I’m here to back you up

I am a little emotional this week as my second child is off to her Yr.7 school orientation. I am proud of her and know she will succeed in what ever she wishes to do with her life.

As a mother of four, I know how difficult life can be just trying to keep up with everything. One child has training of some sort, while another has an important project. The same time one is upset with friends at school and the other child has head lice. It is a never ending battle just trying to stay sane.

When my children were younger, I thought parenting was like a cruise down the coast on a Sunday afternoon. Yes there were a few pot holes but overall, as long as they were fed, bathed (all in the bath together many nights) and had a cuddle with Mum and Dad, it wasn’t too difficult.

As my children are getting older and into the teenage years, I am finding this parenting caper a challenge, an emotional challenge. My children no longer need me physically like they did when they were younger, however they need me emotionally and each child needs me for something different. Every day I try to assess each child, understand what they are feeling and if they actually need me today (a big sign when I think one or two are doing well). It’s the little things with children this age that can develop very quickly into BIG things before you have even finished the first page of a good novel.

My job over the next few years is to be their voice. My children are strong and healthy kids but they are still often unable to voice what they really think, need or want. So this is where I come in, ready to he their voice, to be their words until they tell me to ‘back off’. I am there to back them up, no matter what they have or have not done, I will be there.

I don’t remember signing up for this in the maternity ward…

cheers natalie

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Our Special Connection

This blog started as a little bit of fun for me to practise my writing skills. I am currently completing a Bachelor in Professional Writing and Publishing, of which I am two thirds of the way through and I thought a blog is a perfect medium to develop knowledge. While discussing this with Ashlea ( my little mentor), we came up with the idea of writing a blog together. WOW. A new concept had been created and we were both ready to go.

I often look at Ash and can see a younger version of myself. Wrong I know but her passions are similar to my passions at the same age. I love to read…. Ash loves to read. I love to write…. Ash loves to write. I love socialising… Ash loves socialising. I love spending time with family… Ash loves spending time with family.

I could never cope with four children if it weren’t for Ashlea. She helps me through each day with a beautiful smile on her face. Ashlea doesn’t often complain about much even when I ask her to do boring chores like folding the clothes or wiping the kitchen table. She simply agrees and gets on with the job. I love her attitude.

Ashlea has a genuine kind heart. She will often stop what she is doing to help others. As a student, I am often told from her teachers what a patient and helpful student Ashlea is. It warms me inside as I am so proud of the young lady she is turning into. As a sister, she has her moments of losing the plot with her siblings but everyone has to crack sometimes. As a daughter she is a special gift that I will treasure for the rest of my life. As a friend she has true  empathy, a solid listener and extremely loyal.

Thanks for your special connection Ashlea. Lets continue to grow together.

(Hopefully not too soppy)

Cheers natalie

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I’m closer with my mum than most of my friends are with theirs. They’re always complaining about how annoying their mums are while I go home and write a blog with mine. I’ve always been particularly close with Mum and things such as a blog only bring us closer.

We think in fairly similar ways so I can have mostly intelligent conversations with her, I say mostly as I have an inability to string sentences together sometimes. We share similar beliefs and values as well. She understands me more than I understand myself, her words not mine, so she always knows what I’m talking about.

Although I think the most important thing is that Mum and I share passions. We both adore reading and writing and are both overly social butterflies. I can talk to Mum about anything because I know she will always tell me the truth and not keep things from me. I love the fact that I can talk to Mum about all my crazy thoughts and she attempts to understand, more than anyone else does for that matter.

My mum is one of the few people who really gets me which is something I will be forever grateful for.

Ciao Bella

Ash

“Keeping Secrets” – Ch.5 – The Secret Party

The secret party….

Reaching for my lunchbox, I grab out the sandwich and some choc-chip biscuits before racing out to the playground. My favourite part of school is lunchtime and it is all to do with my catching up with my friends. Ever since Mum and Dad began arguing, I lost my appetite. My stomach is constantly tied up in knots, so the thought of food makes me feel ill. Today however I could eat, I feel happy today.

Lunchtime is the time to catch up on everything. This year I wasn’t in a class with any of my friends. When I found out I would be on my own, with none of my best friends, the disappointment was enormous. I thought my life was over.

“But it’s not fair,” I moaned to Mum through a tsunami of tears. “Everyone has someone in their class but me. What did I do wrong?”

Mum placed her arms around my shoulders, pulling me in to reassure me with a hug and said; “Now darling you know you’ve done nothing wrong. Teachers don’t pick classes like that.”

“Then why am I the ONLY one left out.”?

“Have you thought that the teachers might think you are the only one strong and brave enough to meet new people,” Mum responded in a calm manner.

As I thought about what Mum is saying, desperately trying to picture the teachers in the staffroom looking at rows of students photos and picking who goes with whom. I just couldn’t imagine the conversation being based around the ‘brave’ and ‘strong’ students that could handle being on their own. I felt like I was being punished.

Mum continued, “We can’t do anything about the classes for next year, so why don’t we look at it like a challenge. Make new friends in your new class. But also make a BIG effort with your other friends. That’s what lunchtime is all about, catching up on what everyone is up to.”

I knew I had no choice but to take Mum’s advice. So lunchtime became my favourite part of the day.

“Hey Alexx, wait for me,” shouts Roxie over the noisy crowd heading in the same direction like a swarm of bees heading to the hive.

“Come on Roxie, push through,” I scream back impatient to move with the crowd again and stop wasting precious lunchtime.

“What have you got today?” asks Roxie finally catching up to me.

“Looks like the usual, vegemite.”

“You eating it today or throwing it in the bin like yesterday.”

“If it’s any of your business, I am hungry today. I wasn’t hungry yesterday. I always eat my lunch,” I snap, agitated she even noticed me throw my food away yesterday.

“I’m not having a go, I was worried yesterday when you did that, that’s all.”

“Yeah I know, but after our talk I feel much better.”

I really want to put my arm over Roxie’s shoulders as we walk outside but I know she won’t like it. Even though it will make me feel better, I know it will make her feel worse. I owe Roxie at least that much since she is being such a good friend.

As we approach the rest of the girls sitting on the grassed area dying from the continuing drought, the conversation appears very intense. Hevanton Primary isn’t what I would call a pretty school. Most of the play area is concrete painted with games, which require balls or bats to play. What little grass remaining in the school is mostly dead, with no plants or trees for decoration. This is a complete contrast to the beautiful array trees and greenery that align my street.

The classrooms are old, made of faint sickly yellow coloured brick, making the school look similar to an old fashioned boarding school, like the one in the movie Annie. Each room blended into the next leaving nothing for the imagination, no room of dreaming you could be anywhere else but school.

“Shh, shh,” I heard Bella say sternly as we approach not realising we can hear her.

Even though I don’t know Bella very well, I think she is beautiful. Her long dark brown hair always worn slightly off her face in a trendy style, matches her immense dark brown eyes. Her round face and high cheekbones make Bella look sweet and innocent but behind the sweetness lay a darker side, a side I wasn’t sure I ever want to know.

“Oh hi girls,” said Sam looking in our direction but over my shoulder as if expecting someone else.

Automatically I turned around to see who Sam is looking at but the only person behind me is Roxie.

“What’s going on girls?” I ask trying to sound upbeat but feeling a little apprehensive after hearing them shoosh.

“Nothing really,” responds Poppy a little too quickly. “We are just discussing how much we hate that maths class with Ms Turner.”

Roxie sat down to join in the group and said, “Yeah, I had Ms Turner last year too for maths. But I really liked her.”

“You “Well you seem to like everyone, don’t you Roxie? replies Poppy with a tinge of arrogance in her voice.

“No I don’t. I… I don’t really like Mrs Cox.”

No one likes Mrs Cox. She is like a prison warden, so bossy and very controlling. You are not allowed to speak in her class unless she asks you to. You are not allowed to get up from the table unless you ask permission. Even when the bell goes confirming that the lesson is over, you can’t leave until she dismisses everyone.

“Does anyone know the new song by Usher? I heard it this morning when my alarm went off but I couldn’t catch the name,” I interrupt, trying to change the subject.

I can’t quite pin point what is going on with my friends but something is happening, as everyone is acting weird.

Poppy, Jo, Bella and Sam brighten to my question and all four begin talking at once. The mood changes immediately with Usher being the centre of our conversation for most of lunchtime. I sit amongst the group quietly observing, speaking only when asked a question, which wasn’t often. As much as I sense something must have been going on before we arrived, the atmosphere has altered as we connected over Usher.

While I may have been quiet, Roxie was in full of conversation, more than anyone else. I don’t often see Roxie being the centre of attention and actually enjoying it. The rest of the girls, well mainly Poppy usually don’t allow Roxie to have that much of a say. This proves Roxie is wrong about the girl not liking her. They love her today.

Poppy is the leader of our little group, which suits me. I wasn’t leader material. She is the kind of friend you want on your side and not as your enemy. I once saw her in a disagreement with another girl at school and it confirmed to me that Poppy is a girl you shouldn’t mess with. She is self-assured and bold like our mums want us to be but aggressive and a little manipulative in a scary way too.

Secretly I am frightened of what she may do to me if I’m not her friend. Poppy knows what to say – good or bad and really knows how to embarrass people. I know this sounds like I don’t actually like Poppy but I do, I really do. She is good to me and we are friends.

Lunchtime always goes too quickly. I never think the same thing about english or maths classes. Slowly, reluctantly we all begin packing up our lunchtime mess and head off into different directions for the afternoon lessons.

Poppy grabs my arm pulling me in another direction as I try to head back to the lockers.

“You guys go ahead, I need to ask Alexx something about maths,” states Poppy very matter-of-fact like.

As the group move away, Poppy links arms and begin talking softly but with intensity I know she had an exciting story to tell.

“Now as you know it’s my birthday coming up. Well I am having a slumber party, just like you did only better,” said Poppy.

I force a smile at the idea of a slumber but am annoyed by her comments about my party. Poppy always knew what to say and how to say it to let you know exactly where you stand.

“Yeah it’s your birthday and…”

“Well anyway, Mum has said I can have it next Friday but I am only allowed to have four friends stay.”

Mentally I did a quick count of our group, even though I knew immediately how many are in the group – six of us, but with one being Poppy, add the four.

“So I am not inviting Roxie but you have to keep it a secret,” said Poppy.

“That doesn’t seem very nice, or fair. Surely your Mum would understand if you told her that there is five of us.”

“No, no, I tried to tell her,” Poppy lies, “She said four is enough.”

“I don’t think that’s very nice….”

“Well it’s not my fault Alexx. Blame Mum. I can always ask Roxie instead of you.”

Stunned by Poppy’s use of words and the intensity of her insult, I try to assess what she meant. Roxie is our friend and it didn’t seem very fair to leave her out. Even if Poppy’s Mum had said no, surely we should at least tell Roxie about it. Secrets like this are mean and I’m not a mean person.

Even though Poppy is being nasty, I still want to be friends with her, aspire to her level of popularity. Her golden eyes grow narrow, looking hard into mine, analysing my thoughts.

“Can we explain to Roxie that it isn’t your fault?” I whisper feeling the intensity of her stare.

“No, I would prefer to keep it a secret. Then she won’t feel bad about being left out you see.”

“But…”

“Anyway,” interrupts Poppy, “I am so excited about my party. I have heaps of stuff to do and can’t wait until all my best friends are there with me. You know you are my best friend Alexx, not Bella.”

Touched by Poppy’s tenderness and the idea of being her best friend, I put the painful information about Roxie securely in a box at the back of my mind, to deal with later. I am confused about what to do but ecstatic at being of such importance in Poppy’s life.

“So you will be coming wont you?” asks Poppy, anticipation in her voice.

“Yes, of course I will come. Why wouldn’t I,” I reply convincing myself everything will be fine.

“Great. Can’t wait. Remember, no Roxie. It is probably for the best anyway, she doesn’t really like girlie stuff and I am having heaps of it at my party.”

Poppy skips off excitedly as if today is her actual birthday. I have never felt flat after being asked to go to a party, and a slumber party at that. Roxie is my friend, my best friend really and Poppy didn’t want her there. I begin to sense Poppy doesn’t care much for Roxie just as Roxie had always said. I know I have to keep it a secret but how am I going to keep a secret as big as this from Roxie.

Sitting bolt upright in bed, my dreams have been interrupted by nightmares. My body is soaking wet as if someone has thrown a cold bucket of water all over me. I wake disorientated, confused from the nightmare but soon I realise I am safe in my favourite place. My body relaxes a little.

I finally fall asleep after tossing and turning for hours. My mind wouldn’t stop going back to the conversation with Poppy at school and the guilt I was already feeling for betraying Roxie. I had walked home with Roxie, all afternoon dreading being alone with Roxie, afraid she would be able to read my thoughts.

I don’t think Roxie noticed my nervousness. When Roxie wanted to come over after school, I lied and said I needed to do stuff with Mum. I couldn’t stand the thought I spending all afternoon with Roxie alone without saying something.

The cool night air lingered on my body, making me shiver. Gently lying back down, I can’t stop my mind racing between Poppy and Roxie. Keeping the secret of the party is only one thing. What about after the party? We always talk and laugh about what we do on the weekends, so keeping the party a secret would be impossible.

I desperately need my best friend’s advice but how can I when it is about her. Mum is someone I also trust when it comes to friends but Mum isn’t really in the right place to listen to me. I feel alone, on an island all by myself. As I try to trick myself into going back to sleep by thinking about ‘fun things’, the pains in my stomach come flooding back letting me know I can try to trick my brain, but my body will let me down.

If you want Alexx to tell Roxie about Poppy’s party, go to Ch. 6

 Mum’s Help…. 

If you want Alexx to keep the secret about Poppy’s party, go to Ch. 10

Growing Apart…

 

 

 

 

Never Underestimate The Unselfish Love of a Mother

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“Keeping Secrets” – Ch4 – Opening up the box of secrets

Opening up the box of secrets….

The good times come flooding back to me. Mum, Dad and I… even Ella and Bree. Mum used to hold my hand all the time. It made me feel safe, special, the most important person in her life

When I am scared Mum would hold my hands lightly to warn the bad thoughts to leave. When I was happy, Mum would rock my hands back and forth as if dancing in the wind. When I was sad, Mum would gently cradle my small hands in hers, creating a protective force around me. And when I was worried, Mum would caress each finger tenderly, taking with it the bad, angry and anxious feelings built in my mind.

Only at this moment it wasn’t Mum holding my hand it is my friend, Roxie. Not just any old friend but my best friend. Roxie is there for me, always there for me. I shouldn’t be scared of keeping a secret from her. She will understand. Roxie always understands me, that’s why she is my best friend.

“Alexx, you know you can trust me. Whatever is wrong, I know I can help,” says Roxie soothingly, pretending to understand but nervously realising she has no idea how to help.

“It’s just…,” I begin, wiping tears from my eyes, still unsure how to approach the subject, even with Roxie.

“Alexx, it can’t be that bad!”

“Well it is,” I snap back, agitated at her lack of understanding.

“I hate what my mum and dad are doing to me, to each other. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it!” I scream, throwing my body back onto the bed, covering my face with my hands.

I thrash my legs around like a small child having a tantrum, until they began to ache. The words are echoing my mind, how much I hated the way my parents are ruining my life.

“Alexx,” interrupts Roxie, “Alexx, stop. I don’t understand. What are you going on about? STOP!”

The tone in Roxie’s voice stuns me into silence. She has never spoken to me like that before. I realise how silly I must look kicking and screaming like a child. Roxie would think I am losing my mind, turning into a crazy person like Uncle Paul.

Roxie looks confused. Confused between what she saw, what she feels and what she could do to make it all go away.

As I calm down, my heart went out to Roxie. She doesn’t deserve my spoilt behaviour, especially without understanding what it is all about. Okay, no more secrets. I am willing to accept what happens when I tell Roxie my secret. I can’t keep pretending everything is alright.

“I’m sorry Roxie”, I say feeling courage surge through me. “I am being ridiculous but I need to talk to you about something. I hope you don’t think I’m an idiot and think less of me.”

“That’s just silly,” replies Roxie quickly. “You’re my friend no matter what. You know that.” She said with a finality that somehow loosens some of my worry.

We sit in Roxie’s room for what feels like hours. Once I start talking about the arguing, the angry looks, the way I feel I am responsible for everything. The feelings I have been bottling up inside are slowly being released, like tiny fragments of shattered glass being put back together, piece by piece.

My mouth has a mind of its own. I is unable to stop talking, revealing my secrets layer by layer until everything is out in the open.

“Thanks Rox, you have been so wonderful.”

“I still think we should sit down with your Mum and Dad. They would be so upset if they knew what they are doing to you”.

“No way Roxie. I can’t. I don’t want to tell them anything. What if I say something and they realise that the arguing needs to stop and they split up for good. It will all be my fault.”

“But that wont happen,” interjected Roxie.

“How do you know that? What if my complaining just confirms that all their problems are because they had us kids and…”

“Now you are being ridiculous. That’s silly.”

“I know you are just trying to help but it’s true. I can tell by the way they keep fighting that it has to do with us,” I say saddened that hearing the truth felt even worst than just thinking it.

Back and forth the conversation went. From who is to blame? What is to blame? What we can do to make it all go away? Roxie gave some weird suggestions but it doesn’t really matter. I don’t need her to solve my problems, I know that is impossible. I just need her to share my secret and take some of the internal burden away from me. Already the stabbing pains in my stomach began subsiding just a little.

I lost track of time but I didn’t care. I know Mum would be wondering where I am but for once I felt no guilt for making her worry. I need to share this with my friend until every piece of glass has been successfully pieced together.

I am beginning to associate the pains in my stomach to being at home. The pains make me feel empty inside. The emptiness is like being in a room surrounded by people, lots of people all interacting with each other, but no one talks to you. No one even knows you’re there. You search the room for a familiar face, a friendly face, but there is nothing. Such a loneliness that it makes you ache inside. The ache grows into a deep pain and this fullness of pain makes you feel empty.

Roxie is so supportive. She listened to everything, making sure she has all the pieces of the puzzle before asserting her opinion. Her opinion isn’t harsh or judgemental, only meaningful words of a special friend.

The next morning when I woke up it is like a little weight has been lifted. I feel as though I will be able to cope with the day easier than before. My thoughts immediately go to Roxie and the conversation we had. Deep down I know it is because I shared my secret and allowed my friend deeper into my life, easing the pain a little.

I slowly climb out of bed, mentally preparing myself for the onslaught, which happens every morning in the kitchen. Today I know I will be able to handle the twins, the arguments, anything this morning.

Dressed in my navy and green striped school uniform, I stop only to look at my reflection in the mirror, realising how I seem to glow with enthusiasm this morning. My normally dull blue eyes are brighter, shinning a beautiful aqua colour. The whites in my eyes are whiter than usual, like pure white snow with no blood red lines swirling through them. The black pupils stare directly back at me, wanting to be part of the day instead of hiding behind my dreams at night.

Breakfast is the usual, arguing between Mum and Dad, squealing between Ella and Bree, me sitting in the middle of it all playing with my food. Only today I eat breakfast for the first time in what seems a long time, I am hungry. The twins don’t bother me so this morning. As for Mum and Dad, I am agitated by the arguing but it isn’t as intense, as painful.

The soreness in my stomach is there but it feels like a ready to go to the toilet kind of pain not the stabbing pain I have grown familiar with. I can’t wait to tell Roxie all about how much has changed over night.

I wait out the front as usual for Roxie so we can walk together to school. I am so excited about my progress this morning and I’m busting to share my news.

The last time I felt like this was my birthday, almost five months ago. I was having a slumber party with my girlfriends and Mum said we could stay up as late as we wanted, as long as we didn’t keep the rest of the house up.

When it is time to get into our pyjamas and pick where we are going to sleep, everyone wanted me sleep next to me.

“Can I sleep next to you?” asked Sam shyly.

Before I could answer Poppy interrupted, “No Sam. I am Alexx’s best friend so I should sleep one side and maybe Bella the other side cause she always misses out on things.”

“What about me?” asked Jo not really caring either way, just wanting to be involved.

“Yeah, and what about me?” chimed in Roxie, feeling left out as usual when we are all together.

Roxie loved being friends with me and l loved being friends with Poppy, so we had no choice but to all be friends together. I often pretended that I didn’t know there is any tension between some of my friends. I didn’t want to see it, therefore it didn’t happen. I was happy as I was being put on a pedestal amongst all my friends.

“Well there are only two spots next to the birthday girl and I am definitely one of them,” demanded Poppy already placing her sleeping bag next to mine.

“And I am the other side,” injected Bella pushing past Roxie and Sam to gain the prized position by my other side.

I know I should have said something to the girls but I is elated at being so popular. Maybe I is just popular because it is my birthday but it only happens once a year, I was going to make the most of it. If I let Poppy have her way, the most popular girl at school, I would become more entangled into the popular group and eventually be just like her. It had taken a lot of work for me to get this far in the friendship and I isn’t going to mess things up now.

As we all settled down into our sleeping bags, High School Musical 2 on the television, I was floating on cloud nine. Here I was, popular with the popular group of girls and they are all here at my slumber party. They were all my friends, especially Roxie, but Roxie wanted to limit her friends to her brother and I. I wanted to be friends with Roxie, but I needed more friends than just her.

An array of colours lined my bedroom floor, imitating a beautiful rainbow with a mixture of sleeping bags, pillows and the assortment of friends and personalities just as in a bag of skittles squashed together in one tiny bag. Each friend is different, from the superficial to the depth of the person – their inner soul.

Watching this group of friends interacting in my room, determined to get their own way, rather than be patient and wait. I knew this is where I fitted in most. All I ever wanted to do is fit in.

Fitting in isn’t as simple as it looks for some people, that some people being me. There are so many things to consider when trying to be part of a group. First and foremost is picking the right group. The importance of this decision is immense and can affect your life forever.

The perfect friendship is important for the social side but also academically. The right group is where it all begins and will continue for the rest of your life. I had heard Mum say this before, although I think she is talking about a job, same thing really. I am too young to have a job so I compared it to what I knew best, my friends.

Another thing to remember is to pick friends who are like minded, you know enjoy doing the same things as you and believe in what you believe in. My friends are just like me in so many ways. The differences between us are not really differences but compliment each other instead, intertwining together to form one robust, secure link.

Brendon walks out of the house first in his denim jeans with creamy shirt lined with navy stripes, top few buttons undone as usual. He goes to the local high school but often walks Roxie and I to school on his way to the bus stop on Main Street.

His dark shaggy hair swayed slightly as a gentle breeze stroked his hair delicately, moving without pretence. Brendon looks up towards me, acknowledging me with a small grin, accentuating the dimple on his left cheek.

I can feel my heart beat faster, as though I had run a short sprinting race. It is an uncontrollable reaction, my body seems to have a mind of its own. My body often let me down, reacting when I don’t ask it to, always embarrassing me. At the simple thought of being embarrassed, my face would blush, a scarlet red blush with the heat rising from my  belly coming to rest on my hot, rosy cheeks.

Brendon is standing too far away to notice how my body is letting me down. I never notice Brendon behaving the same way. He always appears to be so calm in every situation. I can tell his heart is never beating so hard that it’s difficult to breathe or his face burning like it’s on fire. Are boys just that different from girls? I know I feel different but I don’t want to be out there on my own.

“Coming Alexx,” shouts Roxie pushing past Brendon running in my direction.

Roxie has a spark about her this morning. Maybe it is the sun shinning behind her, reflecting on her golden skin giving her a radiant healthy glow. With a smile permanently planted on her face, she is a friend who can always make the world a brighter place, even when it seems lifeless and dull.

“Slow down Roxie,” said Brendon bending to pick up his bag Roxie has knocked off his shoulder as she passes him in her urgency to get to me.

“Sorry,” replies Roxie, not caring about having annoyed her brother.

“Morning Alexx, how are you this morning?”

“So much better. I have been dying to see you. I feel heaps better today,” I reply warmed by Roxie’s concern.

“I’m glad. You are pretty down last night.”

“What? Who is down,” interrupts Brendon, sneaking up behind us as we head towards school on Main street.

It’s not far to Hevanton Primary, only two streets – Corule Boulevard and then Main street where Brendon caught the bus from.

Corule Boulevard is one of the longest in our neighbourhood and one of the oldest. Lined beautifully with enormous weeping willows whose elongated leaves so extensive the trunks are barely recognisable. Surrounded by perfectly manicured nature strips, street cleaners working hard at their job and house owners who respect the “keep Corule Boulevard beautiful” theme, our street could be pictured in any magazine.

Roxie and I always talk non stop the entire way to school, often forgetting anyone else in the world exists, even Brendon. He isn’t interested in our conversation anyway. He always has his iPod with him, the music blaring shutting out the rest of the world except him.

“All you girls ever talk about is boys, make-up and…other girlie stuff,” he laughs.

“We do not,” we reply in perfect sync with each other.

We turn to face each other and burst out laughing as we realise that Brendon is right, that pretty much sums us up and everything we talk about. I enjoy Brendon walking with us to school, it makes me feel special but I love that he never listen to our conversations. It would be too embarrassing.

“What do you talk about then?” he teases, pretending to want an answer.

“It’s none of your business,” replies Roxie looking backwards, sternly giving Brendon a gentle warning to back off and mind his own business.

“Whatever girls. Probably just another boy problem anyway, BORING,” replies Brendon. He shrugs his shoulders not bothered about being left out of the conversation.

Taking his iPod out of his jean pocket Brendon is determined to remove himself from the situation. Girls can turn weird suddenly; he had seen it happen before. When it happens, he doesn’t want to be a part of it.

“Sorry about him,” says Roxie.

“Not your fault. I should’ve waited until he put his iPod on. I forget he’s there most of the time,” I reply linking arms with Roxie. The day is so perfect, I don’t want anything to ruin it.

I feel like skipping down the street, singing a light cheery tune to match my high spirits. I try to link arms with Roxie but she pulls away. I can’t say I miss the closeness with Roxie because I never really had it in the first place. Not the closeness you have with your friends sharing intimate, emotional details about your life. Just the way a jigsaw piece knows exactly what pieces surround them and build the puzzle on that simple knowledge.

As much as my parents aren’t my favourite people at the moment, they are always affectionate with me, which I love. Even when our opinions are world’s part with the gap still growing, they will still allow that closeness to remain. Mum and Dad never hesitate to reach out and hug me, unlike Roxie.

I struggle to understand Roxie’s negativity towards being affectionate. Being hugged by a friend creates a feeling of acceptance not isolation. I want her acceptance but she makes me feel I am doing something wrong.

Before I can comment of Roxie’s weird behaviour, a car horn goes off to gain our attention, and gain our attention it did. There is Poppy hanging out the car window, waving frantically squealing so loud and fast I can barely make out what she is shouting.

I am excited by the sudden appearance of my friend and even more so because Poppy is desperate to gain my attention. The enthusiasm on my face is obvious as I wave my arm dramatically back and forth screaming back, as the car drives past.

“Poppy’s so cool. Don’t you think?” I ask as we continue to walk down Corule Boulevard almost reaching the corner.

With the excitement of such a simple event and my thoughts racing to seeing the girls at school, I never notice the look on Roxie’s face or that she never answered my question.

 

 

 

Because you are with me

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Hunger Games – ‘Catching Fire’ – Movie Review

I had been counting down the seconds until I could take my seat in the cinema to watch Catching fire,the movie I’ve been waiting months for after the release The Hunger Games movie last year. I definitely wasn’t disappointed with the movie, in fact, it was better than I had anticipated. As a major fan of the book trilogy, I had high expectations and thought Francis Lawrence did a marvellous job of bring Suzanne Collins novel to life. I thought that the acting was superb and each character was portrayed perfectly. One major improvement from the original movie, The Hunger Games, was the facial expression. I found that the actors in Catching Fire breathed new life into their characters, making them seem more lifelike than the last movie.

For someone who has read all the books, I was amazed at how close to the book Catching Fire really was. I was extremely impressed with the use of actual book quotes, something I rarely see. However, even if you haven’t read the trilogy I think you would definitely enjoy Catching Fire. The plot flows perfectly throughout the entire movie and doesn’t jump around at all. Non Hunger Games fans would be able to keep up with the story and be able to follow along as easily as any eager fan.

My favourite part of the movie was the acting, particularly Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss Everdeen). I think she made her character into exactly how Suzanne Collins imagined her. Jennifer, along with a team of extremely talented cast members, gave the fans exactly what they wanted. With beautiful costumes and an extremely realistic setting, the movie seemed as though the viewer was watching it as if they were in the middle of the action. Not one actor seems to vary from their character for even a second. It is easy to truly believe you are part of the film.

Speaking as someone who has read the series and watched both films, I would recommend it to absolutely anyone. And I must add, may the odds be ever in your favour.

Caio Bella,

Ash

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Ashlea and I, along with a couple of friends, headed to the movies on the opening day for Suzanne Collins “Catching Fire.” I think Ashlea was a little more excited than me, but I will admit I had been looking forward to the second instalment. I was not disappointed. Being an avid reader, I am often disappointed with a movie after I have read the book. ‘Catching Fire’ did not disappoint as it was expertly replicated from the novel.

The movie begins with Katniss Everdeen played expertly by the gorgeous Jennifer Lawrence, in the woods of her district hunting for food. Her recent experience in the Capitol’s nightmare reality game ‘The Hunger Games’, where children kill other children, haunts her as she managed to be only 1 of 2 survivors. ‘Catching Fire’ flows into a tribute only reality game where only one person will be allowed to survive the killings, putting Katniss back into the nightmare once again.

True to the series, the movie makes you feel uncomfortable about the content of a children’s reality show where they attack each other, but the exciting storyline with many twists and unforeseen turns, the 2 hour long movie kept me captivated through out. If you have enjoyed the books, you will love the movies as they are a perfect copy, gore and all.

Ashlea and I often read the same series as we both love to read. Some books I am unsure whether the content is suitable for Ashlea, but she is a mature reader, an exceptional good reader and we always discuss content so I can determine her understanding. Not a movie for those who don’t want deep, dark, depressing themes, with some scenes designed to make you squirm (my sister Gabe saw it on my recommendation and hated it). Overall, I loved it, loved it, loved it. Cant wait for the next instalment ‘Mockingjay’.

cheers natalie

 

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“Keeping Secrets” – Chapter 3

Secrets at Home….

The delicate aroma of garlic and onions frying in the saucepan can be smelt throughout the house. Mum enjoyed cooking as she told me it gave her time to think about life. Mum was a people pleaser just like Grandma and one way to make people happy was through good food they both would say.

My Grandma had been adventurous, always trying new flavours and new recipes from every culture imaginable. Mum had been brought up believing every family ate paella from Spain one night, Matambre from Argentina the following night and delicious Turkish desserts like the sweet pastry Baklava the next.

Mum is nothing like Grandma, in looks or personality. Mum’s features are fair and delicate, blending into each other as if fading into a background scene. Grandma had strong features; red hair, fierce eyes and naturally tanned skin, which glowed with health. Mum has none of the courage and confidence Grandma possessed.

Mum is scared of failing as a mother and fearful to leave the comfort of being at home to find a job. She is afraid of disappointing Dad but lately that is happening on a daily basis. She often talks about Grandma and how much she missed her and her advice.

Mum reaches for the garlic and adds another small spoonful, hoping that the garlic would help disguise some of the flavours that may not suit the meal. She fells tired this evening, unusually tired. With so much going on between the twins and I, Mum often wonders aloud when she will ever get time for herself

“Alexx,” shouts Mum, “Come and help me prepare dinner.”

After a few moments without a response, Mum shouts again but this time more forcefully, letting me know she means now, not when the cooking is complete. I groan and stomp into the kitchen with a sulky expression planted on my face showing her that she is being unfair by asking me to help with dinner

“Why do you never ask Bree or Ella to help? It’s always me,” I whine

Mum ignores my comments, handing me the wooden spoon for stirring the casserole. While Mum continues cooking the rice, I continue mumbling under my breath just how much life is unfair at the moment

“You never answered my question Mum,” I sneer agitated she isn’t taking me seriously

“What do you want me to say?” she replies. “You are older than the twins and sometimes I simply need your help, that’s all.”

“I hate cooking though.

Mum stops cooking, slowly turning towards me. She reaches out and cups my face gently in her hands, her love for me seeping into my skin. Her soft eyes glaze over as she pulls me into her soft embrace.

“I’m sorry darling. If you really hate cooking then just go and set the table. Grandma used to make me cook and I think that’s why I don’t like cooking now. I don’t want this happening to you too.”

“Thanks Mum,” I reply, relieved that I is no longer cooking.

As I reach for the cutlery to set the table I lean into Mum, kissing her quickly on the cheek to return the warm feelings.

“You’re the best.”

“Thanks darling.”

Heading into the family room, my arms full of knives, forks and plates, attempting a difficult balancing act, I think about what Mum has said. Life rotates in circles, Grandma had made Mum do stuff she didn’t like and now Mum does the same to me. If I complain enough that I hate something I might be able to get out of chores around the house. And the twins would have to do more. 

Last week Ella had complained about eating brussels sprouts. “They taste disgusting,” whinged Ella folding her arms across her chest in defiance against the food on her plate. “I hate them and I’m not eating them!”

“Come on darling,” soothed Mum, leaning across the table to assist Ella with her food. “You can at least try them.”

“I have tried them and they make me feel sick!”

“You haven’t even tasted them,” Mum responded, but the insistence in her voice drained away when she realised Ella was going to stand her ground.

Mum had hated brussels sprouts as a child too and hated the thought of forcing her children to eat food she had once hated.

“OK you don’t have to eat the sprouts but you must eat the rest,” she responded with a heavy sigh over being defeated once again.

Ella nodded with a satisfied grin on her face and began devouring the remainder of her dinner like the very hungry caterpillar who didn’t know when to stop.

As I begin setting the table, still conjuring up new ways to have my life a ‘chore free zone’, Dad came home from work throwing the car keys on the bench and kissing Mum hello on the cheek.

“What a long day,” he mumbles inhaling the wonderful aromas spreading throughout the kitchen. “Casserole again huh?”

That one tiny comment made Mum angry, reacting like a little child being told NO, going into meltdown mode with a mini tantrum. I laugh to myself at seeing Mum behave so childlike.

“You said you are going to be supportive,” she screams, making me lose focus on setting the table.

“Hold on there Susan, I just made a flippant comment,” replies Dad calmly.

“A flippant comment! I have had enough of your so-called flippant comments.”

“Calm down,” Dad says, trying to soothe the situation in a civilised manner.

“I don’t want to calm down.”

“Keep your voice down then,” Dad continues, trying to keep their argument a secret from the twins and I

All those noises, terrible hurtful noises echoing throughout the house. I hate this. I hate this. I begin to feel light-headed, dropping a knife onto the floor barely missing my foot hidden inside a bright blue bed sock. I place my hands over my ears, closing my eyes tightly, attempting to remove myself from this situation, from this overwhelming noise.

My head dropping in desperation to shut out the world, shut out the screaming and shut out the nightmares I have every night.

It was around Christmas last year when the arguing began. I was on the phone to Roxie, giggling and gossiping about the day’s events at school. Those were the two things I loved, talking on the phone and laughing with friends. Roxie often made me do most of the talking which didn’t bother me. She was a great listener and I was a great talker.

“I can’t believe Mrs M had such a go at Tommy in class today,” I said lying in the hallway with my legs up against the wall and my back on the floor.

Roxie replied laughing, “Yeah, well Tommy deserved it, he thinks he is so cool.

“He is pretty cool though, don’t you think?”

“Umm, not really, except that he is good at soccer. Can you stop telling me how cool all these boys are? I don’t like any boys,” Roxie said, laughing even harder than before because I always brought things back to boys.

“You know I like Brendon too but he…,” I stopped short when I heard Mum screaming in an unusual tone.

It instantly made me feel uneasy, like being told off  by your favourite teacher in front of the entire class for doing nothing at all. Dad shouted back in an angry voice he normally saved for when we have seriously misbehaved. This is wrong, it sounded so wrong. I had never heard them speak like that ever, especially not to each other.

“Alexx, are you there? I is only joking about…”

“Shh,” I interrupted, not really wanting to listen but trying to understand what was happening.

Roxie was unaware of what is going on but from the tone of my voice, she knew to be quiet.

Back and forth went the conversation between Mum and Dad. Shouting, whispering, sniggering, murmurs, undertones, mumbling. I could hear it all but understood nothing. I sat up from lying on the floor, still with the phone to my ear but paying no attention to Roxie, devoting all my attention to the situation in the other room.

My head started to thump like someone is playing bongo drums deep inside of my brain. It hurt, I mean really hurt. The phone fell from my grasp as I placed my hands over my ears trying to drown out the noise and control the intense pain growing stronger inside.

As my eyes glassed over from the uncontrollable flow of tears. The twins were mentioned, their names, repeated again and again. I tried to fight back the tears to listen for my name but they continued flowing against my will. As the screaming grew more intense, I sat in a cradle position holding tightly onto my knees wishing I was somewhere else. The arguing never stopped from that moment on.

Releasing the remainder of the knives, forks and plates I am holding, I sprint to my room, my sanctuary, slamming the door hard behind me, not caring if it fell from its hinges. As I threw myself onto my bed, the pounding in my head began again, like every other time Mum and Dad argued. It is a pounding I believe I must deserve in some way. Maybe it isn’t only the twins’ fault, maybe it is my fault too.

With my head hidden deep under the pillow and my body curled up into a ball, I lay on the bed, trying to escape the noise. This can’t be normal. I have never heard Roxie’s parent behave like this, or my aunt Vicki and Uncle Paul, or any of my friends parents come to think of it. What is wrong with my family?

I had always thought the weird one in the family, other than my annoying little sisters, is Uncle Paul. He is what Mum calls ‘the arty type’. His hair is long, tangled and always looks dirty. His glasses are thick making his eyes look distorted, blending into his face, which is covered in hair, more hair than Santa Claus. He always smells like soaking wet clothes rotting in a corner, bundled up tightly in a ball never having the chance to air out. It is a disgusting smell and unique to Uncle Paul.

He is extremely smart as well, a scientist of some sort, working with decontaminated water or something like that. Mum doesn’t seem to like Uncle Paul as she never wants him in the house but he married her sister so she has no choice but to put up with him.

When Mum talks about the day Aunt Vicki introduced Uncle Paul to her, she pulls horrified faces. She recalls smiling politely when she reached out to shake hands, already making her mind up that this man was just too weird for her sister to marry. Uncle Paul barely speaks to anyone, barely seems interested in anything but Aunt Vicki and himself.

An overwhelming sense of embarrassment races through my body. I suddenly realised how ‘not’ normal my family has become. We used to be like everyone else, normal. Now Mum and Dad can’t seem to be in the same room without arguing or shouting or creating a tension that even the twins could sense. This can’t be happening to me. It isn’t fair. Why me? I am normal. I am one of the popular kids, with lots of friends, great friends, and normal friends. What will everyone think if they knew what is happening at home?

I have to keep this a secret from everyone, especially from my friends. There is to be no discussion about Mum or Dad again. If I am feeling sorry for myself or sad in my heart because of what they are doing, I will just keep it to myself and pretend everything is as it used to be. I am old enough now to keep secret, everyone keeps secrets. Keeping secrets doesn’t hurt anyone, it isn’t lying…just secrets.

Keeping secrets is the same as pretending, just like I did when I was a little girl. I used to pretend I was a mum. I adored my mum, and desperately wanted to be just like her. I thought she is the most wonderful person in the world. There was nothing my mum couldn’t do. I felt safe with her. I knew she would protect me, save me from the monsters and boogy men that sometimes hid in my room at night. Pretending to be a mum made me feel unique, and an important part of the family.

The hardest person to keep a secret from will be Roxie. She is different from my other friends as she has a peculiar ability to really understand me. So many times Roxie and I can read each others thought, like it is a magical connection we possess. It can be a little spooky sometimes how much we really know each other’s inner thoughts.

We don’t always have to talk about things; often the silence between us can be louder than words. Roxie understands me better than I think I understand myself. People wait a lifetime for a friend like Roxie and not only had I found this rare treasure, but this treasure is right next door. I know it sounds weird and a little creepy but some days I think Roxie might be been my long-lost twin sister.

Only recently in maths class, Ms Jenkins is up the front of the class going on about times tables. Poppy was being a little annoying and trying to tell me all about a movie she went to see over the weekend with Bella. I wanted to listen to her but I also needed to listen to Ms Jenkins to understand the work. I had never told any of my friends that I liked maths, that I really liked maths. It isn’t cool to like maths, especially when you are trying to be friends with the popular group.

With Poppy in one ear chatting away and Ms Jenkins in the other, I was being torn between the two worlds I realised my life is becoming. Friends or school, work or having fun, loving maths… or fitting into the cool group.

My head desperately tried to take in all the noise around me, the good noises, the bad noises but this only caused all the noise to become one jumbled forum. It was like being caught under the water with bubbles popping all around, confusing you, trying to make you listen but the constant popping, floating, movement of the bubbles making it difficult to know what to do. I was trapped, caught in the middle of everything and unable to find a way out.

Amongst all my confusion, Roxie somehow could see clearly. She could read my thoughts, see my confusion and saw the bubbles popping everywhere. I don’t know how but she knew at this point I felt like I was drowning. As I looked towards Poppy secretly wanting to tell her to keep quiet but knowing I would never do such a thing, pretending to show interest in her story, a scrunched up piece of paper flew across the room, hitting Poppy right between the eyes.

Then silence. Nothing could be heard and nothing is said. Ms Jenkins stopped abruptly in the middle of reciting the four times tables, assessing the current classroom antics. Poppy’s mouth ceased movement like she had frozen in time, however her eyes told a different story. Her eyes showed contempt for Roxie who had embarrassed her in front of the class.

Poppy was never treated like this, never. No one would ever do anything to embarrass her, especially in front of the entire class. The contempt quickly turned to anger, her eyes glaring at Roxie saying ‘I will get you for this’. I couldn’t help but grin to myself at the look of annoyance on Poppy’s face and the look of complete satisfaction on Roxie’s. It amazed me just how different my friends were!

As I continue to stare at the growing anger and steam coming from Poppy, a look I wish I am able to capture, I realise just how special Roxie’s friendship truly is to me.

I sit up on my bed, devising a plan on how to deal with the fighting between my parents, still listening to them arguing just outside my door. It is constant, never-ending arguing. I never know what starts the arguments and no longer care. All I know was that it is ugly, disgustingly ugly. They are being so selfish. Do they not know what it is doing to me? I hate them! I hate them!

As the anger rose inside, I race to the door bursting through, running out of the house so quickly I forgot to tell anyone where I is going. I don’t really know where I am going; I just know I need to get away from the arguing. Next thing I know I am pounding on Roxie’s front door with such urgency that, when Brendon opens the door he is expecting an emergency.

“Oh Alexx, it’s you. Are you OK?” asks Brendon, concerned by my appearance.

“Oh, I’m fine, just fine,” I lie not wanting Brendon to know my ugly secret

I am hurting, the painful secret destroying me. If Brendon knew he would think I am weak, girl kind of weak. This is not the way I want Brendon to think of me. I want him to like me the way I like him. If he knew about the ugliness which was constantly happening just next door, he will definitely think I am just as ugly as the secret I am keeping.

“You don’t look fine. Is everything…”

“I want Roxie, is she home?” I interrupt quickly, unable to look Brendon in the eyes.

“Yeah, in her room I think,” he replies, moving aside so I could squeeze past.

As I push past him, my arm gently rubs against his, causing me to get goose bumps. I fell a sweet connection between us but when I look back at him, standing by the door he is scratching his arm where we touched as if I had caused a dreaded disease. Maybe my ugliness is rubbing off on him.

In one sweeping motion I knock on Roxie’s door, opened it and simultaneously calling her name before being given permission to enter.

“Rox, I really, really needed to get out of my house.”

Roxie is sitting at the computer desk in the corner of her room, at the foot of her bed, googling something about football. With her back to me, Roxie mumbles for me to wait a minute while she finishes what she is doing. Impatiently, I sit on her bed with a heavy and intentionally loud thud, not happy that she is keeping me waiting. I need my friend and I need her now.

“Nearly finished,” said Roxie unaware of my impatience as she raises her finger in the air motioning she is nearly done. Clicking the small cross on the top computer screen before turning to face me, giving me the long-awaited attention I need.

“There…done,” Roxie said, immediately realising the emotional state I am in. “Hey, are you OK?”

I am angry with Mum and Dad. Now I am angry with Roxie for making me wait while she looks at stupid football stuff. I am beginning to feel like I have knots in my stomach, knots that hurt. It is like my stomach is a punching bag being hit from all directions, the pain intensifying with each blow.

“About time,” I spit out in a nasty tone, more nastily than I intend.

“Hey, calm down Alexx, whatever happened it’s not my fault!”

“Yeah I know, but I came here wanting to get away and you have just ignored me and…”

“I was just finishing something. Don’t be such a sook. Anyway, what’s wrong? Did Bree and Ella do something to you again?”

Pretending to deny anything is wrong, a small tear rolls down my cheeks as I lower my head and look intently at my hands fidgeting on my lap. Roxie moves towards me slowly, confused by my reaction, unsure how to handle this unexpected situation.

“Oh no Alexx. What’s wrong?” asks Roxie, kneeling in front of me, gently reaching for my hands, hoping her touch will make it all better.

As I sit on Roxie’s bed, looking at my friend show genuine concern for me, I realise what I am about to do. By telling Roxie my secret, my horrible family secret I am about to change her perception of me. Roxie thought I was cool, just like I thought of her. If I told her just how uncool I really am because my family are crazy, Roxie might not like me the same way anymore. Maybe I should stick with the original plan and keep my secret. What horrible consequences will happen if I told my secret? 

If you want Alexx to tell Roxie about her parents arguing and risking destroying her normal life, go to Chapter 4

Opening up the box of secrets 

 

If you want Alexx to keep her secret about her parents arguing so her life can continue on as normal, go to Chapter 16  

Family secrets boxed securely

 

 

 

“Keeping Secrets” – Chapter 2

Roxie…

Football is a game were grown men run around chasing an oddly shaped ball, trying to kick it through tall posts. One team loses while another wins, with the crowd acting as though they are part of the team itself. I have never understood the intensity supporters have for the game and their team.

Roxie adores football more than anyone I know, except maybe Brendon. She would cry when her team lost and celebrate when her team won. She is not a moody person but when it came to football, her moods were often determined how well her team was performing.

Whereas I don’t care for football, in fact I hate football, passionately. Hate is maybe too harsh a word because I watch it often when Roxie and Brendon play together at the park, just like today. I was invisible when football was concerned but that never bothered me. It is my time to watch Brendon, devouring his every move.

Brendon is a year older than me and he is beautiful with his dark brown hair, scruffy all over but styled to look messy. His eyes are a darker blue than Roxie’s but with the same intense stare. Brendon is tall and muscular with strong defined arms and lean legs but it is his smile that captures me every time.

My eyes never left Brendon, innocently memorising each movement he made, each muscle extending. I was unable to look away. His shirts are always unbuttoned to his chest, drawing me in as if I were under his spell.

“Nice one Rox,” shouts Brendon as he reciprocated with a clean handball straight back to her chest.

“Well I’ve been taught by the best,” laughs Roxie, catching the ball and getting her feet in position to make a short pass back.

“I can’t play long today, I have heaps of homework, then I’m out with my mates. Mum already had a go at me earlier this week for slacking off this early in the year.”

“You’re never slack,” replies Roxie, stopping the play to concentrate on what her brother is saying.

“Mum thinks so.”

Brendon was everything Roxie wanted to be, defending him constantly and hanging onto his every word. He is popular with his friends and able to handle any situation with an untimely ease. There isn’t a sport he can’t play and play well. And then came school work, he never works too hard but his grades were always excellent. Since he began high school, his life appears fantastic and Roxie envied that.

“What more does Mum want from you? Hey! Did you hear that Alexx?” Roxie shouts in my direction including me in the conversation.

I nod, raising my hand in the air, hoping I was responding correctly as I was unable to hear anything they were saying. Neither am I really interested. Watching Brendon is all that matters.

As I sat hidden away from the rest of the world, I pretended Brendon was playing for me, only me. I pretend our love for each other is a secret, treasured between our two souls. Everyday he would ask me to watch him play football at the park and everyday I would go, with Roxie as our cover up, to keep our love a secret. I would sit where only he can see me and share the romance our hearts desired while the world remained unaware.

“Don’t you worry little sis, that’s what mums are supposed to do, stress over everything to make sure they have done their job right.”

“I suppose.”

“Roxie, I better go,” Brendon said, motioning to leave.

As Roxie ran towards Brendon with the football tightly in her grip, a group of girls from school walk towards them. Huddled together like a pack of hyenas were had been watching and commenting on Roxie’s every move. These girls are our friends, a new group of friends that are the popular group and I loved being part of it.

By the time Roxie became aware she was being watched and judged by these girls, her relaxed demeanour instantly becoming on-edge, waiting for their response. I know Roxie sometimes feels uncomfortable around these girls but can’t understand why. She told me they treated her differently to the way they treated me. However I don’t see it. It simply isn’t true.

As Roxie approaches Brendon, all the while keeping her eye on the girls, he playfully puts his arm around her neck and pretends to wrestle her for the ball. Normally Roxie would join in, playfully fighting back but she instead pulls away quickly, allowing him to easily take the ball.

Brendon laughs at the ease in which he had beaten his sister.

“Hey, that was too easy Rox! Maybe we need to work on building those muscles next,” he laughs.

“Whatever! Let’s just go home.”

“What has gotten you in a stir all of a sudden? Girls are so hard to work out sometimes,” replies Brendon, annoyed by her sudden change of mood.

As the group of girls approached them, I could see Roxie looking anxious as she nervously wiped her palms along her jeans. She has not been around these girls outside of school and is always uncomfortable in new situations. It isn’t that they would do anything to her, but Roxie is nervous about what they will say, especially in front of Brendon.

Poppy is the ring leader of the group and she seems to dislike Roxie the most. Poppy is one of the popular girls, the typical cheerleader type seen in American movies. Her hair is a picture of perfection, silky straight golden hair that sits flawlessly down the middle of her back, as if styled by a hairdresser daily.

When anyone meets Poppy they are drawn to her stunning looks. Most other girls would give anything to have just one of her pretty features. Poppy has a natural flair for styling her hair, up or down, straight or curly. With matching golden eyes and naturally golden tanned skin, she looks at home as a surfie girl. Her delicate nose, pinkish soft lips and unblemished skin, Poppy took pretty to another level.

Poppy had style too. She seems to understand fashion in a way most will never understand. People are drawn to her and want to be around her. I am definitely one of these people.

Roxie believes she always has an ulterior motive to her actions and we can’t trust her. I simply can’t understand what Roxie has against Poppy. I desperately want to be part of her group.

“Oh hi Roxie,” Poppy says in a soft, welcoming tone. “We knew it was you when we saw that, that red hoodie you always wear.”

“Hi Poppy, hi girls,” Roxie replies quietly looking towards the ground.

“This must be your brother Rox. Well, aren’t you going to introduce us?” Poppy continued.

The girls start to giggle.

“Yeah, I suppose so. This is Brendon. Brendon this is Poppy, Jo, Bella and Sam.”

Before Brendon has a chance to speak, Poppy leapt forward and gave him a peck on the cheek like they are long lost friends. She gently touches his arm, staring directly into his eyes, flashing her sweetest smile to draw him in.

“Hi Brendon, Roxie has told us so much about you and how wonderful you are at just about everything. She thinks you are awesome and I can see why now.

Brendon is speechless, instantaneously turning a deep shade of red, unable to string words together. The girls continue to giggle from the boldness of their friend. Poppy stood confidently in front of Brendon, ignoring her friends, waiting for his reaction.

Roxie looked nauseated, as if she desperately wants to run and hide. This is the first time I have witnessed this behaviour in Poppy and I am shocked. The girls can’t see me from where they are standing. Poppy has actually kissed Brendon, the boy I want desperately to just notice me.

Poppy knows how to twist things around to make you look like the fool. She has managed to do this to Roxie. There is nothing wrong with talking about your brother, telling people how great he is, but Poppy has a way of turning it around to make her look good.

“Hey girls, umm great to meet some of Roxie’s friends,” stammered Brendon still embarrassed by the kiss but pleased to be the centre of attention.

Turning his attention to Roxie, he continued, “Rox you stay here with your friends if you want, but I really need to get going.”

“No, I’m coming home too. Heaps of homework to do,” replies Roxie swiftly.

“Cool, see ya girls”, said Brendon weaving his way through the group and heading towards home.

“Yeah, see ya,” Roxie says, sticking close to her brother in fear of what else her so-called friends might say.

Roxie has been against these friends since the moment I introduced them to her. Poppy and I had established a friendship within the classroom and not long after Poppy had asked me to join her and her friends at lunch time. Naturally I had brought along my best friend, but something never really clicked between all of them.

Our friendship started when Poppy came up to me as I was walking into school by myself as Roxie was away sick. I was elated that the most popular girl at school actually wanted to talk to me. I had always been afraid to speak to Poppy in class as she had a reputation of only speaking to the cool kids in school.

“Hi, I’m Poppy. You’re in my class right?”

Bewildered by Poppy’s approach, I simply nodded in response, afraid to say something stupid. Of course I knew we were in the same class. I also knew who she sat next too, Bella to the left and Simon to the right. How uncool is that?

“Thought so. I saw you talking to Simon yesterday in class.”

Confused why Poppy was still talking to me and not quite understanding what about, I stood like an idiot without saying anything.

“He was at your desk and both of you were laughing,” she continued drawing the words out slowly.

“Oh yeah,” I finally managed to get the words out. “I was helping him with the maths work.” Maths work, could I think of anything lamer to say.

“Is that all? Just about maths? Hey, maybe you can help me one day,” Poppy proposed, her face radiating with a smile. “Simon and I are sort of going out with each other you see.”

So our friendship began from there. I have so much in common with Poppy and her friend Jo and I couldn’t wait to catch up and get advice about fashion and boys. Another girl in the group Sam loves music just like me. It is only Bella that I don’t share a common interest with but we manage to talk about day-to-day things instead.

Roxie told me she fells left out when they are around, not only by me but by everyone. No one starts a conversation with her but she doesn’t put much effort into getting to know the girls either. Everything we gossip about at lunch time Roxie says is boring. It confuses me because I fell comfortable around Poppy and the girls but I also love being with Roxie. If I can get along with everyone, why can’t they?

I hope time will sort out their issues and we can all be one big group of best friends.

As Brendon and Roxie walk away from the girls, heading towards me, the soft giggling developed into sniggering and finally into enormous laughter. I suspect they are laughing at Roxie, making fun of her choice in fashion and the fact she is playing football with her brother. But that is normal to laugh, isn’t it, if you didn’t blend in with the group?

I wait for Brendon and Roxie to meet up with me, all the while watching the girls walk away. They are unaware I am there watching everything as they couldn’t see me from where I am sitting. Poppy raises her hand and waves but her expression doesn’t say ‘See ya friend’, it clearly said, ‘I don’t know why we even bother with her, she is such a tomboy’.

 

 

“Keeping Secrets” – Chapter 1

Ashlea had I have written a tween book together. Here is Chapter 1. Would love some honest feedback.

Keeping Secrets

By Natalie and Ashlea McNamara

‘Alexx’

“GO AWAY, ” I screamed throwing my khaki brown school shoe forcefully at the bedroom door.

The smack of the shoe on the door caused a ripple effect of instant silence. Before I could soak it in, a faint sound of giggling took over followed by heavy thumping as if a herd of elephants were on a rampage outside my room. As usual my sisters were in the mood to annoy me and it was working.

Bree and Ella were identical twins and most people struggled to tell them apart. With their milky blonde hair and petite button noses their outside appearance was the same. For those who close to the girls, could always tell them apart by their eyes. Bree’s eyes would draw you in, making you feel you were the most important person in the world. Ella radiated the opposite effect, avoiding eye contact and pushing you away at every opportunity.

The twins were five years younger than me but insisted on involving me in their childish games. Yeah right, I was almost a teenager and I just didn’t need this immature behaviour surrounding me all the time. All I needed in my life was music, my friends, the privacy of my bedroom and of course my thoughts.

As Bree and Ella scurried back to their own bedroom like wild field mice, satisfied with disturbing me once again, I attempted to get back to my own inner thoughts.

My absolute favourite place to be myself is my bedroom. Everything I cherished is in here. The pastel fairy floss pink walls were covered in posters of inspiring people, most I felt like I knew them on an intimate, fandom level. When I loved a book or a movie I obsessed over it until the inner fan girl could learn no more.

My other passion is animals. My dream job is to become a veterinarian. This was no secret as I would tell anyone who wanted to listen about becoming a famous vet to the stars. I often practised my veterinarian skills on our dog Koko, a pure inky black Jack Russell with a short stubby tail to match his short stubby body.

Koko often sat quietly on my pink fleecy quilt draped over my bed, his dark earthy brown eyes wide open watching my every move. He was perfectly behaved, perfectly adorable, only barking when he needed my attention.

I loved Koko especially when he licked my face with his warm tongue showing me how much he loved me too. I have a beautiful photo of us cuddling on the trampoline in the backyard sitting by my bedside. With my copper brown wavy hair, perfectly styled as always and golden skin Koko and I looked the perfect pair. I treasured this picture.

I also have three orange fish in my room – Tiger, Snowy and Doc. They were only goldfish but the way they glided through the water without a care in the world, was mesmerising. I would watch them for hours, with my music blaring whenever I needed to escape.

Music is my real passion. The sounds, the vibrations, take me away to a place I call my sanctuary. No one can annoy me there, no one can scream at me there and no one can hurt me there. I love my iPod almost as much as I love Koko – I did say almost.

Some days I would lie on my bed, close my eyes, turn up my music and drift away to where no one can make me feel anything I don’t want to feel. No one fought in my world. Everyone loves me and I love being Alexx.

There are days when I get lost in my music, with my friends plastered over the walls and forget the rest of the world even existed. When I am in the zone, in my sanctuary, no one can penetrate it. Today had to be one of these days or I will go insane and take my anger out on the twins.

The day Mum brought the twins back from the hospital was of the best and worst day of my life. They were tiny, breakable little dolls, with delicate features and angelic expressions. I was afraid to touch them in case I damaged the angels, destroying these pictures of perfection.

They were flawless, perfect little people until they began to cry – scream in fact – shattering my fascination with them. The crying, the screaming lasted almost an entire year and by then I no longer thought of them as delicate or fragile. They were noisy and demanding little people instead.

It was around this time I noticed a change in Mum and Dad. Mum always seemed tired and angry, her unhappiness directed mainly towards Dad. Dad seemed to always have an expressionless facade, never showing any emotion, even when everything around him was chaotic. It seemed to me that the twins were to blame for the changes I noticed in Mum and Dad.

I rolled over on my bed, the loud music pounding through my mind acting as a distraction from the twins. Now Taylor’s music started to take over, controlling my thoughts, calming my mind. Up until this moment my thoughts had been on my parents and their never ending arguments but as I drifted away with the music, so did my thoughts.

The following morning began in the usual way with the twins fighting over who has what bowl and what spoon and who was going to have what cereal. I sat quietly at the table pushing my food around the bowl, pretending to eat, trying to block out all the noise.

I notice Mum giving Dad one of her looks. A look that says ‘I am not in the mood for your rubbish’. This look happens all the time and they don’t realise I notice. Dad was arguing with Mum but I can’t hear a thing over the continuous bickering from the twins.

As Dad reached across the bench, apologising for something he has apparently done wrong, Mum jerked backwards, as if his touch is poisonous. He slammed down his coffee mug, spilling its contents onto the bench, coffee running down the cupboard and onto the floor. Dad then stormed out of the kitchen.

“That’s right David, just walk away in a bad mood again,” Mum shouts after him before turning to leave in the opposite direction.

The instant silence rips through me, interrupted only by the sound of coffee dripping onto the floor. The twins explore my eyes for an answer, which I can’t give them. I don’t know what the answer is. With my appetite gone, I push the untouched food away, feeling bitter toward the twins, my family and my whole life.

I head back to the sanctuary of my bedroom, the one place I can be myself and forget that everyone else exists. Just being in my room makes the bitterness slowly evaporate.

As Taylor blasted out of the iPod, I could hear banging on my door again. Why won’t they leave me alone? I start to believe the twins really are the reason our parents are fighting so much. Maybe they are fed up with the stupid games and their childish behaviour just like I am. Agitated by another interruption from my music, I leap towards the door ripping it open with so much force that one of the posters of my beloved stars blew right off the wall, floating to the floor.

“GO AWAY NOW,” I scream angrily my face turning a deep shade of red.

Stunned by the fury and attitude in my voice, Roxie stood frozen like a snowman staring at me, not sure whether to scream back or laugh at my embarrassing behaviour. Before my friend has a chance to react either way, I yank her into my room, slamming the door behind me, throwing my arms around her neck.

“Sorry, sorry, sorry, Rox. I didn’t know it was you,” I said ashamed for being caught looking so childish.

“Ummm, it’s OK,” chokes Roxie.

Pulling away from my firm grip, Roxie mumbles something about it all being cool. She hates being hugged or kissed. She says it makes her feel weird and a little nervous, even with me – her best friend.

Roxie isn’t normal. I mean more like a typical twelve year old girl kind of normal. She hates most girlie things. She hates wearing make-up, hates going shopping and hates dancing.  Roxie hates talking about girl stuff, hates gossiping and wearing dresses. All the things I love.

Today she has on her usual boy cut Regour jeans, a bright red hoodie and sneakers. Roxie is pretty but not in a model sort of way. Her dark blonde hair is always pulled back in a messy pony tail with hair falling out all over the place. Her heart-shaped face and piercing aqua eyes make me feel as though she sees deep into my mind. I wish I had her full naturally rosy lips instead of my thin strips on my face.

The one thing I like most about my best friend is she lets me be myself. With Roxie what you see is what you get – no secrets.

“The twins have been even more annoying than usual, if that’s possible. I thought it was them again at the door,” I said as I jump back onto my bed, motioning for Roxie to join me.

“You guys are always fighting”, replies Roxie, standing near the door, reluctant to move, recovering from my hug.

“They’re painful. What can I say? Don’t you fight with Brendon?”

Brendan is Roxie’s older brother by a year and I never see them argue or stir each other up. Brendon is different; he really understands Roxie and never judges her. For a brother and sister, they get on really well, hanging out often. He always asks Roxie to join in when his friends come over to play football. The two of them sometimes hang out together. Roxie secretly idolises her brother, but it’s no secret to me.

I also care for Brendon more than I can ever let on. He is my dream boyfriend, I think about him every night and every morning. I have never kissed a boy, so Brendon is just a dream, a wonderful beautiful dream.

“Not really. I like my brother.”

“Yeah so do I,” I quickly interrupt smiling sweetly.  “He is soooooo cute”

“Stop it, Alexx. He’s not cute – yuk. Cool maybe.”

“Well I think he’s cool too,” I continue, my fondness for Brendon sweeping through my mind.

Roxie and I are so different, so opposite, yet we always balance each other out. My liking of boys amuses Roxie as she prefers to play football with them. I wear make-up – she doesn’t. I adore fashion – she only likes to wear jeans. I read all the girlie magazines cover to cover every month – she only reads them if there is an article about sports.

It was Roxie’s turn to pick up the pink fluffy cushion lying near the doorway, throwing it towards me. She gets embarrassed whenever I mention how cute her brother is. I want Brendon to be my first kiss, a kiss like in the movies, but that is one secret I can never share with her.

We both start to laugh as I turn up the volume on my iPod so our voices would be drowned out from interfering ears outside my room.

Roxie and I have been best friends since the day her family moved into the small house next door. A removals truck had been parked up the driveway; people were everywhere, barking orders and screaming to be careful with the breakable items.

Roxie didn’t want to move as she hated it when things in her life changed. She was standing near the truck, holding onto her dog Tom, a big scruffy looking German Shepherd, quietly observing all the commotion surrounding her.

She hadn’t seen me watching from my house, excitedly staring at her, wondering if we would be friends. When I couldn’t contain my excitement any longer, I marched over to find out more about this person moving in next door.

“Hi, my name’s Alexx. I live there,” I said pointing towards the house next door. “Do you want to be friends?”

Roxie’s aqua eyes stared at me, giving away no secrets while she looked me over, clearly concerned by what she saw. Dressed in my pale pink ballet leotard with plastic fairy slip-on shoes and hands firmly planted on my hips, I was the complete opposite to the jeans, dark green t-shirt and thongs she wore.

Eventually she nodded her head shyly, comfortable I wasn’t some weirdo and maybe worth being friends with. As I grabbed my new friend’s hand, pulling her towards the backyard with Tom in tow, I knew then and there I had met my new best friend.

Laying back on the bed, swinging my legs in the air to the beat of the music blaring from my iPod, I try to forget about my parents. Roxie has a way of making me forget the bad things and concentrate on the good stuff without even knowing it.

“You know, I think you’re lucky Rox.”

Staring at me, unsure why she is so lucky, Roxie sat on the floor, waiting patiently to hear the rest of the story.

“Your Mum and Dad are really cool and never seem to get angry at all. And Brendon’s cool too. You guys are perfect together really, ” I start to drift away into my own world of negative thoughts once again.

“What are you talking about Al? I think your parents are cool too. You’re always allowed to go places I’m not. You’ve got a cool house and look at this bedroom.”

Roxie holds up her arms, waving them around demonstrating the excessive possessions I have scattered around my room. “I get jealous of you, not the other way around.”

“What? Jealous of me?” I reply, rolling over to look at Roxie who is staring intently at me, waiting for the conversation to continue.

She will never understand how messed up my life is becoming because her life is so perfect. My best friend will never know because I can’t tell her. I am embarrassed by all the screaming, the fighting, the intense arguments. I am starting to think that maybe it’s not all the twins fault, maybe its me too. Roxie will never understand.

“You have so much Alexx. You’re pretty and popular and everything always looks good on you. I’m just not like that, but that’s cool too.”

“Well yeah but …” I hesitate giving myself one more chance to tell her how I am feeling.

“Alexx can we come in?” shouted Bree tapping softly on the door.

“No, go away,” I reply, leaning over to turn the music up even louder, drowning her out. The moment is gone. Maybe the moment was never really there and I should just pretend nothing is really going on.

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