I’d gotten to Number 25 on my mental list of inconceivably violent and brutal ways to murder my brother when the school bus arrived. The chav-mobile swerved ungracefully down the thickly iced road, sending two unsuspecting dustbins flying through the air and regurgitating empty beer bottles and crisp packets down the pavement. I suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to vomit, which had nothing to do with the smells of tab smoke and sweaty teenagers that seeped through the open doors. If Ryanair ever ventured into the public transport industry I’m sure this would be the type of vehicle they’d provide. Sections of our school bus are literally held together with strips of sellotape and the engine makes a peculiar whistling sound when travelling up hill. It really isn’t worth the 50p fare. Our school bus driver Dave possess all the beauty of an aging scrotum, not that I’ve seen many aging scrotums in my short teenage existence, but if I did I’d imagine it would look like Dave’s face. He wears an expression of permanent constipation, which does nothing to improve his ever-declining appearance and is probably compulsory for a bus driver.
I scanned the mass of tangerine faces, all smoking tabs and chewing gum, for Vicky. She was here somewhere, hidden behind the thick cloud of cigarette smoke. Maybe she’d already seen me. At least at school there were classrooms to hide in, there were teachers to break up a fight. On the bus there was nothing. I imagined her nails gripping against my shoulders and my books falling to the floor. I imagined the mass of tangerine faces erupting with laughter. On the bus there was nowhere to run. I felt another wave of sickness.
A hand gripped my shoulder.
‘O to the M to the bloody G’, said Annie, munching through her daily breakfast of Dairy Milk and a Greggs pasty, ‘have you heard?’
‘Heard what?’ I crossed my fingers hoping to hear the announcement of Vicky’s sudden but nevertheless justified demise.
‘Well…’ Annie paused dramatically (she does that a lot), ‘Lucy said that Linda said that Paula said that Amy that Paedo Parkinson’s been fired and now Hitler’s back teaching politics’.
‘O to the M to the F to the G! Miss Harris is back, this is terrible, I thought she’d be dead by now isn’t she like fifty or something? I knew I shouldn’t have worn makeup today.’
Miss Harris left St Barnaby’s to become head teacher of a military-run boot camp for morbidly obese children. I could just imagine her now, standing over a poor fat sobbing thirteen year old and screaming ‘fifty more push ups, you pathetic lump of lard!’ Even though she’s been gone two years, the mere mention of her name (or Hitler as she’s more commonly referred to) strikes fear into students and teachers alike. It was rumoured that Miss Harris is an ex-marine and once gave a student three years worth of after-school detentions simply for being ginger.
‘Our school is going to be so strict,’ Annie moaned, opening her second, hopefully not third, bar of chocolate to condole herself, ‘I bet the dinner ladies will never get away with selling Bacardi Breezers on a Friday now that she’s back.’
‘I just thank God I’m not ginger.’
I scanned the bus again for Vicky and her satsuma-faced henchman but they were nowhere to be seen. Perhaps she was ill or even better, dead. Perhaps she had drunk herself into an early grave or had been murder by one of her many jealous ex-lovers. Perhaps her face had simply crumbled under the weight of the six tones worth of foundation she wears every day. I said a quick prayer but I’m not quite if sure God does that sort of miracle.
I’d gotten to number 15 on mental list of inconceivably violent and brutal ways to murder Vicky when I was rudely interrupted by the arrival of Paul, who shimmied, pirouetted and jazz handed his way along the school bus aisles ,whilst giving a rather feminine rendition of ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’.
‘And Daddy doesn’t understand it! He always said she was as good as gold! And he can see no reasons! Cos there are no reasons! What reasons do you need to be sho-woh-woh-woh-own!’
‘Tell me why!’ Annie belted out, springing up from her seat. I have actually no idea why we’re so unpopular.
Paul high kicked into the air, then fell gracefully backwards over two clearly traumatised year sevens.
‘Oh sorry darlings I seem to have fallen on top of you’, he said, though not actually bothering to get up. ‘So girlies, what’s up?’
‘Well,’ I said pausing dramatically, ‘Annie said that Lucy said that Linda said that Paula said that Amy said that Paedo Parkinson’s been fired and now Miss Harris is back’.
‘Hitler’s back’, gasped Paul, making the sign of the cross, ‘O to the M to the double F to the G! This is, like, terrible! I knew I shouldn’t have worn make up today!’
‘So –”’ I began.
Paul raised his hand and produced a Blackberry (the phone not the fruit) from his fake Prada overcoat.
‘Pause the convo, must put this on Facebook.’ We waited patiently whilst Her Majesty fulfilled his apparently urgent social duties. ‘Continue.’
‘So how’s the holidays been, is your Dad still dragging you to football matches?’
‘Oh dear God the man’s obsessed’, Paul said grimacing, ‘it’s as if he thinks me watching a group of hot, sweaty, gorgeous men trying to kick a ball into one of those string thingys-
‘-A goal’, Annie corrected.
‘-is going to make me less homosexual.’
‘Some of them are rather snoggable,” I agreed, thinking of Ronaldo’s muscular body, ‘I only watch it to see them take their tops off.’ If I had it my way all footballers would be naked, apart from Rooney- he can keep his pants on.
‘Oh they put the sex into sexy’ Paul said.
‘The fffffffff into phwoooare!’ Annie said (a little over enthusiastically).
‘What are you getting all horny about, Fatty?’ Vicky Valentine snatched the half eaten pasty from Annie’s open mouth and crushed it against the floor with her stilettos. Droplets of gravy spurted from the flattened pastry all over Annie’s new school shoes. Vicky sniggered and turned to the disciples who then cackled in robotic obedience. Suddenly the whole bus erupted in laughter. Vicky took another drag of her cigarette.
Annie stared at the ground, tears of anything but laughter sizzled at her cheeks. I opened my mouth, willing the words to come out but they froze at my lips. I looked desperately at Paul but he too was paralysed into silence.
‘Aw bless,’ Vicky pressed her face close against Annie’s, breathing out sickly mouthfuls of cigarette smoke, ‘looks like we’ve upset Fatty.’
She turned back to the umpa-lumpas who, like puppets, began chanting ‘fatty, fatty, fatty,’ over Annie’s stifled sobs. The whole bus joined in.
Kids stood up stamping their feet and clapping their hands like a demented crowd of football spectators, all conducted by Vicky. Vicky turned again to the disciples but her words were drowned out by the frantic chanting. Three of the henchman grasped clumps of Annie’s hair and dragged her to the ground, forcing her face into the broken pastry.
Vicky laughed hysterically and the rest of the bus followed suit. Crushed coke cans and discarded sandwiches were all launched in Annie’s direction, her face still pinned to the ground. This time I really was going to vomit. I wanted the chanting to continue. I wanted them to hurt Annie again, because I knew that if they stopped I would be next.
Annie stared desperately up at me, her face obscured by tears and gravy and flakes of pastry. I turned to face the window. The chanting became more and more frantic. The whole bus vibrated under the weight of stamping school shoes.
Vicky raised her hand and an abrupt silence fell over the bus. The clicking of two stiletto heals moved closer towards me. I stared hard out of the window, like there was a solution hidden in the scenery. I scrunched my eyes shut and prayed that her next victim would be Paul. She was so close, I could taste the cigarettes on her breath.
‘And why isn’t little Lizzy joining in the fun? What’s the matter Specky? Are you upset about your fat friend?’
Vicky grasped by blazer and dragged me up from my seat. The bus skidded to a sudden halt at the school gates and the doors flung open. A hundred or so students rushed past us, stepping over Annie who lay unmoving on the floor. Vicky’s lips creased into a mocking smile.
‘I’ll see you later then Specks’.