The first time I see her, she’s standing alone behind the library, looking at the ground. Faded blue dress, scruffy leather jacket, long lace-up boots and black-rimmed glasses. But what really makes me stop and stare is the hat: a weird old leather thing that hangs down over her ears, with big thick goggles strapped to the front.
Turns out she’s in my English class. She sits right next to me, still wearing the jacket and goggles and hat. She smells like a thrift store.
“Weirdo,” says Michael Carmichael.
“Freak,” says Amanda Anderson.
She ignores the laughter, reaching into her bag for a notebook and pencil. She bends low so no-one could see what she’s writing.
Later, when Mrs Hendricks is dealing with an outbreak of giggles at the front of the class, I lean over and whisper: “What’s with the hat?”
She glances at me with a tiny frown then turns back to her notebook. Her eyebrows are the colour of cheese.
“Not a hat,” she says without looking up. “Helmet. Flying helmet.”
“Huh,” I say. “So what are you—a pilot?”
And then she raises her eyes and smiles straight at me, kind of sly.
“Steam Girl,” she says.
“What’s Steam Girl?”
Then Mrs Hendricks starts shouting and the whole class shuts up.