Hi, Paula here.
So, this is a story that I write when ever I feel like writing. I hope you enjoy reading the thoughts of a hormonal 16 year old girl named Melissa. Please note, Melissa is my middle name, but Melissa in Call Me Mel, is NOT me. Her thoughts and emotions are her own, and NOT mine. Plus, I am not hormonal or sixteen, so that’s awkward. Although, I have to admit, I was a lot like Mel when I was sixteen…. I’d like to believe I’ve grown up a bit.
And once again, it’s happened to me. A new move. A new start. A whole new world for me to discover and explore. A bunch of new people to meet. It’s all new yet still quite old to me. In the last year alone, I’ve been to six (yes six) schools. I’m always the new girl. I don’t bother to get to know everyone at a school because I won’t be there for long. Nothing is forever.
My mum’s a business guru, or what she calls a ‘Mumpreneur/ inspiration to all women everywhere’. She’s extremely successful but insists we stay rooted and don’t become snobby and posh. If you ask me, being posh sounds like a lot more fun. So, she’s always travelling, and demands that her children go with her. She says it makes sure she doesn’t lose her ethics in the tough business empire. I think it’s because she’s worried she’ll be lonely.
My dad died 4 years ago, when Jerrica was only 6, Mark was only 7 and Alicia was 9. I was 12. Still a soppy child, but I was forced to grow up. When Dad died, Mum threw herself into her work. She’d been a stay at home mum because Jerrica had a learning difficulty. It’s weird because she seemed to lose that deficiency around the time Dad died. While my mum was a stay at home mum, she managed internet businesses; businesses that didn’t require going to an office. Didn’t demand nine-to-five action, or didn’t demand attention away from your young kids.
But as soon as He left, she switched. She called anyone and everyone she knew and started planning this business. It was crazy. It even got to the point when she took all the money out of her savings and invested in proper business courses. She’s amazing, she really is. But she works too much.
When Dad died, Mum decided she mustn’t waste any time in life.
I heard her one night. She finished tucking in Jerrica, Alicia and Mark. I pasted her room and heard her weeping gently. Not the kind of weeping like you’re in pain – the kind of weeping you do when you feel like you’re about to take a huge risk. Not sad but not quite happy; that’s what she was doing.
Slowly, I crept into her room, taking long slow strands. I hid behind the shadows her hung up clothes casted on the pale yellow wall. My mum was bent down, with her back to me. For a moment she froze, like she sensed I was there, but then she shivered and quickly went back to weeping.
‘Lord, I’m going to be strong. For my children. For my beautiful children. I can’t do this alone. I need someone. But I’ll try. I won’t give up. I’ll make my children proud of me. And I won’t stop until they are safe and well taken care of.’ With that she just lay there. Her hair spread all around her pillow, like a majestic mane on a lion. She lay there. Still as death. I felt like that was my cue to leave so I did, and I never spoke about that day. But I promised myself, I’d help me. Even if it killed me, I’d help her. She deserved it. She deserved even more. And from that day, I played husband and did everything I could to make my mum feel complete.
Another day, another school. I’ve learnt the hard way that the best thing to do is to be confident, but not too confident. Be quiet, but not too quiet. Act friendly, but not too friendly. Simple enough, right?
Wrong. Very wrong. It isn’t. Everyone wants to know your story; who you are, where you’re from, even why you transferred so late. I was getting tired of repeating the same lines over and over again. It’s like I’m stuck in a badly written play called ‘My Life’. And my character had the same plots, the same lines, the same life since the beginning of time.
“Melissa, remember to smile and be friendly with everyone. You’ll be here for a while this time, so you really have to try. I’ve got a new business plan I’m organising and it will take about a year.” Mum spoke in the most patronising tone, like I was aged somewhere between six and seven.
“Yes mother, I know. I’ve done this a million and one times before.” I didn’t mean to sound so rude – it was the usual nerves, mixed in with something else. I was anxious. Cautious. About staying in one school for so long. It was abnormal to me.
Mum glanced at me. She had a puzzled look on her face. I remembered that look. She used to have that look on her face all of the time when Dad first died. Recently, that face had never reappeared. I thought it had become extinct. And yet, here it was again.
“Melissa, I know how hard this is for you, your brother and sisters. That’s why I’ll be here to help you, every step of the way, for this year. I promise. I’m here for you, Mel.” And with that she leaned over from the driver’s seat to kiss my cheek and give me quick squeeze. Usually I was totally again any form on public display of affection, but that day, I really needed it. I hugged her back, said my goodbyes and started to get out of the car. I opened Mum’s car door quickly, suddenly eager for my challenge to begin.
“Oi! Watch what you’re doing. You could have hit me, you know.” I saw two deep hazel brown eyes stare me up and down, assessing what to make of me. Before I could even gather my breath to respond, he smiled. “I’m sorry I snapped like that. It was obviously an accident. I’m Leo, by the way.” And with that, every trace of anger quickly left his face. His large hand was left outstretched towards me a little longer than it should have been.
I don’t know why, but I seemed to lose all ability to talk or move or even breath. And obviously, Mum had to help the situation. Cutting through the silence, a high pitched horn sounded. I snapped back. And quickly took hold of the situation before Mum tried.
“Oh hi. I’m Melissa. Melissa Amadi. It’s nice to meet you. I really am sorry I hit you with the car door. I wasn’t looking. Totally my fault. I didn’t mean to, I swear.” I then grabbed his hand and began shaking it, like a crazy woman. He just stared at me. Like I was the most entertaining thing he’d ever seen. Then he smiled, a genuine smile.
“You’re kinda weird. I like that.” And with that he flashed me another award-winning smile. “Welcome to Waterfield High School. If you like, I can give you the tour.” He made a grand gesture with his arms in such a comical way I couldn’t help but laugh along.
“I’d like that.”
And with that I turned back to Mum, waved and walked away with Leo. Side by side. And began to think, maybe, just maybe, I’d be able to make it through this year.
“And this is the Library. They have the most amazing books here. And even new releases.” You could hear the passion in Leo’s voice. “Sorry, I just really love reading. I’m a bit of a bookworm. Some people even call me that.” He stopped promptly and looked away, as if he’d just willingly let his guard down, and then regretted it. I wanted to reassure him. “I love books too. I think you’ll be seeing me here a lot.” And with that, he smile again. I don’t think I could look at that smile and not smile back; it’s contagious. “That’s good. We can come here together then.” We continued to walking.
“Leo, Oh my dayz, we’ve been looking for you. Like everywhere.”
“Yeah we have.”
“Can you help us, please?”
“Pretty, pretty please.”
“Pretty, pretty, pretty please with a cherry on top.”
A trio of small, hyper girls came rushing towards Leo and I. They glanced over me, like I was unimportant and irrelevant to them. I found this hilarious because they couldn’t be over the age of twelve. One glared at me through over-made-up eyes.
“Who are you?” She said to me, one hand pointing, one hand on her hip. Before I could even reply Leo cut in. “This is Melissa, my new friend. She’s new to Waterfield.” He turned to me, “Melissa, this is Sinead, Sophie and Sade. We all call them ‘The S girls’ for short.” I smiled at the three girls before me. They just looked back. Evidently, I was a threat to them. The tension could be cut with a knife.
“Anyway, S, what did you guys want me to help you with?” The girls finally stopped watching me and looked over to Leo. “Oh yeah. We wanted to ask you if you could please do us the biggest favour and help us with Science. We have the exams on them… soon I think. And we really need help, and we heard you’re like really really smart in Science.” said Sade, who was clearly the line manger out of the three. “Well… I’m not really great at Science, so I don’t think I’d be the best person to help you. Ask Mr Lloyd, he’s a great science teacher. So sorry but I have to go and give the rest of the tour to Melissa. See you girls later.” And with that, Leo grabbed my hand and walked away before any one of the S’ could say anything.
When we turned the corner and were out of sight, his pace lessened and his grip loosened. But he never let go of my hand; it stayed intertwined with his. He started at me with those brilliant hazel brown eyes.
“Looks like you got yourself a little fan club.” I said, hoping it came across as chatty and confident. He smiled again. “Yeah. They’re adorable. They’re in the same year as my sister, so I try to be nice to them. They really are lovely; I just wish they didn’t try so hard to grow up so quickly.” And with that Leo released a great sigh and plunged deep into thought. I had only been with him for 23 minutes and I had already recognised that getting lost in thought was something he did a lot.
“So, what form did you say you’re in?” “Urmm..” I replied, unhelpfully, as I brought out a crumpled up piece of paper with the school’s crest carefully printed at the top, from my purple school bag. “I’m in form class 11PM in form room ENG4. Oh, I hope they’re nice. Leo, can you please show me how to get to ENG4?” I gazed up at him, and once again he was smiling. He knew something I didn’t. I suddenly became defensive. “What? Why are you smiling like that?” “Oh, am I smiling? I didn’t even realise. Of course I will take you to your form class. Follow me.” We then resumed back into our side by side steps, even though Leo was leading the way.
* * *
“Hey everyone. We got a new girl.” Leo happily bellowed into a classroom marked ENG4, filled with teenage boys and girls. A few turned around and gave me an acknowledging nod. A tall, well-built (although nowhere as tall and well-built as Leo) boy approached me with a sly smile I wasn’t sure I trusted.
“Hey New Girl. I’m James. But you may call me King James, the great. You got a name, or?” This boy was cocky and ever so slightly arrogant. But being a person who has spent years putting up fronts, I could tell he had a false face. “Yeah I got a name, it’s Melissa. Mel to my friends, so don’t call me that, yeah?” I smiled cheekily. James smiled back, like he understood me. We’d get along. “James, leave Melissa alone.” Leo obviously didn’t like James very much.
“Thanks for getting me here Leo. I appreciate it. The bell will go soon so you should probably go to your form, I don’t want you to be late.” “Oh yeah. I should. See the thing is…,” He said smiling, “This is my form.” I don’t think I could get tired of that smile and began walking away backwards, never allowing his eyes to leave mine. This would have been the ultimate ‘cool guy’ gesture if he didn’t trip over a girl and send her flying into the pale green wall. I shouldn’t have laughed, but I did.
* * *
When Dad died we all dealt with it in different ways. I stopped eating. I just didn’t get hungry. I couldn’t eat in the morning; I’d nibble something at lunch and drink juice for dinner. Mum was too busy to notice, although, I was extremely good at hiding it.
Until one day, at my old school, I fainted. I was rushed to hospital where they compared my weight to last year. Instead of gaining weight, as the average person does, I was losing weight, drastically. That’s when I was diagnosed with an eating disorder. Mum tried to pretend it wasn’t a big deal, but I knew she blamed herself. It’s silly, it wasn’t her fault. It was no ones. I was just a little messed up. Nowadays, I got it under control. But I’ve learnt that it’s never really gone, so I have to be careful.
“Melissa! Melissa! Over here! Mel!” Someone was screaming my name from the other side of the canteen, although I couldn’t see them. I vaguely recognised the voice.
Suddenly, a short boy with strawberry blonde hair and red round rimmed glasses stood in front of me. Despite the fact, that he looked like a cartoon character, he had a big smiley mouth that made him look friendly. Then I remembered him. “Daniel? Dan, is that you?” “Oh of course it’s me, you silly goose. Little Mel. How have you been? And what are you doing in my school?”
Dan is a family friend that I hadn’t seen in a couple years. His dad and my dad were best friends. The last time I’d seen Dan was at the funeral. The funeral..
And at that thought I suddenly began to feel sad. It must have shown on my face because Dan said, clearly concerned, “Melissa, are you okay? Mel? Don’t worry. I get it. Just remember he’s in heaven watching you. And I don’t think he’ll want to see you sad.” Dan was always quick to catch on to this kind of thing. He scooped me into a massive bear-hug, just like he used too when we were kids. Just what I needed. He then reached into his pocket and brought out a hanky. I recognised this hanky. “Oh gosh, is that your lucky hanky? The one I got you on your 11th birthday?” I cradled it in my hands, as if I was holding gold or diamonds. “Of course it is. It has never left me.” He stretched it towards me. Although it was a friendly gesture, I was hesitant to accept it. “Don’t worry Mel, I have washed it.” Good old Dan. Never fails to make me laugh.
I felt a gentle hand rest on my shoulder. I turned to see Leo’s welcoming face looking directly at me, almost like he had been searching for me. “Oh hey Melissa. What are you doing in the canteen? Year 11′s are allowed out for lunch.” He then noticed Dan for the first time. “Oh, hey Dan. I guess you’ve met our newbie, Melissa.” “Met her? Ha ha no. This girl, right here, is practically my sister. Mel, I’m guessing you know Leo.” I nodded, smiled looked downwards sheepishly. The ground had suddenly become extremely interesting.
“Sister? Wait.. What?” Poor Leo was so baffled. “I’ve known her since we were little kids.” Dan explained to Leo, “I just haven’t seen her in ages. And now she goes to my school. And she’s a beauty, look at her, don’t you think, Leo?” Leo nodded, smiled and looked downwards sheepishly, just like I had done previously.
“Stop being weird, Daniel.” I said sternly, and then quickly turned back to Leo. “I didn’t know we were allowed out. The main meal looks really nice though; I might stay in the canteen and get it.” Leo looked slightly disappointed, but recovered well. “Oh okay. I hope you wouldn’t mind if I joined you.” Leo said to the ground. Dan answered before I even had the chance, “She doesn’t mind, she’d love for you to joint her. Take care of my little Mel, Leo. Or you’ll have me to deal with.” Dan then walked away, leaving me with my mouth wide open.
“I’m sorry about Dan. He’s a weirdo, but he means well. Most of the time” “It’s alright. He has every right to be protective over you.. Um I mean. Um because.. Okay, I’ll stop talking right now.” Leo blushed, clearly embarrassed. He made me giggle, like a silly little schoolgirl with a tabloid crush.
Leo passed me a tray and we lined up for food. I got the macaroni and cheese and Leo got the fish and chip. And of course I nicked a few chips from his plate. All the while, I didn’t think about food or feeling full or not eating enough. I finished all of my lunch and I had never felt so content with myself.
“Mum! Mum, I’m home! Where are you?” I demanded, as I flung my school bag over the coat rack. “Melissa, why are you screaming? I’m right here, not in Italy. And take your bag to your room. That is for coats.” said my mother, wearing yellow rubber gloves. Evidently, she’d been doing the dishes. “Aren’t you going to ask about my first day?” “When you take all your stuff upstairs, I’ll consider it. Now go!”
“Fine!” I stomped up the stairs in such a comical way, my mum threw her soaking wet glove at me, and of course it hit me directly in the face. Mum used to be a semi-pro basketball player, she’s great at throwing. She roared with laughter, clearly proud of herself. She was just happy that my first day went well.
* * *
‘Mel, can I have some help please?’
A small voice tore into the solidarity of my room. Jerrica stood at my doorway, holding a bundle of crumpled papers. ‘My homework is so hard and Mummy is busy. Please help me Mel. I promise I will leave you alone straight away. I promise, promise, promise.’ I watched Jerrica, her little face showed genuine concern for her homework. ‘Of course Jer, I’ll be downstairs in 5 minutes.’ And with that, she smiled and skipped out of my room, in a childlike manner.
As she left, happy thoughts filled me. I love Jerrica, beyond the world and back. Of course, I love Mark and Alicia too, but Jerrica was always extra special to me. It had something to do with her learning disability. She was told, from a young age, that she will always be four years behind her peers, mentally. After Dad died, she suddenly decided that she will go against that and prove everyone wrong. I am so proud of her. Whilst I was struggling with an eating disorder, Jer was out proving her worth in this world. She’s only ten and she’s already stronger than I’ll ever be.
‘Melissa, hurry up! I need to finish it before Strawberry Shortcake: The Movie starts!’ A shriek climbed up the stairs, travelled through the hallway and came into my room. ‘Relax Jerrica. I’m coming. Strawberry Shortcake isn’t going anywhere. Just record it.’ I replied, still not moving from my position on my bed. ‘I can’t. Mark’s recording Aaron Stone. Now hurry up!’ Wow, she’s such a little madam. I hurried out of my room before Jer grew even more impatient and exploded.
Whilst leaving my room, my eyes caught on a photo mounted on my wall above my dresser mirror. It was a photo taken 2 weeks before Dad died. We were a young family, who didn’t know that their Rock, the Rock of the family, was going to leave them. If only we’d known.
But I am continually grateful that he didn’t die in pain or agony. He didn’t have a deadly disease, that slowly sucked the life source from him. He wasn’t unhappy and discontent with his life; he didn’t commit suicide and leave his wife with four kids.
All I remember is the day before he died, we went out to Our Beach. The local lido is where we nicknamed ‘Our Beach’ because we loved that place. Whenever we could, we would go there. If we could, I’m sure we would live there. The place is beautiful. The water stretches far beyond where the eye can see, and is so blue, so clear, it combines with the sky in the horizon. Huge, majestic swans and ducks claimed the water as their home. As guests in their home, we were polite to them; we always brought a full bag of bread to feed them. Dad used to always feed them out of his hands, whereas the lesser brave people threw the pieces of bread far from themselves.
I remember on that day, the ducks had had enough of small chunks of bread, and insisted on taking the whole bag. First it was one, then two, then four and then suddenly the whole flock were prancing behind the leader duck. They began charging at Dad, who threw the bag at Mum. Mum caught it and started sprinting almost immediately, but these ducks were smart. And fast. They caught up with her almost automatically. “Help! Help me! They’re attacking me!” She screamed whilst hundreds and thousands of ducks pecked away at her body parts. Although, it was evident that she needed help, we couldn’t help but watch and laugh from a distance. “Do you guys want to help me? Or are you too busy standing a laughing?” Another dose of loud laughter ripped through the air – Dad.
With that, the demon ducks forgot about Mum and became interested in Dad. ‘Oh No! Help me!’ Mum glanced in his direction, a smile on her lips.
“Sorry babe. I’m busy, standing and laughing.” Mum and Dad were ever so childish, sometimes. The ducks weren’t bored of Dad yet, and hadn’t eased in velocity either.
Dad didn’t have many options: run until his legs gave up and collapsed in a huge pile of ligaments, stand still and let them peck his eyeballs out, run to a stranger asking for help telling them how his family refused to help him, or jump in the sea. Of course, Dad chose the latter and leaped into the water, fully clothed. This seemed to intrigue the ducks as they all stood at the edge of the water, watching Dad. Maybe, he gained their respect. They left him alone soon after that.
We all ran up to our soaked dad. He sat in the shallow seabed, with a huge grin on his face. “Mel, get the camera out of the hamper. We have got to get a picture of this.” I then became ‘Photographer Mel’ taking pictures of anything and everything in the Lido. I’m so glad I did.
After the Lido, Dad insisted we go to a classy restaurant. Of course, at the time, ‘classy restaurant’ meant McDonalds to me, but we went to this family restaurant. I cannot remember the name. I really wish I could. Mum, being a lady of class she is, opposed, saying we all stank and needed to have a shower first. I agreed, the stench was eye watering.
Later that evening, when we’d all dressed up, we went to this restaurant where Dad said we can order anything we wanted. I still remember my order: a salmon terrain for my starter, 4-part chicken with spicy rice as my main and a mango sorbet. It was the most amazing meal I’d ever eaten, then again, I’d lived on mum’s mac and cheese.
Just when we began to believe our amazing day was over, Dad had another surprise for us. Daddy bought us a new born puppy – we named him Lennie. Lennie had short golden fur, which was incredible soft to stroke. He had huge dark brown eyes (I now understand where the phrase ‘puppy dog look’ came from). Dad held him in the palm of his hand, where Lennie had curled up into a small round bundle. We all thanked him, promising that we’d look after him. And we did.
“I need to get a job.” I voiced, one day in the canteen with Pen, James and Leo.
I’d met Penelope in Maths class. I’d love to say we automatically clicked but that really was not the case. When we first met, I’d found Pen quite intimidating, not that I’d ever let her know that.
“Class, this is Melissa. She’s a new girl and we all know how scary that can be so I expect you all to make her feel welcome.” Ms Snowell was my maths teacher for the year. I’d done a test that showed I was smart enough to be in the top set for Maths, Science and English despite joining the school in November. Ms Snowell seemed really nice. She had a big smiley face which fitted her big cuddly body; she reminded me of a primary school teacher. I can honestly say the comforting atmosphere she gave made me feel better about being the new girl. Although, I really did wonder how such a soft lady could control a room full of teenagers, considering she looked like she couldn’t hurt a fly. Clearly, she could as they all ended their conversations as soon as she began to speak.
“Melissa, you can sit right there, next to Penelope. She’ll fill you in with what we’ve been doing.’ Ms Snowell said, gently, gesturing towards an empty seat next to a pretty mixed race girl with curly black hair which had been dyed purple at the tips. Her hair looked fantastic.
I said thank you to Ms Snowell and quickly took my seat beside Penelope. Penelope continued to watch me, not in a rude way, but in the type of way a computer processes information obtained. I stared right back; I didn’t want her to be aware that she intimidated me. “Hi Penelope. I’m Melissa. It’s really nice to meet you.” I was the first to break the silence. She then smiled, a real genuine smile, lighting up her whole face.
“Hey, you can call me Pen. And can I call you Mel?”
“Of course you can.”
Ms Snowell then began her extremely long lesson on quadratic equations, reminding me how much I hate Maths. Pen and I chatted quietly to pass the time of the double period. To my surprise, at Lunch, Pen asked me to hang out with her
“I really need a job!” repeating myself a little bit louder. “And why do you need a job, Mel?” Pen said, clearly annoyed as I made her jump a little and made her spill her apple juice on the canteen table. “Because she wants money. Duh!” James said, looking at Penelope like she’d just asked what one plus one was. “No, actually James. I want the sense of commitment. The sense of responsibility. Of being grown up, mature. An important member of society.” I explained, standing on the chair for emphasis.
“Excuse me. New girl. What do you think you are doing? Get down from there at once, before I make you come back on Friday evening to help the cleaners clean the school.” bellowed a deep voice. It was one of the deputy head teachers, so I knew better than to comment back. I’ve only been here for a week and I’ve already heard the rumours and stories about Mr Tottle. I don’t need trouble, I thought.
“Sorry sir.” I said meekly, bowing my head as I noticed that everyone in the canteen was staring at me. How embarrassing! And my friends just laughed. “Thanks for the support, guys.” I said, giggling myself. I couldn’t help it. I had to admit it was quite funny. “Anyway, I still need to get a job. Who wants to come job hunting with me, maybe after school tomorrow? Leo?” I turned to Leo first, almost certain he would say yes. “Of course. It’s not like I’ve got anything better to do.” He smiled back. “I’ll come too. I need to go shopping.” Pen lived to shop. We all turned towards James. “I might as well come then too. Plus, if hot girls see me with you two pretty ladies, then it will be well easy to get their numbers.” James said, rubbing his hands together, diabolically. “You’re such a boy, James.” Pen said rolling her eyes, in response James shrugged. “Anyways! Thanks guys. You’re the best.” I said, genuinely grateful; for their company. I didn’t want to get all soppy and tell them they’re the only friends I’ve had in a while.
The bell rang, quickly followed by loud exaggerated groans by students realising they had to go back to lessons.
“I have French. What about you guys?” “I have English.” “Yeah, me too. I’ll go with you then.” “I have Spanish. Meet you guys at the gate after Period 6?”
Leo and I left for a double period of English, parting away from Penelope and James. We walked around the science, side-by-side when secretly I was following Leo because I couldn’t quite remember how to get around the large school. The school was like Narnia, much bigger inside than it looked on the outside.
“Mel, I don’t want to sound like such a girl or anything but I am so glad you joined our school and I’m so glad I met you. You’ve become such a great friend.” Leo said to the ground. He often had conversations with the ground when I was with him. “Thank you so much, Leo. That really does mean so much. You, Pen and James are really the best.” We smiled at each other.
I was looking at Leo when I tripped over a girl’s foot. I was sure it was deliberately put there, but I said sorry anyway. My mum has brought me up with manners, even if this girl’s hadn’t.
“Er, can you look where you are going? New girl.” She practically spat the words ‘new girl’ like it was a disease. I smiled back, innocently. “I’m sorry. You’re right. Absolutely, positively right. And by the way, I’ve been here for a week so I don’t think I’m the new girl anymore. Most people prefer Melissa, nowadays.” I heard Leo laugh at my poor joke. He always laughs at my jokes.
“Hi Leo.” She completely ignored me, which I didn’t really mind. She was bored of me and flicked her bleach blond hair in Leo’s direction. “Hi Olivia.” Leo showed no emotion greeting this girl and he seemed to not notice how pretty this girl was. “Long time no speak.” Her voice was so high and so nasal-toned I was sure dogs could hear it. Leo had no time to respond because the final bell rang and a teacher came around the corner shouting at us to hurry up and get to our lesson. Leo grabbed my hand and dragged me away, avoiding eye contact with Olivia. I, however, did turn back to see her giving me an extremely dirty look.
It looks like I’ve made an enemy.
If you are serious about getting a job, you won’t ever (not ever) go job hunting with your friends.
I wore my smartest outfit: a tight pencil skirt with a purple blouse and a fitted black blazer on top. Leo seemed to also understand that we needed to not actually look like 14 year old tramps. He arrived on time in a smart shirt and jeans. Pen and James however didn’t seem to get the memo. James arrived 15 minutes late, in what looked like his kit for Physical education in school. He also smelt dreadful, much to my dismay. Not that Penelope was any better. She arrived 5 minutes late, because she had already begun shopping, in a full leather outfit. It was like forty degrees outside. Leather! Really Pen?
Whilst Leo and I waited for Pen and James, we decided to go to a nearby café called Plusty. A pretty girl came up to us with a genuine smile. She showed us to our seat then asked for our order. I wasn’t having a good eating day. Sometimes I have bad eating days, where I eat something and I feel sick. I really didn’t want to eat but I didn’t want Leo to think I was a weird girl with problems, even though I kind of was. I laughed a fake laugh and said something about a large breakfast and not being hungry and ordered just a mango smoothie. Leo, however, in a bid to not be late to meet me, skipped breakfast. He had a full English breakfast with extra toast which he allowed me to pinch.
The waitress kept hanging around our table. She smiled every few minutes at Leo and I, cleaning the same tables around us repeatedly. I was confused as to what she wanted. “Leo, what does she want?” I whispered quietly, so she couldn’t hear. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings; after all, she wasn’t directly bothering us. “I was wondering too, to be honest. Maybe she wants a tip.” Leo said equally as quiet as I had been, digging into his wallet and bringing out a tenner. “Excuse me, waitress. Sorry, I don’t know your name.” “Me? Yes!” She said eagerly, coming over to our table. “My name is Samantha, but everyone calls me Sammy. How can I help you?” She said brightly, smiling wide directly at Leo. I then understood. “Here’s your tip. Thanks for making Mel and I feel welcome. I’m Leo, by the way. Hopefully, we’ll see you around.” Leo smiled then got up, arranging the plates neatly. “Thanks for the tip, it was really nice to meet you both. And don’t worry about that, it’s my job.”
When we got outside the café I turned to Leo suddenly. “You do get why she was acting like that now, right?” I had my hands on my hips, it was so obvious. “Yes of course. She wanted a tip and we were the only people in there.” Leo was so oblivious, it was adorable. I laughed and dragged him back to where we were supposed to meet Pen and James. Pen was standing there but James still hadn’t come. Typical.
Every business we entered gave us a ‘yeah right! You’ll never work here’ look. And I can’t really say I blame them. But it wasn’t all gloom because I really had fun with my chums. Sadly, ‘fun’ isn’t going to pay the bills. Not that I even have any bills to pay.
“I’m hungry! Let’s stop for lunch.” James moaned. I don’t really know why he was so tired, considering he hadn’t done anything all day. “Yeah. Me too.” Pen chirped in. “Pen, maybe it’s all the shopping you’ve been doing.” I said, laughing. “Well… why should I pass on such a good opportunity to shop? Can you not see all these sales? And don’t worry; I got a little something for you too, my little Mel. She pulled me into a big bear hug. Good old Pen. “Hey Mel, let’s take Pen and James to that café we went to earlier. What was it called again? Plusty, right?”
We went back to the café and saw Samantha still there, in her apron with her pen behind her ear and her notepad in her hand. She looked really tired but her face lit up when she saw us, or should I say, Leo. “Oh hey again Leo. And Mel is it? It’s good to see you both again.” “Yeah it’s Melissa but you can call me Mel. These two goons are Penelope and James. We decided to come here for lunch. Guys, this is Samantha” James pushed in front of me, and held Samantha’s hand. “I am James. It’s my complete pleasure to meet you.” Sammy politely took her hand back and smiled. “Nice to meet you too, James. And you too, Penelope. Now, let’s get you four seated with lovely food in your bellies.” She had a really soft nice voice, which invited you to have a conversation with her. I bet this girl was a singer. A singing waitress – how cheesy. Pen seemed to read my mind. “Hey Sammy, do you sing? You have that kind of voice.” We all nodded in agreement. “Aw, thanks guys. I sing a little.” She said, humbly. “Maybe one day we’ll get to hear that voice of yours.” Leo said, looking at the ground then at Sammy directly, then back at the ground.
“So, Pen, Mel what are you ladies getting? I’m paying.” James said, sweetly smiling. “Thanks James, but no thanks. We are both strong, independent women and therefore we can buy our own lunch. But thanks again.” I said, crossing my arms defensively. “Mel, my darling, how many times must I tell you? If a boy wants to buy you food, you let him buy you food.” Of course, Penelope Jones has never once told me this, but I was not ready to tell her that. “And plus, I’ve spent all my money on those clothes I bought.” “Fine then, but just this once. I’ll have a jacket potato with a little bit of butter inside, lots of cheese and a small pot of baked beans on the side. Also, can I have a large glass of mango juice. Thank you.” I looked up from the menu to notice everyone had turned to look at me. “What? I just like specific things when it comes to my food. And I didn’t realise how hungry I actually was.” Everyone laughed, including Sammy who was still stood by the table.
We invited her to sit with us for a while. She told us about how her parents own the café and make her work there for the year before starting her first year of University. She told us about how she wishes there were more employees to share the workload. Her mum and step-dad were quite strict when it came to who they hired.
I finished my meal and quickly brought out my food journal that I have to fill out after every meal. I excused myself and went to the bathroom to fill it out. It is embarrassing to do in front of people who aren’t family. Even at home, Mark makes stupid little jokes, when Mum can’t hear, about it. But I don’t really care, my food journal helps me and that’s all that matters.
Why do teenagers go to sleep so late and wake up so early? I’m pretty sure that this question has been asked from the beginning of time, and they still have not found an answer. Honestly, it really doesn’t make sense. We make ourselves lack sleep, and then complain all throughout the day about how tired we are. I was thinking about this when I bumped into someone.
I say ‘bumped into someone’ when in reality what happened was, the person, noticing that I wasn’t paying attention, deliberately stood in front of me. I mumbled a quick apology and walked away without looking at the face of the person. Although, I was pretty sure that it was Olivia as I smelt her signature scent – Vanilla Bean perfume. I’m really not sure how she manages to always smell like that; it’s like she bathes in the scent every morning. Anyway, I avoided her; I was not in the mood for confrontation.
I heard hurried steps following me, but still sure that they belonged to Olivia I refused to turn around to acknowledge them. A strong arm gripped my shoulders gently but firmly, taking me of guard. I maneuvered immediately, slightly irritated that this encounter was going to make me late to morning registration.
“Hi! You’re Melissa, right? I’ve heard a lot about you already. So, I wanted to say sorry for bumping into you. It wasn’t deliberate… Actually, it was. I wanted to talk to you.” A boy that I have never seen in my life stood nervously before me, rambling on. And do you remember when I mentioned that I was tired? Well yes, my brain was moving six times slower than usual and I was finding it difficult to process what was happening and what he was saying, let alone reply in a fully functioning sentence.
“Umm… Hi, I’m Melissa.” I replied unhelpfully. Obviously I was Melissa, he had just said that! I was suddenly even more mentally exhausted than before, due to this conversation. Look, it was nice meeting you but we have got to continue this conversation at a later date because I don’t want to be late for registration.” I left promptly, not even waiting for his reply. As I sped-walked away, I began to realize how rude I was towards him. I didn’t even ask what his name was! Turning back, expecting him to not still be there, I was utterly surprised to see him still standing in the same spot, watching me walk away. I smiled genuinely at him, praying he conveyed my smile as a sincere apology. I watched his face flicker with curiosity before returning the smile. He was cute. His smile made me feel increasingly bad for dismissing him so harshly; I mentally promised myself that I would speak to him later.
Finally I stumbled into form registration 5 minutes late, despite my efforts. However luckily for me, my form teacher assumed I got lost on the way to class and still marked me as on-time. I didn’t bother to correct him, which is totally dishonest but I was much too tired to care.
“Hey you. Why’re you so late? Get lost again, huh?” Leo said, bright-eyed as soon as I went to take my seat beside him. I smiled and shrugged to answer his questions. That seemed to be enough for Leo and he dropped the subject – thank goodness.
I was grateful for the bell signalling the next period; I had Business Studies. I’ve only been at this school for a while but the lesson you could take naps in, not that I planned on making this a regular occurrence. Leo was leading us to my Business Studies lesson like he always did when I bumped into someone, again. Seriously, why can’t people look where they are going, I was getting tired of people walking into me. I smelt that familiar vanilla scent but this time it was Olivia.
“Oh! So sorry, New Girl,” She said, emphasising ‘new girl’ like it was my name. “Didn’t see you there. Hey Leo.” I was sure I saw Leo roll his eyes quickly. No, I must be wrong, Leo is much too nice to do that. “Hey Olivia. How are you? Hope you’re good. Mel and I are going to be late so I’ll speak to you later.” “Oh okay! But how long until later?” Olivia replied, laughing at her joke to hind her deflation. Leo dragged me away quickly; he tends to do that when we run into Olivia.
“Mum, why do I have to come to work with you? Why can’t I stay at home?” I moaned, childishly. My mum was ignoring my moans and pleas as she believed she didn’t have to answer me on the account that she is my mother and mother always knows what’s best. Sadly, that wasn’t good enough for me.
“Mum!!” I screamed, determined to gain her attention. She sighed deeply, before turning to face me, clearly irritated.
“Melissa, will you stop screaming like you are Mark or Jerrica’s age. Now, I am taking you to work because I need your help for a project I am developing.” Naturally, I was intrigued; Mum never asked me for help, in fact she never asked anyone for help in general.
“What’s the project, Mum?”
“A teen magazine. A brand new, fresh teenage magazine that will cover a variety of things from fashion to sport to celebs to food and all that stuff you teenagers love. But unlike those trashy things, full of mindless mush, that are on the shelves nowadays, our magazine will be full of stories people actually care about!”
My heart was filling with glee. My mum really didn’t know it but she was making a dream of mine come true. Since I was able to read, I’ve wanted to write for a magazine.
“So, are you interested in helping, Mel?
“Of course!” I exclaimed, screaming from the top of my voice. My mum responded with a playful dirty look but she couldn’t hide the small smile that crept on her lips. She loves me.
Mum owns a large building filled with a lot of different functioning offices, specifically decorated depending on their use. The sports offices were painted bright colours that matched with their corresponding sport, and had huge windows with white netted curtains that allowed the breeze to enter. The media offices looked extremely chic, painted block colours like turquoise and fuchsia. They were all lined with bold black lines on the edges of the walls. The computers and laptops matched with the spinning chairs they were paired with. In one corner, the chairs were replaced with comfy bean bags. My mum is really specific and ensured she planned out every single room in the 263-roomed building. Crazy.
We were in the meeting room, brainstorming ideas for the magazine. The meeting room was one of the largest rooms in the whole building. Extremely spacious, the room invited you to sit on the large comfy-looking green seats and made you relax and think creatively. Everyone sat around a large oval table that was placed right in the middle of the large room. Hannah, the company’s creative director, stood at the front with a large whiteboard behind her and an iPad in hand.
“So everyone,” Hannah stated loudly, trying to get everyone’s attention. “Okay so I’m asking for names, themes, concepts, anything. Go!” Hannah was a short blonde woman who had a voice so big it made her seem bigger than she actually was. She wore bright clothes and bright blue round-rimmed glasses to match. She always looked extremely comical and she knew it, not that she minded. She called her glasses ‘specs’ and insisted that only ‘the cool kids’ wore them. If you ask me, Hannah had never (and will never) been one of ‘the cool kids’. But she was nice, fun and inventive and amazing at her job so you couldn’t really help but like her.
“How about including fun recipes?” A bald round man with a thick goatee nervously said, sitting across the table from me. I had been in Mum’s office many times, but I didn’t recognise this man, so I assumed he was a relatively new employee.
“I really don’t like that idea. Sorry Gregg, but what teenager cares about cooking. No offense but I’m pretty sure that they only care about eating food. And I have two teenage sons so I should know.” Maxine hates everything and loves to make her unwanted opinion heard loud and clear. I’m not really sure why mum hasn’t fired her yet.
Just then, someone knocked on the door. But it wasn’t the standard knock, it sounded like drumming.
“Come in!” Mum yelled, not looking up from her laptop. My mum is always busy, and even when she is busy, she’s busy.”
Suddenly, I was hit with a recognisable scent – Vanilla Bean perfume from the Body Shop. It had become an involuntary instinct for my brain to associate the smell with Olivia. My neck spun around to look at the door, expecting to see bleach blonde hair. My eyes met a familiar looking boy with deep brown eyes, a freshly trimmed shape-up and drum sticks in his hands.
“Oh good! You’re here.” My mum said, rising and walking towards the boy at the doorway. “Everyone, this is Jordan. Jordan Vin. He is going to be working with us on this project.” This boy looked barely older than me. Everyone smiled and welcomed Jordan to the team.
“You can sit right there, next to Melissa. And I really do hope that you two become good friends, you’ll be seeing a lot of each other, considering you’ll be working together.” My mum had this annoying twinkle in her eye when she said this, as she gestured towards an empty seat next to me.
Subsequently, Jordan placed himself where Mum had told him and turned to smile politely to me. I didn’t smile back. I didn’t smile back because I was still trying to remember where I knew him from.
“Well, hello there Melissa, I’m Jordan, as you know. But you can call me Jay, you know, if you like. All my friends call me Jay, you know.” He looked so genuine. “You don’t remember me, do you?” He said, tilting his head slightly so it looked like he was trying to get water out of his ear after swimming. I smiled at the thought and replied honestly, “Forgive me Jordan, Jay. But I really can’t remember. Who are you again?”
Jordan smiled back calmly. Seriously, I respect his self-control because he had literally acted like I had asked him something common or ordinary like the time.
“We met in the hallway… in school… like two days ago… you were on your way… to morning registration..?”
Then I remembered him. How awkward.
That night I dreamt that I was lost at sea in a small boat. At first it wasn’t too bad as I just lay on my back staring at the calm blue sky, rocking gently, left to right, with the soothing waves. I was alone. But it wasn’t eerie, it didn’t worry me. It was peaceful. The wind whistled, weaving in and out of the simple sails on the tiny boat.
Suddenly, the wind started to blow strongly, tearing and shredding the sails into long strips of cloth. I sprang to my feet urgently, trying to decide how I could possibly salvage them. All of a sudden, a lightning bolt violently struck from somewhere in the now grey sky and reflected directly off a gold bracelet on my wrist. Until this moment, I didn’t realise that I was wearing it, but nevertheless, I recognised it immediately. My dad gave it to me the Christmas before his death.
The winds continued getting stronger and stronger, and eventually began to pour with rain. Standing there in the rain, I then realised how alone I really was. Only this time, I felt truly alone. Abandoned. My head began to ache and suddenly I found my vision blurring. I stood in the boat that was falling apart, and circled my whole surroundings to confirm that I was indeed in the middle of ocean. There was no sight of land, just miles and miles of endless blue, where the sky connected with the surface of the water in the horizon. Surely, I was going to die. I was going to die and then go to heaven to be with my dad; that was a comforting thought.
Instantly, I woke up, finding myself back in my room. Wrapped snugly in my bedspreads and duvet, I had rolled off my bed and landed on the floor.
“Mel? Melissa? Are you okay? I heard a loud bang.” Alicia barged into my room looking concerned. Her eyes scanned my room suspiciously, widening when she found me on the ground. Alicia’s room is right next to mine, so it didn’t surprise that she heard me fall. Honestly, Alicia never entered my room without knocking, so I knew she was genuinely worried about me. In order to put my little sister’s heart at rest, I tried to reassure her.
“Hey Alicia. Don’t worry, hun, I just fell off my bed. How silly? To be honest, I think my bed is too small for me.” That couldn’t have been further from the truth, considering that I was the proud owner of a queen-sized bed. Dad used to say that they had to buy me a queen-sized bed because I was such a restless sleeper that they didn’t want me falling off the bed every night. Even though he used to say he was joking, I knew it was actually true.
“You should get up and get ready. You’ll make us late for church!”
Church has always been a huge part of my life. Always. As a family, we go to church every Sunday. We even go on Wednesday for Bible Study, and that’s for the really committed ones. I love the overall atmosphere and vibe at church. If I’m sad and I go there, I become happy. It’s not even a choice, I just become happy. Furthermore, the people at my church have known me since I was a little girl; they were my second family.
Quickly, I made my bed before running into the upstairs shower. I could not be late to church again. Mum would leave me if I was taking too long, resulting in me having to take the bus to church, which takes much longer and makes me even more late. And nothing can compare to that walk of shame us ‘latecomers’ must do in order to find an empty seat in church. My siblings always wear a smug look on their faces because they got there on time. Well, not today.
Subsequently, I sat on my bed and thought about my dream. Subconsciously, I had pushed it to the back of my mind, but thinking deeply about it I realised it had to mean something. I just wasn’t sure yet what it was.
“Melissa, Mark, Jerrica and Alicia, you all have fifteen minutes before I leave you. Anybody not ready in that time will have to take public transport to church.” Mum called out from the landing. Even though she referred to all of us, she was most certainly referring to me.
My dream continued to play tricks with my mind, the whole day. Why was I on a boat? Why was I on the sea? I can’t even swim! Why was I wearing Dad’s bracelet? I never wore it. It usually stayed completely protected in its box, in my safe, which is hidden behind the painting of Minnie Mouse on my wall. Now that I think about it, my safe is in such an obvious place considering that the Minnie painting was the only form of decoration in my room. I used to have my whole room looking colourful and exotic but when Dad died I took it all down because I felt it looked childish and immature. And at that point, I realised that my family needed me to be strong and mature. In my eyes as the time, I thought this meant I needed to forget about childhood entirely; four years on, I deeply regret throwing away my childhood and innocence. I was twelve, not even a teenager, and I never allowed myself to do things that teenagers did. My childhood was cut drastically short and sadly I had no one to blame but myself.
My room was simple now. The walls were painted white. My large wardrobe was also white. Even the sheets on my queen-sized bed were white. My whole room was the same shade of white. At the time, I didn’t realise why I had done that, but I believe it is because I wanted a blank new start, and my new white room symbolised that.
Call me Mel: An original story written by Paula Melissa.
© Copyright 2014