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.”


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 35

I never imagined that he’d recognise me. Running away would have been to obvious, so my plan was to keep walking and completely ignore him. Just another face on the street.

He was still walking towards me. I put my head down and kept going. One foot then another foot. I was determined not to look up as we passed each other. It would all be over in a few seconds.

We were directly in front of each other. I was concentrating on my feet.

He stopped. “Hey!” he exclaimed. “I know you don’t I?”

The sensible thing would have been to assume he was talking to someone else and keep walking. But of course I didn’t. I stopped walking and looked up. It was definitely him. He wasn’t good-looking, but he’d had this charm that the cool kids had adored, and he’d always been great at sports, so he he’d been something of a hero at my school for those who appreciated that kinds of talent. He’d never been super clever, and he had never been the model student, but he’d been popular, which is what had counted in the minds of most of the kids.

“Elena, right?”

I nodded mutely.

“I thought it was you,” he leered. “The little girl with the big,” he paused, “future.”

I hadn’t heard that phrase for years. It was something Mick and his cronies had heard one of the tradesmen say about me and had found it so amusing they’d made the saying their own.

I was mortified. Of all the things he could have said, he chose something that was only ever going to bring all of the torment that he and his mates had inflicted on me flooding back. I felt sick.

I stared dumbly. I hadn’t said anything. It wasn’t too late to acknowledge him with the briefest of nods and keep walking.

But I didn’t.

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.