Although Laura and Beth were twins, they were not at all alike in looks or personalities. They were 11 years old and Beth was small for her age, blonde and very quiet, whereas Laura was bigger, with red-hair and a tempter to match. Laura was the one who looked after Beth when the other children picked on her, which was very often, because she was so small. "Best things come in small packages" Laura told her, hoping it would make her feel better, but Beth wasn't sure about that, she just wished she was big, like Laura, so they would leave her alone. "Bullies are only cowards who pick on people weaker than them", Laura told her, and although she knew this was true she still hated it if Laura was staying behind after school to take extra music lessons and she had to walk home alone. Laura was very talented when it came to music and often stayed behind for extra lessons, as she had been selected to go to Music College after the school holidays. Beth dreaded Laura's change of school, but was pleased for her as she knew she was really looking forward to it.
It was Wednesday and that meant that Laura was staying late for extra Music and Beth had to make her way home alone. As she crossed the road to cut through the fields, with her school satchel thrown over her shoulder, she caught sight of Mary Tyler - she was the leader of the little group of girls that picked on Beth. Mary was quite a big girl who always seemed to be angry, especially with Beth, and the other girls always seemed to do whatever she told them and that usually involved being very unkind to Beth. "Hello shrimp" a voice bellowed out - Beth tried to ignore it and hurried her walking pace, but suddenly , before she could get away, she felt a punch in her back and she dropped her satchel and landed hard on the ground. Her books and pens had scattered across the grass, which was quite muddy due to the heavy rain that had only just stopped falling. "AAh did you trip"? said a very sarcastic voice. Beth looked up and saw it was Mary Tyler. "You pushed me" said Beth, standing up very nervously. "No I didn't" said Mary, "Did I"? she asked the other girls with her. They all agreed that clumsy Beth had tripped. Beth started to cry, which resulted in the others calling her a baby and pushed her around some more. "Go on - go home and tell Mummy" they jeered. Beth started to pick up her things and put them back in her stachel - if only Laura wasn't taking extra lessons, she thought, but she knew it would be at least another hour before she was due to leave school. However, much to Beth's relief Mary and her "gang" decided to go home in the opposite direction and left Beth covered in mud to pick up the rest of her things. When Beth arrived home her Mother wanted to know how she got so dirty, but Beth didn't want to tell her the truth as she knew that her Mother would go to the school to complain and Beth felt that this would only cause more problems for her. "Oh! I tripped over and fell" she said, - feeling awful - as she hated lying to her Mother.
Over the next few weeks Beth had several incidents with Mary and her gang, so when Mrs Creasey, the class teacher, told them they were all going to start swimming lessons the next day, Beth was horrifed. She could just imagine how it would be - Mary would be a big strong swimmer and she would scare Beth in as many ways as she could. Beth lay awake all night thinking how she would be covered by the water, even in the shallow end and then decided that she would not go to school the next day. She would say she felt unwell. However, the next morning when Beth got up she found her Mother had already prepared all her swimming things and somehow Beth felt she couldn't lie to her Mother again.
Beth had never been in a big swimming pool before, but luckily not many of the class had either, including Mary Tyler. When they got to the pool Beth decided she would stay as close to Mrs Creasey as she could - Beth knew that Mary wouldn't dare push her around in front of her! "Come on girls" said Mrs Creasey "I want you all on the edge of the pool and, in your own time, I want you to jump in". Beth closed her eyes and to her amazement she jumped, but instead of feeling scared she started moving her arms and legs and found she was keeping afloat, and loved the feel of the water. Everyone seemed to be jumping around and enjoying the water, but, as she looked up Beth saw one person still standing on the edge of the pool - Mary Tyler!! - she was too scared to jump and no matter how much Mrs Creasey tried to coax her to go into the water - she would not. "I hate swimming" she said "it's stupid and who needs to swim anyway"? and then she stormed off, back to the changing rooms. Beth couldn't believe it - Mary Tyler was actually scared of something. Maybe she will know what it feels like to be scared now, thought Beth, and perhaps she will leave me alone - but that was only wishful thinking! The bullying continued and sometimes even Laura couldn't stop it. She wanted Beth to tell their Mother so that she could go to the school and get it stopped, but Beth wouldn't hear of it and Laura didn't like to go behind her Sister's back.
Beth had done really well at swimming and Mrs Creasey had said that she was the most promising swimmer in the class, much to Mary Tyler's disgust. "Shrimps are always good swimmers" she would say, but Beth knew it was just jealousy and so she just tried to ignore her nasty remarks. It was almost the school holidays and Beth was really looking forward to six whole weeks without Mary Tyler around - but she also felt sad as it would be the last time that she and Laura would be going to the same school. Beth decided that she would spend most of her time at the Lido Swimming Pool as she knew one thing for sure - Mary Tyler would not be there!
As Laura had lots of revision to do for her music and she didn't particularly like swimming anyway, Beth would have to go to the pool alone. She had a lovely day and she knew that her swimming was getting better and better, which she was so pleased about as Mrs Creasey had said that if she continued to progress she would be selected to represent the school in the forthcoming Gala events. This made Beth determined to do the very best she could and to practice as much as possible.
As she headed off for home, she was very pleased with the first day of the school holidays. She had taken some bread with her as she planned to cut through the park, on her way home, and feed the ducks on the lake. As she wandered through the park she saw a group of girls near to the lake and as she got closer she could see they were the girls who were usually with Mary Tyler. Just as she was about to turn around and go home another way she heard a loud scream. The girls seemed to be panicking and calling for help. Then Beth saw that someone was in the water and it was obvious that they were in serious trouble. Beth dropped her bags, took off her coat and shoes and just dived into the water. She got to the girl, who had already gone under twice, and she managed to hold her head up and slowly guide her to the edge of the lake. A young man had seen what was going on and had rushed to help - he pulled the girl out and then helped Beth. As Beth lay on the bank, exhausted - she looked over to see if the girl was OK. Apart from looking quite pale and being out of breath the girl looked like she was going to be alright. Then she realised who it was - Mary Tyler! Beth couldn't believe it. Mary no longer looked like the big brave bully, but a very frightened girl who was crying. Mary's "gang" surrounded Beth, but this time not to call her names, but to tell her how brave she was. They also told her they were very sorry for all the times they had been nasty to her. When Mary saw who had saved her life, she couldn't believe it. She thanked Beth over and over again for being so brave and for jumping into the icy cold water. "I don't know how to tell you how sorry I am for the way I have always treated you" she said " I didn't realise how horrible it was to be really scared and I promise I will never bully you, or anyone else, ever again". Beth told her it was OK and for the first time in her life she felt six foot tall.
Laura had spent the first week of the holidays at the Music College that she was going to join in the new term. When she arrived home she couldn't believe the change in her Sister. She was now very confident and happy. Laura was even more surprised when she answered the front door to Beth's 'new friend ' - she couldn't believe it when she saw it was Mary Tyler standing there. Beth was teaching Mary to swim and "she was doing very well," Beth told Laura.
As her sister and her new friend walked off up the path to the swimming pool - Laura felt sure she would never have to worry about her sister being bullied ever again. She also had learned that it didn't matter how big, or small, you were, it was being there to help other when they needed you that made you brave - and only cowards were bullies.