Chapter Three: Worst Day of My Life
I can’t stop crying. I’m not going back to school. I’m not, not ever and they can’t make me. It’s all my mum’s fault. How could she do this to me? I told her last week. I told her. I told her. She should have listened to me.
First lesson after lunch was history. I hate history and old Miss Chew is like a hundred and three and she’s always yelling and screaming at everybody.
She’s a right old cow. Only she isn’t now. I think I love her. I wish she was my mum.
We were doing about the Faulkalnds war. It’s so boring I thought I was going to die, and then ten minutes later I wished that I was dead. I tried to stop it with toilet paper. I’m not dirty, I did my best, but I felt it. Right there in the middle of history lesson. I knew straight away what had happened, and I knew it was bad. And Miss Chew is at the front of the class, staring at us all to make sure that we’re listening and she’s going on and on. I sat there for ten minutes panicking, feeling it getting worse and worse. What could I do? I couldn’t ask to be excused, or anything.
I dropped my pen on the floor and bent down to pick it up and as I came up again I looked up my skirt and it made me feel sick. It was worse than I even thought, all down the top of my legs, too. I still hoped that maybe it hadn’t soaked right through my skirt. It’s light grey, knee length, with pleats. Mum won’t let me have one of the shorter ones like most of the others have. Maybe that’s why the boys don’t like me much. But Sal’s got the same skirt as me, ‘cause her mum’s uptight too, and the boys like her. Nobody would ever speak to me again after this. It was like a hundred times worse than when Natalie Reed had nits. And people don’t forget. They still talk about it. Every time I think about Natalie, for whatever reason, the first thing that I remember is that biddy crawling down her face in Biology. And Jenny Glover screaming, ‘cause she was sitting next to her. And then Joe Trench looking at her head real close and that’s when he saw that the whole entire top of her head was moving. She had sores with yeuky stuff coming out of them, and everything. Can you imagine how bad she must have felt? I’ve never felt so sorry for anybody in my life. I still wouldn’t ever sit next to her, though. Not because I’m being nasty. I talk to her all the time in lunch queue, so long as I can take a step back, but I’d hate to have biddies. But this, this is a hundred times worse than that. A whole hundred.
I waited for Miss Chew to look in her text book so that she wasn’t looking out at the class, and then I looked round to see that nobody was looking at me. Then I put my one hand down onto the side of the chair and lifted my left, no right, no left, definitely left, bum cheek up. The chair was light blue. It has this weird sort of cracked egg shell pattern in the plastic, and it's moulded so that it passes all the health and safety checks that school chairs have to pass. So it dips in the base. When I lifted up, there was a big red streak right across the bottom of the seat.
I just wanted to die. I didn’t know what to do, so I just sat up straight and made sure that I was sitting right on the seat so that none of the stain could be seen by the kids behind. Miss went on with the lesson and I didn’t hear anything. I just watched the clock going around. I wanted to sit there, with her talking about the Falkland’s War until the very minute after I was dead of old age.
When it was five minutes to the end of the lesson. I started to panic. What was I going to do when the bell went? 4 West were in the lesson after us. Somebody would be sitting in my dirty chair. My dirty, bloody, chair. I would just die if I had to sit in a chair that somebody had had their period in. Even if it had been washed, can you just imagine that? You can get diseases from somebody else’s blood, can’t you?
Then it gets really bad because I start to cry. I couldn’t stop. These big tears were rolling down my face and I had all this snot at the back of my throat and it felt like I was going to choke on it. At first Miss didn’t notice. I wasn’t making any noise, just sitting there crying my heart out, with tears dripping off my chin and onto my blouse. I was sitting next to Phil Murphy, on account of the fact that we’re not allowed to sit next to our best mates in Miss Chew’s class, because she says it distracts us. But it doesn’t. It’s just her not wanting us to have friends because she hasn’t got any.
Phil Murphy puts his hand up and Miss looks at him, ‘Yes, Philip, what is it?’
‘Kate’s crying, Miss.’
And then Miss is looking at me. And then the whole entire class is looking at me. I hear Sal shout over, even though we’re not allowed to shout out in class, ‘Are you all right Kate?’ But I ignore her. ‘Cause I’m not all right, but I can’t tell her. Not even if we were on our own and it was just us, in my bedroom, or something. ‘Cause it’s dirty, isn’t it? I’m dirty.
At the same time that Sal shouts out, Miss says, ‘Kate whatever’s the matter, child.’ But I don’t answer her. Miss gets really mad if you don’t answer her. ‘Come on, speak up, what’s wrong with you, girl. Is it a problem with your work?’ I can’t speak because I can’t tell her in front of the class that I’ve bled on her school chair. She puts her book down and takes off her glasses,’ Come here.’
Now she wants me to walk out in front of everybody, and as I was walking up the classroom I’d have my back to all the kids and they’d see. I look up and she’s staring at me. I just look but I can’t see her ‘cause my eyes are all full of tears and I’m choking on the crying with trying not to make any noise at all when I just want to howl.
And she sees.
Miss Chew sees it in my eyes. She can’t know, because it’s not like she’s psychic or anything, but something happens. It’s still five minutes till bell goes.
‘Right everybody pack up your books quietly and leave the room in an orderly fashion. Kate, you sit there a minute and I’ll come and talk to you.’
‘But, it’s not bell time, Miss,’ said Danny Phelps.
‘We want to know what’s wrong with Kate, Miss’
And they’re dawdling, moving real slow because they don’t want to miss knowing what’s wrong with me.
‘Everybody out. Now.’ She screams the last word and they all leave the room. And everybody has an extra five minutes until the next lesson. Nobody ever got the class let out early before, not through crying, or nothing.
When the last person’s gone she shuts her door and pulls down the blind that covers her little window. Then she comes over to me and puts her arm around my shoulders and I proper break into sobs. ‘What’s the matter child? What is it? Tell me now and we’ll sort it out together.’
I still can’t tell her. I’m too embarrassed. She puts her finger under my wet chin and pulls my head up. I look at her. ‘Don’t you believe that we can sort it out?’
I shake my head.
‘Well if you tell me, we can try, can’t we?’ I worry because the next class will start coming in any minute now.
‘I’ve had an accident, Miss’ I look down towards my skirt but she can’t see anything because I’m sitting on the mess.
‘Oh, is that all. I thought somebody had died, or something. Well that’s nothing that we can’t sort out very easily. But why didn’t you ask to go to the toilet?’
‘Because it had already come, Miss, and I couldn’t stop it.’
‘Have you wet yourself before, love?’
Wet myself I was horrified. And then I wasn’t, because it might be better to have wet myself. And then I don’t know which is worse so I don’t know if I’m horrified, or not.
‘I haven’t wet myself, Miss. I’m not incontinent.’ I manage to put some insult into my voice. ‘It’s my period, Miss.’
‘Oh, I see. Right, let me just think about it a second. Okay. We can get this sorted in a jiffy. Do you know I always carry some baby wipes in my bag for little spills and that’ll sort out the worst of it?’ She didn’t look disgusted but she must have been. She just looked normal. She was so kind to me, sort of gentle. I’d never seen Miss like that before.
She went to her bag and got baby wipes and her long black cardigan off the back of her chair. ‘Here love, you put this on.
‘I can’t wear your cardy, Miss, I’ll make a mess of it.’
‘Katherine Bell, have you not learned anything in my class? Did we, or did we not, do inventions last term? Have I failed as a teacher? In 1851 James King invented the first modern day washing machine.’ All the while she’s teaching me about washing machines, she’s bundling me into her cardigan and grabbing a big handful of baby wipes. She starts cleaning the chair. She didn’t even tell me to clean it up. And I’m sorry that she isn’t married and hasn’t got any children of her own. She doesn’t even look at me so that I don’t have to see her seeing. She hands me another big wad of wipes, almost all that’s left in the packet, she splits them into two and she tells me to wipe my legs with half of them and she suggests that I use the rest like a pad, until we get to the sick bay. While I do that, she turns away again and wipes at the seat that is already as clean as baby wipes are ever going to get it. She takes the chair away from the desk and puts it in her cupboard. ‘I’ll give it a good clean later, dear, don’t you worry about it.’
The next class have already started to come for their lesson. They are lined up outside the classroom waiting to come in.
‘Right let’s have a look at you?’ She looks me up and down, back and front. ‘Perfect. Good as new, nobody will ever know.’
Miss Chew, leads me right out past the next class and to the sickbay. I’m not even embarrassed to be wearing her old lady cardigan. I’m proud to wear it.
In sick bay there’s a little sink with soap and paper towels. There’s a radiator and she tells me to wash my nicks through when she leaves and to put them on the radiator for half an hour. She promises me that nobody will disturb me. She gives me a Junior Asprin, that I have to sign a sheet for, with some water and then goes off for a few minutes. When she comes back she’s brought me a cup of tea, with sugar in it for the shock.It’s in a teacher’s cup. And then she tells me to lie down on the bed and have a little rest until the end of school. She just knows, without me having to say that I can’t face anybody. Even though they don’t know what happened. Miss Chew suggests that I tell them that I had a really bad headache that made me feel sick. She’s a teacher and she told me to tell a lie, but she said that it’s a necessary lie, for the good of all concerned. She meant for the good of me. She tells me that she’s going to ring my Mum to come and pick me up. I think Miss Chew’s wonderful and I’m going to try really hard to get an A in history.
Mum’s just brought me my dinner on a tray. She said that she’s so sorry. But I told her last week that I needed, you know, stuff. She’s only just started to be pregnant but already she cares about this baby more than me. I know that’s not the baby’s fault, but she used to be the best mum in the world and now she doesn’t want me anymore.
I hate my Mum.