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.”
“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
If you want Alexx to keep the secret about Poppy’s party, go to Ch. 10
- “Keeping Secrets” – Chapter 1 (ourparallelconnection.com)
- “Keeping Secrets” – Chapter 2 (ourparallelconnection.com)
- “Keeping Secrets” – Chapter 3 (ourparallelconnection.com)
- “Keeping Secrets” – Ch4 – Opening up the box of secrets (ourparallelconnection.com)