I am pleased to announce that ‘My Friend Dee’ has been awarded a Special Commendation by the firstwriter.com Eleventh International Short Story Contest!
Winners can be viewed here! https://www.firstwriter.com/competitions/short_story_contest/winners/11thstory.shtml
Firstwriter.com readers keep your eye out for My Friend Dee appearing in a future issue of the magazine!
My Friend Dee
‘Why can’t I be the teacher?’ I asked, brushing away my little kiss curl.
Mum had moaned my hair needed a trim. She was right. She was always right.
She snapped. Not mum, my friend Dee. My lip curled – a habit that had formed in my early childhood. Sometimes I sucked my thumb, but I didn’t today. Dee would tease me like she often did. It was a strange friendship but mum had told me to be nice to her. I’d promised, and couldn’t break a promise. Could I?
But it’s not fair I thought, as she ushered me to sit at the desk I had learnt to hate so much. I picked up the pink polka dot pen; I loved that chubby little pen. She gave me a sheet of lemon paper from her fancy writing case. I should have felt privileged because she didn’t usually share her coloured paper, even though she allowed me to borrow her pink polka dot pen. No logic!
I trembled. Took a deep breath and then boldly snapped. ‘NO! I won’t. It’s not fair. It’s mean. I don’t want to play anymore.’ I slammed her precious pen onto the desk and jumped up.
She looked aghast, her expression changed to one of furiosity. Is there such a word? She was cross. She was taller, chunkier and stronger. I stared at her, trembling all the more. But we always played by her rules. I knew she would tell her dad that I wouldn’t accommodate her ideas. A daddy’s girl for sure, she could do no wrong in his eyes. He would say I was mean, but then he wouldn’t understand would he? He only knew her side of the story. So I ran home. Passed the new houses and down the cobbled lane. The kids called it a snicket but mum called it a cobbled lane. She hated me to use Yorkshire slang, and I wasn’t supposed to go down the lane. It was lonely and quiet.
‘Pass the new houses and follow the road to the corner shop,’ mum would say. ‘Turn right into Browndale Avenue. It’s further to go but safer. Go past Mrs Higginbottom’s house, the twin’s house, and the house with the garden gnomes.’
It was always safe that way she would say. ‘Plenty of people around! And don’t talk to that man who hands out toffees,’ she urged. ‘Strange man, he is.’
So mum insisted that I never take the cobbled lane. She was always right, wasn’t she? It’s so annoying when your mum is always right. But I wanted to get home quickly, so this time I ignored her advice and took the short cut. It would be all right if I walked quickly. Wouldn’t it?
Then I saw the bully boys, Stuart and Tony Smithson. They were hovering in the lane. So I ran. They scared me.
My heart was pounding furiously – like it was going to burst out of my chest. The palms of my hands went sweaty and I felt I couldn’t breathe. Oh No! Please God. Don’t let this bring on my asthma.
I made it into the avenue. Relief! Safety! Next time I would listen to mum.
Some of the younger kids were playing. They had coloured chalk and had drawn a hop scotch on the path. The older girls were skipping. I stopped for a few minutes to watch. They shouted me over, but I wanted to go home. Dee was cross with me and Stuart and Tony had scared me. Besides, someone shouted that it was nearly time for Dr Who and I couldn’t miss my favourite programme of all time.
Why did I ever want to play teachers anyway? I had enough of that at school. Dee was bossy and mean. I decided I didn’t care what her parents said, or mum. I wasn’t going to play with her again.
My brother was at home with his friends, Rob and Jamie. We shared crumpets and sliced banana ‘cos my brother kept moaning about being hungry and said he couldn’t wait for his evening meal.
‘Sausages and mash later when dad gets home,’ mum said looking at me anxiously, ‘You better eat your dinner later!’
Then mum ushered us into the conservatory and put on the TV. ‘Dad will be tired,’ she whispered. ‘He’s worked seven long days this week, and no rest.’
‘Yes mum.’ I got the hidden message – I knew how hard they both worked to send us to that school.
‘Education is important,’ they insisted. Of course Great Auntie Minnie had instigated it. She left money to pay the fees for the first 2 years when she died. She made mum promise to use the money for our education.
How I loved playing at her house, especially when she allowed me to empty the shoe cupboard. Yes, shoe shops and dressing up was the best game ever. Dear Auntie Minnie, her house was full of interesting stuff. Mum said she never threw anything out and had lots of antiques and family heirlooms in the loft. I never did get to go in the loft.
I was thinking about Auntie Minnie ‘cos there was this old woman in Dr Who and she reminded me of her, then there was this loud knock on the door. It was a bang actually and just in the middle of a scary bit when the Dr was about to get killed. He didn’t actually get killed but we had to wait till the following week to find that out ‘cos the programme ended with an irritating cliff-hanger.
‘It’s the window cleaner collecting the money I suppose,’ mum shouted. ‘He always comes at this time on Tuesdays.
‘Mum, its Monday,’ I shouted. ‘Dr Who night. Monday!’
She popped her head around the door and looked at me curiously. My brother went to see who was knocking.
‘It’s Mr Dennington.’ Michael called out. That’s my brother’s name. He had seen the grey haired distinguished looking man through the spy hole and recognised him. Since mum had arranged for the joiners to put the spy hole in the door we always knew who was there. She was spooked when the neighbours were burgled once and made a few changes to the house. Michael tried to convince her that getting a dog would be the answer but she was having none of it. Actually mum didn’t really want pets because she said they were hard work and she had never been the same since that time we persuaded her to let us have gerbils and they ate their babies. I found the mother gerbil sitting holding…..oh never mind…it was gross!
Michael called out again. ‘It’s Mr Dennington mum.’
My brother let him in.
I listened from behind the kitchen door.
‘I’m very sorry Mr Dennington if you thought my daughter was mean, I will speak to her right away.’
I heard footsteps walking away. I ran to the window and peered from behind the velvet curtains. Mr Dennington was gone. Then I saw dad walking down the path, he just missed Mr Dennington and mum instinctively knew he was on his way because she started rushing around putting out dinner. She had done a quick change. She always wore a pretty dress when dad was due home. Then she called us to the table – after she insisted we wash our hands of course – and told my brother’s friends politely they would have to leave. We ate quietly. We had been forewarned. I really was full of crumpet and banana so I sneaked Michael my sausage. Then dad asked. ‘What did you do today?’
I waited with baited breath. Unexpectedly the phone rang. Distraction, good! Mum was gone for ages. Nan was poorly and for the next few days mum was busier than ever charging about looking after her.
I didn’t see Mr Dennington. I didn’t see Dee at school either.
A couple of weeks passed and everyone was busy, until suddenly out of the blue mum asked. ‘Why don’t you go play with Dee? She’s home again.’
‘Home? Why? Where’s she been?’ I asked. ‘Some exotic holiday place I expect. Her family have pots of money.’
‘No she has not been on holiday.’ replied mum. ‘And I don’t think they have pots of money. Why did you say that?’
‘Oh! Just the way she talks at school. Like getting everything she wants. I don’t want to play with her. Where’s she been then?’
‘The hospital,’ mum whispered, as though someone was listening and she was going to tell me the biggest secret ever. ‘That’s why I asked you to play nicely with her. And I forgot to mention that on the day you ran off she was very distraught. Her father called to see me as he was going to take you both to the movies, but he said you had been mean to her.’
‘Mum, I was never mean. She was mean and bossy. She always wanted to play teachers. She had a new desk and chair. She was always the teacher and . . .’ I didn’t get to say anymore.
Mum had a strange expression. ‘I told you to play nicely. I told you she was sick.’
‘Yes mum, but I was sick of her being the teacher.’
Mum smiled that mumsy smile. ‘Well maybe you could play with her just one more time.’
‘One more time.’ I asked. ‘What does that mean?’
‘One more time, before she returns to hospital.’
I didn’t want to argue, I went to my room to change out of my school uniform.
It was Friday and school holidays next week. Yippee! I wondered why Dee was going into hospital again. Why had she even been into hospital?
There was a bang on the door. It was Mr Dennington. Why did he always bang instead of knocking like normal people? He had come to take me to his house to play. That was unexpected. Suddenly it was obvious, mum had rung him.
We walked down the cobbled lane. It was lonely and quiet but safe with Mr Dennington, wasn’t it?
It was a lovely warm day and I wore my favourite shorts, this really cool t-shirt and some fashionable sunglasses that Nan bought me. I felt special. We went through the little side gate into Mr Dennington’s garden.
Mrs Dennington loved gardening. It looked so pretty and colourful with flowers, an ornate pond, water-lilies and fish. She said that most of the fish had gone because the ginger cat from next door had eaten them.
There in the corner of the garden was Dee, sitting with her back to me so she didn’t see me arrive. Her dolls carefully arranged for a picnic with a striped tablecloth in the centre and a miniature tea-set placed neatly in front of each doll. Colouring books and jigsaws were scattered around and there at the bottom of the garden I could see the dreaded school desk and chair. Drrr…
Mr Dennington shouted. Dee spun around with a big smile showing her glistening white teeth. She wore a pretty head scarf with orange and pink polka dots and a huge pair of pink sunglasses to shade her from the sun’s rays. Pink was always her favourite colour. I reeled with shock, gasped and my mouth fell open. ‘What happened to your arm?’ Ergh! Why did I blurt that out?
I froze to the spot feeling horribly uncomfortable.
‘Oh. Its ok, they couldn’t fix it. It’s gone,’ she said seeing my awkwardness. ‘My hair is gone too,’ she whispered. ‘Look! See!’ She removed her pretty head-scarf. Her golden locks were no more.
‘Dee,’ shouted her mother alarmingly from across the garden. She scurried over to carefully re-cover her daughter’s head and tied a fresh knot in the scarf arranging it suitably.
‘Trendy aye!’ Dee laughed. ‘Thanks for coming to play.’
‘Teachers?’ I asked looking into her eyes feeling somewhat bewildered, but thankfully rediscovering my voice which had suddenly gone all squeaky and distorted.
She nodded, and I sat on the chair in front of the desk, waiting for her to tell me what to do.
We played. She was happy. She seemed different. Not so bossy. Softer!
It was o.k. Today was o.k.
‘Shall we play again later this week?’ asked Dee.
‘We’re going to Majorca,’ I blurted out excitedly, then zipped my mouth quickly realising this was not the time to be giddy when there was some seriously horrible thing happening to Dee.
‘I’ve never been on a plane. Dads been working extra hours so we could all go on holiday and we’re taking Nan.’
‘Wow! I wish I could go on a plane,’ exclaimed Dee. ‘Will you tell me all about it when you return?’
‘Sure,’ I said. ‘But…you have lots of holidays, don’t you?’
‘Me? Oh no! We go away lots but that’s because we have to look after my gran. She has been poorly for years and we visit her. Last time we went mum did her garden. What a mess! Some of the weeds were as big as me. I have never had a holiday.’
‘Whaaaaaat? You’re joking.’
We played until Mr Dennington walked me home. He said Dee looked tired and needed to rest. I dare not ask questions. I decided to wait and ask mum. She would know. Wouldn’t she?
S-o-o mum explained. After my holiday I raced round to see Dee. I took fudge and some strange looking Spanish sweets that I thought she might like.
Mr Dennington answered the door, he didn’t smile. He had a weird expression.
‘I have these for Dee,’ I said holding out my gifts.
Why did Mr Dennington always scare me?
He asked me in and thanked me. I saw the desk; the chair and the teacher’s stuff stacked away neatly in the corner.
‘This is for you,’ he said, showing me a pile of books, pencils and crayons. Then he gave me the pink polka dot chubby pen. ‘Dee thought you may like it.’
‘But where’s Dee?’
He looked sad and didn’t answer. Mrs Dennington came to explain. ‘Dee’s gone’, she whispered.
‘Gone where? We were only away two weeks and I promised to tell her about my holiday and I brought these,’ I said pushing the sweets into her hands.
Then I knew. I didn’t hear her say how poorly Dee had been. It had happened suddenly two days after we went to Majorca.
Dee’s big brother walked me home. We took the short cut down the snicket. He was thirteen years old. I was safe with him. Wasn’t I?
Dee had the same as Auntie Minnie. But why so young? Why so quick? I didn’t understand. I started to cry. I wanted my mum. Should I have been a better friend? I will ask mum, I thought. She would know, wouldn’t she? Mums know everything!