At eleven all things are possible; I add my name to the list to visit the lab for Career Day. Miss Edwards with her spiral perm tells me that a lot of the other girls are going on the trip to the secretarial school. I look at her blankly.
I sit on the school bus, self-conscious in my newly arrived body. My knees protrude demurely from my checked school skirt. Their white boniness makes me feel vulnerable and I cover them. My fingers twist and turn with a life of their own.
The bus is full of the sound and scent of boys; socks and sweat and casual boasting. The boy behind me snaps my bra strap and their combined laughter is raucous. It sounds like entitlement.
Our guide walks towards us and something warm breaks open in my chest. She is taller than most women but she walks confidently in her heels, her eyes perfectly made up and her hair perfectly styled. As she dons her white coat, I realise she works here and I am in awe.
Her voice is low and confident. The boys’ attention skitters around the room, bouncing from item to item, but I hang on her every word.
I want to speak to her, but nervousness rises dough like in my mouth, pressing against the back of my throat, stealing my words. She senses my regard, and she takes my hand. Her nails are delicately shaped and beautifully manicured, her knuckles are too large. I resolve to have nails like hers one day, to paint them scarlet. I resolve to wear a white coat.