At The Edge of Silence

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The Scream


The Boss grabbed Ella and pulled her to her feet. He put his arm around her shoulder, stooping to do so, and pulled her tight into his side.

OMG, I am totally going to die right now, she thought. He’s going to pull out a pocket knife and slit my throat for daring to fight him…

But Ella was mistaken. She was not about to die. The Boss grabbed a beer from the crowd and raised it high in his other hand.

“Cheers to Ella!” he yelled. “She came, she saw she conquered! Well nearly. Thank you Del for saving my life from this fiery Princess!!” he laughed and he shook Ella, who for once did not know what to do with herself. Then in a slightly more normal voice he added, preaching to his congregation: “This young girl has more balls than most of you put together! How many of you would have dared to go toe to toe with me? And she has the skills to pull it off too. I like this girl! So much so that I officially declare Ella to be a Friend of this tribe.”

A huge cheer rose up from the crowd. Del staggered to his feet and looked over at Ella, both a huge grin and still a look of relief on his face. Ella, feeling a lot less nervous about her likely death looked around also, scanning the faces in the crowd, all cheering and enjoying the unexpected turn of events the evening had brought. Finally she caught Del’s eye.

“You ok?” said Del, barely audible above the crowd.

“Er, yeah I think so.” she replied. “Are you? Sorry, about the kick.” and she flashed a cheesy smile.

“Ah, it was nothing.” he said trying to be nonchalant but betraying his evident discomfort at being taken out so easily. “You caught me off-guard, that’s all.” he added quickly in response to the look on Ella’s face.

The Boss hadn’t let go of Ella’s shoulder and he swung Ella away from Del as he turned to address another part of the crowd. He turned his face toward Ella and looked her in the eyes. “Impressive performance young lady, you have earned our respect. You are now a Friend to me, to us. As such, you will always be welcome here, welcome with any one and all of us and we will be a friend to you. If ever you need us, we will be there.”

The crowd noise died down as he spoke. Words that they all knew well, words that had been spoken to them all when they joined the gang; words that they lived by.

“As a Friend, and not a member of the gang, you do not need to go through the initiation or the Ceremony.”

Ella wondered what kind of initiation rituals these guys had. She had a feeling she did not want to know what happened at the Ceremony…

“But we do, however, need…”

Ella cringed. What? What could they possibly need? She hoped it wouldn’t hurt or didn’t involve eating something nasty. Why the hell was he pausing so long?

“…a nickname!!!”

Again the crowd cheered. Ella let out a sigh of relief.

“Princess Karate Kid” came a voice from the crowd. Followed by “Princess Kick-ass”, “Cinderella” and a bunch of other ‘Princess this, that or the other’. Each one greeted with laughter and delight by the crowd and spawning further suggestions around a similar theme. Someone suggested ‘Whitey’ in reference to the fact that everyone else there was of non-white origin. It was a quick leap to “Snow White” and the Boss raised his arms.

“Yes! Yes. Snow White.” he said, and then much more loudly “Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Snoooooow White!”

The crowd cheered, the Boss took a step back and let Ella take centre-stage. She smiled nervously. A wave of pride washed over her and she composed herself as the crowd began to chant.

“Snow White, Snow White, Snow White” they chanted. The Boss smiled in deep satisfaction. This was just what his people needed. It had been a troubling few weeks and he needed something to help bring everyone back together.

Ella looked over at Del. He was smiling and winked at her before joining in with the chant. Ella smiled back and then looked out across the crowd. She grabbed the hems of her dress and did an exaggerated gracious curtsey.

“Thank you all for not killing me!” she joked as she found the Boss’s eye. He laughed and tossed a beer in her general direction.

“Party time!!!” he yelled and turned to talk to a couple of other older men standing beside him. Another cheer went up from the crowd and as the chanting died down Del took a couple of steps over to Ella until they were face to face.

“Quite the impression you have made there.” he said. ”Welcome to the family, Snow White.” he followed on with a big grin on his face. Ella smiled back and was about to respond but was interrupted as some of the crowd came over and started to shake her hand, hug her, pat her on the back, welcome her and introduce themselves - each with their own nickname that left Ella wondering just how some of them had come by such interesting monickers…

Del guided Ella through the crowd, talking, laughing and joking with them all, until eventually they were through the throng and on the edge of the group.

“Thank you for ‘rescuing’ me.” she said with a cheeky grin.

“You’re welcome.” Del replied, adding with his terrible British accent “M’Lady”.

Ella gave him a playful punch in the arm.

“Hey, don’t hurt me! Please, control that almighty power of yours! Ha! Ha!” Del joked.

“Very funny…” said Ella dryly. And then after a brief pause, “I’m sorry, I really didn’t…”

“Hey, don’t worry. All good.” said Del reassuringly. “You know that could have gone horribly wrong.” he said. His tone now was one of a long-time friend, concerned by his buddy’s reckless behaviour.

“Yeah. It could.” said Ella contemplatively. Once again a brief flash of emotion rose up. She knew Del was right; she knew she had temper issues; she knew that she sometimes did things that she could not explain; she knew she should feel bad for that, for the trouble she caused; but she also knew that she didn’t; and as always when confronted by that realisation and the emotional response it produced, she shut down quickly and took her mind elsewhere.

Del watched her eyes intently as she pushed through that moment. It seemed to last an eternity to him and in that time he felt like he saw deep into her soul. He felt like he could spend a lifetime here on the beach talking to Ella, but that he would never learn more about her than he did there in that brief silence.

He put his hand on her shoulder and as her eyes returned to the world around them and met with his he said “Do you wanna sit down?”

They sat down next to each other and instinctively Ella nestled in close to Del, his arm stretched out behind her reached up and brought her in to him.

“Do you want this?” she said offering him the beer that the Boss had chucked her way. “I had a few swigs, but it’s really not my thing.”

“Sure!” laughed Del and he took it and took a long swig. “Ah! That’s good. Been a long night.”

“So, are you like my guardian angel then?” asked Ella. “Are you gonna keep swooping in to save me from myself?”

“Ha! Ha!” Del laughed. But then, more seriously, “Yes. Yes I will. You just call.” Then, feeling like he’d overstepped, or leaped ahead somehow, he quickly added “Cause you know, the Boss meant what he said, you’re like one of us now. If you need us, we’ll be there for you.”

“That’s, er, reassuring.” Ella said dryly. “I guess you never know when you’re going to need a bunch of drug dealing, biker, gang-bangers! Maybe, next time I flunk my math test I’ll call you in to ‘change Mrs Bramley’s mind’…” she continued with a big smile as she air-quoted the ending.

“Hey!” responded Del in fake outrage. “You are making a huge leap there Snowy! It’s not nice to just assume that we’re drug dealers, you have seen no evidence of that this evening. And we’re not bikers, this is not a biker gang. You’ve been in my car..”

Ella laughed. “And yeah, as if I’d ever flunk a math test..” she added, almost quiet enough to be just to herself.

Del ran his hand over the side of his head where Ella had kicked him. The bruise was coming through now. “Maybe I should be calling you for protection!” he said. “That fighting with the Boss was stupid, but hell, you can fight Girl! Where’d you learn mad skills like that at your age??”

Ella’s smile faded and she paused a moment before responding. “My Dad put me in Tae Kwon Do when I was four. He always goes on about it whenever anyone brings it up. About how a girl needs to be able to defend herself these days and blah, blah, blah. After I got my blackbelt in that I moved onto kickboxing and I just started on judo.”


“Of course, it also helps when your oldest brother is the state Junior champion and you spend half your life at the dojo and tournaments. Might as well take part or you’re sitting on the sidelines bored as fuck and feeling left out because all your family ever wants to talk about is fighting and your brother. And even then, when you join in, when you participate, it’s still somehow different for me. I do it wrong, or my attitude stinks or I lack focus or whatever BS my fucking parents think up that day…”

Ella’s hands were betraying her emotional control now and her speech was getting faster and noticeably angrier.

“Sounds rough.” said Del sympathetically.

“Ugh. It’s fine.” said Ella in a tone that clearly illustrated it really wasn’t. “I’m used to it. And, you know, my brother is really, really good. He’s hoping to make the Olympic team if he does well enough at the National championships next Spring.”

“That’s cool!”

“And you know, it’s not like they don’t love me. I know they do. It’s just hard, you know. I’m not like them. They don’t get me. I do things differently, not how they do it, not how my brothers do it. Not just the fighting, pretty much everything. Really I have nothing in common with any of them.”

“What do your folks do?”

“My Dad’s the football coach at my brother’s high school and my Mom’s a lawyer. She’s super busy all the time, not the type to cook dinner or get involved in the parent-teacher association.”

“I’m sorry.” said Del and gave her a slight squeeze.

“Aargh! I do so much sometimes just want to kill them all. You know? I mean I don’t really, I could never, but I do. I do…”

“Lol. I hear ya.” said Del. “Is that what you were running away from this evening?”

“Er, no. No. Well, I did argue with them earlier, but it was my stupid, so-called friends that got me running away earlier. It was about to get all ‘Carrie’ in there, so just had to get out, get away.”

“Ahh. Wanna know what I do when I feel like the world is getting to me?”

Ella did not respond, but Del waded on regardless.

“I come down to the beach here and I stand with my feet in the ocean. And I listen to the waves, crashing on the shore and on the rocks over there. And I think about all that noise. I think about the yelling, the shouting, the harsh words, the thoughtless actions, the shit I have to deal with every day and the long infinite scream that is built up inside me. And I put all that noise, that scream, I put it into those waves, crashing and smashing on the shore. The waves forever coming and going, the violence of the shoreline.”

And he grabbed Ella’s hand and pulled her up off the floor. And they walked slowly together into the surf.

“And then I think about being further out, past the surf, into the ocean. And how calm and peaceful, quiet, it is.”

And they stood together, feet in the surf, waves crashing through their legs, Del’s arm around Ella’s waist. The emotion that had built up in Ella in their conversation came bounding to the fore again, but this time Ella didn’t quash it; it lingered, for a moment. A moment that seemed like an eternity to both Ella and Del. And she wanted to scream. For the first time ever, she wanted to scream and yell, and cry. But Del’s words somehow stuck in her mind and she looked at the ocean farther out. She looked at the calm. And the scream and the yell and the emotion inside, all faded away. Suddenly she understood what Del said. She let the calm flow over her and then, gradually she began to hear the surf again. But now it sounded less harsh. The waves still crashed, but now it was background noise, a beautiful sonic landscape on which to build more purposeful conversation.

For the first time Ella could remember, she felt good. She felt at peace.

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