“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: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.”

 

Book Review – ‘The Fault in our Stars’

The Fault In Our Stars. I don’t even know where to begin to explain how much I loved this novel. John Green, the author, really touched my heart even made me cry with his book, something I rarely ever do. John has a way with words that can only be expressed as inspirational. He writes in a language where you really feel what the characters are feeling.

In this story, we follow Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters as they battle through cancer and young love. As an avid reader I would recommend the book to absolutely anyone. However, the themes and ideas of this book really limit me as to who I can tell about it. Although it is in the genre Young Adult Literature, I think that most adults would simply adore this novel.

The ideas in the book are a bit mature for younger readers but for people around my age {13} and above I think it is absolutely perfect. Despite my maturity and great ability to read heavy content, I still found The Fault In Our Stars a sad yet uplifting book.

As confusing as that sounds I felt both happy and sad after reading the book. I felt sad about all that had happened in between the covers but then, when it had finished, I felt oddly fulfilled and slightly happy that it had happened. It made me realise how precious life is and to live every moment to the full.

It is impossible to read The Fault In Our Stars and not come away with a new outlook on life and the people around you. I think that it is a marvellous book writing brilliantly. John Green is a fantastic author and I can’t wait to read more of his work.

Ashlea xxx

The-Fault-in-Our-Stars

I had never heard of ‘The Fault in our Stars’ until Ashlea told me she had read a book and cried. Ashlea is fairly level headed and crying over literature is not something she does very often. When we discussed doing a book review for the blog, very excitedly Ashlea insisted it be on ‘The Fault in our Stars’.

The book was wonderful. It is an easy read , simple language but with serious and sometimes emotionally challenging themes. The two main characters Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters are both battling different forms of cancer. The novel encapsulates their journey beautifully, staying as true to life with all the ups and downs everyday teenagers experience. It was easy to become emotionally invested in the main characters, finding it difficult at times to put the book down.

Hazel Grace has lung cancer and has spent her teenage years in and out of hospitals, eventually being home schooled. There were moments in the novel I could hear her struggling for breath, desperate to live a normal life even though there is a fault in her stars. Augustus (Gus) I fell in love with. He was divine, making me laugh, cry and want to be 16 years old again.

The novel is perfect for young adult readers but oldies like myself will also enjoy the experience of reading it too. 

Thanks Ashlea for picking a beautiful book for our first review. Loved it, loved it, loved it. 

cheers natalie

 

 

 

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

The secret party….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Looks like the usual, vegemite.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah it’s your birthday and…”

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

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

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

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

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

“I don’t think that’s very nice….”

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

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

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

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

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

“But…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Mum’s Help…. 

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

Growing Apart…

 

 

 

 

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

Opening up the box of secrets….

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

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

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

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

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

“Alexx, it can’t be that bad!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thanks Rox, you have been so wonderful.”

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

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

“But that wont happen,” interjected Roxie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Morning Alexx, how are you this morning?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sorry about him,” says Roxie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

“Keeping Secrets” – Chapter 2

Roxie…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Mum thinks so.”

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

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

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

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

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

“I suppose.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Whatever! Let’s just go home.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The girls start to giggle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

“Keeping Secrets” – Chapter 1

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

Keeping Secrets

By Natalie and Ashlea McNamara

‘Alexx’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ummm, it’s OK,” chokes Roxie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Not really. I like my brother.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You know, I think you’re lucky Rox.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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