groups, other games, jumping, hopping; by boys with cards or conkers; a teacher patrolling, a prefect at his side. Elaine wants to find a silent spot, a place she can be alone, away from noiseand exposure. She walks to a corner, no one there, by the wire fence, the vast expanse of the schoolbuilding just behind. She puts down her satchel between her legs, and as she rises up, he's there,standing,gazing at her, his hazel eyes on her, the brown hair pushed back from his brow. Another Monday,he says, another day of brain washing. She stares at him, holding the strap of her satchel, her mouth isready to open, but the tongue sticks, the words trip over each other to get out and tumble out in a heap of gabble. He smiles. Bad as that, huh? She bites her lip. She feels herself blush, looks away, not wanting totalk to him, but wanting to at the same time. Hate Mondays, she say, turning to look at him, seeing his hazeleyes sparkle, her reflection there in his pupils, like two miniature Elaines staring back at her. Me, too, hesays. She raids her mind for more words. Conversations are not her strong point. His school tie is loose, hisshirt unbuttoned. The school blazer is slightly stained. He talks about things she's unsure of, areas of conversation she has not ventured into. She feels the fence behind her pressing into shoulders andbuttocks. She moves further back. He places one hand on the fence by her head as he talks, as if he wereblocking off any escape. Have you seen them? He asks. She stares at him, his eyebrows are smooth andeven, his lips are slightly parted, his tongue visible. She scrambles to find words to match the conversationand question, but finds none, and stands open mouthed. She shakes her head. None at all? He asks. ThePeacock butterfly, he says, they're about mostly now. Not seen any, she says, wondering if she had. Notsure, she adds, what do they look like? She asks, fingering the fence behind her with her fingers. I'll showyou, and he opens his bag and takes out a square book with pictures of butterflies on the cover. He opensthe pages, fingers through. She gazes at his fingers, the nails chewed, stains of ink, searching. Here, hesays, pointing to a page and picture. She looks at the picture, senses him near her, his breath on her, hisshoulder touching hers. Lovely colouring and markings hasn't it? He says. She nods. The Peacock butterfly,the label states. She takes in the colours and markings, the beautiful patterns. Beautiful, she says softly.Like you, he says. She blushes, looks hard at the colours, the words beneath merging. I'm not, she says,not looking up, I'm a squat hen, she says, repeating her father's name for her. No you're not, you're myPeacock butterfly, he says. She looks at him to see if he is smiling or maybe jesting, but he isn't, he'sserious, his hazel eyes set on her as if he were pinning her to a board in his mind, like she's seen collectorsdo in magazines. Squat hen? Where did you get that from? He asks. She didn't say, but shrugs. He leansforward, his eyes peering at her, his hand on the fence by her head, his other hand holding the butterflybook. She feels his presence, his body near, the open necked shirt, his breath of spearmint. OK, Peacock,he says, got to go, the bells about to go for the first brain washing episode, see you on the field, later? Shebreathes him him, sucks softly his being, his arm by her head. She feels dizzy, as if someone had spun her around by her feet. He waits there for an answer. She bites her lip. Is it for real? She asks shyly. Of course,he says, not one to waste words, he says. He stands away from the fence. He waits a reply. She looks athim, the hazel eyes, the bare neck, inches of it, the loose tie. Yes, she mutters, OK, and he taps her hand,and smiles, see you then, my Peacock butterfly, and he walks off towards the school, and she watches himgo, that swaying tread, that tilt of head. He has touched her hand, she can sense it still, warm, but hot,

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