I always knew I was different but it wasn’t until this day that I realised how different. It started as a perfectly normal day. I got up, had breakfast; lucky gems, you must remember those, just add milk and they become a sticky marshmallow mess that has to be scraped off the spoon. Got dressed, in black of course, you can’t be a Goth unless you are dressed in black. At the time though I didn’t realise that, I was unfortunately a rotund child and had been told black was slimming. Consequently I was wearing as much black as possible from the age of twelve. I later found out that I’d started a whole fashion movement in the younger years at school as they saw me as ‘cool’. I was just trying to keep my head down and get on with life. This day mum comes into my room as I pull out my favourite book and sits on my bed. It was the middle of the summer holidays and I hadn’t ventured out much.
“I’m going to visit a friend,” she said.
“I want you to come along.”
I look at her with a quizzical expression.
“You need to make friends. Since you moved to the big school you seem more isolated.”
I say nothing but what I want to say is that I don’t understand the lessons and writing is difficult; that words moved around the page. I was lost most of the time in class and the other kids knew this, so I’d become the butt of jokes. Lately it had escalated to bullying and I really didn’t know how to handle it. Instead I ask, “who?”
“Maria’s house. Her daughter is Melissa.”
I tried my memory for a Melissa. I didn’t think I knew her, so I nod. Mum brightens and tells me to put some shoes on and come down. Sighing I do.
The car drive is good; I get to pop in my tape and the speakers blast out Adam and the Ants the whole way. I am grinning by the time we get to the house. Mum goes in first and then introduces me to an insipid girl I’ve never seen before. “Rebecca this is Melissa.”
I smile and the girl nods back at me, and then and then gives her mum that look; the one that says ‘but mum, why me?’ Okay either she knows me or she knows some of my tormenters. Either way any happiness has been leached out of me until I feel the loneliness creep back into the hole in my chest. Finally after a hard stare at her mother she motions for me to follow. I do even though a small voice in my head suggests staying with mum. I know she won’t mind but she would be disappointed, and that is just as bad as being told off; I hate to disappoint anyone, so I leave.
“I got a hideout,” she says, throwing her pale blonde hair over a shoulder and pointing at a small shed. Sure enough on the door it says ‘Mel’s Hideout’.
She opens the door and waves me through. I settle on an orange beanbag, happy that the shed is empty. Just I’m about to ask her a question three girls walk in and I slump. It’s bad enough that I am tormented by them during school but it also looks like they are going to make today a living hell as well.
The ring-leader, a red-haired doll-like girl points at me. “What is that doing here?” Why is her voice so high-pitched? I’m certain I can hear dogs barking from across the estate. I smile and she sniffs in my direction. “You smell,” she states and sits as far away from me as possible.
“Mum made me bring her. She’s got something wrong with her and won’t go out.”
I stare into a corner wishing myself somewhere else.
“What is she…” Sally starts to say as she comes in the door. She is fat, yet will stand next to the she-devil and say I am, which I’m not exactly, just chubby. But Sally is most definitely fat with lank brown hair that falls around her shoulders. In short she is ugly inside and out.
“Mel had to bring her. Mother’s orders,” the evil one says.
Behind Sally a girl watches. She won’t say anything but nor will she try to help. She is like a non-entity and the shadow of Sally. I recently heard of a Greek myth that explains the echo you get in the mountains. Turns out this girl loved a guy but he was so beautiful that one day he sat next to a river and saw his own face and couldn’t look away. The girl was so shy that all she could say is the last few words of what he said. He died and she eventually faded so all that was left was her voice repeating the last few lines of whatever anyone said. That is what Pam is like; she is the echo of Sally and hell-spawn. I wonder where Mel is going to fit in. Is she another flunky for them or will she kick Sally out of Ugly’s back pocket?
I’m not sure how it happened but I ended up trapped on my orange beanbag at the far end of the shed when they decided to have a screaming contest. I kid you not. Does anyone do that? Well they did and if the cloven hoofed girl was high-pitched speaking then her scream was painful. At one point I thought I’d burst an eardrum. Then they turned to me.
“Scream,” the evil red-head said.
I just raised an eyebrow.
“She’s retarded and doesn’t understand,” sneered Sally.
“Doesn’t understand,” parroted the echo. Mel just gave me a cold look. Obviously she had decided to be in the popular crowd, and who was I to deny her that step. If I could then I would. Or would I? And this is where I had a revelation. As I looked around the group I realised that I didn’t want to be in this gaggle of girls. I had no wish to know who’s scream was the loudest or best sounding. I wanted to be me. I knew that by not trying I may be assigning myself as their punch bag but I suddenly didn’t care. So there and then I got up and left, mid scream. Mum met me as she wanted to leave, her visit over.
“Did you have fun?” she asked.
“No,” I answered and got in the car, turning up Adam and the Ants.