Everyone noticed. One girl in school had said that Indians bring disease into the country, and even though: Pushy knew it was just something in the class disscussion, she wanted to bury her face in the desk. For the white girls, having spots and pimples meant something else. They never made fun of her directly: but they had a joke about pimples. Denise had said something that gave her a hint about it. It was awful to think of, and yet she'd been thinking about it. A hundred times since.
She asked Michelle, her best friend in school, to explain what it was they were giggling about. When she was alone with Michelle she could ask her anything about bras and underwear and the things she didn't dare ask her mother. When they were with their other classmates, Pushy knew that Michelle wanted her to pretend to know as much as anyone else. Michelle didn't want them to know, she felt, that it was she who told Pushy about boys and sex and private girl things, what
she called 'the facts of life''. When they were alone, Michelle wasn't shy about these things, even Pushy blushed when she used certain words.
'Don't be so damn silly,' Michelle would say. 'You have to know haven't you? You can't remain innocent all your life, can you?'
It was true Pushy thought, and thank God for Michelle and her concern to steer her out of innocence. Still, about this latest thing Pushy wasn't sure. It frightened her and she preferred not to think about it. She wasn't sure that she'd even understood Michelle correctly.
'It's in your blood,' Michelle said, 'hormones and that. They get to boiling and then you've got to let the heat out. Once your blood gets the heat out, then you'll be all right. Married women don't get pimples, see?'
Pushy tried to test this theory on the street, but she had no way of knowing who was married and who wasn't. She looked from their ring fingers to their faces. She thought of all the teachers who weren't married and she pointed out to Michelle that none of them had acne. 'Them teachers,' Michelle said, 'the amount of heat they let out they ought to have cold sores instead.' Pushy dropped the subject but she wanted to know if Michelle was serious. When they were walking in the park at break she brought it round to pimples again.
'You should try it,' Michelle said. 'After all if you've used Tampax, you know the job's already done so I don't know what all the fuss is about. Look at me, I don't have any pimples. I reckon most of the girls in our year have had it, at least once. Except Annette and she's a weed*.'
Pushy thought of Annette. She was a plump girl in their form and she was the only white girl who had a faint trace of spots on her face. She and Annette, they were marked, she thought. Everyone knew.
Pushy knew that Michelle had done all sorts of things. She always told Pushy about what her boyfriend and she had done the previous evening, and how he'd wanted it and how she hadn't been in the mood.
Source: East End At Your Feet, Macmillan Educational Ltd. 1977, pp. 35/36
* weed - weak person
1. Why is it that Pushy feels attracted by Michelle?
2. Michelle obviously pretends to know much about the 'facts of life'. Would you listen to her?
3. How does the author manage to maintain suspense throughout the story?
4. From what you have heard or read about Indian girls and women living in Britain, what is their biggest problem?