Cherry bubble-gum popped, pencils itched against gritty paper and the very worst of Greenwich's education masters' droning perforated her eardrums. Believe it not, school was Clara's last semblance of daily normalcy; girls more or less behaved and were scrubbed clean of gaudy make-up, boys did not clad themselves in ridiculous attire which was now the height of fashion (despite their best efforts) or spoke in that ridiculous tongue which was so popular nowadays. Life could be incredibly mundane - and she often preferred it that way. She was tired of the sirens which would split her brain every evening after 6 until the early hours of the morning, the gangs which would habit the alleys and above all, the isolation she felt in her own city. It didn't feel like home anymore, and their elders' - what could only be described as - xenophobia towards London's nadsat population only aggravated this cold feeling. It was tiring, and it was boring.
"So, tonight yeah?" Thankfully distracted from her rampant thoughts, Clara wrenched her body to meet Louise – a small girl with an impatiently flirtatious disposition. Knowing what she was getting at, Clara shook her head, earning a look of complete dejection from her girl-friend. It would have been sad, if it were not utterly rehearsed. "Come on, Cee', it ain't far!" Said girl sighed, eyes averting back towards her arithmetic questions, mumbling with discretion as she was pretty sure that her class-master was beginning to become attuned to the low hush of their voices. "Canary Wharf isn't far?" Clara muttered through clenched teeth, expression now vacant of anything except boredom.
"NO." Wailed the exasperated and childish reply, ignoring the hesitant stalling of her teacher's words. "Look, the line gets there in twenty minutes! There by nine-thirty, back by eleven, easy."
Clara rolled her eyes and looked up out the window – rather unfortunately, as her desk partner was busy hacking at his nostril with a blunt 2B pencil. "Please?" She wasn't looking – disgustingly – and regrettably preoccupied - but she heard the pathetic whisper like a siren song. Louise was irritating, stubborn and outrageous – but she had a soft heart, one which she was reluctant to show often; certainly not in a classroom.
"Fine." A small smile lifted Clara's lips in response to her friend's own skin-splitting grin.
She ignored the impatient rustling of students knocking their jotters into jute bags – her fluffy pen bouncing against air molecules as she sealed her fate in small cursive. This wasn't something she wanted to do, but it was a rite of passage which had been a long time coming, in her friends' not-so humble opinion. Her cousin - of a similar age – frequented there, and he was a sweet kid so where was the harm? He never missed a homework hand-in and supposedly never failed to attend himself and his mother's weekly ritual of watching Bless This House, something her aunt took decadent pride in, for today, what mother wouldn't relish in such confident nurturing abilities?
A shrill bell sent herds of teenagers out the door and into the weekend smog - the faint buzz of a girl's Walkman trilled out the beats of The Heaven Seventeen; she could only wonder what pop-discs the Korova would have to offer – if anything at all. Clara didn't frequent clubs or bars – far too nervous of her father's hand and risks of the drinks kids were being supplied with nowadays; she even saw one fair-haired boy and his cronies inject the membrane of a wax-laced cafeteria milk carton with whatever knives they were stocking. It both disgusted and thrilled her in the same breath. Whatever the world was coming to, she was still conflicted if she wanted to be a part of it or not.
With a sigh - she was doing this far too much recently - she packed away her pencil-case and slid her jotters into her satchel - eyes flitting to her page, making a mental note of her fate, before Louise shook her shoulders with a playful '"chop chop!"', clearly excited about their evening's plans. The class was practically empty now - a stern voice booming in the face of some poor kid in the lower corridor. As they passed by, with shock, she noticed her cousin skulking by the victim's side - a particularly handsome boy who looked strangely smart with a devious smirk on his face - she registered through the teacher's bellows that his name was 'Burgess' and he was a 'sanctimonious little git'. The elder continued poking his chest - causing the boy to sway comically (she imagined on purpose) his Adam's apple bobbing like a toy duck in water.
"I'm awfully sorry, sir."
He didn't sound sorry in the slightest, even Pete was ducking his head to muffle his amused chuckles. She was shocked - perhaps her cousin wasn't as innocent as her aunt made out him to be, if this was the company he kept. Clara chose to ignore him - it was probably best that way, and certainly made things less awkward at Sunday lunch. "What's that all about, eh?" Louise giggled in a shrill whisper, eyes gleaming and craning her neck trying to get a better look at the boy who was being sanctioned. Threats of a call to his 'truant officer' and 'borstal' ringing in her ears - what was this school coming to? "Tell you what, your cousin don't have half keep interestin' company."
"You can say that again." Clara muttered, still tempted to rat him up for colluding with such dreadful miscreants. She hadn't failed to notice, with horror, that the disgusting blonde brute she shared arithmetic with - the very boy with the gift of fitting almost any object into his nasal passage - was chucking like a brutish Neanderthal in the corner, watching his (she presumed) leader with nothing less than morbid respect and weird cunning which didn't at all suit him. He sussed her out and winked lazily - bile rising in her throat. "He's so disgusting." She whispered in horror.
"WHO'S DISGUSTING?" A regrettably familiar voiced bellowed, a scratchy arm interlinking with Clara's own - the musky scent of Rive Gauche threatening her sinuses. Georgina was a sweet girl, very pretty and fashionable, but tact definitely wasn't one of her strong suits. Louise practically smashed her book bag over her head, eyes flitting towards the group of boys to, thankfully, find them preoccupied; save their leader who - still being reprimanded - cast strong eyes in their direction, a frightening air of superiority about him. He looked amused, thankfully for them.
"Georgie, shhhh!" Louise wailed, arms curling into her waist to make a makeshift shield against the door-frame, pushing it open to meet the toxic, hard sun. "Do you fancy getting done in!?" 'Georgina only scoffed in retaliation, whipping her (now messy) strawberry-blonde hair into Clara's face - who was pretty sure she now had a corneal tear. "Lou, you don't know what you're talking about. Dim's practically brain-dead! Pete's too lovely to take offence-" her eyes grew soft, skin practically wet, "and that Alex - well, I'll tell you what, he was caught practically shagging Monica Riley in the crafts cupboard this morning!" So that was his name, Alex. And from the way her lip curled into a sneer, Georgina always was a dreadful prude (or so she liked to pretend), he was bad news. "I don't know who the other one is; he doesn't count."
Clara couldn't help but laugh at this (ignoring the fanciful comment about her cousin for the sake of her own sanity). "Practically vapour, Gee'."
Her friend nodded, seemingly pleased that Clara was 'agreeing' with her. "Too right! Now, are you coming tonight or not?" Clara openly groaned, dark tendrils falling across her vision - but not enough to hide her from Georgina's pressing expression. "Yes." She shrank beneath her girl-friend's grin, Louise busily preoccupied with bashing some powder from the crackled remains of her dove eye shadow pallet. Georgina clapped her hands together like a seal, quite childishly but with good intentions.
"Oh, brilliant Cee'!" Her eyes were still sparkling from her encounter with Pete, but less so now that he was far away in the distance. Something distracted her though, her gaze averted from Clara suddenly and her mouth opened slowly, words falling from lips hurriedly. "Oh, and Gemma's coming too."
"Nooooo!" Louise groaned, stomping her feet in protest - chunky black heels clopping against broken, gum-stained tarmac. She was positively fuming. "No! We didn't agree to this, Georgie!"
"Why not? Gem is desperate to catch up! It's not been the same since she went to Eltham Hill!" Georgina whined.
Louise and Clara turning to share a strained look. Gemma was the (former) fourth member of their small friendship group, regrettably missing in action since their form mistress found her giving oral to her religious studies partner. Her parents promptly sent her away to an all-girl's school, much to the excitement of Clara and Louise who always struggled with Gemma's behaviour - more so because it was completely embarrassing, as opposed to envy.
The bickering of Clara's friends became white noise to her ears; after it reached its frightening crescendo. This evening was sure to be a disaster. Her skin prickled uncomfortably as the sun was strangely bright for a winter hour. The faint slamming of a heavy fire-door only added to the buzz of background noise - boisterous laughter and shrieks quickly growing faint as they surely headed towards the playing field, in the direction of the estate. Whatever occurred, tonight was sure to be interesting in one way or another. She had memorised the note which she had made - now tattooed across each and every inch of her brain; she wouldn't forget this evening, that much she was certain. Her jotter beat against her thigh through the thick leather of her satchel; her fate imprinting onto her skin - his mark, his territory.
30/10 – Korova Milk Bar / 9pm – Woolwich Arsenal (home by 11).