She started at just three. Looking up through the plastic cover of her buggy Kirsten drew creatures, real and imaginary. Butterflies, baby bears and dragons breathing fire. At five she progressed to her name written over and over. Snatches of poetry followed as she neared ten. Magical sentences from James and the Giant Peach and The Little Princess. Then song lyrics. Eternal love. Dancing. Feeling everything stronger and brighter than everyone else.
Since moving into year eight, she’d been scared to do her cloud writing. Terrified they’d see her, sneer and think of more horrible names. They’d already noticed how she glanced at the sky and decided she was looking for her alien family. Except for poor Thomas Thick, she got it the worst in the class. She got for skinny ankles, fuzzy hair and plastic glasses. She got it for not standing right or dressing right, for not being loud and sure of herself. Like them.
She was at the bus stop keeping her head down as the boys shouted across at her and the girls laughed with exaggerated loudness. There was only one other person at the stop, a lady with bags of shopping. The lady stood up and walked to the kerb, her hands shoved in her coat pockets. She stared at the gang. The boys stopped shouting, looking at each other nervously. One of the girls let out a laughter-splutter. Her friend grabbed her arm. They drifted away. With the gang’s words clanging around her head, Kirsten sideways-glanced at the lady, who surprised her by speaking.
‘If I had my time again, I wouldn’t keep quiet. Wouldn’t be ashamed either. They’re the ones who should be ashamed. I’d tell. Tell everyone. Mum, dad, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins. I would tell the teachers and the head mistress, the landlady at our holiday B&B, the man in the sweet shop, the children playing in the park. I’d tell next-door’s cat, the bees on the lavender bush, the parrot in the pet shop. I’d carry on telling until I’d told the world, his wife and their dog. I would tell everyone.’
As she listened to this, Kirsten counted the pavement gum-pennies over and over again. There was a rush of warm wind and the lady was gone on the forty-eight. The words the boys had flung at Kirsten were gone. She heard only the woman’s words. Tell. Tell everyone. She couldn’t though. She tried to imagine trying but couldn’t even bring herself to do that.
But of course she had another method.
She would do it with her cloud writing.
She scanned the sky for potential clouds. Concentrating hard, teeth gritted together, fists clenched. Within minutes, there it was. Words in the sky. Bright and bold. Grey and white on a pale blue backdrop. She even remembered the apostrophe.
Kirsten smiled. She would carry on writing it over and over and over until somebody noticed.
‘I’m being bullied.’