Of all the undesirable jobs in the world – bin man, sewage worker, politician - nothing hits the low of lows like a substitute teacher. As ‘Call-me-sir’ walked into our classroom, nose first, body trailing behind, I could hear God laughing and flicking pencil shavings. Of course, that might have just been the entire row behind me.
So I’ll assume you know the deal with substitute teachers; we did all the usual – swapping names, unanimous sneezing fits, ‘oh, the teacher always lets us do this’ – but then we decided to liven things up a bit. This involved the entire front row (me, Becca, Kay, Jadey and Lily-Mae) enjoying liberal amounts of Extra Spearmint Gum and then, one by one, attaching as much of it as we could to Sir’s back without him noticing.
(In case you’re interested, 2 ¾ packs consisting of 10 pieces each).
And, as it turns out, substitute teachers are as capable as any at handing out 5 one-hour Fridays.
And so therefore, the five of us found ourselves spinning on the chairs in the computer room, pondering philosophical questions such as ‘why are we here?’ (both in the figurative and literal sense).
This led to other important questions, such as ‘when are we leaving’ and ‘I’m so bored, please kill me’ (not so much a question, but you get the idea). And so we logged onto the computer and proceeded to do that one thing which every qualified human being has done and yet none will admit to; we googled ourselves.
‘Becca Clawford’ turned up a number of results, ranging from a brand of toiletries to an aspiring acrobat, while ‘Lily-Mae Jones’ was apparently a campaigner for animal rights. ‘Jade Fortwit’ was a middle aged politician with greasy black curls and ‘Kay Stone’ was a massage therapist.
And we typed in my name, five letters, then six, and found our way onto www.blogspot.com.
The blog name was ‘random scribbling; the life of a fourteen year old girl’ and underneath, my familiar name and – surprisingly – my home town.
But it was the picture above that really shocked me. A picture of a freckled girl, not quite pretty, not quite cute, with frizzy brown hair and an upturned nose. A picture of me.
Becca turned to me, eyes widened with incredulity. “You have a blog?”
Stunned, I shook my head in slow, hypnotised movements as I scrolled apprehensively down the page.
It seemed to be a regular teenage blog; daily updates on the day’s events, along with funny, dreamy anecdotes about fashion and celebrities. A blog written about, and seemingly by, me. Except that I had nothing to do with it.
I clicked on today’s entry, 8th July. A brief, whiney passage about the unfairness of detention, complete with a moody selfie of me, sitting here, in the computer room, which I knew I had never taken. The girls stared at me, and I continued my habitual head shake. A few sentences jumped out at me; ‘Sir’s face was brill!’ ‘Ugh, so boooooored’ ‘Haha subs are the best’. The tone was unfamiliar, and the picture surely a fake, but the wave of combined horror and irrational fear was real. What was this?
I clicked on the day before. A short piece about my recent obsession with BVB, followed by a celebration of my under 16s team’s tournament win, complete with picture of me in my yellow hockey bib. Nausea rose in my throat. We had indeed won a game yesterday, and the picture was definitely me in my no. 5 bib, but I hadn’t written this! No one had taken a picture of me yesterday, but there I was, smiling at the camera. Who was writing this, pretending to be me, and how did they know everything that was happening?
Did I have a stalker? Mum had warned about them; creepy people who obsessively follow you around, tracking your entire life. Maybe a stalker was writing this blog, pretending to be me. But still, that didn’t explain how there were pictures of me, which I had seemingly taken.
I flicked back to today’s post. The picture indicated that it had been uploaded just minutes ago, but that was impossible. I looked around the room, empty apart from me, Sir, a couple of sixth formers, and the girls. Could one of them have taken the picture without me noticing? But no, I was looking directly at the camera.
The harsh scream of the bell broke my thoughts, and I hurried from the room without even pausing to shut down the computer, ignoring the protests of my friends. I hurried through the empty corridors, somewhere between a jog and a run, stopping more often than seemed sensible to peer backwards over my shoulder.
As I burst through the school gate, I broke into a run, not slowing until I reached the bus stop, where No. 14 was just readying to leave. Flashing the driver my card, I sank into the nearest seat and leant my head against the cool glass of the window. I closed my eyes.
Were they watching me now, this mysterious person? Were they sitting two, perhaps three seats behind me, camera at the ready? The hairs on the back of my neck pricked, and I squirmed uncomfortably in my seat.
I pulled out my phone and turned on my 3G, then opened my browser and typed in my name. I followed the link to the blog, my heart thudding faster than my fingers as I waited for it to load.
I’d heard all those internet safety talks; regurgitated garbage about the dangers of online worlds, and warnings not to give out your name, photograph etc. But what do you do when your name and picture have been stolen, without you even putting them online in the first place?
I had to think about this logically. Could this have been a joke? Could one of my friends have made the blog, and then taken the pictures of me without me knowing? Becca had suggested Googling ourselves....maybe it was her?
Or maybe it was a stalker, editing fake photographs of me to make the blog seem more authentic.
I shuddered, recalling numerous internet horror stories, recounted with vindictive pleasure by aging teachers. Stories of murder, rape, and identity theft. I swallowed, realising that that was what this was called; identity theft. Someone creating a false account under my name, with my personal information and pictures.
The blog finished loading, and I examined my face staring back at me from the screen. Me, half smiling, with my hair pulled back from my face. I had never seen the picture before.
I peered at my face more closely. It was possible that this was an edit, but there were no blurred areas, no pixelated edges and anyway, I was almost certain I had never posted any pictures, on facebook or elsewhere, of me with my hair up.
I resisted the urge to look over my shoulder again.
Logging onto yesterday’s entry, I reread it. Becca couldn’t have written this, or any of my other friends; they didn’t know I liked BVB and, for that matter, nor did anyone else. I had always sort of kept my liking for them a secret. A secret that was apparently now all over ‘my’ blog.
I flicked back through previous blog entries, which dated back to last month, almost all of which contained pictures of my that had never been taken, as well as information I knew for sure I had never told anyone; such as my crush on the guy over the road, and how worried I was about my grandad’s illness.
Who would have known these things, other than me? It was like the blog was reading my mind, and then somehow spilling it out onto the web for everyone to see.