I wanted everyone to like me, to take me into their groups, invite me home, be my friend, but they didn’t. I learnt to put on a brave face, and act.
So, I hated school. I was extremely bright so it wasn’t the work; it was the kids.
I went to a school where I didn’t fit in and I felt it, from day one. I hated the teasing, being the butt of jokes and worst of all the talking behind hands, whispers and giggles that I could hear as I sat in my seat, watching.
There were a few of ‘alright’ girls at St. John’s Convent but it was difficult for them too. They didn’t want to be seen with the likes of me, the girls who wore second hand uniforms, who couldn’t afford to go to the school camps or excursions, who only came to the school because someone else paid for them. I understood that.
They were bullied too but didn’t realise it. If they disagreed with those in charge, they were also victimised. Once you are in the fold of ‘sisterhood’ it is best to stay there, you won’t be allowed a mind of your own, but you definitely have an easier time at school.
I had a couple of girls to hang out with and that was enough for me. I knew this was just a means to an end.
I would get off my rusty Raleigh bike, chain it up against the back fence and watch the porches and range rovers pulling up outside the front of the school, the posh girls slowly getting out of the front passenger door…” Bye Mummy” (or Daddy depending on who had brought them), “Don’t be late today, I have ballet”.
“Alright darling” Mummy would call back, blowing a kiss and driving off towards the tennis club.
As I put my heavy backpack on, I noticed Julie, one of Linda Morrell’s group. We had been secret friends ever since I found her purse one day and handed it to her. She had wanted to give me something for being honest enough to hand it in but I said ‘No thanks all the same. It isn’t mine, so why would I keep it?”
“Hey Jules” I called out and she turned around. I noticed the sneaky peek she took of the surrounds, just to make sure we were alone, and then spoke to me “Hi Becky. How are you this morning? Did you finish the maths, wasn’t it hard?” she wailed.
“Oh, a bit I guess, but not too bad”, I returned lamely. I never let any of the girls know how easy I found most of the work. If it was passed around then they would want to find me after school and do something awful to me, I was pretty sure of that!
One of Julie’s friends called out to her so she quickly walked off without even a backward glance at me!
There was only one girl who I confided in. She was in the same situation as I was except it wasn’t her grandparents who paid her school fees but a very rich Uncle, who she had only met once!
She told me once that she was unsure of the relationship between her mum and ‘Uncle’ but didn’t care!
Chris rode a bike to school too, although I must say that hers looked a lot newer than mine did, and her bike helmet was modern. I looked as if I should be in the war with what I had to wear on my head!
Chris had to work really hard to make good grades, but she knew that if she failed in anything she would be letting her Uncle down.
I had never met my grandparents! My mother was a teenager when she had me, and even though her parents had been angry with her ‘for throwing away her life’, they still thought their one and only grandchild should have the opportunity to go to a good school .I guess my grandparents loved their only child enough to want to help her.
Anyway, here I was at a very good school, wearing a ‘hand me down’ uniform, a limited lunch option each day, feeling that I didn’t belong!
I knew that one day it would be different, that I would have a great job, earn a lot of money and be confident enough to tell most of the girls here just how I felt with the way they treated me.
I never told my Mum much of what went on at school. I would just tell her what she would like to hear when she asked about the girls in my classes. “They’re all quite nice” I would tell her, and then add a bit about the girls I actually did like - she had a very short attention span for what I was saying anyway, it was enough to satisfy her!
I couldn’t tell her about the verbal bullying. I didn’t want her coming up to the school and making matters worse. It wasn’t every day, but usually when you weren’t expecting it - when you let your guard down and relaxed a little thinking they had perhaps found a heart, or realised how awful they were…..along they would come ridiculing and poking fun.
“Ever thought about waxing your legs you monkey?” One of them called out, and I would have, in the early days when I was immature and gullible, “Oh I do shave them but I’ve run out of razors”. These days I just say “You should see my backside – it’s a forest!”
“Weirdo” was the retort, to which all the followers laughed in unison.
The girl I hated the most was Linda Morrell.
She had a nasty streak that ran through her, like a line of black mould through a piece of cheese, and her dislike for me was very obvious. From the first day of school, she had decided that I wasn’t good enough to be here. There were others too that she thought didn’t fit in and made their lives miserable at times too. I wouldn’t back down from her, not on the outside anyway, which didn’t help my cause!
I used to question why the meanest girls are usually the prettiest in the class. Linda being no exception, was tall and slender, her dark hair so shiny it glistened even out of the sunlight. She wore it up in a very high ponytail and it still reached down past her shoulder blades. Her eyes, the colour of the sky on a summer’s day were piercing and framed with long dark lashes. She would look at me from head to toe, her lashes sweeping up and down like brushes, and pull a face that said ‘you shouldn’t be at this school’ and walk off.
Her followers would traipse around with her, not daring to think, let alone ask “Why don’t you like Becky?
I hadn’t been in all of her classes, but the ones I was in, she made sure I didn’t look forward to. I thought that perhaps one of the reasons for her dislike of me was because I always pipped her in our tests and exams. She would brush past me after we have been handed our papers back and hiss “You’re nothing but a cheat. A poor, out of your league cheat. Don’t you worry, you won’t be getting the award at the end of the year. I’ll see to that!”
I sort of got used to Linda Morell and the others and probably as the school years passed by it got a bit easier. I was always grateful that I had obviously got my father’s height (whoever he was!) and not my mother’s. She was and only about five foot tall and I was well over five foot six. And even though I wasn’t an exercise junkie like a lot of the girls I had a strong and muscular build.
When we had team sports, of course I ended up with more of the ‘non sporty’ types, but it didn’t worry me. I could see Linda Morrell was happy captaining the winning team, always, and even when she yelled out to us “Bad luck losers” we just laughed.
I sat with Chris most lunchtimes, and we chatted aimlessly. “Have you got a dress for the school dance yet?” she asked me while eating our sandwiches.
“I have actually” I replied. “It’s from an op shop but hardly worn. Mum just had to take it up a bit. I really like it. What about you?”
“Yeah, one of my cousins. She wore it last year to her school dance, but she doesn’t live anywhere near here, so no one’s seen it. I’ve got to get some shoes as her feet are bigger than mine - mum wants me to borrow my cousins and wear inserts!”
“Oh who cares anyway” I told her, meaning it. “It’s just a dance and it’ll be our last one at this school”.
“Hallelujah” was Chris’s response.
“Do you ever wish one day you would open up a sandwich and it was full of chicken and not cheese?”
“Every day” I told her, and we laughed.
I didn’t have a partner to take to the dance – there were only a few who would bring partners. Handsome, smartly dressed boys from ‘the best schools’ - testosterone seeping from every pore, eyes watching every girl in the hall, and mouth uttering ridiculous things just to make themselves look big.
Of course, Linda Morrell brought her boyfriend. His hair was nearly as shiny as hers but his eyes, unlike hers were dark brown, chocolate buttons, his skin lightly tanned and looking as if he had just come back from sunning himself on holidays. His white teeth were bright and pearly. What a sparkly couple they were.
Linda looked fabulous as I knew she would and had her arm through her boyfriend’s, making sure no one snatched him from under her nose.
Looking around the room she caught sight of me, whispered something to Mr Sparkle and they both laughed out loud. Then it seemed as if a game of Chinese whispers had begun, soon the whole of the popular group was laughing….at me!
“I hope you’re not worrying about what that lot of morons are laughing at?” said Chris.
“No, I am not!” I told her. “But I would love to know what they said”.
“Oh, who cares, come on, lets get on to the dance floor, the band is about to begin”.
I was having a great time with my friends. We were laughing so much that at one stage I had to race off to the loo, mid joke! I would look over at the other groups of girls every now and then, and the uneasy feeling, of ‘not belonging’ would creep into my head, but with a silent ‘bugger off’ it would leave.
Walking back from the ladies’ room, out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of a very blingy dress coming towards me. I knew who it was before I had turned around fully. ‘I bet she hadn’t come over to be nice’ I thought to myself.
“Where did you get your dress from?” she asked me, smirking and looking around at her entourage, encouraging them to do the same.
“Why do you want to know?” I replied, ready to retaliate.
“No reason really, it’s just that my Aunt used to have some curtains in the same material” and began laughing loudly.
“Really” I replied “That’s funny because my Aunt had a toilet seat cover in your dress material”…
Linda Morell looked like she was ready to explode and when a couple of ‘her’ girls laughed at my retort she said to them through clenched teeth “Do you want to stay here with HER or come with me? Your choice!”
They didn’t have to answer her – they knew that if they didn’t go back over to their side of the hall their lives would be living hell.
“What a piece of goods that one is” I said to Chris “I think I’m ready to go home now – you walking with me?”
It had been a good night except for the couple of times ‘she’ had popped the ‘fun bubble’. ‘Oh well never mind’ I thought ‘it’s not for much longer’.
The months came and went. It was now nearing the end of the year and I would sit at my bedroom window studying. The tree outside provided a break from looking at books, and I would watch the crispy brown and orange leaves gently twirl down to the ground below leaving the branches stark and bare, quite often a much needed distraction.
The last few months weren’t any easier at school. Linda Morrell seemed nastier than ever, and I think the ‘end of year’ awards weighed heavily on her mind.
She came up to me one afternoon after school had finished, as I was getting onto my trusty steed. “If you think you can come to this school, where you don’t belong by the way, and take out the year 12 award, which you don’t deserve by the way, then you are mistaken!” she told me pointing her manicured finger at me.
I had taken enough rubbish from her and she wasn’t the only one stressed and on edge at this time of year!
“Linda, I don’t know who will get the award – it might not be either of us…and to be honest I couldn’t care less who gets it. I will have gotten a great education, in a school where you think I have never belonged, hopefully get fantastic grades, which by the way you don’t think I deserve. I will go to university, get a wonderful job somewhere, and even though you have made my life hell at times over the last five years, I can pat myself on the back….I made it! So be a love, get stuffed and run along!”
She didn’t know what to say. Her three friends just stood very still. She simply turned around, with a face like thunder and walked away.
Neither of us got the award! It was Chris who topped the exam scores and I was delighted for her. I was even more delighted when I saw that I had beaten Linda Morrell in our final year exams!
I didn’t go away for the end of year fun and shenanigans. Who could afford that?? I had a dinner with Chris and a couple of other girls and that was enough for me. I thought I would be ecstatic that I was leaving high school, but I was both happy and sad.
When we all said our ‘goodbye’s’ on the final day I took a deep breath and walked up to Linda Morrell. I didn’t like her but held out my hand and said “take care Linda and see you later”.
I could actually have slapped her when her reply was “well we definitely won’t be at the same university – I’m going to Saint George University and that’s a bit out of your league” with that horrible smirk on her face.
I moved overseas, thanks to the generosity, once again of my grandparents. They had given my mother money for me to attend university on the proviso that I also have a part time job.
I would miss my Mum and I knew she would miss the company but she promised to visit me regularly and I promised that I would save hard and pay for her first visit.
I went to university (Not Saint George’s!) and at the same time worked in a café.
I secured a fabulous job in IT after completing my four year degree, and I paid for my mother to visit once a year. Life was good.
After about nine years I decided to come back home and be close to mum as she aged. I could easily get a good job in the nearest major town. I hadn’t kept in touch with anyone on leaving school and home, but looked forward to seeing who was still in the area.
I knew in my heart that I would not be intimidated by any of the girls from high school. That was a long time ago now and everything had changed, I had changed.
I knew though that when I came home, if I happened to bump into Linda Morrell, I would want to sit down with her and tell her just how it felt to be bullied and ridiculed at school. ‘She how she likes that’ I thought.
I had been back for a couple of weeks when I bumped into my high school friend Chris, literally.
I was stepping onto a bus with some parcels and a girl was getting on at the same time. One of my bags got caught on her handbag and as we went to untangle it, we realised who each other was.
“Becky” she screamed and hugged me tightly. I felt like crying tears of joy!
There was so much to catch up on! We hardly drew a breath the whole journey. Just before my stop I turned to Chris and asked “What about cow face?”
“Who?” she asked puzzled.
“Oh Becky, you mustn’t know” …
“What, quickly tell me Becky”.
“Linda had a brain aneurism a week before she was due to start Uni…Saint George’s”
“Yes, I knew Saint George’s…. Was she ok?” I asked for some reason wanting the answer to be yes.
“No, she died before they got to the hospital.”
I couldn’t speak. For some reason I felt an overwhelming sadness and tears began to well up in my eyes. As I stepped off the bus I looked back and said to my friend “I have your number now. I’ll ring”. Then I sat on the bus stop seat and cried.