Life-Changing Tips' by Sarah Barry

“Sorry, no, we don’t have an appointment today, tomorrow, next week or ever” I heard myself say confidently. How could this woman breeze in and expect I would forget the searing humiliation she prepared for me? The bright lights sparkled across the road as the dusk forced me to notice them, something that I had not been able to do for a while after her destructive deed.
It had been the week before Christmas back then. School had often being a place that made me feel like a tiny fish swimming against the tide of life. But then the tsunami came when Laura decided it was my turn to receive her interest. I had longed to be seen, but not like this. She rammed my back hard against a notice board, using drawing pins to mockingly pin my jumper to the wall. Her pathetic followers were buoyed by the consumption of my dignity. “Nail her,” they chorused. Shouts of “Nailer” echoed after me for an eternity after that.
I felt alone, drifting away and fearful of each day. The days left at school were numbered. I saw my sister’s friends hating their jobs, longing for the freedom of the weekend. My qualifications weren’t great, money was scarce and ideas rock bottom. But for the first time free choice confused, yet released me.

Miss Murphy rescued me with the sunny appointment at the careers guidance centre. One long month later dreary mornings finally turned bright as I started my beautician’s course. The girls there treated me like I was acceptable. I graduated the beauty course with the highest, proudest mark of my year, securing my place in an fashionable salon I could only have ever stood outside before. The unhappy Nailer had been vanquished as Laura’s cruelty became deeply buried.

New and interesting people chatted away to me daily, I paid my Mam rent and could even afford new clothes whenever I wanted; the tips alone were life-changing.

But not as much as the surprising windfall that dropped from the sky. Aunt Jane shocked us one last time with her fortune. My “Beach Bar” is thrillingly busy every day. I employ lots of those true friends who helped guide me to shore. Miss Murphy even drops in once in a while; not my usual clientele, but even 70 year olds love a free manicure. On rare occasions the girls here call me “Nailer”. In the context of the rows and rows of nails being presented for decoration I don’t mind. Its only good humoured ribbing, as they all assume my nickname reflected my adolescent desire to own a Nail Bar.

As the Christmas cheer natters all around me I stand tall and beautiful. I am safe here and she is the one out of her depth. A sudden comprehension emerges in her eyes, as Nailer appears before her. The bright lights reflect on her shiny boots as she scuttles down the street. I banish her from my mind forever.

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