Monday morning, seven-thirty, and it's so hot the house feels like it's melting. Cicadas scream through the windows. The dog pants on the kitchen floor. I had a shower five minutes ago and already I'm sweating through my shirt.
'Ugh,' I say, flopping over the kitchen counter, crumpled uniform on, shoes untied.
Mum reads my face and sighs. She's making breakfast for the twins.
'Be grateful you get to have an education, Biz.' She waggles a spatula. 'Not everyone's as lucky.'
I peer at her. 'You might have read me wrong, Mum. Maybe I meant, "Ugh. How I wish school lasted all weekend, I have missed it so very much."'
I'm a month into Year 11, which is ridiculous because I am nano and unformed but I'm still supposed to write essays about Lenin and Richard III and urban sprawl. Year 11 is a big deal. We are only seconds away, the teachers say, from our final exams. The teachers can't stop revving us up about our impending future.
This is a big deal! say the teachers of English, science, art, maths, music, geography, and Other Important Subjects in Which We Are Not Remotely Interested But Are Taking So We Can Get a Good Mark.
You need to take it seriously!
You need to be prepared!
You need to not freak out, then have to go to the counsellor because we've freaked you out!
I open the fridge. 'I'm going to sit in here, okay? Just for a minute. Let me squat next to the broccoli.'
Mum laughs. She's making banana pancakes. Billie and Dart drool over their waiting plates. The twins have the morning off school. They're going to the dentist! They love the dentist—it's where Mum works, so they get extra toothbrushes, and as many little packs of floss and toothpaste as they can carry in their hands.
'Are they ready yet?' says my brother, Dart, six years old.
'Come on, Mum! I'm starving to death,' says my sister, Billie, nineteen minutes younger than Dart.
'Give me a second,' says Mum. 'A watched pancake never boils.'
She flips one over. It looks scorched. Mum doesn't love cooking.
I can't see how she can be anywhere near a stove in this heat. I grab some coconut yogurt and grapes out of the fridge.
'Did you study for your test?' Mum says.
'Absolutely,' I say, and it's true, if you count watching YouTube videos and listening to music while reading the textbook studying. I don't know if I'm ready—there's the lack of sleep thing, and the not-having-spoken-properly-to-Grace-since-I-kissed-her thing, which makes today impossible and complicated before it even begins.
I hug Mum goodbye and smooch the twins' cheeks as they squirm.
I grab my bike from the shed, ride it for thirty seconds before I realise the front tyre is flat.
Ah, that's right.
When did the tyre go? Friday? No, Thursday.
Shit, Biz! You had one job.
A magpie laughs from a nearby tree. His magpie friend looks down, then joins in.
I could ask Mum to drive me but I know what she'd say: 'Do I look like a taxi, Biz?'
I could skip school, but then I'd miss my test and ruin my impending future.
I shove the bike back in the shed. And start walking.