Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Suzy takes on the world - Part Two - Tough Love

Suzy tipped some milk into a saucer for her new kitten, Lucky, who gratefully began lapping it up.

Mum had not been happy when Suzy had brought the stray kitten home "I work my fingers to the bone to put food in your belly and clothes on your back" she had ranted "And how do you thank me?  By bringing home yet another mouth to feed!"

But, as Suzy had known all along, once Mum picked the kitten up and stroked it, she was won over.  She still made a show of grumbling about the costs of food, cat litter and vets' bills, but Suzy knew Lucky had a home for good.

But bringing Lucky home meant that Suzy had had to put off, yet again, telling mum that she need a hundred pounds for the forthcoming school trip to Paris.  God knows when she was going to break the news!

Suzy finished her breakfast and washed up the dishes for herself, her brother Damian (who was the apple of mum's eye and excused all chores) and mum before heading out for the bus.  As she emerged from the main door of Royale Mansions, she noticed a gang of youths hanging about.  One of them wolf-whistled as he saw Suzy in her school uniform.  Suzy flushed and hurried away from the vicinity of the gang as soon as possible.

These gangs ruled the estates and had done for years.  They were made up of unemployed (and Suzy suspected unemployable) young men who considered parts of the vast estate of which Royale Mansions was one small part, as their "territory".  The gangs frequently fought amongst themselves for control of a little bit more of the estate as well as preying on the weak and vulnerable and committing all kinds of crime.

Every so often, a convoy of police vehicles would roar up to the estate, spew out an army of armoured men wielding batons and riot shields, round up a goodly number of suspects, and haul them off to "help the police with their enquiries" as the authorities termed the objective of the operation.  Police crackdowns on the estate were intermittent though, and the gangs more or less had a free hand.

The gangs were mostly male and certainly male-dominated, but there were also girls.  As well as being girlfriends of gang members, girls were useful for smuggling weapons or drugs past the police whereas a young male was almost guaranteed to be searched for such items.

Suzy shuddered.  If she had not been so clever in school she could easily end up like one of those girls, or else lumbered with a platoon of kids by the time she was twenty.  That was the other fate of girls who lived on this estate.

Suzy quickened her pace, anxious to get away from the estate that had the capacity to so destroy lives before they even began.

On the way to school, Suzy could not help but blame the problems of the estate, not to mention the world, on men.  Men ran the gangs, ran criminal organisations, ran the economy, ruled most of the world and indulged in endless conflict in which mainly women and children were the victims. Women still seemed to have little say in how the world was run despite now surpassing males academically, entering the workplace in greater numbers, occupying positions of power and earning more than ever before.  Women were proving that they were better and more compassionate leaders.  But there were still too few of them in positions of power to make any real difference.  In spite of everything, it was still a man's world.  It was all so depressing!

It was Games first thing and Suzy trooped out with the rest of the girls with her form to play hockey.  Suzy found the game tedious and wished that girls were allowed to play football or rugby instead.  The school authorities still laboured under the mistaken belief that girls were too fragile to play "boys' sports".

The game began, and, as it progressed, Suzy became aware that Belinda Fox and her two cronies, Helen Goff and Rosie Doyle, playing on the opposing team, seemed to have it in for her for some reason.  Come to think of it, Rosie had tried to trip Suzy up on the way to the playing field.  Now Suzy found herself tackled by each of the girls, even though the action was happening some distance away.  Finally, Belinda whacked Suzy on the leg with her stick.  Searing pain dominated Suzy's mind, and she collapsed into the mud.

She dimly heard the Games' Mistresses' whistle and sensed that the game had stopped and that the other girls had crowded around her.  Suzy saw the face of the Games Mistress, Miss Pringle, full of concern.  She examined Suzy's leg.

"That's a nasty bruise you're going to have there" she concluded "We'll have to get you to the nurse to check that there are no broken bones!"  She ordered the two biggest girls to help Suzy back to the main school block where she could receive medical attention.

As she hobbled away, she heard Belinda say, in the sweet innocent voice that she was able to put on "Honest Miss, it was an accident!  Tell her, Helen, Rosie, you were there".

"Yeah, that's right, Miss.  An unlucky accident" the two other girls chorused.

Miss Pringle sighed.  She had been on the other side of the field when the incident had happened and so had seen nothing. "Alright.  Just be more careful next time, ok?"

"Yes, Miss.  Sorry Miss" said Belinda in that sweet, sugary voice.

Suzy had to sit in the nurse's room for the next hour and so miss her next lesson.  She wondered why Belinda had suddenly become so implacably hostile towards her.  Normally, Belinda and her friends pretended Suzy didn't exist, but at least they left her alone.  It was a real puzzle.

The nurse had examined Suzy's leg and confirmed that no bones were broken, but that it would hurt for a few days.  Suzy was released in time for the lunch break.  Suzy had her dinner alone, as usual, and then repaired to the toilets to check out her leg.

There was a deep purple bruise on her shin.  If Suzy pulled her socks up to their fullest extent, it would hide it for a while, but eventually the socks would ride down and expose the bruise. Damn!

The main door to the toilets opened to admit Belinda, Rosie and Helen.  Suzy was about to say something colourful to Belinda about what she had done to her leg but thought better of it when she saw Belinda's face, full of hostility.

"Well, well" said Belinda "Found you at last!  Have you been hiding from us?"

"No" Suzy replied "What's going on Belinda?  First you tackle me, then wallop me with a hockey stick..."

"Grab her!" Belinda ordered, by way of answer.  Moments later, Suzy was pinned and helpless in the grasp of two bigger, stronger girls.

Satisfied that Suzy was powerless to resist, Belinda cupped Suzy's face with one hand "I'll tell you what's going on, you little slut, you've been making eyes at Kevin Connor!  My boyfriend!"

"But...I didn't know he had a girlfriend, honest!  And he only asked me to help him with his French!".

Belinda laughed "I'll bet he did!  French kissing!  He's rather good at it, actually, and I know that better than anyone!  So....slut.  If I see you anywhere near him again, you'll be sorry!  Understood?"

Frightened, Suzy nodded.

"Good" said Belinda, releasing Suzy's face.  "Ok, girls, you know what to do with the little tart".

Grinning, Rosie and Helen hauled Suzy into the nearest cubicle.  Suzy tried to resist, but was too weak against the strength of two girls.  They thrust her head down the toilet bowl and flushed the lavatory.  Suzy screamed as the cold water hit her, and with the humilation.

"Let that be a lesson to you" were Belinda's parting words "Stay away from MY boyfriend!".  The three girls departed, leaving a soggy and sobbing Suzy alone in the cubicle.

Once she had composed herself, Suzy looked at herself in the mirror.  Her hair was a mess!  It looked like someone had thrown a bucket a water over her.  Suzy did her best to dry herself off, but her efforts could not hide that she was soaking wet.

She knew she couldn't attend class in the state she was in, so made for the warmth of the school library to dry off.  She managed to make her last class, maths, but remembered that she had to meet Kevin afterwards to help him with his french essay.

In spite of Belinda's warnings, Suzy had made a promise and meant to keep it, so she returned to the library.  Kevin was late and arrived a quarter hour after they had agreed.  He gave her a smile, which made all the trials of Suzy's day suddenly seem worthwhile.  Then he handed her the essay.

Suzy sat down and studied it.  Miss Penchat had written more than Kevin had.  Suzy could imagine the overweight French Mistress furiously scribbling on the essay in her red pen, appalled at the desecration of her native tongue.  The essay really was awful.  Kevin clearly had no talent for French.  Suzy's baby brother, Aaron, probably could have done better.

Suzy gently suggested that they should start again from scratch.  She dictated whilst Kevin wrote.  Occasionally, they had to stop whilst Suzy corrected Kevin execrable attempts at French, but almost an hour and a half later, it was done.

"Perhaps we could go for a drink?  The school cafe should still be open" Suzy suggested hopefully.  Let Belinda Fox be damned!

"Nah, sorry.  Got footie practice.  Thanks for your help though!  Gotta dash!"  Kevin was gone before Suzy could say anything.

Suzy was deflated again. In spite of helping him (rewriting the whole bloody thing more like!) and being nice, Kevin had not shown the slightest interest in her.  In fact, he had been eager to get away from her as soon as he had what he needed.

Life was tough.  Love was tougher.

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