As her Mum and Jack chatted about nothing very much, Lucy was soon lost in the virtual world, engrossed in the various posts, messages and statuses which she’d missed. She determinedly avoided those she knew to be malicious, not wanting to get herself worked up into a state again before she arrived at school, instead focussing on those from her closest friends.
Firstly there was a string of messages from Becky, starting not long after they went their separate ways the evening before, and with the most recent popping up in front of her as she was reading the previous ones. They started out just asking if she was ok and saying that her friends didn’t think any less of her, then some had obviously been sent when all of the bullying was going on as they were more frantic in their reassurances. By the morning, Becky was obviously starting to panic that her best friend hadn’t replied, that was so unlike her. Now there were missed calls, messages and even posts on social media from her, all begging her to get in contact. Lucy felt bad, she should have checked her phone sooner. Not wanting to try to explain everything in a text, she just sent back a simple ‘I’m ok, sorry Becks been a rough day and nite. Nearly at school, talk to you soon x’
Most of the rest of her group of girls had messaged her too, although none quite so persistently as Becky. They were all mostly the same, asking if she was ok and what had happened. Plus their group chats were full of the same, with everybody confirming that they’d not been able to get hold of her. She was beginning to reply to them all, when she realised that it would take her longer to type all of the messages out than the journey to school, and she’d be seeing them all when she got there so she could tell them she was fine in person.
“You ok back there Luce?” Lesley enquired, realising that her daughter had been quiet for a long time, and not sure whether she may have fallen asleep after her disturbed rest overnight.
“Mhm, yeah, sorry. Yeah I’m fine thanks Mum, just catching up with everybody, didn’t really feel like it last night.”
“Honestly, you’ll be seeing them all in 5 minutes, I’m sure whatever gossip you’re all sharing can wait until then!”
Lucy rolled her eyes, her mum just didn’t get it! Turning her attention back to her phone, she glossed past various other derogatory messages, deciding not to waste her time on people like that. But message did catch her eye, and she clicked though to have a read. It was short and simple, saying nothing more than she was worth 100 of any of the ‘idiots’ giving her a hard time, and to keep smiling and rise above them, it could have happened to anybody, and hopefully it would happen to one of them next time!
The sender? It was Daniel, the boy who had defended her at school. Blimey, she felt a strange flutter again as she realised this, and suddenly she felt as if she could take on the world. Wasn’t it funny how just one message, from a relative stranger, could change her whole outlook.
Before she could think about it any further, or delve into any of the other messages that still awaited her, Lucy felt the car slowing down and looked up to see her mum just pulling into the school car park. Her resolve did start to slip just a little, but she knew she could handle this. She had to, if she went to pieces again then she’d never hear the end of it. No, the only way was to brazen it out, keep her head down but laugh along with it if the others bought it up. And, of course, much as she hated to admit her Mum had been right, to use the school toilets and not take any risks.
Clambering out of the car, Jack gave his mum the quickest of pecks on the cheek and then ran across the playground to join in a game with his friends. Lesley then slipped her arms around Lucy and gave her a reassuring hug.
“You’ll be fine, and once today is out of the way it will be easier. Remember what I said earlier though, ok?”
“Yes Mum.” Was Lucy’s exasperated reply. Ok, so she knew her Mum was right, but she wasn’t going to tell her that!
“Don’t forget to grab the bags out of the back of the car to sweetie, and pop straight up to the office with them.”
Without really thinking or paying too much attention, Lucy opened the car boot and grabbed the two plastic carrier bags which were in there. Waving goodbye, she quickly walked across the yard to the school entrance and made her way in, heading for Mrs Johnson so she could get rid of this dress once and for all, and then head back out to catch up with her friends.
When she arrived at the office, she announced her arrival as she opened the door, but nobody was there. Then, she heard a muffled voice from the back of the room “Just a second, I’ll be out in a moment.” And she realised that the secretary must be in the bathroom. Waiting, not altogether patiently as she wanted to be outside gossiping, Lucy glanced down at the bags in her hands, and then a thought struck her. Bags? Why were there 2?
She quickly looked inside the first, and saw it contained as expected the gingham summer dress and the horribly embarrassing undies that she’d had to wear the day before, both washed and dried ready to be returned. With some trepidation, she reached into the second bag, wondering what on earth would be in there. Had she picked up her Mum’s lunch or something by mistake?
Perplexed, she pulled out a grey school skirt which looked remarkably familiar. In fact, looking more closely she realised that it was the one she used to wear to school. Odd, she thought Mum had donated that to the charity shop when she’d bought the new ones. And, even odder, what was it doing here? Holding the skirt up and turning it around in her hands, she saw a handwritten note pinned to it, and recognised the loopy handwriting as her mums.
‘Thank you for helping yesterday. I thought it may be a good idea for Lucy to have a change of clothes at School “Just in case”, so have sent a skirt and change of underwear. Please keep these in school in case of an accident. If any other girl needs to borrow them, that’s absolutely fine. Thanks, L. Daniels”
Despite all the blushing she’d done over the past 24hrs, Lucy couldn’t have glowed any redder if she had tried! All of the shame and mortification she’d felt so far didn’t even come close, she’d never ever felt so embarrassed in her entire life. She knew that the reception children had to have spare clothes, but even the other infants didn’t. Did her mum really think she was such a baby?
She moved to throw the skirt back into the bag, intent on hiding it in her rucksack and then throwing it away, but whilst she was still standing there holding the skirt up Dorothy emerged from the bathroom with a cheery “Good Morning Lucy.”
“H…Hi, Miss” Lucy stuttered, hurriedly screwing up the skirt and thrusting it back into the carrier bag. “I’ve brought the clothes back” she said meekly, trying to hide her embarrassment as she handed over the carrier bag, only realising a fraction of a second too late that in her panic she’d shoved the skirt into the wrong bag, and that the secretary now had it along with the offensive note. Oh no, she just wanted the ground to swallow her up. Why did EVERYTHING to do with school have to be so embarrassing?
“Thanks Love. How’re you feeling today? A little better than last night, I hope?”
Lucy just shrugged in response, wondering whether she could grab the bag back without appearing rude, but it was too late for that. Ever efficient, Dorothy was already emptying the contents out so that they could be returned to the lost property drawer, just in case they were needed again or their rightful owner claimed them. She looked a little confused when a grey skirt fell out of the bag along with he dress, and after hurriedly folding the dress she picked up the skirt and examined it. She knew Lucy had only borrowed the dress and pants, so what was this all about?
The pinned note fell off onto her desk, and Dorothy picked it up to read. As she stood watching this unfold, Lucy was on the verge of tears once more, the one thing she had promised herself she would not do in school that day!
Finishing reading, and folding the note away, she looked up kindly at Lucy “It’s nothing to be ashamed of you know, Lucy. Your Mum is just thinking of you, and whilst I’m sure you’ll never need these, wouldn’t it be better to know you had something of your own to put on in case of an emergency? You didn’t look very comfortable yesterday wearing that dress.”
Try as she might, Lucy just couldn’t bring herself to reply, o she just nodded sadly, and fought to blink back the tears that threatened to fall. This wasn’t how she’d hoped her new day would go, not at all.
Just wanting to get away, Lucy hastily threw the second carrier bag which now just contained her own spare underwear onto the secretary desk, then turned around and ran out of the office door as quickly as she could, burning with shame.2
Audio Version of Chapter