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Here is the entry.
You are startled awake. It’s dark. The clock shows there are several hours before you need to get up, yet sleep eludes you. Then you hear them. The sharp, angry sentences that tell you her temper has reached its limit, the slurred comebacks that tell you he’s drunk. Again. It is the same old fight, set off by the smallest things. Knowing it will last the rest of the night, you reach for your headphones. No music. Check the screen. No battery. You cast the device aside. There will be no escape tonight.
The sun is shining through the window you forgot to cover. You listen intently. Silence. You appreciate it all the more for knowing it won’t last. You roll over, stretching, to check the time. It’s late. You’ve already missed the first two classes of the day. You throw back the thin blanket and jump to your feet, then sit down again. Why bother? It’s not like the teachers care; you doubt they’ve even noticed you’re absence. They already know the future of every student and it’s nothing to aspire to. Everyone’s the same around here. There’s nothing the teachers can do to change that. They’re babysitters, nothing more.
You’re about to give in and return to the blissful oblivion of sleep when you hear it. The clink of a teaspoon. Murmuring voices. They’re still here, you’re not alone. Anywhere now seems better than here. You hurry to get ready. They don’t even notice as you leave.
You drift through the remainder of the day in silence, alone with your thoughts. Every class is the same. You sit in the back corner, staring into the space just above your desk, not hearing a word the teachers say, if they bother to attempt teaching at all. You wish there was a place you could escape to.
The bell rings. Everyone fights to be the first outside. The corridor is more chaotic than a traffic jam. You’re stuck behind two younger kids. They’re walking slow and holding everyone back. You’re in no rush to get home so you adjust your pace. Any excuse to fill in time. Their excited tone catches your attention. You can’t help but listen.
“Are you going to Scouts tonight?”
“Yeah, why wouldn’t I?”
“I’m going to see if Dropbear can help with my geography assignment. She lived there, you know.”
“Cool. I’ll see you there.”
They leave. You’re alone, thinking of your own assignments that you don’t have a clue about. You’ll just have to figure them out on your own. As always.
That night, you are again kept from sleep, but it isn’t like before. Sure enough, they’re fighting again, but you’ve found new batteries and your headphones are again protecting you. It is the thoughts running through your head that can’t be blocked, no matter how loud your music is.
You rise early the next morning and get to school before anyone else. In the library you choose the most secluded computer you can see. It doesn’t take long to find the information you’re seeking, even while minimising the window and glaring at anyone who comes too close. This is your business, not theirs.
You’re standing across the road from a slightly run down building. You’ve been skulking in the shadows of a row of trees for a quarter of an hour, watching a dozen teenagers walk inside. Some have turned up on their own, some in groups. But you cannot deny, they all appear relaxed and happy.
Finally you can stall no longer. There’s no one in sight so you hasten to cross the road. The closer you get to the main doors the slower you approach. You’re suddenly nervous, worried someone will recognise you, despite spending almost an hour on a bus to ensure there would be no one from school in this group. You hear laughter from within and decide once and for all. You turn to walk away and suddenly find yourself face to face with a leader, complete with scarf and badges.
“Can I help you?”
You say nothing, but push your fists deeper into your pockets.
“Are you joining us tonight?”
You stay silent, wishing you had never come.
A head comes through the doorway. “You coming?”
The man hesitates, watching you. “Not tonight. You can do without me?”
The head nods and withdraws again.
“I’m going for a walk. Do you want to come?”
You hesitate. All that ‘stranger danger’ stuff comes rushing back. But he has that genuinely friendly look. You cannot help trusting him. You nod and follow him to the bench under the streetlight opposite the hall, ready to run.
For the next two hours you sit and listen. He tells you about Scouts, the roles of those involved and the variety of the activities you can undertake. He tells you of the places he’s been, the people he’s met. He stops to ask you questions, but you continue to stare at the ground in front of you. Your silence never puts him off, he always has another story to tell.
You don’t show it, but you are glad of his company. It is a strange experience for you, someone spending time with you by choice, someone going to the effort to ask of your life. Why is he so interested? It’s not like hearing this will change anything.
It grows late, but you make no effort to stop him and he seems willing to talk as long as you’re willing to listen. You both look up when you hear laughter across the road. The teenagers are leaving the hall. You wait for him to leave, but he doesn’t move.
“How did you get here?”
“Bus,” you murmur, looking down self-consciously.
He checks his watch. You guess the last bus left long ago.
“Come on, I’ll drive you home.”
Even before you open the door of the finest car you have ever sat in you can hear shouting from within your house. A moment later something smashes. You ignore it, hoping he won’t notice, but from his alarmed expression you know he has.
“Thanks.” You open the door to get out, but he grabs your arm.
“Is everything ok?”
You shrug. “Same as always.”
Over the next week you look forward to returning to the hall. You spend hours trying to work out why, but fail to come to a conclusion. You decide that it’s because he is the only one to glimpse at what your life at home is like. If there is anyone you can talk to about it, it’s him. If you can trust him long enough to get the words out.
The following Tuesday you again find yourself pacing opposite the hall. Waiting. Hoping. Just when you are about to give up you see his car pull into a vacant spot. You cross the road and meet him. You open your mouth to speak, but hesitate. Should you really be doing this? Words fail you.
“You came back!” He smiles and you can tell he doubted he’d ever see you again. You can do nothing but nod as you struggle to find words. He sees that you can’t. “Do you want to come inside?” He takes a step towards the door. You panic. He’s going to leave, but you can’t follow. You’ve never been part of a group before. You’ve never been able to trust that many people at once. He senses what runs through your mind and walks across the road instead. You follow.
Sitting on the same bench, he now sits in silence, waiting for you to speak. You do. For the first time in your life, you let your guard down. You tell him everything. Your hopes, your fears. For the first time, you open up. And, for the first time, someone listens.
“Come with me,” he says when you’re finished.
You follow him into the hall, keeping to the edge, away from the main group. He shows you the promise every member makes. To support one another. To help people. You sit in the corner while he gets something. Ropes.
He easily manipulates them and shows you the result. “A reef knot.”
Then he hands them to you. On your third try you manage it.
“Two parts,” he tells you. “Alone, they’re nothing. United, they are always stronger.”
You continue to attend every week. You are invested, receiving your shirt and scarf. You’re now one of them. He continues to teach you things you never dreamed of. Sometimes in the group, sometimes on your own.
One night during closing parade, he calls you to the front. He hands you a small badge and shakes your hand, smiling proudly.
“You earned it.”
At that moment, holding the biggest achievement of your life, you make your decision. You will take control of your future. You will leave this life behind and you will never look back.