"I don't want to say she deserved to be bullied. That's awful, and heartless, and wrong. Nobody ever deserves to be bullied, especially when it's coming from a nasty piece of work like Melanie Waterfield. Especially when it led to...this.
But... I can't help it. She almost did deserve the bullying.
Lucy Dummer was the easiest possible target for bullies that had ever walked the earth. Firstly, that name. You would change a name like that, especially if you fit it as well as Lucy did. She was hopeless at everything. She couldn't do Maths if her life depended on it; she couldn't write coherently even at the age of 15; she spent P.E. lessons tripping spectacularly over her own feet and crashing into other people. As Melanie used to put it - she couldn't get any Dummer if she tried.
But it wasn't just Lucy's painful dumbness that was the problem. It was everything else too. It was her perennially lank, greasy, colourless hair that hung like rat's tails around her acne-scarred face. It was her scrawny shapeless figure and long, gangling limbs that always seemed beyond her control. It was the fingernails that were constantly dirty and long enough to scratch out her eyes. I wouldn't put it past her to accidentally blind herself whilst rubbing the sleep dust away in the morning.
And it was the school skirt that almost came down to her ankles, topped off with great clumping clown shoes, a hundred years old, that wouldn't even have been fashionable when they were new. It was the faded yellow satchel that held her books, another relic of a bygone era. It was the way that, together, these things gave her the aura of someone who'd been stuck in the past while the years rolled on without her.
And it was her barely-audible mouse voice, and the stupid things it would produce. The obvious questions, the boneheaded statements, the hopelessly outmoded expressions. It was the way she nibbled carrots and celery like a rabbit, and was never seen anywhere near any of the brightly-coloured, branded junk food that the rest of us lived on.
There was literally nothing that Melanie couldn't sink her teeth into. She was clever about it too, never making it obvious. An occasional cry of 'take a shower, greaseball'. Various names - pizza face, brainless wonder, Bozo the Clown - tossed so quickly across the room that you'd barely even hear them. The odd shoving of Lucy into a locker, or tripping her up in a corridor, or stealing her clear plastic pencil case and silently dying of laughter while she blundered around looking for it.
Of course it was horrible, and unfair. Lucy couldn't help it.
But why couldn't she help it?
Sometimes, when I looked at her, I saw myself. A memory would return of a younger me in ghastly, far-too-big 'sensible' shoes. A me with gross, greasy hair. A me with my hopelessly dorky calf-length skirt.
But do you know what I did? I helped myself. I washed my hair more often. I bought flimsy ballerina pumps out of my purposely saved-up pocket money, tossing the clown shoes firmly into the bin as soon as possible. I hitched up my skirt and held it up with a hidden belt, as anyone with even a lick of sense knew to do.
So why couldn't Lucy do that? It frustrated me to the point of legitimate anger. She wasn't poor; her parents were really rather affluent. She had absolutely no excuse to look the way she did, or wear her her uniform the way she wore it.
That's why I never said anything. That's why I never reported what was going on. Because, deep down, I hoped that all the taunting and all the pain would drive her to help herself. But it didn't.
Every day, when I remember... what happened, sadness pierces me like a shard of glass through my heart. Lucy was a sweet girl, despite it all. It should never have come to this. I hope Melanie goes mad with guilt.
But though Lucy Dummer was a friend - though I had nothing but pity for her - she could have done something about it."
I looked down at my laptop screen, and read back what I'd written. The truth, in black and white. Then I sighed, and deleted every word.
It was the truth, certainly. But it was hardly something to be read out at a funeral.