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MELANIE’S TIE’S loose, she backcombs her fair hair, her dark blue skirt shows her knees. She’s always getting called in to the headmistress. She even looks like Dusty Springfield. I bet Dusty’s nicer than her. The others crowd round her, they giggle, they sneak looks over to me, they smirk, no Hells-bells, you drip, you can’t come to the flicks with us, you need to grow up. Kevin’s coming with Melanie, some of Mark’s friends are coming, do you think they’d put up with you? Smelly-helly you’re such a swot, ha ha!
French, Chemistry, break times, lunchtimes, they’re all the same.
Auntie Sheila thinks I would benefit from the trip. She slouches, can you not get her into nylons, she’s 13 for goodness sake, boys won’t look at her. Has she got any friends? Nancy’ll look after her. Hong Kong!
Even the posh girl down the road, Chrissy, has only been to France.
I’ve fastened my seat belt, the engines are roaring. I’m pushed back into my seat, amazed at the force. As we level out I stare at clouds, cotton wool giants. Stewardesses in tailored jackets and pencil skirts glide up and down, leaning in to each passenger, taking orders.
Lucky I got the window seat. The Alps and lakes, those slopes that James Bond skis down, look like toys. We make a brief stop at Rome though I’m disappointed not to see the coliseum; the airport is Italian, modern, stylish. Next landing is Bahrain where men drift about in white robes and black sunglasses; Arabic sounds like hiccoughs between tinkles of glasses, feet slap on the wooden floor. On to Delhi and I sweat. At Rangoon airport, the last before Hong Kong, slight men in long skirts tucked up between their legs, heap crates on their backs.
Landing in Hong Kong is really scary, you can’t see the runway only the sea, in front, to the right, to the left. I breathe out as the wheels bump on to solid ground.
“No! Nothing to declare!” While I’m fixing the trolley back on to my suitcase a uniformed Chinese man sidles up, “Miss Helliwell, Mrs Nancy expect you.”
“Susan, how lovely. Ah Wong, my driver, will drop us at the club for cocktails. This evening we’ll have a little party, the young men are just dying to meet you!”
Your dad and me, love . . . Auntie Sheila means well . . . she’ll take over, thinks we should all be living the high life, one of the in-crowd. We’re not like that. You’re better off not missing school.