Authors: Claire Hennessy
Published in this format 2016 by Mulcahy Books
Copyright – © Claire Hennessy 2004
The author asserts the moral right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
All Rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior consent of the author, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
I start off the summer term with a hangover, blue hair and a “reputation”. The hangover is because I was out last night with Barry, and because at the age of seventeen I still haven’t made the connection between excessive drinking and hangovers, apparently. I’m keeping the aspirin companies in business, though, so maybe it’s a good thing. The blue hair was because I dyed it over the Easter holidays, as you do. It might have been a rebellious thing, or it might have been to match an outfit, I can’t remember which. At any rate, my natural hair colour is a terribly boring, ordinary shade of brown, so it gets dyed a lot, although usually to blonde or black or something along those lines. The reputation is because of a party I held over the holiday, during which my friend (friend? Acquaintance? Object of my affection?) Abigail kissed me, gasp shock horror, and I really wish people would get
It’s not worthy of scandal, really, especially considering that Abi has absolutely no romantic feelings towards me and was terribly drunk at the time, but because this is an all-girls school where very little else happens, it’s big news. It’s all
oh my gosh, do you think she’s a lesbian? I’ve always thought she seemed the type
and awkward glances in my direction. Awkward, as if I might be attracted to
(heaven forbid!), despite the fact that most of them are terribly uninteresting people and unattractive on top of it. It’s stupid, and slightly bizarre, too, having a mere kiss create such drama when everything that happened with Lucy went completely unnoticed. I find myself wondering what would have happened if Natasha was in my school, and the scandal there would have been while we were going out, if they’re making such a fuss over
I really don’t want to discuss the Abi situation with anyone, because I
her and she doesn’t like me, not in that way, and there’s something faintly pathetic about unrequited love, or lust, or whatever you want to call it. It’s romantic and tragic in the movies, of course, but very few people feel sorry for the person in real life with feelings that aren’t reciprocated. You just want to shake them and tell them to stop moping and to move on. Hell,
want to shake me and tell me to move on, and it’s only been a couple of weeks.
The principal sees me in the corridor and demands to know what I’m doing with blue hair.
“It’s inappropriate,” she says.
“It matches the school uniform,” I point out.
She gives me detention for being cheeky and tells me to dye it to a more suitable colour.
Because apparently you can’t learn as well as everyone else when you have oddly coloured hair. Or something. You’d think they’d spend their time doing something more productive than giving out to students about their hair or excess jewellery or something equally trivial. Oh, well, I’m too amused by it all to be angry. I’ll re-dye it tonight.
We’re doing RSE in our first class and discussing sexual harassment. Mary kisses John, John feels uncomfortable, John tells Mary to stop, Mary doesn’t listen to him. Is this sexual harassment, girls? We all nod and agree, even though if it really happened we’d be thinking,
Nah, it’s no big deal.
Peter wants Anne to have sex with him. Anne says no. Peter says that she’s been leading him on. Anne says she didn’t mean to. Peter insists that she
want to sleep with him if she was behaving like that. Is this sexual harassment, girls?
We parrot that yes, yes it is, that no one should feel pressurised into having sex unless they want to. Never mind the fact that Anne’s going to be called a tease, that she’s going to feel guilty for leading Peter on, that she’s going to feel as if all of this is her fault. Because that’s real life, and these are stupid sheets of paper that we’re reading without caring or thinking about, just delivering the expected response. Besides, it’s a quarter past nine on the first morning back after Easter, and we’re all half-asleep.
At break-time, Roisín comes over to talk to me. There’s usually a small group of us, but it seems I’m being ostracised for today. Oh dear. If I cared, this might hurt my feelings. Nevertheless, I’m touched when Sarah and Fiona come in to talk to us. They’re in a different class, and even though we’re friends with them, we tend to be able to survive break without seeing them. Abi joins us a moment later, and I notice some of the girls in the class eyeing her with curiosity, wondering if that’s
Honestly, people really need to get lives for themselves. My escapades are not that interesting or unusual.
At lunch we go to the shop and when we come back to school my phone rings. It’s Declan. He sounds somewhat suicidal. He has pills in front of him and is wondering what the point of anything is. Despite the fact that I’ve heard this a hundred times from Declan before, I try to soothe him, and tell him I’m going to come to see him.
I slip out before lunch ends and tell Roisín to tell the teachers I’ve gone home sick. I get the bus and wait impatiently for it to drop me off on his road, then run down to his house. He takes his time answering the doorbell, while I’m standing there wondering frantically if it’s too late, and then he lets me in, and I hug him.
Honestly, I spend half my time wanting to comfort him, and the other half wanting to kill him. Because right now he looks so pale and vulnerable, and yet he does stuff like this so often that it tires me out and makes me want to slap him.
We sit down on his couch and he tells me he only took a few and then stopped. I stroke his hair and hold him and listen to him while he talks about how everything just seems so futile and hopeless, and before I know it, in a rather misguided attempt to make him feel better, I’m kissing him.
It progresses to the stage where we go up to his room. He has a light touch, almost feminine. I’m thinking of Abi the whole time, until it gets to the stage where there’s no more pretending, but by then of course it’s too late to go back, and anyway, I don’t want to.
And that’s my Monday.
I don’t tell Roisín about Declan because it’ll shock her and she’ll look horrified. Only for a moment, and then she’ll try to cover it up. I’ll say, “I know, I’m a slut” and she’ll reassure me and tell me that no, no, of course not, I just got carried away, but secretly she’ll be thinking, oh, Emily, how could you be so
Roisín is the sort of person who deliberates at length over whether or not to even kiss someone, so I always feel somewhat ashamed telling her about the sort of things I get up to. She is a believer in thinking things through, and I am a believer in following your instincts. It makes life much more interesting.
Don’t get me wrong, I love her and all, but it’s hard sometimes, being friends with someone who has morals. Well, I have morals. I guess. I mean, what happened with Declan was okay, because we both know it didn’t really mean anything, it was just fun. It’d be different if I knew he liked me, but he doesn’t. But Roisín would look at that situation and think that it was awful because we don’t really care about one another, and that I was lowering myself by being with him.
It’s just the way she thinks, I suppose. She’s been brought up to think that way, and she’s never questioned it. It’s firmly ingrained in her mind that good girls behave themselves properly. It’s the way most people see the world, I guess, or at least people in this school. We’re supposed to be demure and good and pure and well behaved and chaste. People try to be cool and blasé about sex, but deep down most people take it very seriously, want it to be something meaningful.
It’s not. Sex is sex and love is love, and they’re entirely different things. The latter is what I take seriously. Love matters much more.
I think about Declan, who I most definitely do not love, and then I think about Abigail, and Hugh, and Lucy. I don’t even know if that’s love. They say you
when you’re in love, that you can instinctively feel it, and I’ve never been sure, really, of whether it’s love or just an infatuation.
I’m thinking about this during French class. French, the language of love – supposedly. Lucy’s practically fluent in the language, the words tripping off her tongue like a native. It makes sense, considering it’s her. She’s always been good with words of love.
Meanwhile, I’m practically failing French. There has to be something symbolic in that. I don’t have the skill for it, and that’s why Lucy’s been in a stable relationship for the past two years and I’ve flitted about like a bee going from flower to flower, never satisfied.
The bell goes for lunch.
The weather is verging on almost summer-like, so we’re sitting outside. The grass is soft and the sky looks like it is too, if only you could touch it. There are loads of us sitting outside, groups spilling into other groups. I’m lying on the grass looking up at the clouds with Abi and Roisín. Sarah has her phone out, frantically texting Shane, her boyfriend. I know Shane, and I can’t help but wonder how long it’s going to last. He’s a real charmer. I’ve never known him to be in a serious relationship, but then again I can’t really throw stones. Still, Sarah’s sweet, and I hope for her sake that it works out.
They got together on the same night my boyfriend went off with another girl. She’s one of Sarah’s best friends, actually, Fiona. She’s in our year but I don’t know her that well, only through Sarah. I think, after the initial shock and anger of him deciding he wanted to end a three-month relationship because Fiona looks good in a low-cut top, I’m mostly amused about the situation, or trying to be, anyway. I don’t see it lasting terribly long, either, which I suppose is terribly cynical of me. I have very little faith in teenage relationships. They never seem to last, apart from Lucy and Andrew, but they’re definitely the exception.
I look over at Fiona, talking to another girl in our year. She’s not particularly attractive, but cute, I suppose, if you go for that sort of thing. I’m probably supposed to hate her for stealing my man, but I can’t find it in me to care. It’d be hypocritical, considering that even though we went out that night as a couple, his mind was already on her, and I was starting to notice Abi.
I don’t know what it is about Abi, really. She’s got a vague air of mystery to her, I suppose, along with a hint of instability. I’ve seen her scars. I know she hurts herself, and there’s a part of me that romanticises this. I can rescue her, be the one who saves her and makes her see how beautiful she really is, inside and out.
She’s gazing up at the clouds, a dreamy expression on her face. I wonder what she’s thinking about. Shane, maybe. She has a crush on him, unsurprisingly enough. He has charisma, and most girls fall for him shortly after getting to know him. I’m not sure whether I like that he’s going out with Sarah, so that Abi’s left available (not that it makes much of a difference, of course, but I can dream), or whether I hate it because he’s chosen Sarah over her, and she doesn’t deserve that.
She looks gorgeous. I feel like a creepy pervert for watching her, which makes me get annoyed with myself. Guys don’t hold themselves to these standards when they’re looking at girls – they don’t tell themselves, “Gosh, better not look, in case someone thinks it’s wrong”. Even if the girl has no interest in them, it’s still okay. Maybe it shouldn’t be okay, but it is.
I won’t look. I won’t stare. I’ll just resume cloud watching. There’s one that looks vaguely like a fairytale castle, the sort where the prince and princess get to live happily ever after.