(aka Bike, est. 2007)
Copyright© 2017 Angharad
This is a work of fiction any mention of real people, places or institutions is purely coincidental and does not imply that they are as suggested in the story.
“Charlotte, what’s that bird over there, top of the tree on the left?” Poor old Mr Crabtree, his eyesight was going, he always called me Charlotte, I suppose it was my long hair—it was well below my shoulders and I was nearly fourteen and sailing oblivious towards the iceberg Murray who would attempt to make me so uncomfortable that I left or killed myself. I did neither, but I did get to play Mrs Macbeth, albeit reluctantly.
I know Murray asked my dad to go and see him and painted this picture of me being swishy and trying to attract the attention of the butch types in school, so if he had this girly boy in his school why not use him to play the female lead in the school play? My dad reluctantly agreed and when I went home that evening we had an awful row, where he accused me of shaming the whole family in front of the whole school by being so effeminate. The only reason I didn’t get a hiding was because my mother stopped it.
He then said, “You will go and see Mr Murray tomorrow and accept his offer for a part in the school play, perhaps that will suit your nancy-boy inclinations.”
“What play is it?” I asked feeling a sense of trepidation.
“Little Women,” he snarled at me.
“What? You’re joking, Dad, aren’t you?”
“Yes he is, Charlie, tell him the truth, Derek,” interjected my mum.
I almost sighed audibly in relief. If I’d played a girl in the school play the bullies would have a field day tormenting or hitting me. But I wasn’t going to get my hair cut, it was my only demonstration of individuality which although it caused loads of abuse made me feel a happier dissident than I’d have been with a normal short back and sides.
“No, the poofy little sod can wait until he sees his headmaster tomorrow. It’ll do him good, he looks like a bloody girl with that stupid hair—get out of my sight.” I went up to my room and did my homework. I’d taken it out of the band and was sitting cross legged on my bed looking at my homework when my mother brought me up my tea.
“Goodness you do look like a girl, Charlie.”
“Rick Wakeman had hair this length and no one calls him names.”
“Is that another boy in school, dear?”
“No, he’s a rock musician—plays keyboards.”
“I don’t know, dear, many of them aren’t proper musicians are they?”
“Well shows how much you know—he went to the Royal School of Music to train as a concert pianist.”
“Don’t take that tone with me young lady—I mean young man.” I blushed with more than petulance. “Well you do look like a girl, you confuse me sometimes, here’s your tea, better keep out of your father’s way for a few hours, he’s still annoyed with you.”
“Why—just because I’m not a mindless bully like him and I like my hair long.”
“Now, I won’t have you talk about your father like that.”
“No it isn’t, he’s only trying to keep you safe, the world is a dangerous place for girlish boys like you.”
“Only because there’s loads like him out there.”
“I give up,” she snapped and left me to eat my meal and sulk over my homework, French and bloody maths, two of my least favourite subjects.
Back to old Crabtree, the bird was a cuckoo, I could tell without even lifting my bins but then, I was blessed with excellent eyesight, a useful attribute in someone who wanted to do fieldwork and who thrived on it.
“You are a clever girl, Charlotte.” There were sniggers from behind me but I didn’t correct him, in some ways I liked it. What I didn’t like was the innuendo from Perkins, he was a first class arsehole and to prove it he was full of shit.
One day Perkins pushed me too far. Mr Crabtree who ran the group had addressed me as Charlotte again and Perkins had begun with name calling which then became jostling and finally he threw a punch at me. The thing is, if you’re used to seeing lots of punches, and I was, you learn how to duck or sidestep them. If someone hits a wall hard enough they tend to leave you in peace while the lick their knuckles. At the time, there was no wall behind me so I when sidestepped Perkins’ momentum carried him past me and he fell off the boardwalk—we were at a marshland reserve at the time—and into the rather sticky, smelly mud that reeds seem to grow in.
Another girl, Michelle Watkins watched in horror then giggled when Perkins landed with a splat in the goo. We both walked on rather briskly pretending we weren’t involved.
“How did you do that, Charlotte?” she asked me. She was the only girl in the group and I suppose she felt less isolated with me there. She told me that as everyone else called me by the feminine version of my name, she would too, but that I should be proud to be an honorary girl and she thought my hair was lovely.
“Do what, Shell?”
“Dump him in the muck.”
“I didn’t, he did it to himself, I just stood aside and let him.”
“No, you pushed him didn’t you?”
“I didn’t touch him, goodness knows what I’d catch from contact with Polluted Perkins.”
“So what did you do, then?”
“He telegraphed his punch, I just got out of the way as he swung and his momentum carried him past me—and as it happens, into the reeds.”
She laughed as I mimed the action replay.
Sadly, I got into trouble again because Crabtree believed Perkins’ lies until Michelle actually spoke to him afterwards and told him what she saw happen. Perkins not only got dirty, he was told not to come until he could show better behaviour in front of young women. I don’t think he was too happy about that. I was, he didn’t come back to the group. He remained a pain in school but didn’t learn.
A week or two after his mud beauty treatment—it didn’t work by the way, he was still an ugly sod—I was grabbed by a couple of his friends who held my arms while he was going to hit me. They held me against a wall and—guess what—he broke his hand. His fist was coming straight at my face, so I just dropped to the ground with sufficient effort to break the grips on my arms and he punched the wall—quite hard. Then as I got up I managed to swing my arms upwards enough to hit both his helpers in the crotch and they all three seemed to do a funny little dance.
When I got sent home for fighting my dad almost smiled until Murray said there were rumours I tried to chat up Perkins and his pals and that’s why the fight started. When I told my father the whole story that Perkins had ended up in the mud because he tried to hit me and this was supposedly pay back until he hit the wall and my flapping arms took out his henchmen, he said he believed me.
I yawned and turned over and eventually my memories gave way to dreams.
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