‘I am Linzi Stewart and I come from a two-parent family’.

This is an extract from a teenage/young adult novel I wrote about ten years ago. The novel was tentatively called The Rabbit Whisperer, and this was the first chapter. I hope you like it.

 

‘It was such a humiliating spectacle.’ Sounds great, doesn’t it? I got it from one of my Mum’s Jane Austen DVDs, and it means something is the pits and makes a person’s life not worth living. No other description sounds quite right. Nothing else explains the depth of the misery I suffer constantly because of my selfish parents.

They got married seventeen years ago. After two years, they had my brother Warren. Two years after that, they had me, Linzi Stewart, and two years after that (are you detecting a pattern here?) they had my stupid little sister, Jo.

Jo is now eleven years old, and we all live in a nice old house just a short walk from my school. Please note I said, we all live there, because, incredibly, in an act of pure unreasoning selfishness and without a thought to what their children might suffer, my parents are still married! To each other! How could they? I am a laughing stock in my school.

Why am I telling you all this? Because Ms Sideboard found out from my parents that I want to be a writer or a journalist or a reporter or something when I leave school, and she has set me homework to do all this year. I have to write a journal – which is a diary really – and she told me to put in it what I really feel not just what I think I should write, but what I really want to write. She said if I don’t want her to read it, she won’t, but I have to show her it every week to prove I’m doing it. She gives me class points, and puts two gold stars on the board every week when I’ve done it. Which is good because I’m not the most popular girl in our class.

Everywhere I go, people point at me and laugh. Or sometimes they turn away in horror. On other occasions, I hear them say things like, ‘There goes that girl with two parents.’ Then their friends say, ‘I know, and they’ve never been married to anyone else.’ Then everyone will shake their heads and say, ‘It’s so sad.’ If it’s Sophie Green and Kully Kaur they say, ‘And in this day and age too, it shouldn’t be allowed! It’s abuse!’ and they always look as if they’re about to burst into tears because of the Great Compassion my situation makes them feel.

My parents are the greatest embarrassment in my life. Not only are they still married to each other, but everywhere we go, they hold hands. Sometimes they stop and have a kiss, which makes my stupid little sister laugh and say, ‘Ah, they’re so sweet.’ And my brother always pretends he’s going to be sick. I just pretend I don’t know them.

I mean, I know all parents are evil, but no one else’s are as evil as mine. They are determined to make my life as miserable as they can. In fact I don’t think anyone else in the whole world has a family as bad as mine. Cinderella’s family were saints by comparison.

I’ve just gone up into the next grade. For some reason our Headteacher, Mrs Winterbottom decided that in the second week of term, all classes would have a ‘Meet My Parents’ evening, so our teachers could get to know our parent and their partner(s), or in my case parents.

Honestly it’s just like being a Kid again, we did exactly this when we went into the second term of Reception year. We have to make sure our parents turn up, (in Reception we had to make an invitation on the back of a cereal packet and decorate it with glitter! That is so lame!) then we have to drag them over to our teacher and make a formal introduction like in Jane Austen and then we have to leave them to ‘chat’ whilst we go and get them paper cups of warm watery orange squash and a floppy paper plate with a broken biscuit. Who does Mrs Winterbottom think we are? Kids? It’s really pathetic.

It’s bad enough having a home life that’s a nightmare, but I’ve got at least another four or five years of school, more if my parents get their way: ‘You’re bright enough to go to university, Sweetheart.’ If they get their way I’ll be lucky to leave school before I’m seventy.

So the worst twenty minutes of my life was about to begin. My parents wandered along to school last night to see my new teacher Ms Sideboard. It was a nightmare. They started before we even got there.

On the short walk to school, I’d spent a few desperate minutes trying to persuade them to pretend they didn’t know me. I thought it would be best if I said I’d met them in the playground and they’d looked a bit lost so I was being helpful.

They refused to co-operate! Mum just laughed really loudly and said, ‘Don’t be silly Darling! Everyone will know we are your parents.’

That’s what worries me.

I should have remembered to eat a peanut earlier in the day, by now I’d be sitting up in a comfy hospital bed watching television and eating ice cream and the nurses would be saying how brave I was. But I didn’t plan ahead. Mum’s always telling me I should. How right she is! Mind you, on reflection, I don’t think I want to feel that ill again. I can still remember the last time I did eat a peanut. Possibly that would be a bit much, but the point is I should have planned something.

So we entered the classroom. Dad held the door open for Mum and she said something like, ‘He’s so sweet,’ which made my insides clench. Everyone turned to watch us walking in, The Girl and her Two Parents. A hush fell over the room. Two parents. I’m sure I saw Sophie Green’s stepmother shake her head sadly. Sophie nodded and murmured something that sounded suspiciously like ‘I told you.’

Gradually people here and there began to talk again, but in whispers, which wasn’t good. Ms Sideboard came over, I’m sure she was blushing with embarrassment, but she was pretty good really, the poor woman. She asked me to go and get an extra chair from one of the other classrooms because she didn’t have enough by her desk. I was glad to get out of there for a minute or two.

But when I came back, people were starting to leave, which I’m sure was just because of us, and when I reached them, my mum was showing Ms Sideboard a murder mystery story I’d written during the summer holidays. I wonder if my mum has heard of matricide?

Ms Sideboard smiled at me as I sat down on the chair I’d fetched from next door. I smiled back. I liked Ms Sideboard. Some people laugh about her name. I don’t know why. It’s not funny. Winterbottom – now there’s a funny name.

Ms Sideboard is tall and thin with short spiky purple hair and about forty rings in each ear. She is a big fan of Wallace and Grommit, and has a Grommit sitting on her desk. She makes it cool to be nice. She’s the best teacher I’ve ever had. She’s the only teacher I know who doesn’t hate children. And she was coping really well with having to deal with two parents at once.

My Dad had on his Daffy Duck tie. I felt like groaning. I hadn’t noticed until now. I wished I’d remembered to check what he was wearing before we’d left the house. And Mum too, I should have checked her, because now I could see a spot of gravy on the front of her blouse. I really must get myself more organised. I should have known this would happen—they go out of their way to make my life absolutely pants!

Dad was making a lame joke, and Mum was laughing at it really loudly so that the few remaining people in the room were looking over their shoulders and muttering to each other. The frosty temperature in the room dropped a couple more notches. It was positively arctic in here. Ms Sideboard didn’t look as though she understood Dad’s joke, which is no surprise. No one else ever does, apart from Mum.

I know I shuddered, and Ms Sideboard smiled at me, a sad, kind, this-explains-so-much smile. I’m brave, I know that, I try so hard not to let my parents hold me back in life. I can’t wait until I can leave home legally, because then the world will be my oyster. Except that I’m also allergic to shellfish.

The next twenty minutes went by so slowly, it was just like being in assembly. But finally, it was time to leave and let Ms Sideboard go and talk to the father of the posh new girl Liana—she may be posh but at least she’s only got one parent.

I wanted to hold back a little, give Mum and Dad the chance to get a bit ahead. I was going to say a quick ‘sorry about them’ to Ms Sideboard.

But just as she’d smiled and raised her eyebrows at me to show she was ready to hear what I wanted to say, Mum yelled across the room,

‘Linzi, you’d better put your cardy on, there’s a bit of a chill in the air, and you know what your chest is like.’

I almost cried. Honestly. All the way home, I couldn’t take my eyes off the pavement, as I was fighting back the tears, and I haven’t cried since the first day of school when I was four and a half. To hear her call out like that, to talk about my chest in front of Craig Jeffries, just thinking about it makes me go cold all over even now. These people are supposed to love me! They make my life a living hell.

My parents are the worst. I have decided to save every penny I get given for birthdays, Christmas and so on, and when I’m old enough I’m going to get a paper round, and any other job so I can earn as much money as possible, then when I have got enough, I’m going to hire an expensive lawyer to divorce my parents. Then maybe I can hold my head up once more. I will be Normal.

***

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