By Sarah Antz
When I was in primary school in England, there was a girl called Mary who everyone was afraid of. I was no exception. If she wanted to be your friend, you were friends with her, until she decided she no longer wanted you around. No one dared refuse. And I was picked up and dropped more times than I care to remember.
Reflecting on it now, I realize that she was jealous of close friendships and so she tried her hardest to split them up by wanting to be “friends” with one of them. I remember vividly the times when I was out of favor and dreading having to go to school, knowing that she’d instruct the other girls in our class not to speak to me. And even though each time didn’t last long—she’d always have someone else in her sights—it was enough to induce stomach pains and for me to beg my parents for a day off school. No one dared tell the teachers or their parents for fear of repercussions, because Mary wasn’t afraid to deal with anyone who crossed her.
At age eleven everyone in the area took an exam to see which high school they’d attend. Most of the girls in my class passed to go a particular girl’s school. Including Mary. We formed about a third of the girls in my new class. As soon as we got there, Mary started in on the bullying again. It was the same routine she had in primary school: No one was brave enough to stand up to her. It seemed like we were destined for another seven years of torture.
Then, quite unexpectedly, Mary’s father, a local vicar, was moved to a different parish in another part of the country…and she left. I’ve never experienced anything like it before or since. It was like a cloud was lifted off the whole class. Suddenly, everyone was friends with each other. We no longer had cliques, we all hung out together. Our sense of relief was so powerful.
We later heard that Mary had run away from home, become involved with drugs, and died. I was upset that someone so young had lost her life. And now that I’m older I can recognize that it was her troubled background that made her the way she was.
Looking back, it’s incredible that a single person could affect so many of us. I guess that we pretended not to notice when someone was being victimized because we were thankful that it wasn’t us. I often wonder how things would have turned out if we’d all got together and stood up to her.
Sarah Antz is an author of fiction for teens. Her debut novel The Second Virginity of Suzy Green was published by Flux. Visit her online at sarahantz.com.