Day 39

I felt sick. How dare he dismiss me like that.

“Don’t call me darling,” I said through gritted teeth.

He laughed.

“Oh so it’s funny is it?” I was furious. “Listen you moron. The fact that you can’t see what you did was wrong, even now, is the problem. I know all about letting go Mick. I made my peace with this years ago. I’m not going to let the way you and your dickhead mate humiliated me mess up my whole life. It took me a long time. I was only 12 years old, I was shy, I looked different and I was awkward because of it – and you took advantage of that and tormented me about it right at the time I needed support and encouragement. I spent years trying to build my confidence in myself after that. All I saw was a short fat girl who no one liked and everyone laughed at. Can you imagine what it must have felt like to be that girl and to see her in the mirror every day? To try and find something to hold onto in there to make me believe that I was ok and that what other people saw wasn’t who I was?”

He obviously couldn’t.

“No one told me I was okay. Not once. Not ever. Other people, people that were supposed to be leaders, they saw and they heard and they said nothing. They didn’t stop you, they didn’t support me. No one wanted to know. They just kept on walking. You know what they say, the standard you walk past is the standard you accept? So the standard for the whole school was that it was okay to pick on people who were different. That was the culture. So other kids saw this and they didn’t say anything either. One of the girls in my grade – I saw her at a school reunion a couple of years ago – she said that no one thought I was upset. They all thought I liked it. Everyone thought I liked being teased for having big boobs, for being picked on because I was awkward and for being made to feel like a complete loser. Even you did. You just said so yourself.”

“No one saw me cry myself to sleep. No one read what I wrote in my diary about how much I hated it there, how noone liked me and how I hated every single person. How no one stood up for me. I was alone and lonely.”

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Day 38

“What!” I couldn’t believe what I’d just heard. “You really think that?”

“Yeah, course you did,” he grinned. “You fucking loved it. You laughed as much as we did. You kept coming back for more. You never complained. You were a great sport Elena. More kids should be like you. Have a bit of fun now and then.”

“You have got to be kidding me!” I was stunned. I wasn’t sure how to respond to this. They really thought it was harmless fun.

“No I didn’t fucking love being tormented by a bunch of older guys who thought that everyone was their play thing and they could treat people how they like. Do you know how much I hated that place because of you? How much more self conscious I became because of the way you singled out every little thing about me that I was already insecure about? How many nights I went to bed in tears because all I wanted was for people to like me?” I was really angry now. 

“You say I kept coming back. Sure I did, I kept hoping that one day something would change and people would see I was a good person and would be nice to me. I wanted people to like me. I wanted to have some friends. But you guys treated me like dirt, everyone else followed you, because that’s what kids do, and no one wanted to be friends with me. I hated high school because of you and your mates. And now I find out you’re a school principal! That is so fucked up it’s not funny.”

“What happens to nervous overweight redhead grade 7s at your school Mick? Are they accepted into your community or are they allowed to be target practice for the cool guys in grade 10? Do any of them speak up? Does anyone listen to them if they do?”

“Hey, chill out sister,” he scoffed. “You’re way overreacting here. You really think that a few kids saying stuff about your boobs turned the whole school against you? Ruined your life? You look fine to me now. You have a big chip on your shoulder baby.”

I wanted to scream and smash my fist into his face. How dare he dismiss his treatment of me in the past because I “looked” fine now. I gritted my teeth.

“Listen you fucking bozo,” I replied, as calmly as possible. “If you said the stuff you said to me back then in a workplace, I would report you for sexual harassment, and I would have a case. You know that. So why would you think that because we were kids it’s ok to have said those things. It wasn’t then and it isn’t now. You were older than me. You were supposed to be setting an good example for other kids, not bullying and teasing them. Can you seriously not see that?”

“Take a chill pill mate,” he said. “Sexual harassment? Really? It was a bit of harmless schoolyard teasing. That’s all. And if you’re still hanging onto that 20 years later, maybe you need to let it go and move on. Do you think I thought about you one little bit after I left school? Not once. You were nothing to me, but it sounds like you’ve made me into this monster that’s been haunting you ever since. Let it go darling.”

Day 37

He laughed as it if was something that happened every day. “Yeah, pretty good, hey”.

“Great.” I did my best to sound unconvinced. “You’ve come a long way.”

“I sure have. Who’d have thought at school that I’d end up back in a school, in charge of it?”

‘It’s not where I thought you’d end up,” I replied. “I didn’t get the impression from you that working with kids was your thing at all. Especially kids that didn’t fit in.”

“Like you, you mean?” His eyes took on the familiar cruel look that had taunted me relentlessly for years, and he smiled menacingly.

I felt my chest tighten and tears welling in my eyes as I fought to stay calm. Here was my chance to tell him what I thought of what he’d done.

‘Yes Mick. Kids like me. How do you treat them at your school? Do they get picked on and singled out because they’re awkward or short or have red hair and freckles?” I remembered red-haired Christina, who had been a couple of years younger than me and had been another of Mick’s targets in his final year because of her combination of being loud and awkward. “Do you laugh at them because they have boobs or they’re not outgoing?”

“Oh come on Elena,” he said, grinning. “That was all a bit of fun. Kids do that sort of thing all the time. You loved it.”

 

 

Day 36

“Pull yourself together Elena,” I said to myself, crossing my arms over my chest. To Mick I said, “Yeah, right um . . . ” I waited a few seconds as it I was trying to remember his name. He didn’t need to know that I remembered only too well, and that his words and those of his mates had stayed in my head, surfacing to torment me on my worst days. “Mick yeah? How are you?”

“Oh yeah, I’m keeping well,” he said. “What are you doing with yourself these days?”

I didn’t want to tell him I was a writer. I didn’t want to have that battle again, especially with him. So of course the words “I’m a writer” came tumbling out of my mouth.

“How about you?” I added hastily, hoping to steer the conversation back to him.

I needn’t have worried. His only interest in me had ever been in teasing me and making me look small. He wasn’t interested in anything I was doing. that, at least was a relief.

“I’m the Principal of Craneswood School,” he boasted. “Yeah, been there nearly eight years now. Got promoted two years ago. It’s going well.”

I was almost speechless. How did a kid like that, not very bright and a complete arsehole to boot, become principal of any school, let alone a well-respected school like Craneswood?

“Oh. Well, congratulations then,” I replied, feeling sorry for the kids at that school who were slightly different or stood out for something that wasn’t their fault like I had.

Day 34

Today  I’m going to try writing to a prompt, since I have so much trouble coming up with any ideas. Today’s prompt: You run into the person who bullied you at high school.

Mick Clarke was the last person I expected to see walking out of the bank. At first I wasn’t sure it was him – I hadn’t seen him since he’d left our high school, three years before I did. But as I approached him, I realised it really was him. That arrogant look he’d always had that told everyone he was completely sure of himself and that you meant nothing to him could never be mistaken. I cringed inwardly at the sight of him.

Mick Clarke. The boy that had made my first years of high school the worst hell imaginable. And here he was, walking towards me.

I wanted to run away.

I’d not thought about him for years. He’d been the ringleader of a group of boys in his year that delighted on picking on younger kids who were the easy targets. You know the ones: the shy kids, the socially awkward ones, the ones who stood out in a painful way. The kids who weren’t cool, and never would be. They’d been his targets and there was at least one in every grade.

I’d been a victim on several fronts. I was painfully quiet and shy. I was very short and I had grown almost comically large breasts that were completely out of proportion to the rest of me. I was a cartoon caricature waiting to happen. I’d also never had much to do with boys, so in my confused teenage mind, I associated any attention from boys as a sign they liked me.

I’d come to Mick Clarke’s attention very early on. Standing out in the way I did had made it inevitable.

Day 33

She hadn’t revisited Clara. She wasn’t sure what Clara was doing now. She wasn’t sure if she even cared. She wondered if Clara and Ben had got together, which is where the story was leading, but she couldn’t remember if they actually got there before her 50,000 words was up.

“It was a rubbish story anyway,” she told herself. “The only reason you wrote it was to see if you could find a way out of your own situation. A classic example of writing for you, not for your audience.”

She grimaced at the thought of someone else finding the story and reading it. One of the characters had been based on her former boss. That would definitely have been embarrassing for anyone else to see.

If not that, then what?

“I really can’t think of a single thing to write about,” she thought. Then berated herself for using the weasel word “really”.

“That word really has to depart from your vocabulary,” she told herself sternly, and then laughed at the sheer ridiculousness of it all.

“Tell me why you want to write then, if you have nothing to write about.” Her naggy voice was on fire today. “I mean most people write because they have a story they want to tell. You have no story. You have nothing at all. Are you enjoying being the tortured artist? Because it seems to me that’s what you’re turning into.”

“I have no idea why,” she replied.

“Well then my friend, why don’t you go away and think about that for a while? Maybe that will help you get unstuck.”

Day 32

“I’m going to write fiction today,” she says, as if it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. “I haven’t written fiction for ages. This should be fun!”

She sits down, adjusts her keyboard and sips her coffee. Aaah coffee. That restorative, life-giving brew that she simply cannot start her day without.

The screen is blank. The coffee is good. She takes another sip. The words “I don’t know what to write about” resonate around in her head. Seriously. I don’t.

“Well,” she thinks, “this isn’t exactly what I had in mind.”

“Come on!” The voice in her head is having its say now. “Did you really think it would be that way? That you’d just sit down and your computer and the words would come? Who are you kidding? You have no idea what you’re going to write about, do you? You’re wasting your time here, chicky.”

She sighs and takes another sip of coffee. “What am I going to write about?”

She closes her eyes and takes some deep breaths. Two deep breaths to be precise. She hopes that an image will for in her mind. She doesn’t care what it is. Anything that could trigger something to write about.

She remembers the last time she attempted to write fiction. She’d taken part in the annual National Novel Writers Month, commonly known as NaNoWriMo, which is an online event that challenges people to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. It doesn’t have to be perfect. The idea is simply to get the words down. She’d taken part a couple of times. The first time she started developing RSI a couple of weeks in and abandoned the project rather than risk her health. That was her story anyway.

The second time, three years ago, she had stuck to a schedule and had completed 50,000 words of a story that started out being autobiographical, in the sense that the situation she was writing about was based on a situation she was facing, but that ended up with the lead character getting her man, in a story that had very little in the way of plot, conflict (I believe this is now called “complication”) or character development. However, she’d met the requirements of the brief: write the words.

“Why don’t you visit Clara now and see what she’s up to?” suggested the helpful voice in her head. Helpful was the voice that decided she was going to write some fiction without any ideas or plans and assumed she’d just be able to wing it. Helpful was helpful in the same way that the voice that gets you to sign up for a marathon when you have no experience in marathon running is helpful.

She sighed. She couldn’t actually remember where she’d left Clara in November 2014. She vaguely recalled that Clara had reached a point where she wasn’t going to take any shit from anyone any more and had used the words from the song “Let It Go” to inspire her to reclaim her life. She thought that it was supposed to be a metaphor for her own reawakening and reclaiming her own life and that she’d planned to take the lessons from Clara’s story and apply them herself while she felt inspired.

Clearly that hadn’t worked.

She needed a new strategy.