“Nancy,” said Mum, as she appeared, dishevelled, flushed and resentful. “There’s no need to sulk. You got out of helping with Sunday lunch. Now I have the whole family coming for Grandpa’s birthday tea. I want you to top, tail, peel and grate those carrots”.
“But, Mum …”, Nancy began, eyeing what looked like an hour’s skin-blistering work. “I’ve got maths and …”
“Never mind that now, Nancy. I need you to use some elbow grease. But wash your hands first. They’re grubby.
“Dad and I are getting worried about you. He’s noticed that you’re growing up. But you don’t seem right. Maybe we should think about a bra and something to hold your tummy in. You’re looking lumpy. At your age you should be starting to take a pride in your appearance. Your hair looks as though you’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards.
“And I must say”, continued Mum, “I didn’t like how you behaved while we were on holiday. You over-ate at meals and kept snacking on crisps and chocolate although I told you to stop. Also, I’d like to know why you stayed in your room almost every day watching television. Why didn’t you try to make friends with some of the other girls there? They had great fun splashing about in the hotel pool. I enjoyed chatting with Leanne’s mother, Mrs Hallam-Evans. A very refined, educated person. She noticed that you rarely went outside and when you did appear, you kept your nose buried in a book. She wondered if you were ill.
“Leanne’s a lovely girl. By the end of the first week she’d caught the sun and looked like an advertisement for healthy living. She reminded Dad of a young film star, although he didn’t say which one. He was most taken with her red curls, large green eyes and wide smile. He said he’d be really proud of such a pretty daughter who’d won a prize for maths.
“Have you done your maths homework, Nancy? Y’know Dad’s going to give you extra geometry questions every night to help you get through the entrance exam to The Hollies. Leanne’s already passed the test to the independent school near to where she lives. Mrs Hallam-Evans – ‘Muriel’ – says she’ll be studying applied maths and computer science at Cambridge. Leanne knows what she wants to do, although, like you, she’s only eleven years old. I’ve not heard you mention what you’d like to do, Nancy. You can’t spend the rest of your life mooning about like a sick calf. Now what have you got to say for yourself?”
“Mum,” responded Nancy at last, staring angrily at her now orange-yellow fingers, “I stayed upstairs a lot because I was trying to keep away from Leanne. She told me on our first day in Ibiza that I was fat, had big, thick lips like Dad and it made her sick to look at me. The hairs dangling from Dad’s nose also made her feel ill. She wanted to know why he didn’t use a clipper to cut them. She also said that if he didn’t stop calling her ‘Carrots’, she’d complain to her father and have him arrested for abuse!
“Also, she said she didn’t want to go to university and that maths was so easy it bored her. She said she was going to ‘escape’ from home as soon as possible and become a famous rock singer and would call herself ‘Auburn’ or maybe ‘Russet’. Her agent would advise which name suited her best.
“Anyway, Mum”, added Nancy, “I’ve something really bad I must tell you about me. There’s blood in my knickers and I’ve got a bad pain down here,” she added, pointing to her pelvis.
“If it’s my period, does it make me smell? I heard Tim being mean about me on the phone to Ollie as I ran down stairs”.
(Copyright, Natalie Irene Wood – 17 March 2013)