I’m in the kitchen, unloading the dishwasher and filling it straight back up with the bowls and measuring cups and spoons I used to make a chocolate cake. Briar and Xanthe are sitting at the table. It’s afternoon tea time. They’re eating shortbread and drinking milk out of straws. No one is talking and I can tell the girls are tired. Exhausted. Briar has been close to tears all afternoon, and Xanthe’s already had a major meltdown. I’m hoping the biscuits will cheer them up.
Briar looks up from her shortbread. She has something to tell me. I stop what I’m doing and I lean against the bench to show her I’m listening. I’ve been waiting all afternoon to hear how she got on at school today. She hasn’t said much yet.
“Today at lunch time I went over to Mia when she was standing next to the big whale, and she told me that she wasn’t playing with me,” Briar says. I look away for a moment because my heart is aching. I know what that’s like. I know how that feels. I never wanted that for my daughter. Mia sounds like a right little cow. I look back at Briar and I casually ask her if it was just because Mia didn’t feel like playing, but she tells me that wasn’t the case. She tells me Mia was playing with all the other girls, but she just wasn’t playing with Briar. I feel sick. I’m studying Briar’s face and it doesn’t look like she’s too upset, but I can’t stand it anyway. I push my emotions away and I smile and I ask her to tell me who she played with instead, and she looks up at me with her big blue eyes and a solemn face and she says she didn’t play with anybody. She says she didn’t want to play. She says that she sat outside by herself and thought about things. She says she thought about how tired she was, and she thought about coming home. My five-year-old daughter sat in the playground, alone, wishing she could come home. My throat hurts. My eyes sting. I am devastated and furious and I feel like it’s all my fault.
“Oh well,” I say, “you’re home now, aren’t you? So that’s good. And tonight you can go to bed nice and early so that you’ll feel better tomorrow.” Briar nods and goes back to her shortbread and milk, and as I stand in the kitchen watching her I remember…
The bell just rang. It’s lunch time. I’m not sure what to do. It’s my first day here and the dean wasn’t ready for me and she sent me back home. She told me to come back at ten thirty. So I came back when she said and by the time she’d talked with me in her office and given me some text books it was half-way through third period, and I had to come into my new maths class halfway through the lesson. I don’t know where anything is and I don’t know what to do.
Everyone else is streaming out of the classroom and I’m just sitting at my desk. Waiting and feeling like a total loser. I see the girl that the dean asked to show me around at lunch time walking towards me, and I start to smile, but she walks straight past my desk and out the door. I should have known. Her skirt is short and her hair is dyed and her face is covered in makeup. Of course she didn’t want to talk to a geek like me. My stomach hurts.
The class is empty so I get up and walk down the stairs and out into the sunshine. It’s lunch time but I’m not hungry. I can’t eat. I walk around the outside of the building I just came out of, D Block, and I’m back to where I started. I can’t walk around it again or people will think I’m a total freak. I spot an empty bench and I walk over to it slowly and I sit down with my school bag on my lap. I’m just sitting here. Alone. It feels like everybody is watching me.
Time is really dragging. I don’t have a watch on so I have no idea how long I’ve been sitting here. I have no idea how much longer I have to wait for the bell to ring. It feels like forever. A bunch of maori girls come and sit at the bench next to mine, and I don’t know where to look, don’t even know how to hold my face. I’m such a loser. They think I’m an ugly loser. They look over at me and they ask if I smoke and when I say no they laugh and call me a geek. I don’t know what to do, so I just sit here. I wish I knew where the library was. I wish the bell would ring. I wish I was at home. I wish I’d never come to this stupid school. I wish, I wish, I wish.
And my day only got worse from there, but I'll save that story for another day.