She waits for the school bus with her younger sister and a few others. The weather is warm and dry, clear blue and white clouds in the sky. Elaine knows he'll be on the bus; she's thought of nothing else, but that, since she woke that morning. Even on the loo, she thought about him; about how he had kissed her the day before; about how it was her first kiss from a boy, brushing of lips, not pressed hard. Over breakfast, she sat eating the breakfast her mother had prepared for her, thinking of him, mouthing the cereal, seeing him in her mind’s eye. As she washed after breakfast, she had him in mind, wondering if he would want to kiss her again that day, wondering if she'd let him or if she should. She had dressed slow, him in mind, taking her time, having borrowed her mother's old fashion scent, put on underwear, bra, blouse, skirt and white ankle socks and sat gazing at herself in the mirror, looking through her just cleaned with spittle, spectacles. She looked frumpish. She straightened her shoulders, lifted her head, raised her chin, gazed. She was so shy it hurt. Not then, while looking at herself in the mirror, but when she was with others, and they were gazing at her, or talking to her or at or about her. Teachers could make her cry, by just a stern look or words bellowed at her. Her stomach churned; nerves, she supposed, going once more to the loo, shutting the door, locking it, sitting. A book was on the shelf. Her father's book of butterflies. He kept it there to view while on the loo. He had a room full of books. Most beyond her understanding. She took the book down; the dust jacket was torn. She opened it up and randomly looked at the pictures. What was the butterfly, John had said about? She tried to recall, but she couldn't, there were so many. She closed the book and put it back on the shelf. The bus was coming around the bend in the road, thoughts of the morning at home, vanish in a wave of nerves that grips her stomach. The bus stops and the door opens. She waits with her sister and the others, then boards the bus herself. She feels self-conscious, aware that others are gazing at her as she makes she way along the aisle of the bus, to the seats, where she and her sister, usually sit. Some one says, Hello, Frumpy, and there is scattered laughter, she blushes, looks at the floor as she walks on, tries to focus, knowing he is on the other side of the aisle, maybe looking at her, maybe not. The normal chatter resumes, the radio is blasting out a pop song, she sits by the window, looks out, gets herself comfortable, undoes her coat. Her sister chats to friends nearby, laughter, giggles, loud voices. Is he looking? She stares out the window. The bus moves away, hedges, trees and fields, pass by quickly. She wonders about him. Is he there? has he come today? She wants to look and see, but can't get her head to turn. The scene changes quickly: hedges, fields, cottages, birds in flight, a tractor in a field, a road, sheep, cows, and a man by a fence. Is John looking over his seat at her? Have a look. No, I can't. Go on. No I can't. She fidgets, moves in the seat, pulls at her skirt, adjusts her bra that's tight. Some one sings along to the song on the radio. Her sister joins in. Life and soul of. Have a look. Casually. She pushes her toes to the top of her shoes. Presses hard. She pushes her hands in between her thighs. Feels anxious. Feels the need to pee come on; nerves that’s all, nothing more. Ignore, think of something else. That morning, as she washed under her arms, she noticed, what seemed for the first time, hairs, dark, curly, under her armpits. She'd not noticed before. Not cared more like. But now she did see them, and thought: he might see. How? Going to show him your armpits and say look at these hairs, John? She blushed as she soaped, rinsed and dried. And lower down, where he mother had said to keep clean and fresh, she noticed, as  if it had grown over night, pubic hairs. She tried not to notice usually; pretended they weren't there, as she had once tried to ignore, the first swellings on her chest, the bulb-like swellings that worried her, until her mother, under her breath, said: they're your breasts, all girls get them eventually; it means you’re becoming a woman. What a burden. She wasn't sure she wanted to become a woman, she told her mother. No choice in the matter, her mother said, smiling. She hates the long bus ride to school; hates the chatter, laughter, music bellowing, snorts and giggles. Is he looking? Have a quick gaze. No, I can't. Should she? Just a quick glimpse, turn of her head, a innocent turn and look. What if he's looking at her and she blushes red as a spanked backside? No, best not to. Pretend we don't care. Look at the passing view. When she had undressed for bed the night before, and stood there, staring at herself in the tall mirror, she thought herself frumpy. She stood there gazing. Her sister asleep. Stood looking at her face. The glasses, her eyes, large and dark. Her nose, flattish, broad. Her mouth, too wide, like a fish grinning. She had made a kissing sound. Pursed her lips. Some one laughs on the bus; she looks around, Goldfinch, the boy next to John, guffaws noisily, but John has his head turned towards the window, unconcerned. She sits and studies the top of his head, the hair, the turn of head, half profile, glimpse. As she removed her bra the night before, as she prepared for bed, she unclipped the back fiddly bits, and let it slip away; her breasts feeling free, warm, and just there, waiting, a fully fledged nature study. She had dressed quickly, pretended they weren't hers. She was stepping out of her comfort zone. She looks out of the window, the passing scene: trees, hedges, fields, hills, rabbits, cows and onward. She closes her eyes. Tries not to think of her bladder calling. Pushes her hands deeper between her thighs. Shuts out sounds, laughs, chatter, music, snorts and giggles. She sees behind her closed eyes, the kiss again, him kissing her on the sports field, the day before. Feels it still. The slight touch of lips. Brushing skin on skin. And his hand, where had that been? One on her arm, holding her nearer to him, the other, touching her back, her spine, fingers walking downwards. The touch, lips, warm, wet, and she opens her eyes, and feels a rush of feelings, along her nerves, spine, arms and legs, and her stomach churns, her heart thumps wildly as if it's her last. But none has seen, none has felt. Her sister still talks, Goldfinch sits and gabbles, and John, he sits unaware, that she is burning wildly, inwardly, a rush of electricity rushes along her nerves, a glow down below, her mind is confused and alive, and she sitting there with that: I'm out of my comfort zone, scared look and soft moan.

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