My mum once told me I was very trying. I’m not really sure what she meant, I try hard at everything I do, but I’m pretty sure there was a note of sarcasm in there somewhere.
I know I need to pick my subjects for school, but I have no idea what I want to do. I mean, who does? All the while I try to decide, the only thing I can see is his eyes, watching me, waiting, expectant for my kiss. In my dreams. He’d never look at me in real life. Mousy Brienne Smith? No-one notices me, not anywhere.
As if to prove my point, I am pushed to one side by the actual Josh Brendan, jostling my shoulder as they rush past for breaktime, knocking me into the wall. No calls of ‘oh, sorry, Brienne! Didn’t see you there! How are you?’
‘Ow!’ I called after him, the scowl in my forehead giving me a headache. ‘You know you should look where you’re going?!’ He turned around and actually looked through me, frowned, shrugged his shoulders and then carried on going. Seconds later, I realise I am standing, gawping at the space he no longer occupied, as the children dissipate around me, disappearing into the toilets or outside to hang around the tennis courts. There are a select few who will disappear down to the bikesheds for a crafty cigarette, as if they don’t know the teachers know they all do it. Occasionally one of them will saunter down there, and the smokers will scatter like ants in a disturbed nest.
I sit huddled on a bench during breaktime. The egg-heads wonder past in their group of three, whispering and giggling at the boys standing by the tennis courts, the leader showing off with a basketball, as if he was the first and only person to be able to bounce one of those things on the ground. They all fancy him. I can see why, but I only have eyes for one boy. He’s the only one I’ll ever want.
The bell sounds and everyone trudges back inside, a total opposite to the urgency of getting outside school for those precious few minutes. I make my way back upstairs with the rest of the flock and slide in to my window seat at the back of the class. French. The most pointless lesson ever invented. Although mum says we should all have a second language, and that us English are a lazy nation, as we expect everyone else to speak our language. She might have a point.
Mr Magoo – not his real name, he is very short-sighted – directs a question at the class, asking us to give him the answer in French. I hate this lesson, but I’m so sick of feeling invisible, so I raise my hand.
‘Anyone?’ he asks, his eyes scanning the students. So I raise my hand a little higher. ‘Jessica?’ he calls to the girl next to me, who is whispering with Lucy. She immediately flicks her wavy blonde hair over her shoulder and straightens up ever-so-slightly from her slouched position in her seat, and clears her throat. ‘Um…’ she starts, and smirks, knowing that her fans bask in her coolness and although Mr Magoo has picked on her, she’s safe, because she always gets away with it. The rest of the class titter, and the teacher repeats the question.
‘Je voudrais en stilo sil-vous-plais Monsieur Jones.’
I feel the irritation bubble up inside, growing, getting hotter in my belly. Why won’t anyone see me? Hear me? I look at the pen on my desk and feel such ferocity that it flies off the edge and lands right next to her feet. Those who saw it happen gasp, and Jessica’s head snaps up, her eyes scanning the room warily, then giggles nervously, before picking up the pen. ‘Now, now, guys, you could have just passed it to me,’ she joked, then swallowed as she placed it neatly on her desk.
I roll my eyes, and sink lower into my seat, and turn my head to the window, losing myself in the world outside. One day. Maybe one day someone will notice me.
I am trying.
Short Fiction © Fiona Chapman