Friday, December 11, 2009

Sorry about all the commas (leave them alone in the dark for two seconds and this is what happens)

I'm having a blogholiday (gulp - I miss you already). To keep you entertained while I rest, here is the first chapter of the thing I have been twiddling with most recently. Some of you may recognize it. I have slaved away at this before, but, by golly, I think this time I may have finished the thing (except, of course, for a stern round of editing):-

Chapter One
“I don’t like you Vanessa. You’re a pain in the…in the…somewhere painful!” It was the worst thing Sally could think of to say and she could tell it wasn’t very bad. Rats.
“Oh Sally,” Vanessa teased, her full lips curving up nastily as she towered over Sally. “I’m so frightened.” And she rolled her eyes and laughed a great Ha, ha. “Hand it over then.”
Sally sighed. She pulled a small tightly pinned hanky from inside the pocket of her school smock. Slowly she unclipped the safety pin that held the four corners of the hanky together. In the centre of the unfurled fabric sat three gold coins; her lunch money. She sighed again as she handed the money to Vanessa. The big girl reached forward with her enormous hand like a baseball mitt and squeezed Sally’s face. “Smile,” she ordered.
“You’re too nice, that’s your problem,” Vanessa said with a grimace which Sally suspected was Vanessa’s attempt at a smile. A smile she felt sure would frighten babies.

All through lunchtime at St Welt’s School for Perfect Young Girls, Sally’s stomach growled with hunger. She was small for her age and missing lunch didn’t help. Everything about her was delicate, from her wispy blond hair and her round, pale blue eyes, to her almost transparent skin. Sally’s best friend Abigail, who was quite Sally’s opposite with a ruddy complexion and masses of brown curly hair, gave her a crunch bar and a packet of raisins out of her lunch box. Knowing what a huge sacrifice this was for the forever hungry Abigail, Sally ate them even though she hated raisins. The gurgling reduced to a small grumble and Sally forgot her hunger long enough to play a lunchtime game with Abigail.
Afternoon lessons were torture. Sally couldn’t keep her mind on her school work. Her tummy groaned constantly and her brain felt tired and out of sorts. An image of Vanessa Blunt eating the hot yummy mince pie that should have been Sally’s swam constantly before her famished eyes.
“Sally Fogg!” shrieked her teacher, Miss Trig, “I cannot have children sighing all over their story writing. It will not do your writing any good. If you must sigh, try diary writing instead. That is how young girls deal with their feelings. They write it all down to an imaginary friend in their diaries and their troubles go away and all that dreadful sighing STOPS!” Miss Trig brought her ruler down on Sally’s desk. WHACK!
“Yes Miss Trig,” Sally said quietly. Before she could stop it another sigh leaked out of her body. Miss Trig remained by Sally’s desk for several minutes squinting menacingly at her.
After Miss Trig had passed on down the row of desks Abigail leaned over the aisle toward her friend.
“Why don’t you tell Miss Trig what happened,” she whispered loudly. “…with Vanessa.”
Sally shook her head. Miss Trig didn’t like them to tell tales on each other. Perfect young girls didn’t tell tales. And anyway Miss Trig did not see Vanessa Blunt the way the other perfect young girl students did. Sure enough when Sally turned around, Vanessa’s large flat round face, like a dinner plate, was beaming up at Miss Trig as the teacher patted her favourite pupil on the top of her wiry head.
“Marvellous work Vanessa. What wonderful descriptions. We must enter this in the school essay competition.”
Sally turned back to her desk. One large hot salty tear fell on the words at the top of the page sitting there. The ink swam to the edge of the drop of water, dissolving the word. Sally ripped the almost full page of writing off her lined pad, screwed it up and began again on the fresh sheet beneath. ‘My father was the captain of a ship,’ she wrote.

As soon as she got home after school Sally rushed for the biscuit jar. Her mother always kept it full to the brim. Sally’s hand hovered over the lid ready to yank it off and dive in. Her stomach twisted with hunger and she felt deranged.
It was her mother’s voice coming from the lounge.
“No biscuits till after homework. You know the rule.” Her mother could hear a chippie packet or lolly wrapper being opened from the other side of the planet.
Sally sighed. Vague Vanessa images danced around inside her head. She couldn’t think straight.
“If you must eat have some celery, or a prune.”
Sally sighed again. There was no choice. She wouldn’t be able to do her homework on an empty stomach.
She was about to open the fridge door and reach in for the prunes when her brother Malcolm walked in the back door. He flung his school bag off his back onto the middle of the kitchen floor.
“What’s wrong with you, nerd features?” he said quickly lifting the lid off the jar and swiping a biscuit in less than a second. As he walked swiftly through the door opposite into the hallway, their mother came in from the lounge.
“Oh Sally,” her mother scolded, looking at the biscuit jar lid sitting on the bench, the space where a biscuit had been obvious at the top of the jar. “I just told you not to take a biscuit. No more food until dinner time for you madam.”
“Aargghhh,” screamed Sally, bursting into tears.

As Sally lay face down on her bed after dinner there came a knock at her door.
“Sally,” came her mother’s voice, “we should talk.”
Perched on the corner of her daughter’s bed, her mother felt Sally’s forehead. “Hmmm,” she said. Sally said nothing. There was nothing to say. She couldn’t tell her mother about Vanessa. She couldn’t tell her mother how she had been bullied by Vanessa yet again. And that today it had involved her lunch money. She’d told her Mother about the bullying before and her mother had spoken to Miss Trig and then Miss Trig had a long talk with Sally afterwards. Miss Trig had not called Sally a liar but she had carefully explained to Sally’s mother how she couldn’t imagine a girl as clever and obedient as Vanessa bullying anybody. Her mother never said ‘she must be jealous of you’ or something equally soothing like other mothers did. After all there was nothing to be jealous of. Sally was small, mousy and not very good at sports or dance or musical things. Sally’s mother had told her daughter to stand firm, and to tell Vanessa to leave her alone and to ignore her. She said she couldn’t understand what Sally was doing wrong. There was no point in saying anything about it. Vanessa would be there at school again tomorrow as mean as ever. Sally would be there for her to torture as always. Nothing would be different. But Sally was wrong. Things were about to change.

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