Baby Face

Bonnie Hemingway was burned in a fire very early in life, causing her face to be contorted and "ugly". Over her 15 years on this Earth, she has gone through countless failed correctional opperations, driven her family apart and suffered bullying from her peers.
However, one day she meets Harvey. Not gorgeous, hunky or desperately heroic. No. Harvey is kind and funny and human. Which is just what Bonnie needs.

Is it, though?

This is a story that just highlights how the effects of bullying can linger long after the mental gunfire. I hope you enjoy.

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4. Him, Harvery, Him

"Tip the Fourth": Galantry is the sanity that starts war. It's also the thing that kills it.

 

The course of the day is reverberating around the wall of my skull, like an itching, numbing pang. It's Friday and when I questioned Aisha about the whereabouts of my calculator earlier, she told me that she would give it back on Monday. That settles it then. But it's Janet's words that are rickashaying off of my mental barrier. At lunch she, Ooma, Pierre and Felisha followed me. It started once I put my books in my locker and set out for the library, as usual. They were chained together in a link-formation, their presence both unnerving and disturbing--cackles like hyenas could probably be heard corridors away. They latched onto the fact that I was alone. And then they went in for the kill.

"Hey, look guys!"

"Baby-face!"

"Come 'ere bubba! We looooove you Baby-Face!"

"Ahhh, who's a dirty bitch? Who's a dirty bitch? You are! Yes, you are, Baby-Face!"

I quickened my pace and sped along the corridor, but they kept coming.

"Damn it, bitch. You're a rude cow, you little shit."

"Excuse me? We are talking to you!"

"Come here when we are bloody well talking to you."

I used my first strategic move. "Shut up. Haven't you got anything better to do? Saddos."

They fed off of this. Their response was almost planned.

"Rude cow!"

"Shut up, yourself. You sad bitch!"

"How would you like it if someone said that to you? Don't get rude."

God, they're ignorant, I murmered. It seemed that my tactic wasn't working, so I began to run away.

"Come back, Baby!"

"Yeah, Loner".

I hate that word. It's cold, raw spite and it means that I don't belong. It defines me as the sad little girl, who stoops down when her betters approach and who cannot find anybody who will love her. I darted into the girl's bathroom and locked the door behind me. I tried to block out their primitive howls, but it didn't work very well. And then there was one final epilogue.

Janet said: "Do us a favour and kill yourself. No one cares if you die."

Christ. That. Hurt.

 

 

Saturday evening. It's hazy and sticky outside, which is a lot like how I feel right now. The dress is laid out on the bed, it’s a pale blue garden-party style number, with small embroidered carnations on the collar. It’s meant to be a good sign, isn’t it? A starched to-death frock, with little-girlish flower embellishments is meant to signify innocence, and heart-warming beauty. No more tears. Not tonight, Bonnie.

Mum walks in, armed with a hairbrush and a freshly ironed navy cardigan. The present is lying on my desk, above a mountain of clutter and sweet wrappers and science research and doodles of orange penguins and pies and socks. My throat is a little clogged and I can feel goose-bumps gathering on my arms. It’s kind of sickly-sweet. I’m not sure about it. What if I got sent the wrong address? What if they’re all waiting at Sorcha’s house to pull off some sick joke? I was excited and actually happy, some 48 hours ago. But now it’s flat and kind of deflated. “Come on, babe” Mum coos softly. “You’ going to get ready?” She strokes the sleeve of my flannelled bath robe, and begins to de-knot my tangled mop of hair. I’m looking at Mum and my face crumples in worry. “Mum, what if something happens there? What if...”

Mum’s doing that thing again. She shakes her head at me, ferociously adamant. “Every time,” She bites her lips. “Every bloody time, Bonnie. You’re going to have a good time, alright? You deserve to have a good time and I am not having you being pushed over by some nasty little brat who thinks that she’s better than you.” Mum’s widened eyes say it all. But her words are transparent. I slip the dress on and Mum applies a smidgen of lip gloss from her make-up drawer. I take the present wrapped with shiny red wrapping paper and walk downstairs to the hallway. "Come on then, Bonnie." Mum runs her hand through my hair. Her eyes are slightly sunken and she takes my palm in her hand, just like she did on my fist day at school. "Mum," I say, as we step out into the swollen evening heat. "I'm nervous."

"I am too." She replies. She is not being complacent. She really is terrified.

 

 

Music is booming out onto the street from Sorcha's house. It's a bad start, because I don't know the song. My mind and throat clog up when Mum leaves me at the garden gate, a brave smile etched on her face. In my mind, I begin to sing.

And in the sea there is a fish,

A fish that has a secret wish,

A wish to be a big cactus

With a pink flower on it.

 

Sorcha opens the front door. She looks stunning. Her rosy complexion is sported by a light layer of frosted plum eye-shadow and a thin coat of pale lipstick. Her hair is down and has been curled and she is wearing a sparkly red party dress. "Snap!" I say, a little too loudly, matching the present up with the dress.

"Oh! Ha ha, yes!" She queals and embraces me. "I'm so glad you could make it!" Sorcha leads me into her hallway, and then into the front room. "Bonnie's here everyone!" She announces. A few people look up and after my quick scan of the room, I analyse that most of the usual supsects haven't arrived yet. Sorcha tells me that her parents have left the entire house to her for the evening, which surprises me. My Mum would never let me do that, ever. Then again, I would never have a party like this. Sorcha shows me the ropes, by shoving a glass of punch in my trembling hands. I take a sip, but  as it trickles down my throat, it burns in an unpleasant way. I've never had anything stronger than coke before. The music and unknown tunes blare on, as does the dancing that I am too shy to join in with. I cradle my fanta as I'm perched on a love-seat, half observing the mangled activity in the room and half thinking about how I will be spending the next three hours. And then I see him. 

I'm ignoring him at first. Behind a mop of brown curly hair, there is a boy who, from askance, looks about my age. I continue to tap my toe to the rhythm of the beat and try to look as in-with-it as possible. Graham and Aisha have arrived, so I am perched on the edge of the love-seat, ready to jump up should my inconspicuousness be uncovered. The boy is making a bee-line towards my couch. I don't recognise him, so I remain still, not making eye contact. I pretend to fiddle with my nails. Yes, that's it, pretend to be occupied. Then he can't stare at me, or make some stupid remark. "Could I sit here?" 

What. 

I'm looking around. The boy is talking to me. I'm gawking at him, my throat is damp and sticky and I'm trying to refrain from spluttering everywhere. "Huh- er, yeah- yeah, huh, sure." Is my reply. 

"Oh, good." Still talking? "It's just that you don't appear to be a loud-mouthed buffoon, like a lot of the people in this room." 

"Oh... er... oh." Ever the word-smith. 

"So what's your name?" 

"Bonnie" I shoot back, before such a question could be withdrawn. 

"Harvey". He smiles warmly and shakes my hand. Harvey. It reminds me of the old black and white film that me and Mum used to watch when I was little about a man and his imaginary 6ft rabbit friend. Ok, it was a lot less crazy than it seems. Now, I take the liberty of studying his face. It's not handsomely chiselled and his hair is not a smouldering blonde, complemented with swollen abs. His hair is a mousy brown, with what look like blue highlights. His eyes are blue, and he has a small mouth, with lips set slightly askew because of his wry smile. It's a kind face.

“So how do you know Sorcha?” Harvey inquires. Great. Small talk. Something that I have never been very good at, certainly not in situations like this. Well, to be fair, I’ve never been in a situation like this. “Oh, um, she’s in my, um, form group at school. And, um, how do you know her? Or are you a gate-crasher?” I bowl myself over somewhat by squeezing in that last joke but Harvey seems to find it funny. “I’m her cousin. I'm in the year above you guys at school." It's odd, because I don't recognise him from school. "What do you think of the music?" God. He's putting me on the spot and my conscience is going clammy. 

"I-I-I... huh... It's alright. N-not really my thing." I'm waiting for a sharp reply, singed with sceptic disagreement. 

"Yeah, I'm not too keen." 

Oh. I actually smile at him. And he smiles back.

Out of the dark, there’s a hand that wraps around my wrist. It’s Graham’s because, although the light is quite dim, his contorted and slurred features are quite clear. He drags me up, out of the chair and away from Harvey with a blunt yank and I can feel his stubby fingers latch into my skin in a painful scratch. “Come on, Baby Face.” A jeering pang. “What’s wrong, bitch? Can’t dance?” I’m crumpling in defeat, because it’s happening again. It’s not stopping, it lingers everywhere. I’m going to be trampled and then what? “N-no, go away Graham, stop being a twit.” He’s laughing at me.

“Twit? Is that the best you can do?" He does a mock posh accent. It's a clout on the shoulder: I've been teased about my accent before and I've always tried to dub it. Graham had to dig it up, though. "Maybe I should give you a lesson in swearing, dirty shit.” His eyes are squinted and refined and I try to push him but he keeps coming forward. He's pushing me further into the corner, away from the light. Away from hope. I'm struggling and pushing him and I don't know anymore. "Piss off, Graham! Go away, you idiot!" Graham snarls at me and releases.

"That's all I wanted to hear, Baby Face. Was that so hard?" I bite my lip and shake my head. "Freak." He returns to the light and I return to the corner which is now vacant. Not even Harvey is there. The shadows dance upon the wallpaper and the furniture. I'm slumping against the wall. Deflated. But I can't cry. No. That would be giving in. Ignore them, Bonnie. Let them wash over you. They're nothing. Ignore them. Now how many times have I heard that? And how many times has that actually worked?

"Mind if I sit here?" Quiet, sleek, un-jagged. It runs down the nape of my neck like honey. I look up at him.

"I'm sorry?"

"I said: Mind if I sit here?" I want to be hurt and feel pain and isolation. But strangely I want to be saved too. I want someone to save me. "Ok" I whisper. Harvey sits down, cross-legged, facing me. I'm trying not to make eye-contact. "You know," I begin, wiping my nose, "Most people try their best not to sit next to me."

"Well," he reasons, "I think you seem... interesting" Interesting. Now. There's a word. Mum always used to use that word, before school almost everyday. "You're not a freak," she would insist, loading me up with an overflowing packed-lunch box and my battered book bag. "You're just different. In fact, you're a remarkable, interesting person." Interesting is an empty excuse. "But," I try to get out, "But aren't you... you know, aren't you a bit..." I sigh. "My face." I'll have to settle with a blunt explanation.

"Oh, I, um..." I don't mean to put him off but I've succeeded in doing something stupid. I can feel blood begin to fill up my cheeks and hotten. "I'm sorry," I say, picking my nails. I try not to look at the work that I have managed to unravel. "I-"

"They think you're a freak." I look up.

"What?"

"That boy, he called you a freak. And that happens a lot to you, doesn't it?"

He's taking me by surprise and I don't like this. "I..Yes, I don't know, I... please, just." I'm rising up from an enclosed answer and standing up. "Please, Harvey, I don't want... I just.... I think I should go." I sigh at him and flatten my dress. It's been... different. But it's ended like it should do. Crudely and with a jagged aftertaste. I'll say goodbye to Sorcha, make my excuses and ask her if I can call Mum on her home phone. But, out of the dark, there's a hand that grabs my wrist. It's not Graham's. No. It's soft, almost translucent. The owner leans into me, his warming cheeks brushing against mine. I flush slightly at the intimacy. "You're different. They think you're not normal. Perhaps the truth is that you're the normalest of them all." He releases me from discomfort. "See you at school."

And he leaves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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