The Girl From Loanhead


Posted by in January's Magazine

I am not sorry, I thought, my heart pounding, as I sat waiting.

It began the day before in the school tuck shop. “A frozen Mars Bar please…No, on second thoughts, make that a Marathon…och no, I’ll have a Mars…” I stretched up onto the tips of my toes to peer over the tuck shop counter (I was small for thirteen) and my short bob swung forward as I watched the prefect almost disappear into the freezer.

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A Marathon was plonked onto the counter. I didn’t say anything. A Marathon would do. I pushed over my money and came down off my toes, putting my purse into my bag. As I did so, I felt someone behind me. There was a sudden swish of viscose against nylon, and I gasped in horror as my underskirt was pulled down around my ankles. I’d seen this happen before to other unsuspecting students. I just had to keep calm, forget all the faces looking at me.

I stepped out of the crumpled burgundy and lace slip and screwed it up into the palm of my hand, pushing it deep into my blazer pocket where it bulged. There, it’s gone. It never happened. Blocking out the shrieks of laughter around me, I walked away to my next class.

It was a relief to get on the school bus at the end of the day. Sharon was at the back, showing everyone the wooden spatula she’d made in woodwork that morning. Laura said, interrupting my thoughts, “I heard you got caught out by Joanne and Susan at lunch time.” I blushed, realising my underskirt was still in my pocket.

“Look!” Sharon squealed, pointing over to where the Bonnyrigg bus was parked.
I could make out the familiar figures of Joanne and Susan, lanky bodies jerking violently as they swung their arms around what I could make out to be a girl, with a thick mop of red hair. When they finally clambered onto their bus, the frightened girl remained; dishevelled red hair, oversized blazer and a pair of white socks – one much lower than the other.

“It’s that Mandy Price! The weird girl from Loanhead!” A voice piped up from the back of the bus.
Mandy was in a few of my classes. She always kept to herself. I was struck by the expression on her face. She looked dazed. I recalled that morning in the tuck shop and how I’d felt.

The Loanhead bus began to reverse. The bus was leaving without her. There were peals of laughter all around. I felt sick. The Penicuik bus was last to leave. I slid down into my seat as we drove away, Mandy remained, alone in the car park.

The following day at school I couldn’t forget the look on Mandy’s face. I’d felt strange coming in on the bus that morning. Sharon had prattled on about some sixth year boy she fancied. I had just stared out of the window, leaving Laura to listen.

Mr Brown, woodwork, ennui
Woodwork was first period. My stomach flipped when I realised Joanne and Susan were in my class. As long as I kept a low profile, I assured myself, I’d be fine. Susan picked up one of the wooden spatulas that were lying on Mr Brown’s desk. “What are we bloody making these for?” Mr Brown looked at Susan disapprovingly as she threw the spatula back down so that it bounced onto the floor. I tried my best to avoid her gaze, keeping my eyes fixed on the door, which is when Mandy suddenly came in to view. Late for class and a vision in red: red blazer, red hair, red face.

“Hey! It’s Ginger!” shouted a Mayfield boy. Susan and Joanne threw their heads back in exaggerated laughter.

Mandy looked awkwardly around the class: a sea of faces staring back at her. Someone was sniggering. “Come and join us!” Joanne called over to her. Mandy looked pleadingly at Mr Brown.

“Do what you like…” He said dismissively with a flick of the hand. “Now class…” he began, “I want each of you to take a piece of wood out of the box, and cut it in half. You’ll need to place it in the vice so be careful. I don’t want any accidents.”

“Here”, said Joanne, winking at the Mayfield boy. She handed Mandy the block of wood. “Hold it in the vice for me, while I turn this…”

Mandy nervously took the piece of wood and stuck it between the two metal plates, and waited. Everything seemed to happen in slow motion. The vice closed, catching the side of Mandy’s hand. Joanne, undeterred, kept turning the handle. I watched in horror as Mandy’s ruddy cheeks turned pale, and she released a piercing child-like scream. The next thing I knew, I was at Mandy’s side, having pushed Joanne to the floor. I quickly unwound the vice, freeing her trapped hand. I wanted to say sorry. Sorry that we’d left her alone in the car park. But I didn’t. I just looked at the blood blister beginning to form on Mandy’s hand where the vice had gripped the skin. Mandy pulled her hand slowly from mine with a small grateful smile.

It was only later when Sharon caught up with me in the toilets that I discovered a fight had been arranged in the PE Department at lunchtime between Joanne and…me!

“You’re really in for it now.” Sharon said pulling a dramatic face. Thanks for your support, I thought despairingly, just before my heart started to pound so loudly that I was sure Sharon could hear it.
So, now I was waiting – sitting on a wooden bench in the PE department for Joanne and Susan to arrive. I’d heard there would be a big crowd coming to watch. I hoped Sharon and Laura would come. I looked down at my navy tights, snagged in places with a ladder peeking out from beneath my skirt. I felt sick, but I’d been feeling that way for a couple of days, I now realised. I could hear the shuffle of feet along the corridor, and the gathering whispers of “fight, fight.” I didn’t regret what I’d done. I was glad. The PE doors swung open – I took a deep breath, and stood up, straightening my skirt.
It would soon be over…

One response to “The Girl From Loanhead”

  1. Michael Grieve says:

    Ah I remember running the Tuck shop in Sixth year and selling many a frozen Mars Bar

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