The sun is shining but the temperature is dropping. The breeze is crisp. I’m attempting to herd the girls out of preschool and into the van where their baby brother is waiting. My daughters are in no great hurry. They never are. Preschool is always more exciting than going home. They are chattering and skipping and giggling away; they ignore my requests to retrieve their backpacks from their cubbies. Thankfully I’m in a good mood today. This time I am happy to wait.
I tell the girls that we’re going out to the shops just as soon as they’re ready, and they jump up and down at the thought. Instantly they decide they’ve had enough of Little Woods for today. I guess the shops are more exciting than preschool.
We make our way to the sticky gate, laden with bags and coats and hats. I pass the van keys from my right hand to my left, and awkwardly pull the lock up, releasing the gate. I always have trouble with this bloody gate. Briar and Xanthe run past me happily, but I stand and wait. Their little friends are ready to leave too, and are close enough to the gate now that it’d be rude if I let it swing shut. I feel uncomfortable staring at the mother and her children as they slowly walk towards me, so I look out and away, across the road, until my gaze settles on a pair of horses grazing in a paddock on a hill. They’re wearing coats, like they’re people, and as I breathe in the cool afternoon air I remember...
School has finished but there’s ages until the bus will be here. It’s raining so we’re standing under the shelter outside the shops. Usually we wait on the other side of the road. I don’t like being over this side. It’s where all the Maoris who ride the bus wait, and they’re always so mean to me. Well, not anymore, but that’s only because Steven and Kathy come on the bus now. I’m still kind of scared of them.
Kathy has a piece of paper in her hands and she’s laughing about it. I ask what it is and she says that Rachel Leonard wrote her a letter in class today and it’s so funny. I’ve never really talked to Rachel Leonard, but I can tell she doesn’t like me. She thinks she’s so cool, even though she has really thick glasses which make her eyes look all big and googly. I didn’t know Kathy even spoke to Rachel Leonard. I ask her what the letter says.
Kathy opens the letter and she starts reading it out. It’s about me. That bitch Rachel Leonard has written a letter about me to Kathy, telling her not to be friends with me. She has written that I’m a “looser”, and Kathy is cracking up that she spelled “loser” wrong. I can tell Kathy thinks I should be laughing about it too, but just because she spelled it wrong doesn’t mean I’m not going to feel stink about it. I try to smile anyway, but then Kathy reads out the part where Rachel says that I look like a horse. My hands get all shaky and I can feel my lips wobbling a bit and it’s so embarrassing. I try to act like I don’t care. I do a little laugh, but it doesn’t really come out right. Kathy doesn’t seem to notice though, she’s too busy laughing at what a dick Rachel is for writing all that stuff.
Kathy puts the letter in her pocket.
“As if I’d stop being your friend just because she wrote that,” she says. It makes me feel a little bit better, but I still feel sick. And ugly.
I get home from school and I walk straight to my bedroom. I throw my bag on the floor and I shut the door and I lie down on my bed. I don’t have to fight it anymore. I start to cry.
This story nicely sums up everything I hate about high school, and why I now hate the word horse.