Emily Finch took a deep breath and stepped into her new sixth form college. She walked around the strange corridors with the strange rooms and strange faces. Already there were groups of girls and boys gathered in corners, their laughter and chatter at deafening levels. She clenched her sweaty palms and made her way to her form room.
In contrast to the rest of the school, the classroom was empty. As she stepped inside, Emily felt dwarfed by its vast expanse. She sat on one of the red plastic chairs, her fingers gripping the seat of it. She grimaced, as her fingertip brushed against what felt suspiciously like used chewing gum. Emily looked at the clock and watched the minutes trickle by. As it approached 9AM, Emily’s classmates sat around her in their cliques. She remained apart from them, a small island cut off from the mainland. She looked at the other students and her gaze rested on a shrieking group of girls. If this was an American high-school teen drama, Emily thought they would be the cheerleaders. They were drop-dead gorgeous with their stylish make-up, sleek hair, long legs and toned bodies. Suddenly Emily felt very self-conscious in her skinny body with her small breasts and frizzy blonde hair. She had always been too lazy to wear make-up to school, but now she felt ugly. In her old school, she had been teased for looking like a boy.
The class quietened down as their form tutor walked in. He didn’t look much older than them with his thin stubble and floppy blond-brown hair. However, his sky-blue eyes were friendly and his smile was warm.
“Hello Class. I’m Mr Thomas. I know most of you from your English classes in the lower school and I’ll be your form tutor for this year. With the exception of this young lady here,” he gestured to Emily, “most of you already know me.”
When everyone turned to look at Emily, her pulse quickened and her face reddened. Her glance shot down to the floor.
“Why don’t you stand up and tell us a little bit about yourself?”
Emily’s eyes widened. She dreaded that this might happen. She stood up and pulled down her sleeves to ensure that nobody could see her wrists.
“Hi everyone, I’m Emily Finch. I…urm like reading, video games…I used to go rock-climbing a lot with…”
“Go on.” Mr Thomas encouraged.
“I went with my dad. He was in the army. We moved around a lot, until he…he…” Emily felt her throat became itchy, as her fingertips traced over her wrists.
“Emily, I’m sorry. You can sit down now.”
“Can I go to the bathroom please, sir?”
Mr Thomas nodded and Emily ran out of the classroom.
“At this time, I ask that you respect Emily’s privacy. Please be sensitive and give her as much space as she needs.” Mr Thomas sat down at his desk and wondered how he could have been so stupid. He had already been briefed about Emily’s past.
“Olly, Trish, Lois? How can I help you?”
“Could we go and see whether Emily is okay,” Olly asked, “since she’s new here, I think we should look after her. Make her feel welcome.”
Mr Thomas smiled. “You’re good kids. I think you all have similar timetables to her, so that would be a good idea.”
Olly nodded and led Trish and Lois to the girls’ toilets.
Emily was sitting on the toilet and staring at her wrists. Could she do it here? Now? She wanted to. Just to feel happy again. Just to feel again. She reached into her bag and grabbed hold of a clear plastic case. Then the door knocked and she shoved it out of sight.
“Emily, are you okay in there?”
“Who is it?”
“It’s Trish and Lois. Our friend Olly is waiting outside. We’re in your form class. Can you come out?”
Emily stood up and unlatched the door. She stared at the two girls and let her arms drop by her sides- her sleeves falling over her wrists.
One of the girls was mixed race with frizzy hair, like Emily, but brown instead of blonde. The other girl was a pale white with flaming auburn hair.
The girl with frizzy hair spoke first.
“I’m Trish and she’s Lois. Let’s go outside.”
“I’m Olly. Are you alright?” A boy with thick curly brown hair held his hand out. His eyes lying underneath horned-rimmed glasses were inviting and warm. When she took his strong grip, she felt something that she hadn’t felt for a long time.
“Emily, let’s go to the common room.” Olly commanded. His voice was so encouraging that Emily could not help but obey. The four of them went there and sat down together.
“Now, do you want to talk about what happened?”
Emily looked downwards and tugged on her sleeves. She clenched her eyes shut, but that didn’t stop a tear falling out of them.
“Hey, hey, it’s alright. You don’t have to tell us.” Trish put her arm around Emily’s shoulders. Lois told the other students who were looking their way to mind their business.
“Remember, how I said that my dad was in the army? Three years ago he was sent to Iraq and…well”
“Oh God,” Olly exclaimed, “that’s awful. I’m so sorry.”
The bell for first lesson rang. “Mr Thomas said you have art with me now. Come on. I’ll show you the way. See you guys later.” Olly stood up and Emily smiled at the girls before following him out of the common room.
Trish shook her head. “Bloody hell. I never would have expected something like that.”
Lois nodded in agreement. “I know what you mean. Did you see her wrists? I saw them, despite how hard she tried to hide them.”
“I saw them too. Do you think we could get Olly to talk to her about them?”
“Emily’s known us for like twenty minutes. What makes you think she will want to listen to Olly or any of us for that matter?”
“Oh come on. Did you not see the way Emily was looking at him?”
“What? You think she likes him? I repeat. She’s only known him for twenty minutes.”
Trish shook her head. “God, you can be so bloody dense. Is it really that surprising? Olly’s cute. He’s kind and he’s a leader too. He’s the one who suggested that we should help Emily.”
Lois smiled. “It sounds like you like him now.”
“I had a crush on him a few years ago. What? I was twelve years old. I didn’t know anything! Anyway, it doesn’t matter any more, but we should try and help Emily as much as we can.”
Emily was feeling much happier by the end of the week. Even though it had only been a week, she had made firm friends with Olly, Trish and Lois. Before they had left school on friday, they made plans to go rock-climbing at the weekend. When Emily got home, she walked past her mum who was sleeping on the sofa. This didn’t surprise her. Ever since her dad had died, her mum had been accepting more and more work at the hospital. She worked during the night and slept during the day. It was her way of keeping busy, Emily guessed. Emily drew a blanket over her mum and headed up to her room. She stood in front of the mirror and took off her long-sleeved shirt and jeans. She started tracing the markings all over her body. Staring from her thighs, leading upwards to her wrists and arms, some old, some new. She smiled, as she realised that she hadn’t touched the clear plastic case, since the beginning of the school week. She put on her pyjamas, picked up her diary and curled up in bed. Her dad had always said how important it was to show your emotions rather than bottling everything up. It was what made you human, he said. Emily picked up a pen and started writing.
I can’t thank you enough for buying me this. It has helped me so much ever since you left. You’ll be so proud of me. I haven’t done it in over a week. I just started a new school and I’m loving it. I’ve made three great friends who you would have loved so much. There are two girls: Trish and Lois. They’re great together. They have this great rapport and are like a comedy duo. They’re both so pretty too. Trish has frizzy hair like me and Lois is a gorgeous redhead. They were really nice to me on my first day. I started thinking about you and I almost slipped, but they got me through it. Then there’s Olly. I don’t know what to say about him. I think he’s the first boy who looks at me the way you used to. You had just been sent to Baghdad by that time, but the other boys at my old school always looked at me like I was one of their own. They never saw me as a girl. It sounds so stupid, but that’s exactly how Olly sees me. He makes me feel pretty. God, now that really does sound stupid. I sound like one of those twelve year olds who thinks they’ve just found love. Dad, I miss you so much. Ever since you left, mum has started working so much. I barely see her anymore.
I love you, daddy.
Whilst Emily usually would have liked to sleep in on Saturdays, today she was awake bright and early. She left her mum sleeping away her night shift and walked down to the local climbing wall. Already waiting for her were Trish, Lois and Olly. Olly was in shorts and a t-shirt, whilst the girls were in sports leggings and vests.
“Hey, Emily. Do you ever wear anything other than those long-sleeved shirts? You’re going to boil in that.” Olly gestured to Emily’s shirt.
“I’ll be fine. This is cotton. It’s very light.”
Olly made a face. “Even so, cotton will just absorb your sweat. It will cool your body down faster. You’d be better off with what the girls are wearing.”
“Yeah, Olly’s right,” Trish agreed, “we’ll take you shopping sometime and help you get one.”
“Please don’t bring me.”
Lois rolled her eyes. “Well, of course, if we’re going shopping, we’re not going to bring a whingebag like you with us. We already have Trish for that.”
“Shut up, Lois.”
Olly chuckled. “Come on. Let’s get kitted up.”
The four friends were standing in front of the walls warming up. Trish and Lois had partnered up and Olly would be with Emily. She was stretching her arms, when she noticed Olly giving her a strange look.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to stare. You just have a nasty looking cut on your wrist.”
Emily’s eyes widened, as she instinctively pulled her sleeves over her wrists.
“Nothing happened. I…I…just fell and scraped it. I’m a klutz.” Emily saw Olly nodding, but knew that he didn’t believe her.
“Are you ready, Emily? I’ll race you to the top.” Trish was standing by her side.
“You’d probably win. I haven’t really been climbing since dad left.”
Trish winked at her. “You’ll be great.”
“On your marks, get set, go!” Olly and Lois called out together.
Even though, Emily hadn’t been climbing in years, she quickly fell back into it. Using hand and foot, she propelled herself up the wall. She was going strong, until halfway up when she had to take a break.
“Take a load off, Emily. I’ve got you.” Olly called up.
“Come on, Trish! You’re losing to someone who hasn’t climbed in three years.” Lois called next to him.
“Shut up, Lois” Trish called down.
Emily smiled and sat back in her harness, trusting in Olly. She looked upwards and plotted a route to the top. She flexed her wrists and powdered her sweaty palms with chalk. She looked downwards and saw that Trish was gaining on her. This catalysed Emily into action and within minutes she had reached the top. Once there she sat back in her harness and walked her way down the wall. Once she was back on solid ground, she turned to Olly.
“Did you see me get all the way to the top?”
“Yeah you did great, Emily.” Olly hugged her and Emily felt enveloped in his protective embrace. Reluctantly, she let go of him. Behind her Trish touched down.
“Why the hell did you lose that, Trish?”
“You know what, Lois?”
Olly chuckled. “You guys never stop, do you? Anyway, next weekend, my parents are having a barbecue and you’re all invited.”
Before Emily knew it another week of school had flashed by. It was Saturday morning and she was so excited for the barbecue. This was a time for Olly to see her in a social setting. She wanted to wear something nicer than her boring skinny jeans and plain long-sleeved shirts. She had virtually turned her wardrobe inside out finding something to wear. Finally, she had found a yellow sun dress that she hadn’t seen in years. It had been a going-away present from her father and she had always meant to wear it when he came home. Emily smiled. She would wear this. She put it on and realised that it left her marked arms and legs exposed. She put on a jacket to cover her arms and a pair of black tights to hide the worst of her legs. Now to do something about her frizzy blonde hair. She sat down at her desk and straightened it. Afterwards she put on a little make-up. The whole process took about two hours, but Emily wanted to look her best for Olly.
Emily arrived at Olly’s house at 1pm sharp. When Olly opened the door and Emily almost died at what she saw. Olly’s hair looked gorgeous. He had straightened it and it was now rich and flowing. In one ear was a piercing that she had never seen before. He was wearing chinos and checked t-shirt.
“You alright?” He asked.
Emily realised that she had been staring. “Yeah…yeah you just look really good.”
“Thank you. You look very pretty of course. Anyway, come through. Trish and Lois are already here. I’ll introduce you to everyone.”
Emily followed Olly to his garden, where Trish and Lois were standing by the barbecue. Using tongs, Olly picked up four burger patties and put them in buns. The girls helped themselves to everything else. Emily enjoyed the next two hours. Olly was the perfect gentleman. He introduced his friends to everyone at the barbecue. Trish and Lois soon wandered off, but Emily stuck fast to Olly. She hoped she wasn’t being too clingy. She liked the way he laughed, the way he could carry a conversation. At half three, there was a cheer and Emily could see a large crowd gathering around a man with thinning hair and a sizeable gut.
“That’s my dad! Come on, I’ll introduce you. Careful though, he’s larger than life.” Olly led Emily to his father.
“Hey! It’s my genius son, Olly,” the man bellowed out, “he’s always getting top grades and the ladies love him.”
Olly smiled away his embarrassment. “How’s it going, dad?” He held his hand out.
“What? Are you too embarrassed to give your old man a hug?” He said, before pulling his son in a crushing embrace. The crowd laughed, whilst Emily thought she heard bones crunching.
“Olly, you haven’t introduced me to your pretty friend.”
Emily giggled and held her hand out. “Hi, Mr Bellamy. I’m Emily Finch.”
“Good to meet you and call me John. Cor Olly, you didn’t tell me your girlfriend is such a looker.”
“Dad! Emily’s not my girlfriend. She’s like a sister to me.”
Emily’s smile collapsed, as her gaze hit the floor. She sniffed and clenched her eyes shut. Before she lost control, she ran into the house.
Olly glanced around and grabbed Trish and Lois, before going to find Emily.
Emily was sitting on the toilet dabbing her eyes. So this was how he really felt? How could she have been so stupid? She didn’t care anymore. She took off her jacket and took out the clear plastic case from her handbag. She found a patch of unmarked skin on her shoulder. She unfolded her penknife and pressed it into her skin.
“Emily! I’m sorry if I said something that upset you. Please come out.”
Emily ignored Olly’s voice behind the locked door and edged the knife across the shoulder. A trickle of blood rose to the surface. She smiled, but tears still stung her eyes. She found another patch and began pressing the knife down again.
“Whatever you’re doing, just stop.”
“Leave me alone!”
“We just want to help!”
“Leave me alone!” Emily whipped the knife across her skin leaving a fierce burning. She liked how it felt. Her tears rolled into her fresh wounds making them sting. Emily found an old scar and started digging the knife in. There was a sudden crashing noise, as Olly kicked the door open. He took the knife out of Emily’s hands.
“Come with us. We want to help.”
Emily looked down at her arms with all of her old and new scars. She looked up at her friends with concerned expressions on their faces. Before she could cry anymore, she stood up and ran out of the house.
I’m so sorry I let you down today I cut myself twice it would have been three times if Olly hadn’t taken the knife of me but he doesn’t know that I have more oh dad I was so wrong about Olly he doesn’t like me like that I feel like such a fool I know you always said that there’s nothing wrong with showing your emotions but I feel like an idiot for feeling like this for complaining about it for sounding like a pre-teen who thinks they know what it feels like to have their heart broken. What makes it worse is how I’ve pushed everyone away Olly Trish Lois everyone I don’t know what to do daddy I miss you so much I wish you were with me now I could really use your help.
On Monday morning Emily felt like she had started a new school. The faces she knew had become cold and hostile. The once familiar corridors felt distant and barren. Emily stayed away from Olly, Trish and Lois and it hurt that they stayed away from her too. This was why she was so surprised when Trish invited her to her house on Saturday.
On Saturday, Emily was sitting on Trish’s bed opposite her and Lois.
“I’m surprised you guys wanted to see me. We haven’t spoken all week.
“We thought it best we give you some space,” Trish sighed, “have you…urm..cut yourself any more?”
Emily subconsciously rubbed her forearm under her sleeves.
Trish bit her lip. “We’re worried about you. Please next time you feel like doing that, call or text one of us instead.”
Lois nodded in agreement. “We think that you should tell someone about this, your mum or Mr Thomas or someone.”
Emily chuckled. “I’ve barely spoken to my mum since dad died. And Mr. Thomas, what can he do?”
“Why not Olly then? His dad works for a charity that helps people like you.”
Now Emily was annoyed. “If you wanted me to talk to Olly, why isn’t he here now?”
Trish and Lois looked at each other and shared a mental dialogue.
“We know how you feel about him.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Emily mumbled.
“Come on, Emily. It’s pretty obvious by how much you stare at him. I mean, he’s cute, but he’s not that cute.”
Emily shook her head. “It doesn’t matter now, does it?”
“It does matter,” Lois disagreed, “you should tell him.”
“I can’t, not after what happened.”
“You can and you should.”
“I can’t! Did you hear what he said about me at the barbecue? He said I’m like a sister to him!”
Lois growled, before she slapped Emily. “Jesus Christ, are you just going to sit there and cry or are you going to do something about it?”
Emily ran out of the room in shock.
“Bloody hell, Lois. What the hell is wrong with you? She cuts herself.” Trish whispered the last part.
Lois ignored her and went to the bathroom, where she could hear Emily sobbing.
“I’m sorry, I did that, but it’s what you needed to hear. The way I see it, you have two choice. You could just complain like an annoying boy or you could do something about it.”
There was a brief pause as Emily unlatched the door. She saw Trish standing next to Lois.
“Whilst Lois might have been a bit extreme, she is right. As perfect as Olly might be, he is still a boy and therefore completely clueless. Seriously, you could be dropping the most obvious hints and he would still be oblivious.”
Emily smiled. “You guys are right. My dad always said to take every opportunity you can. To seize the day. I’ll do it.”
Trish and Lois squealed in excitement. “I’ll invite Olly around tomorrow and you can tell him then. We’ll back you up.
“Thanks guys. I think I’m going to head home now.”
“You’re not going to-”
“No. You know what,” Emily reached into her handbag and drew out the clear plastic case. She held it over the bin and dropped it in, “I don’t need it anymore.”
Sunday lunchtime and Emily was back in Trish’s bedroom. Whilst she and Lois were making lunch, Emily was waiting for Olly to arrive. She was rehearsing what she would say to him. What had kept her up all night long.
“You can do this. Do it for dad. Do it for you.”
“Are you talking to yourself?”
Emily shrieked. “I didn’t hear you come in.”
Olly laughed. “How are you doing?”
“I’m alright. Sorry about the barbecue, what I did to your bathroom door.”
“No worries. Trish said you wanted to tell me something.”
Emily nodded and rubbed her scarred wrists. “This isn’t easy to say, but I…I…like you.” Emily looked up to see Olly’s pained expression.
“Oh Emily, I’m sorry. What I said at the barbecue is true. I…I just want to be friends.”
Emily nodded. Only one or two tears fell from her eyes.
“It’s nothing to do with you. You’re great. I’m just not looking for that now.”
“It’s alright. I understand.” And strangely enough, she did.
“I best leave now. See you tomorrow?”
Emily nodded and was surprised to find herself smiling. Soon after Olly left, Trish and Lois entered the room.
“How did it go?” Trish asked.
“Not well, I’m afraid.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Are you okay?” Lois gave Emily a hug.
“Funnily enough, I think I am. I’m glad I did it, you know. I’m glad it happened. I’m going to head home. See you tomorrow.”
you would have been so proud of me these last couple of days. I threw away my knives. That’s right. I’m not going to cut myself anymore. I don’t need to. And that’s because I told Olly how I felt today. He didn’t feel the same way, but I’m not too upset. I expected it and I’m ok. I took your advice and I seized the day. Sure it didn’t work out, but I still did it. You always said that life is too short to worry about things you can’t control. And you know what? You’re right. That’s enough now. It’s time to move on. It’s time to move on. It’s time to move on.
I love you Daddy,
So I had three main reasons for writing this story.
1) I wanted to see whether I could still write. This is the first piece of prose that I have written in over a year and I wanted to see whether I could still pen something worth reading. I mean to start writing my novel Reset very soon, so I thought that this would be a good practice run.
2) As you might have noticed by my article and performance poem, I have become really interested in the concept of the friendzone and I wanted to write a story about it. I also wanted to write it from a female perspective, as firstly I generally write from a male perspective and I thought it would be a challenge, but I also thought that in these situations you never really hear the girl’s side of the story. It is always the male who is complaining, so I wanted to give a voice to girls in this situation.
3) I wanted to write a “conventional” love story. The three love stories I wrote prior to this: Lip Ring, Spring and Summer and For a Drive are quite unconventional, so I wanted to write something a little closer to the norm. Whatever the norm is.
I quite like “Like a Sister,” as a title, but if anybody thinks they have a better suggestion then please let me know. Thanks to Catherine, Lerisa and Arvie for beta-reading this.