Mostly I didn’t bother with the bus, and walked instead. When I did get it (if it was raining, or I was in a hurry to gethome before youth choir or county orchestra or aConservative Future meeting or whatever), I made sure I satat the back, kept away from the crowd, pulled out a book,plugged in my headphones and enjoyed twenty minutes of peace and quiet. That day I was sitting near the back next to a large elderly lady, whose cat hissed and spat from a closed basket on herknee. The basket jiggled against my thigh, which was annoy-ing. I’d have preferred to sit next to the window, tracking theraindrops as they dribbled down the glass.I hardly noticed when Will spoke to me: he touched my shoulder to get my attention, and I jumped and squeaked.‘What? What is it?’ My voice sounded high and panicky,and it was all his stupid fault.‘Um, sorry,’ he said, whipping his hand away as though I’dburned it. ‘It’s just . . . you’re Cass Montgomery, aren’t you?’I’d seen this boy around before, but I’d never spoken to him.He wasn’t in choir or orchestra, although I’d seen him once ortwice at the inter-school debating competitions. He’d done agood job last time, opposing a motion about school uniformpromoting discipline. I knew about him, though. I knew his name was WillHughes and I knew he was in the sixth form, and I knew he was incredibly popular and supposedly funny and bright. Iknew all about which girls had been out with him and whichgirls wanted to. I knew these things the same way that peopleknew I was head-girl material and heading for Oxford. He hada reputation: a more interesting one than mine.
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