Friday, June 17, 2005

What every woman wants

I don't want to go back to school this afternoon. The thought of walking into that big concrete box with all the screaming and shouting and pushing just makes me feel heavy inside. Why can't I have a choice about whether I go or not? I'd be quite happy sitting at home by myself or waiting until after school to see Jem or Lara.

God, I have to put on the awful shiny red quilted coat that granny got me from a crappy cheap shop. Probably What Every Woman Wants. How funny is that? I hate that I have anything from there. It’s so vulgar and full of awful people. The stitches are already coming apart in places and the nasty white padding is poking out. I don’t know what classy padding looks like, but I bet it’s not like this. I look ridiculous. This makes me want to leave even less.

I walk from the house as slowly as I can, just to prolong my time alone. It's a quiet street we live in. There aren't a lot of other kids, mostly old people. It's wide and there are some scabby trees dotted along between the pavement and the road. I haven't got very far at all when I hear someone run up behind me.

"Abbra!" he says.

I look at him. It's Gary from down the road. He's a few years older than me. He's weird looking with sort of Dr Evil eyebrows and big lips and pink cheeks. He's not that much bigger than me, but I've always felt a bit uneasy around him. Like something could happen at any time. I’ve never really known what that something could be, but I knew that I didn’t want it. I don’t like the way he says my name. I’ve never seen him when I’ve been on my own. I’ve always been with mum or my friends. It’s strange that he’s even talking right at me. He’s normally just showing off on his bike or shouting at other kids in general.

"I've got something to tell you."

He pulls roughly on my right shoulder as he says this, which makes me spin round to look at him. He is gross, like a toad or something similarly slimy. The backs of my legs are right up against the crumbling wall of my parents' front garden. It's not very high at all, only reaching the backs of my knees so rather than steadying me, I feel like I'm falling backwards.

You know when you’re getting something like flu and your skin feels all sore and tingly? Well, mine does anyway. That’s how I feel but on the inside. It's all hot and tight and I can feel rushes of cold sweat shivering out over my skin around my middle and I have this annoying sensation of just feeling everything a bit too much. His face comes right in at mine, really quickly.

The worst thing is that I can hear him breathe. I'm still frightened from him running up behind me and haven't said anything yet. I still can’t really work out what he’s doing. His breathing is creepy as anything, he sounds like an animal.

Then he says, "Abbra, I think you're beautiful".

I know that sounds OK, almost nice, but the way he says it, it’s like he hates me and that I disgust him. It has to be the worst thing that anyone had ever said to me. I can hardly get any words out, but I manage a squeaky "Get off me!" He puts his red face right in mine and I suppose he was trying to kiss me, but it was more like him smearing his face against mine.

"Get off me! Get off me!"

My eyes are screwed shut. I think that if I can't see it, maybe I won't feel it. Now I really feel trapped. I can’t believe that there’s no way I can make this stop, rewind fifve minutes and just not leave the house. In trying to avoid his touching me, I’ve leaned so far back that the crumbly little wall is now digging right up into the backs of my knees and my left hand is behind me, sinking into the damp earth of the weed-covered flower bed that the wall strains to hold back.

Why are my parents so poor and embarrassing? Why has our wall been crumbling for years and our garden looking like a mess when everyone else's house was so perfect? Do they want everyone to know that we’re not as good as them? That we are the kind of family that people like him should feel free to terrify? As he keeps pressing against me, my hand sinks in the damp, loose earth. It feels so dirty. I can smell the ground, all clods of filth and full of worms and beasties. The thought of them possibly wiggling between my fingers makes me shudder. I try to make my body as stiff as possible to stop me falling further back, keep my eyes screwed shut and say over and over "get off me".

Then it’s over. I suddenly feel his weight off me and his loud breath is gone. I am still leant back with my right hand wrist-high in the squirming earth. I don’t move while I force my eyelids open to see him running away. Mum's slippers flip flop down the concrete steps from the front door. Now it’s her who’s breathing hard, but her breath is fast and clean. She runs up and looks at me, staring into my face. I don't know what she is looking for. I don't want to cause any more embarrassment by bursting into tears, or worse still, telling her what he actually said and tried to do. All of a sudden I’m so angry at mum because it’s all her fault, all of it! I glare at the ground and say “Why did you have to make me go back to school?”

At this point I suppose I should do something soap-opera like burst into floods of tears and throw my arms around my mum, but I don't. I just stand there. Waiting for something. Like her to apologise. And all the time I’m looking completely special needs in this stupid jacket. Mum keeps asking what happened. I feel like I'm in trouble or something. Can't she see that I don't want to talk about it? That it's making everything worse. How can I tell her what happened without making a complete fool of myself?

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