Behind Closed Doors

School is meant to be a safe and friendly environment specially designed to encourage friendships and education. This was not the case for Claire Jones who had attended St. Mark’s Secondary School for two years. She lived just five minutes from the school and up until six weeks ago had always enjoyed her time there. She was a very conscientious student, not overly intelligent by any means, but always did her best at everything and had a good relationship with the teachers.

She was not one of the most popular kids, she had a very plain face, her body had not developed as much as other thirteen year old girls and boys did not even notice her, as if she were invisible. Monday mornings always filled Claire with dread. The sickly, stomach churning feeling was the usual way she felt at the beginning of the school week. For some unknown reason, the first day back after the weekend was always worse than the rest. As Claire walked along the terrace she could see the school gates. She jumped suddenly as two year seven children rushed past her, laughing and joking.

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She felt the breeze blowing her dark brown hair onto her face, as she put it back into place, she noticed the sky was a soft pastel shade of blue with very little clouds, quite crisp for an April day. As Claire approached the entrance to the school she let out a big sigh and walked through the gates. She knew that very soon she would come across the reason for all her apprehension, Amanda and her cronies. For the past month and a half or so, Amanda had made Claire’s life a living hell. Claire tried in vain to recall what had triggered this torrent of abuse and hostility. She could think of nothing.

Now every day it was like a mission for Amanda to think up some knew way of inflicting misery on Claire. First lesson today was Maths, which was not too bad for Claire as she sat at opposite ends of the room from her. As Claire sat down at the front of the class she could feel Amanda’s eyes peering into her back. She did not dare turn around as she knew from past experiences that this would only infuriate her more. Instead she got out her books and waited for the teacher to begin speaking. As the lesson drew to a close, she began to feel nauseous again, knowing that something was about to happen.

As Claire was sitting next to the door, as soon as they were dismissed, she fled with her best friend Lesley. Lesley was used to these kind of antics, so she played along and the two of them hurried down the corridor towards the yard. The outside area was quite large and the two girls made their way to quiet little corner where they hoped they would not be seen. This was not to be. Claire looked on helplessly as she saw Amanda and her two buddies, Sarah and Louise heading towards her. Amanda had a big grin on her face as if she had just won a prize.

As they came closer Claire noticed just how big this girl really was. She had fiery red hair which hung just below her chin and looked like it hadn’t been washed for days. She must have been around 5 foot 10 inches tall, as she towered over her two friends. As they approached, Amanda took one look at my friend Lesley and told her to get lost. Lesley knew better than to argue the point so she left Claire to whatever punishment was to be dished out today. Amanda looked straight at Claire, not saying a word, she knew this would unsettle Claire. Eventually she reached out and grabbed Claire by the wrist.

She twisted so hard Claire thought it was going to break. She screamed for Amanda to stop, but the more she screamed, the harder she twisted. Her friends stood in the background egging their friend on. Eventually she stopped, turned Claire to face her and spat, straight in her face. The three of them then walked away laughing, not saying a word. Claire fell in a heap on the ground. Her wrist throbbed with the pain, but all she really felt was relief, it was over, for now. Eventually, she plucked up the courage to go to her next lesson, she knew Amanda was not in this class so she felt a lot more relaxed.

As she entered, Lesley was waiting for her, she looked so scared and full of self hatred that she did not do more to help. Claire had constantly told her friend, this was the only way, it was madness for both of them to go through this. Claire had tried to get help to stop this. She told her dad what was going on, but as he was an ex sergeant in the army, his response was to stand up for yourself and not be a coward. Lesley had tried to convince her to tell a teacher, but she felt they would believe Amanda instead of her , because as far a she knew, she had never bullied anyone else.

For some reason, she was special. Claire just wished she could work out what that reason was. The rest of the day went by pretty smoothly. Claire walked along the corridor towards her final lesson. She noticed the smell as passed the toilets where there were a gang of older lads hanging around laughing and joking. Just around the corner she saw one of the younger boys leaning out of the window, spray painting the wall outside. Before she knew what was happening, she realised Amanda was waiting at the end of the hall.

There was no time for her to turn around and run, Amanda was faster than her anyway, so she continued walking. Amanda looked more angry than usual, the big grin had left her face. She walked up to Claire and kicked her in the shin. She told Claire that was just for starters and that she would be waiting for her after school. Claire hopped off to her lesson, wishing today was over. Chemistry was never easy at the best of times, but today Claire could not concentrate at all. She wracked her brain for ways she could avoid Amanda. Eventually, she accepted the fact she would just have to face her.

As the bell rang, Claire gathered up her belongings, made an excuse to Lesley why she couldn’t walk home with her and made her way to the exit. She walked as slowly as she possibly could so that most of the other children would have left, there was nothing more embarrassing than having and audience. As she pushed open the doors, she glanced around, noticing only a couple of sixth formers chatting near the gates. Where was Amanda? Seizing this opportunity, Claire made a dash for the gates, praying that Amanda had been given a detention or something even worse.

Her look was in. No sign of her or her pals anywhere. Even though Claire’s wrist and leg were throbbing, she walked home happier than she had for a while. She knew it would all repeat itself again tomorrow, but she would deal with that then. After a good nights sleep, Claire woke up and felt an ache in her leg. As she reached down, she noticed how swollen the area was. After a nice long shower, she felt ready to face the world. The walk to school today seemed to take longer than usual, as she hobbled along with her leg still hurting.

At the school gates she noticed Sarah and Louise talking to each other. This was an unusual sight as normally the girls were never seen without Amanda leading them. Claire took this as the perfect opportunity to sneak past without any trouble, as the pair never started anything on their own. Claire was puzzled as to why Amanda was not there, in all the time she had known her, she was never off sick or anything. Smiling was something Claire had done very little of lately, but today she allowed herself a little one, thinking she was safe, for today anyway.

Claire headed towards the toilets on the second floor, on her way to history. These toilets were out of the way, so were not used as much as others. Inside, she heard a noise from one of the cubicles, but Claire just carried on minding her own business. As she was washing her hands, the noise got louder, someone was now sobbing uncontrollably. Claire asked if everything was okay and to her surprise she recognised the voice coming inside. It was Amanda. Claire didn’t know whether to run, go and get help or to just laugh at the idea that she was now hurting.

Claire’s conscience didn’t allow her to do either, instead she pushed open the unlocked door and saw Amanda, crouched up, sitting on the floor. Her face was red from crying, she looked like she had been there for ages. Amanda looked up and met Claire’s eyes, she had never seen anyone look this sad and upset before. As she looked more closely she noticed a small cut just below Amanda’s eye. It looked like someone had scratched her. Claire’s first instinct was, at last maybe she knows what if feels like now, but she soon softened as it wasn’t in her nature to be so nasty and vindictive.

Claire asked Amanda what had happened and who had done this to her. Amanda responded by telling her to get lost and mind her own business or she would be sorry. Claire then told her she was going to get help from a teacher. This made Amanda jump up and she began begging her not to tell anyone. Claire gave her an ultimatum, she either talked to her or she was telling someone. It took Amanda about ten minutes to clean herself up and calm down. She then looked at Claire and asked why on earth she would want to help her after the way she treated her. Claire just smiled. Amanda then began telling Claire the most horrific tale.

Amanda’s dad had left her and her mum five weeks earlier after a terrible argument. Her mum had taken this really badly and instead of being strong for herself and her daughter, had turned to drink. Amanda broke down again as she explained how her mother had changed into a violent and uncaring drunk. The way her mum had treated her was unbelievable. She was made to feed and take of herself, as well as running around doing every little thing her mother wanted doing. The violence had so far been taken out on things around the house, until last night when her mum got in such a rage, she lashed out at Amanda.

A tear rolled down Claire’s face as she struggled to listen any further. This explained the way Amanda was behaving towards her. Although she could not condone her behaviour she was beginning to understand it. The bell rang and startled them both. Amanda rubbed her eyes and pushed past Claire. She ran along the corridor and Claire just watched her go, still trying to take in what she had just heard. Claire went to her lesson but could not concentrate at all. She knew she had to do something, but what? She knew Amanda would kill her if she spoke of this to anyone, but she couldn’t just do nothing.

She decided to go and see a teacher she had become quite close to. She knew she would be understanding and do something to help. Mrs Dodds had always been a favourite of Claire’s since she started this school. She had the most caring face Claire had ever seen, she never walked past without saying hello and giving you one of her huge smiles. She knew this was the right decision. It was lunchtime before Claire caught up with Mrs Dodds. She had deliberately walked the long way to her office and noticed there was no sign of Amanda, she was probably hiding out somewhere.

As Claire told the story she had heard this morning, her teachers face was calm all the way through. She did not looked shocked and took it all in her stride. She left out the part about the way Amanda had treated her, she felt that she was not important at that moment. Mrs Dodds wrote a few things down, then thanked Claire and said everything would be fine now and she would sort it out. The rest of the day went by very quickly, Claire couldn’t keep her mind on anything and even Lesley noticed her head was somewhere else. She told her she was just tired.

As Claire left the building she remembered she had left her homework in the last lesson so she went back in to get it. By the time she came back out all the children had gone. As she walking towards the gates she heard voices. She turned around and saw Mrs Dodds speaking to another lady. She wondered if it was about what she had said or just something to do with school. Her question was then answered, Amanda walked out of the office and joined the other two ladies. Her head hung down and Claire wondered whether or not she had done the right thing after all.

Claire stood and watched as the lady put her arm around Amanda and guided her towards the car. As they came nearer, Amanda looked up at Claire, stared at her for a few moments, then smiled. It was not the same smile Claire had seen only yesterday when she was hurting her, this was a meaningful smile. Claire returned the gesture then she watched as Amanda got into the car with the lady. She assumed this lady was from Social Services or something. As they drove off, Claire could only pray that this would end in happiness for everyone. Somehow.

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