Boy

** It has been a long, long time since I wrote this. I found it in an old notebook while I was clearing out and I realised that almost everything I write about has happened in the last six years. So here is something from long, long ago and far, far away.**

Boy raised the frying pan and set it on the rack. Then Boy washed the knife, watching how the light reflected on it beneath the bubbles. Then Boy lay the flat of it across one pale wrist, toying with temptation.

The thoughts swirled among the dirty dishwater.

Tomorrow will be just the same. Unless I change that.

Would they care? Would they even notice?

Would it hurt? It already hurts too much. What would God say? Would he be disappointed? Would I go to hell? Is this not hell already?

There is no way out unless I make it. Is there?

I can’t see it. I will die if I have to wait much longer.

I can’t face another day of it. I can’t do it again tomorrow.

The knife lay heavy in Boy’s hand.

God would be so disappointed in me.

Boy wiped the knife as though the thoughts might be washed away too and lay it out to dry.

*     *     *

Boy was not yet late for maths. A queue had already formed outside the classroom, headed by Derek lounging against the door frame and Ellie with her chunky blonde highlights, trying to flirt as only twelve year olds can.

Their looks were already hot pinpricks on Boy’s neck.

Keeping one’s head down is a sworn by method of conflict avoidance most commonly advocated by those who know only the theory of it. Boy tried it anyway.

You might have thought that staring at the marbled beige linoleum would have meant she might have noticed Derek’s foot but she didn’t. It was too sudden and too late and before she could do much more than squeak, Boy was on all fours on the floor.

If humans truly were born basically good, then twenty children would not have stood sniggering at the fact that Boy could put no weight on her right leg.

God, why?

But the teacher had arrived and she had someone help Boy to her seat. Then she sat at her desk, scanning the room with a look that told them all that she knew. And she turned to Boy.

“What happened?”

And Boy looked her in the eye and bit back the tears and the rage and the white snarling pain.

This is my chance.

“It was really busy, I must have tripped. It was an accident.”

The teacher did not believe the story but no one offered any different.The class began and a glance at Derek revealed an expression which gave more satisfaction than seeing him receive a punishment exercise ever could.

*     *     *

“Why do you wear Tweenie shoes you freak!”

One purple CAT flew at Boy, hitting her arm.

“They’re not even real! You can’t even afford proper shoes you freak!”

The second shoe landed on a high windowsill where Boy would have to clamber to get it. She could feel the anger burning her ribs as she climbed up the changing room bench.

“I have those shoes so Harriet can go to school.”

Her muttering did not make the situation any better. She tied the laces in silence, trying hard not to imagine punching every single one of them in their made-up faces.

There was only French left to survive which she did by purposefully mispronouncing the words, pretending to stumble over the familiar words. Across the classroom, Ellie positively glowed to be complimented on her vocabulary as the freak retreated into herself with relief.

*     *     *

Boy adjusted her tie in the mirror and brushed her hair for the hundredth time.

They’ll say yes. They have to say yes. Please God, don’t make me do this anymore.

My brother shouldn’t have stood up for me, it’s only made it harder. Please God. The appeal has to go through.

Boy’s mother appeared at the bathroom door.

“That’s the academy on the phone. The headmaster read your notes and he says he can find a space for you.”

The child’s heart sank.

“I don’t want to go there. Eve goes there – y’know, that plays the cello. She’s such a snob. They’re all stuck up.”

“It’s better than where you are. I don’t think the appeal is going to work for the High School. I don’t think they’ll let you in.”

Boy looked at her mother, her eyes filled with tears.

“I can’t do it anymore.”

Her mother held her tight.

“I’ll phone the Academy and say yes and we won’t bother with the appeal. I’ll take you to school after lunch.”

*     *     *

The Academy was very different. People studied. Many played at least one instrument. It was common to study more than the one compulsory science. It was the exception not to stay on until sixth year. No one set fire to anyone’s jumper while they were wearing it.

Boy burned her old school tie a week later on the stone steps in the back garden. It did not burn so much as melt into a black tarry mess but somehow, shivering on the patio, she felt free.

*     *     *

Who knows what happened to Boy. She is not dead because sometimes I still see her peering out at me with frightened eyes.

I suppose that over time she grew and changed and became someone new. Boy faded into the past and was wrapped up in paper and laid in an old shoebox tied up with string. The lid was pushed down firmly and she was stored away.

I saw her the other day as I was talking to a friend. She peered at me across the sofa, wide-eyed, begging me not to trust my friend. Did I not remember? Could I not see? Must I be reminded that in the soul of every woman lies a girl like Ellie?

You cannot trust them. You know what they are like.

I rubbed my knee where it still hurts sometimes. Then I took Boy gently, for her scars still ache, and placed her back inside the box. God has dealt graciously in the years between us.

It has been a long road and at times a hard one. But we cannot be defined by our pasts. We are in Christ now.

We are a new creation.

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