In the beginning she was Barbara; an old-fashioned name, even then. She never fitted in, and never tried to.
‘Barbara the parbara,’ other children chanted as they followed her round the playground. They were too stupid to know that a parbara wasn’t a real thing, and she didn’t care enough to tell them. Her second name was Baggot, which rhymed with something really funny. She never brought it to their attention.
It was a fat, sluggish name, and she was afraid that it suited her. She dreamed of being wild and rebellious. She longed for someone to refer to her as ‘a bit of a handful’, a ‘livewire’, a ‘bright spark’. No-one did. Once, not realising she was listening, someone described her as a wet lettuce. That was the day she began her revenge list. As the years passed, the list grew. She sat in her corner, with her books, as life went on without her.
At secondary school, the PE teacher called her Babs, which was even worse. It suggested someone bubbly, someone who fizzed with enthusiasm for life. Barbara was not the kind of girl who bubbled or fizzed.
‘Wakey, wakey Babs!’ the teacher would shout, clapping her hands in exasperation right under Barbara’s chin when she failed to catch a ball. Barbara silently flinched, and a new name was added to the list, in large capital letters, underlined.
Barbara grew up, and grew tired of her fatness, her sluggishness and her silence. She bought a notebook and began to write. She wrote about the child she should have been. She invented the adventures she should have had, and lovingly described all the bad things she had never dared to do.
Nowadays, she is called Sasha Macgregor, just because she liked the sound of it. Sometimes, she sits in her bay window with her morning coffee and watches children pass her house with their Bad Barbara lunchboxes and satchels.
Sasha Macgregor is very, very rich. First there were the books. Then came the TV series, the film, the doll, and all the other merchandizing. Sasha Macgregor is now neither fat nor sluggish, and she is far from silent. No-one claps under her chin any more.
Children write her letters, and she always replies. The PE teacher, they tell her, is the character they hate the most. They hate the way she bullies, and the mean things she says.
Sasha hates her too, she tells the children. But whether they are good or bad, she writes, people get what they deserve in the end. Sometimes they just have to wait for a very long time.