- Published: 5 September 2023
- ISBN: 9781761342417
- Imprint: Penguin
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 288
- RRP: $19.99
Eleanor Jones is Not a Murderer
Before I say anything, I’d just like to make one thing perfectly clear: I didn’t stab anyone.
Listen, I may be a lot of things. But I am one hundred per cent not a murderer. Okay? Hang on. Let me just back up and explain.
The bus was the problem. Of course, I have to catch the bus because Min insists on renting crappy houses on the outskirts of town, no matter where we live. She says it’s all about the outlook and the serenity and blah, blah, blah. She’s not fooling anyone. It’s because no one wants to live in those places so they’re cheap. It also means I always have to catch the bus.
I have this theory about buses though. They’re an excellent way to survey new territory, and the best seat on the bus is middle, window. It doesn’t matter which side. If you head straight for the back, you’re marking territory, making some sort of grand statement about how you’re the one in charge. No one needs that kind of attention, especially on their first day. First week. Sit at the front though, and you’re there for life: face forward, staring at the road and the driver for all eternity. If you sit in the middle . . . now, that makes you almost invisible. If people don’t know you they will sit anywhere except next to you, which provides you with the window seat. The window seat is nice and all, especially if the scenery is pretty, which it almost always isn’t. Let’s be honest, the outskirts of town are generally industrial or scrubby bushland or both. So I like to sit sideways, with my back to the window.
To be fair, being invisible is kind of my superpower. When you’re new, it feels like everyone sees you, and everyone is looking at you. They are, but not for long. People size you up and then put you in a convenient box. They want to know if you’re a threat to them. Are you prettier? Or smarter? Or stronger? Or funnier? Will you take the place they’ve carved out for themselves? If you’re not, if you won’t, if you just seem boring and ordinary, they will move on and pretty soon they’ll forget all about you. So you just need to play it cool for a few days, and you’ll be fine.
It does help that I’m fairly unexceptional. What I mean by that is, I’m . . . medium. My hair is medium, my skin is medium, my height is medium, my shape is . . . you see where I’m headed here, right? I’m an easy person to just pass by. Invisible.
It’s not that I don’t like people, or that I don’t want to make friends. It’s just that I like to do it on my terms. I like to watch first, and decide who is worth talking to. Some people are really friendly, right out of the gate. Some don’t give you much until they figure you can do something for them. Some people are quiet and not exactly looking for someone new in their life. That’s okay. I don’t mind. It’s good to watch first and then decide, that way you don’t get caught up in unnecessary drama. Believe me, after nine schools over the past five years, I’ve seen enough drama to last me a lifetime.
Eleanor, get to the point, what’s any of this got to do with someone being stabbed? I’m getting there, I promise. Mental side quests are a speciality of mine. You’ll get used to it.
So, back to the bus. Sitting sideways and pretending to read a book allows me to get the lay of the land. People are surprisingly vocal when they don’t know, or care, who is paying attention. Like the girl two rows back and across, who is shifting awkwardly in her seat, almost as though she has so much to say, but she’s too frightened to. Probably because she’s trying to impress the guy in the seat behind her who, I can tell from here, is not worth impressing. Then there are the two girls and three guys in the very back who are loudly laughing and singing, their confidence astounding. One of those guys is pretending though. I know this because his laugh isn’t as genuine as the others and he’s just agreeing with all of them. He doesn’t want to be there but feels like he should want to. That’s one of those pesky shoulds. Everyone puts way too much focus on the shoulds.
I know what you’re thinking: Eleanor Jones, you really do have it all sorted. You’d be mostly right. There’s not a lot that surprises me in life. People are fundamentally selfish, no one knows what they’re doing, and everyone just wants someone to like them. We’re all just trying to make it through the day.
For all my talk about the wisdom of the middle, window position, it turns out that it does have its downfalls. You see, if I hadn’t been sitting here, in the middle of the bus, window side, yesterday morning, I wouldn’t have spotted Angus Marshall, struggling with his Biology notes. If I hadn’t noticed that, I probably wouldn’t have been so obliging with offering to help him out after class later in the day. And if I hadn’t offered, then my text wouldn’t have been the most recent in his phone last night when he went and got himself stabbed.
And, so we’re perfectly clear, he did not get stabbed by me.
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