Well it’s about time you had a little taster of some more of my friend Annie’s book, it being World Book Day and all. You’ve met Scarlett and me, of course in the first chapter but the book isn’t all about us. Oh no, dearies, there’s another girl who is most important to the tale I had to tell and you may not like her very much at first, readers. Yes, when I first met her she was quite the spoilt brat. However, her story is our story too and ’tis how Scarlett deals with her bullying antics that really gives the tale some meat…
Chapter Two – The Bully.
Jemima Bloom was certain that Scarlett Winter had head lice. Living in Bramble Towers, you caught them from the walls and the toilets. Everyone knew that. It was her public duty to warn everyone, or else there was sure to be an epidemic. She put the finishing touches to her artwork and then stepped back to admire it. It was an artfully drawn skull and crossbones, with the words, ‘NIT INFESTED AREA’ emblazoned across the top. She decided to add some lightening-bolts for extra effect and as she scribbled, she thought of cunning ways to attach it to Scarlett’s back.
“Jem, what on earth are you doing? I’ve got a leg wax at nine and your dad’s off to Mexico with his golf friends. I’ve got so much to do, never mind get you to school and you’re sitting here, scribbling and daydreaming.” Julia Bloom tottered through the door, her auburn hair piled high on her head.
“Mum!” moaned Jemima. “How am I ever supposed to get a career in design if you call it scribbling?”
“CAREER?” boomed a strong, Yorkshire accent as Frank Bloom, her father and the managing director of ‘Blooming Lovely Crisps’ strode forcefully through the door. “What do you want a career for?” He smoothed down a large swatch of hair, which had tilted slightly over one eye with all the striding, leaving a big pink bald patch. Every morning, he carefully and meticulously cultivated the long strand of hair which grew from the side of his left ear, manipulating it, backcombing and faffing with it until it resembled a hairline. Jemima and Julia both averted their eyes, for the comb-over was the thing Not To Be Mentioned. Frank was incredibly proud of his ‘full head of hair.’
Here we go, thought Jemima, rolling her eyes. “Well, maybe not a career, Dad, but I’d like to go to university one day, even if just for the experience.”
“What do you want to go to university for?” he said, his face turning a disgusting puce. “I didn’t get where I am today by reading hoity-toity books and dying my hair funny colours. You’ll be better off marrying well. Look at me and your Mum. Not an exam between us but we’ve got a Jacuzzi in the bathroom and a private box at Grimsfield United. I’ve got a full head of hair and a gold membership to the Golf club. There aren’t many professors at that posh university got that, eh?”
“No, Dad,” said Jemima, her lip twitching with amusement as the comb-over wobbled precariously during the rant.
“Aw look at her,” he said, “she looks like she’s going to cry. Diddums. I tell you what, sweetheart, you want to go to university, go ahead and fill your boots. Go to any university you like.”
“You mean it dad?” said Jemima, hopeful.
“Course I do,” he said, “as long as you ruddy well pay for it yourself! FNARR FNARR!” He laughed, clutching his round belly. Jemima’s heart sank back down again. “Don’t you forget who bankrolls this family,” Frank continued. “The sooner I can get another poor sap to pay for your shoes and handbags the better. Now stop moping about and get ready. I’m off now. Your mum will be in the car, don’t keep her waiting.”
“Yeah I’ll miss you too. Have a great holiday,” she said to his departing bottom. She stuck her tongue out at the door and sighed. There was no point arguing with him. He was a bully. It was his way or no way at all.
She was in mid-straighten, when she stopped, catching sight of an all-too familiar worry in the mirror. There it was again. She was shimmering. She looked closer. It was definitely there, a strange shine to her skin.
“Come on, Jemima!” her mum bellowed up the stairs.
“Coming,” she replied, stuffing the picture in her school bag. She looked back up into the mirror. It was gone. The face that stared back at her was just a normal, dull, face again. Maybe she was imagining it. She shook her head, grabbed her schoolbag and ran down the stairs.
“Mu-um?” she said in the car.
“What?” said Julia, snappily. “What now, Jemima? I’ve got a hundred things to do for your sister’s wedding so don’t start.”
“Doesn’t matter,” said Jemima, slumping back in the leather seat.
“Well you’ve said it now. Spit it out. Tell me,” Julia barked, while looking as uninterested as possible in the opposite direction.
“It’s just…have you noticed anything funny about me lately?” Jemima nervously twirled a strand of hair around her finger.
“Funny? No.” Julia fiddled with the radio absent-mindedly and Jemima took a deep breath in. Julia wasn’t the easiest person to have a mother-daughter talk with.
“No…I mean…have you noticed me twinkling or shining at all lately?”
Julia stopped the car, pulling over into a bus stop, much to the fury of a bus driver who was now blocked in. He beeped furiously and waved his hands in the air. “Hold your horses!” screamed Julia. “My car’s worth more than your ruddy bus so I’ve got more right to park here than you!” The bus driver shook his head and Julia turned to face Jemima, eyes small and beady. “Have you been drinking?” she snarled, “without telling me?”
“No, Mum,” sighed Jemima. This was hopeless.
“If you have, I’m very disappointed in you. If you want a drink, you can have a martini, I told you that. Bring your friends round. They can all have a ruddy martini. Just do it in the house love.”
“That’s not very sensible Mum, given that I’m only twelve, and no, I haven’t been drinking.”
“Then what are you blathering on about?” said Julia, swinging out of the bus stop.
“It doesn’t matter, just forget I spoke,” Jemima replied, despondently. They spent the rest of the journey in silence, Jemima’s mood getting fouler the closer they got to school. None of the other people on her select estate went to stinky Grimsfield High. They all went to posh boarding schools and girls colleges, something her dad wouldn’t see fit to spend his precious money on.
They pulled up outside just as Scarlett was arriving in some kind of custard-coloured sad-mobile with those scary old bints, Freda and Edna in tow and a man who looked like he’d come straight out of a Star Trek convention. Jemima grinned, took a deep breath and put her school-face on. She skipped over to Scarlett. “Morning, Mrs Winter,”
Maggie Winter beamed, her whole face lighting up. “It’s Maggie, Jemima,” she said. “I was going to walk Scarlett to the gate but now that you’re here you can walk in together.” Scarlett scowled at Jemima, as did the two old biddies, but Jemima kept a bright smile on her face. “Well done with the science award, Jemima” Maggie said. “Your parents must have been really proud.”At this, the skinny one, Freda, snorted.
“Yes,” said Jemima, a bit more quietly than usual. She turned and looked at Scarlett, taking in everything about what she was wearing for ammunition to use later. “It’s nice to see that Jasmine’s old uniform fits, Scarlett.”
“What do you mean?” Scarlett said, her eyes widening. Jemima stood back, arms folded smugly, having hit the target.
“Didn’t your Mum tell you? My Mum sent a parcel over in the summer with all our old clothes. That uniform used to be my sister’s.” Jemima smiled at Scarlett in a way to indicate that she wouldn’t be hearing the last of this. She had saved this information for a special day. Today was the day.
“Is that right, Mum? All those clothes you got me, they were from…from…”
Maggie suddenly looked very subdued. “Well you love those black jeans, Scarlett.”
Jemima grinned, looking up and down at Scarlett’s curvaceous shape, which was so different to her own flat-chest and skinny frame. “Oh those old things,” she said, “I wasn’t sure if they’d fit.”
“Oh, they didn’t,” said Maggie, “but I added some elastic to the waist and we squeezed you into them, didn’t we Scarlett…Scarlett?” Scarlett was no longer there. She was furiously storming towards the school, her wiry curls flying out behind her in even more of a frizz than usual.
“Don’t worry” said Jemima, patting her bag, which contained the offending artwork, “I’ll catch up with her.” She hurried towards the school gates, but just as she was about to go through them, a bony hand grabbed her shoulder. It was the skinny one, Freda, and she had a grip like a boa constrictor.
“Hold your horses, little madam,” Freda said, squaring her wizened face up to meet Jemima’s. “I’ve got a verucca on my big toe that’s older than you and I’ve dealt with your sort before.” She leaned closer, fresh spit gleaming around the corners of her mouth, slowly flicking a crooked forefinger towards Jemima. “You mark my words girl. Leave her alone or you’ll be sorry.” She wagged the crooked finger, still glaring furiously.
“Ooh, I’m scared,” said Jemima bravely, backing up a little. “What are you gonna do? Gum me to death?”
“Mark my words,” said the crone again, wagging that gnarled finger in front of her face.
Jemima laughed, backing away and running into school. She didn’t stop until she reached the safety of the yard, where she promptly forgot about the old woman, and started putting today’s dastardly plans into action.
Freda was rattled. That girl was so flaming fierce and the finger-wagging hadn’t even touched her – not even a single boil or weeping scab had sprouted. In another situation Freda would have said she showed a lot of promise for a young ‘un, but it wasn’t just that. Any fool who knew what they were talking about could see that the girl had a shine about her. Oh, she had taken on a glow, alright. Not so much as you would see if you didn’t know what you were looking for but a definite shimmer.
Freda walked back to the car solemnly, remembering an old nursery rhyme that the kids used to chant, back in the day. It couldn’t be… could it? She shook her head and tried to push the thought away but it wouldn’t budge. If what she thought was right, there was a whole load of trouble ahead, and that meant she’d better get her best girdle ironed, because there was nothing like a good girdle for firing you up for battle.