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shadows.com

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Summary

Cyberbullying, disordered eating, self-harm, suicide and depression, found in adolescent real/virtual world. shadows.com is the story about six best friends, Tamminya, Phoebe, Rebecca, Erika, Kimberley and Samara living in the seaside Australian town of Port Macquarie, who pledge to have a great Year 10. They struggle with teen issues such as boyfriends and the desire to be popular. When teenager Tamminya Judd becomes a victim of an online prank by her closest friends, her world is turned upside down. Already suffering from a low self-image she unknowingly friends an online predator on FaceBook. Her real and virtual worlds become overpowering to the point she contemplates suicide and self-harm. However, the digital medium that drove her to such despair becomes the medium that prevents her from taking drastic action. Having made her decision to confront the predator she enlists the help of her father as backup. Numerous screenshots of FaceBook, iPhone, email, and chat that teenagers are totally immersed with during their daily life, together with email messages from her friend Phongsak in Thailand and her diary entries portray the shifting field of uncertain relationships, shifting allegiances and unsteady emotions of an adolescents.

Genre:
Drama / Thriller
Author:
Shirley Pitcher
Status:
Complete
Chapters:
1
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
16+

Wednesday

Tamminya Judd stormed outside, slamming the door behind her. But the giant cedar door to the Judd mansion didn’t slam. The door just swooshed shut. Tamminya knew how to storm out of any room. Slamming doors was her expertise.

“Great,” Tamminya muttered. “It’s not enough that everyone in the house is against me, the house itself hates me.” She glared at the grey clouds hemming in the houses, “just what I need, rain.” Tamminya’s pace quickened as she tried to stamp-out her mother’s argumentative words still pounding her ears. “Nag, nag, nag,” she spat into the hot, sticky air as she turned up the music on her iPhone and let the drumming thump in her ears. Every mealtime, an argument; every car trip, a race for freedom; every evening more verbal action and drama occurred in the lounge room than on the television. Her feet drummed on the hot footpath.

Tamminya, clutching her backpack tightly, continued stomping to Phoebe’s mansion. She was walking so briskly with determination to eradicate her thoughts that she was oblivious to the sea mist tickling her nostrils and misting her eyes.

“Everything in this world’s got a voice, but me,” said Tamminya under her breath and wiping her nose with the back of her hand. The ground echoed her mood as she crushed her frustrations against the innocent gravel.

“I exist just to please everyone else.”

The trees swished in rhythm with her arms.

“Seriously, I’m just as visible as air; her puppet.” The sun hid behind the dark clouds afraid to confront her.

Turning the corner, and checking her FaceBook page on her iPhone, Tamminya noticed that Phoebe had added another comment to her group. Phoebe Porter created her group, Teen Talk a few months ago. Phoebe lived for her FaceBook friends. Teen Talk was her favourite place to share her thoughts and ideas about an ideal world, a place to vent, and a place to meet with her friends.

Now, thanks to her mother, Tamminya was late arriving at Phoebe’s place and was still draped in her dorky school uniform. Fights with her mother were an everyday occurrence. Tamminya wanted so badly to lash out at her mother that she started adding her comment in Teen Talk: sucks, parents suck...nag nag nag.. she wont stop ... treats me like a baby... I no wot I want... but at the point of finally posting to Phoebe’s group, a horn honked.

Tamminya jumped. Almost tripping, she managed to catch her iPhone before it landed splattered on the ground.

“Idiot!” she said realising that she was standing in the middle of the road lost in thought. The road wasn’t a busy road; in fact, Phoebe’s neighbours enjoyed their quiet cul-de-sac. Lighthouse was the area where the insanely wealthy people and the just your basic very-wealthies lived. Tamminya smiled with embarrassment.

“Whew! That was close! See, even when she’s not with me she hassles me.”

Clothed in relentless pressure, Tamminya felt her blood pulsating harder and faster tormenting her like a mosquito that she was unable to swat. Her mother knew how to push her buttons without making any effort, knew how to get a response from every word, every action, every look, but she had no idea when she had gone too far.

Tamminya was almost at Phoebe’s house.

“Oh my god, my mascara, will they notice?” She searched in her bag for some tissues to wipe under her eyes. Crying always left her eyes red and sore. “Good! No mascara,” she told the tissue. She wiped her face checking again for mascara. Letting her friends know that she was fighting with her mother, again, was out of the question. She knew that as soon as she verbalised why her mother was nagging her constantly, everyone would be watching her, like a hawk. Every day! All the time!

A cricket ball landed near her feet, bringing Tamminya back into reality and drawing her attention to the boys playing cricket in the cul-de-sac. The sound of a dog going mental trying to catch the ball replaced her mother’s nag. Tamminya observed the familiar island with its large trees at the top end of the cul-de-sac. Dogs everywhere enjoying time with their owners caught Tamminya’s attention as she threw the cricket ball to one of the boys.

“Hi,” the cheeky freckled face boy replied, “Want to see what Tiger can do?” He always popped up with a trick to attract a crowd while getting other kids into trouble. Michael, of course, would always claim innocence beyond any degree of doubt, fooling even the greatest CSI team. Remaining angry with him always proved a difficult art that Phoebe, his sister, had not mastered like other people. He had the art of getting on your good side, and wriggling out of trouble.

“Sure.” Tamminya watched as Michael threw his Frisbee high into the air. Tiger jumping high catching the Frisbee, somersaulted. It appeared that the dog started running back to Michael with the Frisbee firmly planted in his mouth in the air. “Cool, way to go Tiger,” Tamminya said patting the dog refusing to part with his catch.

“Hi, Cassie,” Tamminya called as she passed the swing made of rope and a grubby old tyre by the neighbours on the old Eucalyptus tree.

“Hey, Tamm.”

Tamminya waved to the other boys, Liam, Matt and Luke playing cricket on their skateboards and Zac climbing the tree.

“Hi guys,” Tamminya yelled as she briskly walked passed them with her head held high. Under her breath she added, “What dicks Year 7 boys are! Wish they’d all disappear.” Her thoughts quickly moved to Michael’s older brother, Ben.

Ben, a Year 12 boy, was considered a hottie by all the girls in Tamminya’s class, even the crazy girl who asked every teacher their shoe size. Phoebe considered her brother Ben was an annoyance, a pain that lingered on and on like a bad smell, but Tamminya nurtured other thoughts. She wanted to get to know him, know him intimately, especially now that his girlfriend, Kimberly had moved to Sydney.

Approaching the front door of the Porter’s mansion, Tamminya’s heart started beating faster, not from walking briskly but in anticipation of seeing and hopefully speaking to Ben. For a while, she forgot about the argument with her mother. That could wait. All she could think about was Ben. Will Ben be home? Will Ben open the door? In fact, she constantly dreamed of when they would be an item, an item forever. How do I look? She smoothed her long black hair to one side but left the other side with her silky, mahogany streak, draped around her face. Tamminya turned around checking that no one had noticed her flushed cheeks or heard her thoughts as she mentally smacked herself for such stupidity.

Tamminya knocked on the door, waited a few seconds before gracefully walking in like a model on the catwalk. Her brown eyes scanned the interior robustly for a glimpse of Ben.

“Anybody home?” she yelled in her best voice, not the voice she left behind the door of her home. Her voice echoed through the big house.

Tamminya followed the laughter coming from the family room. Hearing laughter was something rare in her home these days.

Walking cautiously down the hallway past the staircase to the family room from where the laughter was reeling Tamminya eyes kept scanning for that glimpse or even an exchange of words from Ben.

“You’re late,” Phoebe mumbled, smoothing her soft, straight, black hair over her shoulders as she turned and smiled at Tamminya.

“Guilty,” Tamminya replied light-heartedly raising her hands in surrender.

“Wassup?” said Rebecca keeping her eyes fixated on the screen. Rebecca, the technical guru with her octopus fingers, was already clicking frantically at the computer keys. Rebecca created the blog’s template for Erika’s blog and most of the graphics needed for their various assignments. She knew more about the computer than anybody else in their class, including the four-eyed geek, Isaac. She always appeared happier when she was floating in cyberspace than hanging out with the guys at Maccas.

“Everything,” said Tamminya. “Just another weird day.”

“Hey babe, want some chockie?” Phoebe asked. Phoebe was considered the founder of the Chocoholics Club that Tamminya avoided joining. The whole idea was irredeemably naff.

“No thanks,” Tamminya replied while mentally counting the enormous number of calories ingrained in each velvety square. She shivered at the number of hours exercising, of how many squat thrusts and ab blasts she would need to endure for the calories to disappear from the scales. Hundreds even thousands of calories preventing her from achieving her ideal weight, making her more attractive.

“Hey Beck, can you help me with my Drama PowerPoint?” Tamminya asked not wishing to elaborate on why today had been weird.

“Yeah, me too! I just don’t get what she’s on about,” said Phoebe. “She expects sooooooooooo much work and she expects it finished, like, yesterday.”

“Yeah, she has her favourites, like you Pheebs, she always gives you good marks and always answers your questions,” said Tamminya.

“Yeah, you get the best parts in all the plays...right?” added Rebecca dramatically. Rebecca had a trick all of her own of ending her sentences with added theatrical emphasis, as if she tasted them the first time round and found them lacking the seasoning of power.

“Whatever,” Phoebe replied shrugging her shoulders.

“You’re never forced to work with that dickhead, Peter the Stinker,” said Tamminya holding her nose and rolling her eyes heavenwards.

“What the hell! You should give him some Linx...right?”

“Hello, that’s only half his probs... his breath reeks of dog poo.”

“Phulease! Tell you what! Get him to raise his arms, open his mouth and then spray him with Linx as fast as you can...okay?” said Rebecca.

“Ha, ha, very funny, like I’d do that,” Tamminya said curtly with her hands on her hips as she watched Rebecca raise her arms and Phoebe spraying her with imaginary Linx, both laughing uncontrollably. Phoebe was shorter than Rebecca, very slim, and was extremely convincing when she was acting dramatically.

Rebecca collapsed heavily on the swivel chair as Phoebe cross-leggedly flew to the powder room under the staircase laughing. Tamminya looked over Rebecca’s shoulder at the monitor. FaceBook was loaded.

“Cool! Hey Beck, you’ve changed your profile pic, cool. How’d you put your face in your eye?”

“Dah, that’s not my eye. You can create whatever you like online. I’ll show you... I rock at this. Look...,” said Rebecca as http://funphotobox.com/upload.aspx?effect=eyereflection loaded. “See, you just upload a photo and it appears in the eye. Quick and easy... right?”

“Wassup?” Phoebe asked on her return. “Tu meke! Try this one,” said Phoebe pointing to the images that were displayed on the screen.

“Awesome! Try the Cosmopolitan link,” said Phoebe.

“Cool!”

Within a few clicks Rebecca was cover girl for the Cosmopolitan.

“Hey, have ya got a pic of me?” asked Tamminya.

No sooner had her words rolled out when Tamminya wished she could retract them, make them dissolve like a burst bubble. After several moments of scanning Phoebe’s my pics folder Rebecca found a photo of Tamminya. Rebecca quickly and skilfully uploaded the image. Suddenly flashing on the screen Tamminya could see the person she wanted to be, a slim, sexy and older looking girl on the cover page of the Cosmopolitan.

“Cool!”

“Sweet, must show Ben,” Phoebe said blinking her eyes, and blowing kisses.

Focused on how to stop Phoebe probing about her feelings towards Ben, Tamminya shuffled her feet as if her feet provided the answers.

“Uh-huh,” groaned Tamminya.

“Hey, Beck upload that image on Tamm’s FaceBook,” Phoebe said. “I’m sure Ben would love to see how gorgeous she looks.”

“No, NO,” Tamminya replied.

“Hey, are you and Ben an item?” Rebecca, with her eyes as wide as saucers asked Tamminya. Rebecca quickly found Tamminya’s FaceBook page.

“No, just friends.”

“Erm... I don’t think so,” said Phoebe with her usual contagious cheeky grin. Her raucous laughter was full of innuendos.

“C’mon, Tamm!” pleaded Rebecca, swinging her chair around to face the girls. “I want all the goss, don’t miss anything out... okay?”

“What?”

“Well, Tamm she’s...” Phoebe said revelling in this new opportunity to torment and tease her vulnerable friend. Phoebe’s continued flashing her long eyelashes highlighting her hazel eyes as she revelled in tormenting Tamminya. She learnt this skill from her older brother. She never missed an opportunity to demonstrate her capabilities

“No! No, NO ... we’re just friends... right?” Tamminya protested.

“Well how come you’re got single on your profile... hey?” Rebecca asked. Rebecca, now focused back on the monitor, searched for Ben’s page. “You two are soooo slow, he’s got single too... okay.”

“Well, you see, our Tamm here, bumped into the rubbish bin at school because she was so, so busy watching Ben and flirting with him,” Phoebe said while demonstrating how Tamminya batted her eyelashes at Ben and with her hand creating heart palpitations. Suddenly, she fell off her chair, “Oh Ben, my love, come to my aid,” she pleaded in her flouncy, show off bimbo voice.

“Shut up, I didn’t say that... or even think that... I just...just...,” Tamminya pleaded.

“Like I said, Tammie... Oh Ben, save me from this stinking mess. Oh, my knight in shining armour, come quickly to me, or I will die.”

“Stop it, it was an accident,” she pleaded.

“Accident, maccident! Don’t insult my intelligence. Accident? Sure, accident being short for accidentally on purpose,” said Phoebe. “How dumb do you think I am?”

“No, I... just--” Tamminya continued to plead without managing to get her words heard over Phoebe’s dramatic presentation of the wheelie-bin event. She covered her face in shock horror.

“No accident! Just what, hey? Wanted to show Ben your sexy red knickers?” Phoebe said cocking her head to one side in a satisfied manner.

“What? No! Never! Look I just--” spluttered Tamminya. Her voice started to trail off. As long as Tamminya could remember she had wanted to go out with Ben but he barely registered that she existed. “No, I keep telling you,” Tamminya sighed, and sucked in her bottom lip like a naughty child.

“Ha, every time Ben comes near her she’s doing something stupid... like the time--”

“What about when you tripped over during assembly, in front of Ben... right?” Rebecca added, interrupting Phoebe’s rant.

“O my god, I was too slow grabbing my iPhone... what a pic I missed,” Phoebe continued flippantly.

Tamminya’s rattled expression suggested otherwise. She kept twisting her fingers and her nostrils flared crossly, “Really?” she questioned huffily.

“Yep! You could’ve made the red knickers image your profile pic on FaceBook... yeah, Ben could look at... upload in on Twitter and...” Phoebe’s drama voice and body actions were gaining momentum.

“Oh, for God’s sake,” snapped Tamminya. “This is sooooo stupid. Stop raving on about nothing. Right?”

“Oh, right,” jeered Phoebe.

“Far out! Doesn’t sound like nothing to me... right?” said Rebecca. “Hey, look at these knickers ... I’ll post them on her FaceBook ... right?”

Tamminya stared at the monitor in a state of gobstipation.

“Don’t you dare post that. I’ll kill you if you do,” Tamminya yelled. Watching Rebecca remove the image thoughts of how Phoebe loves posting pictures of everyone all over the Internet came flooding to her mind. A tear that formed in the corner of her eye leaked out onto her cheek. Trying to swallow her feelings with a sip of water she turned to Phoebe and stared at her with a poker face until words just flooded out.

“Pheebs, at times you are extra-specially infuriatingly annoying. You fall in love with a different aftershave-drenched drongo every ten minutes,” Tamminya hissed.

“Whoa! Hold on, let’s not...let’s--”

The sound of Rebecca’s mobile playing Boyfriend by Justin Bieber, interrupted the conversation that was brewing into more than a heated debate between Phoebe and Tamminya.

“Love that song,” Phoebe said and hummed along with Justin Bieber.

“Justin Bieber is soo soo fab!” Rebecca said loudly over the escalating music.

Phoebe glared at Tamminya to shut up. The girls stared at each other silently in a cat and dog standoff. Phoebe was clearly busting to tease Tamminya more about Ben but managed to keep a lid on things for Rebecca’s sake. Tamminya’s bottom lip was jutting petulantly. They were each consumed by their own agendas and were oblivious to Rebecca’s conversation until some excitable buzz words started flying around.

“Wow! ... Shut up! ... Sam did it hurt? ... where?... that big?... what colours?... how long did it take?... how much?... how did you manage that? ... Upload it on F FaceBook ... oh okay ...I’ll come over after dinner... sure... can’t wait... bye.”

“What’s IT?” asked Tamminya, her voice crescending with urgency.

“Hey guys...,” Rebecca blurted, but was interrupted with impatient pleas from Phoebe and Tamminya who appeared to have forgotten their heated discussion and were focused on finding out the other side of the conversation. Voices were now raised in excitement and anticipation of some real gossip.

“What’s IT?”

“Tell us.”

“Guess what? Samara’s got a tattoo ...a real tattoo.”

“Seriously?”

“Cool.”

“Like what?”

“Awesome!” screamed Phoebe in her typical theatrical voice.

“Yeah, a tat on her ankle... a butterfly. How cool’s that!”

“A tat? A TAT! WOW!” Phoebe echoed.

“She’s not 18 ... must be a temporary tat,” Tamminya added. Tamminya was always first to see things in black and white. Her logical and extremely practical nature rarely gave way to spontaneity.

“No, her tat’s the real thing. She’ll upload a pic on FaceBook when the bandage comes off.”

“Did she use a fake ID?” asked Phoebe.

“She didn’t say. It’s a birthday present from her mum,” replied Rebecca.

“My parents would kill me if I even asked for a tat,” Tamminya muttered.

“Who did it?” asked Phoebe.

“I don’t know.”

“Wonder if it’s the tat shop in the Galleria building in William Street... what’s its name?... I’ll try and see if his designs are online.”

Red knickers were forgotten as Rebecca commenced searching for the tattoo studio. For several minutes, the girls searched through hundreds of tattoo designs to find an appropriate design that each liked. Then they discussed where on their body and what colours they preferred for their tattoo.

Tamminya noticing Rebecca’s hair shaped gently flattering her round face asked, “Hey, Beck, I just love your funky hair. Could you put my hair up after school on Friday?”

“Sure! What’s on Friday night?” asked Phoebe.

“Nothing really. Just gotta go to Panthers with my parents, their Wedding Anniversary. “Never know who you might see,” said Tamminya.

“I’ll come over straight after school, okay?”

“Cool, that’ll be great.”

“Hey guys! What do you think of this?” Phoebe asked as she handed Rebecca a comic strip from the paper. Rebecca took the comic and flipped the paper over onto the scanner. Within seconds, an image was uploaded. A few moments later, the comic strip was animated.

“That rocks!” Phoebe exclaimed.

“Cool! How’d you do that?” Tamminya asked.

“Easy, the software is so easy to use... okay?” Rebecca replied, shrugging off the praise but clinging to the comforting words on the inside. Her brilliant disguise did not fool Tamminya. The praise made Rebecca feel good. Rebecca seldom received praise but when she did, she found the comforting words hard to accept. Rebecca’s parents were doctors and they expected her to be perfect. She was doomed to be a doctor before she was born. Rebecca always achieved good marks but they were never ever good enough, even when she gained the highest mark in class.

“Hey, Pheebs, is Erika coming? She’s late,” asked Tamminya.

“Nup! Gone to her father’s work,” Phoebe replied while she rummaged around looking for her iPhone.

“Want to hear my new song I downloaded from iTunes?”

“Sure, what one?”

What Makes You Beautiful by One Direction.”

“Great! Let’s listen...right?” said Rebecca as she reached over to grab Phoebe’s iPhone while jiggling the mouse to awaken the screen with her other hand.

“Hey, have you seen the video?” Phoebe quickly moved in front of Tamminya, blocking the screen from Tamminya. Rebecca gave up her seat behind the computer.

“WOW, why don’t we have a beach party soon, with a fire and sparkles and--”

“Yeah Beck, great idea. I went to one at Oxley Beach... we could go there or Shelley Beach,” Phoebe suggested.

The girls watched the video again, each with their own thoughts about parties, beauty and belonging.

“I got Justin Bieber’s album from Sanity last week too,” said Phoebe taking control of the mouse again. The girls sang, as if on stage with Justin until Tamminya’s mobile disrupted the rhythm of the music.

“Hi, yeah, I’ll be home soon,” she abruptly answered. “Okay, I’ll stop at Coles. Bye. Hey guys, before I go let’s have a look at Erika’s blog.”

“Sweet! Good idea,” said Phoebe as she opened Erika’s blog.

She scrolled down to the comments from Erika’s post on boyconfusion about group dating and break-ups. There were many responses.

“Jerk!” Tamminya blurted in a voice full of righteous indignation.

“What the hell! Hey guys! What shall I write?” asked Phoebe.

“Well I can see why she’s confused...right? He sure is a jerk, big time! Tell him to get lost...okay?” Rebecca replied.

“No! Write, two can play that game. She needs to start flirting with other boys. And see how he likes her flirting. That’ll teach him a lesson,” Tamminya added. Tamminya sounded so confident as if she had tried and tested this formula successfully.

" Hey! I’ve got an idea. Just spread rumours about the wanksta, like he’s...he’s got an STD. Then other girls won’t be bothered even talking to him...right?” said Rebecca laughingly.

“Yeah, STD meaning incurable, yep, that’s better than STI that can be cured.”

“Sweet! Beck, you’re an expert on what to do when other kids made you feel like crap.”

“Lying is good?” asked Tamminya.

“Yikes, I hope not.”

“Is that a rhetorical question?” asked Phoebe.

“You and your rhetorical questions,” Rebecca sighed.

“Usually, I stay out of sight to avoid crappy jerks,” Tamminya replied.

“You’ve gotta stand up for yourself... justice... get even,” Phoebe said emphatically.

“She’s better off without him,” Tamminya concluded.

“Pheebs, who’s Mr Perfect?” asked Rebecca, in a mysterious tone that quickly drew attention.

“What?” asked Tamminya.

“What’s the comment for poor confused and lonely?” Phoebe mumbled trying to keep attention away from Rebecca’s comment about Mr Perfect for fear that her secret was in jeopardy. Tamminya remained focused on the two-timing jerk that was upsetting Miss Confused and lonely rather than interrogating Rebecca about the meaning of Mr Perfect that appeared to anger Phoebe. While Tamminya and Rebecca continued discussing the two timing jerk Phoebe was vigorously attacking the keyboard.

“Hey Guys, what’d you think?” Phoebe asked pointing to the screen and manoeuvring the cursor over her typing.

Rebecca read the reply aloud.

“Hey, you left the word to out, in two places” said Rebecca pointing to where the word needed to be inserted.

“I never know which one to use... is to or too or two, grammar is so confusing,” Phoebe said dramatising every word.

“Pheebs, so, is that s o or s o o?”

“Haha, very funny!”

“She should join the group of girls he’s flirting with,” Tamminya suggested.

“Super, I’ll add that idea,” said Phoebe thoughtfully. A few moments later with additions and corrections completed the comment was posted.

“What’s next?” Rebecca asked when Phoebe had finished typing and corrected her typos.

“Let’s check out Erika’s FaceBook wall,” said Tamminya.

“Now, who wants a drink?” Phoebe asked stretching her arms and back.

“Me! Good idea! Coke, please,” said Rebecca

“Water please,” Tamminya replied quietly.

“Hey Tamm, look what Erika just posted on FaceBook,” squealed Phoebe. Phoebe hastily clicked on more to read the entire comment.

“Way to go girl! Teachers need to get real. They live in another world. They think we’ve nothing else but homework to live for,” Tamminya blurted out.

“Yeah! Study robots...right? That’s what we’ve become. What can we do?” Rebecca asked.

Within milliseconds Phoebe’s response was on FaceBook.

Tamminya laughed heartily at Phoebe’s witticisms and admired her ease with words. “Hey babe, spot on. Oh Pheebs, we haven’t even started on the Drama PowerPoint,” said Tamminya.

“I know what!” Phoebe exclaimed loudly, swinging excitedly around on her chair to face everyone. “We’ll get a petition against homework, an anti-homework decree.”

“Sounds good! Bring it on! And then we can take our petition to -- ,” said Rebecca.

“To the principal and coordinators. Wow! Cool! We’ll get hundreds and hundreds of responses,” said Phoebe.

“Why don’t we get Erika to set up a homework timetable...petition…and post our timetable on the school’s Intranet?” Tamminya suggested.

Rebecca, the technical guru always preoccupied with technological jargon said, “Hope all the responses don’t clog up --,”

“The server? Why not! That would be super,” Phoebe said.

“Can you do something to prevent that?” Tamminya asked.

“Not really! Oh, I suppose if we do clog up the server ... we have a good reason not to upload our homework...right?” said Rebecca grinning like a Cheshire cat.

“Tu meke! That settles it. We must organise a petition,” replied Phoebe. “But now, let’s start our PowerPoint.”

“I’ll design the slides and you two can create the character profiles, okay?” said Rebecca.

“Sure, I’ll jot down the current characters, Tamminya can you do the past characters?” said Phoebe.

“Damn homework! How many slides do we need?”

All afternoon, in her father’s office, Erika, after checking her FaceBook, had been composing her next journal entry. Arriving home with her father, she raced through the back door, dropped her bag and flew into her bedroom. She turned on her computer to begin typing her thoughts about choosing subjects that would affect her future career. Erika desperately wanted to tour with the Australian Ballet Company. Dancing was all she lived for, all she understood and nothing else could compare to a lifetime of dancing regardless of her parents’ pleas for something that will last a life time. As the computer was awakening, she kicked off her shoes and headed back to the kitchen. Opening the refrigerator, she found some strawberry cheesecake and a can of Coke. She quickly returned to her room with the cheesecake and Coke in hand to check her emails before writing up her thoughts.

Erika immediately spotted an email from Kimberly. Just a couple of clicks away:

A mist clouded Erika’s eyes. She felt the tears in her throat and behind her eyes. She missed Kimberly heaps. The email reminded her of how much. She needed Kimberly as well.

“Yeah, you can be lonely even with people around you,” Erika said to her monitor. She wondered if the other girls missed Kimberly as much as she did. Did they know how much Kimberly missed them?

Erika checked the time on her monitor.

5.47 pm. The girls are still at Phoebe’s.

Erika left her strawberry cheesecake and Coke sitting on the desk and quickly slipped on her thongs. She ran out the back door quicker than she ran in. Suddenly, she turned around and ran back to her room. Fortunately! Erika had left so suddenly without turning her computer off. She hit the print key and waited impatiently for her Canon to wake up and print out the email. Clutching the email, she darted out the back door once again and ran to the Porter’s mansion. As she hurried to Phoebe’s house she almost wished that she believed in God. This would be a perfect time to pray but her doubts clouded any thought of praying to God who might hear her or who might be too busy listening to other people to hear her pleas for help. Her thoughts, if only she could help Kimber, kept bouncing around in her mind with nowhere to go but into the too hard basket.

“Off to soccer training,” Ben said as Erika was about to knock on the door. His mouth widened with the most infectious grin that almost sparkled like diamonds. His white teeth, yellow sun-bleached hair and big brown eyes beckoned her to enter. She noticed his broad shoulders were caked with dried salt and his hair stiffened with salt indicating he had recently been frolicking in the Pacific Ocean.

“Been surfing again?” Erika asked.

“Yep, waves are always perfect before a storm,” Ben replied.

Erika managed to offer a quick greeting as she ran past him, into the Porter’s family room. Erika was so preoccupied that she never noticed the kitchen aromas of her favourite meal, pizza. In fact, the girls were oblivious to Phoebe’s mother who had returned home early from work and was busy in the kitchen.

“Sup?” Tamminya asked taking one look at Erika who was blushed and panting like a puppy.

“Hey yourself, yeah good. Just got an email from Kimber,” Erika replied with her eyes and thoughts fixated on the A4 sheet she was grasping.

“Sweet! Wha--” Phoebe started to ask about the email but Erika couldn’t wait. She had to tell them how sad and lonely Kimberly was.

“She’s so unhappy. She doesn’t have any friends. She misses us,” Erika blurted out in one quick breath.

“Seriously?”

“Oh, no!” The girls replied in unison as if they had been rehearsing for drama.

“Look! Here! I’ll read her email,” said Erika.

The girls sat with their eyes fixated on Erika as she read the email. There was silence. But not for long. A sniffle interrupted the silence.

“What the hell. What are the other reasons they moved?”

“Really, you’re kidding.”

“Oh my God! What can we do?” Erika asked.

“I really miss her too,” said Phoebe while wiping her eyes and keeping her head down.

Rebecca asked, “Should we text or phone her?”

“What does she really need?” Erika asked.

“Is that a rhetorical question? She needs us, her friends,” said Phoebe using her drama voice in snobbery style or what her mother called righteous indignation.

“We need to help her... help her to look forward... to make life as good as she possibly can and not to look back anymore... remembering what you’ve left only hurts,” Erika said reassuringly.

" Right! Good idea! How about the chat room?” Tamminya suggested.

“At times being hopeful is real, real hard,” Phoebe said clearing her throat. “You can waste a lot of energy on false hope and life; well everything just stands still in a bubble, twirling around ready to bust.”

“Hey you two, you sound like the school chaplain,” said Tamminya.

“Whatever,” Erika replied shrugging her shoulders and stifling a giggle.

“Far out! Oh yeah! I’ll check to see if she has a WebCam. I can setup my WebCam and then we can all talk and see each other,” said Rebecca while busy texting Kimberly. Rebecca could text quicker than she talked.

“Does her phone have Facetime?” asked Tamminya.

“Not sure.”

“Great idea.”

“Whatever, we have to make a real effort to help her. I really do miss her,” Erika said flapping her arms around as if gathering everyone ready for a finale chorus.

Each girl, absorbed by their own thoughts were oblivious to Phoebe’s mother placing a large plate full of nibbles on the desk. Tamminya had awakened her iPhone and was also texting. Phoebe was re-reading the email silently over Erika’s shoulder.

“What’s wrong girls?” Phoebe’s mother asked feeling the solemness radiating from the girls.

“Oh,” Phoebe replied in her high pitch surprised voice. “Erika, just showed us an email from Kimber. She’s so unhappy in Sydney. She misses us and hasn’t made any friends...she hates the school and--”

“We’re working on ways to help her.”

“We miss her too.”

“Well, what if you asked her up for Easter? She can stay here. I’m sure Ben would love that.” Phoebe’s mother suggested as she was leaving the room.

“Great idea Mrs Porter.”

Tamminya lowered her head, examining the tiled floor, to hide her fears.

“Hey Erika, have you started the English homework? What topic did you choose?” asked Phoebe popping some chocolate in her mouth.

“Well, I was planning to write about dating in different countries,” replied Erika.

“Cool! Sounds great. Phong can tell us about dating in Thailand,” Tamminya said, relieved that the conversation had shifted.

“Yeah, but after reading Kimber’s email I was thinking on the way over here that I should write something about loneliness … or, perhaps friendships. You know, how important your friends are …their feelings …how to show your friends that you care about them. I’ve been too busy that I never sent Kimber an email or text or even phoned her. Well, yeah I know, that’s a poor excuse. I should’ve made time,” Erika replied. Her voice and her paper white face, showed how downhearted and disappointed she was with herself.

Tamminya’s mobile rang... Answer The Phone It’s Your Mother. She quickly grabbed her iPhone to stop the hideous ringtone.

“Yeah! Gotta go guys. See ya tomorrow,” Tamminya said as she gathered her belongings.

Answer The Phone It’s Your Mother.. Answer The Phone It’s Your Mother.. Answer The Phone It’s Your Mother.. Answer The Phone It’s Your Mother... the girls chorused in jest.

“Awesome! Just gotta get that ringtone! Where can I download, Answer The Phone It’s Your Mother?”

“Yeah, I’d better go too,” said Erika looking at her watch.

“Let’s meet at Maccas before school tomorrow,” Phoebe suggested.

“Cool, we’ll talk about how we can help Kimber. That’ll give me some time to think about friendships,” replied Erika.

“Slate. See you at Maccas... okay?” said Rebecca.

“Hey Erika, we’ll chat about our new ideas too. Saw your post about homework and we decided we should create an anti-homework petition. We get too much homework ...’specially from Fluff Head. We’re gonna write our own homework timetable,” said Phoebe as she walked with Erika and Tamminya to the front door.

“Zero homework, that’s my motto...right?” Rebecca quickly added.

“Get out! Wow! So, we’ve got lots to talk about. I might put something about homework on my blog. See you tomorrow,” said Erika.

“Bye,” said Tamminya.

“See you, bye,” said Phoebe.

“Wait guys, I’ll walk to the corner with you...okay?” said Rebecca rushing past Phoebe.

Dark storm clouds gathered low overhead reminded Tamminya of the argument with her mother that she knew wasn’t over. The storm had been gathering in the air all afternoon and its arms were heavy with water. Tamminya expected that any second the heavens would open and soak everything. Her steps became heavier and slower as she walked home via Coles. She felt bad for not being a worthier friend to Kimberly. Thoughts about the argument with her mother earlier kept bobbing up to the surface of her mind. Sadness and anger bumped around and within her like thunder in the distance. She knew as soon as she opened the door, the smell of dinner hitting her stomach like a tornado that a full-scale storm had arrived. Food was the last thing she wanted.

“Hi, Pumpkin,” Tamminya’s father cheerily greeted her without raising his head from the paper. He always scanned the sports section very carefully looking for hidden treasures. He was acquainted with all the athletes, especially in the Hastings area.

“Hi Paddy,” she grunted back.

“Where have you been, Pumpkin? Your mother’s been waiting for you. I’m famished,” her father said.

Tamminya considered neither the question nor the answer.

“At Pheebs,” she replied curtly while wondering how she could escape the greasy feast that was laden with calories her mother always prepared.

“I could eat an entire restaurant. I’m starving,” her father replied without taking his nose out of the paper.

“Oh dear, good, you’re back! Five minutes before dinner,” her mother cheerily greeted her as she entered the lounge room. “Great, you’ve got the cream, thanks dear. Oh Tamm, why did you get light-cream? You know that light-cream is always runny, never thick, just like milk.”

“I didn’t notice,” said Tamminya hoping that her excuse was acceptable. Emotions skittered across Tammina’s face. Life sucks.

As blond as her father RJ was, Tamminya’s mother, Tamara Rosa Maria had black hair like all the Moretti family. Her parents migrated to Sydney when she was only two years old from the small North-Italian town of Pordenone. Tamara held her Italian heritage very dear to her heart. She had taught Tamminya her native language for as long as Tamminya could remember. Tamminya was annoyed that Italian was not an elective at school, she would have had a bludge subject with good marks. The only language taught at school was Japanese.

“Hurry back, dinner’s ready.”

Tamminya did not require a reminder about dinner as the smell of garlic wafted throughout the entire house. Tamminya was convinced that even cooking aromas added calories that took refuge in her thighs.

Tamminya threw her bag on her bed and kicked off her shoes. She could smell the storm. The air was eerie and getting heavier with humidity. She changed out of her daggy school uniform into her favourite denim shorts and black T-shirt.

The Judd’s mansion was built on the edge of a rainforest close to Lighthouse Beach. The backyard was a jungle, full of trees, bangalay palms, ferns, and shrubs. Even sightings of various native fauna were common.

“Hi Elvis, looking for a bird to catch?” she asked her cat who was sitting on the window ledge looking at all the activity in the rainforest. From Tamminya’s bedroom she often saw glossy black cockatoos, an occasional red-necked wallaby, bats, possums, and brush turkeys. “Lots of tasty morsels out there for you to purr over but you’re not allowed to kill any, right Elvis?” Tamminya said as she jiggled the bells on Elvis’s collar. Koala’s grunting like pigs often woke Tamminya during the mating season.

“Another thunderstorm tonight Elvis,” she said, looking out the other bedroom window where she could scan the Pacific Ocean and watch the lighthouse flicker away unceasingly to whoever needed guidance.

Tamminya’s iPhone rang. She grabbed the handset without looking.

“Hey Tamm,” she heard Kimberly say.

“Hey you, what’s up?”
“Right! I got your message homie but I’m out shopping with mum. Don’t think I’ll be home for an hour or so.”

“Okay” replied Tamminya.

“Right! Hope to take home a box of Krispy Kremes”

Tamminya shuddered at the thought of those addictive high calorie doughnuts.

“Tamm, honey, dinner’s ready,” called her mother.

“Tamm, how are you? I was stoked to hear from you. I’ve been checking your status on FaceBook but you haven’t posted anything for ages. Why?” said Kimberly.

“I’m great. I never have anything interesting or funny to say,” Tamminya replied.

“Right! Sure, you do. I hear you and Ben are an item now.”

“No, we’re not, we’re just friends. Who told you that? Bet that blabber mouth was Pheebs.”

“Right! No, I haven’t spoken with Pheebs.”

“Who, Beck?”

" Sorry have to go, mum is calling me. We’ll chat later. Bye.”

“Bye.”

Tamminya frustratingly threw her iPhone on the bed. Taking her iPhone to the dinner table was frowned upon by her mother.

“Elvis, everyone is talking about me and Ben... not fair. What will I do? Pheeb’s fault, she has the biggest gossipy mouth in the entire world.”

Tamminya closed the curtains to shelter and protect Elvis who was afraid of lightning and loud noises.

A few moments later Tamminya winced as she heard her mother impatiently yell.

“Tamm, we’re waiting for you.”

“Hurry up Pumpkin,” her father called.

“Taaa...min…ya, what are you doing? Hurry, we’re waiting.” Her mother’s voice shook the room. Slowly Tamminya walked down the stairs to the dining room. Years ago, she would slide down the banister, but tonight heading to another interrogation she took each step as if she was recovering from a hip replacement. Her parents were sitting at the table trying to disguise their impatient scowls with a smile. The Judd’s routine for every evening meal demanded sitting at the dining room table as a family. Tamara, the guru of the kitchen, spent her days focused on her special meal time with her family, learning about their day and planning special occasions.

“Good, you’re here. Let’s start. I’m famished,” her father said.

“RJ, pass me your plate, honey.” Her mother started placing spoonful after spoonful on RJ’s plate. There was no doubt that Tamara could win Master Chef with her eyes closed.

“Honey, you’ve outdone yourself. This is scrumptious,” said RJ with his mouth full of lasagne.

Tamminya carefully eyed the contents displayed on the table and thought, Lasagne! Fatty, greasy, horrible lasagne! I’m not eating it! She can’t make me. Salad!

“Tamm, pass your plate please, love?” her mother asked.

“Oh, I’ll just have salad tonight,” Tamminya cautiously replied while handing her plate to her mother.

“You’ll need more than that dear,” her mother said, emphatically, giving Tamminya one of her looks: don’t mess with me.

“I’m not hungry,” she said apologetically, her voice on the edge of a whinge.

“Well thanks Pumpkin, that’s more for me,” RJ said scraping his plate, eating as if this was the only meal in the universe, his last for eternity. He had a nice laugh. Genuine.

Tamminya gave him a flicker of her endearing smile while reaching for the salad bowl and placed a small spoonful of salad on her plate next to the lasagne. She chased the lettuce floating on salad dressing and carrots around the plate. Each minute mouthful was masticated carefully, slowly.

“What’s bothering you, Pumpkin?

“Nothing!” she snapped. Nothing you could possibly understand.

“Come on Pumpkin, eat your food or you’ll wake up in the middle of the night hungry,” her father pleaded.

“But, Paddy, I’m not hungry,” she said batting her long black eyelashes at her father knowing her father could not resist her baby pleas or her lifelong endearment of Paddy rather than Daddy.

Tamminya sliced some lasagne and lifted the small piece towards her mouth and suddenly placed the portion back on her plate. She began prodding at what remained of her salad with her fork.

“Now, tell us dear, what’s the matter,” her mother pleaded.

The matter ... just leave me alone!

“Look how skinny she is, RJ! A growing girl needs food,” Tamara pouted.

“But love, she’s not hungry.”

“All girls are hungry.”

“You can’t force her to eat,” said RJ while reaching for another serving of lasagne.

Hello, I’m here... I can talk... I can make my own decisions.

“But mum, I’ve got a headache from all the humidity. I just want a drink of water and then go to bed,” Tamminya whinged. She shrugged her shoulders, brushed her hair back from her face and took a sip of water. Resting her forehead in the palm of her left hand she glared at the plate.

“Oh, Pumpkin, are you coming down with something?” her father asked just as the first clap of thunder rumbled through the house.

“Tamm, you’ve probably got a hunger headache, eat up,” her mother said.

“Looks like we’re in for a good storm tonight, honey, got the candles ready?” RJ asked Tamara.

“Over on the kitchen bench.”

“How was your day, Pumpkin?”

“Good.”

“Any homework?”

“Some.”

“Better not use the computer. You know what happens in a storm. We could have a brown out. Nights like this can crack at any minute and pour out rain. You can use my iPad if you want.”

“Yeah.”

“RJ, I don’t think the storm will last long.”

“Did you have a good time at Phoebe’s?” her father asked.

“Yeah.”

“I wish I could get her brother, Ben, to play soccer. He’s got real potential.”

“He has?” she replied unsure whether her response was a question or her curiosity activated by hearing Ben’s name?

“Sure has, but I think he’s too wrapped up in this darn surfing... he misses more practices than he attends.”

“Yeah, I think he goes surfing every day.”

“Tamm, honey will you please eat some food,” her mother pleaded in a threatening tone.

“I’m going to bed. I’ll sleep off my headache,” Tamminya said, quickly taking advantage of the thunder to avoid another stormy confrontation.

Climbing the stairs Tamminya could hear her mother arguing with her father about her eating. The not eating conversation that was being digested by her parents kept her company adding to her headache.

“She’ll make herself really sick if she keeps this up,” Tamara empathically stated.

“She’ll eat when she’s hungry, it’s just the age. She’ll grow out of watching every mouthful. Stop worrying.” RJ assured Tamara.

Tamminya slammed her door shut but the words were still replaying in her mind. She thought of when she was young and made to go to bed at seven o’clock despite her pleas to stay up to watch television. Tamminya grinned as her words danced back to life: I’m scared of the dark, leave the door open. Her father would pick her up and spin her around the room until she was dizzy with laughter.

In the sanctuary of her bedroom, Tamminya splayed across her bed, exhausted and relieved. Tamminya felt that she had become a specimen in a jar for her mother’s penetrating eyes to feast upon critically. Arguing with her mother, constantly, made Tamminya sad, angry, stressed, and fed up. Pressing her fast-forward button, she was transported to her own home, making her own decisions without opposition. A clap of thunder brought her thoughts back to the moment.

“Elvis, she has no idea how to chill-out.” Tamminya was convinced that her mother had no comprehension of what overindulgence in food causes.

Tamminya listened to the storm with Elvis purring, cradled in her right arm. The lightning lit up her room like a Christmas tree blinking. Rain began bucketing down noisily on the colour-bond roof and foolishly attempted to drown out her thoughts. In desperation to escape her thoughts, she reached for a magazine. Tamminya flipped through the pages of her latest magazine and decided to attempt The Secret You Quiz.

The result read …You’re super-sweet and sensitive. You shower your friends with hugs and kisses, and you’re the first person they turn to when they need a shoulder to cry on.

“Yeah, that’d be right, hey Elvis,” said Tamminya, ruffling Elvis’s silvery head. Elvis remained motionless and her purring intensified. Elvis was a part chinchilla female cat that lived mainly in Tamminya’s room. Regardless of her noisy collar she was not allowed outside because of the wildlife.

After completing the test, she flipped through the pages and read the article about Cutting, Starvation, Violence, and Suicide. Tamminya awakened her PC but after several attempts failed to activate the Internet. “Damn, down again!” Her only method of communication was her iPhone. Frustrated Tamminya returned to her magazine. She read the story about a girl aged 14, who was sexually abused and raped as a child and had attempted suicide eight times.

Justin Bieber’s Favorite Girl filled the air, interrupting her thoughts. A message from Kimber, thought Tamminya as she wiped her eyes with one hand and checked her phone with the other hand. Thumbs went into full swing.

Tamminya was left wondering why Kimberly’s parents were always arguing and how much was it upsetting Kimberly. Hell no, can’t be that bad that she’d commit suicide. Her thoughts twirled like a cyclone prompting her to return to the article on the girl who had attempted suicide eight times.

“Tamm honey, your father and I are going for a drive to the lighthouse to watch the lightning. Do you want to come?” Tamminya’s mother called from downstairs. As a child Tamminya loved the evenings watching the ocean rise to meet the sky darting from one spot to another without any warning, but tonight the lightning display was the last thing on her mind.

“No thanks,” Tamminya replied without taking her nose out of her magazine.

“Won’t be long.”

Tamminya went back to her monitor. To her relief she accessed the Internet. Quickly she went to the chat room but no Kimberly. Picking up her iPhone she sent her a message. While waiting for a response she carefully typed … http://www.reachout.com.au/home.asp and clicked on What’s in your head? To her surprise, the first article talked about a Miss Bruised who was experiencing constant cyberbullying due to her bulimia. She read the article, and then clicked on the fact sheet.

“Wow,” she said, “and you can contact your phone or Internet service provider and report what is happening. They can help you block messages or calls from certain senders.” She continued exploring the site for several minutes. She participated in the ReachOut.com National Survey.

After looking at blogs, forums, games videos Tamminya finally checked her emails.

“Hey Elvis, I’ve got mail, from Phong.” Tamminya informed her cat like a brother or sister.

Returning her attention to Miss Bruised on her computer Tamminya’s heard the ping of another email. “From Phong, and I haven’t replied yet,” she exclaimed disturbing the cat from her sleep.
Suddenly, uncontrollable laughter filled the room with the realisation of what crop dusting meant.

The MSN icon was blinking at her from the corner of the screen.

“Kimberly?”

“Phong! Great!”

A sigh of relief to see Phongsak on chat interrupted the laughter.

Tamm: hey u got ur email... crop dusting? ...wot a blast!

Phong: hey u2... r u ok?

Tamm: why do u hav 2 go out wit that bitch?

Phong: think they want me 2 marry her

Tamm: wot?

Phong: my family loves her

Tamm: keep crop dusting? ...wot a blast!

Phong: pretty lame

Tamm: no gr8 ... jake on 2 ½ men for farting says air biscuits

Tamm: haha

Phong: she’s from a good family... i want 2 live in australia

Tamm: yeah, if my parents picked my husband i’d leave the country 2

Phong: feel like im going 2 explode

Tamm: + crop dust her + evry1 pushing u2 2gether

Phong: haha

Tamm: good trick... i’ll try lol... especially on pheebs

Phong: wot she done?

Tamm: spreading goss about me

Phong: wot goss

Tamm: her brother ben + me as an item

Phong: r u?

Tamm: no... i like him... maybe I wish we were but no

Phong: talk 2 her... tell her she hurt u

Tamm: all they care about is what they look like + how many friends they have on fb... not my feelings

Phong: u must try... u2 BFF long time

Tamm: wot does ur mum think ... about the bitch

Phong: mae no talk... she went silent... wouldn’t talk... like i was invisible, not there... like i never spoke... really weird

Tamm: talk 2 ur dad

Phong: he going mental ... being me sucks

Tamm: no wot u mean... my mum goes mental heaps 2

Phong: maybe i’ll go middle way of Buddha... a Bhikkhu

Tamm: u’d make a lousy monk ... ☺

Tamm: hey do monks marry? christian monks don’t marry

Phong: no sex... big prob.. only eat between dawn + midday

Tamm: no sex ... no food ... wot is left? lol

Tamm: don’t know what religion 2 believe in

Phong: yeah + no sleeping in... up every day @ 4.00am

Tamm: wot? she really must be a bitch 4u2 want 2 join that mob... lol

Phong: she sure is

Tamm: u got a prob + u try 2 think of a movie or tv show with same prob + u try their solution

Phong: does it work?

Tamm: sometimes...

Tamminya noticed Pheebs come online.

“I’m not talking to her... she just has to tell people everything... just to get some laughs... not tonight homie,” she said to her computer.

Tamm: oh must go... bye ♥

Phong: cya

Walking down the stairs Tamminya resisted the temptation to slide to the bottom. Advertisements from the LCD echoed from the lounge room as she headed to the Yamaha piano in the family room. Tamminya never heard her parents return from the lighthouse, but the noisy commercials were enough for her to realise that she was no longer alone in the house. Without thinking she let her fingers attack the keyboard. She started playing Bartok’s Bulgarian rhythms so furiously as if the piano had caused her harm and she needed to claim her revenge. The 2 + 2 + 2 + 3 beat rocked the room. As she rhythmically hammered the keys she thought about Phong and how she missed him at school, how she missed Kimberly.

“Thailand was so far away.”

His unhappiness was contagious. Thumping the black and white keys to eliminate Phoebe’s prankster behaviour from infiltrating her thoughts proved ineffective. Turning to Chopin’s Nocturne in G minor a transformation occurred. Through her fingertips the piano keys gradually drew her pain, anger and frustration and Tamminya found herself in a much better, a more relaxed state of mind. The piano sighed in relief as her fingers slid over the keys, and a flowing melodic rubato replaced the rhythmical pounding. Music always worked like a charm casting a tranquil spell around her.

Tamminya’s elastic thoughts drew her to a uninhibited place where she felt free to enjoy the sounds of discord and harmony floating around her. Transported to paradise she was unaware of her audience as the crushed chords expanded her horizons.

“Hey, Pumpkin, that sounds beautiful,” her father said bringing Tamminya back to reality.

Startled, Tamminya asked, “Seriously? How long have you been standing there?”

“Not long. I’ve never heard that piece. What is it?”
“Just something I wrote.”

“Really? Fantastic! What’s the title?”

“I don’t have a title yet.” Tamminya was afraid that should would be asked what inspired the composition. No-one would ever know.

“Want some supper love?” her mother asked popping her head around the doorway.

“Yes, a cuppa tea would be great.”

“I’d like a toasted cheese sandwich, hun,” said RJ. “Oh, and a little ham too please, hun.”

“Anything to eat, Tamm?”

“No thanks,” she replied through clenched teeth and cat eyes.

“You didn’t eat your dinner. I can reheat some lasagne for you.”

“No thanks. I’ve still got a headache. Just a hot drink,” she said as her eyes squinted preventing words from penetrating her soul.

Tamminya flopped on the sofa. Offspring had already started but Tamminya found it easy to pick up the threads even when she had missed several episodes. She slowly sipped her hot chocolate wishing her mother had given her black tea she requested but not wanting to engage in another confrontation, she silently sipped away.

Tamminya was so extremely tired but sleep, as usual, eluded her. The intensity of the storm had ceased. Distant small rumbles were barely audible. The rain stopped pounding the house. The air was heavy. The cicadas chirping among the forest noises was deafening. Tamminya hated the humidity that hung around choking and dragging the life out of her body. Tamminya flipped her pillow. The fresh side still felt too hot, and the thin sheet that covered her legs was annoyingly heavy. The cover felt like it was made of lead rather than the Egyptian cotton made of the finest thread. Tamminya kicked the cover off and turned the ceiling fan onto the highest setting.

Splayed across her bed staring into the black space of her room listening to the fan swirling overhead, thoughts about Miss Embarrassed she read about on Erika’s blog filled the empty room to the beat of drip, drip, drip from the downpipe. Tamminya identified with Miss Embarrassed and in her mind, she became Miss Embarrassed.

She plotted revenge.

In her mind’s eye, she played the scenario of meeting the bully at Port Central. She would arrange for him to stand underneath the balcony at a certain time, wearing a particular colour t-shirt and jeans. She would be hovering above in the food court, ready to pounce on the unsuspecting jerk while he waited eagerly for her. Then at the perfect time, she would drop a plastic bag full of water, putrid smelly water, on his head. “Drown the jerk, yeah, drown that bully, that’ll teach him,” she said to Elvis.

Her thoughts floated back to the argument she had with her mother before she stormed out of the house. She remembered the meal table pressure to eat lasagne. Her feelings, like the world, were designed to keep her in place, to torment her thoughts and dreams. Tamminya could not understand why her mother made her eat excessively when fat people are ridiculed. The media was inundated with negativity about the great Australian obesity epidemic and her mother was making her eat, and eat and eat, all the wrong foods, all the time. Tamminya wanted the freedom to exercise her self-control. She was not a binger like the obese people. She could control her eating, if she was allowed. Tamminya was 167 cms and weighed 46 Ks and her ambition was to get down to 40 Ks. Food arguments turned over and over in her mind like clothes in the tumble dryer.

“Pumpkin,” called her father through the door. “Pumpkin, sweetie, are you still awake?”

“Yeah... Paddy,” Tamminya replied.

The door opened revealing RJ’s tall silhouette against the hall light. Tamminya’s father flipped the light switch as he entered the room. He carefully sat down on her red armchair. He was wearing his fake grin and a long silence hovered around the room like dark storm clouds. He had a sticky question in his eyes. One that Tamminya never wanted him to voice.

“Err, Pumpkin, listen, I need to talk to you.”

Tamminya felt that no conversation starting with that word, listen, was ever going to finish well unless you were waiting for fish to bite. Sitting up she expected the cloud to burst heavily upon her as he sat very quietly, looking at her. Something about his manner made her very uncomfortable.

“How’s your headache?”

“Better thanks.” Tamminya looked at her father with exasperated affection.

“Feel like eating dinner now?”

“No, I’m fine.”

“Pumpkin, your mother is very worried about your eating. She’s afraid you’ll make yourself very sick.”

“But Dad, I am eating. She’s...” Tamminya frowned knowing that this tone of voice meant serious talk.

“Remember as a kid you ate everything.”

“Sure.”

“You always asked for seconds, especially sweets.”

“Well I was growing then.”

“You’re still growing sweetheart.”

“Well, when it’s really hot I never feel like eating.” Tamminya tried hard to smile as her father’s words were crumbling over her, so he couldn’t see how annoyed and angry she was feeling.

“At Port Central, when we took you shopping as a kid you’d ask for food, not toys like other kids, but food,” RJ laughed, but a curtain slowly dropped down over his face like the end of a movie. “Do you know what this is doing to me? Seeing you get thinner and thinner and your poor mother worrying her heart and soul, day and night over you,” her father pleaded. “How about you come down and have something to eat? Look, if you improve with your eating I’ll buy you an LCD for your bedroom.”

“But Dad, I do eat. I just, I just have a headache tonight. That’s why I didn’t eat dinner.”

“Oh, Pumpkin, I’m not just talking about tonight, you refuse to eat every night and your mother says you never get up in time for breakfast.”

“But...,”

“Can you have a piece of toast before you leave for school? Seeing you eat would make your mother and me a lot happier knowing that you’re starting the day off with something in your stomach.”

“Sure.” Tamminya could hear her beckoning online chat chimes punctuating her father’s words.

“Pumpkin, you look perfect as you are. You don’t need to lose any weight. But you need to keep up with protein and vitamins or you’ll get very, very sick. Maybe end up in hospital.”

“I’m fine,” she winced.

“Well Pumpkin, think about what I’ve said,” he said gently while walking over to the door. “Nite, nite Pumpkin.”

“Night Paddy.” Tamminya thought as he closed her door, well you can hope all you like but it doesn’t make a scrap of difference.

The door closed but the atmosphere remained murky. Tamminya reached for her iPhone. Scrolling through her music list she stopped at Silverchair. I love Ana’s song...The words are so true. The song makes me feel better … Silverchair’s songs help me through bad times…I relate to the words... Tamminya first heard this song when her cousin was in hospital having her first dose of chemotherapy. Tamminya thought as she placed her earplugs securely in her ears and turned up the volume how she had the amazing and uncanny ability to have her every mood confirmed by music. Without fail, whenever she turned on the radio, the first song played would say something pertinent about her life; providing directions for solving her problems. She only ever told Elvis about her hidden talent for fear that her friends would consider her loony. Her musical psyche was a secret she kept to herself but when her musical illumination happened, the direction or confirmation always had a profound effect on her ability to understand and accept situations.

As she listened to music and jiggled the sleepy mouse she wondered why adults could never see her point of view, why they had to chant: do this ... do that or don’t do this or that, depending on their mood. She closed her eyes and listened to the melody interweaving in the music, threaded and knotted over the top of each other. At the end of the song she switched on the light and checked her monitor.

“Damn.”

No-one was waiting to chat, well, no one that she wanted to chat with so she clicked on Teenspot and found 3228 people online but decided to turn off her computer and before going to sleep, write in her diary. Tamminya opened her diary while listening to music on her iPhone.

She could hear the roar of the Pacific Ocean pounding the beach mercilessly after the storm.

Across the night...I feel tired, asleep in a golden ocean…

The crashing waves were as deafening as her mother’s and now her father’s pleas trying to force her to eat all wrong foods, all the fatty foods.

Eyes perspired ... I’ll only make you cry with these feelings...

The iPhone beckoned with Kimberly’s song.

“Hey.”

“Hey Tamm,” Kimberly said.

“Hey homie, what’s up?”
“I’m all shopped out. Bought a new top and jeans. Got these fab earrings.”

“Cool,” replied Tamminya.

“And the box of Krispy Kremes. Tamm, how are you?” said Kimberly.

“Great ... sameo sameo, I miss you.”

“I hate this school...it’s huge ...I need a golf buggy to get around it.”

“I can just imagine you speeding around corridors, banging into boys you want to date and knocking over teachers you hate.”

“Ha, ha.”

“Have you made any friends?”

“No, they all have their own groups from last year.”

“Hey Kimber, what are you watching on TV?”
“TV’s not on.”
“So what’s that noise in the background?”

“That’s my parents arguing. Again. It happens nearly every night. All night. They start low keyed and then Dad’s voice gets louder and deeper and mom’s getter higher and shriller. Then Dad screams at her that she’s getting illogical and hysterical. So, she storms out slamming the door. He gets in the car and screeches away and sometimes he stays out all night.”

“Wow! Why?”

Not knowing what to say next, Tamminya and Kimberly fell silent, each girl nursing their own private thoughts. The background noise on the iPhone of Kimberly’s parents was mesmerising. Tamminya was clueless. Her parents hardly ever fought and then it was more like sulking than raised voices. Kimberly didn’t know how to explain her parent’s arguments. Tamminya could only imagine what it would be like listening to that uproar and wished she could give Kimberly a hug.

“I hide in my bedroom when they start arguing.”

“That’s safe... a good idea. Hey, what I was going to suggest is we should start a group page on FaceBook... one that’s only for us and our closest friends like Erika, Sammi, Pheebs and Beck. We can make it our own special gossip group.

“Yeah...”

“We can upload pics, chat and post all sorts of things on our won goss page.”

“Yeah... we set a time for a real goss party. I miss you all and we can stay together... you know BFFs.”

Last year the six girls were inseparable at school and after school, doing homework, shopping, sharing secrets and dreams. This year there was a gap but no one felt the gap as much as Kimberly isolated in Sydney. Strange how one can be lonely in a large crowd.

“Hey, can I create the page on FaceBook?”

“Sure Kimber. Make me an administrator too, yeah?”

“Yep! I’ll call it Port Gossip Page. Hey, have to go, my Mom’s calling me.”

“OK. Take care, big hugs homie.”

Tamminya slid her iPhone under her pillow. Somehow her antagonism towards her father dissipated. He was always on the look-out for anything or anyone even vaguely threatening both his Pumpkin and her mother. He would be there in a flash to defend her if she was in trouble. That was a certainty that she could depend upon. He had proved it. She knew they had all proved that there were there for each other, when it really mattered.

Mortality rubbed its icy finger along her spine with nothing to offer but the unanswerable. Why did the world have to change? Why do people hurt each other? A well of tears rose up like a volcano erupted, once again. Why do people have to die? Tamminya’s thoughts focused again on Miss Embarrassed. Was Kimberly another Miss Embarrassed?

Tamminya was crying. Not proper crying, just her eyes leaking from the sides. Were those tears for Miss Embarrassed or Kimberly or someone else? Herself perhaps? She never bothered to wipe the tears. She wanted to meet Miss Embarrassed, tell her she understood, and be her friend. How could she find out who she was? Miss Embarrassed needed someone who could identify with her innermost pain and turmoil just as much as Tamminya needed someone. Tamminya wanted to hug Kimberly.

In her diary, she allowed her pencil to dance around the page while her thoughts were focused on her pain, her unspoken thoughts for speaking about them made them real.

“I want to...,” she whispered, but her words disappeared as her pencil sat isolated on the desk. Closing her diary gently, careful not to bruise her thoughts, Tamminya turned off the light and splayed across the bed under the cloak of the ceiling fan. Her tears were dropping down and making dark blotches on her pillow.

Tamminya curled up with Elvis and tried to shut out her demons. She talked to her cat as if she was another person. Listening to Elvis purring she waited for the night to cloak her in a kinder light than the brash strident day and its cruel illumination. Just as Tamminya was dozing she wondered why some people had to move on and others die? Why were some left behind, in a vacuum? What use was any of life’s dramas? Tamminya thought, if only I could press the delete button ridding the world of all pain.

Tamminya watched the shadows dancing on the wall and dreaded the morning. Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? God is so unfair. If God knows I am hurting, why doesn’t He help me? Is there a God? Where is the God that Granma talks about? Why does he ignore me? Why doesn’t he care about me and the people I love? Why did he make me ugly and fat? Why, why whirled around in her mind like the oscillating fan.

She yawned and drifted away.

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Further Recommendations

marieamy788: Very much enjoyed it loved it to

Heather: Way to go writer. This book sucks you right in from beginning to end, I could not put it down. The way the author writes, I was crying from beginning to end for the little girl. But it all worked out in the end for her, finally a family to love her.

Francoise: Comme toujours ce tome est super.Merci pour vos écrits.

Justine helda: Trop addictif pour être bon pour la santé

Country Girl: It’s a really good book this is the 3rd or 4th time I have read it. I will keep reading it over and over

Devika: Short but soo good 😊👍🏻. There's a lot of meaning in each chapter giving lessons about life. I really enjoyed it even it makes me cry so much but ended happily ever after ❤️🤗. Expecting a lot like this from the author.

Beverley: I enjoyed the book and the storyline was funny sad and well written I look forward to reading more of your storys

Amy: I loved this book so much. I loved everything about it. The characters were so interesting. Their situations were wonderfully thought out and described. I don’t have a lot of friends. I don’t know that any of them have this app but if I did, I would recommend it to everyone.

More Recommendations

lindacottrell56: Loved this story. I t is a lovely happy ev d r after story.. Enjoyed the characters. Thank you, regards Linda

Lizzie: Tiene buen trama, me ha gustado la historia

klzink63: I love everything that this author writes. Wonderful plots, easy to get caught up in the story. Great characters. Her series all work well with each other, no gaps in the stories.

JILL: Enjoyed the book, Devon and Cara’s story, after an awful and sad upbringing and suffering for years Cara met Devon, he was an Alpha of a different pack visiting her pack. He was sweet, kind and caring, I’m glad she got her HAE

Roosa: Some of The best fast paced novellas from this author!

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