FICTION: Youthful Surveillance by Daniel Parker

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9th October 2002 –

Mum made us watch Neighbours again today; I mean the TV show by the way, not the Chapmans, or the Wallaces, or that old woman at number six with all the cats. I’ve decided that Australia is my mum’s addiction, whenever the show is on the telly she always tries to copy their voices. Dad said that my Uncle Terry has an addiction to cigarettes, and that’s why his fingers are stained yellow. It looks pretty gross. Watching the telly can’t change the colour of your skin, so it’s probably a better hobby than smoking. I still find the show pretty boring though. At least Uncle Terry doesn’t expect me to smoke with him.

Glen and I always sit on the rug with our legs crossed in front of the fire when we’re watching TV. It’s the cosiest place in the house. Lately my little brother’s gotten a bit annoying because he’s started taking my dolls without asking, which doesn’t even make sense because he’s a boy. I really want to call him ‘ginger’ when he does it as I know that would upset him the most. But I stop myself; I still have to be kind even though he’s a thief, because Glen’s in my family. I usually just tell him he’s adopted instead. To be completely honest, I don’t actually know what that means. I just remember Andrea saying it to her brother once, and he cried. So I decided it would be a strong replacement for ginger. I’m going to Andrea’s for dinner tomorrow. Since I met her at Brownies, she’s become my favourite person. Her little brother is annoying, too, so our lives are kind of the same. Except Kevin is a bit dumber than Glen, he wrote Pokémon in felt tip pen on the wall in his kitchen, but he spelled it, P-O-C-K-Y-M-A-N. You see, very stupid. Andrea isn’t like that, she’s smart like me.

My parents sat on the sofa together when Neighbours was on, and kept touching each other. Mostly dad putting his arm around mum, sometimes she rested her legs over his, and I even saw dad stoking her hair like she’s a kitten at one point. I found that very odd, cats are cats and people are people. We should all act like the way we were born. I never see my friends’ parents doing that kind of stuff, so maybe my mum and dad are a bit strange. I could ask for a kitten for Christmas, then dad could stroke that, and it would make him a little bit more like a human being.

After the TV programme had ended, mum brought out our dinner. Today it was a big bowl of creamy vegetable soup with bread to dip in; the meal was to die for – that means delicious, another thing I learned from Andrea. I told you she’s clever. Especially the sweetcorn, I could eat that stuff all day! But again, Glen ruined dinner a little bit. I didn’t even notice at first, but my brother had my mermaid doll, and threw her into his food like she was diving into the ocean to save a mushroom. Soup landed everywhere, including on my arm. I really, really wanted to call him ginger when he did that. My parents didn’t even tell him off, they just kept laughing and then cleaned up all around him. My vegetables were very to die for so I didn’t stay annoyed for long, but I’ve still asked him to put shampoo in Ariel’s hair. Anyway, now I need to go to bed.  I can’t wait for Brownies tomorrow and to see my best friend.

Good night, Panda.

10th October 2002 –

Brownies was really fun today. Brown Owl painted our faces to make us look like butterflies and then we did a chocolate hunt. Me and Andrea worked as a team, and found more than anyone else. Claire helped us a bit, too, but Andrea sometimes says she doesn’t like Claire because she’s so young. We are eight years old, and Claire is still only seven.

After Brownies we went back to Andrea’s house. She has a princess sticker book at home with one thousand stickers. We spread all the sparkly ones across the floor and then, Andrea, me and her mum started putting them in their correct boxes. But we had to stop when her dad came back. Do you remember how I told you that Mrs. Woodham can sometimes get mad with the naughty boys at school if they get too loud? Well, Andrea’s dad is kind of like that but all the time. He stood on the gold, shiny Princess Klara sticker, and it made him angry. We should have been the people that were annoyed, really. That sticker is the best one, maybe. Now it has a footprint on it! He shouted at Andrea’s mum, asking why the floor was so messy. Then he screamed even louder when he found out his dinner wasn’t ready. She went to the kitchen after that and made everybody some scrambled eggs on toast. It tasted to die for. I think her dad does shout too much, but whenever I’ve told my parents about Mrs. Woodham going crazy in class at the silly students, my mum always says adults can often have bad days, as well. That’s why her temper can be ready to heat up. I guess Andrea’s dad has a lot of these kinds of days. I think he’s also mean because it’s one way to get nice treats. If calling people names can get you delicious food, is it so bad? Anyway, after dinner we went up to Andrea’s room with our stickers and finished putting the best ones in the book, and then we acted like our favourite princesses while looking in the mirror. I was Klara, of course. Andrea said I should be Sadie, because she has brown hair like me. And Klara has blonde hair. But I don’t think that should matter. My mum always tells me I can be anything I want to be in life, and I wanted to be a Swedish princess.

When I got home, Glen was holding my doll again. Sometimes I wonder if he’s normal. My mum and dad seem to have no problem with it. I think it’s mostly just annoying to see because it is my thing. My Uncle Terry once told my parents that a boy should be playing with monster trucks, but my dad told him that he was a prejudiced, or parades, or something like that. I think it means boys can have any toys they want. Whatever he means, I don’t think prejudiced is that he can play with my toys! I didn’t say anything this time, but I did feel a little bit mad.

Anyway, I’m so tired, Panda. Better go to sleep. Good night.

13th October 2002 –

I didn’t have Brownies today, but I still got to go to Andrea’s house anyway. I think my mum and dad were doing something with Uncle Terry and Auntie Sheila; I’m not really sure what, but they weren’t going to be at home. And me and Glen are too little to look after ourselves, mum says. They wanted us both to go to the After School Club, until I asked to go to Andrea’s and they said I could.

The day was really fun in the beginning. We went to the bathroom with a jug and started making some perfume. Andrea sent her brother into the garden to get flowers, and he came back with two, and lots and lots of mud. Some of the dirt fell into the jug, but it didn’t matter. Andrea said all the best perfume has a small piece of mud inside because flowers need soil, so it was actually good that it went in. We then poured the water inside. It looked fantastic, but it didn’t really smell like anything. It needed a perfume smell. Andrea decided we should go up to her parents’ room and add a small bit from one of their real perfumes, just to make ours perfect. We picked the first bottle we saw, took it down to the bathroom, opened it and poured it into our jug. Only Andrea must have had butterfingers, because the bottle fell out of her hands and slid into the bathtub with most of the liquid dripping out. We should have probably cleaned it up, but we didn’t, we just ran back into her room leaving the mess behind us. Andrea said if we get into trouble, we can blame Kevin because he got the flowers.

Things all went wrong when her dad went to the toilet. He started shouting, but not at Andrea, me, or Kevin. He told their mum to come to the bathroom and see the mess. She had been downstairs with him the whole time we were making the perfume, so I couldn’t understand why he was blaming her. I was a tiny bit happy to know that we wouldn’t have to lie to get Kevin in trouble, because I’m not very good at being dishonest. My parents’ seem to have special powers that know when I’m not telling the truth. Andrea’s dad kept screaming at her about how the aftershave is thirty pounds, and it was ruined. I did feel really guilty when I heard him say the price. I couldn’t believe it was so expensive. That kind of money could pay for a summer holiday to Spain, I reckon. It made it easier to understand why he was so mad. We opened the bedroom door a tiny bit, so that we could see into the bathroom. Andrea’s dad had hold of her mum’s hair and then threw her to the ground. He told her that she had to clean it all up, and then he left her. She was crying while she cleaned. It made me feel a bit sad. As soon as her dad went downstairs, Andrea ran out of her room to give her mum a hug. But her mum sent her away, she wanted to be alone. Maybe she was annoyed with me and Andrea because we didn’t come out and say that it was us that spilled the aftershave. I guess it’s not so easy to be brave when you can see how mad somebody is.

Before my mum came to pick me up, I asked Andrea if her dad had ever pulled her mum’s hair like that before. And she said he had. She also said she’s seen him put her face in spaghetti and throw his drink on her. It made me wonder about my own parents. Would my dad ever do something like that to my mum? I think maybe not. He doesn’t really seem to get mad much. I then started thinking about whether fighting and hurting people is good or bad. My parents say that hitting people doesn’t solve anything, but it can get you things you want. And it can also make people happy. When Mark and Ian had a fight at school, everybody wanted to watch. All the students were chanting and excited. Mark was really popular after, as well, because he was the winner.

Anyway, it was a strange afternoon and I really should sleep. Good night, Panda.

14th October 2002 –

Today has been pretty terrible. I’ve been grounded, which means I can’t even go to Brownies this week. Thanks to Glen being a little, weird, stupid thief. He was playing with my mermaid again at the breakfast table, he seems to think it’s his now. I told my dad that I was annoyed that my brother had my doll without asking, but my dad defended him. He said that I only want it because he has it, and he can play with dolls if he wants. So according to my dad it is ok to take other people’s things. I felt really angry. I walked over to Glen and shoved his head into his cereal. He started crying and I was sent to my room.

School was the best part of the day. We played kwik cricket in PE class and I got eight runs, which was the second highest out of all of the girls. But even better than that, I got full marks in my spelling test after lunchtime. I was sure that I wouldn’t be grounded anymore when I went home and told my parents how good my score was. But it didn’t change anything, I couldn’t believe it. I had just spelled ‘hippopotamus’ and ‘chimpanzee’ right. Like, come on, how can that not be enough to get out of a punishment? Hippopotamus has five claps! Symbols, I think? Anyway, it’s one of the longest words in the world. My parents are being so strict!

When I got home, Mum and Dad sat with me in the living room. The TV was off, which made everything very quiet and serious. They had so many questions, all because of what I did to Glen. They told me they were shocked, as I had never attacked my brother like that before. That was true, but he really made me mad this morning; more than on other days. They wanted a better reason than because he was annoying, but I didn’t really have one. My dad started asking loads of questions about school. He wanted to know if I’d hit another student or if anybody had hit me. Why would he think that? Why would I do that? Nobody at Saint Bernard’s took my things like Glen did. I like my classmates. Then they said I should tell them about all the fights that happened at school. I told them about the two boys from the year above – Mark and Ian – that had a fight at breaktime a week ago, but the answer didn’t seem to be enough. No matter what I replied, there was always a follow-up question. We seemed like we were talking for three hours or something.

After I didn’t say what they wanted about school, they started asking me to tell them about Andrea. I said that she doesn’t fight, either, and wants to be a princess with me. Still, there were more questions. Later I told them about how we spilled the perfume, which made her dad angry. My parents asked me to explain ‘angry’. I said he grabbed her mum’s hair and made her clean the mess. They looked surprised and then stared at each other. That’s when the questions stopped. My response seemed to make them confused, but not really mad, just sort of like they didn’t really know what to ask me next. I was sent to my room when they didn’t have any questions left.

I thought I could finally relax and be left alone, but when they called me down for dinner there were even more questions. This time they told me to tell the truth, but I had no idea what I had lied about. They said I made up the story about Andrea’s dad to give me an excuse. I couldn’t understand why they thought I did that. Then they told me that they had phoned Andrea’s mum and she said it didn’t happen and that I had made up the whole thing to get out of trouble. I didn’t know what to say. I guessed I must have made it up at first, but I didn’t, I know I didn’t. I continued to deny that I was lying. But they kept using the word ‘dangerous’ which kind of made the whole thing feel so serious, and I felt weird. It’s a dangerous lie to tell they said, and people can get in big trouble for such a dangerous made up story. After that, my dad said that if I didn’t admit that I was fibbing I can never go to Brownies again. Obviously at that point I had to tell them it was a lie, it wasn’t, but what could I do? I don’t want to never go to Brownies again. Mum told me how ‘dangerous’ such a lie is one more time, and then sent me to bed. They said I still couldn’t go to Brownies this week, but were very happy that I knew to tell the truth in the end. It was all very confusing.

What a very strange, strange day. Anyway, good night, Panda.

24rd October 2002 –

Today was a bit sweet and sour. It was sweet because I finally got to go back to Brownies, but it was sour because Andrea wasn’t there. Nobody even told me why she was missing. I asked Brown Owl where she was, but she just shrugged her shoulders. Brownies is always fun no matter what, and I really enjoyed playing hide-and-seek with Claire this week. I like Claire, even if she’s a bit younger, she’s still nice, I think. We also made bookmarks and painted them. I painted a princess on mine, the legs were a bit too fat, but apart from that, I thought she was very beautiful. I gave it to Glen when I got home. He likes princesses, so I wanted my brother to be happy.

When I got home I told my parents that Andrea didn’t go to Brownies this week and nobody knew why. They looked at each other surprised and were pretty quiet for a while after. It was unusual that they responded that way. I don’t know why they went so silent and looked so worried. Anyway, they were really, really happy to see me hand Glen the bookmark. My mum gave me a big hug and said that I was wonderful. I was happy to hear her say that.

Later Uncle Terry came round and made a funny face when he saw that Glen was playing with the gift I gave him. My dad pointed to the bookmark before Uncle Terry could say anything about it and started smiling – a big, big grin – and told him that his lovely daughter, Mandy, made that for her brother, Glen, because they love each other and that’s how families should be. I don’t know why he needed to say our names like that, but he really enjoyed doing it. And then he asked if Uncle Terry had anything to say about that, but Uncle Terry just looked at my dad and told him that we’re his kids. My dad nodded as he agreed that we were. The conversation was really difficult to understand. They both knew that we’re my dad’s children, why did they need to say it? Weird! Uncle Terry did have a little plastic dinosaur he pulled out of his pocket a bit later that he gave to Glen, but Glen wasn’t interested. I would have had it, but he didn’t ask me.

Oh, another thing I forgot to say is that we’re having a Halloween Party at next week’s Brownies and I’m going to dress like Princess Klara. I can’t wait.

Anyway, I’m so sleepy now. Good night, Panda.

26th October 2009

Dear Diary,

I apologise for not filling you in with daily reports lately, but nothing has particularly changed for me to write worthy updates. I still think Glen is probably gay, I remain secretly in love with Mark, and I continue to be addicted to the Harry Potter books. I don’t want these entries to start getting too repetitive.

I was inspired to write today because of an article in the local newspaper that really freaked me out. I used to go to Brownies when I was in primary school. I’ve never written about that before, due to the fact that the things I did as an eight year old were all pretty lame. Anyway, there was a girl in my group called Andrea Morris. She only went for a short time, I would say a month or so, and I didn’t really know her very well, but I remember her leaving very suddenly with no real explanation. It felt very odd at the time.

The article I read this morning made my heart sink, if I’m truly honest. Stories just seem to hit home a lot more when you know of the person involved, don’t they? And this story has completely crushed me. Her father almost beat her mother to death. The picture that accompanies the article is truly devastating! You can barely tell that the poor woman is still a person. She’s currently in an intensive care unit, while he’s been arrested. It makes you wonder what triggers such insane, violent actions. Also, how is something so horrendous able to get to that stage? Were there no warning signs, for example? Did family and friends brush what they previously saw under the carpet, as it was not their business? I guess you do hear stories of people just one day flipping a switch and going crazy, perhaps that is what happened. I don’t really know anything of those people anymore, so I will most likely never get any further information. It’s just so saddening to read of that happening to anybody, especially somebody you once knew.

Andrea in particular has been on my mind all day. Mostly due to the fact that she was is my age. I remember she had a brother, too. He was around the same age as Glen. I suddenly feel extremely lucky for both myself, and my brother, as we have the parents we do. They’re not perfect, but who is? Everything they do is to benefit us, and they also seem very happy together. I almost feel ashamed that it can take an event like that for me to fully realise how nice my setup is. What must be going through poor Andrea’s head, right now? Kids don’t choose their parents, and sometimes they don’t even ever get to meet them. You’re just made to deal with what you’re born into. It’s kind of like you throw a dice before you’re born, and sadly Andrea rolled a one when it came to her father. I hope things get better for her over time, and she has the right support around her.

I should probably leave it there. Hopefully I’ll offer a chirpier version of life next time I write.

As always thanks for providing me with a space to offload my thoughts,
Mandy.

glasses

Daniel Parker

Daniel Parker is an inspiring travel writer, who has lived in
three different continents and visited five. He believes that travel is not
only enriching but also provides great inspiration to a writer. Daniel
holds a BA in Journalism and has produced work for Dragon’s Travel.

If you enjoyed reading Youthful Surveillance, leave a comment and let Daniel know.

You can find and follow Daniel at:

http://dragonstravel.com/

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