Episode 9 – Bullied at school


It was a few weeks after my sixteenth birthday and the winter sun was smiling on my face as I carefully parked my bike in the racks at the back of the school playground. I wasn’t late for a change and had been feeling better about myself since my birthday. After thinking everyone had forgotten about me, it was nice that they were all home to give me a surprise and for the first time in ages I felt like I belonged there.
I almost smiled to myself as I closed the lock on my chain. I loved this late July weather ― even though the air was still chilly there was a hint that spring was just around the corner. The wattle trees were covered in bright yellow flowers as if they were millions of tiny stars all bursting to shed their light. It was hard feeling sad when everything was so pretty.
I breathed deeply to smell the fresh air and swung my bag onto my shoulder. I was finally strong enough to face a day at school and turned towards the playground.
As I got closer to the school building though, I had to walk past a group of senior girls. They were sitting on a bench and I kept my head down and hoped that they wouldn’t notice me. Even though I was looking at the ground I couldn’t help see their smooth shiny brown legs out of the corner of my eye as they baked in the sun.
I was right alongside them when I heard one of them call out.
‘Hey, check out the freckled freak,’ she said to her friend in a loud voice. I tried to walk a bit quicker to get away from them.
‘Oh my gosh, look at her. They’re all over her face.’
‘Better watch out, Ruth,’ the first one said loudly, ‘Redheads have a fiery temper, you know.’
‘I’d like to see her try. She’s so little as well.’
I had gotten past and was trying not to run.
‘Hey, carrot top,’ one of them yelled after me, ‘Why don’t you come back and talk to us?’
I reached the school building and pushed the door open, but I could still hear them calling out and laughing as I hurried inside.
I half ran to my locker, trying to hide my face by pretending to be in a rush to find my books. A curly lock of hair fell across my face and I brushed it away impatiently. That damned red hair was the cause of all my troubles.


Chorus of cats


We have come so far
Since jobs were found
In the ‘women and girls’
Section of the newspaper.

Where self doubt and sexism
Continue to fuel our fears
About what others are thinking.

Where our former Prime Minister
Was evaluated on what she wore
And not what she said.

Where schoolyard bullies
Now live on social media,
Criticising post baby bodies.

Where the age of a woman
Is more important than
Her strong voice and attitude.

Where a nation can only find
One capable woman
To sit with the men in government.

Where a young woman’s views
On her body and personality
Are formed by others.

Where a creative, intelligent voice
Is not heard because nobody
Can see past her breasts.

We have come so far,
Yet have so far to go.

Episode 8 – Christmas when I was young


When Christmas Eve came I could hardly get to sleep. Mum sent me to bed early but I just lay there trying to hear the sound of Santa’s sleigh on the roof. Every now and then I would sneak out to the lounge room to see if Santa had been yet. ‘Molly! Get back in bed!’ Mum would yell at me.
But being in bed didn’t help. I felt like running around or jumping up and down before I burst. How could anyone sleep when they knew Santa was meant to be coming? After a while, I thought it sounded quieter in the lounge room so I tried to sneak out again, but as soon as my feet touched the floor, Mum was in the doorway. ‘Molly, are you still awake? You need to go to sleep, sweetheart.’
‘I can’t sleep, Mum. I’ve tried really hard, but I just can’t.’
‘All right then, why don’t you come out and lay on the lounge for a bit,’ said Mum.
I hopped out of bed with my pillow and snuggled up on the lounge next to Mum, listening to the television. I don’t know what was on. It was just some boring grownups movie with a man in a grey coat walking in the rain. Every now and then he would start singing something about silver bells.
The next thing I knew I was lying in bed and could see the first rays of morning sun light coming through the window. I lay there for a moment just staring out the window, trying to remember something important, when suddenly I realised what it was and I looked at the end of my bed to see a pillow case full of presents. I jumped up and quickly opened my Santa sack to find out what was inside. First there was a book; I love books but I put it aside to look at later. I reached in again and pulled out a doll in a pretty dress. I bent her legs at the waist and sat her down next to the book. Next was something large and soft, and as I pulled out a princess dress I squealed in delight. ‘Santa did make me a princess!’ I yelled excitedly. The last thing in the sack was a princess crown which I quickly put on my head and bounced up and down on the bed with delight.
I jumped out of bed to see if anyone else was awake yet, but the house was still and quiet so I went back to my bedroom to sit on my bed and look at the book, pretending to read a story to my new doll. ‘Once there was a princess,’ I said, ‘She was the prettiest girl in the whole kingdom with beautiful eyes, but a nasty witch had locked her in a tower.’
Eventually everyone else woke up and the house was soon filled with Christmas carols and the smell of bacon and eggs cooking on the barbecue. I went and sat in the lounge room and looked at the mountain of presents under the Christmas tree, trying to guess which ones were mine and what special surprises were waiting for me inside the colourful wrapping paper that rustled excitingly when I touched it.
While everyone else was having breakfast in the kitchen, I played with my new doll under the Christmas tree. There was a scent of pine needles in the air and when I touched the tree the needles were spiky and a little bit sticky. It made my fingers smell. I showed my doll the sparkly tinsel and pretty fairies and other decorations on the tree while the stereo sang about having a white Christmas.
I lay down on the floor and closed my eyes as I wondered what a white Christmas would look like. There would be a castle covered in snow, high on a mountaintop. I am a tiny thing wearing my princess dress and standing at the bottom of the biggest Christmas tree in the world. My curly red hair is poking out from under my princess tiara as the lights on the Christmas tree sparkle in my eyes and make the decorations shimmer. There are angels and fairies playing amongst the green, red and golden tinsel, laughing and squealing like young children and I want to climb up there so that I can play with them. There are so many presents under the tree that they block my view and I start to climb on top so I can see further and reach the fairy children. I held my new doll tightly in my arms. ‘Molly,’ she called to me. ‘Molly, wake up. It’s time for Christmas.’

Love in four acts


Act I The beginning
He was so cute when we kissed,
Making out on my bed after school
Instead of doing our homework,
His hands wandering timidly,
Aching to be touched,
Understanding each other
In the afternoon sunlight,
As he said he loved me.

With sweet words of love,
He opens my warm and soft lips,
Gently parting to reveal a pearl,
Hidden, waiting and tender.
My quickening breath
Tells him it is the right place,
Swirling around his tongue
Until I cry and push him away.

Later I wanted to make it up to him,
As my virgin lips fulfilled the sacrifice,
Slowly learning and exploring
Until he couldn’t wait
And I ran off to the bathroom.

Act II The end
Lying on my bed in the evening,
Waiting for the phone to ring,
Staring out the window, thinking
About our last conversation,
Little moments that were signposts:
Turning up later and later;
Not returning my calls;
Arguing with my friends;
Little broken promises;
Forgetting to say ‘I love you’.
Slowly growing colder,
More confused and isolated,
Waiting for a phone call
That never comes.

Act III The aftermath
Too tired to get out of bed,
Naked hurt under the sheets,
Memories of desire
Echoing in the silence.
I long to be touched,
To feel a loving hand
Stroke my withered flesh,
Caressing the desperation
From my delicate breasts,
Taking my frozen fingers
And making them dance again
Under the pale moonlight.
But that was yesterday.
Today is quickly fading,
Tomorrow may never come.

Act IV Renewal
Lying on my back in the grass,
Motionless and dreaming,
Leaves stroke my limbs
In the summer breeze,
Soothing and pleasant.
My eyes are closed,
Thoughts remaining silent,
As my naked body
Senses every movement
Of the grass growing
Around my resting feet,
Daisies woven into auburn hair,
An aura spread on the ground,
My skin slowly burning
The colour of the soil,
Red-brown and fertile,
Ready to take the seed
And bring new life,
For I am mother nature.


Molly’s dreams – episode 7


The bell rang at the end of lunchtime detention and I packed my bag and joined the rush in the hallway to get to class. It was maths again. I wished I didn’t have to do maths on my birthday, but I opened my book and tried to listen to the teacher explaining something about algebra until I couldn’t stop my eyes from wandering to the window again and watching the birds standing on the window sill. I wished I could fly away like the birds. I would just float in the air and circle round and round and not have to worry about anything.
I rode my bike home slowly after school that afternoon and stopped in the park for a while. I sat on the swing and read a few pages of my book as I gently swayed back and forth but I didn’t really feel like reading. I wished I felt like I did when it was Christmas when I was young, all warm and exciting.
The first time I can remember Christmas was when I heard my sisters talking about it in the kitchen. Catherine said the year before I had been scared of Santa Claus and cried when we had our photo taken. I didn’t remember that at all but she showed me the photo in the lounge room and there I was on Santa’s lap crying my eyes out. That wasn’t going to happen this year because I was a big girl now.
‘What do you want for Christmas, Molly?’ Catherine asked. There was a tea towel over her shoulder and she was stacking the dishes away.
‘I want to be a princess,’ I replied.
‘Molly, you can’t ask to be a princess for Christmas,’ Samantha said, her hands making soap bubbles that floated in the air; I watched the bubbles drifting until they burst. ‘You get presents for Christmas, like on your birthday.’
‘Even better than that,’ said Catherine, ‘Santa brings you presents in the middle of the night and leaves them at the foot of your bed.’
‘Christmas is so exciting,’ Jasmine added with a big grin. She was waving her arms around with a pink tea towel and started bouncing up and down on her heels. ‘I can’t wait for all those lollys and yummy things to eat on Christmas day.’
‘I can’t wait either,’ I joined in, clapping my hands together and jumping up and down with excitement as well.
Samantha looked at me over her shoulder and said I should settle down or I wouldn’t be able to get to sleep.
Later that week we went Christmas shopping and Mum made us all get dressed up in our best clothes. I was wearing a pretty pink dress with ribbons in my hair and white sandals. It made me feel like something special was about to happen as I twirled around like a ballerina and watched the skirt of my dress float up.
When we got down town, Stephen held my hand as we walked around the shops in the main street. Wide shop awnings and wooden verandahs hung over the footpath to make it nice and cool in the summer heat. The main street was wide and the shops on the other side seemed so far away. Most of the shop windows were filled with Christmas decorations and the street was busy with cars driving up and down as they looked for somewhere to park. Every now and then a noisy truck went past and filled the air with dirty smoke that made me cough.
There were so many people walking around that I felt like I was going to get swallowed up by giants; all I could see were legs. I watched all the different shoes walking past and wondered what sorts of people were at the top of them. A pair of old lady’s shoes walked past; they were black and stiff and in a hurry. A group of white tennis shoes with long girls’ legs and little white socks went the other way with giggling voices. Some old brown boots with mud still clinging to them stepped aside as we walked along. We stopped and I heard a deep voice. ‘Good morning, Mrs White,’ the voice said, then my mother’s voice replied and I heard her talking about the weather and Christmas and some other things until I saw some pretty pink shoes that went ‘click click click’. I wondered what it would be like to walk in pretty shoes with such high heels, so I practiced by standing on my tippy toes until my feet started to get sore. Across the street I could see somebody wearing sandals just like mine. A girl with brown hair was walking with her mother and she waved when she saw I was watching her. I quickly looked away and hid behind Mum’s legs. When I looked back the girl was gone.
I tapped my feet as we started walking again. My sandals made a nice loud sound on the footpath. I tried skipping and that made an even better sound with a nice rhythm. Sometimes we stopped and the girls held skirts up against their waists before putting them back and moving on. Sometimes I had to stand there for ages while Mum and the girls flicked through every blouse on a rack. That is when my legs began to really ache. I tried to imitate the girls and held a dress out to feel the soft material before putting it back and flicking my hair over my shoulder. I got bored with that pretty soon though and started singing songs in my head. I stood in front of a shop window and watched my reflection pulling funny faces as I sang.
Whenever a pram went by I tried to have a look inside to see the baby. I wondered what it would be like to have a younger brother or sister to play with. I would try and be really nice to them all the time like Stephen was to me. Sometimes the babies looked back at me and smiled because they knew what I was thinking.
We walked on and on all morning until my legs got so tired I could hardly stand and my feet were hurting from the sandals. It was getting hot as well, even though we were still on the shady side of the street.
‘I want to sit down,’ I started to whine.
‘Hush, Molly,’ said Mum, ‘We’ll stop for some morning tea soon, just hang on for a bit longer.’
‘But I want to sit down now!’ I was starting to sniffle.
‘Don’t worry Molly, I’ll give you a piggy back ride,’ said Stephen, crouching down so I could climb on his back. Suddenly I was one of the giants.
As we continued walking I could hear Christmas carols coming out of the shops. ‘Jingle bells, jingle bells,’ I started singing. ‘Jingle bells, jingle bells,’ over and over again as I kicked my legs.
‘The next bit is “jingle bells all the way,”’ said Stephen.
‘Jingle bells all the way, jingle bells all the way,’ I sang. Stephen held onto my legs tight to stop them from kicking, so I rocked my head from side to side in time with my song.
Eventually we stopped walking and sat down in a café that was nice and cool. Mum bought me a chocolate milk shake and a donut and I sat there watching the bubbles in my drink and listening to the girls talking about shopping for shoes. This didn’t seem like a very fun part of Christmas to me at all, but we were going to see Santa Claus next so that was exciting.
I finished my milkshake and lined up behind all these other children waiting to see Santa. Through the crowd I could see a little bit of red suit and his white beard and I could hardly stand still.
Stephen was still holding my hand and it was finally my turn. But suddenly I didn’t want to do it. He looked so big and red and scary that I started to cry. ‘Come on,’ said Stephen, ‘You’ll be right Molly’. I tried to stop crying and be brave but I couldn’t help it.
Mum picked me up and handed me to Santa. Suddenly I was on his lap with a big white glove around my waist. ‘So what do you want for Christmas, little girl?’ he asked in a big booming voice. I couldn’t answer or think of anything to say, my voice had disappeared. I just wanted to get away from Santa and back to Mum where it was safe.
‘She’s just a little shy, Santa,’ said Mum.
‘Ho ho ho,’ he replied, ‘Why not have a lolly from my sack then?’ I timidly reached into the bag and pulled out a red lollipop.
‘You should say “thankyou”, Molly,’ said Mum.
‘Thankyou,’ I said in the quietest voice ever. I don’t think Santa could hear. Then I was off his lap and back in Mum’s arms and we were walking away.
‘Mum!’ I said, ‘I forgot to tell Santa I want to be a princess!’

This is love


I remember now
Your fresh eyes,
Watching the world,
Sweet mouth around
My ripe breasts,
Tiny fists clutching
A loving finger.
Pain now dimmed
By emotion’s wave,
From that moment
I was delivered
Your wrinkled body,
An agonising wait
For that first
Breath of air
Outside my womb,
Where you lay
All those months,
Changing my body,
Expanding my mind,
While we decorated
Your waiting nursery,
With seeds sown
By lover’s passion.

Molly’s dreams – episode 6


On the weekend my brother pushed me around the backyard in his billy cart. Stephen was fourteen years old while I was only four, but he let me play with him without getting annoyed like the big girls did. None of his friends from school lived near us so he was happy to drag me around all day like a teddy bear. He was very gentle and kept an eye on me to make sure I came to no harm. That didn’t stop him from tickling me though, sometimes pinning me to the ground and making me laugh until I cried. Then Mum came out and yelled at him to leave me alone.
‘Aw Mum, we’re just having fun,’ he yelled back.
‘Just leave Molly alone, she’s only a baby you know.’ But I wasn’t a baby; I wanted to do all the things the big kids did.
‘Hey Molly, let’s climb the mulberry tree,’ Stephen said as he slung me over his shoulder and marched down the yard. ‘See if you can reach the branch.’ He laughed and put me down on the ground. ‘Molly, you’re so small! You just sit there and watch me climb.’ Then up he went like a monkey, swinging his legs over and reaching for the higher branches. I sat at the bottom and watched him climbing away up into the sky. It looked like the tree was going to fall over as the clouds moved past so fast. I started picking flowers out of the grass; making little bunches of daisies in my lap and getting dirt on my dress.
‘Here, catch this Molly,’ Stephen yelled down at me. I screamed as something fell from the tree and landed in my hair.
‘What is it? Get if off, get if off!’ I cried.
‘Oh don’t be such a baby. It’s only a cicada shell.’ Stephen climbed down and rescued the cicada from my hair and gave me a hug. He smelled like leaves and bark. ‘Have some mulberries instead,’ he said, trying to make me happy again. I was still whimpering, but took one of the mulberries and put it in my mouth, squealing as the purple juice exploded on my tongue. I had some more and juice ran down my chin and dripped onto my dress.
Then we were in Africa and Stephen was an elephant. ‘Climb on my back Molly, let’s go for a ride,’ he said and lumbered through the jungle down the side of the house. I was the queen of the jungle, swaying from side to side and hanging on tight. There were lots of elephant’s ears and tree ferns and I was a bit worried about spiders, but suddenly we were in a desert and I was riding on a camel, searching for a lost water hole in the sand and finding it at the garden tap.
‘Camels can last for weeks without water,’ Stephen explained, ‘But you had better have a drink Molly, because people need water all the time.’ He turned the tap on as I climbed off my camel and we took turns drinking from the hose, splashing water all over our faces and giggling as my dress got wet and a little bit muddy. We stood in the shade of the mango tree and the afternoon breeze blew cool against my wet legs.
Later we found ourselves on a deserted island, lying on the beach and wriggling our toes in the sand under the shining sun. ‘You know Molly, when I grow up I want to join the army,’ Stephen said with his hands behind his head. He already seemed grown up to me and I liked things just the way they were when there was still so much unexplored backyard.
‘I don’t want you getting shot,’ I replied, suddenly scared at the thought of him going away. I sat up and looked at his face to see if he was joking.
‘I won’t get shot,’ he said, ‘I’ll be too good for that. I’ll be a commando and sneak through the jungle so nobody knows I’m there.’ His voice had turned husky, as though he was stalking an unseen enemy.
‘You could be a bus driver,’ I said helpfully.
‘Nah, who would want to be a bus driver?’ he replied scornfully.
I watched twists of cloud drift high in the sky and slowly change shape. A dark cloud floated across the sun and threw a shadow over my face as we fell silent. I closed my eyes and could hear Stephen breathing.
After a while I got bored and sat up again and asked him about school. ‘What’s it like at school?’ I was looking forward to going to school next year but it worried me a bit.
‘Some of it is fun Molly, but other bits are just boring. I like lunchtime the best because we get to play outside. There are all sorts of games going on; most of the boys play Red Rover or British Bulldog, but you won’t be able to do that because you’re just a girl. There’s also this little hill that you can roll down and that’s a lot of fun!’
I sat with my legs crossed and watched his face and the way his expressions changed as he talked. It was the playground part of school that was really worrying me. I didn’t like the idea of all those rough boys running around. ‘At least I can play with you at lunch time, can’t I?’
‘Oh no, Molly,’ Stephen laughed, ‘You’ll be in the infants and I’m in high school, so we won’t even see each other during the day.’
We fell quiet again and I looked down at my knees. They were all bony and dirty as they stuck out from under my dress. I broke up little bits of twig that were lying around on the ground and tried to balance them on my knees. If I kept really still they stayed where they were, but if I moved they fell off and I had to start all over again. Stephen was still lying on his back with his eyes closed and we stayed like that until it started to get dark and then we headed inside.
‘Where have you two been?’ called Mum from the kitchen as we walked through the back door. The screen door slammed shut behind us.
‘Just playing,’ Stephen replied as he got a biscuit out of the tin.
‘Oh Molly!’ said Mum with a frown, ‘Look at how dirty your dress is! Those mulberry stains will never come out, you naughty girl. Off to the bath with you before dinner.’

One more cup of coffee


I have often wondered what would happen
If we were ever to meet again.
In my dream it happens in a coffee shop;
I am sitting alone, waiting for a friend.

When he walks in, clearly looking for someone,
My heart flutters as I see him turn my way,
So I start to smile and raise my hand,
But his eyes look straight past me.

I begin to shrink with embarrassment,
Looking for some place to hide,
Getting smaller and smaller every second,
Until I disappear behind my coffee cup.

In a tiny voice I tell myself I am over him,
I tell myself this every day, less convincingly.
Why should he make my heart shudder,
After all the pain and unanswered questions?

From behind the handle of my coffee cup
I watch them kiss as the room spins and I faint.
When my friend finally arrives she finds me
Lying in a teaspoon, needing to be rescued again.

Molly’s dreams – episode 5


The clock on the classroom wall was ticking so slowly that I thought detention would never end. I tried to write about Stephen in my journal, but each time the pen in my hand shook and the words just stopped. Instead, I wrote about the book ‘My Friend Flicka’. I had started reading it when I was eleven years old and became completely absorbed in it and the other two books in the series. I still remember the way I felt when I read about Ken sitting on a horse, high on a hill and greeting the sunrise with a sense of freedom. It was just the way I felt when I was on my bike. Every page I turned drew me deeper and deeper into the story until I was living on the pages with Ken. At night when I lay in bed with my book I would get lost in the hills of Wyoming to escape the sadness wrapped around me.
As that year had progressed and autumn became winter, the bitterly cold days kept me inside, safe and warm in my bedroom where I could devour every word of my books while the wind blew outside. Life was hollow and empty, constantly changing under grey clouds as I was caught up in my thoughts, seeing nothing of the real world. During the day I would struggle through school, unsettled and uncertain, writing stories in my head, longing for the evenings and weekends when I could get back to those wild hills.
That year had gone by slowly until the sun eventually came peeking out from behind the clouds, getting stronger every day until it finally shone brightly on me as I lay in the long grass with the smell of spring in the air filling my lungs. By the time those first hints of spring came, I had reached the final page of the last book in the series. Closing my eyes and turning my face towards the warm sun, I felt like I was ready to be more adventurous and face the real world on my own terms.
But that seemed years ago now. Here I was on my sixteenth birthday sitting through lunchtime detention and still hiding from the outside world. I looked at the list I had made of all the books I wanted to read and wished I could get them for my birthday, but I had never told Mum about it so how would she know?
I picked up my pen and started writing again.

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