• Vol. 02
  • Chapter 08
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Jacob’s Ladder

Emma delicately lifts one leg up, grips, pulls the other. Thirty hearts stop, then she relaxes and so does the crowd. She is up. Like a little frog, or a squirrel. I look away. I will never climb the ladder, and no-one will ask me.

I remember the climbing wall before lunch, watching the cool, sporty sprites of girls like Emma glide effortlessly up. Then the "popular" girls make hard work of it but always manage to laugh it off, always manage to stay on top. The boys just went up. There was nothing to prove. They are twelve and thirteen, still young enough to get bored easily, to be hyper, to have no concept of looking good for the opposite sex.

With the girls, of course, it is another story.

I got a few holds up, then froze, shaking. I couldn't go any higher. The teachers let me stop, murmured patronisingly about how "Even Elizabeth gave it a go." They think I'm useless. They don't know I grew up climbing trees and grazing my knees. They don't know that nature holds no fear for me. It is them, the ugly, unnatural, unreadable young faces coated in fake tan and make-up that scare the hell out of me.

I drift in the direction of the loos and squat to look at a fat hawk moth caterpillar on some rosebay. I wish I had a camera with me. I yearn to touch him but know he would rear up, unhappy and disgruntled. He is in his habitat and he is doing his thing. I leave him alone and watch him, respectfully, from a distance. I am his guardian angel.