In lieu of pain

There are lots of ways to to deal with pain. Some people scream, some people cry, some people get angry and fight and argue, some people play relentless pong or gently tickle the piano until the feeling washes away. The question is do they work?
And maybe the bigger question for our still-spinning protagonist is how can you start life at sixteen years old, with nothing but fuzzy memories of the past year and a nice pair of new shoes?

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2. Regaining Normality-the boring bits

I opened my eyes. I could hear my phone singing out the first line of my favourite song from Tangled. I needed to get up. I had school. Schoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooool. Schewl. SCHOOL. I said it over and over in my head as I considered what lessons I had that day. I tried to be optimistic. Maybe today would be A Good Day. Maybe. I rolled myself out of bed, not like I had a choice anyway, and went to get breakfast, which was likely to be biscuits, a coffee and a little green pill. Hmm coffee...I figured if I got through the the first hour of lessons (in this case English) I would have earned my mocha and cinnamon swirl at first break. There was the incentive.

Because I was a little late I had to try and figure out the quickest way to the sixth form centre and the only thing I could come up with was WALK THE USUAL WAY BUT REALLY REALLY FAST. It was peeing it down and I tried to hitch up my school bag as I pulled my hood over my head, a flawed plan because it had already half filled with water and my neck was now drenched. Yick. Shivering as I went, I picked up the pace hurried to school in time for tutor.

In the end my hurrying was pointless, because as usual my tutor was ridiculously late and hardly anyone turned up. The room was, as ever, insufferably hot (thermally, I know what you're thinking) so I had to remove a million layers, then tutor was five minutes of idle conversation with Lexie and Dianne and I went off to English. So far it was fairly average. I was coping. This was good. In English I kept my head down and stared at my Keats, doodling around the tops of the printed paper. Cats and cupcakes and suchlike, anything to keep me distracted. I was acutely aware of the eye Mr. Black kept on me throughout the lesson. Poor guy. Keats is so depressing. He's a freaking genius but all he does in the crap we're obliged to study is whine about how horrible womankind is, just with genial, beautiful vocabulary. Not even in a misogynistic way just in a “these people screw us over all the time by being attractive and seductive and cruel”. Doodling is maybe more interesting than “la Belle Dame Sans Merci.”, that or shortening it to “la BDSM” and imagining how the poetry would differ if that was the title. And so passed a meaningless hour.

At break I sat in the lockers with Steve and Lexy and Fran and Beth and JJ and Eve, and it was boring and uneventful, in general. The general atmosphere was pretty frosty towards me and I felt a little like crying so I got up and asked Eve to come see Trixie with me. She jumped up and said “TRIXIE REALLY OMG WHERE IS THAT BABE” which was a kinda amusing reaction and the Lexy followed us too and hug tackled Trix. The conversation was mostly way over my head but at least I was outside making the most of the sun for a change.

Trixie was a generally cheerful person, and always very confident and extroverted - just generally nice to be around. She was REEEEEEEALLY tall with dark brown, blonde highlighted wavy hair and sparkly eyes and she was always wearing a long red coat, and almost always with Bo who I knew fairly little about except that Lexy and Eve fancied his perfectly shaped ass.

“So I'm thinking when the Hobbit comes out...sleepover at mine, IN COSTUME, of course, and then first cinema screening in the morning??” Trix was saying excitedly.

“Well personally I don't know anything about it but I'd make a bloody good hobbit so sure” replied five foot two Eve, to which Lexy who was only slightly taller grinned and high fived. These people were just too awesome, and I wanted more than anything to go. Eve and Lexy didn't know anything about the Hobbit, I deserved these friends. “Oooh can I be Balin? He's my favourite” said Bo, starting a confusing conversation about the preferred dwarves of the Company of Thorin Oakenshield. Geek company was awesome. I'd almost forgotten the Hobbit was coming out what with everything that had been happening and OMIGOD I was excited, it was the first book I remembered being read and I had waited most of my childhood to see it brought to screen. Maybe it was time to make like minded friends, if I could manage to act normal long enough to be accepted. I couldn't help but smile though. That morning had been a success.

So at lunch I went straight outside rather than be cooped up in the lockers watching Steve and Fran's endless flirting, and I was kinda glad I did. Lexy and Eve got bored and came out after a while and it was just, for once, a fairly light-hearted atmosphere. Standing on the bench, I launched myself onto Trix for a piggy-back and naturally she caught me and I tipped my head back in the wind and felt like I was flying, just for a moment, even though I was just on somebody's back and only a little way off the ground.

 

I'm pacing the corridor mindlessly. Nothing matters any more. I feel faint. I'm almost not really here already, it can't possibly take much to fade away now.

I didn't want to think about this right now. I screwed my eyes tight shut.

 

Trembling all over, I head for the stairs.

 

I involuntarily squeaked a little as Bo pulled my grey woolly boot from my foot and flung it across the quad, shaking me from my flashback. What. Why?? Startled, Trix suddenly dropped me on my sock-bare foot, also incidentally my broken ankle, and I winced in pain. Everyone laughed and I wasn't going to explain. I appeared to be genuinely involved in actual banter, and I giggled with everyone else and made the most of my new and most probably short-lived social standing. Bo and Trix were nice, and Eve and usually Lexy were nice, and I went to biology in a fairly good mood.

My biology teacher doubled as my tutor and was completely incapable of teaching really anything, lovely though she was. John moved into our class that week, having dropped I.T., and we were in a Chemistry classroom because some year thirteens were in our room doing a practical or something, and we did a heart dissection, and it was frankly yuck, although very interesting. Fran got accidentally tripped and squished the heart, forcing a stream of blood to splatter my paper. Everyone held their breath, waiting to see how I'd react.

 

It's dark. I'm just bringing It down and across the skin of my arm, over and over again. Where is my mind.

 

Absently, I touched the scars on my arm. Sheep blood was running down my paper pad, Fran had splatted face down on the floor and the girl who had tripped her had her hand over her mouth, eyes wide. The room was still. And I just burst out laughing, and everyone smiled.

 

Maybe today was a good day after all.

 

**

I quite clearly remember the day Fran decided to announce her renouncement of friendship, and the night before as well, because I was talking to Clare at the time too. Fran was telling me bits and pieces of how she felt, and skipping bits, and eventually came to the conclusion that the only reasonable course of action was to talk to me face to face, so we agreed to meet early the next morning. The last thing we said that night was “Before you go I just have one question-Will we still be friends after tomorrow?”

“Um I don't really wanna answer that. And no, I know that doesn't sound good.”

It was the first day of Rag Week too, which was a somewhat amusing setting, and I was a little bit nervous that morning as I woke up and got ready, extra early because I had a stupid costume to prepare. As I sat cross-legged on the bedroom floor, plaiting orange and yellow pipe-cleaners into my Pippi Longstocking hair I considered all the possible outcomes of the situation, and none of them seemed all that good. I knew that they were all finding it difficult adapting just to having me around after what happened and I knew that Fran had any number of ways of dramatising this, and I knew that however much I prepared myself it was likely to sting. Waiting at the crossing in a silly little pinafore I was freezing. It was where I'd met Beth and Fran so many times before, just to go into town, to the bus stop, to Costa.

 

I'm walking further up the road in my grey and blue summer dress with little hotpants underneath because my mum says I can't go out with my knickers on show and I had to reluctantly agree. My hair's long, and flutters around my sun kissed neck, glistening with a shin sheen of sweat in the gorgeous morning heat. I can see Beth's silhouette in the distance and Matthew's still texting me. My phone, tucked into my bra, is playing pretty cheery music through my rubbery and somewhat crackly from overuse headphones, and despite everything, we're all going to have a really nice day.

 

She gave me a patronising half-smile as she came into view in a little green tinkerbell dress and tight bun, an expression that wasn't quite pitying but at the same time in no way respectful. Most of what she said was just words really, she talked for a long time and said very little. She said how hard she had tried to get used to being with me still but she just couldn't do it and she had to do what was best for her and tell me to my face that we weren't friends. She said she wouldn't ignore me if I spoke to her because that was infantile and she wasn't like that, but that she wouldn't want to talk to me and couldn’t consider us friends because friends can trust each-other and she hoped I understood. I was momentarily confused, unable to see the point in our meeting. What was there really to understand? She had never been subtle even when she'd tried to, the throbbing pain in my ankle was a near constant reminder of that, and so nothing really had changed. I wasn't sure if I was glad the situation had been clarified or not, I wasn't sure how to react. I vaguely remember telling her to look after Beth for me whatever happened, and Fran said she was sure if she knew that she'd be grateful, then left with another patronising smile as I cried to myself in the rain.

I was fuming. I was still firmly of the belief that everything that happened was Not My Fault, and maybe I was right and maybe I was wrong, but at the time there was nothing I could think of but to sit in the rain and cry. I texted Clare and I walked to school with Lexy, and I tried to act like as much of a normal person as possible. I didn't know why I felt so numb. When we got to JJ's her mum took a picture of us all in costume; Pippi, Jessie, Amy Pond and a smurf, and it was on Facebook by the time we arrived at school. The diversity of costume was pretty impressive. There were several Tinkerbells, and Trix was dressed as Bellatrix Lestrange, wand and all, which given my ridiculous love of Harry Potter was probably among my favourites. John was in a bear suit with a blue highlighter nose for Bear in the Big Blue house, which was pretty awesome, and the girl I sat with in psychology was a black witch, with awesome sparkly wings I stole to put on my Mr. Nelson.

Rag week was an altogether bizzare experience, but mostly in a good way. On Tuesday, animal day, I wore my dinosaur onezie, matching Leah in her Bear one, Trix in her owl one, and Alice in her bunny rabbit one (which was the genuine cutest thing I've ever seen.) There are plenty more mundane details of that week I could give, but I'm not entirely sure anyone wants to read them. This chapter in general was a little boring, but the first leg of any journey gets a little tiresome, it still has to be done.

I had early morning physio on my ankle that Wednesday and getting up very early in the morning to get to the hospital was highly irritating, especially whilst wearing my quidditch player costume and therefore maintaining absolutely no dignity (it had a massive billowy cape and everything). Fairly used to hospitals and physiotherapy, I went confidently to the back of the line, which was set about half a mile away from the check-in desk to maintain confidentiality or something, and noticed that the pre-op check in had a HUGE and rather graphic display about how to check for signs of Breast Cancer. I wondered at first how this was in any way relative to the vast majority of surgeries, I mean by that point it's too late anyway, and then remembered that the last time I'd been here the display had been about self-conducted testicular examinations. The same logic applied to that. Maybe it's just something to cheer the nurses up a little when they're on early morning shifts, but then again I guess raising awareness is good and you have to put that stuff somewhere....

Physio is boring. Stand up sit down do some exercises...but I did get discharged from the hospital, which was good, and I swept into Biology almost on time with my cape flying around behind me and, if nothing else, made a half decent entrance to an hour of dissecting beetroots.

The only interesting that really happened after that (for that week anyway), was I got invited to Bo's seventeenth birthday party. And that's where the fun began.

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