Thursday fragments 14

I told Mum the bruise on my face was from a soccer ball. Later I found out the nurse had rung her that day and told her all about it, but I never told Mum about the fight or the teasing, or how much my chest still hurt from that punch.

It was still sore when I went for a ride on my bike the following weekend, particularly when I was breathing hard as I rode up the hills. But I tried to ignore it and just kept on riding.

I loved being on my bike on the open road, where I was free from the taunting faces of those girls at school or the expectations to be good at anything. All I had to worry about was my breathing and the rhythmical way my legs turned the pedals over as the road rolled past underneath me.

I had a favourite ride that I liked to do on Saturday mornings. I got out of bed before anyone else was awake and set off in the cool morning air while there was no traffic around.

Leaving the yard, I turned right as I came out of the shadow of the trees at the end of the laneway and followed the road up to the railway crossing. There was a small hump where the railway line crossed the road and I walked my bike across the tracks so that my tyres didn’t slip on the rails. Just after the railway line was the stable where the school bus stopped, but of course there were no kids outside the stable because it was Saturday.

I could hear galloping hooves in the paddock behind the building and as I rounded the corner there were men training horses to run faster and faster. As I rode past, they snorted with the effort and steam came out of their nostrils. For a few moments I pedalled hard as though I was a racehorse, but that made me breathe hard and it hurt my sore chest so I backed off a little bit.

Then I started the long climb up the hill that took me amongst apple and cherry orchards. The spring blossoms on the trees made me feel like I was riding through a fairyland and I slowed down so that I could enjoy the pretty blossoms and breathe in their sensual perfume. The roadside sheds on the orchards were all closed but I knew during fruit picking season they would be bustling with men and tractors.

At the top of the hill, the road turned and I was able to look back across the wide valley below. Most of the houses were still in shadow but I could see the sun’s fingers slowly creeping across the landscape. I could also see my house clearly as it stood on its own amongst the apple trees with its white walls reflecting the sun. From the top of the hill it looked like a tiny doll’s house. There was a wisp of smoke rising from the chimney and I guessed that Mum was probably up and cooking breakfast.

Thinking of Mum made me feel sad again. I wished I could tell her what school was really like, and how much I missed Stephen and how lost I felt. But I could never find the words and I always got teary whenever I tried to talk to her about it. Besides, I didn’t want her to know that I was a failure and make her ashamed of me.

I turned away from my house and rode over the crest of the hill. There was a long descent into the valley at the foot of Mount Canobolas in front of me. The mountain sat watching over the surrounding countryside. Beside it was the smaller peak of the Pinnacle and it was down the slope of that little mountain that I found myself speeding.

I kept my hands hard on the brakes most of the time because it scared me if I went too fast, but I really loved the way the wind whooshed through my long hair and flicked it around my face.

As I reached the bottom, there was a slight uphill run to an intersection and I pedalled as fast as I could so that my momentum would take me up the rise. I didn’t want to lose any speed so I gave a quick glance to my left to make sure there was no traffic then sped out onto the road that followed the creek along the valley floor.

The road was more undulating now, with lots of little ups and downs and I was back amongst apple and cherry orchards. There was a farmer sitting on his tractor at a gate and he raised his hand as I sped past. I took one hand off the handlebar for a moment and waved back then quickly grabbed hold again.

There was only one more climb and then the descent back into town. I could see the water tower at the top of the hill and I kept my eyes on it as I counted my pedal strokes and worked my way up the slope. The water tower disappeared behind some trees for a moment, but as I came around the bend it was there again, all tall and concrete against the surrounding cherry blossoms.

The road descending into town was steep but it was short and straight so I just stopped pedalling and let my bike pick up speed as I freewheeled down the hill. My eyes started to sting from the wind and my legs were tired but I felt good. I had even forgotten about how much my chest hurt.

When I got back home I wheeled my bike into the shed and went straight into my bedroom by the side door so that I didn’t have to speak to anyone. I put my helmet on the chair and then noticed there was a present sitting in the middle of my bed. Puzzled, I sat on the bed with my legs crossed and started to unwrap it. The present was wrapped in pretty pink paper that sparkled when I moved it. I carefully slit the sticky tape with my fingernail so that I didn’t rip the paper while unwrapping.

Inside the present were three books and some pens. I picked up the first book and read the cover – ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ I opened it up with a little frown on my forehead and read a few sentences inside. The language seemed mysterious and different from anything I had ever read before and I felt a thrill of excitement about exploring this new book. I put it down and picked up the second book.

It was handmade and the cover was quilted fabric. The words ‘For Molly, with love from Mum’ were hand stitched into the fabric. I turned the cover and there inside were all the pages of my writing journal. Mum had ironed them flat and sewn them together. I felt moisture spring into my eyes as I looked at those pages with all of my precious words written on them.

The third book was a new writing journal and I stroked my fingers over its smooth blank pages. I sat there looking thoughtfully at it for a few minutes, then picked up a purple pen and started writing on the first page.

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Thursday fragments 12

The school bell rang and I checked my timetable to see what room I was meant to be in. My heart sank when I saw that it was a double period of health and exercise. I groaned and walked reluctantly toward the change room at the back of the gymnasium. I hated changing my clothes in the open with all the other girls watching me, so I hurried into a toilet cubicle and got changed in there.

I sat on the toilet lid listening to the girls in my class talking, and I waited until I could hear them walking out to the oval. I opened the door and poked my head out to make sure nobody was there, then hurried outside before I got into trouble for being late.

As I ran out into the sunshine, I was conscious of how bright my skinny white legs looked as they poked out of my shorts like matchsticks. All the other girls in my class seemed to have such perfect smooth skin. Mine was just covered in freckles and I always tried to hide it by wearing long sleeved shirts and pants.

Mr Norris was just marking the roll and luckily my surname was right down the bottom.

‘… Sarah Walker?’ he called.

‘Here, sir.’

‘White, Molly White, is she here?’

‘I’m here, sir,’ I called out as I ran to join the group of girls.

Mr Norris turned and looked at me for a moment with his beady black eyes, before looking down at his list and making a mark.

‘Okay, that’s the lot,’ he said. ‘Right, ladies, today we are playing soccer. Alison and Virginia, you two are the captains and you can pick your teams.’

I should have known those two would be the captains. They were always the teacher’s pets, no matter which class it was. Alison had long brown hair and a cute little upturned nose. She was one of the girls that had perfect skin, and she already had a boyfriend as well. Virginia was a stuck up rich girl with thick brown hair. She would have been really pretty if she didn’t always have a sneer on her lips. She had a boyfriend too.

One by one the two captains called out players to join their teams. I hated this part, and I started to get more and more embarrassed as the group of unpicked players where I was standing got smaller and smaller. Soon I would be the only left and that meant everybody would be looking at me.

‘I’ll have Jane,’ said Virginia. ‘You can have the fr…,’she paused and looked at Mr Norris.  ‘You can have the other one,’ she said, pointing at me.

Mr Norris blew his whistle and all the girls ran into their positions on the field. I ran over to the wing because that was where I had played when I was little.

All of a sudden play was under way and the ball came sailing my way. I froze and it bounced right past me and went over the sideline.

‘Oh, you idiot. What were you doing?’ Alison yelled.

Play continued and I tried to run around and look inconspicuous, until the ball came my way again. I started moving towards it this time when Virginia came running past.

‘Out of my way, freak,’ she sneered as she bumped me with her shoulder. She got to the ball first and kicked it down field.

I managed to keep away from the ball after that, but just before the end of the game the ball came my way again and there was nobody else near me. I stopped it with my foot, and then kicked it a little way in front of me and started running. It was just like in the dreams I’d had when I was a little kid and I thought I was going to score a goal this time. There was nobody between me and the goal post except for the goalie and as I drew my foot back to kick the ball Virginia came sliding in with her legs and knocked us both to the ground.

Mr Norris blew the whistle and gave me a penalty kick, but Virginia laughed as she got up and stood with her hands on her hips glaring at me. ‘Hey, let’s watch the little freak kick the ball,’ she said loudly.

I wasn’t sure what to do, but Mr Norris told me to put the ball on the ground and then kick it toward the goal as hard as I could.

I wished I could just disappear because everybody was watching me, but I did what he said and put the ball down. I moved back a couple of metres and then ran forward and tried to kick it with my left foot with all my might, but it hurt my foot and the ball just rolled to a stop as the goalie came forward to pick it up.

Mr Norris blew the whistle again and the game was over and we had to go back into the change rooms. I followed everyone back inside and disappeared again into the toilet cubicle to change my clothes.

When I thought the coast was clear, I opened the cubicle door and stepped out into the empty change room—except it wasn’t empty.

Virginia and Alison and a few of their friends were standing there waiting for me.

‘So the little freak has finally come out,’ said Alison.

I started to walk toward the door but Virginia moved across to block my way.

‘We don’t like freaks around here,’ she said. I tried to step around her but she grabbed my hair and pulled me back. I turned to face her when suddenly something hit me really hard in the face. My eyes went all blurry and I felt dazed as tears started running down my cheeks.

‘Oh, look it’s a cry baby.’

‘She’s crying freckles,’ someone else yelled.

‘Give it to her, Ginny,’ said another voice.

I felt a hand punch me in the middle of my chest and then I tripped over and fell to the ground. I looked up to see that I was surrounded by faces all staring at me and yelling things but I could no longer hear them. My head was spinning and everything had gone silent, then I blacked out.

I woke up later to find myself in a white room. Through the door I could see the headmaster’s office and I realised I must be in the nurse’s room.

‘Oh, you’re awake dear?’ said the school nurse. ‘I’m told you had a nasty fall at soccer during health. Some of the girls brought you in here. You are lucky to have such good friends.’

I reached up and felt my face where it was tender. I also had trouble breathing because my chest hurt so much.

‘I was just about to call your mother so she can come and get you,’ the nurse said.

‘Oh, please… don’t do that. I’m okay. I can ride home.’ She looked at me doubtfully but eventually let me go.

I had to ride my bike home really slowly because of my chest, but as soon as I got home I raced inside and locked myself in my bedroom before Mum could see the bruise on my face. I didn’t know how to explain it to her.

I saw my writing journal sitting at the end of my bed and I picked it up and started angrily ripping all of the pages out of it. I kept going until every single page was screwed up and thrown on the floor, then I threw myself face down on my bed and cried and cried and cried.

Thursday fragments 9

Extract from Molly’s Dreams available now from Amazon

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.

Episode 27 – Struggling at my new school

We left the airport and travelled all day over the Blue Mountains to arrive at our new home just as the sky was getting dark. I was so tired that Mum carried me inside and put me in bed straight away and I slept soundly all night without waking at all. I had no dreams that night, just the blankness of sleep until I woke up with the sun and the birds in the morning.
I forgot where I was for a moment and just lay there in this strange room trying to work out how I had come to be there. Slowly as my mind started to wake up I took in my surroundings. The room had only one bed and it was along the wall underneath the window. From my pillow, all I could see out the window was blue sky with a few grey clouds that looked like puffy cotton balls. My toys were all in a box in the corner and my books were placed in a bookcase against the wall on the other side of the room. I guessed that Stephen had unpacked and put my books there, and I started thinking of him again and felt the sadness that was still sitting inside my stomach.
I decided to get up and see where I was before anyone else woke. I kneeled on my bed and looked out the window and marveled at the beautiful palette of autumn colours falling from the trees. There were piles of leaves in the yard and I could see a wisp of smoke rising into the air from one of the piles.
I couldn’t see where the road was from here because of all the trees, but I could see a laneway that I thought must lead back down to the road. I hopped out of bed and went to the front door and walked outside to get a better look. The house had verandahs on all sides and I pushed the door open and stepped out into the crisp morning air. There was a rainwater tank on a tower high above me and I could see a little dribble of water running down its side as if it had been crying.
I went back inside and started walking quietly through the house to explore. At the front of the house was the lounge room, and when I looked into the next room I could see Samantha and Jasmine asleep in their beds. A room at the end had the door shut but I could hear the sound of Dad snoring inside. There was an open door on the opposite side of the hall and when I peeked inside I could see Catherine’s head sound asleep on the pillow and her arm thrown over the top of the blanket.
I found my way back to my bedroom and sat on my bed, looking out the window again. Mum had been right, it really was a beautiful spot and I felt a thrill of excitement as I thought about how much space there was to explore. It was just like the wide open spaces of Ellen’s farm, but so different because instead of being dry and dusty everything was moist and vibrant.
A few weeks later the school year started and I found myself having yet another first day of school as I sat beside Mum outside the headmaster’s office. My hands were in my lap and I was looking at my black school shoes peeping out from under my skirt. At least this time I was in the same uniform as the other children, but I still felt funny in my tummy as my fingers touched the unfamiliar fabric of my blue skirt. I needed to go to the bathroom, but Mum said I should just hang on because we would be going to see the headmaster soon.
There was another little girl sitting in the waiting room and she was swinging her legs back and forth in the air. Every time I looked up she was staring back at me so I quickly looked down again and wished the headmaster would hurry up. The girl started humming to herself and I sneaked another look and found she was still looking at me. Before I had time to look away again she suddenly grinned and poked her tongue out.
Just then the door to the office opened and Mum took my hand and led me inside. As I walked past the little girl her lips mouthed the word ‘bye’ at me. I just grabbed Mum’s hand tighter until the door closed behind us, and then I found myself sitting stiffly on an uncomfortable chair.
‘Mrs White,’ the headmaster said as he read from a piece of paper in his hand. ‘I see from these report cards that young Molly has struggled a bit in some subjects.’ He looked at Mum over the top of his glasses and I felt like she was getting into trouble.
‘Well, she is good at reading and spelling,’ said Mum. I looked down at my bony knees which were now poking out from under my skirt. I slowly started pushing my skirt down to cover them and was hoping that nobody would notice.
‘Hmmm,’ the headmaster replied, ‘but a ‘D’ in mathematics! We need to try a bit harder, don’t we young lady?’ Suddenly he was looking at me and I found myself nodding slowly. He put the paper down as though he had come to a decision. ‘Mrs White, she is very small for her age as well, and perhaps you should consider holding her back a year. I do have my concerns over her abilities, so for now I will put her in Mr Rogan’s class to see how she goes. He is very good with slow children.’
‘She’s not slow, Mr Brown,’ said Mum. I could tell she was getting a bit annoyed. ‘She is shy, and sometimes that has meant the teachers have ignored her when she actually needed help. She is a very bright child.’
‘Indeed, Mrs White, parents always know what’s best.’
He looked over his glasses at Mum for a moment before standing up from behind the desk. Mr Brown opened the office door and offered to shake Mum’s hand as we walked out.
‘You can leave little Molly with my secretary. She will take her down to the classroom.’
Mum shook his hand and before I knew it the interview was over. When we got outside, Mum gave me a hug.
‘Be brave, Molly,’ she said and kissed me.
I kissed her back and said goodbye, then followed the lady across the playground. I hadn’t realised before that people thought I was a dumb kid. I kept thinking about that all morning as I tried really hard to do what Mr Rogan asked. I wanted to show him that I wasn’t dumb, but the harder I tried the more the numbers in my book kept getting mixed up. Sometimes I thought I had the right answer but when I checked the sums, I confused myself and would change all my answers and then just try to guess the correct number. By the time the bell went for lunchtime, my head was spinning so much it was hurting and I knew the headmaster must have been right.
I followed the other children out of the classroom and they ran off toward the playground. I found a bench under a tree and sat down to eat my lunch. I pulled my book of ‘Storm Boy’ out of my bag and started reading the last few chapters again. Mr Percival, the pelican, had been injured by some hunters and Storm Boy was looking after him until he got better. As I ate my lunch, I found myself back on the sand dune playing soldiers with Shawn. I didn’t realise at first, but a little tear dripped down my cheek and landed on my book with a plop. I kept reading until Mr Percival had been killed by the hunters and then Storm Boy was sent away to town to go to school. I knew exactly how he felt as he sat in that classroom and all he could think about was the lost freedom of the sand dunes.

Episode 13 – I told Mum the bruise was from a soccer ball

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I told Mum the bruise on my face was from a soccer ball. Later I found out the nurse had rung her that day and told her all about it, but I never told Mum about the fight or the teasing, or how much my chest still hurt from that punch.

It was still sore when I went for a ride on my bike the following weekend, particularly when I was breathing hard as I rode up the hills. But I tried to ignore it and just kept on riding.

I loved being on my bike on the open road, where I was free from the taunting faces of those girls at school or the expectations to be good at anything. All I had to worry about was my breathing and the rhythmical way my legs turned the pedals over as the road rolled past underneath me.

I had a favourite ride that I liked to do on Saturday mornings. I always got out of bed before anyone else was awake and set off in the cool morning air while there was no traffic around.
Leaving the yard, I turned right as I came out of the shadow of the trees at the end of the laneway and followed the road up to the railway crossing. There was a small hump where the railway line crossed the road and I walked my bike across the tracks so that my tyres didn’t slip on the rails. Just after the railway line was the stable where the school bus stopped, but of course there were no kids outside the stable because it was Saturday.

I could hear galloping hooves in the paddock behind the building and as I rounded the corner there were men training horses to run faster and faster. As I rode past, they snorted with the effort and steam came out of their nostrils. For a few moments I pedalled hard as though I was a racehorse, but that made me breathe hard and it hurt my sore chest so I backed off a little bit.

Then I started on the long climb up the hill that took me amongst apple and cherry orchards. The spring blossoms on the trees made me feel like I was riding through a fairyland and I slowed down so that I could enjoy the pretty blossoms and breathe in their sensual perfume. The roadside sheds on the orchards were all closed but I knew during fruit picking season they would be bustling with men and tractors.

At the top of the hill, the road turned and I was able to look back across the wide valley below. Most of the houses were still in shadow but I could see the sun’s fingers slowly creeping across the landscape. I could also see my house clearly as it stood on its own amongst the apple trees with its white walls reflecting the sun. From the top of the hill it looked like a tiny doll’s house. There was a wisp of smoke rising from the chimney and I guessed that Mum was probably up and cooking breakfast.

Thinking of Mum made me feel sad again. I wished I could tell her what school was really like, and how much I missed Stephen and how lost I felt. But I could never find the words and I always got teary whenever I tried to talk to her about it. Besides, I didn’t want her to know that I was a failure and make her ashamed of me.

I turned away from my house and rode over the crest of the hill. There was a long descent into the valley at the foot of Mount Canobolas in front of me. The mountain sat there watching over the surrounding countryside. Beside it was the smaller peak of the Pinnacle and it was down the slope of that little mountain that I found myself speeding.
I kept my hands hard on the brakes most of the time because it scared me if I went too fast, but I really loved the way the wind whooshed through my long hair and flicked it around my face.

As I reached the bottom, there was a slight uphill run to an intersection and I pedalled as fast as I could so that my momentum would take me up the rise. I didn’t want to lose any speed so I gave a quick glance to my left to make sure there was no traffic then sped out onto the road that followed the creek along the valley floor.

The road was more undulating now, with lots of little ups and downs and I was back amongst apple and cherry orchards. There was a farmer sitting on his tractor at a gate and he raised his hand as I sped past. I took one hand off the handlebar for a moment and waved back then quickly grabbed hold again.

There was only one more climb and then the descent back into town. I could see the water tower at the top of the hill and I kept my eyes on it as I counted my pedal strokes and worked my way up the slope. The water tower disappeared behind some trees for a moment, but as I came around the bend it was there again, all tall and concrete against the surrounding cherry blossoms.

The road descending into town was steep but it was short and straight so I just stopped pedalling and let my bike pick up speed as I freewheeled down the hill. My eyes started to sting from the wind and my legs were tired but I felt good. I had even forgotten about how much my chest hurt.

When I got back home I wheeled my bike into the shed and went straight into my bedroom by the side door so that I didn’t have to speak to anyone. I put my helmet on the chair and then noticed there was a present sitting in the middle of my bed. Puzzled, I sat on the bed with my legs crossed and started to unwrap it. The present was wrapped in pretty pink paper that sparkled when I moved it. I decided I wanted to keep the paper so I carefully slit the sticky tape with my fingernail so that I didn’t rip the paper while unwrapping.

Inside the present were three books and some pens. I picked up the first book and read the cover – ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ I opened it up with a little frown on my forehead and read a few sentences inside. The language seemed mysterious and different from anything I had ever read before and I felt a thrill of excitement about exploring this new book. I put it down and picked up the second book.

It was handmade and the cover was quilted fabric. The words ‘For Molly, with love from Mum’ were hand stitched into the fabric. I turned the cover and there inside were all the pages of my writing journal. Mum had ironed them flat and sewn them together. I felt moisture spring into my eyes as I looked at those pages with all of my precious words written on them.

The third book was a new writing journal and I stroked my fingers over its smooth blank pages. I sat there looking thoughtfully at it for a few minutes, then picked up a purple pen and started writing on the first page.

Episode 11 – Molly is bullied again

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The school bell rang and I checked my timetable to see what room I was meant to be in, and my heart sank when I saw that it was a double period of health and exercise. I groaned and walked reluctantly toward the change room at the back of the gymnasium. I hated changing my clothes in the open with all the other girls watching me, so I hurried into a toilet cubicle and got changed in there.
I sat on the toilet lid listening to the girls in my class talking, and I waited until I could hear them walking out to the oval. I opened the door and poked my head out to make sure nobody was there, then hurried outside before I got into trouble for being late.
As I ran out into the sunshine, I was conscious of how bright my skinny white legs looked as they poked out of my shorts like matchsticks. All the other girls in my class seemed to have such perfect smooth skin. Mine was just covered in freckles and I always tried to hide it by wearing long sleeved shirts.
Mr Norris was just marking the roll and luckily my surname was right down the bottom.
‘… Sarah Walker?’ he called out.
‘Here, sir.’
‘White, Molly White, is she here?’
‘I’m here, sir,’ I called out as I ran to join the group of girls.
Mr Norris turned and looked at me for a moment with his beady black eyes, before looking down at his list and making a mark.
‘Okay, that’s the lot,’ he said. ‘Right, ladies, today we are playing soccer. Alison and Virginia, you two are the captains and you can pick your teams.’
I should have known those two would be the captains. They were always the teacher’s pets, no matter which class it was. Alison had long brown hair and a cute little upturned nose. She was one of the girls that had perfect skin, and she already had a boyfriend as well. Virginia was a stuck up rich girl with thick brown hair. She would have been really pretty if she didn’t always have a sneer on her lips. She had a boyfriend too.
One by one the two captains called out players to join their teams. I hated this part, and I started to get more and more embarrassed as the group of unpicked players where I was standing got smaller and smaller. Soon I would be the only left and that meant everybody would be looking at me.
‘I’ll have Jane,’ said Virginia. ‘You can have the fr…,’she paused and looked at Mr Norris. ‘You can have the other one,’ she said, pointing at me.
Mr Norris blew his whistle and all the girls ran into their positions on the field. I ran over to the wing because that was where I had played when I was little.
All of a sudden play was under way and the ball came sailing my way. I froze and it bounced right past me and went over the sideline.
‘Oh, you idiot. What were you doing?’ Alison yelled.
Play continued and I tried to run around and look inconspicuous, until the ball came my way again. I started moving towards it this time when Virginia came running past.
‘Out of my way, freak,’ she sneered as she bumped me with her shoulder. She got to the ball first and kicked it down field.
I managed to keep away from the ball after that, but just before the end of the game the ball came my way again and there was nobody else near me. I stopped it with my foot, and then kicked it a little way in front of me and started running. It was just like in the dreams I’d had when I was a little kid and I thought I was going to score a goal this time. There was nobody between me and the goal post except for the goalie and as I drew my foot back to kick the ball Virginia came sliding in with her legs and knocked us both to the ground.
Mr Norris blew the whistle and gave me a penalty kick, but Virginia laughed as she got up and stood with her hands on her hips glaring at me. ‘Hey, let’s watch the little freak kick the ball,’ she said loudly.
I wasn’t sure what to do, but Mr Norris told me to put the ball on the ground and then kick it toward the goal as hard as I could.
I wished I could just disappear because everybody was watching me, but I did what he said and put the ball down. I moved back a couple of metres and then ran forward and tried to kick it with my left foot with all my might, but it hurt my foot and the ball just rolled to a stop as the goalie came forward to pick it up.
Mr Norris blew the whistle again and the game was over and we had to go back into the change rooms. I followed everyone back inside and disappeared again into the toilet cubicle to change my clothes.
When I thought the coast was clear, I opened the cubicle door and stepped out into the empty change room, except it wasn’t empty.
Virginia and Alison and a few of their friends were standing there waiting for me.
‘So the little freak has finally come out,’ said Alison.
I started to walk toward the door but Virginia moved across to block my way.
‘We don’t like freaks around here,’ she said. I tried to step around her but she grabbed my hair and pulled me back. I turned to face her when suddenly something hit me really hard in the face. My eyes went all blurry and I felt dazed as tears started running down my cheeks.
‘Oh, look it’s a cry baby.’
‘She’s crying freckles,’ someone else yelled.
‘Give it to her Ginny,’ said another voice.
I felt a hand punch me in the middle of my chest and then I tripped over and fell to the ground. I looked up to see that I was surrounded by faces all staring at me and yelling things but I could no longer hear them. My head was spinning and everything had gone silent, then I blacked out.
I woke up later to find myself in a white room. Through the door I could see the headmaster’s office and I realised I must be in the nurse’s room.
‘Oh, you’re awake dear?’ said the school nurse. ‘I’m told you had a nasty fall at soccer during health. Some of the girls brought you in here. You are lucky to have such good friends.’
I reached up and felt my face where it was tender. I also had trouble breathing because my chest hurt so much.
‘I was just about to call your mother so she can come and get you,’ the nurse said.
‘Oh, please… don’t do that. I’m okay. I can ride home.’ She looked at me doubtfully but eventually let me go.
I had to ride my bike home really slowly because of my chest, but as soon as I got home I raced inside and locked myself in my bedroom before Mum could see the bruise on my face. I didn’t know how to explain it to her.
I saw my writing journal sitting at the end of my bed and I picked it up and started angrily ripping all of the pages out of it. I kept going until every single page was screwed up and thrown on the floor, then I threw myself face down on my bed and cried and cried and cried.

Episode 10 – When I first started school

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When I first started school I felt very important as I got dressed in my new school uniform, although my feet hurt from those shiny black leather shoes. I was wearing a pale blue checked pinafore and I had a little school port to carry my lunch and a big smile on my face as I walked out to the car with my leather shoes creaking. Mum took a photo of all us children standing beside the car before we headed off to school, all lined up in height from Stephen down to me with the sun shining in my eyes.
As we got closer to the school, the smile started to slip from my face and I began to feel sick in my tummy and my head ached. Mum said it was just butterflies and they would soon go away, but I didn’t like this feeling very much. A teacher met us at the school gate and Mum introduced me. ‘This is Molly,’ she said smiling at the teacher. ‘Molly, say hello to Mrs Mills.’ But I didn’t want to say hello. The butterflies had flown away with my voice and I just wanted to hide behind Mum’s legs.
‘Molly’s a bit shy,’ said Mum.
‘That’s okay,’ Mrs Mills replied in a stern voice, ‘We know how to deal with shy children. Come on Molly,’ she tried to take my hand but I started to cry and pulled my hand away from her; I didn’t want to go with this strange lady with the grey hair and glasses. Mrs Mills was determined though and soon I was marching through the school gate to join all the other children starting kindergarten.
I was scared and kept my eyes on the ground, trying to stop the tears in front of all these strange children. ‘Look at the little cry baby,’ yelled a boy in long shorts scornfully.
‘Leave her alone Darren,’ a tall girl said. She came over and asked me my name.
‘M – Molly,’ I tried to say in between sniffles.
‘I’m Stephanie, Molly, and we’re going to be friends,’ she said bravely. ‘Don’t worry about Darren, he’s just a boy.’
I gave Stephanie a little smile as the teacher told us all to line up. We then had to march to a classroom holding the hand of the person next to us. I was glad I had Stephanie’s hand to hold; it felt warm and soft while mine was all cold. Stephanie had a nice face with straight brown hair that hung past her shoulders. She seemed to be much more confident than I was.
Once I got inside the classroom, the morning was spent colouring in a piece of paper that had our names on it. I already knew how to recognize mine — M – O – L – L – Y — and I coloured it in like a pretty rainbow. We had some time before lunch so I started drawing a few butterflies on the page, when Mrs Mills came past and looked over my shoulder. ‘That is a lovely drawing Molly, but try to keep it neat,’ she said. ‘You left-handed children are always so messy!’ I was still not sure if I liked Mrs Mills so I didn’t answer and kept my head down. I didn’t think my drawing was messy at all.
As I looked around the classroom, everyone else was busy working on their pictures. The sun looked nice shining through the windows and it threw shadows across the room. One wall was lined with a bookcase, full of colourful books that I longed to explore and as I stared at their different shapes I wondered what exciting things were inside. The wall had some posters on it; one showed a fox jumping over a dog that was on the ground sleeping. Other posters had pictures of animals with words written above them. Alongside the doorway was a picture of a tall giraffe. It reached nearly to the top of the door and had little lines and numbers on it.
I lifted my head and stared at the ceiling which was painted white and had long bars of fluorescent lights shining down. I looked at them until my eyes felt dazzled and when I blinked I could still see those strips of bright white light against the back of my eyelids. I kept my eyes closed for a few seconds until the white strips began to go blurry and then slowly turned black.
There was a clock above the door and I could hear it ticking loudly in the quiet classroom. Tick, tick, tick, it went as I watched the little hand sweeping around so fast and I wondered why the other hands didn’t seem to be moving at all. I thought about Mum and what she would be doing right now. Probably vacuuming and dancing around the house to the radio. If I was home right now I could be playing with my dolls in my bedroom. Tick, tick, tick… I watched the clock and started to feel myself yawn. The door was open beneath the clock and I could see the playground outside. I was starting to get bored and I wriggled around in my seat to get comfortable. I wished I was out in the playground and running around in the fresh air.
I looked around the classroom again and saw heads bobbing up and down all over the place and other children wriggling in their seats. The desks were arranged in squares, with four children to a table, and these were spaced around the room like the petals of a flower. My desk was brown and had a little hole in one corner. Underneath the hole there was a small shelf and I started to amuse myself by poking my coloured pencils into the hole.
Sitting at the desk with me were Stephanie and two other girls, but I couldn’t remember their names. Stephanie was concentrating hard on her drawing and I watched the way her eyes moved up and down with the pencil. She had a little frown on her forehead that made her look grown up and wise. The other girls were also busy with their drawings. One of them had blonde hair tied up in a pony tail that swished around as she coloured in her name. The other one had straight brown hair that was cut short to just below her ears. She had her head down on her arm and was staring intently at the pencil dancing across her page. Every now and then she yawned and I could see the redness at the back of her mouth.
At the front of the room was a blackboard and Mrs Mills’ desk. She was sitting at her desk and reading a book. ‘MRS MILLS’ was written in huge white chalk letters across the blackboard. I wondered if she would smile more if she had used coloured chalk to write her name. I looked down at her desk which had some books and other important looking things on it in black containers, all neatly stacked in rows. They looked like little soldiers ready to march as soon as Mrs Mills gave the command. She was wearing a brown skirt that covered her knees and she had thick black shoes that clomped on the wooden floor when she walked. Her hair was pulled back very tight from her face, making it look like her eyes had been stretched so that she could watch the whole classroom at once. She looked very scary when she was sitting at her desk and when I saw her eyes watching me I quickly looked back down at my drawing.
At lunchtime we were allowed to sit on seats on the verandah outside the classroom to eat lunch. I had some sandwiches with vegemite and Stephanie had fish paste. We swapped half our sandwiches and I was sharing my little packet of sultanas with her when Mrs Mills came out of the classroom and told us that we could play on the grass for a little while until the bell rang.
There was lots of noise coming from the boys running around and chasing each other, playing one of those rough games Stephen had told me about. Stephanie and I walked down to the playground and lay on our backs on the grass, looking up at the ribbons of cloud floating by and talking about fairies. She told me there were fairies everywhere in her garden at home and that she liked to talk to them, but only when no-one else was around. I told Stephanie that I would like to be a princess one day and she said that her fairies could turn me into a princess if I liked. I was smiling to myself at that thought, when suddenly the clouds disappeared and some boys were standing above us.
‘There’s the cry baby with funny hair,’ they taunted.
‘Leave us alone,’ said Stephanie.
‘Make us,’ one of the boys replied.
‘I’ll make you all right,’ said Stephanie as she stood up and pushed one of the boys. ‘I said leave us alone!’
‘Look, the cry baby is crying again,’ said the boy named Darren. It was true, I wasn’t as brave as Stephanie and I was ashamed to find my eyes were full of tears again because these rough looking boys scared me so much.
‘Go away Darren or I’ll tell Mrs Mills,’ Stephanie warned. The boys ran off laughing and she put her arm around my shoulder. ‘Don’t worry about them, Molly. Darren lives near my house and he’s really just a big chicken.’ Just then the bell rang and we had to go back to class. I rubbed my eyes so they didn’t look so red but they still felt wet.
After lunch we were allowed to sit on the floor on little mats while the teacher read us a story about Harry the Hairy-nosed Wombat and his fight against men who wanted to build a new road over the top of his house. Mrs Mills let us lay down as she read about Harry’s burrow in the desert. My eyes felt heavy so I closed them for a minute while her voice droned on.
It was nice at the end of my burrow, all curled up in a ball sound asleep. From far above, I could hear the distant sounds of daytime, birds singing and the wind in the trees. A human voice could be heard from far away, but I was so snug that I ignored it. Then I thought I heard my name being called — ‘Molly,’— but that couldn’t be right when I was away out here in the desert. It got louder: ‘Molly! Molly, wake up.’ Suddenly there was a hand on my shoulder and I sat up on my reading mat, blinking my eyes against the bright sunlight. Some of the boys were giggling behind me and I could feel my cheeks getting hot. I wished I was back in my burrow.
After reading time, Mrs Mills took the class outside for a photo. The boys were pushing each other and being stupid until Mrs Mills yelled at them to stop it. She lined us all up in rows, with some of the boys standing on a bench at the back and a row of children standing in front. I stood with Stephanie but I could feel Darren’s knees digging into my back. I tried to ignore him and stood really still because I didn’t want Mrs Mills to yell at me, but I didn’t feel at all like smiling for the camera.
Eventually school finished for the day and I ran to the front gate to find Mum waiting under a big pine tree talking to some other mothers. ‘’Bye Stephanie,’ I called, waving my hand.
‘See you tomorrow, Molly,’ she yelled back.
‘Looks like you found a friend,’ said Mum. ‘How was your first day of school?’
‘It was horrible,’ I pouted. ‘Some boys were mean to me’.
‘Oh Molly, that’s not very nice. I’ll talk to Mrs Mills; I’m sure tomorrow will be better. The second day always is.’
‘Do I have to come back?’ I whined. I couldn’t see how it would ever be better.
‘Of course you do, Molly. You’re a big girl now’. I didn’t feel like a big girl anymore. I could feel hot tears welling up in my eyes again and I just wanted to get as far away from the school as I could.
As the school year progressed I began to learn how to write. With my little fingers clutched around a wooden pencil, I had to take down the words Mrs Mills had written on the board and put them in my exercise book. By the end of the day my fingers were so sore from gripping the pencil that my tired hand would drag over the page and smudge all the letters.
Every now and then the end of my pencil broke and I had to put my hand up and ask Mrs Mills if I could sharpen it. There was a mechanical pencil sharpener bolted to a cupboard and as I turned the handle it ground the pencil until it looked like a little sausage being eaten by a machine. Sometimes my pencil ended up so short that I could barely hold it in my fingers. Then the words danced all over the page and I couldn’t follow the correct slope at all, no matter how hard I tried, until the words eventually got washed down the slope by a flood of tears and Mrs Mills told me again how messy my writing was.
She pointed to the page with her ruler and told me there was something missing and that it was far too untidy. She said it looked like a spider had spun loopy webs of letters across the page and I had to fix it up before I could go home. I stared hard at the page for ages, but I couldn’t work out what she wanted me to do that would make it look any different so I just traced over the letters again with my pencil.
Once a week we went to the school library and we were allowed to borrow two books at a time. The first time I went into the library I just stood there amazed at how many books there were, all lined up in shelves that looked like they would have reached all the way up to the stars if the library roof didn’t stop them. There were so many books to read that I didn’t know where to start. I just wanted to sit there forever and read every single one of them.
One day we had a man come into the classroom with a guitar on his back. Mrs Mills said his name was Neil and he started playing songs as the class sat on the floor and listened. Neil had wild fuzzy hair and holes in his jeans and his guitar sparkled like diamonds. He was tall and spoke softly, but when he started playing the songs were so beautiful that I couldn’t stop my feet from moving. I enjoyed it when we were allowed to sing along and I loved the way singing made me feel so good, as if something alive was coming out of my body.
When I got home I told Mum that I wanted to play the guitar. ‘Perhaps when you get bigger, Molly,’ she said. ‘You know, girls don’t usually play guitar though, maybe you should just be a singer.’ But I was already bursting with music and I couldn’t stop thinking about Neil’s sparkly guitar and how the beautiful notes fell from it like starlight as I walked around the house singing ‘Morning Has Broken’ again and again.
‘Oh Molly, stop singing,’ Samantha yelled from her bedroom, ‘You are so hopeless. I’m trying to do my homework.’ I heard the radio that was playing in her bedroom get louder and she slammed the door shut, so I went into my bedroom and sang to Mr and Mrs Bear as they sat on my bed.
Every night I sang while I was having my bath, trying to get my voice as low as it would go as I sank down towards the bubbles. Then I tried to sing really high like an opera singer and I lifted my face up to the bathroom ceiling. ‘Molly!’ Mum called from the kitchen, ‘Stop being so noisy in there and hurry up and finish your bath.’
‘Okay Mum,’ I called back. I felt like I had finally found what I wanted to be when I grew up. ‘I listen to the wind, to the wind of my soul…’

Episode 9 – Bullied at school

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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.

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