Mary Quite Contrary
Mary Quite Contrary
Mary looked from the rain soaked window into the sodden communal garden below. Her rational mind had retired for the day, after another long battle trying to wrestle control back from her anxious side. Her rational mind had been unable to have full control at any point since Alan died and it was this lack of control that had eventually led to Mary being forced into the mental institute she now resided in. She had stayed with her family at first but, as her mind continued to fragment, they were eventually unable to continue to look after her and so professional intervention was sought. Mary, who was tormented by two voices of which she considered one to be anxious and the other rational, had developed schizophrenia and a mild form of dissociative identity disorder associated with the voices she heard. She didn’t know it, but the doctors and nurses had started referring to her apparent different personalities as Mary Quite Contrary, Mary Little Lamb, and Little Miss Muffet. Quite Contrary was when her two voices fought; with a vocal conflict of personalities and Mary becoming prone to spouts of violence. Little Lamb was when her rational voice gained the upper hand and Mary was relaxed and more or less perceived externally as “normal”. Little Miss Muffet was when her anxious voice gained the upper hand and she became restless and mistrustful of everything and everyone around her. Whilst a passing doctor or nurse may have thought Mary was currently in her Little Lamb state, as she sat by the window quietly, in actual fact it was Little Miss Muffet. Her anxious mind merely sat quietly for once, weary from a day of fighting off her other half, and had begun revelling in memories of times when Mary’s anxious mind had grown in strength.
Mary was eight, just turned the Tuesday past, and as a celebration of her eighth birthday her parents had taken her and her older brother, Mark, to Blackpool for the day. It had been a dream day for Mary, who had never visited the coast before. After a walk along the sea front, with an hour building sand castles and even time set aside for a quick dip in the murky brown water, her parents had sprung an even bigger surprise on her; they were taking her to a theme park. Not just any theme park, to Mary, but “the” theme park. Blackpool Pleasure Beach!
I've always wanted to visit the Pleasure Beach and now I'm finally going! My gentle reminders have paid off for once! Mary thought as a shot of excitement coursed up her spine. Her gentle reminders had largely consisted of pinning leaflets about the Pleasure Beach to the fridge door, and the daily stating of how she wished she could go to the theme park, but to her eight year old mind she’d been extremely subtle about it all. Her parents had ruefully told her that times were hard and that a trip to the Pleasure Beach was out of their budget, but none of this had put Mary off from her "gentle" reminders.
Now it seems they have lied! Mary thought, skipping along the pavement in ecstasy. Her anxious voice, who Mary had begun to think of as named Nervy, was trying to keep her grounded.
They've lied to us before, Mary. Remember Trixibell, the unicorn pony? Mary wasn't biting, that was on your birthday too, they're probably doing so again. Mary didn’t care.
This is a good lie, not an empty box lie. Mary argued back, joyfully. I'm going to spend the rest of the day on rollercoasters, tea cups, bumper cars, merry-go-rounds; and play at the coconut shy, the shooting gallery, the teddy bear grabber! She'd never been so excited. Mary was so excited that she didn’t hear the tram bell ringing out a warning as she tried to run across the tracks. Luckily, as always, Mark was there for her and pulled her back in the nick of time; the tram causing a gust of wind that made Mary’s skirt flutter as in a storm, and her face darken with shame.
‘Careful there, kidda!’ Mark asserted, but with a hint of laughter in his voice.
Mark was two years Mary’s senior. Despite only being a few inches taller than her he took on the appearance of a giant, to Mary, as she looked up at him now with grateful eyes. With his hazel chipped eyes and curtain style blonde hair, which was all the rage at the moment, Mark seemed like an adult to her.
And he never talks down to me like mummy and daddy. She adored her big brother, even if he was a big old meanie at times who would pull the heads off her Barbie dolls. Still, “big bro” had always been there for her. When Shelley pulled her hair in the playground Mark “accidentally” booted a football into Shelley’s head, making her cry. When Mary had forgotten to do her maths homework because she’d spent all evening making mud pies for Mr Brumbles, the family dog, Mark had crept in her room with a torch, after dark, and helped her complete it. She got an A for it too and after showing mummy and daddy it made its way to the fridge door, the first time any of her work had made it there. Mary laughed at the memories, causing Mark to wrinkle his nose in confusion.
'You've got to be more careful, kidda. Think of the mess you'd make if you were splattered by that tram.' Mary laughed again before nodding solemnly to Mark's comment, a smile playfully dancing behind her eyes. Mark was her knight in shining armour and unlike many siblings they actually got on.
And so it was that they finally arrived at the gates of the Pleasure Beach without any more near misses. Mary stood there in awe, unable to move; her hand gripping Mark’s tightly. He smiled down at her,
‘Come on, they’ll shut before you know it!’ He said with a huge grin on his face, before leading the way through the magical gates and into paradise.
Wow, I'm really here! Mary’s ears rung with the sound of laughter, her eyes shone with the flashing lights of rides, and her mouth salivated at the smells of hotdogs and candyfloss. Have I died and gone to heaven? Mary pondered as her anxious mind curled into a foetal position and wept.
‘Mary,’ her father called to her, bringing her back down to Earth, gently, ‘your tickets for the rides.’ He handed her a string of pink tickets, five in total, before handing another five to Mark. Disappointment slowly crawled its way along Mary’s features: as horror does a groom who’s just discovered the police officer in front of him is not a stripper, and that he really shouldn’t have slapped her arse shouting, ‘I’ve got a truncheon for you to get your hands around.’.
Five tickets? Mary contemplated in misery, Five meagre tickets? They won't go far here in heaven. Mary looked around at the nearest rides to her, Five tickets is the price of some of the rides! Mary realised with horror, a quiet moan escaping her lips. She looked up at her dad and could see his wan smile, hoping against hope that she wasn’t disappointed yet knowing she was. Her anxious mind uncoiled and cleared its throat,
Is this my cue? But Mary ignored Nervy, instead choosing to smile and hug her dad tight.
‘Thanks daddy! You and mum are the greatest!’ She said with genuine enthusiasm. Her parents were both visibly relieved and as she pulled away from her dad Mark gave her a wink, which did lift her mood somewhat. Looking back down at her feeble amount of tickets she mentally went over the memorised list of rides in her mind, doing her best to not be distracted by her overly worried anxious voice.
The Big Dipper? No, that will be too much if I want to go on more than one ride. Although Mary didn’t know it she was also too small, but she looked around at the nearest rides for inspiration. Ooohh, the Cat and Mouse. Nawww but that would eat away at nearly all my tickets too.
‘Bumper cars?’ She was shaken out of her thoughts by her brother’s voice. As always he’d come to the rescue and Mary nodded in reply. He held out his hand, smiling at her, and she took it. Together they ran through the crowd, parents beaming behind and following slowly, towards the sound of the bass heavy music and the flashing lights of the Bumper Cars.
The queue for the Bumper Cars wasn’t as long as Mary had hoped.
If I can't go on every ride then I want to stay here as long as possible, she thought with what counted as logic for an eight year old, and to do that I need queues! It seemed, however, that this was the one Saturday afternoon of the year where no-one else had decided to turn up. The park was still very busy, with running children with happy faces followed by grim parents looking into emptying wallets, but the queues were nowhere near as long as the snaking hand rails suggested they could be. Mark was doing his best to cheer her up and she could just about make out his excited tone in amongst the dance music blaring out from the large black speaker above his head. Before she knew it they were handing over two of their precious tickets, each. The man in the booth wouldn’t let them through at the sight of Mary and Mary could barely make out the argument now ensuing between her brother and the attendee.
Why is the man not letting me on? Mary pondered as he continued to point at a sign behind Mary’s head: a sign with an arrow and the words “You must be this tall to ride”. An arrow and words which Mary had to just ever so tilt her head upwards to read, even when on tip-toes. Her anxious voice started to fret.
It’s for your own good. These rides are dangerous for little girls and we should just go on the tea cups. Or better yet, watch other people on the tea cups. That sounds much safer. Mary did her best to ignore Nervy and waited; hand in Mark’s, as the man behind the booth finally relented and let them on. Mark was muttering and pulling her hand a little too roughly for her liking, but she was about to go on her first ride and nothing would spoil her day.
‘Which car would you like?’ Mark asked without really looking at her, ‘the red one? Or perhaps the blue?’ Mary had seen the car she wanted whilst she was waiting in the meagre queue and didn’t notice the curt tone in Mark’s voice. A pink ladybug she had named “Princess” in her mind. With a big smile on her face and too excited for words, Mary pointed in “Princess’” direction; jumping up and down.
Princess! Princess! Princess! She shouted to herself, her anxious voice being drowned out by her gleeful thoughts. The music had faded and by the looks of things everyone else was ready to start. They ran to Princess and Mark hoisted her in the air and down into the driver’s seat. The man in the booth shouted something at them, looking very angry and waving his hands, but Mark paid him no heed. Clicking Mary’s seatbelt in place he pointed at the pedals, quickly calling one the ‘break’ and the other ‘go’.
Why would I need a break? How long is this ride? Mary thought in confusion. In the rush Mark never noticed Mary’s feet couldn’t reach the pedals, before he turned and ran to his own car. The man in the booth just shook his head and flicked switches, bringing the ride to life. Everything started all at once; the music blasted some trashy hit from the 60’s, the lights danced along the floor, walls, and ceilings, and the metal roof all the cars were touching sparked into life. Everything started; except for “Princess”.
Mary’s anxious voice cried up with ferocious nervousness.
This isn’t safe! I told you this wasn’t safe! We’re going to die! Being only eight, Mary didn’t have much of a rational side yet but she did recognise a seat belt when she saw one.
I'm wearing a seatbelt, silly. I'm invincible if I wear one of these. Now how do I get Princess to go? She continued to believe she was invincible for the next few moments; until Mark drove his car, full speed, into the back of “Princess”. She juddered forward, a silent scream escaping her lips and her hands waving through the air until they found the steering wheel in front of her.
I'm going to die I'm going to die I'm going to die! Mark drove off, laughing, as Mary did her best to hold back the tears. She tried to reach the pedals below her but they were tantalisingly out of reach. Stretching out her feet again someone else scored a direct hit on “Princess’” rear bumper and Mary slid down in her seat until her chin caught on the seatbelt and her foot found the ‘go’ pedal. Mary screamed out loud as “Princess” lurched forward like a drunk after a kebab. Unable to see, or climb back into her seat, Mary spun the steering wheel in every direction she could until Princess found a wall and Mary’s forehead found the horn.
We're going to die, Mary. We need to get out of here! Why didn't you listen to me? Her anxious voice shouted, chastising Mary for her foolishness. Woozy and with a throbbing head Mary slowly crawled back up into her a seat, now that “Princess” was no longer zooming around the rink. Holding her head she looked to her left; just in time to see Mark careering straight at her with a wild look in his eyes and a terrifying smile on his lips.
The end didn’t come soon enough for Mary. She was battered, bruised, and her spirit almost broken. Her head was developing a throb that was keeping pace with the bass; the only positive drawn being that it drowned out her muttering anxious voice.
This was just one stupid ride. She thought miserably, but determined not to let this one set back get her down. This is still going to be a magical day. So, through gritted teeth, Mary held Mark’s hand and they left the ride. Mark was laughing all the while,
'Did you see that first hit I got on you, Mary? Ahaha, and that schmuck in the blue bug didn't know how to drive!' Mark gave Mary a gentle punch on her arm. Mary shot “Princess” a look of hatred and mistrust as they turned the corner, wishing quite vulgar things for an eight year old’s mind to fathom towards the car.
Three tickets left, Mary thought as she held them up in front of her eyes, hoping upon hope that extra tickets had grown during the bumper-car ride from Hell. Needless to say none had and, in part due to constant nagging from her anxious mind, she decided to pick a gentler ride. Still holding Mark’s hand she looked up at his smiling face.
‘Carousel?’ She asked, turning pleading eyes his way. Mark shook his head causing Mary's spirit to falter.
‘But you can Mary. I’ll wait here with mum and dad and cheer you on.’ So Mary let go of Mark’s hand and joined the small queue, alone.
They’re going to leave you. Her anxious voice stated and for the first time since she’d been hearing voices Mary answered Nervy back, aloud.
‘No they’re not, stop being stupid!’ A young girl in front turned around, although the adult, whose hand she was holding, did not. The girl shot Mary a befuddled look and then one of hostility, before turning back to look up at her dad and begging for ice cream. Mary was momentarily stunned to silence and, thankfully, so was her anxious voice.
What was that for? Mary and Nervy thought in unison. Mary reached the front of the queue and as she walked to the horse she wanted to ride, she called for help from one of the attendants to climb aboard. Once sat down, however, she began to feel calmer.
Giddy up Trixibell! Mary thought as slowly the ride began to go round in a circle, with traditional organ music playing loudly in the background. Most of the children on the ride were younger than Mary and she soon realised why.
This ride is going nowhere, slow. She thought after the first complete rotation. By the third rotation she was full on bored.
Wait, how many tickets have I got left? She thought in fear as she looked down to her hands and saw only one ticket poking out between them and the reins of the horse. One!? She nearly burst into tears. Fighting against the onset of a wobbly bottom lip, Mary thought of how to spend it.
On a ride that will last as long as possible, just not this slowly. By now her anxious mind had recovered from its previous shock and was back berating her again.
Is this your idea of Heaven? Our parents made it so we'd have a bad time. They saba... sabo... they planned this! Mary continued to ignore the comments although it was now becoming difficult after sitting on the horse, slowing going up and down and round and round in a circle, for what seemed like an hour.
Even with big bro cheering me on, this is boooorrrr-ring! The ride slowly came to a stop, not that it had done anything of any moderate form of speed throughout, and Mary ran to her family; last ticket clutched tightly and determined to salvage the rest of the day. Wandering around the park, scanning the rides and finding all of them marked at two tickets or more, Mary began to get disheartened.
Is there even a ride I can go on? Will they let me leave if I haven't spent all my tickets? Fear began to grip Mary's young heart. Even when her dad splashed out on a big stick of candy floss for her, Mary's anxious voice continued to chip away at her regularly, threatening to completely ruin Mary's special day. Suddenly, Mark tugged on her hand and she was dragged along as he ran towards the Hall of Mirrors. Stopping in front of it Mark beamed down at her.
‘Fancy this one, Cherub?’ Mary instantly brightened at his nickname for her. Whilst she was sure Mark didn’t know what a cherub was, and Mary certainly didn’t, he only ever used it when he was excited.
Perhaps today is saved! Mary thought, jumping up and down on the spot and shouting.
‘Sure thing, B-B!’ This time Mark lit up at the use of her nickname for him. As they trotted over to the entrance Mary stopped dead in her tracks, so fast Mark nearly tripped.
‘Two tickets,’ Mary moaned, tears beginning to form, ‘it costs two tickets.’ This time a tear did begin the short journey down her rosy cheek, clinging to her chin like the least popular kid at a house party.
He did this on purpose. He got you excited just to see you cry, her anxious voice thought bitterly.
‘Don’t worry, Cherub,’ Mark said gently, ‘you have two tickets.’ Mary looked down at their joined hands and there, poking out between her fingers, were two tickets. Hardly believing her eyes she shook her hand free and there, sitting on her palm, were two real tickets.
‘See! He loves me!’ Mary shouted, jumping up and down. Mark’s face crinkled in confusion before smoothing out into a smile.
‘Of course I do, Cherub. Now let’s go get lost in this maze!’
They paid with their combined tickets and entered through the doorway. Beyond was a maze of narrow passages; passages made of both mirrors and glass.
Wow! This glass is so clean and clear I can’t even see the faintest reflection of me. Mary thought in wonder, eyes wide in awe. Unless there's a pesky mirror on the other side. She giggled, as did Mark, as they wandered through the maze. Both walked with hands held. Mary held one free hand against the glass to her right whilst Mark held out his free hand in front of him. They slowly continued their way around the maze, laughing every time they nearly bumped into glass and feigning disappointment when they reached another dead end with a mirror.
It’ll only end in tears. Her anxious voice tried to insist but Mary was having too much fun to pay Nervy any heed.
I've found the magic of the Pleasure Beach! I'm back in Heaven! They continued to walk around the maze, hand in hand, for what seemed an eternity - but in reality was only three minutes - until they reached the centre. In the centre was a large, brightly lit, room filled on all sides with misshapen mirrors. Mary was a little nervous at first, until Mark stepped in front of one of them and his reflection changed.
'You look like a fat dwarf!' Mary said through laughter, eventually laughing so hard she nearly fell over. When Mark began to laugh too, so that his head stretched tall and then shrank with every round of laughter, she did fall over.
‘Stop, stop! My sides hurt!’ Mary blurted out, rolling on the floor and causing Mark to jump out of the way; creating more weird and wonderful shapes in the mirror. Mary continued to giggle to herself as Mark picked her up off of the floor. They made their way around the room, laughing at each other in front of each mirror; especially when Mary was made taller than Mark in one pair of mirrors. Mary was having so much fun in this room she decided to go through all the mirrors again, not noticing that Mark had left without her, to continue on through the maze. Halfway round, giggling all the while, she noticed Mark wasn’t in any of her reflections. In fact, as she spun around, she was the only one in the room; albeit reflected numerous times.
'Mark. Where are you?' She whispered. Only her anxious voice replied.
He's left you. He's left you for one of the mirror goblins to get you! The reflections, which moments ago seemed humorous, now took on monstrous mocking forms and Mary began to get worried.
Mark wouldn't leave me! Would he? Mary did her best not to cry and left via the door marked exit, quickly; anxiously tugging at her dress as she went. When she stepped through the door sunlight greeted her eyes and whilst being temporarily sun blinded she did manage to make out her mum, her dad, and more importantly her brother.
They didn't sell me to the mirror goblins! She thought as relief flooded through her. She saw them all waiting for her outside the maze, smiling, and encouraging her to join them; Mark beckoning her to him. For a moment she forgot where she was and she ran to them. All of a sudden she came to a stop and the world went grey.
What's happened? Did a goblin get me? She swayed on her feet and the light returned, although much too bright this time. A pain rushed up her nose and into her head causing her to stagger backwards and fall over. Raising her head and rubbing her nose, Mary saw her family before her, blurry but quite clearly laughing.
What's so funny? Why are they laughing? Realisation struck and she remembered where she was, I've run into a window! Tears welled in Mary's eyes and she turned to the sound of laughter close behind her; seeing the little girl from the carousel pointing at her whilst licking an ice cream. Even her father, still holding the little girl’s hand, was chuckling to himself. Mary burst into tears as her last attempts to salvage something from the day disintegrated before her very eyes.
Why? Why did they do this to me? As Mark re-entered via the exit to get her, still laughing, all she could hear was Nervy tormenting her over and over again.
I told you. I told you. I told you.