My jaw hits the locker and makes this nasty crunching thwack sound, kind of like in that really annoying Crunchy-Nut advert where he eats cereal at ridiculous moment because 'they taste too good', except I think the crunch noise is a lot louder to me than to everyone else. My brother always repeats adverts. Like right now I've got that Muller Rice one stuck in my head because Mum bought a yoghurt this morning. Ow. I'm so glad no-one else knows what goes on inside my head. You wouldn't think from what I look like that right now all I can do is visualise a dancing bear handing my Mum a yoghurt.
My name's Simon, by the way. Simon Ricketts, spelt with two ts, not one. Right now I'm wearing school uniform because I live in the UK, not America, and over here they strive to make everyone feel as uncomfortable as possible. I also appear to have blood running down my jaw because this complete bastard from 10F3 has just shoved my face into my locker. On my birthday. Bastard.
I try and brush it away but there's quite a bit because my teeth sank into my tongue. It's okay though, blazers are like vacuum cleaners: be it board pen, rain, or this week's maths homework, your trusty blazer will soak it up, never to be seen again. I wish we had jumpers instead. If you are fortunate enough to have never encountered a blazer before, then may I be the first to sincerely tell you that they are like strait-jackets. I would personally rather go to school wearing a corset and a medieval frock than my school blazer. And if that weren't bad enough, they're purple. Bright purple. So every day we go to school dressed like the cast of Downton Abbey, and yet the staff wonder why half of us have our faces smashed into our lockers on a bi-weekly basis.
I'll start again. My name's Simon Ricketts, I'm 15 years old and I hate life right now. I hate a lot of stuff actually. I hate my name (not only is it from that nursery rhyme 'Simple Simon' and that horrifically tedious game from every horrifically tedious childhood party I was forced to endure, but we also studied Lord of the Flies in year 9, so now to my classmates I am also a symbolic representation of Jesus). I hate school. I won't bother telling you why for that one: I did just have my face smashed into a locker. If you can't figure that one out then maybe you should have my name (I'll swap for anything except Boris. You can't get much worse than Boris. No offence to any Borises out there). I hate my family and they don't really think much of me either.
I don't blame them. I don't tend to get on with myself at the best of times. I'm a goth, for one thing. That doesn't mean I wear eye liner and suck people's blood when they sleep, I just like to wear black, I'm moody and reclusive and I'm prone to black nail varnish if it's on offer at Superdrug. You probably wouldn't think it now, what with me ranting on about Crunchy Nut adverts and Jesus, but I'm kind of a downer. I've had a pretty lousy childhood ever since my only friend, Ben, moved to Australia when we were 11. When I should have been out climbing trees and flicking slugs at my brother, I was shut up in my room just being generally miserable, or having my face shoved into my locker. And the worst part is knowing that Ben probably moved on within a week, and spent his childhood riding kangaroos and fighting crocodiles with his new friends. It's been four years and I'm still not sure I've moved on.
Mum offered to pick me up after school, it being my birthday, but I said no because she probably would have forgotten anyway, and the only thing worse than standing outside the school for five minutes with black hair, nail varnish and a bloodied mouth is standing outside the school with black hair, nail varnish and a bloodied mouth for half an hour then giving up and walking home like a sad loner. On my birthday. Yipee.
Oh great. Here comes Brianna and her brigade of bitches.
"Oh! Look who it is!"
"I've got the conch!" Shrieks Brianna No.2.
"No, I've got the conch!" Brianna No.3 squeals back.
They laugh for a while. I summon up the most sarcastic laugh I can manage and hastily resume getting the blood off my face. I don't want Brianna (being such the good Samaritan that she is) mentioning that I was covered in blood at the end of school. I'll get dragged out of alternate lessons until I make up something about walking into a lamp-post and the teachers finally decide to leave it, after telling my form tutor who'll tell... I don't know, Joe or someone. Then everyone will make memes of me walking into lamp-posts for a week or two until something worse happens to someone else. I don't think she notices.
"Heard it's your birthday?"
She tucks a strand of her hair behind her ear, then changes her mind and pulls it out again. It looks stupid either way.
She turns to Brianna No.3 in fake shock-horror.
"Oh my God! It spoke!"
They fall about laughing again. I slam my locker shut.
"If I throw a stick will you leave?"
They stop laughing for a second and stare at me, wide-eyed, and for a moment I thing the lame retort surprised them somehow. Then they burst into helpless fits of high-pitched giggles. I glance behind me at my locker. Plastered across it are a bunch of signs written in Biro on lined paper ripped out of the middle pages of someone's exercise book. Lovely. A birthday present.
Go cut yourself
Make-up is for fags
Stuff like this doesn't normally bother me. You get used to it. Most of the time the caretaker or a cleaner, or some nice year 8 kid will take it off before I see it. You barely even notice it after a while. This one, though, takes me by surprise. I swallow and bunch my fists, then without saying anything push my way past Brianna No.2 and a year seven girl with big glasses who has stopped to watch. I've forgotten to lock my locker, and to take out what I wanted to get in the first place, but I can't go back now. Or can I? There was a birthday card on my chair. I left it in my locker instead of opening, because I figured it was a prank. The closest thing I have to a friend is the librarian, and to be honest she creeps the fuck out of me. It probably just has some illiterate insults inside, followed by a meme of me walking into a lamp post, but I'm still curious.
I can't hear the Briannas laughing. When I get to the end of the corridor, I turn to check. Her minions are rifling through my locker, while Brianna herself is watching me. I don't know exactly what the look she gives me is of. Remorse or disgust or regret or something, but when I turn she hastily resumes watching her friends tear into my privacy, and continues playing with that strand of hair. I walk away.
Home is like always. The TV's on snow, Mum's in the kitchen chopping up veg with the phone pressed against one ear like an adhesive glue fixing her neck permanently at a crooked angle against her shoulder, while my brother and Dad scrap in the sitting room over football, then politics, then technology, then football again. There's a card and five presents sprawled rather unceremoniously across the table. I sling my bag and blazer onto the couch, undo my top button and slump onto the nearest chair to open my presents.
"Do you like them honey?"
Mum calls over without looking away from the vegetables or hanging up.
"They're great." I reply without conviction. In fact, I sound like I've just announced that I watched my dog get hit by a car.
"That's lovely sweetheart. But Sarah, what about Darren?"
She carries on chatting avidly into the phone.
I got as follows:
- The latest Cradle of Filth album, which I already bought for myself six months ago.
- An old series of Breaking Bad. I've watched each episode about 3 times over.
- Crunchy sticks for our dog, Digby.
- A science guide (no doubt a hint from Dad)
- An Oleg toy from that Compare the Meerkat advert (one of Robin's oh-so-funny jokes)
I pick up my stuff and head upstairs, making a point of leaving the presents behind.
"Just a sec Sarah." Mum puts her hand over the receiver and yells for Dad and Robin to pipe down.
"Make sure you come down later: I'm making your favourite!"
"Yeah, Spaghetti Bolognese."
I suppress a sigh. My favourite's pasta, but she was close I guess.
She comes closer and pulls me in for a hug.
"Are you okay, love?"
"Is it all this school work? If you need any help then Dad's prepared to give up some time for you, you know..."
Why does everyone seem to think I'm struggling at school? I have virtually no social life. I'm top of the class in everything. Don't they read my reports? Oh, stupid question. I bet Mum doesn't even know what GCSEs I chose. She pulls me in tighter and it presses my jaw where my metal locker hit it. I flinch violently.
"What's the matter?"
She pulls back and rubs her thumb over the painful bit.
"Ow! Nothing! Nothing's the matter."
"Are you sure?"
She gives me a suspicious look, then glances at the phone in her hand.
"Fine. Don't forget to walk Digby."
"But Mum, it's my birthday. Can't Robin do it?"
"Robin's been outside playing for half the day. You need some fresh air, shut inside like a Dracula all the time."
"Like a vampire, not 'like a Dracula'. He's a fictional character, not a noun. Besides,"
I gesture behind me.
"I just walked for 20 minutes to get here."
But she's gone.
I got to thinking while I walked the dog. I've always been pessimistic, weedy, kind of despondent. Always the one who does the stuff that gets remembered but is always the one that gets forgotten. I've never been athletic, or particularly attractive, or funny, or happy really. And it's there, at the corner of my mind, lurking just behind those two digits. You wouldn't even consider it really, you'd just be aware of its presence. Like at sixteen you can legally have sex. You wouldn't, but it's there. That freedom. Tattoos at eighteen. A car. Buying alcohol in pubs, from the supermarket at twenty one. All these liberties. And now I'm finally liable for one.
I think about it as I throw the Frisbee, as I come back in to find they've already started eating, as I blow out each disappointing year one by one with a gentle poof of smoke, as I watch the game with Dad, just to make him happy. I think about it at night while everyone sleeps.
It won't work.
I'm going to do it anyway.