Every school has one of those stories, a story whispered among students and passed around each time being changed slightly until no one was sure of it’s true origin. At Phillipson High most conversations at the start of term revolved around the infamous List which appeared year in year out plastered over lockers, walls and even bathroom stalls.
The List was simultaneously dreaded and anticipated, those who knew they would be on it for all the right reasons walked confidently into school on the first day whilst others anxiously hovered before entering the building with their shoulders hunched.
And what exactly did this List contain?
The words written out seemed almost foolish, one of the reasons why parents and teachers never took it seriously, but to the high schoolers these words meant everything.
There were four main categories that the female students in the school were sorted into:
1. The prettiest girl in the school
2. The ugliest girl in the school
3. The FBPG “fat but pretty girl”
4. The improvement
Principal Woodrow who everyone knew had been at the school for far too long gave his usual tired speech every year spoken without much conviction at all. He was far too close to his retirement to care about what happened in his school.
Deep down, even those who pretended to care knew that the writer of the list would never be caught, it was just the way the world worked. To ensure its authenticity as there had been many copycat cases each list was embossed with a seal proving its legitimacy, if someone could find this seal then the whole practice would have been brought to an end, but after thirty years of List’s it was unlikely that this would happen.
Within a day, social media would be buzzing, and the school’s social hierarchy would shift it could be the best thing that ever happened to some, or the worst nightmare of others. Even the teachers had been known to talk in hushed whispers about who had made the list that year, though the official school policy banned any such talk.
The strangest thing was that everyone knew what an outdated and sexist thing The List was, but nobody seemed to care. Everyone secretly prayed that their name would appear on The List, that someone had deemed them worthy enough, pretty enough to end up on The List, because being on it meant something.
You would think the worst category to be placed in would be the Ugliest Girl in the year, but in fact, being named the Ugliest Girl in The Year did you more good than bad. You were remembered and given invites to the best parties of the year. In a sick and twisted way, people wanted to be seen with the ‘Ugly Girl.’ But if you were named the FBPG, you were a social pariah. Three previous FBPG’s had moved schools, unable to deal with the fact that someone out there put them on a list and exposed one of their deepest, darkest insecurities.
The very nature of the label was ironic in itself, pretty was seen as a commendable thing, everyone wanted to be pretty, but pairing that with the term ‘fat girl’ gave the term a completely different meaning. It was terrible in the fact that someone somewhere had decided that you were nice to look at if you didn’t take into account your body size, and that was what destroyed girls lives.
Teenagers can be the cruellest people when they want to be. It had become a way of life in Phillipson. Every year, hundreds of teenage girls would drift off to sleep the day before the term began, hoping that they would be on The List, but dreading the inevitability that one of them would be named the FBPG.
One such girl was Florence Elizabeth Clarke, sound asleep without a care in the world not knowing that her very world would be collapsing around her the next day. Perhaps if she had known she wouldn’t have slept so soundly. She reasoned that the ‘nice girls’ were never put on the list what reason would there be?
She was noticed because her parents owned the most popular diner in town, and she could often get people the best seats and discounts. There were
Everybody loved Florence.
Or at least that’s what she thought...