“Girls bleed from their things you know.”

Troy Klover has buckteeth and tomato cheeks. He spits when he talks and is shoving chubby fistfuls of Ranch Doritos into his mouth. If his mother knew he was eating Doritos at the bus stop for breakfast, I bet she’d yell at him. Our moms have been friends since we moved to the neighborhood last year. We have the same grade four teacher.

“I don’t really give,” I tell him. Troy thinks that what he learns in the back of the bus makes him so smart. “You’re stupid.”

“Am not. I’m smarter than you. My mom told me all girls bleed, she says my little sister Amanda is going to and that you will too.”

On the bus Troy tells all the boys in the back that I don’t believe him. They laugh and make crying noises at me.

Twisting the two long braids that my mother wove earlier, I pretend I can’t hear anything.

When my parents fight at home, I can usually not cry if I focus hard on something – like staring at the ceiling.

“Bloody girl!” screams a boy from the back.

Last week my teacher Mrs. Mercy called my mother to say, “Madison looked distraught during the pledge of allegiance this morning, is everything going ok at home?”

When I returned from school that afternoon Mom was working in the garden. She threw her rake and marched toward me in a way that made me take three steps backwards.

“What did you tell them at school this morning Madison?”

“Nothing,” I said focussing my eyes on Mom’s green gardening smock.

My teacher asked my mother for permission to send me to the school guidance counsellor. Mom told me to tell the teacher that she and I “… had a talk when I got home from school and agreed I’m going to go to sleep earlier at night.”

It doesn’t matter what time I go to bed if you ask me. Our house is always too noisy to sleep.

“Bloody girl!” yells a kid with a lazy eye and a dirty face. “Madison McArthur! You’re a bloody girl! Ha ha ha!”

Our bus driver is thirty-two years old with blonde feathered hair. She always wears a black leather jacket with fringe and plays Def Leopard tapes. There’s a girl named Casey that wears Metallica t-shirts and sits in the front seat every day singing along. Sometimes when the boys in the back make too much noise the bus driver yells, “Knock it off now!”

I’ve noticed that she only does this when certain songs come on.

When we get to school I count hedges out the window as the back seat crowd makes their way past. They say things like, “Your pussy is going to bleed one day!” “It probably already does!” “Bloody girl!”

Troy is the last one in the pack. He’s been quiet since we reached the halfway point to school. That was when Danny Clemmins starting shooting mini spit balls at me through a Hi-C straw.

Troy slows down as he approaches like he’s going to say something, like he wishes none of this happened. My eyes are intently focussed on the maple trees that line our school parking lot.

I slide off the sticky brown bench seat as soon as Troy passes. Walking down the aisle closely behind him, my braids start to smell like his B.O.

Getting off the bus, Troy holds the silver railing to steady himself while moving toward the third step. It doesn’t offer enough leverage to brace the impact of my palms against his sweaty shoulders. He falls face first and skins his chin on the curb.

Immediately the shock silences him before he gingerly touches his chin and gets his first sight of red. “Waaaaaaaah!” he wails and I can still smell the Doritos on his breath. “You pushed me!”

My mother won’t be happy about the phone call she gets this afternoon.

I guess boys bleed too.