Molly #24

The next morning at breakfast, my sisters were talking about how we were going to be moving to a different town. I didn’t understand what they meant at first, and then Samantha said we would be going hundreds of kilometres away to a town in the south western part of the state.

All I could think about was Stephanie and how I would get to see her if we were going to be so far away. I felt numb at the thought of leaving her behind and missing all those things that were comfortable and familiar.

At school that day I told Stephanie that I was meant to be moving away.

“You’re kidding me aren’t you Molly?”

“No,” I said sadly, “It’s true. We go at the end of the month.”

“What about all our plans? Who am I going to sit with at lunchtime?”

“I’m sorry, Steph. I don’t want to go.”

We hugged each other and moped around the playground until every day started to be full of last things – the last game of soccer; the last time I went to Stephanie’s house; the last day of school.

As the time drew closer, I had to start to pack all of my things, feeling sad as each toy or book disappeared into the bottom of the box. I wrote my name on top in big letters using a marking pen so that it wouldn’t get lost when the men came to take it away in a truck.

On the morning we were leaving I woke up very early, before anyone else was awake. The house was quiet and I walked slowly around looking in each empty room, trying to soak as much of it into my memory as I could so I would never forget. I went outside and sat down under the mulberry tree, looking up into the branches and thinking about all the fun times I had played with Stephen there.

I closed my eyes to hold the tears in and then must have fallen asleep because I woke up hearing my name being called from the house.

“Molly,” called Mum. “Molly, where are you?” The men with the truck had come back to take the last of our furniture. I looked up in time to see my bed disappearing into the back of the truck. I sat there with tears in my eyes when Mum came along and picked me up. I felt really heavy and sad.

“Oh Molly, there you are. What are you doing out here, sweetheart?”

“Mum, do we have to go? I want to stay here forever.”

“Come on Molly. This is just something we have to do as part of growing up. It will help you grow into a big strong girl.” Mum kissed my head softly.

“But I don’t want to grow up.”

I pressed my face against her shoulder and cried as she carried me back to the house. I was still sniffling when I climbed into the car and Dad drove out of the driveway. As I looked back through the window and watched the house disappear, I could see Stephanie standing on the corner waving goodbye.


Molly #23

Stephanie and I walked out of the pavilion and into a world of rides, clowns and show bags. With all the excitement and noise spinning around me I soon forgot to be sad and we lined up for a ride on the dodgem cars. Mum bought some tickets and Stephanie and I climbed into the same car. She steered because she was bigger than me and I couldn’t reach the pedals or steering wheel. The bell rang and we were soon off, whizzing around and around, sometimes bumping into other cars and swerving all over the place. We were laughing our heads off the whole time and I was quite breathless by the end.

My head was still spinning after I got out of the dodgem car and Mum had bought some fairy floss for Stephanie and me. As we walked along holding hands and eating our fairy floss I told Stephanie that I had never had so much fun in my life. We swore we would be best friends forever and I felt my eyes sparkling with joy. We gave each other a big hug and I thought how amazing it was that I felt so perfect and happy when I was with Stephanie.

I was really tired by the end of the day, but I was floating with happiness as I sat in the car. I kept watching the showground through the back window of the car as we drove away and I could see the tops of the ferris wheel and some of the rides poking above the trees. There was still some fairy floss left on my stick and I licked it with my tongue, giggling at the way its sugary spider webs dissolved in my mouth. When I closed my eyes, I could picture the clown’s heads with their wide open mouths turning from side to side in the middle of all that noise and dust.

That night at dinner, the girls were still talking excitedly about the show.

“Did you see how cute the lambs were?”

“I didn’t go anywhere near the animals,” said Samantha. “It was too dusty and smelly in there.”

“Oh, but they were so cute, and the smell wasn’t that bad,” said Jasmine.

“What about the trick riders?” Catherine said, “They were fantastic. There was this one guy that leaned right down off his horse and picked a girl up from the ground and then she climbed on his shoulders as they rode.”

“Yeah, I saw that. They were so amazing.”

“I’ll tell you what was amazing was the rides. Did you go on the zipper?”

“No way! It made me feel sick just looking at it.”

“I nearly was!” said Samantha as she swallowed a mouthful of peas.  “It looked tame but as soon as I climbed in the cage it took off, and then I was upside down and suddenly spinning around. My legs were all wobbly when I got off.”

“Aw yuck!”

There was no way I would have gotten on a ride like that. I thought about how much fun I’d had with Stephanie on the dodgem cars and smiled to myself.

“Well it’s a good thing you all had fun,” said Dad, “Because next year we’ll be at a different show.”

“What do you mean?” Mum suddenly put down her knife and fork and looked sharply at him.

“I just heard this afternoon, we’re moving again. It’s only a rumour, but you know how these things work out.”

“I thought we had decided to stay here while the girls were at school?” I watched Mum’s face because she didn’t look very happy.

“Well, we’ll talk about it after dinner,” said Dad.

The girls had gone quiet and everyone had forgotten about the show.

As I lay in bed after dinner I could hear Mum and Dad talking in the lounge room. Every now and then Dad would raise his voice, not quiet yelling but I could tell he was putting his foot down and wasn’t going to budge.

When Mum came into my bedroom to tuck me in bed, I knew she had been crying. I gave her an extra hard hug when she kissed me goodnight.

“Mum, what’s happening?” I asked quietly.

“There’s nothing to worry about, Molly,” she said. “Just go to sleep, darling, and everything will be all right.” She turned out the light but left my bedroom door slightly open.

That night I had a dream that was full of images of colourful things spinning around. Suddenly I was on the back of a horse, riding over jumps and through hoops; then I was in a dodgem car and laughing my head off, but when I turned to smile at Stephanie it was actually Dad holding the steering wheel and we were driving out of the showground.

Molly #22

When I was seven years old my class at school started drawing pictures and writing stories to enter in the local agricultural show. Mrs Mills made us do them again and again until she thought they were perfect. She ripped one of my stories out of my school exercise book and screwed the page into a little ball. I watched as she threw it in the rubbish bin.

“That is for being so untidy, Molly,” she said. “You need to keep working hard on making your handwriting neater or I will start to make you write with your right hand. I really don’t know what to do with you.” She hadn’t even bothered to read my story and I felt so sad.

I went back to writing my story and tried to remember as much of it as I could. It was about a girl falling asleep at her desk and dreaming that she woke up in a strange world a thousand years ago. There were knights and kings and princesses and the girl had to find her way back home, before she eventually woke up back in her own classroom. I wrote really slowly so that it would be neat enough for Mrs Mills and eventually she said it was okay and that she would let me put it in the show.

Everybody at school was talking about how exciting the show was going to be. I had never been before so I was really looking forward to it and every day I could feel my excitement rising and I had trouble sleeping at night because I kept dreaming about clowns and rides and fairy floss.

When show day finally arrived, I wore a pretty white dress and nice sandals. Mum said it was important that I dressed nice because there would be lots of people there. There was excitement in the air as we crossed the river to the showground and parked the car, then followed the crowds in through the dusty gates. There were lots of people lined up to buy tickets and Mum handed over the money and suddenly we were inside the showground.

Stephanie was waiting for me just inside the gates and we wandered off together to take in the sights, smells and sounds of the farm displays and the sideshow rides.

The first thing I saw was a display of vintage cars and antique motors sitting in the warm spring sunshine, and then we were off to the noisy poultry pavilion. All the different coloured birds were amazing to see, and so noisy with all their crowing and clucking. Stephanie and I then headed to the main ring to watch the show jumping as the horses went up and over, through the water and past the barrels again and again. We lingered amongst the cattle displays, watching the deep red and white cows, while I liked looking at the dainty Jersey dairy cows best with their big sad brown eyes. I thought they must have been feeling sad to be locked up in that smelly shed when it was such a beautiful day outside and they would much rather be roaming around green grassy paddocks. I stood there staring into those sad eyes for ages, until the sound of galloping hooves attracted my attention and Stephanie and I hurried over to watch the horses.

Next stop was the woodchop, where big men in singlets were preparing their logs. The clock started running and with axes swinging, chips flew through the air and the logs disappeared before my eyes.

Then we moved off to the pavilion full of arts, crafts and local produce, and it was there we found our drawings and stories from school. Stephanie’s drawing had a blue ribbon on it and we jumped up and down in excitement. I gave her a big hug and then looked for mine. My story was pinned to the wall, partly hidden under some other pieces of paper. It didn’t win a ribbon.

“Don’t worry, Molly,” said Stephanie. “I loved your story and I’m sure you will get a ribbon next year. Maybe they just forgot to read it.”

“Yeah, maybe,” I said doubtfully.

Molly #21

It finally stopped raining after a few weeks and eventually everything dried out. There was a loud cheer in the classroom one day when Mrs Mills announced that we would be going on an excursion to a rainforest. She frowned at the noise and then said we wouldn’t be going anywhere if we couldn’t control ourselves better than that. When the boys at the back of the room eventually settled down, she told us about how we would be visiting a very special place that was one of the last patches of big scrub rainforest that used to cover most of the coast before it was cleared for timber and farms. At recess, Stephanie and I were excited to think we were really going to be explorers.

I could hardly sleep for the next week until the day of the excursion arrived. Mum packed sandwiches for my lunch in a bag and she made me wear sturdy shoes and long pants, even though I thought it would be too hot in the rainforest. She drove me to school and kissed me goodbye before I hopped out of the car and joined all the other children waiting on the footpath for the bus. It was running late and Mrs Mills was trying to keep everyone quiet and sensible, but there was just too much excitement about the trip. Eventually the bus came around the corner with a cloud of greasy smoke and some of the children cheered. Mrs Mills frowned at them and told us to line up and be quiet.

Stephanie and I sat together on the bus and watched the world passing by outside the window. It felt like we were making the first steps on our journey of being carefree explorers of the world. That was until I started to feel car sick. I closed my eyes and rested my head on Stephanie’s shoulder as we drove along, trying to ignore the way my stomach churned as though it had been dropped into a washing machine. This wasn’t how explorers were meant to feel.

Soon I was in a magical place with a dense leafy canopy, unusual birds and the sound of rushing water that made me feel peaceful. There was nobody else around and I wondered where Stephanie and the other children were. I started to feel a little afraid when I realised I was all on my own, but explorers should be determined to be brave so I started to look around my surroundings. The dense atmosphere of the rainforest was closing around me and the path was wet and slippery. I knew I was lost, but I had to keep moving through the seclusion and smell of decay, carving my way through the scrub and searching for a hidden kingdom. When I got tired, I sat down on a log and started to feel hungry. I thought about the little snack Mum had packed in my school bag and closed my eyes to rest. I could feel the log swaying and I started to feel car sick again.

Suddenly I opened my eyes and Stephanie was right there beside me, resting her head against mine and the school bus was pulling into a car park. I grabbed my bag as we all piled out of the bus and lined up like little soldiers while Mrs Mills read the roll. I could already hear the wind whispering high up in the trees and an occasional cracking noise like something was moving through the bushes. It was just like in my dream.

“Sounds like there are monsters in there,” said Darren. I didn’t like the sound of that but I couldn’t think of any other explanation for the noises in the bushes.

“Don’t be so ridiculous,” said Stephanie. “You’re the only monster here.” Some of the other boys laughed and Darren pulled an ugly face.

“Well you better watch out for snakes then,” he said. “They like to eat girls, particularly cry babies like Molly. They sneak up when you’re not looking and take you in one big bite.” He made a biting action with his hands right in front of my face and nearly knocked me over, but Mrs Mills came over and saved the day.

“That is enough of that,” she said sternly. “Okay everybody, take your buddy’s hand, we are going for a walk on the nature trail first. Make sure you walk carefully and don’t get lost.”

I grabbed hold of Stephanie’s hand and we followed Mrs Mills down the path, surrounded by towering trees that went so high I couldn’t see the tops. Ferns hung over the path and I had to brush them aside as I walked along. I was looking carefully for snakes because, although I didn’t really believe Darren, I wasn’t taking any chances.

As the morning went on we looked at all sorts of strange plants and Mrs Mills explained to us how they all lived together in the rainforest and some plants protected other plants from the heat and how the plants were home to lots of little animals. She told us how the early settlers were timber getters that chopped the trees down with axes.

Suddenly we came to a clearing that opened onto a river. There was an old wooden wharf and Mrs Mills told us this was where the timber getters had once loaded logs onto boats and sent them down the river. She said we could rest here on the grass and eat lunch before heading back toward the bus.

High in the trees I could see dried grass and broken branches and the trunks were covered in mud. Mrs Mills said it was from the floods recently and I was amazed at how high the water had been and what it must have been like here when the water was rushing past. Now it was nice and peaceful by the side of the river and I could hear the water burbling along. I was glad to sit down and rest my legs and I thought how nice it would be to paddle my hot feet in the cool river.

As I ate my lunch I kept trying to imagine what the countryside must have looked like all those years ago before the bush was cleared away by the timber getters. I started thinking about the people that had lived here before the timber getters and what had happened to them.  I turned to Stephanie after finishing my sandwich. “Steph, what do you think happened to the people that were here before the timber getters? You know, the Aboriginals.”

“I don’t know.” Stephanie looked at me over the lid of her drink bottle. “Why don’t you ask Mrs Mills?”

“Oh, it’s okay,” I said, not wanting to attract any attention to myself.

“All right, I’ll do it.” She turned around to face our teacher. “Excuse me, Mrs Mills, Molly and I were wondering what happened to the Aboriginal people that were here before?”

“Well that is a very good question, Stephanie. I’m glad you asked. You see, once upon a time there were a lot of people living along the coast. They moved around for food depending on the season and they had many sacred grounds. A lot of it was destroyed by the timber cutters and the Aboriginal people were hunted away. Around this area they were known as the ‘Bundjalung’ and a lot of them were killed by the white settlers in the early days. Any way children, it is time we started heading back to the bus.” Mrs Mills stood up and told the class to pick up any rubbish from the ground and line up with our buddies.

I sat looking sadly at the water and thinking about what Mrs Mills had said. I wanted to know more; I wished I could say I was sorry to all those vanished people. I wanted to understand what it had been like for them.

“Come on, Molly.” Mrs Mills called. “It’s time to go.”

We walked back along the same path past all the tree ferns and strange plants, until suddenly there was a lot of yelling from behind me. One of the boys had brushed against a stinging fern and was screaming from the prickles in his leg. Mrs Mills took him by the hand and we were all marched back to the bus as quick as we could. I was glad that Mum had made me wear long pants after all.

When I climbed back on the bus I saw Darren’s leg all covered in red spots and Mrs Mills was putting ointment on it. There were some tissues covered in blood on the seat beside him and I could see tears on his cheeks and he was sobbing. His face looked sad as he sat on the bus seat and all of a sudden I could feel tears building in my own eyes. As I walked past his seat I stopped and offered him a lolly from my bag of snacks to make him feel better.

Molly #20

After lunch Mrs Mills pulled out some paints and big sheets of paper and told us we could spend the afternoon painting whatever we wanted. I sat and thought for a long while about what I wanted to paint. I was going to start with a rainbow and a world full of colour; splashes of blues and reds and yellows in the sky and bright green grass with pretty purple flowers; in the corner was a castle made of diamonds with a princess standing on top looking out over her beautiful kingdom.
Mrs Mills walked around the classroom, looking at everybody’s paintings. “Molly, you haven’t even started yet!” she exclaimed when she came to my blank page. I looked down at the white sheet of paper in front of me. “You are such a naughty girl, everyone else has nearly finished. What have you been doing?” I tried to explain what I wanted to paint but the words got stuck in my throat. It was so hard for me to talk to Mrs Mills because she always seemed to be angry. She stood there with her hands on her hips waiting for my answer when suddenly there was a commotion from the other side of the classroom.
Two boys had started painting each other – one had a blue nose and the other had green paint on the tips of his ears. Some of the children were laughing but they quickly stopped as Mrs Mills stormed across the room. She was very cross and made us all pack up our paintings. Instead, we had to get out our maths books and spend the rest of the afternoon doing numbers while she tried to clean the paint off the two boys.
I went back to staring at the rain drops running down the window panes and wished the river would rise high enough to wash away all of our maths books. That wouldn’t make me sad at all.

Molly #19

Stephanie and I sat in the corner to eat our lunches and read a book together. She liked reading as much as I did and we sat there with our heads pressed together taking turns to each read one page at a time. Her brown hair tickled my face, but I never felt as happy as when Stephanie and I would get lost in our little fantasy world, far away from the school playground where we had wonderful adventures in a magical kingdom.

“I’m never going to sit in a castle and wait for a prince,” said Stephanie. “I want to have adventures and explore the world.” She was staring into the distance across the playground where the rain continued to pour down.

“I’m going to do that too. We can explore together and discover our fairy wings and fight bullys and do all sorts of things.”

“Can you imagine,” she said, “A world where everything is coloured like a rainbow and you can fly through clouds made of fairy floss?”

“And the stars are made of sprinkles and you can taste them on your tongue.”

“Where we can chase dragons in the rain and sing songs together by our campfire at night.” She leant her head against mine and giggled. I smiled as her brown hair danced against my cheek.

“Yes,” she said, “That’s what we will do when we grow up!”

The sound of the school bell broke the magic and we had to get up and go back to class.

Molly #18

It started raining again that afternoon and I could hear it pouring on our tin roof all night long. I lay in bed listening to the rain and wondering if it was ever going to stop. It gurgled down the drain outside my bedroom window and was so noisy that I couldn’t sleep, so I hopped out of bed and went into Mum’s room.

“Mum,” I whispered. “Mum, are you awake?”

“What is it Molly?” Mum said in her sleep.

“I can’t sleep. I’m worried about the rain.”

“Oh honey, there’s nothing to worry about. Hop back in bed sweetie and think about something nice.” I stood there for a while but she had gone back to sleep, so I went back to bed and lay there with my eyes open in the darkness. I couldn’t think of anything nice, all I could hear was the rain.

Eventually I did fall asleep and when I woke up in the morning there was water everywhere. The sky was damp and grey and the farm over the road looked like a lake with trees poking up out of the water.

I thought Mum might let me stay home from school for the day because it was so wet, but instead she dressed me in a yellow raincoat and gumboots and we walked to school with the rain dripping off my hat. The rain wasn’t so scary in the daylight after all and I began to enjoy walking along the footpath where everything was soaked and little streams flowed down the gutter. The grass looked drowned and sad and I could feel the soft cold mud squelching under my boots as we walked along. Mum wouldn’t let me jump in any puddles but every now and then I was able to make an extra splash as I went along that sent water spraying everywhere.

“Careful, Molly,” Mum said, “You don’t want to get your school dress wet or you’ll catch a cold.”

Once we reached the school, Mum wiped my face dry with her handkerchief and gave me a kiss goodbye on the cheek. I dropped my school port on the verandah outside my classroom but there was nobody there as all of the kids from my class were down at the back of the playground watching the river boiling and churning with murky brown water where normally it just bubbled along quietly. I ran down to join them and was amazed that I couldn’t even see the footbridge downstream any more as it was completely covered by water. I stood there staring at the water rushing past and wondered how many rain drops it took to make the river run so fast.

Some of the boys were yelling and throwing things in the river and I wondered if they would be turned into donkeys when Mrs Mills caught them. A log came down stream, swirling around in the fast flowing water. “There goes a boat!” somebody yelled out. I wouldn’t like to be on a boat in all that muddy water. “Let’s sink it!” The boys started throwing rocks and sticks at the log to see who could hit it first, but none of them got anywhere near it.

I wondered what the fish in the river thought about all those rocks falling on them. I could picture them looking up at all the wet children standing against the fence on the school playground. Was it fun for them to jump out of the way of falling rocks or were they scared? Or maybe they had all been washed away in the flood and weren’t watching us at all.

I heard one of the boys say that if it kept raining the river would wash the school away. That didn’t seem possible to me, as the school was so high above the river. But I started to get worried about it because the river was already high from the rain over night, so maybe it didn’t have that far to go after all.

All morning in class I worried about whether the river was going to wash us away and every time someone came in or out of the classroom I looked through the doorway to check if the river was coming yet. I tried to think of which would be the best way to run. I thought of asking Mrs Mills what she thought but she was sitting at her desk frowning so I didn’t say anything.

As the morning went on, I sat in class and watched fat rain drops running down the grey windows. I pretended they were racing each other to the bottom of the window pane and I kept my eyes fixed on one drop at a time until it won the race. Sometimes the rain drops would stop, as though they had run out of breath, until another drop bumped into it and then they would both race all the way to the edge of the window pane.

It was still raining at lunchtime but to my relief the river was no higher than it had been in the morning. It was so wet that we weren’t allowed in the playground and had to sit on the verandah outside the classroom to eat lunch. It was very noisy with all the children talking together and the boys kept running up and down on the wooden floorboards. One of the boys pulled out a ball and started throwing it around until Mrs Mills came out and told them to sit still and behave.

Molly #17

The night before I turned six years old there was a big storm that rattled the house throughout the night. The loud thunder and flashes of lightning were so scary I wanted to sleep in Mum’s bed, but she said I should be brave now I was about to turn six. As I lay in bed hugging Mr and Mrs Bear with my eyes wide open I thought the house was going to wash away from all the rain on the roof and the sound of the wind blowing outside.

I must have eventually fallen asleep because when I woke up in the morning the sun was shining brightly through the windows and I was six years old. When I looked outside there were big puddles everywhere and I quickly got dressed so I could go out and play in the water. Mum saw me from the kitchen window and yelled at me to come inside out of the wet grass. I got into big trouble for getting my shoes and dress muddy and felt terrible when she made me have a bath, even though it was only breakfast time. She said it was so that I would look clean and pretty for my birthday.

When I got out of the bath and was dressed again, everyone crowded around the kitchen table to watch me open my presents and I gave each of my sisters a hug and a kiss to say ‘thank you’. Stephen gave me a book about Pinocchio and I gave him an extra special kiss and hug before I was left alone to play with my new presents.  I went into the lounge room and sat on the floor and read about how Pinocchio dreamed of being a real boy. But he was very naughty for telling lies and seemed to get into trouble all the time, even when he didn’t mean to. I thought that was why he told lies, because he didn’t like getting into trouble. I wondered what it would be like to be made of wood, but I didn’t think I would like to be changed into a donkey and get long pointy ears and hooves like Pinocchio did. I much preferred being a real girl and I hoped getting into trouble in the morning wouldn’t make my ears grow. I still felt a little sad, even after all the excitement of opening my presents.

After a while Mum came into the lounge room and told me I should go and have a look on the back verandah. I rushed to open the door and there I found a brand new girl’s bike, all shiny silver and yellow with huge wheels. It had a bow tied around the handle bars and a sticker on the tube that read ‘Little Angel’.

The bike was a bit too big for me but I found that I could get on by climbing onto a chair first then pushing off. I turned the pedals and suddenly I was flying up and down the backyard with my legs spinning round and round.

I spent all morning riding under the mulberry tree, through the gate to the front and then back again. Stephen said I was going to wear a track in the muddy lawn. Mum said when I got bigger I could ride up and down the laneway and then the lawn would be safe. The laneway was dirt and ran down the back of all the houses along our street and it’s where all the big kids played.

“Molly,” I heard Mum calling out from the back verandah. “It’s time to come in. I think Stephanie is here; I just heard a car pull up out the front.”

I jumped off my bike and ran to meet my best friend at the front door. “Stephanie!” I squealed and gave her a big hug.

“Hi Molly, happy birthday,” she said as she handed me a present. It was wrapped in purple paper with a pink ribbon tied around it. I was so excited that I ripped all the paper off in one go and there inside was a beautiful book of stories about fairies. “Oh Steph, I love it,” I said and gave her another hug.

“Why don’t you girls go outside and play for a while before lunch?” Mum said.

“Come on Steph,” I said. “Come and see my new bike.” We went out the back and took turns riding my bike around the yard for a little while.

“I’ve had enough of riding, Molly. Let’s go and play on the swings,” Stephanie said. I wasn’t tired of the bike, but I leant it carefully against the wall and followed Stephanie across to the swing set. I didn’t mind playing on the swings for a little while but it made me feel sick if I went too fast.

“Come on, Molly… go higher like me.” Stephanie was already swinging high, kicking her legs right up into the sky and she looked just like a blur. I tried to keep up with her and kicked my legs to make the swing go faster. Every time I went forward to the top of the swing I would feel like I was going to fly off into space, then my stomach would plunge as I suddenly started to swing backwards. Stephanie was giggling loudly and she kept urging me to go faster and faster. Each time I would kick my legs and go higher and higher, but then I started to feel dizzy. I tried to hang on until it suddenly felt like I was floating in mid air. Everything froze for a moment and then I started falling, down, down forever, until I landed with a thump on the ground. I was stunned for a moment, and then started to scream because my arm hurt where I had landed on it crookedly.

“Molly! Are you okay?” Stephanie jumped off the swing and put her arm around me as Mum raced out of the house. By the time she arrived I was sobbing uncontrollably.

“What happened? Let me have a look.” Mum felt my arm and it really hurt. “Well I don’t think it’s broken so you will live.” She picked me up and carried me inside the house. “You girls should play inside where it’s safer.”

Molly #16

When swimming lessons finished I started playing soccer on Saturday mornings instead. Catherine and Samantha walked with me to soccer while Mum did the grocery shopping. They talked about boys and things along the way so I skipped ahead, enjoying the late winter sunshine.

Soccer was played on a huge area at the edge of town, with lots of fields covered in colourful groups of children chasing balls around. Parents stood along the sidelines talking to each other and yelling at the children, with their words punctuated by whistle blows. I loved being able to run around in shorts and a tee shirt, sometimes getting really muddy without anyone getting cross with me. I played on the wing and ran up and down as fast as I could. Every now and then the ball came my way and I tried to kick it really hard.

My game was usually one of the first to be played in the morning and when we got to the soccer fields I left Catherine and Samantha behind and ran across the grass to find Stephanie and the other children in my team. They were easy to find because I just had to look for the colours. My team wore white shorts and a maroon shirt. We were called ‘Hotspurs’ and I thought that made us sound fast. I didn’t really like the colour of the shirt because I felt like it drew attention to my red hair, but I usually forgot about that after a while once I started running around.

Before the game the coach gathered us around and told everyone what position they would be playing. I didn’t usually bother to listen though, because Stephanie and I always had to play on the wing anyway. I wished we could play next to each other.

“… so if we get the ball from the kickoff…” Mr Brennan was Darren’s father and he had the boys gathered around him and was drawing lines in the dirt. They were all looking intently at the ground while Stephanie and I stood to one side and talked to each other. We were the only girls in our soccer team, but some of the other teams had lots of girls. Sometimes I wished I was playing in a team that had more girls in it, but I was glad that Stephanie was on the same team as me.

“… and then we spread it wide and draw the fullback…” I don’t know why they even talked tactics because Darren hogged the ball every game we played anyway.

“Okay guys. Let’s go for a warm up run around the field.” The boys took off, running as fast as they could. Stephanie and I jogged along slowly behind them, taking our time so we could still talk. Every now and then Stephanie did a cartwheel as we went along. I tried too but I didn’t seem to be able to get my legs go over properly and then Stephanie laughed at me.

“Molly, you just need to try and keep your legs straight. Don’t bend at the knees, you put one hand down and over you go.” She did another cartwheel to show me how it was done. She was really good at it but she did do gymnastics after school. I had another go and Stephanie tried to help by grabbing my legs as they went up. We both ended up in a heap on the ground giggling.

“Come on girls!” Mr Brennan yelled across the field. “It’s nearly time to start the game.” We got up and ran across the soccer field to take up our positions. I played on the left side, which I really liked because I’m left handed.

The whistle blew and Darren kicked off. “Here Darren,” Stephanie called out, but of course he didn’t pass the ball to her and just ran down field with it.

“Kick it wide, Molly is clear!” Mr Brennan yelled out from the sideline. But Darren didn’t kick it wide. Instead, he tried to beat the fullback himself and then lost the ball. Suddenly I was running as fast as I could all the way to other end of the field to try and catch up with the ball but the other team had already kicked a goal before I could even get to halfway.

I walked back to my position and waited for the referees whistle to restart play. The game went on like that for the first half and I spent all my time running up and down the sideline. In the end we were down two goals when we came off to have some oranges. We got five minutes break and Mr Brennan was yelling at us the whole time.

“… we need to mark our players guys. Look for the opening and go for it…”

I didn’t pay any attention again because I figured he was really just yelling at Darren. I liked it when the oranges were sweet and delicious, but I didn’t like the sour oranges we got sometimes. They made me pull a funny face when I tried to eat them.

I ran back on the field for the second half with some orange stuck in my teeth. I was trying to pick it out with my tongue and I didn’t hear the referee blow the whistle to start play. Suddenly the ball was flying towards me and it nearly hit me in the head.

As I played I could hear the voices of my sisters talking on the sideline. I knew the girls didn’t think I was very good, because I could hear them laughing at me. Samantha’s voice was saying something about how funny and cute I looked as I ran around. But I wanted to show her how good I really was and maybe score a goal one day.

I got my big chance late in the second half when the ball came my way right in front of the goal. I lined up my kick and got ready for my moment of glory and could already picture the ball sailing past the goalie and into the back of the goal.

“Come on Molly, you can do it. Go Molly. Kick it!” I heard voices yell out as I drew my foot back, with my eyes on the ball just like the coach always said. Nobody would laugh at me ever again. The soccer ball was covered in black and white shapes, turning slowly as it rolled towards me; I knew exactly which black shape I was going to kick, but suddenly I felt a push from behind and landed right on my knee as a boy from the other team ran past and kicked the ball away. I sat on the ground holding my leg and started crying when I saw the blood on my knee. All I wanted to do was run away and hide.

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