Alive? Or Just Breathing?

For a while, Scarlett has been depressed. It started in Year 7 when Claire, her ever-changing boyfriends and her followers started bullying her. Scarlett has know for a while it is bullying, but doesn't know what to do about it. Can Drama and the new teacher, Miss Talbott help?

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10. Chapter Ten

"Right, everyone!" Claire calls, clapping her hands. She is already the leader, and it's only the second lesson doing our pantomimes. No one is going to object. "So, we are going to do Cinderella for our pantomime! How does that sound?" A few people made some non-committal noises, whilst I heard the two boys grunt in disgust at the idea of doing a 'girl's fairy tale'. "I said, how does that sound?" A couple of the girls gave an enthusiastic answer, and the boys simply tried to not look bored. She walked over to me and said, "What about you, Scarlet? How does that sound to you?"

"That sounds good..." I mumbled.

"I can't hear you!"

"I said, that sounds good." I avoided her eye. This was ridiculous. It sounded like a pantomime in itself. I tried to pull my face away, but Claire's grip held on too tightly. Finally, after my face had blushed beet red from everyone in the group either trying not to stare, or outright gawking at us, she hissed in my ear,

"You will do as I say, you got me? I will not have this pantomime ruined by a driveling cretin like yourself. You got that?" I jerked my head in a sharp motion to say I understood, and she finally let go of my head. "Right, let's see, shall we assign characters?" Everyone else seemed to think the awful moment was over, but I still felt the pain of her nails in my cheeks and her voice hissing in my ear. Tears clouded my vision. "So, I will be Cinderella, of course, you, Jessie, will be the Stepmother, Phil and George, you will be the Stepsisters - no objections, they are the Dames of the pantomime, and must be played by boys. Now, where was I? Oh yes, the Fairy Godmother will be Andrea, the Queen will be Jessica, Alison will be the Prince and Sarah will be Buttons." She turned to me. "And you, Scarlet. You will play the snotty maid who doesn't like Cinderella. Shouldn't be too hard for you to act stuck up, should it?" She turned to everyone else, "Got it everyone? Good."

 

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Some rehearsals passed, and I felt worse. Claire had her claws dug deep into me, and with each rehearsal, they sliced through more of my mind, creating bigger, more obvious wounds. How could I ever have thought that a teacher might have helped? I was pathetic, just like Claire said. All that had happened was that a new teacher had come to the school, I had stumbled into her on her first day, and she had asked if I was okay. Literally, nothing else had happened. There was the phone fiasco, but she never made any real acknowledgement that she might know it was me, apart from the fact that she had seen me near her desk. I thought she might have 'shared a look' with me a couple of times - but thinking back now, that just seems awfully naive. It's not even like she knew me, or I knew her, apart from that there was a picture of my brother on her phone. It seemed like a mad, unconnected coincidence that made no sense, but, of course, I'd hoped there could have been something in it. Of course, she wouldn't have been able to tell if anything was off between me and Claire - she was just another adult after all, and I had grown accustomed to hiding my feelings very well. Of course I'd be put in the same group as Claire, she will have seen us looking at each other, just not in the way she thought: as friends. I felt so useless! I couldn't do anything right, and I was all on my own. I didn't know why I couldn't get that into my thick skull. I was all by myself. No one was going to help me. I didn't deserve help.

 

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Only a week until the performances. It would be fine. We were fine. My role wasn't big - all I had to do was sometimes come on the stage and pretend to walk around with my nose stuck in the air, as if I was some snooty rich girl, even though I was only a servant. That part of the acting didn't bother me. It was the parts when I had to talk to Claire which scared me. I had to talk down to her and call her names, yet it made me more frightened of her. After every rehearsal, just away from everybody in our group, she would hold my face in her hands, almost like she was caressing it, with her nails digging in. She would ask me if I meant it, if I enjoyed it, the words she had told me to say to her in character. If I hesitated or said the wrong thing, she would dig her nails in harder, and pull my head up, saying, "If you call me anything like that again, I will destroy you, erase you from existance. You got me? Don't ever call me those words again." I would stumble away to my next lesson or to the toilets, knowing full well that I would have to repeat the same dreaded words again in the next rehearsal, and the one after that. I began counting down the days until the performance, on the last day of term. The sick feeling never left my stomach, only grew bigger, making it feel like I was being torn apart from the inside.

 

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It was the last day and last rehearsal before the performance. After tomorrow it would be done. The register was being done. My name passed quickly, and soon we were up and going to our room again. I had barely noticed the rest of the group. When we got into the room, we all turned around to hear a voice in the doorway.

"As you will have noticed, you are missing Jessie from your group today," I looked around, and sure enough, Jessie wasn't there. "I am afraid I'm going to have to tell you that she won't be able to come into school tomorrow either. That means you will be down an actor. I know this is possibly some of the worst news you could have received on the last day, but in Drama and performance, you have to be ready for such things." Everyone looked slightly in shock. That is, until Claire got an evil gleam to her eye. I swallowed nervously, wondering what she was going to do. Miss Talbot continued, oblivious, "Is there a smaller role you could cut out? What was Jessie's character?" Claire spoke up,

"Well, she was the Stepmother, but I think I have a way of sorting it out. I know her part best, since I've kinda been directing it, and I'm quite good at doing things last minute. That means no one is playing Cinderella. But Scarlet doesn't have a very big role - she was just another servant girl because we had too many actors for the characters, so had to make one up. She can be Cinderella and I'll be the Stepmother, and it will all be sorted!" Miss Talbot turned to me.

"Well, Scarlet, if you're alright with that," I saw Claire nodding her head with a vicious look in her eyes, "then that will be all sorted." I nodded with as much enthusiasm as I could muster in my current state of mind. Claire rolled her eyes. "Do you need me to stay and help you sort parts out? You only have today after all."

"No, I think we should be okay." Claire cut in smoothly. Miss Talbot left, and then Claire turned to us. "Right." She said, "Let's do this." The dark glimmer in her eye made me shiver, and I fell further into the growing abyss inside me.

 

All had been fine, so far. Claire hadn't outright bullied me as Cinderella, as I thought she would have done (in rehearsal, at least). I didn't expect her to do anything onstage, since she was all goody-goody around teachers, but in rehearsal would have been the perfect chance to be a mean Stepmother, since she would be 'acting'. At the end of the rehearsal, Claire clapped her hands to call us to attention, and said,

"So, you will need to come back after school, since this clearly is going to need some work before tomorrow." A couple of the girls and the boys began complaining, talking about how they had other things to do, but Claire cut them off, saying, "You will have to cancel your plans, you can't go to football practise or gym or paint your nails or whatever the hell you were going to do - you will come and practise this God-awful pantomime that has just been messed up. She what I have to work with here?" She gestured to me, and definitely not for the first time since the original embarrassment in front of the group, I felt my face grow warm as everyone either stared or looked away. The bell went for the end of class, and I grabbed my bags and ran to English, which, grievously, also was the same class as Claire. I wiped away the tears I hadn't realised were falling before rushing past Miss Talbot and out of the building.

 

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Nerves surged around my body, and I felt myself jump as Miss Talbot put her hand on my shoulder.

"You okay, Scarlet? You look a bit pale."

"I'm fine, just nerves," I replied, hoping it would be loud enough for her to hear.

"You'll be fine. I'm like this before every show, promise." She smiled at me and squeezed my shoulders. I gave a weak smile back, and she moved off to talk to someone else. Ha, her like me before performances? Highly unlikely. Claire came up and gave me a sickly sweet grin.

"A bit nervous Scar-face?" I instinctively touched my face, then cursed myself inside. I nodded, and turned my face away. "Beat it, go on. I don't want to see such an ugly face whilst I'm warming up." I nodded and swiftly moved off, nearly tripping over the long-sleeve, floor-length raggedy dress that I'd been given to wear. I had a long white slip on underneath because I had to change my costume before the ball, and Claire hadn't given me long for it. She'd made many threats about what would happen if I didn't get changed in time, or messed up my lines.

 

I took some deep breaths, and realised it was nearly time to go on the stage - our group was going first. We all got ready in the wings, waiting for the cue from Miss Talbot, after she had introduced us as the first group. I went to sit down near the front, on the left, and froze in place, seeing the two boys do the same as the ugly stepsisters out of the corner of my eye. I heard Buttons walk out of the wings behind me.

"Well hello boys and girls!" A chorus of 'hello's echoed back. "My name is Buttons, and I'm going to tell you the story of Cinderella! Here she is over here, you'll learn more about her later. Over here, however, we have the ugly Stepsisters!" Someone booed, and Sarah said, "That's right, boo! That's a job I need you to do: whenever you see the ugly Stepsisters or their mean, horrible mother - Cinderella's Stepmother - can you boo as loud as you can?" A few people called out 'yes' halfheartedly. "Come on, you need to be more awake than that! I said, can you do that for me?" A loud chorus of 'yes' came back. "Okay then, let's try, on the count of three. Ready? One... Two... Three!" 'Boo' rang around the hall, and Sarah laughed. "Very good! Now lets get on with the show!" And with that, she walked off the stage, and I heard her snap her fingers: my cue.

"Hello boys and girls!" More 'hello's. "My name is Cinderella, and all I do is scrub these floors, every day!"

"Aww."

"Come on, it's sadder than that!"

"AWWWW!"

"That's better. My ugly Stepsisters and Stepmother are so horrible to me - in fact, here come my Stepsisters now."

"CINDERELLA! Have you cleaned my shoes yet?"

"Have you tidied my room?"

"Oh, would you look at that, we have an audience!" George said, turning to the mass of excited Year 7s. "Hello boys and girls, I'm Dixie!" They yelled 'hello', back, but Phil cut them off.

"Wait! I thought I was Dixie?"

"No, you're Trixie and I'm Dixie!"

"Dixie!"

"Trixie!"

"Dixie!"

"Trixie!"

"Simon!"

"Stuart!"

"Helen!"

"Bob!"

"STOP!" I yelled, though their argument and the giggles of the audience. I motioned to George and said, "You're Dixie, and you're," motioning to Phil, "Trixie!"

"I told you I was Dixie," Phil said, and flounced off. It took the Year 7s a second to put two and two together, before they started giggling again. George spoke to me, saying,

"Have you done all your chores yet?" I shook my head no. "Well then, you'd better hurry up - or I'm going to get my mummy on you." He then strutted off.

 

The next scene I was fairly worried about. I had to talk to Claire - she was telling me that I couldn't go to the ball. Sarah came onto the stage as Buttons, and began asking about invitation to the royal ball.

"You see the thing about us peasants is that we never get invited to balls or parties." I looked wistful, as Sarah carried on, "But this time it's different. Look," she came back to me from her place at the front of the stage, "I have got a legitimate invitation - and that, boys and girls, is the correct way of using that word." A few laughs, mainly from teachers.

"Well, I haven't received any invitations-"

"Aha! Look!" She interrupted, "Here they come now!" The invitations were brought on and I took them, before cringing inwardly as Claire swept onto the stage.

"Oh, Cinderella! There are those invitations!" She grabbed them out of my hands, slapping them away as she did so. That hadn't been in rehearsal. "Girls! Oh girls! Look what Mummy's got!" The stepsisters ran onto the stage, Phil pushing me and Sarah to the side, as we'd practised. I stumbled slightly, but stayed upright, my heart beating faster. Sarah had left the stage, and the boys were speaking to Claire about the invites and the Prince. "Run along now girls, we all need to get ready for this ball!" The boys ran off, and I turned to Claire, dreading any contact with her. It was my line.

"I follow them?" I questioned, and she replied,

"Yes."

"To get ready for the ball?"

"Yes."

"And I get ready too?!" I jumped at bit in excitement. A cackling laugh came from Claire,

"No! What are you talking about? Why would..." she was laughing so hard, "you... you! Of all people! Why would you be coming to the Royal Ball?" I swallowed my fear and tears. She was acting. Just acting. It wasn't real. I had a feeling it wasn't hard for her to beat me down, though. "Oh, would you look at that? There is an invite here for you!" We hadn't practised this. She had a spare invite in her hand. She must have made it and brought it just for today, for whatever she was doing. "Well, there will be no need for this one, will there?" She began ripping my invite up, speaking in between each rip, "Cinderella is not coming to the ball." Rip. "Cinderella is useless." Rip. "Cinderella is pathetic." Rip. "Cinderella is fat, ugly and will never be happy!" She ripped the paper for the last time and threw the pieces in the air. "Now go help your sisters get ready." She pointed across her; the opposite way to the one I usually went off. I nervously began moving towards the wings, wondering what she was going to do. "Faster!" I moved more quickly, just wanting to get off the stage, fast as possible, it wasn't far now, but then I was falling, my face heading towards the floor with every millisecond that passed. I struck the floor with my hands just saving my face, and for a moment I didn't know what had happened. The Claire's face loomed over me, and I knew exactly what the trip hazard had been, and exactly where the foot-shaped bruise would be on my leg tomorrow. "Cinderella!" She screeched, "Don't be clumsy! Get up and help your sisters get ready for the ball!" I leapt up and hurried off the stage, only to realise I needed to rush round the back since I was on the wrong side of the stage. I held the tears back with as much force as I could gather as I heard Claire's laughter reverberating around the stage as she walked off.

 

It didn't get any better as the play went on. Claire continued to change small parts of it so she could hurt me, physically or verbally. She'd obviously told the rest of the group beforehand, because they didn't seem surprised in the slightest. I didn't catch anyone's eye. I wanted it to be over. At least I managed to change my dress without there being too much trouble. I fumbled with the buttons a bit, not wanting to give her another chance to bully me.

 

After what seemed like years, we finally danced off the stage and I could go back to my seat. I was the last person to get back to the seat, and the only one that was left was almost at the end of the row, by the wall, meaning that I would have to walk past everyone to get to it. In my dress. Claire and a few others whispered obscenities at me as I shuffled by. We still needed to do it again yet for the Year 8s: that was just the Years 7s. I dreaded it, but kept the tears in. I felt Miss Talbot's eyes on me, but I didn't make any move to check, so I felt the gaze move away. I would not cry. I would not cry.

 

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Later, I sat in the toilets, enjoying the pain, the feel of the blade slicing through my worthless skin, as if I was trying to bleed the uselessness out of me. The tears wouldn't fall. I had kept them in too long. My eyes stayed dry and clear as I watched my blood spill onto the long dress I had been forced to wear under the Cinderella dress. I was using it to protect my clothes from the gushing blood from my arm. If I kept this up, it wouldn't hold much longer. Just then, I heard the bell for the end of break sound. I had no tears to wipe away, but still had my arm to clear up. I wiped it best I could with the blood-soaked dress, and dragged the sleeve of my jumper down to soak the rest of the liquid up. It was lucky the school jumpers I wore were black. I rushed off to lesson, the tears still not able to fall.

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