Written by Amy
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She knew that tone of voice. It was not foreboding anything pleasant. However, she approached.
"This is the last time I am going to tell you this. It is the last time I am fixing up your closet for you. From now on you are going to keep it in order as I have set it you understand? Look how I have arranged them. I will come from time to time to check that you are doing so, since I can't obviously trust that you'll do it." her mother said in rapid, staccato words thrown at her mercilessly. She stayed exceptionally quiet and waited for the venting to be complete. Finally, after her mother had shown her every bit of the closet and what article of clothing went where, she walked out.
Mary was left standing before the open closet. She peered sulkily at the back wall and smirked.
"You think you've won, but you haven't." she said to the closet and opened it wide, letting the sun streak inside. Then she peeled off her nightie and picked an outfit to wear to go to school. Red sweatshirt and blue jeans. She put them on, then with glee threw the nightie in the closet with all her might, making a dress or two fall from their hangers, enough to make the closet look tumbly and unruly again. Then she closed the closet door, satisfied. The monster wouldn't rest enough to hurt her at night now. It was a pity her mother couldn't understand, and couldn't feel that the monster was there. She had to wage war on her own.
She went into the kitchen and picked up the glass of milk waiting for her. She was halfway through and she hoped that the usual question wouldn't come when--
"Mary, have you studied for school today?"
She nodded, pretending to have her mouth full, knowing her mother was perceptive enough to know she was lying by her voice. Not that she had much hope she wouldn't get it with just the nod; just that she would give her the benefit of the doubt.
"Well, let's hope so. Now run along, you'll be late. Here; give me a hug, I am not angry with you." her mother smiled and they hugged.
Walking to her school, Mary thought about the monster and the closet. It was a cunning monster; she didn't know if it had a name. But she knew it wanted to kill her to suck her blood out. And she was going to do anything to stop it. Her mom once had opened the closet and made her look to see there was nothing. But she knew the monster had hid itself in a hanging garment. No way to make grown ups understand. They think you are stupid and naive, that you dont' know right from wrong (as if they do!) and that you are so silly you will go and fall off a cliff or something trying to balance. But that's grown ups for you.
As she went further away from her home those thoughts dissipated into her favourite personal game. She always role played with people she created, and she had lived through so many adventures that few adult veterans of danger and unpredictability could boast of, if any. Today she was a spy in the WWII, trailing a traitor to her country.
'You cannot fool me, Q281Il09! I know you are going to meet your contacts, and I am going to just follow you there.' she thought as she nailed her eyes on the rear end of a stout middle aged woman in a flowery patterned dress. Mary smiled with an air of superiority. Nobody could prevent her from seeing through even the best disguises. She might be only 9, but it was to her they ran when surveillance should be done. And rightly so, for who would suspect a 9 year old? Nazis didn't stand a chance.
"Janes! You are late again!" the teacher said as the rest of her class had already assembled in the school yard for the morning prayer. It ruined her spy work completely, and she was brought to reality by force.
"Sorry, Ms Kate..." she mumbled as she took position in line. The prayer was sung each day before classes started. Mary yelled it at the top of her lungs, as off-key as she could. It's not that she had anything against divinity; it just was too insincere to praise the lord when you didn't feel so uplifted yourself. Just like women who started crying with repent the minute they entered church and abruptly stopped the minute they exited. Mary smiled, almost triumphantly. She would never be like that.
As the song ended, every student filed in for class-- but maybe that is the wrong word. They stampeded in. Once in class, the lesson started, the teacher started asking history questions. First, he called on the best student in the class-- Mary snorted. She was a tall, angular, never-laughing kid with short brown hair strictly stuck around her head by various clips, so that not a hair escaped. She stood beside her desk, her hands crossed in front of her and answered so well and so readily that Mary could have sworn she'd swallowed the book.
The image of Stella-- that was the student's name-- trying to swallow the bulky history book dissipated as her eyes were focused to meet her teacher's eyes, looking down at her rejectingly. Mary knew that her teacher never liked her.
"Well? How did Alcebiades desecrate the god Hermes before disembarking for the Sicilian Expedition?"
Mary vaguely remembered some statues and something being cut off of them-- so she decided to keep it vague and maybe- just maybe- she would avoid something ugly.
"Uhhh... he cut off something-- um, protruding-- from some Hermes statues?" she said timidly. The moment she said it she knew it had come out badly. The whole class started giggling, and the teacher frowned.
"You have a nerve haven't you, you miserable...." the teacher started, and Mary just tried to focus on her shoe colour. At least this time the teacher thought she had studied and tried to be sassy.
"You know Mary, you are strange, odd" Tim, a boy in her class started it.
'You won't succeed today' Mary rehearsed in her head.
"Try weird!" another boy guffawed.
"And why is that?" Mary asked, an edge in her voice. That adjective she still couldn't control her reaction at. Others, she had mastered.
"You try to be like us!" Tim continued, as she put her fists at her waist.
"Yeah, and you are a girl! Don't you know that these things mean only one thing?"
"And what is that?" she tried again vainly to control herself. She couldn't walk away; the wall and Tim had her cornered. And Mary never cowered from a challenge anyway.
"You are an abomination, a mistake of nature, a boy and girl mix, you should be in a LAB!" Tim laughed. But not for long. With a cry of exasperation and hurt she hurled herself on the two boys, fists and feet flying.
"Abominate this you morons!" she said as she started passing around hits that mostly found their mark. Not that the boys didn't respond. That was what they had tried to do with her-- as a dare from other boys that had made the mistake. Humiliation loves company.
A circle of kids soon gathered around, cheering and shouting things that Mary never heard above the level of hubbub. Tim was a strong kid, and she was pitched against two-- but the second one was an amateur in fighting it seemed. So she kicked him in the belly first and he curled around it staying out of the way, whimpering several swear words.
Now Tim-- he seemed to have some expertise on the subject. She received about just as many hits as she gave-- one glancing off her nose, one in her temple. For a second he had her pinned on the ground by straddling her. He looked up triumphantly at the kids that always cheered the winner to celebrate winning the bet-- he had subdued Mary who had whipped the ass of most boys in her class. That was his mistake because Mary literally grabbed him by the three most precious things in a boy's possession-- and squeezed hard. Tim's voice drowned in his throat and stayed frozen in one stance. Mary said in a half restrained, half pained voice
"You will get off me. You and your miserable court can at last know that the boy to beat me up has not been born yet-- you understand?"
Tim nodded, still stabs of pain from Mary's grip immobilising him-- children all around laughing their hearts out watching. She nodded and shoved him off using the grip she already had. Then she got up, dusting herself, and wiping the little blood that did come out of her nose. Then she looked up, right in the face of the headmaster.
"Oh Mary, dear... when is this going to stop?" her mother's voice was a mix of feelings, but Mary could sense only the disappointment.
'Still, never mind, she told herself, she will have forgotten all about it by tomorrow'.
"It wasn't my fault mom." she said grudgingly, because she didn't repent it one bit that she had fought with Tim-- especially because she had taken the consequences, plus her temple hurt.
"What did they do to you?"
"Nothing really. They are just silly morons."
"Well, you must try and stop beating the morons up. The headmaster was furious."
"Mom, do you think I am an abomination?"
"Was that what they called you? Of course not!"
Mary felt tears coming. She hated that, tears were so weak most of the times.
"They said I should be in a lab. Then I kicked their butt. They said I am neither a girl nor a boy. But mom, dolls are fine-- but what they play with, the way boys play seems so much more interesting!" she said without caring if she made any sense. Her mother always understood some of it. She told her mother only the things Mary knew she could take-- because there was not a chance she would be able to understand anything else. Her mother hugged her.
"Never believe that Mary. You are the best that has ever come out of me, of this family. You are a healthy, perfect individual."
"But-- as a girl, don't they want me to--"
"Who wants it? them? let them go hang. You are my little girl, I like you just the way you are. Besides, girls can do just what boys do, and vice versa. You dad can cook and wash the dishes, and I know how to change a light-bulb."
"But if you like me just the way I am, why do you insist on my keeping my closet tidy? I told you I can't."
"Because we have to try and become better as individuals. That doesn't mean I will love you less if you don't or more if you do. I already love you too much" her mother kissed the top of her head. Then her father came along, and it was time to get to dinner.
Mary peeled off her clothes and tossed them into the closet,
a slight sulk she didn't know why she had playing at her face.
The day wasn't of the best, but it wasn't bad either. A saucy
smile lighted her features as she pictured Tim having trouble
walking. It was worth the effort. Maybe now they will finally
leave her be. She pulled on her nightie. As she was about to climb
into her bed--
"Mary! Have you washed your teeth?"
"Yes Mama..." she replied lamely.
"Go wash them honey." her mother's voice teased. Mary walked grudgingly to the bathroom, but also smiled. She liked that her mother was so smart and understood her-- even though it was kind of a nuisance sometimes. She brushed her teeth and walked back to bed. Her father came to tuck her in. He had a very interesting face. All full of hair, she always looked for his mouth, just in the middle of the beard and under the moustache. She giggled as he smiled.
"Hey sugar" he said as he tucked the bedclothes around her. "You had a hard day at school?"
She shrugged non-commitally.
"But you brazened it out. Good" he said and pinched her cheek. Mary giggled. He kissed her forehead and shut the light. Now only the night light and the corridor's lights illuminated her room. Mary knew this was the moment the monster slithered from the closet underneath her bed-- she strained her eyes to try and see it, but it was so fast-- at the blink of an eyelid she knew it had already made the distance.
The lights in all the house went out soon afterwards. Now everything was pitch dark, except the small greenish ring of uncertain light coming from the night light. Mary strained her eyes to see around her. Her room was an odd assembly of various shadows, some a tad bit lighter that the others. It wasn't her familiar room anymore. It was a place where everything hid something malicious, where everything was moving, everything was-- alive. She felt herself growing even smaller as she pulled up her feet to her tummy and glued her arms to her chest. This was the hour of the monster, this was its strongest. She knew it was angry, and brooding under her bed, and knew that at the slightest chance she would give it would snatch anything it could reach-- an arm, a leg-- and yank her underneath the bed where it would suck out her life force. Then it would live on and she would die. And Mary was afraid to die.
The only reason it didn't jump on her bed was because there was a cross hanging over her head. The monster, like anything really bad, hated God. It was Mary's only safekeeping. But she had to keep right in the middle of her bed where the monster couldn't reach her-- the bed was too wide even for those long skinny hands. As she was huddling, trying to be as small as possible, and as unreachable-- she saw it. One long, black, writhing finger fumbling its way, searching for her anxiously, greedily. She almost gasped. She couldn't bear it to be so near her-- she had to make it go back-- that finger! She braced herself, built up her courage-- and with her little fist tried to beat the finger back. But her fist landed only on a frill of the cover. How could it be so fast?
She felt the other hand behind her back, slithering. She turned very slowly and cautiously on the other side, and saw the long fingers... and again she tried to strike them, and again her fist only landed on the mattress. This continued for a couple of times, until her fist landed and stayed there, as she sank into merciful sleep, and her agony ended.
She fluttered her eyelids next day, shaking the veils of sleep away. The morning sun streamed in from the shutters of her window, filling the room with a warm, kind, pure light. The whole room was now a sanctuary again. The monster had long ago slithered back in her closet-- but it wouldn't rest there-- the closet was again a mess. She smiled, satisfied, and stretched full-length in her bed, like a little kitten, enjoying yet another victorious night. She knew it was yet too early for anyone else to be awake but her-- she always woke up so early. She was alone, in the quiet, peaceful house, with nobody but herself and her make-belief world to fill time and space-- the best time of the day.
'Hmmm... what to play today....' she pondered 'I already played the wounded spy... so let's find something new... hmmm.... I know!' her eyes shined with inspiration. She laid herself out on the bed, closed her eyes and remained for a few seconds totally immobile....
Sheila opened her eyes warily, not wanting to show how much painful her wounds still were-- after all, she had shielded Jake with her body from the traitor's bullets to save him only so that he would be able to live on, to enjoy life-- he had always been her best friend. She was so glad that she had succeeded. And there he was, sitting at the chair, having fallen asleep... did he really care so much? had he really been watching over her sleep all these hours?...
"Mary! Get up dear, time for school!"
Sheila became Mary again with a little sigh of giving in. She got up and opened her closet door to pick her clothes from the tumble. She braced herself for another day.
Needless to say the day at school wasn't anything grand-- but there was a good point. Apart from odd or unfriendly stares nothing really happened. She wasn't called on, she wasn't picked on. She spent the breaks peacefully with the only girl that she could be with, that didn't call her names-- that maybe understood some little points in her-- Mary could never hope that nobody would really be able to understand her. Whole. But a little bit, maybe. Actually, jump-rope was a nice break from fist-fights and wrestling. The two girls giggled and laughed.
"Really Danae you can jump flawlessly for so long!" Mary giggled.
"It's nothing really, I can teach you! It only requires practice!" Danae smiled and started jumping again, teaching Mary the... method. Indeed, it was easy then. Jump, jump, jump, jump! It was so nice! Her heart racing, her blood beating at the sides of her neck, her eyes twinkling-- Jump-jump-jump!
Then the bell rang.
When Mary was returning, she felt so jubilant she forgot this was the time to play again-- it was so nice to imagine she was skipping rope all the way home, she didn't need anything else to make her feel better. She didn't realise how fast she reached home. She rang the bell to have the door opened for her, still jumping. She heard fast footsteps from inside, then the telltale click of the door being opened-- but nobody opened it for her, the footsteps paced away.
She stopped skipping. Timidly, she pushed the door and came in. What was wrong now> What had happened? She dropped her bag on the floor as usual, but an edgy voice made her stop on her tracks.
"For goodness sake Mary stop being so untidy and get your bag from there! Take it to your room now!"
Her mother was dissatisfied again-- no no! it can't have something to do with her. She tried to keep telling that to herself-- but it was hard, because she had let her mother down so many times-- she knew that if she had been her own mother she would have kicked herself out of the house in no time. She did what she was told, shaking her head sternly to herself-- for eliciting this response from her mother again-- then quietly went to the kitchen from where the voice had come.
Her mother was standing, leaning against the kitchen counter, her arms crossed on her chest. Her father was frowning-- oh, how funny and in the same time scary he was when he was this way!-- and there was also... grandmother. Now Mary knew that something was instigated by that woman. No! No, granny is so good with me, she can't be so bad, something else must have happened, a misunderstanding! Mary instantly felt like dirt for thinking so many bad things for her granny so readily. What kind of a person would she become?
"Mary go to your room." her mother said again in that reserved voice, that always told Mary how wounded she was, and how angry in the same time. She nodded, and turned to go. Her grandmother said in that infuriatingly guilt-creating way: "you poor thing, how much you are suffering too..."
Mary went to her room, and stayed there, trying not to listen to the loud voices. She sighed, as she got a rather big stuffed racoon she called Bibo and practically used it for a pillow. Talking to stuffed animals was stupid and she never did that. Instead, she called one of her make-belief friends. The spirit of MacGyver, this so damn smart fellow, that always landed on his feet answered the call. He had somehow been stuck with her during a power failure where he was somehow tossed into this reality instead of the one in the series.
"MacGyver, you solve problems... did you ever come up against something like my case?"
"Well, I never was too close with my grandparents either" the guy smiled down at her.
"And what did you do?"
"I just bore it when I had no choice."
"I don't have a choice either... "
"Well you have the choice of playing a bit, don't you?" the spirit floated here and there and grinned.
"Tell me again how you came here and you are in my head?" she asked for the story for the umpteenth time. In these times, she was able to forget that it was she playing both MacGyver and herself-- and she truly had a friend then. It was a feeling she cherished.
About 2-3 hours had passed when she heard her name being called from the kitchen again-- and she stopped wrestling with the mutated racoon, which instantly became Bibo again. She opened the door and went to the kitchen. Only her parents were there now.
"Where is granny?" she asked in a low voice, not knowing if it was prudent of herself to ask.
"She left." was the short answer. Mary licked her lips, unsure of what to say now, how to stand there, how to look at her parents. Because she knew that talking to parents after a fight with the grandparents was like walking on thin ice-- you had to be very careful.
"Have you studied?" her father asked as he sat on a stool.
"Umm... I am going to-- now--" she said quickly.
"You mean all this time you have been doing nothing? How the heck can you manage that? Aren't you ashamed of going to school like that? of being the worst in the class? Of giving everyone the right to step all over you? Are you enjoying being the last one?" her mother exploded. Mary bit her lips. She didn't like it, of course, she hated it. But there was a little mistake in her mother's words
"I am not the worst in class! There is Nick and there is Danae who--"
"Oh, and that makes you just fine right? Just because you are smart enough to weave your way through class and lessons through that doesn't mean you are being anything. You think you are really something doing that? Well realise this, Mary! In society, nobody likes the smart-- they like the hard working!"
Mary blinked. The ice had given way. Damn. Nothing went well these last weeks. She stood no chance, because her father's look implied agreement with her mother's lecture-- there was no chance of pleading sanctuary from there for now. So she had to wait out the storm, and wait to be sent to her room until dinner.
Back in her room, she told MacGyver how dissonant her parents seemed sometimes-- only yesterday her mother had told her to let the world go hang... and now she seemed to value what the world believed. Which pattern of thought was the correct one? Mary so wanted to please her parents. But she found herself at a loss on how to do that-- and most of the times she didn't make them proud, she didn't please them. It was a shame. She really was clever-- but Mary would classify herself as dumb. How can you be smart if you can't figure out how to please your parents?
"You know, parents are like that" the spirit told her. With a frustrated sigh, she made the spirit go away. This wasn't what she wanted to hear right now. "Parents are this way" was just an excuse, a justification of incompetence. How were the rest of the parents so happy with their kids.
She sighed, and hoped she was somebody else again-- but she felt so bad she couldn't pretend. And that night, the fingers were too long, and sleep too far away-- the fingers almost got her just before she fell asleep.
Day after day, some better, some worse, passed, and summer came, and school was out-- a better season to be Mary, and not somebody else. But this summer was not like the rest. School wasn't the only thing out-- the whole elementary was out. She was moving to junior high school by next year. But her parents wanted her to go to the best school-- and that school required examinations to be accepted in. Mary was awful with examinations. She hated even the word 'test', and now instead of being carefree that summer, she had to study with her mother. And her mother tolerated too few mistakes, and looked at her anxiously to try and project how successful she would be by everything they did together. It was very straining for Mary, who tried her best to please-- and only moderately did so at first, plunging her mother into despair.
"How are you going to pass when you still do these mistakes!? Concentrate! You can do it! You will do it, you hear me?" the anxious prompt was repeated day after day. And Mary really wanted to pass, so much that she actually pressed herself to study-- whenever her mother told her, that is. But that was much more than she had ever done.
Little by little, she became better and better, if only by practice alone. And her mother became more and more relaxed-- never too much, but still more than she was when they had started out. And come late August, the fingers at night were still there, but they were short and she could stretch a little more in bed. Then the examination day came.
"Come on lumple dumpkin" her mother came to wake her up this time by playfully squeezing her on the bed, just like Mary liked-- but Mary was no fool in these matters. She could see through her mother enough to know that she was a bit anxious. Not too much... but she was. Mary was as well. this was her big chance to satisfy her parents. But she smiled and played along-- no reason or gain to let her mother know that she knew. And they drove to the big school, both her parents present, smiling, accepting, hugging her to give her courage. Mary shivered to imagine how they would be if she failed. She couldn't fail-- not if she knew what was good for her. Plus, getting into the school wouldn't be bad either.
The teachers came to the assembled candidate kids and smiling, separated them in groups according to alphabetical order-- and Mary had to wait too long, because her surname started with J. Finally, walking through blurry doors and corridors with a cloud of loud kids around her, she found herself sitting in an amphitheatre and being handed a paper. Her heart beating, eyes wide, she opened the exam, anticipating arcane questions she would never be able to answer.
However, the question was answerable. She smiled thinly. Afterwards, she came to the next question. She could answer that too, she thought. She relaxed a little. She worked her way through the exam, at an accelerating pace, even though she warned herself not to get cocky, because she never really remember doing well in important exams. In no time it seemed to her, she was finished. Her parents were waiting outside, talking with other ones, and they seemed to be confident. But Mary knew better to bring herself to believe that. Like herself, her parents could be good pretenders to the outside world. But not to each other. To her dismay, she saw the parents of another good -and loathed- student. That Efi character's parents. She swallowed books as well. She would pass for sure. But now it presented a point of comparison for her own parents. She hated that. From that point on she knew she hadn't passed.
The two days that would have to pass before disaster came were dull, and ugly. She buried herself into TV programmes she didn't really watch-- if you asked her afterwards what the movie was about, she wouldn't have been able to answer. The fingers had grown again, not too much, but had gotten their normal length. The thing was, she could see them better now, and that was way too creepy. The bony fingers from where dirty linen wrappings hung ominously had the skin broken in places and the black bone inside showed. She didn't want to know how the face of that thing would look like... but she knew that its teeth were getting sharper by the day, because it felt that sooner or later she would become its pray, and then it would leave the house in search of another kid. Mary felt as if she was on death row.
The dreaded day came. Again with hugs and kisses and stuff they went to the school to read the lists of those who had passed. Mary didn't want to be told-- she wanted to find out on her own that misery for the next 6 years would start by this failure. So she went out with her father. She went down the list to reach J her mind clutching at some straw of hope.
Her name was not there.
"There you are." her father's voice was calm. But hurt. She looked at her name. Janes, Mary. She was borderline. They didn't yet know if she'd be accepted or not because she was borderline. But it was as good as having failed. They returned to the car, her mother waiting expectantly. By the looks on their faces her mother understood and she braced herself.
"We failed?" she asked dad-- not Mary.
"Not exactly... she might be accepted. She's in the borderline group." father tried to put it optimistically. But mother snorted. She shook her head and said failed, we failed. It occurred to Mary that her mother might have felt she was taking the examination herself.
"How about Efi?" her mother asked in a colourless voice.
"Efi is half as smart as you are, Mary. But she passed." her mother addressed her for the first time-- and it wasn't good. Mary felt bad, burning tears welling up in her eyes, and this time she couldn't hold them back. This time they flowed freely, and burned her.
When they came home, her mother, in fury, threw the little picture of the Virgin Mary she had by her side and that she prayed to every night-- she did so with malice, with a look that scared Mary. And she knew that it was all her fault-- her failure, the worst disappointment she had afflicted to her mother-- so big, so unbearable that she denounced her faith-- and it was she, Mary, that did that to her. How could she ever address God now? She was doomed, here on this earth as well as in afterlife. And she knew that this night it was going to be a real fight for her life. She ran to the balcony of their home. The sun was brilliant, the vines and other plants creating a literal green paradise that the best TV commercial would envy. And in this TV commercial, Mary was miserable. She wondered for the first time if Hell was not about cauldrons and fire outside, but something on the same terms within, where everything stemmed. She touched her temple, her eyes dry. Was she her own Hell? She bit her lip. Goodness, she was trying. She curled up in the chair, feeling nothing inside. She scowled. Was she that unfeeling that she could be so detached and uninterested for doing all this to her family? Because, after all, it was a disgrace. At her age everybody in her family that she knew said they'd been at least above average students.
She sighed. Suddenly she wished she could get away from all this and just start skipping rope again until she could forget everything. But then, she sat up. A thought crossed her mind. She was awful at skipping rope until Danae had shown her how. Who had shown her how to be good at school?? Nobody!
She shook her head. Nah. It was silly to expect someone to show you. All you had to do was open the damn book and read. MacGyver materialised again.
'All you have to do to skip rope is grab it and start jumping, right?'
She scowled again, and made the spectre disappear from her mind. She was so confused.
She didn't realise how afternoon came. But she saw her mother looking for that Virgin Mary picture she'd thrown away, and at least that seemed to have been mended. The personal belief thing. Maybe she'd been doing a bit of thinking too. Then she came towards her.
"You know, I wasn't being either sane, nor fair reacting the way I did." her mother said. All the tears she didn't shed came now. It was over now and therefore she could relax, and when she relaxed she always ended up wetter than before.
"Well, maybe I didn't try hard enough myself... I got cocky."
"I haven't taught you how to take an exam. Besides,. they haven't rejected you yet. And there's another good school that you can pass the examinations to get in."
Here was another chance. Here was hoping.
She entered the room of a stout and cheery lady, who sat her down in a light brown office and asked her to complete some exercises. They too seemed familiar and easy, but this time she was not cocky. She checked and rechecked as much as she could. And the results, she would have to wait for just 30 minutes to get. Much better a deal.
Her mother smiled as she came out, and patted the seat in the little couch. Mary noticed it was bright red. She kinda saw that to be optimistic as a sign. She looked up at her mother, and her father as he came in from the cafeteria with a cup of coffee.
"I think I passed this time."
"We'll see. And if you didn't, hey, nothing too disastrous."
'Yeah, only a little' Mary thought ruefully.
The stout lady came out with the papers, and Mary's heart skipped a beat.
"We will be delighted to have you with us, Mary. You did very well in your test. As a matter of fact, some of your tests scored top."
She had... succeeded!? The warm feeling was something really new. She immediately looked at her parents, and they were radiating as well. She had at last done something worth mentioning. She had done something to level with the borderline at the first high school. She didn't even hear the formalities and discussions between the stout lady and her parents. All that mattered was that she had succeeded.
Back at home, she was the queen of the day. And that was again a rare feeling, something she had not been used to. Being at the center of everyone's good attention, now that was sleek, that was the life! She thought that it wasn't so difficult after all to be like that walking pole, Stella. Plus, she hadn't swallowed any books! That was even more pleasing to her, it made her feel so much better with herself, it made her even feel a little...smart. yes, maybe after all the people telling her all the time were right, maybe she was clever! Her mother made her favourite food, macaroni and cheese, and then there was ice-cream, her favourite flavours too! And everybody kept toasting to her, congratulating her, because after all, not everybody could pass the examinations to the college she had passed, either. At night, the monster was still there, and she could feel it was angry, but she didn't care; she knew it was weak and couldn't even lift its arms, let alone have its disgusting fingers slither on her mattress. She slept more freely, taking care not to have her limbs fall off the mattress, but that was all.
"Mary! Mary, guess what, dear, lumple dumkin, you sweesweetikly thing!" her mother bounced in the room like an over happy blue jay. Mary didn't think she could be even happier than a few days before where she got admitted to the high school.
"What?" she grinned, started getting happy in advance.
"You got admitted to the School! You are in both Junior High Schools, the best two High Schools in our country!!!" she scooped up Mary, turned her a half-dome, then threw her on the bed and squeezed her in and tickled her with her hair, they then rolled on the ground together, they started running and jumping in a haphazard, totally gleeful way. When she would think it afterwards, Mary was sure that whoever passed outside the house would have paused in bewilderment.
The whole house again was in the air for at least half of the day, and Mary knew that whatever she wanted, she could have then. She wondered if it would be proper to cash something like that in-- ask something big-- like a computer. But she decided against it. Better let it sink in and cash it in bigger later. She almost giggled, a bit guiltily, because she was planning ahead again, something she had learned to do out of need. She waltzed in the balcony. That day, she waltzed everywhere she went, because she felt so higher, so untypical of herself-- she was even better than that walking pole, Stella-- she would get into an ordinary school, whereas she, the lowest student in her class, the one many considered an idiot and good for nothing (except a good punch), she was going to choose from either of the two most prestigious schools-- that was a situation she had never before been in.
Now that she had had some time to think, she lay back, looking at the happy leaves, in their flamboyant green-- how much her mood suited them now.... and how it didn't only a few days before. The thoughts she had made that evening came to her again, but from a third person point of view. Mary had always been 'thinking too much'. She knew it. She had to. Analysing her feelings of that day, even in that elementary, 11 year old level, she understood that in order to keep the present evening to a maximum and the other in a minimum, she had to seriously review school and her place in it. The two successes she had showed her she could-- therefore there was no justification to her own self now-- that she couldn't or something. And she never could fool her own self. Others, now that's another story. She smiled to herself. Her mother seemed so happy, and her father, his eyes twinkling so much. She wanted to keep them that way. At least as much as she could.
She nodded to herself. From now on, she was taking control. She would become the best in her new class. It should be easier, nobody would know how she'd been in the past there, it was a new, fresh page, a new start. She had a chance. She would grab it.
Her mother came and hugged her again. She seemed more proud, assured herself as well.
"Mary, do you want to go where they teach in both our language and in English, or where they only teach in English?"
Mary thought, carefully. She loved her country, and wanted to learn about it, because certainly in elementary school she had learned nothing.
"I guess both languages would work better..."she said. She also knew that she was making the hardest choice. She chose the top school. Her mother radiated.
"I just knew you would choose that honey. You are like me. And you know what?"
Mary smiled in her mother's eyes.
"How about I teach you how to study?"
"Of course! I teach less clever children than you are! You, my daughter, are going to be the best of my dreams. You already are."
"Because I passed the examinations?" Mary's heart sank without reason.
"No, Mary. Because you are a fighter. And I don't mean with these only" she kissed her child's small fists.
Mary felt a warm satisfaction. A feeling better than a warm blanket in a cold night. This was for good. She was a new person now, she knew it. It would take a lot of effort on the part of both her and her mother, but somehow, oddly enough, Mary was sure this time it would work. Elementary years were now officially over. It was over!
That night, Mary jumped from a distance on to her bed, still bouncing, she got under the bedclothes and stretched until her toes could reach no longer. She took a deep breath and sighed deeply. She let her hand balanced over the side of her bed, and fell gently asleep, like a feather on a windless day. The monster had dissipated. Forever.
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