Sitting in the school hall, I fiddle with the ties on my dress, waiting for the rest of the classes to come in. The Year 6 children are last, and they’re allowed to sit on benches at the back of the hall—that will be me next year.
Assembly time is most definitely the most boring part of the school day… ask anyone. We have to walk in single file with our ‘silent voices’—which is ridiculous really, as it isn’t a voice at all if it’s silent, is it… someone ought to tell the teachers this—we have to sit in silence, and then we have to look at the front, and only the front, where our head teacher stands with her hands clasped in front of her.
I’m sitting next to Jack, a boy in my class. He was new just before we broke up for the holidays, so I don’t know him very well. I do, however, know that he smells a bit funny, like a sausage pan or something, so I try not to turn in his direction, just in case I get a whiff of him. Daisy, my best friend, is sitting next to me on the other side which is a bit of a treat really, as we’re not usually allowed to sit together because we talk too much.
I don’t actually agree, because I don’t talk very much to anyone at all. Daisy does all the talking. In fact, she talks to whomever she sits next to, not just me.
“Good morning, children.” Mrs Harris’ voice booms across the hall and makes me jump.
“Good morning, Mrs Harris, and good morning everybody.” The whole school choruses together in whiny, sing-song unison that makes me cringe every single morning.
“We have a visitor in our assembly this morning, who has come from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children to talk to you about something very important.”
My interest is piqued momentarily as I hadn’t noticed the stranger sitting on the chair near the front, and I flick my eyes over to him to see if I can guess his name. It’s a game I like to play in my head. I’m usually quite good at it.
“So, I’d like you to sit up straight and give our visitor, David, a warm welcome.”
Damn. I thought it might have been Paul, or John.
Mrs H nods towards the stranger who smiles at her politely and gets up from his chair, walking slowly but animatedly to the front of the hall. He claps his hands in front of him and bends slightly at the waist, glaring at all of us with an almost manic grin plastered across his face. “Good morning, children. I’m David, and I would like to tell you a story.”
Well that’s just great.
Whole school stories are usually completely babyish and geared for the reception children, so when he starts with ‘once upon a time’ I pretty much switch off, and as time ticks along, I become increasingly anxious for the whole thing to be finished so that we can go out to play. My attention is jolted, though, when Daisy elbows me and whispers in my ear.
“Can you smell him from here? ‘Cause I can.”
I frown and look at her. “Who? David?”
“Jack… Burger Boy. He stinks of burgers all the time. Can you smell him?”
I glance towards Jack who is listening attentively to The Storyteller, and I discretely inhale deeply to see if I can actually smell him today.
“Eurgh. Well I can, even from here. You must have a cold or something.”
“So… can anyone give me a definition of what they think bullying is?” David’s question has nearly the whole school sitting up straight, their hands shooting in the air and their hands flapping whilst they hyperventilate in an attempt to get his attention and answer the question. There is some lame sticker involved, or an ironically pointless house point, for the person who answers correctly.
“Yes. What’s your name?” He points to Jack. Burger boy…
“Okay, Jack… go ahead.”
Jack looks down at his fingers that are entwined in his lap and lifts his huge eyes up to look at the visitor. “Well, it’s when someone is unkind to another person, but not just once. It’s when it happens over and over again by the same person, to the same person, making them feel sad, or hurt, or… worthless.” His voice is a little croaky, like when you first wake up and before you have had a chance to talk to anyone. I wonder if it’s the first time he has talked to anyone today… surely not.
Break the Cycle is an anti-bullying anthology of 14 stories by 14 different authors. Each story features a different scenario.
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