“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.






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