Marion Hayden is our school counsellor and now an award-winning author!
Through her eyelids she could see the shifting light as the passing clouds made their slow and steady pilgrimage across the sky, caressing the sun and moving on. She sighed and rolled on to her side, shifting her weight to rest her head on her hands, pillowing her cheek. Her hair fell in waves across her face but she did not move to pull the strands back behind her ears, it felt good to have that curtain, that protection. Keeping her eyes closed, she felt the grass against her forehead and her pillowed hands, wet with the lasting drops of the passing afternoon shower. There was something she loved about the feel of the sun across her face after the rain, a sense that nothing was ever constant, that we move and change, moment to moment.
She opened her eyes slowly and surveyed the world around her through the curtain of hair. She could see the blades of grass, and the wildflowers, tall enough to reach her knees, greeting her, twinkling in the moisture and diamonds of the sunlight. Small white butterflies flitted around her motionless body, moving in time with the gentle breeze. Keeping her hands pillowed under her face, she exhaled a sharp breath to move the hair obscuring her view. Puffing out a small amount of air, her hair only moved a fraction, which continued to cover her eyes. With another sigh, she hooked the rebellious hair behind her exposed ear and returned her hand to cushion her cheek, warm now from the heat of the sun. The hill she lay on dipped down into the lower part of the garden, the yellow daisies proud and tall, stretching until the rock wall of the garden’s perimeter.
“We shall never be mowed...” they whispered.
“Sure...” she thought, and smiled at the thought of talking daisies.
Rolling on to her back again, she threw her hands out on either side of her body and ran her fingers through the grass. A passing cloud threw the garden into muted shadow and the diamonds stopped twinkling, the daisies quieted and the world held its breath. She too stopped breathing until the slow emergence of the sun and the warmth upon her bare skin again.
“There is such a reliance on the light...” she thought to herself “...a guide when the dark is at its peak and we are blind to find our way....but,” she mused “we can only know the light exists and its place in this world because we know the dark...” With that, she shaded her hand against her eyes from the re- emergence of the sunlight. She frowned and thought about her own personal dark, her worries and fears. They seemed to overshadow the light within her and she wished she could let them pass like the clouds above, letting the sunshine in more often than not. Life was never easy it seems.
“Life...” she murmured and sighed, wiggling her toes in the grass, closing her eyes...
“Yes, life...” returned a small voice. She snapped her eyes open and sat up quickly, resting her body on her elbows behind her and looking around her for the source of the small confident voice. The garden continued to be empty, save the wildflowers, daisies, and increasing number of small white butterflies. She held her breath again and waited to hear the voice a second time, eyes wide and ears open to any sound.
“Hello?” she asked tentatively...
“Hello!” the voice replied and she started suddenly with the close proximity of the sound. With no one else present in the garden, and only the slight breeze to move the ever growing wildflowers she mumbled to herself “ I must be losing my mind ...”
“Oh no, “the voice replied, “far from it!
“Who are you?” she exclaimed, drawing her knees to her chest and looking around her wildly.
“Why, I am just a butterfly,” the voice responded seriously. “A....a buttefly?” she asked incredulously.
“Of course, every great garden has butterflies!” the voice cried “we are, of course, the keepers of the sunlight dance.”
“The what?” the girl asked, eyes still wide in confusion
“The sunlight dance,” the butterfly answered patiently. With this information she surveyed two small white butterflies dance across her vision and she questioned her sanity.
“Butterflies...” she thought and watched them flit about the wildflowers. After a moment the voice continued,
“The sunlight dance is when the rain has ceased and the sunlight returns to caress the life around us! It is the dark and the light, the clouds and the sun, the way we continue, on and on...”
“I see.” she whispered, still confused.
“Do not worry yourself with the business of butterflies, “ the voice said with a dismissive tone, “but we do have advice for you, you of the lounging of the garden type...”
“Lounging of the garden type?!” she said defensively, “I was only taking a five minute...”
“No matter!” the unseen butterfly interrupted, five suddenly flitting by her vision, “but we must give you guidance, we have agreed, since watching you.”
“Ok....” She responded in a suspicious voice.
“You think too much,” the butterfly explained “let it go.”
“Let what go?” she asked incredulously.
“It! Everything....do not be plagued by life’s worries, fears or unknown....just be. Let go! As the daisies say “we will not be mowed!””
“They actually say that?” she asked in bewilderment.
“Of course!” the voice said “it is their mantra, their everyday look at life! To be thought as to be cut down each day, would they live as they do?”
“I guess not...” she answered tentatively, looking around herself warily.
“Exactly! You think too much, just be. Enjoy the light that comes after the rain as you have already experienced, the kiss of the warmth with the passing of clouds, for this! Is life.”
With that, the already now accumulated 10 butterflies dispensed amongst the garden and she was for a moment awestruck with what had occurred.
“Hello?” she said quietly “are you still there?”
The quiet was both curious and pleasant, and she strained her ears to hear the small confident voice return, but no one, human or butterfly responded. After a few minutes of listening and watching the twinkling sunlight of the garden, she slowly lowered herself on to her back and thought
“Well, I guess I just have to “be”...” and she smiled to herself in the sunlight of a magical knowing “...because the butterflies said so.”
Alex Taylor explores bullying in this excellent non-fiction piece
"Puff!" "Faggot!" "Homo!" These are a few of the words to describe people who are gay, pan or bi. These words are intended to be offensive and humiliating. So why, I ask you, why is everyone afraid of being called gay? It is because of bullying & homophobia. Before I detail the ways in which I try to resist & combat homophobic bullying, I shall first share an experience that happened a few months after I declared my sexuality.
History was always my strongest subject growing up, I knew all about colonialism, imperial warfare & I even excelled in ancient History (Aztecs, Mayans etc.). That was all until the arrival of a new kid at our school, let's just call him Jack (this, of course, isn't his actual name). Jack only really had one friend who I actually got along with. Each History lesson, they would sit at the back of the class and distract & make fun of all the students. I took no notice of them until my teacher moved them next to me. Jack finally had someone he could laugh at sat on his table, he immediately began making fun of me & distracting me (my grades in History went down a lot). One day however, he somehow found out that I was pansexual. Jack was a typical macho-man & he noticed my lack of participation in PE lessons, my questionably real tan plus my dress sense. All he needed to finish the puzzle & make me his prime target was the fact that I was indeed pan. For the next few weeks, I couldn't go anywhere on school grounds without Jack & co following me & pecking my head. He locked me in toilets by pushing his weight against the door, stole my bag & phone only to throw it in the trash can & of course, use homophobic words & actions towards me. I didn't see it as bullying, the last time I was bullied, I was about 7 years old, so I didn't really know whether it was bullying or just him being annoying. Instead of telling an authoritative figure, I simply let him carry on until he got bored & went for another kid. It all stopped however, thanks to my really supportive friends & an incident in the changing rooms. I was taking my hoodie off, when a small tube of strawberry hand cream fell out my pocket & on to the floor. Jack picked it up & immediately recognized it as make up. Of course, he soon started uttering some of his usual cracks before getting very slanderous & homophobic, even taking digs at my family members. My friends, however, who were already in the changing rooms, stepped in & began defending me. Jack seemed very embarrassed by all of this & so he stormed out of the room, swearing & cursing. He has since never spoken to me again, I requested to change my Geography & PE lessons so that I am not with him.
My friends & peers were extremely supportive of me during this time & I am confident that he will not try & harass me again. My sexuality, has of course, surprised a lot of people & I have even lost a very close friend in the UK because of it. I have also had a few family members take digs at me. So to all the LGBPs who are reading this, don't let a few lost friends get in the way of who you are as a person. Just because you are attracted to a certain person doesn't change you & if your friends cannot accept you, they are not real friends; you will find real friends along the way!
I would now like to detail a few ways that I combat homophobia, be it in school, at home, in town or even if it's happening to someone else.
Stick with your friends!
A little while ago, I was in a hotel visiting a very deprived town in England. In the hotel, were a group of rather rough kids. After grabbing my phone, reading the messages & noting that I had pictures of myself with other boys, soon began their parade of homophobia.
Luckily, I had met two friends who were absolutely supportive of me along with some adorable Scottish kids who had lots of questions for me relating to it. With my new found friends, the group kept themselves to themselves & I ended up having a good week.
This taught me that friends will always be there for you matter what, so go make some!
Everyone can & will tell you this, but stay true to yourself & be proud pf who you are. It annoys bullies. If you try & change yourself for a bully, the bully has won. So be proud!
The internet is a wonderful place. It has everything, you can connect to people from all around the globe. When your friends aren't there, the internet is full of advice forums to help combat any form of bullying. One that really helped a friend of mine, is psychforums.org, as well as bullying advice, it has advice on abuse, addiction, anxiety & even psychotic tendencies.
During my experience with Jack, I had so much going on, Drama & Football after school, blog writing, climbing, photography, out with my friends on the weekend. All this helped me forget about Jack. So find things that take your mind off your bullying experience
I have one last thing to say to all the LGBPs reading this. "No matter what anyone says, you're all beautiful & amazing people who deserve all the respect in the world. There is nothing harder than coming out so do it with pride & love. And remember, if a homophobe targets you, just remember, we are the most stylish people out there!!"
And to all those getting bullied for other reasons, read my tips & remember, you are also beautiful & incredible people! Stay fabulous!
Winner of the Grade 9 and 10 Fiction category
After studying the novel Spies by Michael Frayn in class, we noticed many themes that are explored throughout the novel. One of these themes, and one of the most prominent, is bullying. We see the relationship dynamic between the bully and bullied, and understand further the mental and physical implications caused by this unhealthy relationship. This is a fictional piece of writing reflecting my interpretation of this kind of toxic relationship through the perspective of a teenager struggling with physical identity inspired by this novel.
My dress looks okay.
I already know that Vanessa is going to look beautiful, obviously, but at least she’s going to make me like her. Sadly, she reminded me that I can’t wear my black embroidered dress with the lace detailing, as otherwise it would seem as if I’m copying her. Thankfully, to compensate for the dress, she caked me with heavy foundation and bright red lipstick, saving me from being a total disappointment. Thanks to her I am wearing makeup to school every day, to fool people into thinking I’m pretty, and I feel mildly improved.
I leave for the party, by bus, nibbling on an apple. The hunger doesn’t disturb me anymore, it’s almost comforting. It feels as if I’m taking a stand and actually doing something to be liked, and distracts me from the reflection in the mirror. Vanessa has taught me so much: I don’t eat lunch anymore, and I’ve lost 4.5 pounds this week alone. Hopefully by next week I will have lost enough weight for her to finally notice.
I see her, in the school parking lot, posing beside the limo she reserved. She’s stunning. I know now why she didn’t let me wear that dress. It’s a black shimmery strapless maxi dress with red Jimmy Choo high heels. She looks like a model. I only aspire to be like her. I wobble towards her, as she inspects my attire:
“You’re a complete mess,” she sighs, “and what did I tell you about eating? I’m trying to help you, Lisa, but I don’t know if you’re presentable enough to come with me.” She waits a second, not allowing me to speak. “I’m so disappointed… I really thought you were my best friend.”
My cheeks feel hot with embarrassment. Why didn’t I make more of an effort? I wish I could just crawl back into a hole, unnoticed, lose this weight and be pretty, for once. Be popular. Be like Vanessa. Be anyone other than Lisa, that ugly girl who still takes the bus.
“I’m sorry, Vanessa, I didn’t mean to disappoint you…You see, I am trying…. Maybe if I found the right dress…”
“Oh Lisa, no dress is going to fix this. You need to make more of an effort because you’re making this plainly difficult for me… Here’s an idea: Why don’t we go tomorrow and fix your hair? This dirty, inadequate blond is definitely not helping this situation.”
I take a deep breath. She’s not done with me yet. I kind of like my hair, it’s the same colour as my dad’s, but for Vanessa, I’ll change anything. Maybe this change is what will make a difference, giving Vanessa no reason to ever be disappointed in me again. But unfortunately, there’s always something that makes me disappointing.
“That sounds perfect. Thank you for helping me, Vanessa.”
“I’m glad. But tonight, I’m going to dance with better-looking people, Lisa. Is that okay? Good. I’m going to walk in and you can walk in after me, but 10 minutes later. Okay? Good girl. Now go and wait over there, we don’t want people thinking that this is your limo, do we?”
And with that she slithers away with two boys wrapped around each arm, and marches into the party. I hear the sound of everyone cheering at her arrival, and I can only imagine them handing her drinks and trying to have her dance with them. Suddenly I feel so jealous. I wish I was her. Everybody loves her, cherishes her, and wants to be her friend. She’s so much better than me. I don’t even know why she speaks to me.
I make sure that 11 minutes have passed instead of 10, as her rules should never be broken, before making my way to the party. I feel slightly giddy with excitement, and for a moment I forget all about how I look and what others think of me. I open the doors and I am greeted with pink and blue lights, moving in sync with the beat of a song that I’ve never heard of.
When the doors shut behind me, the music stops. Everyone turns to me. It all feels slightly staged, but I stand there awkwardly until I’m asked for my name. I’m not on the list. I am hit with the realisation that I was Vanessa’s +1, and that by me not going with her, I can’t come to the party. This is her punishment, and I have to live with it. This is what you get for being ugly. There’s more to it, though: she made sure all the popular, important people in the grade are at this party, so that they can observe the moving performance of my being rejected. Drops of sweat fall down my neck as the growing uncertainty of my fate is determined by one person: Vanessa.
People begin to laugh, and a few of them whip their phones out to snap a photo, others start booing. My eyes begin to sting without my consent, and I let out a small cough. I feel so small, so helpless. From the corner of my eye, I see Vanessa smiling, with her phone out, wearing that stunning dress with the red high heels, and I feel worthless. I’m so sorry, Vanessa, I failed you, I deserve this, and I will accept my punishment.
Hearing my thoughts, like the director of a play, she tells everyone to settle down, glides through the crowd and announces to everyone that I am in fact her +1. She then smiles a goofy smile at me, wipes away my tears and sooths me with the fact that I look presentable in this lighting. I let out a deep sigh. She let me stay.
Winner of Grade 11 and 12 Fiction
Pavlo had been a soldier continuously fighting for the sole purpose of valour and earning the finest and last medal of courage. He had suddenly been bombarded in the trenches, and this is how he had been pronounced dead. Before his death, he was amongst his comrades who silently despised him for his bravery and consistent persistence to fight the ongoing war; they all wanted to return home, safe and sound. Except him; Pavlo had never found true meaning all his life due to constant movement from foster home to foster home and never had met his real parents. He had no guidance in life except for in war, as this is what brought him satisfaction. Harsh routine, camaraderie and fighting for a cause were the factors that ended up bringing him to his knees after a frenzied attack on the German front against the French army.
As the soldiers raided Pavlo’s belongings prior to his burial, they found nothing but efficient weapons and sufficient food supplies. They searched and searched for anything meaningful to potentially send home to his initial foster shelter, and finally saw a gleam of silver light shine through his camouflaged armor. They picked it up, briefly analysing it but not thinking much of it, and proceeded to throw it into his pile of belongings. In reality, this silver-plated locket was Pavlo’s most prized possession; he withheld this in the pocket closest to his heart due to its symbolic meaning; it had belonged to the only person who had believed in him since the start. Engraved on the locket was a woman’s initials; “Lily” it said, in Old English capital letters. It had gotten quite rusty due to its age, but in Pavlo’s eyes, it was a timeless item.
Lily was the daughter to the parents’ he had been sent to, his third foster home to be exact. The foster home he left when he was drafted to war. The locker belonged to her; she wore it around her neck everyday, and it was a valuable piece that had been passed to her by her grandmother, however she insisted for Pavlo to keep it.
Due to the insensitivity he was consistently used to, the constant rejection and feeling of eternal emptiness, it felt as if she had finally been life’s gift to him. She had been the only person he had ever felt a deep sentiment of warmness in his heart for; he was close to telling her he loved her, only to be announced the drafting shortly after admitting to his profound feelings. Lily cared about him, she truly did; she had learned everything about him, however she was disgusted by the war; she disagreed with the politics of it, the morals, the principals and everything. She assumed everyone that was drafted had gone voluntarily and not by obligation. When he was drafted, she insisted he could run away. That they could leave together. Pavlo, however, admired the concept of war. The bravery, the valour you could obtain from participating in such intense battle.
As the soldiers scavenged through his bunk, a letter tucked into the pillow cover, crumpled up, was found. One of the soldiers, known as Jim, read it aloud, in a stern voice.
I haven’t heard from you, even if you had sworn to write me every day. Maybe my letters haven’t gotten to you.
I tell the kids about you all the time. Charles and I are getting married and we wanted you to come when this is all over. I made sure it would take place when you get back from the German fronts.
Charles’s bank says they can get you out of this early. Please write to me, if you get this.
I still think about you every breathing moment.
The letter strongly smelt of amber and lavender fragrance. Perhaps this is why he tucked it into his bedding; for remembrance.
Perhaps it was fear of his own feelings, his own humanity which caused him to join the war so eagerly; to run away from his potential destiny with Lily. Perhaps it was just to have purpose.
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