Bitter 12

“Of course I’m not into you, you idiot. Jeez, this is what I get for trying to be nice.” Britta looked up at the ceiling and shook her head. It was truly beyond belief.

“Then why don’t you just leave me alone?” said Lewis. “I never bothered you before you started picking on me.”

“I’m not picking on you,” said Britta, knowing full well she had done exactly that, “and I’ll be happy to leave you alone.”

She walked off to get something to eat even though she had lost her appetite. It was bad enough that he thought she was pig-ugly, now he also thought she was desperately in love with him. If she was going to have a crush on one of the boys in her year, would it really be Lewis the Loser? Get over yourself.

Her outrage settled into a cloud of gloom for the rest of the afternoon. Would people gossip about her sad and unrequited yearning for the biggest moron in Year 5? At least she had one thing going for her—most people had no idea who she was or that she even existed. She wasn’t interesting enough to start unfounded rumours about.

Rashida, as always, was totally oblivious to Britta’s mood and spent most of double French voicing her own unfounded rumours about the other girls in their class, often loud enough for them to hear. It was almost like she was daring them to confront her about it. Rashida very much enjoyed getting into fights with other girls.

If they could hear what was being said about them, they pretended not to. No one wanted to provoke Rashida into truly speaking her mind.

When Britta got home she was surprised to find Dad out of the pod and in the kitchen. She suddenly remembered her late night trip to another world and wondered if he was waiting to confront her about it.

“Are you done, already?” It was Friday, so maybe he had decided to knock off early. He had said he meant to treat it like a real job.

“Ah, yes. Sort of. Your mother…”

“Will you hurry up?” said Mum as she came down the stairs. It was even more of a surprise to find her home so early.

“What are you doing here?” said Britta. Something was definitely going on.

“We’re going away for the weekend. I’m sure I told you, Britta.”

Britta was sure she hadn’t been told anything. “What do you mean? Where are you going?”

“Paris. We’ll be back by Sunday. There’s plenty of food in the freezer. You’ll be fine.”

“You’re leaving me alone? Isn’t that illegal?” Being left alone by her parents was pretty much Britta’s only joy in life, but that didn’t mean she wanted to be completely abandoned. Not now when the whole world seemed to be expressing its distaste for her very existence.

“You’re sixteen, sweetie,” said Dad, “you can take care of yourself for a couple of days.

“I’m fifteen, and you’re leaving me all alone in one of the most dangerous cities in the world.” It was a bit of an exaggeration, but Britta was feeling a little mistreated. Shouldn’t her parents at least be interested in her well-being?

“Just phone us if anything happens,” said Mum. “We’ll… tell you what to do.”

Marvellous. She could get step by step instructions on how to fight off some intruder in the house.

“Fine. Whatever. Have fun.” Britta stormed up to her room and lay on the bed.

It wasn’t that she wanted her parents to stay and babysit her—every second in their company was usually a second spent trying to figure out how not to be in their company—it was just the feeling of being overlooked, as usual.

Britta sat up. She was being miserable and dumb. Having them out of her hair for the weekend was a blessing. She’d be miserable either way, at least with them hundreds of miles away, she’d be able to do what she wanted.

She went back down. A horn sounded from outside.

“The taxi’s here,” shouted Dad. There were two small suitcases in the hallway.

“Can you leave me some money?” said Britta from the stairs.

“Yes, I’ve left it on the kitchen table,” said Mum as she came through from the kitchen. “You can invite your friends around if you like. Have one of those wild parties where someone steals the sofa and breaks the toilet.”

Britta knew she was only saying it because there was no way it would ever happen. Who the hell would she invite?

“Good idea,” said Dad. “Like one of those teen movies. Don’t get pregnant while we’re gone. But if you do, make sure it’s the sensitive nerd, not the cool jock.”

“Don’t listen to him,” said Mum. “Don’t make the mistake I made!” She rolled her eyes and then they rushed out of the house as the taxi driver gave them another toot.

For two people always at odds over something or other, they never seemed to stay mad at each other for long. She had no doubt they would spend their time in Paris bonking each other silly. Britta shuddered. Perhaps they’d finally get it out of their system and she’d be able to get a decent night’s sleep.

Mum came back in, hugged Britta and then left again, shutting the door behind her.

Britta stood in the empty hallway, alone. She heard the loud, growling engine of the taxi fade into the distance and walked towards the kitchen. She stopped outside the living room and eased the door open. The pod sat there, which was hardly surprising. Apparently, Dad was not aware of her trespassing.

Now she had the whole weekend to give it a proper go. It wasn’t all that exciting, but it was something to do. A new world to explore. And it wasn’t like she had any pressing business in the old one.

She closed the door. If she was going to try it again, then she would prepare herself. This time she would go in knowing what to do. This time, she’d do a little research.

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