Britta bussed to and from school. Most of the kids from her school took over the upper deck. She sat downstairs. When the bus was packed, she would have to stand, usually with someone’s armpit in her face. It was only a twenty minute ride, but it could be quite claustrophobic.
She was squeezed into the corner by the rear doors when she heard a familiar voice.
“They released some in-game footage. Look at this. And this isn’t even how you would see it if you were in the game.” It was Lewis’ voice.
“Pretty sweet. Your dad really going to buy one?” said another boy. She couldn’t see them through the bodies and she didn’t recognise the voice. Britta’s curiosity was piqued. Lewis didn’t have any friends.
“Yeah. He’s just got to convince my mum.”
There was a scoffing hmmph. “Good luck with that, son.”
“It’s going to happen. Deffo.”
Two idiots fantasising about the Ferrari they’d buy when they won the lottery. Britta stared out of the grimy window at the grey streets under grey clouds.
“Hey, Lewis,” said another voice. Could he really be this popular? She’d never once seen him talk to anyone at school; then again, it wasn’t like she paid much attention to what he got up to. “What was that between you and Britta in class?”
“Nothing.” There was an edge of irritation in his voice now. “She just wanted me to slip her the big one.”
There was laughter. Britta rolled her eyes.
“You should do her, then. Probably only chance you’ll get. Ever.”
Numerous voices agreed.
“Get lost. She’s too dog-faced.”
“Do her from behind then!”
“With that bum? You must be joking.”
More laughter. Britta felt like saying something; put them all in their place.
“She’s easily the ugliest girl in class.”
“Class. More like in the school.”
If it had been Lewis speaking, she might have written it off as spite, but Lewis wasn’t speaking anymore. She couldn’t see their faces, but she didn’t want to.
“The only girl I’d turn down a BJ from.”
“Haha. Can you imagine what she looks like naked?”
“Shut up, man. I have to have my tea when I get home.”
The jibes continued punctuated with laughter. It sounded like dozens of boys, all ridiculing her looks. Britta’s anger diminished as she felt her whole body shrink and become limp. There was no fight in her.
She was still three stops away from home when she got off the bus. She quickly walked away, head down, before anyone could see her from a window. Hot tears stung her cheeks.
She knew she wasn’t the prettiest girl in school, but she never thought of herself as grotesque. And even if she wasn’t going to win any beauty contests, it didn’t mean no one would ever want to be with her. Plain girls got asked out, too. They got married, had ugly kids. Her own sister was no stunner, and she’d always had a boyfriend.
But Marisa had already had numerous boyfriends by the time she was Britta’s age. No one had even looked at Britta like they might be interested.
When she got home, Dad was still in the pod and Mum was at work. Britta went up to her room and lay on her bed. She told herself she didn’t care, but the tears rolled down each side of her face, filling up her ears, which was annoying.
Eventually, she pulled herself together and went to the bathroom to wash her face. She avoided looking at herself in the mirror over the sink.
She felt a little better, but it was like sitting under a rain cloud trying to convince yourself you weren’t getting wet. The hurt soaked through her.
Dinner was the usual polite sniping. Britta excused herself as soon as she’d finished eating. She hadn’t been hungry, but she’d rather force the food down than stay listening to her parents.
She did her homework and went to bed early. She couldn’t sleep. Around ten o’clock, she heard her parents having sex. Bed squeaking, some panting, the occasional squeal. For two people who got on so poorly, it was amazing how often they did it. Britta stuck her head under the pillow.
Her father’s snoring signalled the end of the night’s activities, and was even more annoying. The walls rattled.
Not even slightly sleepy, Britta went down in the dark to get a glass of water. She knew she was being stupid. So what if some teenage morons didn’t think she measured up to the plastic porn stars they used as their guide to what made a woman attractive? They could all go to hell.
She paused outside the living room and opened the door. The pod was sitting there, the lid open.