As with most (probably all) aspects of this collaboration, apart from respecting the word count, Eden Baylee and I make no decisions in advance about genre, style, moral, physical or other story elements, or such things as whether the narrator or principal characters should be male or female. Everything springs from the prompt and however the one who’s writing the first part decides to start it all off.
The prompt this time is: My only defense was to write down every word they said.
It was my turn to write parts 1 and 3 and Eden’s to write 2 and 4.
It’s funny how men keep on getting away with things but women find it much more difficult. Well, funny isn’t the word, is it? Sometimes it’s a very long way from funny.
It seems to start quite early. Maybe it’s just built in to the way everybody thinks. I remember at primary school – and even on into secondary, come to think of it – that the little boy gangs which formed – just 3, 4, 5 friends – were sort of normal, but we girls just had one, maybe two friends, but never enough to be a gang. It’s a sort of pattern that persists even when they grow up. Men have got their golf clubs, darts matches, meet up in pubs before going to the football – regular, normal activities – while we’re fetching the kids from school, maybe chatting a bit while waiting for them at the gates, but then taking them home, not prolonging the chats or anything. The chats are just a filler really.
But for the boys and men, it definitely helps them to get away with things. There’s always one of the gang to back up what they say, even if they weren’t around when whatever it was happened.
For the most part, being born female is a disadvantage in life. Being female and a visible minority only adds to the challenge. The best thing I have going for me is an unwavering belief in my own self-worth. And that, my grandma taught me, just by living her life until the ripe old age of 95.
“If you live long enough, people can’t help but respect you even if they hate you,” she said.
Grandma had a way with words, and she taught me to value the power of them. Used judiciously, they cut deeper than a knife, she said. Conversely, when words are not considered before speaking, expect to be disappointed.
She could fill volumes with all her wise sayings. There are days I regret not writing them down when she said them. Every so often, I remember one of her gems and jot it in a notebook. I have a memory box of Grandma’s things: pictures of me with her as a child; jewelry she wore and gave me; and my favourite possession—a lock of her hair, tied at each end with a red ribbon.
She gave it to me just before she passed away.
Obviously, I remember that day well, and not just because of the sadness. It was like a light going out – in the room, but in my head, too. I’d rushed home from school to see her because of Billy Chapman. He and his gang – Joey Murray, Kenny Holmes and the rest – were always the worst at teasing and being mean – not just to me but to all the girls in our class. We were doing English and the teacher put me, Jenny Beecham and Sally Jay on the same table as him to write a story about friendship. Right from the start Billy decided friendship meant boys, told us he and the gang would have the ideas and we’d just be secretaries. At first, my only defence was to write down every word they said. But I made tiny changes to some of them. Following Grandma’s advice, I changed ‘friend’ and ‘pal’ to words like ‘associate’, ‘colleague’, ‘cohort’, ‘familiar’, ‘intimate’, and ‘bosom buddy’ so when Billy read them out to the teacher at the end, he couldn’t pronounce them properly and even thought words like bosom and intimate were rude. He had to stay behind while I ran home to Grandma.
I was a block away from home when I saw the ambulance pull out of our driveway. By the time I arrived at my house, I was out of breath. Tracy, my babysitter who lived next door, greeted me.
“Your grandmother fell and your mom’s gone to the hospital with her.”
I begged Tracy to let me go too, but of course she couldn’t. She was only a teenager.
That evening, my Dad took me. Grandma was asleep. Mom was nowhere to be found.
“Can I go in by myself?” I said to Dad.
“Are you sure?”
I sat on Grandma’s bed and held her hand. “Please don’t go,” I said.
She squeezed my fingers. Her eyes remained shut, her voice a whisper. “Smart girl, I can’t stay.”
“Please …” Tears welled under my eyes.
“Shhh … your mother cut a piece of my hair for you, so you can remember me.”
“I’ll always remember you, Grandma … and your words, and using words wisely.”
“Yes, even now, they’re all I have to give you.”
Save for a lock of hair, and her love of words which she passed on to me, Grandma left the world with a smile on her face.