Hello and welcome to Book Tuesday. I’m in the middle of a crime fiction at the moment, which promises to be good. So, instead of a book review for this week, I thought I’d treat you to a short story. My inspiration for this story comes from the cruelty we show each other. I’m taking you back to the school room and using an example of temptations our children face these days. Let me know what you think of it.
Book Tuesday Short Story
With lips curled back in derision, she sauntered towards the shadowed figure cowering in the corner of the filthy girl’s toilet.
“Slapper!” she growled. “You know what we do to slappers, don’t you?”
The figure shrank further back, hoping a hole would open behind her between the graffiti clad tiles and skid marks of who-knew-what. A small shudder ran along the outline of her shrunken shape and her aggressor giggled with glee.
“Come on. Why so shy now that we’re here? Don’t you wanna show us what you showed the boys, hey?” Hyena laughs filled the small tiled space. She stepped even closer, her uniform pulling as she stretched an arm out to prod the girl cowering in the corner. “If you don’t show us, we’ll just have to take some pics of our own.”
The rest of the hyenas edged forward, smelling the fear. Mob rage ran through their veins, under their skin, and they could taste the violence brewing in the air. Another slap landed across the girl’s back and she cried out. Her tormentor turned to the awaiting minions, beckoning them to join in the fun. Brown eyes looked up for one last time to see who would step up to the task. With a quivering bottom lip she saw them crowd around her, wanting a piece of something that she owned – her skin.
Just then, the piercing scream of the school bell rang through the girl’s bathroom, pausing the closed fists and flattened palms that were desperate to deal out mob justice on a girl who had made one wrong decision, one stupid mistake and changed her school life forever. The aggressors hissed with pent up anger. They wanted their pound of flesh, but would have to wait for lunch time. One by one, they filtered out of the bathroom, leaving her in a deflated heap of nerves, still hiding in the corner. She watched them go through her fingers, counting out each one as they left. Her breath came is gasps and she quickly dug into her coat pocket to find her pump. One, two squeezes and the Ventolin puffed into her lungs, relieving her strained body. If only she could find two puffs of something to change the circumstances and turn back time.
Chastity slowly stood up, stretching her aching body and snapping her spine back into place. The past fifteen minutes had been hell on earth, but didn’t compare to the nightmare that existed all the time. She had been a sucker, a lonely, pathetic idiot that had believed a friend about a boy in a chatroom. One silly conversation later and she was hooked. They had spent all their time chatting, exchanging funny photos of friends and family pets, berating their parents to each other to destress from the everyday strictness of their households. After all, not many people understood what it was like to grow up in a family that held old school values and refused to let you go out with friends because they might be a bad influence. Not everyone understood how tiresome it was to have chores and do homework because parents would check up on you if you didn’t. No, not many friends understood how lonely it was to see the party pics from parties you weren’t allowed to attend and join in the group chats but never know what it was like to be there, in person. Tom had seemed to understand. His confidence in her and her way of life had encouraged her to open up to him and tell him all about the real Chastity hidden within.
He had wanted more. He didn’t think she was a bore – he thought she was beautiful, and she liked that feeling. It was different. He kept asking and accusing her of not trusting him, not loving him as much as he did her. So, she had slowly but surely sent some pics of herself, stupid pics of her posing in her undies. She knew that he wouldn’t share them with anyone. She had trusted him.
Oh, how wrong could a person be? How fast had the world fallen off its axes and landed on her? Now her parents knew; the school had been informed and the friends she had once called besties and shared all her secrets with didn’t want to know her because she was now labelled a slag. Little Chastity, the slag.
It would be funny if it wasn’t so upsetting. So far from the truth, it was unbelievable. But, there you have it. That was her life now.
The teasing wasn’t so bad, but meeting the girls who had boyfriends in the same group as Tom was the worst. They needed to teach her a lesson. Their torment was physical, not just idle threats like the ones she was receiving over Instagram and Facebook. She had nowhere to hide from them at school and no-one to turn to. The teachers wouldn’t do anything. One detention and they would be back at it in no time. Better just to take the beatings and get on with it.
Tom, of course, thought it was hilarious and had blocked her number once she reported him. His parents blamed her and said she should not be sending such filth to anyone. Her parents had agreed and punished her by taking away her phone and laptop, which she still needed for homework. Of course, they didn’t want to listen to her side of things. The embarrassment was too much for them to handle. How could their daughter be involved in such a scandal. Everyone knew and looked at them differently. They were ashamed of her. Not as much as she was ashamed at herself. Never as much as that.
The second bell rang, warning stragglers that they should be in class. Chastity didn’t care. She stood in the centre of the bathroom staring at her reflection in the warped mirror by the sinks. Silence descended over the school once more and only a trickling tap at the sink interrupted the peace. She moved a hand over her dishevelled hair and patted it down, watching the tangled mess resist her ministrations. Then she touched her blotchy cheeks. They were still wet. A rough rub to erase them created more blotches on her skin. She sighed. What was she going to do?
“I’m glad I’m not alone,” said a voice from one of the closed cubicles behind her.
Chastity nearly jumped out of her skin. A small squeal expelled itself from her mouth before she could stop it. It told the other occupant of the bathroom that she had been unaware of her presence. The latch on the cubicle door opened and a small mousy brown head popped out.
“Have they all gone?” the head asked.
Chastity nodded. Her brain was still trying to formulate a sentence. Someone had witnessed her getting a beating in the bathroom and she had no words to share with that person. But apparently, this little mousey brown haired girl had a lot to say to her.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t call out or do something to help you. I’m usually their favourite plaything and I couldn’t resist getting a little peace for just one break time,” she chattered. Her tiny teeth seemed to grate against each other when she spoke which was very irritating.
Chastity said nothing but just stood there, staring at this strange little thing. The girl’s head cocked to one side and she grinned, exposing more little teeth. A small hand shot out from the cubicle and snatched Chastity’s. “Hi! I’m Ruth!” The cheeky grin accompanying the handshake sparked some life back into the dark eyes watching Chastity and disappeared just as quickly. A flash of hope.
At last, Chastity found her voice. “What are you doing in here? Classes have started.” She thought it ironic that she was chastising this young girl when she was standing in the same bathroom, but she couldn’t think of anything else to say. Her shame kept her in check.
“Oh, I don’t usually go for RE. It’s easier to avoid the classes where those friendly girls sit behind me.” A part of her neck appeared and her left hand wavered. “I wonder, do you think you could help me?” she asked.
She pulled forward a bit further and suddenly shot back into the cubicle, followed by a loud bang and a cry of pain. Hesitating for only an instant, Chastity ran forward to see what had happened. There stood the young girl, trapped in the cubicle in a man-made spider’s net. The fine lines looked like twine and cut into the girl’s shoulders and torso. She could stretch only so far before the lines pulled her back into their grasp. The pain of the tight lines cutting into her showed. Unshed tears swam in the dark depths of the girl’s eyes, giving her eyes a glassy doll-like quality.
“Could you possibly cut me free?” she asked politely, shrugging a shoulder as though this was an everyday occurrence. “Now you can see why I couldn’t help you. I was a bit tied up myself!”
The wry humour didn’t quite lift the heavy atmosphere of the dirty bathroom, but the two girls grinned. Something shifted in their worlds. Maybe they weren’t alone in their miserable existences after all.
Bullying comes in all shapes and forms, big and small. Let’s make sure we are not a part of it.
Click on the book titles below to read my stories on bullying.