“Keeping Secrets” – Ch.19 – No longer friends (3rd storyline)

No longer friends….

 The day of the slumber party finally arrives. I feel like I have been waiting for the day for months. Roxie has avoided me all week at school, even resorting to being driven to school each day.

It is one of the longest weeks of my life. Firstly I have to spend more time with the twins walking them to and from school on my own. When Mum found out Roxie was getting a lift to school, she insists that I walk the twins each day.

“But why,” I complain each morning in the kitchen as I attempt to eat breakfast.

“You know why young lady. You can’t walk on your own and it saves me driving them to school and then racing off to work,” says Mum as she moves hastily around the kitchen cleaning.

“I hate taking them to school. They fight the entire way there and back. It’s so annoying.”

“Don’t speak like that Alexx. They are your sisters and they love you. This is just the age they are at.”

At least with Mum and me arguing every day about the Bree and Ella, Dad and Mum don’t get the chance to argue too. Most mornings Dad simply walks into the kitchen, kisses us all on the head (except Mum) and leaves for work. Sometimes I think silence is worse than the constant bickering.

Secondly I miss seeing my beautiful Brendon every day. Now that I am no longer walking with Roxie, Brendon isn’t walking me. I don’t think he is avoiding me, we just leave the house at different times. He is being loyal to his sister, which I know of course he will.

He always makes me feel special, even on our short journey to school. When an older boy, a gorgeous older boy is happy to walk with you, talk with you about cool stuff, it makes you feel special. When our skin would accidentally touch as we walked, my heart almost leaped from my chest. I hope he never noticed my reaction to his touch.

Brendon gave me reasons to dream. The dream is always the same, him and I together alone. He would stare into my eyes, always making me nervous but comfortable in his company. He would tell me how beautiful I am and how much he really likes me.

His hands would reach for mine, gently holding them as he rubbed his fingers ever so slightly over my palms. All my senses would come alive, tingling excitedly. He would make me the centre of his world, even for the brief moments we would spend together.

Time stood still as our connection became more intense with each moment. His eyes never leaving mine, he would lean forward, slowly, confidently taking the moment into his hands. As our lips touch slightly, my hairs would stand on end and butterflies would soar inside my stomach.

With our lips touching, his kiss turns me into the most beautiful girl in the world. He is so gentle and caring, I would never want this feeling to end. My first kiss belonged to him and him alone.

This week I miss out on all my dreams. I need to see him, be around him to dream, pretend this is a possibility. I feel like I have been cheated from precious time with Brendon.

Thirdly, the most important of all is I haven’t spoken to Roxie all week. She is avoiding me everywhere we go, the walk to school, the playground, and the telephone. Nothing. No contact what so ever.

I try to call a few times but each time I speak to her Mum, she says she is unavailable but will leave a message I called. It became clear that she knows what has happened, so Brendon probably does too.

I never realise how much I had in my friendship with Roxie. It wasn’t just Roxie, it is her family too. I care for them all and I know they care for me too. My Mum asks about Roxie all week, saying she misses her happy smiling face around. Even the twins ask why they haven’t seen her.

School is the hardest time though. It was always Roxie and I doing everything together and the rest of the girls simply formed part of our friendship circle. Roxie and I would meet before lunch and walk together out to the playground. We would walk back into class together.

At assembly we stood together as everyone needed to pair up. We did everything in pairs but I no longer had my partner. Instead I was left out, no one to pair up with. Poppy and Bella are inseparable as usual, nothing and no one would get between them. While Jo and Sam paired off in most things, it had become habit that these two chose each other. That simply left me, alone without my security.

Every time I see Roxie in the school grounds she seems happy, happier than I have seen her in a long time. There is always a new face around her, requesting her friendship. Even when it is time to pair up, Roxie always seems to have a willing participant by her side.

I never realised Roxie was my security, my rock and I have taken her for granted. She is moving on with other friends, other people who will share her life and I am left on my own. I have other friends but they are all happily secure in their friendships. I have no one, no other special pair.

It feels wrong. I am forcing friendships that may never have occurred and in doing so I have lost the one friendship I really care about. No one else seems affected by my loss, not even Roxie.

All day every day the conversation is about Poppy and her slumber party. With Roxie no longer hanging around, there is no need to be secretive. Roxie only came up in conversation once and it is as though she has never been part of our circle of friends.

It was the first lunchtime after our fight and I walk out to meet the girls on my own. I am very self-absorbed by my own sombre mood not realising I have somehow become the centre of attention.

“Hey Alexx, where is Roxie?” asks Sam, concerned by my appearance.

I hadn’t slept well the night before, tossing and turning every hour. Even though sleep has evaded me, the nightmare of the damage I have caused is truly alive. With dark circles under my eyes and my skin even paler than usual, I look as sickly as I feel.

“She is at school somewhere,” I say, intentionally evading the question.

“Yeah I saw her heading towards the library with some other girls,” injected Jo unaware there is a situation developing.

“What girls?” asks Poppy.

“I don’t know their names. You know the girls who hang out with Sam’s cousin,” replies Jo.

“Katey?” says Sam.

“Yeah, Katey and her friends,” agrees Jo.

“Why is she with Katey?” asks Poppy, turning her attention to me.

‘Umm, well, Roxie and I had a fight last night. She is not talking to me at the moment. I am sure she will be back with us tomorrow,” I respond quietly, trying to convince myself it is true.

“What is the fight about?” Poppy demands.

“It doesn’t really matter.”

“Yes it does. You two never fight and now she is playing with someone else. I need to know,’ demands Poppy more aggressively.

“If you must know it is about your party,” I growl, anger building in my voice as I try to match her intensity.

“WHAT??” shouts Poppy making everyone around her freeze with fear.

Poppy is someone you don’t want to get angry and you definitely don’t want to get on her wrong side. She is like a lion, she will not let go until she has hunted down her prey and destroyed them. Today is looking like I will be her prey.

“I told you it is a secret. It is none of her business,” screeches Poppy.

“I know you did but she is, or was my friend and I didn’t think it is very nice not to tell her. I didn’t want her to find out from someone else.”

Poppy moves closer to me her arms on her hips towering over me making me feel like a coward. I am intimidated by her, scared to be at the other end of her anger.

Jo eased her way in between us, trying to defuse the situation before it gets out of control. With Jo acting as some protection, I contemplate turning and running,  running away as fast as I could until either my legs can no longer carry me.

A voice inside my head told to stand my ground and not back down. If I ran now I will have nothing, no one. I will have done all this for nothing.

“Girls, let’s talk about this,” says Jo calmly, guiding the group to sit down and talk about this like friends, not enemies.

“I am sorry Poppy, I felt bad for Roxie. That’s all.”

“It isn’t your place to tell her. You promised me you wouldn’t,” replies Poppy frustrated.

“I know I did and I am sorry. I am really sorry Poppy. Please forgive me,” I plead.

Sam stands by my side sensing that I need some moral support. She will never cross Poppy; it is not in her nature. She is kind at heart and hates to see anyone hurting as I am.

“Okay, you’re forgiven, but don’t think that I am going to now invite Roxie just because she knows about my party.”

“No, I don’t. Plus I don’t think she will want to come. I think she hates me.”

‘But why you?” asks Sam distressed.

Sam’s caring nature always takes me by surprise. I often think of her as an added appendage to Poppy and Bella. However she is nothing like any of my other friends. Sam is kind in her heart, kind to everyone and everything. She never judges what she sees, what she hears. Sam accepts people’s choices without regret and she is able to put herself in someone else’s shoes, really feeling what they are going through.

“I think she wanted me to not go to Poppy’s party,” I reply directly to Sam, ignoring the reaction of gasping from Poppy.

“Oh Alexx, I am sorry you have to go through this,” says Sam.

“Oh, stop this you two,” interrupts Poppy. “Forget her. I am sick of talking about Roxie. It is about me and my party.”

Relieved the attention has been taken from me but annoyed that Poppy shows so little patience or sympathy I have lost a true friend and I have lost this friend for her.

As each day that passes at school, the conversations never waver from Poppy and her slumber party. Roxie is not mentioned again except for the odd sideways glance from Sam asking me how I am coping with everything.

Poppy informs everyone about what we need to bring to her party…sleeping bags and pillows and a special teddy and a secret. The secret part frightens me as I am unsure what she means by it. Poppy won’t elaborate any further just says it is part of the fun for the night.

By Friday I am completely over the slumber party. I have heard about it all week and I am no longer looking forward to it. It is like an anti-climax to such a stressful week.

The exhaustion I feel from my disrupted week makes me look and feel almost zombie like. The bags under my eyes have grown darker and more defined, with nightmares occurring every night. They aren’t scary nightmares like being attacked by zombies. The nightmares are deeper than that.

I am alone in my nightmares. Everywhere I go, no one is with me. Others are in my dreams but there is no one who cares for me, no one who loves me, no one who wants me around. I search each time for someone I know but there is never anyone.

When I wake up I am still alone but at least I am in the safety of my bedroom. I try to talk to Mum about it but the words evade me. My mind goes blank when I try to put together how I feel and what is happening in my life. I need a friend. I need someone I can talk to and trust.

Feeling trapped between what I have want and what I am living, I can’t seem to escape. I try to dream, go back to places that make me happy like the time I spent with Roxie or Mum or even when I would be in Brendon’s company. It is no good. I am still trapped with no key to unlock the world I have left behind.

Sitting in my bedroom on the new stripy multi-coloured rug Mum bought me attempting to cheer me up, I have the music quietly feeding from my dock. Flicking through the latest ‘Miss’ magazine, pretending to be interested in the fashion section I normally crave to view. Nothing is able to hold my attention at the moment.

“Alexx,” Mum says tapping gently on the door, opening slightly before I can answer.

‘Yes Mum,” I reply, not looking up from the magazine.

“Can I come in?”

“Yeah, of course.”

When Mum asks to come into my room it means one of two things. Either she needs to ask me a favour like babysitting the twins or she wants to talk. Not chit-chat talk but really talk, serious talking.

I don’t want either but I am not going to get a choice. As Mum sits on my fluffy quilt neatly folded around the sides of my bed, I keep my head down pretending to be engrossed in an article on ‘Destroying Pimples’. Thank goodness I don’t have pimple problems to add to my problems.

“Alexx, I have been watching you over the past few days and you don’t seem like your usual happy self. Is there anything troubling you at the moment?” Mum asks.

Without looking up I reply, “No, all is good.”

“Why haven’t we seen Roxie here all week?” Mum continues pressing me for more information.

“I don’t know. Maybe she has been too busy.”

“Are you two fighting?”

Silence.

“Alexx?” Mum asks again apprehensively

I am racking my brain to come up with a good excuse why Roxie hasn’t been over but the trapped feeling makes my brain shut down. I can think of nothing remotely intelligent to say. Come on Alexx… think. Nothing, just blank thoughts.

‘Close the magazine Alexx and look at me,” Mum asks softly but sternly.

I close the magazine, forcefully holding back tears I can sense are about to arrive.

“Look at me darling.”

Slowly I raise my head, trying to avoid eye contact as long as possible, giving my tears time to stop developing and me time to control my emotions.

“What’s wrong? I know something is wrong darling. I hate seeing you like this, so unhappy. You are such a beautiful young lady with so much to offer. You have nothing to be sad about. I want to help.”

“I don’t think you can Mum,” I finally find the courage to speak.

“How do you know until you try?”

“I just know. I have tried to think of how to fix things but there is nothing I can do. The damage is done.”

“Try me?” Mum asks reaching down to cup my face in her hands so our eyes can connect.

With this I cry, I cry tears that have been held deep inside me all week unable to be freed. Mum’s protective arms wrap around me, holding me tightly while I cry and cry until exhaustion set in.

I am unsure how long Mum and I stay in the same position, not talking just being together. Mum knows I need to release so much hurt and anguish inside me and words are not need. She asks no more questions, she is simply there for me. Allowing me to trust her again, a trust I have locked away.

Pulling away from the safety of her arms, I sit back on my heels ready to open up to her. I need to open up and trust her, trust that maybe she can help me and get my old life back. I miss my old life. I miss Roxie and Brendon and Mum and Dad and I even miss the twins.

Once I begin talking, the words flow freely. I hold nothing back from Mum as I am determined to set things straight again. When I realise I can’t do this on my own, the only person whom I know will be able to guide me is Mum.

Mum listens to every word, judging me occasionally when I deserve to be judged. Concern I am going through all this on my own, not letting anyone in. I even told her how I feel when they fought all the time and how I blame Roxie for this and for not understanding.

I talk of the slumber party tomorrow, the way Poppy behaves, telling Roxie everything. I can’t seem to stop the secrets coming.

Mum is patient with me while I search for words to express how I feel. Her simply being there is enough for me. I am the centre of attention, I have all the attention I can ask for. No interruptions, no ‘I’ll be back in a minute’, it is the two of us and I begin to feel like the old Alexx.

“Oh darling,” Mum says on many occasions.

“So should I go tomorrow night to the party?” I finally ask the one question I don’t want to answer myself.

“Do you want to go?”

I want a straight answer not a question. Juggling words and playing guessing games give me no joy. Just give me a simply yes or no.

“Can you tell me what to do Mum?”

“No Alexx, you are grown up enough to make your own decisions. Party or no party, I will stand by your decision.”

“Why should I miss out on going to the party. Roxie hates me anyway, whether I go or not.”

“I don’t think Roxie hates you. It maybe something you need to work on to try to sort out your friendship. Is the party something you are looking forward to going to?”“Yes, well I have been but after the weird week I am not sure.”

“Why don’t you sleep on it and I am sure in the morning the answer will come to you,” Mum suggests, guiding me off the floor and into bed.

Like a little child, she tucks me in, folding the quilt around my neck and flattening the remainder of the cover. Her kiss on my forehead is gentle and loving, signalling my body to rest now and dream sweet thoughts only. She turns around at the door while flicking the light switch off.

“Good night darling.”

“Night Mum,” I say rolling over under the warmth of my quilt.

“Sweet dreams.”

With those simple words sleep falls upon me bringing the sweetest of dreams to assist in my slumber.

“Keeping Secrets” – Ch:18 – Good friend – Bad friend (3rd Storyline)

Good friend….Bad friend…

   It is times like today I wish school went on forever. I knew when the day ended Roxie will be waiting for me and the first of many questions will be asked, expecting an answer. An answer I won’t be able to give to her without causing distress.

Delaying the dreaded moment, I even offer to help Mrs Shore clean up after class. She is as shocked as I am when I offer as this is not something I normally do. When the bell rings I am usually one of the first to leave at such a speed, it’s like I will be rewarded for my effort.

Cleaning the white board, pushing in all the chairs, aligning each table with such perfection I feel like I have Chronic Neatness Disorder Syndrome. Time is something I have plenty of today. Unfortunately Mrs Shore is lacking in time as she kindly orders me to leave the classroom.

“Thanks Alexx but I think that is enough. I have a meeting and I am already late,” says Mrs Shore anxiously, directing me towards the door.

“I can lock up if you need me to,” I reply, pretending I can’t sense I am no longer wanted anymore.

“That’s lovely Alexx but I am not allowed to leave students in the rooms on their own. So please if you wouldn’t mind, I really need to lock up.”

Begrudgingly I leave the room and head back into the world I am trying to avoid. Looking at my bright pink watch Mum bought me from a trip to the South Melbourne market, it read 3.47. School has been out for seventeen minutes, which is definitely enough time for Roxie to ascertain that I am being held back for some reason.

Roxie would probably call me later tonight dying to know why I was held back at school. She will think I have detention for something and I can easily agree with her story. If she calls I will tell Mum I am not home, that my head is hurting after such a big day at school and I simply have no energy left to talk, even to Roxie. Perfect cover up. No one will know and I can gain precious time to decide how to handle this situation.

With a little more courage than I possess earlier in the day, knowing I will have more time to determine my fate, I head towards the school gate. Focusing straight ahead, my head glued in one position like a cheap plastic doll that doesn’t move, my eyes darting in every direction searching for Roxie.

Each step closer to the gates I start to breathe easier until I have inhaled too much cold afternoon air making me light headed. Roxie is nowhere within the school grounds so she must have gone home on her own.

The walk home is only short but long enough for me to realise I am on my own. I hear the wind twisting the leaves of the willow trees, sounding like a group of strangers talking, following me home. I shiver as goose bumps appear all over my body.

Dogs barking with severity it sounds as though they are trying to escape to savage the nearest meal – me. Cars constantly travel up and down Corule Boulevard but today there are none. No sign of life, nothing, nowhere.

Increasing my pace with each step, hoping to reach home before I scare myself silly, my imagination getting away from me.  With my house in sight and the noises growing louder, more dominant, I start to run the final hundred metres home.

Not watching where I am going, only focusing on the end result, conscious that I am over-reacting to my surroundings. By the time I see Roxie hiding in the far corner of my vision, it is too late to change my direction.

Breathing more heavily as I reach the blue letterbox with the golden sparrow, now frightened to face Roxie, forgetting all about the strange noises. Her face is blank, no emotion to determine her knowledge of any secret.

“Alexx, what happened to you after school? I waited but when you never showed I thought you must have gotten detention,” says Roxie, standing arms folded with her hands tucked into the sleeves of her hoodie to protect them from the increasing winds.

“No, no,” I huff, trying to contain my breathing to a normal rate.

“Did you run home?” laughs Roxie. “You looked buggered.

“Huh, huh, so funny,” I respond sarcastically, regaining a normal pattern of breathing.

The winds are blowing enough to gather all foreign objects lying on the ground, swirling them around. Distracting my concentration for a moment, I notice how easily the wind could control its surroundings. Something I wish I could do.

The willow trees move in the direction enforced by the winds. The beautiful light green pansies in Mrs McCormick’s yard almost appear to be lying flat on the freshly cut lawns from the force of the winds. The rubbish begins circling, creating small tornado like shape ready to attack.

If I can have one wish that will be it – to be able to control my surroundings. Secrets won’t be an issue because I will control who finds out and what the results will be. Worrying about other peoples feelings will no longer matter as I will control how they’d react. To be as strong as the wind!

“So did you?” asks Roxie again, tucking her hands deeper into the hoodie.

“Did I what?”

“Get detention? And run home?”

“No I didn’t get detention and no I didn’t run home, just walked really fast. I could see the winds coming up and I didn’t want to get caught in it,” I reply, hoping I have said enough to ease the curiosity.

“Where are you after school then?”

“Just helping out Mrs Shore clean the room after class, that’s all.”

My wavy dark blonde hair has become a distraction, a welcomed distraction blowing around in the wind. Trying to control my hair in the wind, I hold it off my face, annoyed by how out of control my hair and life is getting.

“Its getting bad out here, I’m going in,” I say.

Fire begins to burn in my belly, moving swiftly through out my body. I hate being placed in situations like this. I am angry with Roxie for not being invited. I am angry with Poppy for not inviting Roxie. I am angry they had placed me in this position.

It isn’t my fault Roxie’s not friendly enough to Poppy. That is the reason I believe she isn’t invited. The story about her Mum doesn’t sound right to me. No Mum would do that as much as I desperately want to believe it is true. Poppy is a brilliant liar but some some are too hard to believe.

“Have I done something wrong Alexx?”

“No,” I reply with my back to her unable to turn around.

“Then what? What is going on?”

“Nothing.”

“We have been friends for ages Alexx but you are behaving strangely. Why did Poppy just want to talk to you today? Not the rest of us.”

Innocently Roxie asks a simple question unaware of the enormity of my answer. The slumber party, the secret about the party, I have promised I will keep the secret but I have been fighting that decision all day.

The swirling of the winds feels like it has moved inside my body. Everything moving in all directions causing an over powering sensation of nausea. My heart is pumping, my blood is racing, my is mind pounding, my is stomach lurching, when will this all stop.

I run towards the deep purple shrubs that line the front of my house, creating the illusion of a fence. Bending over, forcing my face deep into the shrubs, attempting to hide if I throw up. As I hide my face between the shrubs, my stomach muscles tense uncontrollably trying to release its contents, unsuccessfully.

I can no longer hear the winds, the noise of my own body takes over. A firm hand is on my back, rubbing as I continue to heave behind the shrubbery.

“OMG, Alexx. Are you OK?”

Wiping my mouth on the sleeve of my school uniform, angry she is determined to put me through this, I stand up to face her. Her eyes are soft, concentrating hard on me, waiting to be given instructions. She is upset by my unnatural behaviour and unsure how to alleviate the problem.

Calmness takes over, easing the fire inside me. I will share this secret with Roxie, not because I want to, that is obvious, but because I need to for my own sake. I can’t be angry, mean or nasty. Calmness is the state required so deep breathing helps get me to that place.

“I’m fine Roxie.”

“Then why the…” Roxie couldn’t even bring herself to say the words.

“I think it’s my body’s way of telling me to let go,” I respond maturely.

It feels like I am having an outer body experience, like I have stepped outside of myself, standing next to me watching everything. I sound calm, the most calm I have been in weeks.

“Poppy is having a party Roxie, a slumber party this week end. That is what she wanted to tell me.”

“Oh, sounds like fun, but I don’t understand why…”

“Please Roxie, let me finish. She pulled me aside because everyone else knows about it but you. She is not inviting you to the party.”

Roxie stands, tilting her head to the side, analysing the information I have thrown at her. Like a lost child searching for her mother, Roxie’s expression is that of confused sorrow.

“You can blame her Mum Roxie,” I quickly add. “She said only four could be invited and Poppy needed to make a decision.”

“What have I ever done to her?” asks Roxie.

“Nothing, you have never done anything. It’s just numbers, I am sure it is just numbers.”

The pain I am causing my friend makes my stomach ache once more. Still trying to recover from before, I wrap my arms around my waist in an attempt to control the spasms. She is hurting, this emotion now expelling from her eyes rapidly.

“I knew she never liked me. I told you that but you didn’t believe me.”

“She does like you, it’s just…”

“NO,” screams Roxie making me jump from her unexpected out burst. “NO. She doesn’t like me and you know it. She is mean. I am not mean to her but she is always mean to me. You just refuse to see it.”

I stand in stunned silence, still wrapped in my arms afraid to move. Roxie’s sadness had evaporated into the winds, blown away rapidly. She is determined to let me know exactly how she feels.

“What did you say to Poppy when she said I wasn’t invited?”

“I told her is being mean and that she should invite you.”

Roxie replies only with a look, a look that tells me to continue talking.

“She said she couldn’t and that it is best to keep it a secret from you so you wouldn’t get hurt. I needed to tell you because you’re my friend and I knew you would find out sometime. I thought finding out later would be worse.”

“Are you going?” she asked.

Without thinking of the consequences, I automatically reply ‘yes’.

The anger and emotions roaring all around stop. The wind stops blowing making an eerie silence. The trees are no longer rustling, the rubbish lay quietly still on the ground, Mrs McCormick’s pansies sit bolt upright frozen back into position.

Roxie starred further into my eyes, searching for our friendship, a friendship that has been so important to both of us until recently. Secrets are tearing our friendship apart but I am unable to stop it, control it. With our eyes locked together, I try looking away but I no longer have the strength.

Her words are quiet and spoken with such dignity and such strength they are barely auditable.

“Thank you for being honest with me Alexx. I think it has been along time since you were honest with me. I would never treat my friends the way you have treated me.”

Roxie turns on her heels and walks away.

“But…”

Roxie stops and turns to face me with a look I have never seen before.

“I thought we are best friends, but you have made it very clear who you want to be friends with Alexx, and it’s not me. I hope you enjoy the party.”

With that Roxie disappears inside her house, leaving me standing on the front lawn still hugging my body. I am unable to move or comprehend what has just happened. Roxie knows the secret and she blames me for everything. All I want to do is go to a slumber party.

I want to expand my friendships and I had done that successfully. I want to move away from Roxie, just a little and I have managed that too. So I should actually be happy. I have everything I want.

However I’m not happy. Not even close. I feel empty inside as though I have lost more than I have gained. There is a gap inside me, a hole has been carved out and I ‘m not sure how to fill it.

“Keeping Secrets” – Ch:17 – Pushing Roxie Away – (3rd storyline)

Pushing Roxie away….

 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.

 Walking to school along our street everyday always sets the mood for what lay ahead. Noises are pleasant, atmosphere is pleasant, the company is pleasant. Roxie and I would chat excitedly the entire walk to school, sadden when the two blocks came to an end.

Brendon often walks with us until he reaches the bus stop directly opposite Hevanton Primary to take him to High school. He adds to the beautiful atmosphere, simply by being there. Often with his earphones on and music blaring, never interrupting, just being in our company.

I dream one day he will realise I am actually there, maybe reaching for my hand and walking with me, the way a boyfriend would. He would drop me off at school, making sure I am safely inside before heading to his destination.

This morning I wasn’t looking forward to walking to school. I haven’t been to school for a week and spent most of the time in the security of my bedroom. Roxie visited me the next day after the fainting, concerned for me. Her face was pale and she looked like she hadn’t slept in weeks.

“OMG, you scared me yesterday,” Roxie says quietly on strict instructions from Mum.

“Yeah, I didn’t mean it. But I’m okay. Just a little sore.”

“I was so nervous you were going to die and then I wouldn’t have a best friend and…” Roxie says crying.

Normally I would be over to her, saying something to comfort her, especially as Roxie never cries. She is too tough to cry, too boy like. I cry all the time, never afraid to let it all out but maybe I am too much of a sook. Even though my heart feels her pain, I can’t bring myself to comfort her. It is easier to blame her for what is happening in my life.

“Well I am fine now Roxie, so don’t cry about it,” I snap, more defensively that I mean.

“Oh, sorry Alexx. I didn’t mean to upset you. I just…”

“Not you didn’t upset me. I am tired. Just tired, that’s all.”

“Do you want me to go?”

“I need to sleep. My head still hurts and I need to sleep.”

As Roxie turns to leave, feeling shattered from my brutal, unfair attack on her, she stops and turns to face me once again. Her aqua eyes lifeless, sadden as we stare at each other, locked together. She is trying to see into my heart, see where she has gone wrong, why I’m behaving spitefully.

“You are upset when you came over yesterday Alexx. Do you remember?”

I nod.

“Is everything okay? Is it something I did to you?”

“It’s all fine. I am just angry but everything is fine now.”

“You seem angry with me,” says Roxie, moving her eyes towards the floor unable to hold my stare.

“Well I’m not,” I reply forcefully, bored of the conversation.

My intention is to make Roxie feel guilty for not being a very good friend, but the guilt is contagious as it is affecting me. I struggle with playing the bad guy, this is normally played perfectly by Poppy. This is my life and she is ruining it.

As Roxie leaves my room I hear her whisper ‘I’m sorry’. It is as though she is talking to an invisible friend who is unable to reply. The emotion in her voice is sincere, longing to make me happy. It is me who is unable to accept it from her. I can’t allow myself to weaken and fall prey to her friendship, a friendship that is turning me into a bad person.

I leave the house, determined to be nice to Roxie as she is still my friend even though she has let me down. This is the longest time Roxie and I have ever gone without speaking to each other. I miss her. I miss her more than I care to admit but I need to move away from her and focus on other friends.

With her standard hoodie and jeans on, Roxie is waiting for me in the usual spot at the end of her driveway near the blue letterbox with a small, golden sparrow \ on top. This is the only letterbox in the street like this and it is my favourite. The sparrow looks welcoming, telling the postman this is a perfect place to drop off the mail. I begged Mum to get one as soon as I saw Roxie’s but she said we need to be ‘individuals and not copy our neighbours. I disagreed but never got my own way.

I approach with caution, not knowing the reaction I will receive from Roxie. My concentration is distracted by Brendon. He is leaving the house in his denim jeans and a khaki shirt only buttoned half way. He is beautiful and looks every bit of it this morning. Never looking in my direction, he gracefully moves towards Roxie like an angel floating through the clouds, unaware of me staring at him.

Roxie keeps her eyes fixed in my direction, not noticing her brother waiting impatiently beside her. Her eyes are dull but with a glimmer of hope, hope that our friendship hasn’t been affected by recent events. A warm surge flows through my veins at Roxie’s desperation to retain my friendship.

“Hi Roxie. Hi Brendon,” I say casually.

“Hi Alexx,” replies Roxie, excitement in her voice.

“Hi,” murmurs Brendon with his head facing the opposite direction ignoring my presence.

“You are looking better. How do you feel?” says Roxie.

“Much better thanks. The doctor said it was the fall that did the damage, not the fainting itself. I wish I could be warned when I am about to faint.”

Brendon starts walking ahead of us which is unusual, causing me to panic. His actions portray anger and resentment, towards me. He knows about my argument with Roxie. He must know how I treated her and he is angry with me. My Brendon, the one who holds my first kiss is angry with me and it is my entire fault.

“Yeah I know what you mean. I was so scared when one minute you were standing there and the next you are on the floor.”

“Sorry about that. I would have warned you if I knew myself. Hey, sorry about being so angry the next day. It isn’t your fault that I got hurt. I was just sore,” I respond loud enough so Brendon can hear.

His shoulders tense and the walking motion jolts slightly. Brendon has heard what I said so hopefully that is enough to make him at least look at me again. The thought of Brendon hating me is not an option. He is my first love even if he is unaware of it.

“Oh Alexx, I was so worried that you hated me, that you blamed me for hurting yourself. You know I would never hurt you.”

“Yeah I know.”

My attention is still on Brendon. Turn around and talk me. Say something I am begging you to. Tell me you forgive me for my behaviour and that you realise how mature I have become in the past week since we haven’t seen each. Tell me that you think about me the way I think about you. Tell me something, anything.

Nothing is said, he continues to walk in front of us, slowing down his pace so we can stay close. In my perfect world, I pretend that this is a sign, a sign he has forgiven me and wants our friendship to remain. The panic leaves my body as school approaches in the distance, my two friends back by my side.

I haven’t missed school at all with the only exception of seeing Brendon every morning. The work itself is easy enough and I am pretty good inmost areas. Sport is my worst subject so I hate Thursdays the most. I am no good at it and I always feel like everyone wants to see me mess up.

I don’t even miss my other friends. I know that sounds horrible but Roxie is my best friend and the rest of the group are a lot of work. So why am I being so mean to her? Poppy is the one girl I work hardest on, she can influence people and I need her on my side. I am never sure though how much she really likes me but I don’t care. I am so confused.

Bella never leaves Poppy’s side and is her puppet in everything. If Poppy wants something, Bella will happily assist. Poppy went through a phase of hating chocolate so of course now Bella decided she hated eating chocolate too. That is wrong, who hates eating chocolate.

Jo is older than the rest of us and this is obvious. She migrated over from Italy when she is five years old but she had already started school back in her hometown of Grosseto in the region of Tuscany. An old town with a history dating back centuries, the people of Grosseto believe education is the key to life’s successes.

All the children went to school from the age of three, learning all aspects of life and its wonders. Jo had two years of schooling before she had even hit the shores of Australia and her parents still decided to hold her back another year. They wanted Jo to strive to be the best so an extra year in school would surely give her an advantage.

Jo’s appearance has an Italian influence too. Her skin is a deep golden brown, soft rosy cheeks, glowing with health. Her eyes are dark, almost black in colour to match her midnight black silky straight long hair. She is exotically beautiful.

Jo likes the group but stays guarded to her emotions. It is as though she is waiting for something better to come along and in the meantime she is content with the friends she has.

Sam I like. I like her most out of the group. She is sweet and kind. Sam is quiet and never really injects much to the conversations but with so many other stronger personalities surrounding her, it is difficult. Sam never says a bad word about anyone and seems sincere in actions.

Sam is unique in her looks and her personality. Her short blonde hair cut neatly around her face, so modern and funky, just like a runway model. This daring attitude flows to her glasses, hot pink and purple that suits her pale skin and alluring green eyes. She wears simple dresses and always looks elegant.

The day went by in the usual way, nothing changed in my absence. When lunchtime arrives, Roxie is waiting for me by the lockers so we can head out together. Unenthused by the day, I don’t have much to say but Roxie doesn’t seem to notice. She is still excited that we are friends again and this obvious from her conversation.

Hevanton Primary isn’t what I would call a pretty school. Most of the play area is concrete, painted with games that required balls or bats to play. What little grass the school has is mostly dead, with no plants or trees for decoration. This is a complete contrast to the beautiful array trees and greenery that aligned my street.

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

As we approach the rest of the girls sitting on the dying grassy area, the conversation seems very intense.

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

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

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

I felt like we have interrupted a very private conversation. Between fighting with Roxie and then Brendon ignoring me, I am becoming suspicious of everyone.

“Hi everyone,” I say, with nothing more intelligent to add.

“So glad to have you back Alexx. We really missed you last week,” Sam replies enthusiastically.

Before I can sit, Poppy grabs my arm to pull me away from the circle. Almost falling backwards by the force of her strength, I don’t notice that it is only me Poppy wants to be alone with.

“I need to get something from the canteen,” says Poppy dragging me away. “Alexx is coming with me.”

I have no choice but to oblige and follow Poppy. Not that I mind, it is nice to be wanted for something and nice to be away from Roxie. She is by my side every possible moment and it is bothering me, making me feel trapped.

Linking her arm into mine, Poppy and I skip off towards the canteen, leaving the remainder of our friends watching us depart.

“Thank goodness your back. So much is happening and I didn’t want you to miss out,” Poppy squeals excitedly, leading me through the school grounds.

“Miss out on what?”

“Well it’s my birthday and I am having a slumber party.”

“Oh like mine,” I interrupt too soon realising my mistake.

Poppy never likes to think she copies anyone. She is an individual who starts fashion trends as opposed to following them. Her party’s are also unique, never the same as anyone else’s.

“Nothing like yours,” Poppy replies sternly letting me know how wrong I am.

“Of course not, sorry.”

“Anyway, it is this weekend and I am inviting you and Bel, Jo and Sam.”

Poppy waits for my reaction but stupidly I haven’t realised that a name is missing. Her eyes glare into mine making me feel intimidated.

“Did you hear me?” asks Poppy.

“Yes, and I would love to come to your slumber party. I will ask Mum tonight but I am sure she will say yes.”

“That’s great Alexx but just in case you didn’t quite hear me, I am not inviting Roxie to my party.”

“Why?” I ask stupidly.

“Mum said I could only have four people and I would prefer you over Roxie.”

Part of me feels warmed by the declaration of our friendship. It is wonderful to be thought of as part of the group and people wanting you around. This is what I have always wanted, to be accepted by the cool kids at school and now I am going to Poppy’s slumber party.

However the other part of me freezes, the realisation that my friend, my best friend really, is intentionally being excluded from this same group I am desperate to be a part of. Leaving one person out of the group is cruel and hurtful. A position I would never want to find myself in.

“That seems mean. Does your Mum know that there is one more person in the group,” I ask nervously.

I have never stood up to Poppy or questioned anything she says. The words simply flowed out of my mouth without a thought as to what the consequence will be.

“Who do you think you are saying that I am mean?” demands Poppy, pulling her arm away from mine, standing her ground, facing me directly.

“I didn’t mean it like that.”

“Then what did you mean Alexx?”

“I just thought maybe your Mum didn’t understand, that’s all.”

“Well she does and it is her rule.”

“Sorry Pop, I am really sorry,” I beg feeling as if any moment I will burst into tears only to have more people staring at us than the ones whose attention we already have.

Poppy’s anger has created unwanted attention for me but Poppy seems to thrive on it. She is in her element and I can see it in her eyes, they are sparkling from the attention.

She takes the moment the way an actress does when on the stage. Her voice loud and confident, her stance overwhelming, showing the audience she is the bigger person and she will sort out the argument. My shoulders slump as I sigh heavily, feeling defeated.

“It’s okay Alexx, I know you’re sorry. I shouldn’t have shouted at you, but you must understand this is not my fault.”

Looking towards the ground, unable to hold the piercing stare from Poppy any longer, I slowly nod.

“I know, I know.”

“Good, now that is clear I need to talk about my party,”

“Obviously this has to be a secret, I would HATE to hurt Roxie’s feelings.”

“Oh, yes a secret,” I say automatically, not thinking about the severity of the situation.

“So the rest of the girls know about it and you can talk to them but just not Roxie. Okay?”

“Okay.”

“Now you will need to bring a sleeping bag…”

Poppy continues to talk about her party and I nod where necessary and respond with a few ‘Ohh’ and “ahh” where required. I wasn’t really listening to anything she said. My mind was reeling over the situation I have been placed in.

Roxie has let me down recently by not understanding the secrets about my family. I still like her and I still want to be friends. I will never leave Roxie out, intentionally or not. I hate it when I am left out in any circumstance so why would I do the same thing to a friend.

When the twins came along, that is when I first experienced the feelings of being left out. It was difficult to compete against two little babies who are cute and noisy and demanding all at the same time.

Just when I would get Mum alone and we would snuggle together on the couch, book in hand for Mum to read to me, one of them would scream out. Mum never hesitated to leave me alone, stranded on the couch, the book thrown next to me, unloved, unread. Time passed and I would wait patiently for her to return. Some days she returned quickly with a sympathetic expression on her face, ready to attempt the storybook once again.

Other times I waited and waited for her to return but she never did. The screaming would continue, then stop, then start up again. When the noise finally subsided, Mum would forget I was waiting for her on the couch, still with the book, craving for some attention. I felt left out of the family, left alone to fend for myself while my sisters got everything they asked for.

Now at school the feelings of insecurity flow to the surface causing me to feel anxious. My body is reacting to the dilemma I find myself in, heart racing as if about to leap out of my chest. My hands begin to shake uncontrollably like I am standing naked in the ice cold snow. The blood is flowing around my body, pounding into my head, pounding into my stomach, pounding into my heart.

With the frantic chaos inside my body, I am like a duck floating on a pond. From the outside, everything seems calm, natural, without a care in the world. However under the surface it’s like a ducks webbed feet, frantically moving through the water, in chaotic motions.

This is making me feel out of control and I know I need to control my situation once again. I am going to go to Poppy’s slumber party as this is going to be the party of the year. I need to go to Poppy’s party for all the right reasons and perhaps some of the wrong reasons.

Roxie is my friend and I have to decide whether to tell her about Poppy’s party or not. I try to find a place deep within me, a place that can open me up and the answer comes flooding out.

 

If you want Alexx to tell Roxie about Poppy’s party, go to page 164.. 

Good friend….Bad friend…

 If you want Alexx to keep the secret about Poppy’s party, go to page 206…

Never tell the secret…

 

 

 

“Keeping Secrets” – Family secrets boxed securely – 3rd storyline

Family secrets boxed securely….

 

The good times came 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 and special, the most important person in her life.

When I was 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 little hands in hers, creating a protective force around me. When I was worried, Mum would caress each finger tenderly, removing the bad, angry, anxious feelings building in my mind.

At this moment it isn’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 secrets from her. She will understand. Roxie always understands me, she is my best friend.

Best friends don’t always understand. When I told her about Ella and Bree, she didn’t understand. She always picks their side, not mine. She has a wonderful and gorgeous brother, not two annoying sisters, how could she understand?

My two annoying sisters are always ganging up on me and out to break my spirit. There is two of them. If Ella is in the mood to be a pain, Bree will usually follow suit. Then when Bree wants to annoy me, Ella copies.

I wake up and it all begins. At breakfast they argue over who is first to pick the cereal. It’s like they believe they must have exactly the same in everything they do. There is no choice in what each other may want.

“It’s my turn this morning Bree,” shouts Ella as she races to the pantry grabbing a box of corn flakes, knocking over the rice bubbles spilling its contents.

“No you picked yesterday,” replies Ella reaching for the fallen rice bubble box but never considering cleaning up the spillage.

“It is not you turn,” shouts Ella for the second time.

“Is too.”

“Is not.”

“Is too.”

“Is not.”

“Is too.”

“Mum,” screams Ella down the hall, “It’s my turn this morning but Bree won’t let me pick.”

“You’re such a baby,” responds Bree folding her arms pulling letting the rice bubbles fall to the ground once again.

“I am not a baby,” said Ella.

“Am too.”

“Am not.”

“Am too.”

“STOP, ” I shout with my hands over my ears hating my day already.

Every morning they do the same thing, say the same thing and fight over the same thing. It is like being in a bad movie and pushing rewind again and again and again.

When I tell Roxie about it as we walk to school, she nods her head but never understands. I know she thinks I am being a sook but she doesn’t live with them. It never stops. Between the twins and Mum and Dad arguing, it never stops in my house. I HATE IT.

Normally Mum drives the twins to school, my school. She says they’re too young to walk and also too slow. We will never get to school on time. Every now and then, when Mum has an appointment or something, they have to come with me. It is hell.

“Please girls,” said Mum in her most calm, controlling voice. “You need to listen to your sister this morning and follow her every instruction.”

“I can’t believe I have to take them to school,” I whinge dreading the walk to school.

“Oh Alexx, they are only little. Stop complaining. You know I have to be at the dentist early today.”

Focusing her attention once again on the twins, Mum kneels down in front of them, straightening their school uniforms. She always babies them and gives in to their annoying tantrums.

Mum never did this with me. I know she loves me but she loves the twins more. She needs me to help her all the time, do stuff and I always do it. Usually I don’t mind helping out but it feels like I am always helping and they never are.

“Listen girls, your sister is being kind enough to walk you two to school. I can’t have you misbehaving with her,” she says ignoring my complaints as usual.

“I will behave,” said Bree innocently smiling at Mum.

Bree always agrees with everything Mum says while Mum is there. As soon as she leaves the room, Bree turns from a beautiful angel to a horrible devil.

“So will I Mummy,” chimes in Ella, not wanting to be out done by her twin.

“Thank you my darlings. I knew I could rely on you two.”

“But Mum…” I begin until she raises her hand telling me in her own special way the discussion is over.

Annoyed and agitated, I leave the house, twins closely behind and wait for Roxie out the front. Even the waiting is infuriating. The twins constant bickering, play fighting, noises, they never stop. I am going insane and the day had only begun.

The twins hold hands with Roxie the entire way to school, listening to her every word and treating her like a Queen. Not once did they misbehave or need to be told off. They are being manipulative and it is grating on my nerves. Constantly looking back at me, as I am a pace behind the three of them, all the while giving me the look. The look that says ‘we have your friend and she is our friend now, hahaha.’

Roxie never sees any of it so when I complain to her she thinks I am crazy. She never agrees with me and never understands how devious the twins are. This disappoints me and affects our friendship.

If Roxie can’t understand just how painful it is to live with the twins, how is she ever going to understand my heart is breaking over Mum and Dad? Her parents are perfect, never fight, never argue. They are supportive with everything Roxie choses to do, never question her decisions.

Roxie is given the option to make her own decisions about her life. To show that she is grown up and can decide which direction her life heads. Mum doesn’t give me the same freedom but wants me to be grown up enough to baby-sit the twins. Life just isn’t fair sometimes.

 

“Alexx, Alexx,” says Roxie interrupting my thoughts. ‘Are you OK?”

Standing there in Roxie’s room, I feel exposed. I have no protection from the world, from my life. My life that is horrible and no one around me will ever understand or be able to fix it, including Roxie. I would be crazy to share my secret, to let Roxie in on my horrible little secret. As I glance around her room, I realise she won’t understand what I am going through, she can’t understand.

“I’m okay, I just..”

“What’s happened? You look awful, I mean really awful,” she said her concern is touching but now unnecessary.

“Oh thanks Roxie. That makes me feel even better,” I snap angrily.

“I didn’t mean to…”

“I know, I know you didn’t but you did and it doesn’t make me feel any better.”

“Well if you just tell me what’s wrong. Maybe I can help,” she says patiently.

“You wouldn’t understand,” I reply, trying to stall for time to come up with a better excuse.

I look around Roxie’s room all covered in pictures of football players and I know it is a big mistake to think Roxie will understand. Her life is so different to mine, how can she understand. She likes everything I don’t. Even the way she chose to decorate her room is complete opposite to mine.

She is a football fanatic and I hate the sport. Even her doona cover is football, with her team’s colours and logo. Yuk! There is nothing pink at all in this room, including in her closet. Roxie and I can never swap clothes because she often likes to dress in boy like stuff.

This never bothered me until now, right now when I am deciding to share my secret. Looking around I realise this is the wrong person to share my secret with, even if she is my best friend.

“I can’t try to understand if you don’t tell me what’s wrong,” says Roxie. “Did you fight with the twins again?”

“Umm, yes, that’s it,” I quickly reply. I knew then I couldn’t share my secret.

“What did they do now?” Roxie responds mockingly.

“Just the usual but I didn’t sleep very well last night so I am tired and grumpy and, well you know,” I say to cover myself with any viable excuse.

“I’ve told you, you need to learn to ignore them.”

Realising I have made a big mistake coming here to confide in Roxie, I tune out on everything she says. I could see her lips moving and know there are words coming out but I don’t hear anything. I don’t want to hear anything.

As Roxie talks, the pains in my stomach slowly developed from a dull ache to unbearable. My stomach is twisting and turning, pulling every part in opposite directions. The intensity of the pain makes me perspire everywhere, drops rolling down my forehead. Clutching my stomach, I scream with the intensity until I can’t take the pain anymore.

Nothing. Silence. Blackness. In Roxie’s room I have fainted.

The comfort of my own bed, my own bedroom, my possessions. My head is sore, intensely throbbing. Barely able to open my eyes, a soft delicate shadow is towering over me, protecting me. A cool face washer on my head, Mum’s comforting voice whispering in my ear. Unable to move, I lay in bed confused with everything around me still hazy.

“Hi darling, you’re back with us.”

Struggling to keep my eyes open, I can barely make out Mum’s silhouette but the voice is undeniably hers. It is like lying on a bed of clouds with the beautiful angels flying around whispering words of comfort and guidance. Dream like atmosphere, very gentle as I drift back off to sleep.

Hours later I wake again but this time not as heavenly. Voices surrounding me, all talking, screeching, pounding into my head. The throbbing inside hasn’t eased, only intensified. A light penetrating my eyes causes me to squint as I try rolling over to my stomach to get away from the light.

“Alexx, its Mum. Wake up darling.”

“Alexx, its Dr Haine. I need you to try to open your eyes for me.”

Both are rolling me over to be on my back. Confused at the invasion of my sleep, I fight to stay on my stomach, facing the pillow, stopping any invasion.

“Leave me alone. Go away,” I scream angrily.

“Alexx, the doctor is here because he needs to check you are alright. You fainted at Roxie’s house.”

Still struggling between where I want to be and where they need me to be until the words actually sank into my head – I had fainted at Roxie’s house. Taking my mind back, all I could recall was the immense pain I had felt. The stabbing pain in my stomach felt like I was being carved into little pieces.

Fainting isn’t too uncommon for me. I have low blood pressure and this can make my body simply shut down when it needs to protect itself. The worse part about fainting isn’t actually my mind blacking out, I never remember that part. It is the fall. That is when I have really hurt myself and suffer for days.

It began not long after the twins were born, so I must have been around five years old when Mum went out the backyard and found me lying there on the grass. I had been playing around the babies, trying to make them laugh at me, trying to gain some attention. When BANG… I recall Mum screaming at me with such fiery anger shocking back to life.

All of a sudden I had all the attention I wanted. Doctors came and went, desperately trying to diagnose my condition. Specialists were seen, some I can’t even pronounce what their jobs were. Mum was by my side constantly and Dad pampering his little, now girl.

This began the period when I fainted often and for no real reason. I wasn’t sick, I wasn’t unhealthy but I fainted. Finally doctors told my parents I had low blood pressure but they also believed I was able to faint whenever it suited me. The specialists informed them that I did this for attention and recommended I see another specialist.

I remember loving the attention I got when I fainted. I was willing to put up with the pain in order to be the centre of everyone’s world, even for moment. The worse part was hitting my head when I fell. The extreme pain lasted for days like your head is being squashed by a vice and about to explode.

Allowing Mum to lead me, I move to where I can be checked for injuries. Reaching up to protect my head from the intense noise, I scream at the pain. The pain is not only in my head, it had travelled to my stomach, ripping me in two.

My fainting had happened from the pain, the agony Mum and Dad’s fighting was causing. There is no one around to protect me from the hurt, I am drowning in it. No one can understand it intensity and no one ever will. This secret is deep inside and that is where it will remain locked away.

“Is she alright doctor?” Mum enquires with trepidation as it had been awhile since I had placed her in this situation.

“Let me check her over properly before I comment but she appears to be fine,” replies Dr Haine.

“I’m here baby,” whispers Mum, leaning down as close to me as the doctor will allow.

When the personal invasion past and the doctor finally gave the all clear that I will be fine, silence falls upon my world. The penetrating lights are removed, the voices cease and calmness falls again. Only external calmness as internally my world is distressed. Nothing is as it should be and no one can get me back to where I want to be. Free of all the anger, all the hate, all the anxiety.

In and out of sleep, confusion of whether it is day or night as everything around is darkened. Each time the sleep leaves, the tension arrives to attack my head,  and my body drifts back to sleep where the tension no longer finds me.

I wake to a tender touch, lovingly caressing my head. The touch eases the pounding somewhat allowing me to open my eyes. Mum is sitting by me, always sitting by me, confused at my appearance.

“Hi Alexx, how are you feeling?”

“My head still really hurts and my stomach,” I murmur in a weak voice.

“Here have some water and I will get you something small to eat.”

“I’m not hungry.”

That is the last thing I feel like doing, is putting food into the centre of the stabbing pains. It would be like mixing sweets with vegetables, they simply are not meant to play together.

“I know but the doctor said you will need lots of water when you wake and something little in your tummy.”

I groan, trying to fight her request but knowing she will follow the instructions left by the doctor.

Surprisingly, after eating a little toast with jam, the pain eases a little. My head is worse and every time I try to lift it off the soft pillow, I feel dizzy and frightened I will fall again, causing more damage.

“Do you remember what happened?”

“I was at Roxie’s.”

“Yes you were at Roxie’s and she said you are upset from something but didn’t tell her. The next thing she knew you had fainted and hit your head hard on the side of her bed.”

“Well I don’t remember that bit.”

“Of course you don’t darling but why are you upset. What has happened?”

“I can’t remember.”

Mum’s eyes search mine for the truth. She always knows when we weren’t telling the truth. It is a mother thing. I had been hiding the truth for so long now, keeping secrets from her she will never see through the lie.

“Hopefully in the morning, after you have had lots of rest, you will remember what had upset you so much.”

“Maybe. Did I say anything to Roxie?” I ask hoping I haven’t shared my secret with her and forgotten.

Roxie will never understand and neither will Mum. She will see through it all and think that maybe it is partly my fault they fight all the time. I know it is because of me that Mum and Dad hate each other. I can’t have that responsibility on my shoulders.

“No, Roxie is so upset that she let you fall. She blames herself for you hurting your head. Call her tomorrow and let her know you are going to be fine.”

I nod.

“Sleep tight. If you need anything just call.”

I nod again.

“I am here for you Alexx. If you need to talk about anything, anything. I love you.”

“I love you too Mum,” I respond automatically as I roll away from her so she can’t see the tears beginning to well up in my eyes.

I know Mum loves me but I can’t risk the love by telling her about how I feel. Roxie is to blame for my situation. If she was the friend I need, the friend I want to trust, then this would never have happened. Resenting Roxie for not understanding, I drift back into sleep determined to keep my secret.

 

 

 

“Keeping Secrets” – Ch:15 – A Fresh Start (2nd storyline)

A fresh start…..

I have heard some people say that time heals all wounds but I am lucky. I don’t need time to heal the wounds I caused Roxie. She never left my side and stayed a true friend all along. I still wonder whether I could be as caring and understanding as she is with me.

Getting ready for school, I feel a happiness I haven’t felt in a long time. The happiness stems from my friends, Roxie and Sam. Every morning I walk to school with Roxie as usual but now Sam joins us. We wait for her to catch up from further down the street and the three of us proudly go to school together as one solid friendship. I feel secure in being me, knowing it is because I have real, true friends.

There are no secrets, no hidden messages, no nasty attitudes. If Sam has something to say, we listen. If Roxie wants to play a different game at lunchtime, we agree. If I need a shoulder to cry on they are there for me.

I think I even notice a change in Brendon towards me. He will always walk with us to school but never talks to us or asks me any questions. When I watch him play football he will say ‘Hi’ but that is the extent of our relationship.

Now Brendon asks me how I am going or what is happening in my life. I have even seen him look in my direction, smiling showing his beautiful dimple and only turning away when our eyes meet. It makes my heart race and as usual my body reacts in the worst possible way. I think he likes me, really likes me.

 

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“Keeping Secrets” – Ch:14 – Goodbye Darkness (2nd storyline)

Goodbye darkness….

 I wake up with my head pounding as if someone has been hitting me all night. Remembering that I have cried myself to sleep until there was no tears left. Mum sat with me until I fell asleep, stroking my hair and gently rubbing my cheek with her tender hands.

 When I said I couldn’t talk about what happened at the party, she understood, actually understood. She will be there for me when I am ready. Mum knows me, better than I know myself. Mum always said she knows everything about me, that one day I would understand what she meant. I am beginning to understand.

 Trust plays a big part in life and I haven’t trusted anyone, including myself. Mum trusted me last night when I wasn’t able to confide in her but she allowed me cry on her until I fell asleep. Roxie trusted me with our friendship, always believing I would never let her down.

I am the only one who didn’t trust, but now I will. When I left Poppy’s party, I knew I was making the right decision. I need friends as much as anyone, but I need to like me first. If I had made that call to Roxie, I wouldn’t like me and lately ‘me’ is not a person I like anyway.

The darkness has drifted up into the air fading out of sight as I sit in the car waiting for Mum to make my apology for leaving. It is like I can see again, breath again. I feel sick in my stomach, sick at ruining my friendships and being left alone. I am willing to accept that because I hope I still have one friend left.

When Poppy realised I wasn’t going to play the game with her, she screamed, screamed at me and at everyone else. She locked herself in the bathroom, shedding crocodile tears and smashing whatever was at her disposal.

Bella, forever the loyal friend, tried desperately to break into the bathroom to be at the aid of Poppy in her time of need. Jo stood along side Bella, quietly watching the situation unfold, neither helping nor interfering.

Sam took this as an opportunity to speak to me without the prying eyes. Always nervous, always agreeable, Sam never goes against the group, especially Poppy. This moment was hers for the taking and Sam grabbed it with force.

“Alexx, thank you for not calling Roxie. I am really proud of you,” she said shyly, with urgency. “I don’t think I could ever be as brave as you. I really want to be friends with you. I don’t want this to stop us being friends but I’m not as brave as you.”

“I understand Sam. Thank you for being my friend, a REAL friend,” I replied giving her a quick hug goodbye.

As I left, Jo waved goodbye while she waited by the bathroom door where Poppy still barricaded herself in. The wave symbolised that she didn’t hate me but that our friendship was never going to be the same.

Mum taps gently on my door before quietly entering. Her face lights up when she realises I am awake and no longer crying. She has a cup of hot chocolate with three marshmallows, my absolute favourite. Mum places the drink down on the bedside table, delicately kissing my head, her hand softly rubbing on my cheek while whispering how much she loves me.

No pressure to talk, no pressure to do anything other than be myself. Mum leaves the room knowing I feel love and secure. She does know everything about me, everything that is important. Except how I feel about their fighting, a secret I felt better about sharing with her.

Before I speak to Mum I need to share another secret. Roxie deserves to know everything that has been going on and she deserves to hear it from me. She may hate me for not telling her in the first place and she may hate me for going to the party but it is something I have to do. Anxiously I hope she will understand and it will only make our friendship more special.

After hanging up the phone from my friend I realise the darkness has disappeared completely. There is no haze around me, no clouds pushing me down, no feeling like I am trapped. I feel free and alive and have an inner strength I know will only grow with time. I am beginning to like myself again and this feeling makes me happy.

I can hide away and leave Roxie in the dark about what happened. Roxie may never find out that I went to Poppy’s party even though I knew she wasn’t welcome. A little voice inside me made it clear that I need to be open and honest with Roxie if our friendship is ever going to survive.

A gentle tap on my bedroom door means time to face Roxie and time to face the consequences. Mum peers into the room, smiles happily at me, showing me how proud she is. I nod to let her know I am ready to open up to Roxie and am sorry for everything.

“Hi Roxie,” I say timidly.

“Hiya,” replies Roxie. “Glad you called I was getting really bored at home. Brendon stayed at a mate’s house last night and.”

“I really need to talk to you Roxie,” I interrupt not wanting the conversation to sway too far from where I need it to be.

The small amount of courage I have I need to use before it disappears.

“Oh, cool, what is it?”

“Umm, well, I have a secret that I should have told you all along but I didn’t. I just want to say sorry now and hope you will still want to be friends with me.”

Roxie stands motionless, not knowing where this is leading, looking confused. Seeing my friend innocently look at me, unaware how much I am about to hurt her and how much I need to fix everything.

I lower my head so I can avoid the penetrating stare I receive from Roxie. Twisting my hands together nervously, trying to delay my words and keep my body occupied.

“I’m confused Alexx, what is so bad?”

Silence, a deep breath…

“Poppy did have a slumber party last night and I went to it with the rest of the group. You, you are the only one not invited to go,” I finally manage to say.

Silence, my eyes slowly look up to meet her gaze. Nothing, there is no reaction, only silence.

“I can blame Poppy because it was her decision not to invite you, but we are friends and I should have told you about the party. That’s what friends do.”

More silence, then Roxie began to cry, the tears slowly roll down her cheek. I can’t reach for her, she hates that. I want to reach for her but I need to tell her the entire story hoping she will understand.

“I desperately wanted to be part of the cool group and when Poppy asked me to her slumber, it felt perfect for a minute. Until she said you weren’t invited. She said something about her Mum and numbers but deep down I knew the truth. She didn’t want you there.”

Roxie remains silent with more and more tears now streaming down her cheeks. My heart breaks for what I am doing to my best friend. My decision to treat a friend badly has caused this pain, this hurt. It is my fault and I deserve to lose her as a friend.

“Is that it?” splutters Roxie through the tears.

Shaking my head, sharing in the tears I continue, “I went to the party last night. We played truth or dare and I picked dare. Poppy gave me something I didn’t want to do because it involved you. I realised then that I was being a horrible friend and I had forgotten that you are my best friend. I am so selfish. I called Mum and left the party.”

Roxie leaps towards me, forcing me to the ground, banging my head on the leg of the chair. Allowing my body to be treated in any way Roxie needs, knowing I deserve it. She hates me, really hates me and now she wants to hurt me. I understand and I will not fight back.

The pain never arrives. There is no fighting, no screaming, no angry taunts. Roxie hugs me with all she had in her. Roxie never hugs anyone as she hates to show such emotions. As stunned as I feel, I absorb her affection, crying in her arms.

Roxie is meant to hate me like I had hated myself. She is meant to be angry and shout how much I have hurt her. She is meant to do anything but what she is doing. I don’t deserve a friend like Roxie. I don’t deserve any friends at all.

“Thank you so much Alexx,” says Roxie, her tears easing as she pulls away from me.

“For what?” I reply, crying hysterically, my emotions out of control.

“For what?? You stood up for me and that makes for a great friend.”

“But I lied to you about the party and going to the party.”

“And you then stuck up for me and even came home from the party. I never expected you to leave.”

Between the noise of my tears and the emotional relief of finally sharing my secret, I think I must’ve misheard Roxie. What did she mean that she never expected me to leave! Confused and a little disoriented from my fall to the ground, I need confirmation.

“You never expected me to leave, does that mean you knew I is at the party?”

Roxie nods without elaborating, leaving me to continue on my own.

“But if you knew, why didn’t you say anything?” I ask desperate to know. Trying to put myself in her shoes, I know I would have said something to her. My hurt and anger would have gotten the better of me and I probably would have exploded. So why didn’t Roxie treat me the way I have treated her?

“I tried to but you made it clear that you weren’t going to say anything, remember when I over heard the girls in the toilets. They mentioned you were going. I was angry and hurt, really hurt, so much I actually felt sick.”

Silently I wait for her to continue, remembering that moment and how I felt sick not telling her. There we are best friends but neither of us comfortable to share a secret that needs to be shared.

“When I got home, I talked to Mum and she reminded me that it wasn’t your fault I wasn’t invited, so I shouldn’t get angry with you. I was hurt you didn’t trust me and upset you knew it would hurt my feelings to be left out.”

“I am sorry, I am sorry,” I say, the tears beginning once again with the realisation of how much I have hurt my friend. If I told her in the first place, she would have understood and maybe I could have stayed friends with everyone.

Roxie gently reaches for me again to share in a hug. A simple hug that makes me feel special and important in her life. The friendship we share has changed. We are closer than before and I have learnt a wonderful lesson.

“Keeping Secrets” – Ch:13 Slumber Party (2nd storyline)

Slumber Party

Green is the theme of the day. Every imaginable shade of green can be seen in the various decorations. The streamers are green, the pictures are green, the plates and cups are green, the cordial is green, even the cake is green. Poppy is obviously in a green mood.

From the moment I enter the house, I am determined to look forward and not back. I have come so far to be here and now that I am, nothing and no one is going to ruin it for me. This green party is going to be the party of the year and I am going to make the most of it.

The music played all my favourites and I knew all the words, the others all watch me sing each song as if I own it. We were dancing like the stars, Jo is the expert dancer and soon became the expert teacher.  Routine after routine we performed, song after song we sang. With nonstop laughter throughout the night, only stopping to eat something green and then back to the fun.

I forget all about my life, simply being in the moment and cherishing my time. Time captured each moment of fun until finally exhaustion settled in and it is time to hit the sleeping bags. Looking like sausages all packaged together, Poppy’s bedroom floor no longer existed.

The mood has been light with no time for seriousness, until now. When Mum dropped me off, I hesitated to leave the car, wanting to share my secret that I thought Roxie really should be here, but the right time past and, so too did my courage to say anything. Mum didn’t ask where Roxie is so I didn’t mention it.

Before I had time to say anything, squealing girls ran from the house, scooping me up amongst them and disappearing into the party zone. The darkness is nowhere to be found, the pains had left and my mind is occupied with music. As I become immersed into the conversation and the mood becomes intense, everything that had left me, quickly finds its way back in through the cracks.

“Okay, truth or dare!” Announces Poppy, clapping her hands, controlling the conversation. “I’ll go first.”

No one disagrees with the birthday girl, instead, they settle in for a game of truth or dare.

“Bella, truth or dare?” asks Poppy.

“Truth.”

“Is it true that you still like Marcus?”

“Of course,” replies Bella confidently.

“Well, is it true he wanted to kiss you and you said no?” continued Poppy never hesitating.

“No….”

“Don’t forget its truth or dare Bella” interrupts Poppy smugly.

“Well maybe, but I didn’t really feel like kissing him at the time.”

“You are scared to kiss him Bella, tell the truth,” laughs Poppy mockingly.

By reading Bella’s reaction, we all know that is the truth. She is scared to kiss Marcus or any boy for that matter, but so am I. I have never kissed a boy and a boy has never wanted to kiss me. When the time comes that kissing is required, I know I will be nervous, really nervous, maybe even shy away as Bella did.

If I can choose one boy that I want to share a ‘real’ kiss with, it will be Brendon. Even though I think he is gorgeous and to kiss him would be as exhilarating as waking up on Christmas morning, I know I would be nervous. It comes down to who I trust with the kiss. The first kiss is a huge step, a major event, I want it to be special and with someone who is really special.

Brendon has every quality I think is important in sharing that special moment with. He is older than me so he can guide the kiss, his experience is capable of making sure the moment is perfect. He would be tender in his approach, as he is naturally when placed in the right situation. His strong arms, perfect lips and beautiful looks combined with his sweet affection would make him a dreamy first kiss, one definitely worth remembering.

“I wasn’t scared,” defends Bella, clearly offended that Poppy is laughing at her.

“Yes you are. I can’t believe at our age, you’re still scared to kiss a boy,” said Poppy still laughing.

“Well what about the others,” Bella said, hoping to move the attention from herself.

Wanting to hide behind Sam or Jo so I wouldn’t be the next person up for humiliation, I sit acting as cool as possible, hoping not to attract any attention. My eyes dart between Sam and Jo and I notice they are behaving in an identical manner to me. It amazes me just how similar we all are even though these girls are so much cooler than I am.

“Okay, Jo you next. Have you ever kissed a boy?” asks Poppy.

“Yes.”

“Well tell us more, I need to know all the details,” says Poppy excitedly, leaning into the circle so as not to miss a single word.

It doesn’t surprise me that Jo has already shared her first kiss with a boy. She is the oldest girl in our year level at school and looks it too. Jo’s parents had migrated from Italy when she was five years old and she had already started school back in her hometown of Grosseto in the region of Tuscany. An old town with a history dating back centuries, the people of Grosseto believe education is the key to life’s successes.

So all the children are sent to school from the age of three, learning all aspects of life and its wonders. Jo had two years of schooling before she had even hit the shores of Australia and her parents still decided to hold her back another year. They want Jo to strive to be the best so an extra year in school would surely give her an advantage.Jo’s looks have an Italian influence too. Her skin a deep, golden brown, soft rosy cheeks, glowing with health. Her eyes are dark too, almost black in colour to match her jet black silky straight long hair. She is exotically beautiful.

“It was last year when my cousins from Italy came over to stay with us,” says Jo, elated by the attention she had captured. “My cousin Anton had bought one of his friends over too, do you remember Rocco?”

Everyone simply nods whether they remembered Rocco or not. No one wanted to disrupt the story by commenting on such incidentals, it was too interesting and we need to know more.

“Cool, well when I first saw Rocco I thought he is gorgeous but said nothing. I mean what could I say? Rocco is so nice and sweet but he is older than me. He mainly spoke Italian. I know a little bit but I couldn’t understand most of what he is saying. So we had to help each other with the language and stuff.”

Nothing could be heard, no one dared move, Jo has captured our attention and imaginations with her story.

“I thought he liked me too cause we just clicked. It was so easy being around him and he made me feel special. Like I am the only girl around, the centre of all his attention. Then on the last day before they flew home, we kissed.”

“And..?.” Asks Sam, more enthralled than I thought possible.

“And what? ”Laughs Jo teasingly. “And well it was everything I had dreamed it would be. He is gentle, sweet and his lips were experienced lips. They had done this before but I trusted him to show me what to do. And he did, he is a wonderful kisser.”

“Aw”, every one sighed in sync with each one another.

“Do you miss him?” said Sam still captivated by the love story.

“Yeah I do. Lots…..we email all the time but I miss him. It would have been so cool if he could have stayed but maybe one day I will go to Italy and see him.”

“Yeah well enough of that,” injects Poppy, agitated that Jo has taken too much attention from her. “We need more truth and dare. Okay, you next Alexx Truth or dare?”

This is a hard question, more difficult than I had expected. Truth is always the easier way to go, it is simply answering a question. But the line of questioning is around boys and I wasn’t prepared to tell anyone who I liked. I am happy to say that I have never kissed a boy, that doesn’t bother me. However, if anyone wants to know who I would kiss if given the chance, that is for me and me only.

Then the dare part comes into play. Poppy is always a step or two ahead of everyone else and I am a little scared of what her dare might be. I have never done a dare before and I wonder if I would have the courage to.

Truth or dare, truth or dare? Brendon is my secret, and my secret only. That left me with no option but to play the dare card.

“Dare,” I say with confidence.

“Yeah about time we had a dare.,” says Poppy, clapping her hands in excitement.

As soon as Poppy says this, I regret my decision. She has a dare already planned and that meant I am going to be the one to do it. Panic sets in as I try to think of an escape route. I need an intelligent excuse to get out of whatever dare Poppy wants me to perform.

“No, no, I mean truth!” I say quickly before anyone has a chance to realise I am panicking.

“Bad luck Alexx,” says Poppy, now rubbing her hands together with a menacing look on her face. “You only get one chance and you picked dare. So dare it is.”

“But it’s not your turn to pick someone Poppy. You have to take it in turns,” I reply, panic taking over entirely.

“It is my party Alexx and I will say whose turn it is and I say it is still my turn and you picked dare so you must do as I say.”

Poppy scans the room, determining who is on her side and who is on my side. No one wants to argue with Poppy, maybe because it is her birthday or maybe because they are truly scared to be at the other end of her anger. I am on my own with a dare challenge waiting to be completed.

“See everyone agrees with me Alexx, now you picked dare, let me see, we need to think of a dare. Any ideas?” Poppy says, looking around but paying little attention to what she sees. Poppy already has a dare in mind but doesn’t want to make it obvious that she haw planned this all along. “Looks like it’s up to me. I dare you to call Roxie and tell her you are at my slumber party and that she is not invited,” says Poppy casually.

“What?” I choke, alarm bells ringing in my head, confused whether or not I heard Poppy correctly.

“You heard me, call Roxie. I would love to hear what she says.”

Searching the faces of the girls for guidance, for help, for anything. Blank stares planted on their faces, telling me nothing, helping me in no way. Thoughts raced through my head. Thoughts of Roxie and our friendship. Thoughts of Poppy, Bella, Jo and Sam. Thoughts of life at school without either of them. Thoughts of Mum and her advice.

Darkness surrounds me, darkness so thick and without light, I can barely focus on the situation, which has captured me. I am in a cave with noise echoing around me penetrating every part of my body. Noises I can’t understand, can’t decipher. Confusion sets in, making my head spin, making me lost. The darkness, the noises, the loneliness, I feel trapped like a wild animal being caged at the zoo.

When I finally take a deep breath I come crashing back to the realisation I am in a situation that requires immediate attention. Poppy has planned this all along. It wasn’t that Roxie couldn’t come as she had suggested to me, it is that she didn’t want her to come and I am the one stuck to do the nasty work.

“But I thought you said it is your Mum who said she couldn’t come.”

“That’s what I said but, well I just didn’t want her here. It’s my party and I wanted my friends, not Roxie,” replied Poppy with conviction.

“But why? What’s wrong with Roxie?” I stammer.

It is like a tennis match, all heads go from facing me to facing Poppy and back again. Silence fell in between, even breathing could barely be heard. Bella is grinning as she looks my way, this secret she is obviously a part of.

Jo and Sam seem genuinely shocked, but relieved that they are not in my shoes. Sam has her hands covering her mouth, eyes peering over her glasses, unable to participate in the conversation.

“Well for starters she looks like a boy, acts like a boys and even smells like a boy,” laughs Poppy, proud at her insulting jokes.

Bella joins in with the laughing, supporting her friend all the way to the end.

“That’s not very nice,” says Jo, stunned by Poppy’s vicious words.

“Well she is boring,” snaps Poppy, annoyed with Jo. “She, she never wants to talk about the things we like, so I don’t want that kind of person here. I only hang around her because I like you Alexx but I am definitely not having her at my house.”

“I never knew,” I say quietly, reality hitting me like being hit in the head with a brick, it hurt.

“Now you do, the others put up with her too, just for you Alexx. We really like you, your one of my best friends but Roxie, well she is like a little girl. She can be such a sook sometimes, like a baby,” says Poppy, the tone in voice changing.

“I can’t call Roxie and say that. It’s mean.”

“You have to Alexx, that is why the game is called truth or dare. You chose dare so you need to do whatever the dare is.”

“Yeah Poppy’s right,” adds Bella as she reaches for the phone, placing it in my hand. “You need to call her.”

Time is against me with no excuses left and no escape. Roxie is going to be crushed and I am going to crush her. If I call and tell Roxie the truth she will hate me and I would lose my best friend. I will hate myself, even more than I did when I decided to keep all my secrets from her.

I feel I have no one to turn to, no one who will support me with my secret. Roxie would have supported me if I had given her the opportunity. Roxie wouldn’t laugh at me, think less of me because my parents fought all the time. I was wrong not to trust her and show confidence in our friendship.

I need to make a decision on my friendships right here, right now. If I play along with the dare, breaking my friend’s heart, I will no longer have her in my life. Or I could be different, an outsider and say no to Poppy. Even the thought of saying no to Poppy is more scary than facing Mum when you have been caught telling a lie.

Succumbed by friendships, I am defeated. I can no longer fight, challenge the group by standing up to be different. The fight is over, and I have lost. I have never wanted this, never asked to be placed in this situation. But I realised that didn’t matter, it isn’t my choice to be placed in this situation. Now that I it is all down to my decision, the consequences would be entirely on my shoulders.

“Sure, I will call,” I say, an air of confidence pushing though the darkness that had engulfed me.

As I dial the number, all eyes are glued on me. Poppy’s with elation. Bella’s with satisfaction. Jo with disappointment. Sam with sadness. I am the centre of attention and even the birthday girl is happy to take a back seat for this memorable moment.

“Hi,” I say, my voice piercing the silence in the room. “I need to tell you something.”

The voice on the other end replies,’yes’.

“I need you to pick me up Mum. I want to come home.”

 

“Keeping Secrets – Ch.12 – Pain pain go away (2nd Storyline)

Pain pain go away….

“See you tomorrow Alexx,” says Bella, skipping as she leaves the school ground, heading for home to enjoy the weekend’s slumber party.

“See you Bella,” I reply, waving slowly concentrating on whether Roxie is close enough to hear the conversation.

The day has almost arrived. I only have to survive the walk home and then I can avoid Roxie for the remainder of the weekend. Every time Roxie and I are alone, there is a constant reminder that she isn’t sharing in this part of my life. We are all friends but with the obvious exclusion of Roxie I am one of them and Roxie isn’t.

I am fooling myself to believe this friendship is real, that we are all friends and that Poppy’s Mum did set the rules for the party. We are keeping this secret from Roxie to protect her from getting hurt. I want so much to believe this story but too much of this story is hard believe.

Roxie often says she isn’t really part of the group. The girls accept her most of the time and that’s only because of our friendship. This creates mixed emotions for me, both of excitement to be liked by friends so much and horror that friends could actually treat people with such contempt.

I try to decide whether to leave the school now while Roxie is nowhere to be seen, making an excuse I thought she must have already left, or behave as I if there is no conspiracy and wait by the gates as we always do.

Before I get a chance to make the decision, it is made for me when Roxie comes running out of the toilet block, heading towards me. She seems a little pale, her eyes narrow and confused, as if she has something on her mind.

“Hey, Roxie, Are you alright?”

Roxie hesitates. Maybe she is sick and can’t find the energy to speak. Some times being sick is a good thing. You get to stay in bed all day, reading books, listening to music, watching movies and eating junk. Mum never lets me stay home unless she thinks I am about to die and even then she will hesitate.

“Yeah, I’m alright, just the umm, toilets, they stink.”

“I know what you mean. I went in there when lunch ended and I thought someone had died, it’s foul,” I reply, relieved the conversation is about anything but the weekend.

“Well you would have thought boys had been in there the way it stinks. It’s just gross.”

“Yeah gross.”

“Super gross,” laughs Roxie.

As we head home, walking in silence, my head concentrates intensely on each step. With each step I am closer to home and further from sharing the secret.

“Alexx, I think something is going on with Poppy,” says Roxie disrupting my concentration. “I over heard some girls talking in the toilets before.”

Oh no, I have been caught, it is all about to unfold. Roxie knows and she is about to put me right in the centre of it.

“Huh,” is the extent of my vocal intelligence.

“When I was in the toilet before, I heard some girls saying they wished they were invited to Poppy’s slumber party and how cool it would be and stuff.”

“Ohh, not really sure, maybe Bella is sleeping over and you know how Bella can be, talk,talk,talk,” I respond so quickly I am unsure if any of it even made any sort of sense.

It feels like Roxie is looking right through me, deep into my soul. I try to blank out any thoughts I have on the party just in case she can actually read my mind.

Shrugging her shoulders, happy with my response, not concerned about Poppy and whether she is part of her social life, Roxie says, “Yeah, maybe she is just having Bella to sleep and people think it is some big party.”

As my house comes into view, each step taking me closer to the beginning of the end of this secret, I feel as though I am doing something against the law. Immense guilt floods over me, surging through my veins. The guilt pounds into my stomach like I have been punched in the belly, making me bend over in agony.

Not realising the two could possibly be related in any way, my immediate thought is that I am coming down with something. I am going to sick like I have wished for sometimes, but not on the weekend and not when I have a slumber party to attend.

“What’s wrong Alexx?” asks Roxie, with a concerned look ready to run for help.

“I don’t know, I have pains in my stomach,” I say still bending over breathing heavily to stop the sensation of vomiting.

“Do you want me to grab your Mum?”

“No, no, just wait. I’ll wait to see if it goes away,” I reply hastily, not wanting mum involved.

If Mum becomes involved then that will be the end of my weekend and that is not an option. I am going to this party even if I am really sick. I no longer care about anything  else but going to this slumber party.

“Alexx are these the same pains you get when your parents fight?” asks Roxie curiously.

“Not sure,” I manage to say.

“They seem the same. Is every thing okay at home?”

I nod, now panting a little heavier.

“If you want you can stay at my house this weekend, to get away from your parents. I will ask Mum. She won’t mind.”

With the pain still surging through me, the blood pumping hard in my head is causing a headache. Roxie has asked me over for the weekend. Normally I would love to so I can get away from the arguing or the twins. I don’t need to run away from home this time, I need to run away from Roxie. For a moment I contemplate telling Roxie about the party. A good friend would do that.

If Roxie knows then I won’t be able to go and I desperately want to go. This party is so important on the ‘social calendar’ for the year. The most popular girl is having me at her party, it would be wrong to not accept the invitation.

I am certain, well almost certain that if the roles were reversed that Roxie would go and not tell me. She knows I would understand that this is a life changing party, one not to be missed. If I understood then so too would Roxie.

“Thanks Roxie but things at home haven’t been too bad lately,” I lie.

“Oh that’s really good,” replies Roxie, genuinely elated by the news. “Did you say something to your Mum like we discussed.”

Once again I nod, feeling like a trap door will open up and swallow me into its darkness full of lies. The words continue to flow from within me, the lies, the untruths. It is never ending the amount of lies one person can tell.

With lies come secrets and with the secrets come the pains. The connection between the two I have denied, not wanting to believe the two are related, but standing outside my house with my body fighting me, my mind screaming at me and my friend consoling me, the two clearly go together like cheese and crackers.

Lying to people is not a natural behaviour of mine. Some people lie easily, the stories becoming more elaborate with each telling. I use to be afraid to lie, especially to Mum and Dad.

I remember Mum pulling me aside, talking in a soft convincing voice that if I was asked about my age, I had to say I was only 4 years old. The movies are free for kids under 5 years old but this information is something I didn’t quite understand at the time. I had only just turned five and I was extremely proud of being so old.

I wasn’t questioned on my age. No one even looked down at me or the twins who were strapped in the stroller. I remember being nervous, believing my parents would get in trouble with the police for telling a lie. I didn’t want them to be taken away to jail. I didn’t know how to look after the twins. I didn’t WANT to look after the twins.

As we walked into the movie theatre, I burst into tears, shaking all over. Dad picked me up in his strong, comforting arms to console me, confused with my reaction to a movie that hadn’t begun showing yet. I spent the entire movie huddled on Dad’s lap, not letting him out of my site for fear the police would be taking him away for lying.

The fear this instilled in me never really left but now I didn’t have the comfort of Dad’s lap. I am too old for that and I know I have to own the decisions I make, but the fear remains deep inside, the fear develops into a darkness that intensifies with each lie, each deceit.

“I gotta go,” I shout as I run towards my house leaving Roxie stunned.

“What about staying over,” I hear Roxie screaming back but I pretend not to hear her, waving my hand to hide my true feelings.

 

 

“Keeping Secrets – Ch.11 – Darkness (2nd storyline)

Darkness…

The heat is beading onto my tanned golden skin, warming each part of my body from the inside out. The soft sand sifts through my fingers, each grain falling delicately to the ground below. My eyes are closed, my thoughts are empty as my head rests sleepily on a towel, every muscle relaxed. The calmness of the waves, trickling up to the shore then back out to sea, a continuous act of nature seeping into my conscious thoughts.

Summer time is my favourite time of the year. Swimming all day, playing outside in the warmth, staying up late as the sun wants to stay out and play too. Roxie runs towards me, water dripping off her shoulder length hair making her look older and more mature than anyone our age.

I begin to laugh at the sight of her bathers, olive green board shorts with a yellow rash top entirely covered in white skull heads. As I continue to giggle, her elated expression leaves turning into anger.

A heavy dark cloud moves swiftly overhead, covering the beautiful sunlight, taking the warmth and replacing it with a terrifying chill.

Her face reddens, her eyes turn black like she is possessed by a devil like creature. She speaks only it isn’t her voice. It is the voice of hatred threatening me, scaring me by their words. I try leaping from my towel to run away from her, run from the darkness. I can’t move, my body is locked to the ground, trapping me in a helpless position.

Scream, let me scream. My voice won’t let me scream. The more I try to move the more the sand captures me, pulling me deeper down.

“Arrhhh,” I scream, as I wake from my nightmare.

My voice wavers, my hands shake, still picturing Roxie’s evil face. I am awake and safe in my sanctuary, my bedroom with my possessions and my voice. My body is soaked from the nightmare, still shaking from what it has experienced. The coolness of the night air surrounding my soaking skin makes me shiver uncontrollably.

The darkness has followed me into my dreams. As I lay awake regaining the knowledge that it is only a dream, I begin to wish this party never existed. It is haunting me, during the day I feel the anger, the darkness surround my every move and now at night, while my body relaxes, the darkness haunts me.

 

 

“Keeping Secrets” – Ch:9 -‘A new beginning’

A new beginning….

I hang up the phone feeling a warm glow inside. The conversation is a simple one with many friendly words exchanged and both sides definitely on the same side. Building a new friendship takes time and commitment from both people, with a genuine interest in each other. I am committed more than I ever thought possible.

Many times in the past it has been all about me. To play the friendship game, it needs to also be about the other person. Even though I am nearly a teenager, I am still learning how to be a friend. It is important to truly listen, trust in my friend, trust in myself and not to keep secrets. Keeping secrets can create pain, more pain than is necessary.

The doorbell rang and I hear the twins racing each to answer it first. The continual competition between them usually got on my nerves but not today.

Sam has voiced her opinion on the phone, not about anything too serious but she actually voiced her own opinion. I feel comfortable with our friendship as I think it is a true friendship, one that will grow into a forever friendship.

“Alexx, Alexx, it’s for you”, scream Bree. “It’s your boyfriend.”

By the time I am standing at the front door, face to face with Brendon, my embarrassment has peaked, resulting in hot beetroot red face, sweaty palms and a complete loss for words. Little sisters have to be the most annoying people in the entire world but I wasn’t going to make it worse by screaming like a lunatic in front of Brendon.

“Hi Alexx,” says Brendon, actually looking a little embarrassed.

His face wasn’t as red as mine, more like a soft peach colour. He stands with his arms folded in front of his body as if protecting himself against my manic little sisters, who are watching.

“Go away girls,” I demand as nicely as possible. Silently we stand in front of each other until the twins finally leave us alone.

“Umm, hi Brendon,” I say, looking towards the ground at my foot, making a figure eight trying to talk my body into relaxing just a little.

“I wanted to come over to say thank you,” he says, unfolding his arms, obviously relaxing now that the twins have left and it’s only us.

“For what?” I ask curiously, finally lifting my head to connect with his dark brown eyes.

“You have been so cool with Roxie. She told me everything. How you stuck up for her and how great she thinks you are.”

“Oh….well she is my friend.”

“Yeah I know but I know what girls like Poppy are like and I just wanted to thank you. I think you’re pretty cool too.”

His hands pull me towards him, strong but delicate. With such urgency his lips met mine, lock with mine for the first time. I allow him to lead me, direct me in my first kiss. His lips are so tender as they touch mine. So sweet his scent, a smell I have never experienced and will never forget. As swiftly as the kiss began, the kiss ends. I am mesmerised, lost in the moment, feeling dizzy from overwhelming excitement I am experiencing.

The boy I have wanted to share my first kiss with has given me my wish. I stare at him as he turns to leave, nothing else to say, no words could invade my thoughts at this moment. The moment has passed in reality but I stand, waiting by the door, waiting for the moment to pass from my body.

Every hair is electrified, standing on end causing my body to tingle. Every thought racing through my mind is happy, wonderful, in a place I want to remain forever. I am growing up and my life is being controlled by me. The decisions I have made are my own decisions – good or bad and I am beginning to realise I have to own them. This is the best consequence from my decision to be a true and loyal friend.

The time has presented itself without my controlling. I know now is the perfect time to open up to Mum and Dad with my inner thoughts. I can’t keep up the act anymore that their arguing is okay. It isn’t okay with me and I need to have this matter sorted out and now is a perfect time.

As my mind floats back from the clouds where Brendon has left me, my body goes in to automatic mode. My courage is stable, my confidence restored and my ability in always being the person I want to be at its peak, the time is now.

“Mum”, I shout down the hallway, “I need to talk to you. It’s very important.”

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