Congratulations to St Clare’s High School Year 8 student, Bridie O’Connell, who received an excellence award in the Great Lakes Advocate’s inaugural Tell Me A Story competition.
Over the coming weeks the GLA will publish a range of outstanding stories entered in the competition.
This is Bridie’s story.
The world raced past, everything a blur, both inside my head and outside the little white car that was carefully going around bends and down roads, carrying the three of us, humming as it went. When I first saw the vehicle meant to escort me to a new life, I noticed two things straight away. Number one: it was small. Number two: it used to be painted black. I had a problem with both of these things. My problem with it being small was that, at some stage during the car trip I would start to breathe in not only my own exhales but the man and the woman’s too. This, I not only found disgusting but also unsanitary. My problem with the paint colour, past and present, was that I involuntarily turned it into a metaphor. The car had been black but one bad paint job later and it turned into a “pure”, white chariot ready to “save” youths from their lives with their troubled parents and carry them away to a whole other universe. I saw through it. I saw it for what it originally and secretly was, a dark machine prepared to snatch a child from their unstable parent’s arms and take them away forever.
That day was a warm, pleasant day but inside that car I was nervous and overwhelmed. This change, this new adventure of sorts had all happened so fast and I wasn’t ready for it. My brain was still processing the idea of being shoved off to another family yet again even though I thought I was doing okay with my previous family. I wondered whether my new “guardians”, as they were described to me, were ready to receive such a messed up, confused child as me. I wondered if I was going to be what they had “ordered”.
Inside the car, when I emerged from inside my own head, it smelled like disinfectant and cookies when you leave them exposed to air a day too long. The seat made my legs itch and I couldn’t sit still. I could feel that I had started to inhale the mans breath, it tasted of cigarettes and coffee. He turned around in the passenger seat to face me, “twenny minutes.” Was all he said, not pronouncing the “t” in twenty and over pronouncing the “n” in minutes. His voice was gravelly and made me uneasy. I shifted my weight from one side to the other and back again, settling myself down into the seat a bit more with every movement.
I retreated from the car into my thoughts and twenty minutes seemed to come and go in an instance. We stopped at a nice looking house and the overeager driver of the misleading, white car, the woman who smelled of cinnamon and soap, turned to me flashing a blindingly white smile.
“You ready?” she beamed. ‘No?’ I thought to myself. The woman’s voice was kind and reassuring. The door on my left clicked open just as I reached for the handle and the man stood above me, scowling down at me. It was obvious he didn’t like anyone younger than he was, I wondered why he was working at child welfare. He was an angry man. He seemed, ironically, like the sort of parent whose children would be taken out of his custody, an abusive, frustrated, insecure kind of person. The woman was the complete opposite, a happy person who always tries to help everyone, but I could tell, she was tired. I saw it in her eyes and in her smile. She was the kind of person who volunteered for charities on her only day off each week.
“Believe it or not, kid, I ain’t got all day.” The man growled. His harsh, sharp words made me shiver. I stepped slowly, cautiously out of the car while he rolled his eyes at me.
I felt sick in the stomach as I was led towards a gleaming couple. The woman and the smiling pair of soon to be “parents” exchanged pleasantries and a few hushed words about me. The fact they leaned in real close to each other in a sort of huddle to talk secretly about me and my past amused me and made the corners of my mouth twitch and turn up into a half smile.
Soon enough, the white car and its contents, including the angry man and the tired woman drove out of the driveway, turned the corner and disappeared. I watched them leave and felt a strange sense of relief rush through me. I turned back to my new carers and looked at them expectantly. I had gone through this same process too many times before and knew the procedure all too well but with every new family and every new home I got more and more scared than I was the last time. My hands were sweaty, and I was worried that these new people wouldn’t like me, wouldn’t accept me, I was worried that they would throw me away just like all the others. I wondered whether there were any good people left in the world.
“Hi, um, we really are very happy that you’re here!” the lady half whispered with a nervous smile on her face while clutching to her husband’s hand. They gave of a sense of happiness and care that I had never experienced before, they gave off a sense of home. It was with these words, how genuine and comforting they were, that my heart broke and I started to cry. But for the first time in my life I cried happy tears, big, fat, wet tears of absolute joy and relief. A feeling of belonging bubbled up inside me as the lady and the husband wrapped their arms around my shoulders and gently guided me inside their home. Maybe it was with these people, that I could finally, finally learn to be happy. And just maybe, these two, happy people could teach me.