The first chapter of Little Bee is narrated by a girl named Little Bee (not her real name).
The first thing she tells us is, "Most days I wish I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl. Everyone would be pleased to see me coming" (1.1).
Unlike her, coins travel freely and safely. The British pound coin has a picture of Queen Elizabeth II, and it talks like her too. Little Bee learns to talk like the Queen to survive in England.
English is the official language of her home country, Nigeria. But Nigerian English is different, better, she says.
She tells us, "To talk the Queen's English, I had to forget all the tricks of my mother tongue" (1.7). She learns the Queen's English in an immigration detention center in Essex.
She is released from the detention center on a Friday morning in May, along with three other girls.
Little Bee is sixteen. She was fourteen when she arrived in England, and has been in the detention center for the past two years. Because she doesn't have papers proving her age, she's been detained with adults.
She makes herself look unattractive to keep the men from bothering her at night.
Each of the girls leaving the detention center has a clear plastic bag with her belongings inside it.
In Little Bee's bag there's a driver's license and business card belonging to Andrew O'Rourke, a white man she met on the beach in Nigeria.
The girls are confused about what to do, where to go.
Little Bee uses her new English skills to call a taxi. To get a taxi to come to Black Hill Immigration removal center, she has to convince the taxi driver that they aren't immigrants.
Next, she calls Andrew O'Rourke. He seems to think she's an imposter. He's angry, and tells her not to come to his house. She tells him she is going to come anyway.
The four girls – Little Bee, a Jamaican girl named Yevette, a girl they call Sari Girl, and a girl they call "the girl with no name" – go outside to wait for the taxi.