- Vol. 07
- Chapter 03
'You don’t say much, do you?’ the boy commented.
‘No,’ I answered.
The boy laughed nervously. I gave him a scathing stare. My parents referred to this as my ‘stroppy’ look.
The stare unsettled the boy: he shrunk back, blinked and offered me a cigarette.
I took the cigarette and put it in a corner of my mouth. I let it hang there for a moment, unlit. Then I spat it out into the fire in front of us.
‘Not my brand,’ I snarled.
The lazy chatter of the other six or so teenagers ceased. One girl scratched herself. The rest of the group gawped at the fire.
I may not talk much, I thought, but now they’re fully aware of me.
I stood up.
‘Ridiculous,’ I said, shaking sand from the hem of my dress.
I was wearing my usual retro style because I’d understood I was going to a party, in a house. I hadn’t known I was going to squat around an acrid fire on a beach.
‘Going?’ asked the girl who was scratching herself.
I knew I couldn’t just walk away. I didn’t want these people making fun of me. I had to take the initiative.
‘Give me the blade,’ I demanded.
I’d seen a knife earlier. Someone had been cutting seaweed with it and throwing the severed fronds on the fire.
Cigarette boy leaned back, felt behind him and found the knife. He grasped the handle tightly.
‘What’re you gonna do with it?’ he asked.
‘Give it here,’ I replied.
I held my hand out, over the fire. The heat was fierce but I didn’t waver. I could see everyone was watching. Even scratching girl stopped raking her skin.
Cigarette boy passed me the knife, handle first. I grasped a length of my hair which had fallen forward over my shoulder and tried to cut it.
The blade was blunt.
‘Unbelievable,’ I said.
Concentrating, I started to hack and saw at my hair.
‘Take it easy,’ cigarette boy urged. ‘You’ll hurt yourself.’
I glared at him and doubled my effort.
When I’d finished, I let the knife drop from my hand. Its point fell into the sand by the side of my foot. Someone gasped.
Holding the hair above the fire, I gently rubbed the tips of my fingers together. The strands drifted through the current of rising heat. Some disappeared into the night; others were caught by the flames and became ash.
I turned my back on the group, hitched up my dress and strode away.
‘She may be quiet but she’s impressive,’ I heard cigarette boy say.
No one laughed or disagreed.
I felt pleased. The evening hadn’t been such a bore after all.