Some of my best childhood memories were spent with my grandfather, mainly because he’s the only person I spent them with. I guess I should start my story with well, my story. I’m Charm. My mother and father died when I was 2 years old in a train crash and my grandfather was the only person who took me in. I lived my whole life with that man and he was my hero until one day my whole world came crashing down. It was the 10th of July 2010 and Pappy had been gone since I got back from school. I remember I was lying on the settee staring at the flowery wallpaper. My grandfather was never a decorator so the patterns didn’t match up properly at the seams and he’d never change it no matter how much I went on at him about it. He never told me so, but I think it’s because my grandmother picked out this wallpaper. My pappy loved my grandmother with all of his heart so the day she passed away really changed him, and I think that’s why he wouldn’t change anything in the house. Suddenly, pappy tiptoed in the house trying not to wake me from a sleep I wasn’t in. I jumped up. “Pappy, where have you been?” I asked him with worry. “Charm, I need to speak to you.” He answered with so much seriousness in that one sentence. I started to worry; my brain couldn’t process what sort of things was happening just by those 5 words. The most worrying words in the world, normally followed by ‘I’m breaking up with you’ or ‘so and so has passed away’. But I and my pappy were obviously not in a relationship and it’d only been us for the past 11 years so he couldn’t be telling me about how a relative has passed. “Charm darling, one of your teachers phoned me yesterday about how you’re settling into this new school.” He forced out of his mouth while looking at the hat he was viciously squeezing and twisting with both of his dry, crinkled hands. “And?” I said with a slight bit of anger which had slyly squeezed into that word. “Well, they said you aren’t settling in very well, and it’s been almost a year Charm. You aren’t making friends, you don’t seem to be interested in any conversation and work is out of the question. I’ve been thinking about it and I think your mother and father’s death and living with an old man has traumatised you.” I could tell he wasn’t saying this just to inform me, he told me this with a quick pace although as to stop me interrupting him. There was obviously more, so I didn’t answer. I waited for the dreaded news he was about to bring into my life, whatever it may have been. “So, I’ve been to see a council worker and she understands and completely agreed that living here with me isn’t the best thing for y...” He tried to finish before I came barging in to the middle of his sentence with the start of mine. “No pappy! No, I love living here with you! You’re the only person in the world I have left I can’t leave. Are you crazy?” I started to cry. He quickly moved over to me as the tears ran down my soft petal cheeks, he embraced me with a loving hug, although I felt as though it was the last hug we was going to share. “Listen, I know this is going to be hard for you, it’s going to be horribly difficult for me too. But I’m going to need you to spend the night packing. The counsellor is coming tomorrow to have a chat with you and if all is well...I’m afraid you’ll be going into a foster family.” I didn’t say anything. I didn’t even look at him. How could the greatest man in my life, my hero, just abandon me? Just throw me into another home with strangers I, and even he, had never met! I was angry. Angry? I was furious! I just stomped up to my room like a 5 year old child who didn’t get their own way. I collapsed on my bed and stayed there while thoughts ran through my mind about what kind of family I would be put into, whether they would’ve been absolutely evil and make me do all the house work and care for their millions of evil babies. Or maybe, they would’ve been foreign and I’d be the outsider of the family, I might not have even been able to understand them! I heard my bedroom door creak. I looked up to my clock and it had been two hours of thinking. “Sweetheart, have you packed?” Came a very well-known voice from the door. “No.” I said bluntly. “Well sweetie, I really need you to, please don’t make this more difficult than it already is.” He asked so sweetly, and as nicely as he possibly could. That’s when I had realised that this is just as bad for him, if not more. He was going to be on his own, he’d have nobody to talk to when he gets in from work...He might even stop working, simply because the only reason he was working was for me. This was completely to help me, but I know certainly it was going to be helping him so much more. So I gave in, I packed. I still don’t remember falling asleep; I just woke up with my head in my carry-bag. It must’ve been about 6 am because I could hear the sweet birds chiming their beautiful songs. That was the day. An evil woman was going to come into my home and steal me away from my Pappy. I would miss my Pappy so much; miss the couple of grey hairs that slept on his head. The way his old, tired eyes contrasted with his bright, happy smile, and the way his beard tickled my nose as he kissed my forehead at night. The trips at the weekend when we went sailing and breathed in the cold air, or when we went to the beach and had water guns disrupting all the sun bathers. My pappy wasn’t a normal pappy at all; he was the most fun and outgoing old man I had ever met. There was a knock at the door. Oh no. I don’t know why, and I question myself every time this memory flashes back, but I hid under my bed. How silly was I to think that by hiding under the bed, this lady was going to leave and never come back again. I believe I just got frightened. So, that didn’t work. Shocker. My granddad came upstairs and ordered me to go downstairs and greet this woman. I hate women, they’re so stuck up. Every one of them walking around in their high heels and handbags like they’re something special and loving the attention off of all the men around. It made me sick how they degrade the very few women that actually do respect themselves. As I arrived at the bottom of the stairs I was greeted by a little woman, who was completely the opposite to my description of most women. She was the same height as me without heels, because she’s in a pair of black trainers. She was wearing a black blouse with a button on it that reads “Smile.” This of course, made me smile. She noticed this and greeted me with her hand, and a grin. “Hi, I’m Suzanne.” She had pearly white teeth, almost perfect, but just a few are a bit crooked. I shook her hand and I tried not to smile or speak because I remembered I was angry and didn’t want to leave. I continued to inspect her, from head to toe, while she spoke about where she was taking me and what happened there, I obviously paid no attention as I didn’t care at all. I watched her mouth muttering words at me, it moved slow when her words came out fast, and her nose crinkled every time she said a word with the letter ‘s’ in it. I found that cute and smiled again. Damn. I noticed her dark brown eyes surrounded by a light grey eye shadow. She had really nice eyes, and her eyelashes which had minimal mascara on, but still so long, made her look like she had had a full 8 hours sleep. Her face shined with every blink I took. Her trousers reminded me of the school trousers I was forced to wear every day. They were incredibly loose around her legs, from the top to the bottom. I was glad I had a woman who decided not to show off her assets when not needed. Then my eyes caught the folder held in her folded arms in front of her chest. It was bright purple; I ponder how I hadn’t noticed it before, especially with the bold sticker on the front of it reading ‘Charm’. I looked up to see both her and my granddad was staring at me, almost waiting for an answer from the question I had paid no attention to. “Pardon?” I forced out. My granddad looked worried, but the lady just chuckled as she repeated herself. “I said would you like if I brought a girl back, the same age as you, to comfort and re-assure you about our home?” I had a long 10 second think about this. Would I really want a girl, when I don’t really like the same sex, to come and tell me about this prison they call a home and convince me to go there? “No thanks.” I finally answered. “Okay, well, can I ask you some questions?” She tried her hardest to keep a cheerful attitude although I showed no interest in the death trap she set out for me. I sat in the living room with a face like I’d sucked on 300 lemons in 2 minutes. My granddad brought in some tea and biscuits and this lady was staring at me with a huge smile on her face. When are you going to quit? Can’t you tell I don’t want to come with you? “So, your grandfather tells me you’re finding it hard to settle in your school. Why is that?” Started with no hesitation, she went right in. I always think why didn’t I blurt out how I didn’t really like many people there, and how they don’t actually talk to me, and how the teachers are all ignorant and like to ignore the students that are ‘average’ by helping the dumb kids and the super smart kids. But of course, at the time I didn’t even know that myself, so my response was “I don’t know.” Which I’m sure she was expecting. She carried on these stupid questions that I didn’t take in and think about at the time, on many things, some about school, some about home and silly ones like my favourite colour and my hobbies. I suppose that was their strategy to loosen the ‘difficult’ children. It didn’t work. Then she brought up my parents. “How do you feel about not having a mother and father?” She asked, subtly. I hadn’t realised it then, but I suppose that’s how it started. How I became an outcast. Everybody had at least one parent, and I was the freak that lived with an old man. I hated it when people would sit and speak about what they bought their mother for mother’s day, and how their father had the best job in the world. Parent’s evening was the worst. The first few, my teachers would try not to say ‘parent’s’ evening, and say something like ‘Guardian conference’ as though when they say ‘parent’ I’d start crying and have a breakdown. It didn’t matter anyway, whenever they said ‘guardian’ all the children in the class would look at me, because they knew the teacher was only saying that because of me. “I don’t know.” I said. There was a pause. “Normal.” I lied. She nodded her head and jotted it down on a piece of paper in the folder. Then a question I thought I wouldn’t buck up the courage to answer flew out of her mouth when I thought it was finished. “Are you happy, Charm?” I wasn’t. I didn’t know that I wasn’t at the age of 13, but when you look back on things, you realise how you hardly ever smiled, and how you didn’t have any friends except your granddad. I sat and stared at this woman’s folder for quite a while thinking about how lovely it would be to have my parent’s here, I wouldn’t be in a predicament where I’m being asked so many hard questions. I felt like a criminal being questioned by the police for a murder case. “Charm?” She asked because it had been more than 2 minutes since she had asked this question. “Yeah?” I said, avoiding the question. I saw that she could tell I didn’t know whether I was happy or not, so she didn’t ask again. “Right, I’ll just go and evaluate these with my boss, and I should be back in about an hour or two to give you the news.” She quickly jumped up and walked out into the hallway. As my granddad sees her out I could hear her whispering like she wanted me to hear. “Don’t worry Mr. Crystal, we’ve dealt with many children like Charm before and she’ll be in many capable hands. You’ll be able to see her as much as you like, see you soon.” I heard the door slam. I walked out into the kitchen, avoiding Pappy so he wouldn’t ‘sit and chat’ with me again. He could tell. “I’m just going to the shop Charm, do you want anything?” He bellows. “No.” I said lightly. Within a few hours this man had become a stranger to me, not just because I was un-impressed with the way he was resolving a problem by getting rid of me, but because he wasn’t smiling anymore, or calling me chicken and giving me sweet hugs and forehead kisses. I missed him already. I sat on the settee and watched telly. Well, I looked at the telly, none of it actually went into my mind, or hearing because I was too busy listening to my thoughts, that’s when they started. If only someone was there to say “No, don’t let them voices in!” But I didn’t know any better, so I just sat and listened. They weren’t very nice, but they weren’t that bad.
As I walked into the old tattered building, Suzanne trotted behind me, I noticed that for a children’s home it wasn’t very child-friendly. It looked more like an old person’s home, no pictures, no children running around, no screaming or shouting and no toys. It was quite intimidating actually. Suzanne led me up the stairs into a room with 4 beds in it. It was an incredibly plain room, everything was white and there was nothing to look at. There wasn't even a T.V. I learned that I’d be sharing this room with 3 other girls. Lisa, 15. Maria, 16. And Cindy, 17. Girls…great. She lets me in on the rules of the house, such as lights out at ten. No going into boy’s rooms. Toys and entertainment are to be enjoyed in the play room only. Really? I remember thinking of jumping out of the window there and then, I wouldn’t even be able to enjoy time alone watching telly because there would be 20+ brats screaming and shouting and fighting over toys. As Suzanne left, she turned and said “Charm, I really, really am sorry about all of this, but I promise we’ll look after you here.” Although I didn’t want to be there one tiny bit, I had taken a shining to Suzanne and her sweet words. I liked how over the past week of fighting and begging for a few more days with my granddad, she hadn’t even frowned in my presence. I had even been quite mean to her two or three times, the worst was when she was trying to (nicely) force me to leave my granddad’s house and I called her a fat bitch. I didn’t mean to, honestly, I was just incredibly emotional. She had said she forgave me, but I still felt awfully bad. I had hoped every worker here at would be just as nice as Suzanne. I was wrong. As I walked through the house they didn’t take a second glance at me. Obviously I wasn’t expecting a welcome party with banners and balloons, but surely they would’ve been told a new girl was coming in who was extremely distraught and told to be super nice. But no, clearly they treated all the children here like they were invisible. I had had enough of the place already and I was only there for an hour and a half. I went back to my room to un-pack all of my stuff and then lay in bed doing nothing, but when I walked in I was caught by six beady eyes, caked with mascara and eyeliner, all staring at me like I had walked in naked. I stood there for a few seconds expecting them to say something to me, maybe greet me or at least look away and carry on speaking, but they just kept staring at me as though they’d never seen a 13 year old here before. I just walked over to my wardrobe with my bags and started to un-pack, as I did so all I could feel was them looking at me as the air thickened with tension. I could’ve just turned and went crazy “What are you looking at huh? Are we going to have a problem here?” But instead I just carried on un-packing until I was finished, when I had I walked out of the room. I was about to go sit in the entertainment room until I heard the girls start speaking again, I know it’s wrong but I started to eavesdrop. “Oh my god, she was so weird. Wasn’t she weird Maria?” I heard a voice say. Then a voice which I can only guess was Maria replied “Shut up, Lisa.” Then another voice jumped in. “Why didn’t she say anything? She made it so awkward like, oh my god I can’t believe we’re going to have to share a room with that...that….FREAK.” I had never, ever felt so humiliated in my life. I felt like I had walked in there wearing clown shoes and a pineapple as a hat. The same voice starts to speak again. “Cindy? Cindy? You’re not saying much. What did you think of the new girl?” “Um, I don’t know, she was just a girl I guess.” Answered, what I can assume, Cindy. “Cindy oh my god, you always have negative opinions on the new girls who share our room, oh my god come on I want to hear what you have to say!” By now I had guessed this was Maria, and the rest of the voices. “Okay, I thought she was a fat, big nosed, googly eyed, slut with bushy eyebrows, ratty hair and no bum. Happy?” Cindy shouted. I felt tears welling up in my eyes. These girls didn’t even exchange one word with me and they judged me, hard. How could I have gone back into that room? How could I even walk around this house knowing this is what everyone was thinking when they looked at me! I ran down the hall to the nearest bathroom and locked myself in, and cried. And cried. And cried. After 3 hours of crying uncontrollably, there was a knock at the door. I guessed that one of the workers had realised I was missing and got worried, or one of the girls heard me outside and felt bad so they had come to apologise. When I opened the door I was viciously bashed in the whole left side of my body as a small podgy boy, maybe 7 or 8 ran past me and demanded I left before he erm, had an accident. When he started passing wind I thought it was best I left. I went and sat in the entertainment room hoping to make some acquaintances, someone that would tell me “Those girls are just horrible, don’t listen to them!”. As I sat on the old, blue and ripped settee, nobody looked at me. Everyone carried on playing with their toys, watching the T.V, painting their nails and colouring in as though I hadn’t walked in. If not for the telly, that room would have been filled with deafening silence. I thanked that annoying T.V show “16 and pregnant.” But seriously, those girls were so silly; they probably didn’t know left from right never mind how to look after a child! I’d never turn out like that. Anyway, so while I was quietly watching this god awful show, a boy comes and sits next to me. “Hi. I’m James.” He exclaims happily and sticks his hand out, clearly for a handshake, I just stare at it for a while thinking this is some sort of practical joke those girls have put him up to. “Hi.” I said and stared back at the telly. After a long pause, which felt as though it was years because he didn’t take his eyes off of me, he says “You’re new huh?”. How did he know? How did I make it so clear? Was it that obvious? Was it because I was sad and all the new people were sad and sad people stick out like a saw thumb? “I haven’t seen you around before, that’s all.” He said after making me panic. Idiot. I was already beginning to dislike this boy after 5 minutes of meeting him, I didn’t think I’d be able to take much more of him so I got up and left the room. I didn’t care how rude it was or how he felt because I could guarantee I was feeling much worse. Nobody wanted me. I was an outcast here, at school, everywhere. I had no friends, and now no family. I ended up going out the back and sitting on a rusted old swing which looked like nobody had used it for years, well with all of this technology I can’t imagine kids wanting to go out and swing. That was my new spot, my solitary spot. And that ended up being the swing I spent near enough 3 weeks going to whenever we weren’t sleeping, which I can tell you now was the most awkward experience in my life because even asleep I could feel the tension between myself and these 3 girls who took to being silent when I was around and laughing at my appearance when I left. Eating, and the food was so god damn awful I thought that they didn’t even comprehend the fact there were little kids here that need looking after not poisoning. And lastly, group activities. Ugh, I couldn’t deal with having to form into a group with everyone in the house every Thursday at 6.00pm to do some crappy “bonding activities” which only made me hate everyone more. Painting, I would paint a black picture of a monster which looked like an evil ghost with a cloak and the 3 girls would point and laugh making everyone else look which would only embarrass me further. Music, I’d be pushed and bashed out of the way so the only instruments left was a crumby triangle or shakers which I’d barely play because they were so useless nobody even noticed when I didn’t play them. Sports, well I’d just lost all motivation so sports were completely out of the question. I would stand around kicking my feet about and wishing I was back on my swing or locked in the bathroom with the light turned off. I couldn’t take it any more! One Thursday during activity time, we were sitting in a circle and playing pass the parcel because it was little Todd’s 6th birthday. But I was sat next to Maria and every time the music stopped on me she’d quickly snatch it back so I didn’t get it, or when Suzanne wasn’t watching she’d throw the parcel to Lisa who was sitting the other side of me and they’d both snigger to each other as they saw me fail to get it back, and in the end I just broke down. I screamed and hit Lisa in the face. I stood up and went to storm out before kicking Maria in the leg. Although I felt a sense of relief because I’d stood up to them, I started crying because of how angry I was, and because I’d realised how much this place had changed me. 3 weeks before I would never have let my anger get the better of me and embarrass myself by kicking off in front of a group of people. I also realised that Maria and Lisa wouldn’t let this slide past. They’d get me back. Hard. I knew Suzanne would come after me and I also knew that she had been observing my weird behaviour for the last 3 weeks. She knew my hiding places and she knew I’d go there. I had to find somewhere new, somewhere where nobody could bother me. Somewhere I could be truly alone. So I ran out the house. I ran out the house and ran down the road for so long that my calves hurt and I completely lost my breath. I came upon an old playground, but it was hidden with over-grown trees, uncut grass and old furniture the surrounding houses dumped there. I climbed under an abandoned mattress and through a bunch of branches. I reached the middle of the park and sat on a round-about. Two hours had passed and still no voices shouting my name, or police sirens looking for me, nothing. That’s when the voices started again. “You’re not worth the hassle.” They say. “They’re probably glad to be rid of you.” They bellow. Then a bunch of insults start flying out of my head as I rock back and forth because I’m trying to silence them but they were so loud and the insults were so true and I couldn’t drown something out that was in my head because that impossible. I felt the lump in my throat and I didn’t want to cry any more. Every time I was going to cry the voices would exclaim how pathetic and weak I was for crying over something so pathetic. I couldn’t believe they were being so mean, they were so cruel and I didn’t know how to cope. But to be honest, spending time with the monsters in my head was one thousand times better than spending time with the monsters in my room, because they were so much crueller than these voices could ever be. It didn’t make it any better though. The more I tried to drown it out the louder they got, the more they tried to torment and abuse me. The more insulting and mean the insults got. One of the voices who seemed to be one of the kinder ones suggested something to make them go away but I didn’t want to do it. You always hear of people doing it and they’re crazy. They’re absolutely nuts and I didn’t fancy being an outsider and insane. But when they brought my granddad up, when they started shouting about how he didn’t want me because I was a waste of space and wasn’t doing anything to help him because he was just an old man that needed to rest but I was draining his money and energy. I cracked. I started to viciously scratch at my arms, so viciously that blood started to draw. I watched the blood trickle down my arms slowly. It was a deep red, so deep it looked as though it was bleeding from my soul. It was such a relief. It was much better than crying because after crying your eyes are puffy and your throat hurts. With this, you wipe the blood away and everything is fine again. “Charm! Charm my dear, please come out!” I heard Suzanne cry. I quickly pulled my sleeves down and came out. She was standing with a police officer when I walked out of the park. “Charm darling!” She shouted as she wrapped her arms around me. “We were so terribly worried!” But I knew she wasn’t. She was worried it would cost her a job if it got out that a new child to the home had run away after 3 weeks of being there. As we walked back to the home, the police officer asked me a few questions about why I ran away. I just told him that I was upset about my parents and granddad and I was finding it hard to settle. He calmly moaned about how running away is wrong and never to do it again. I said I wouldn’t but I’m certain I was lying. As Florence said “I was in the darkness. So darkness I became.”
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