I write this as the annual House Christmas Dinner is upon us. My dress, specially bought for the occasion, is suspended from its hanger in my wardrobe, my shoes are nestled in the small alcove above it. Hair styles have been decided upon, make up tested and confidence given a reboot. That is, it should have been boosted.
I remember the last Christmas Dinner well. I remember the dress, black, lengthy; only one pound fifty from Ebay. I had wanted to curl my hair but, being the unpredictable body part it is, they had been reduced to waves, topped with a black rose on an elasticised band. My hair was long then, unlike now. My shoes, flat (from Primark) and adorned with gold thread. My face had been attacked by my excited peers, desperate to cover my usually bare face with a mask commonly modelled by adolescent females. I had managed to restrain them to darkening my lips, accentuating my eyes, hiding the teenage blemishes with foundation a shade too dark. I added the last detail. A locket, heart shaped, on a matching gold chain, detailed with a pair of glistening, crushed strawberry-pink hearts. I smiled, and opened it, to see my face next to his. Descending the stairs, I thought of him. I posed for a few photographs with the rest of the girls. Then, we opened the doors to leave. Camera flashes jumped out from every angle, among the cheering crowd. I found an empty space in which to shield myself. Then, I felt his arms round me and I looked up. "Wow," he said, "you look gorgeous." I remember happiness, I remember the fact that he noticed I was wearing the necklace he gave me and smiled. I remember turning to leave for the dinner, when he kissed me, gasped, and asked me if my lipstick was strawberry flavoured.
I remember love. I remember lying in his bed as he lay on the couch downstairs and sleeping next to a picture of the two of us. I remember looking my worst and him calling me beautiful.
Then, with a sickening lurch, everything changed.
"Do you want to hang out after school?" became, "Meet me here, at this time, after school."
Jokes like "Can you tell time, you nutter?" became, "Why are you late? Where were you? Who were you with?"
Standing outside his boarding house and calling out "I love you," became walking past quickly, head down, in the hope that he wouldn't see me.
Spending time with my friends became a crime.
And I'll never forget the time he grabbed me with both hands, knocking the air from my lungs and growling to my friend, "She's mine."
I became afraid of him. Afraid of his hold on me, feeling that he wanted, craved things I couldn't give.
I eventually told him that I'd had enough. It was difficult enough; I still love loved him. Then he told me he'd cut himself before he knew me and that leaving him would make him do it again.
After wrestling with myself, tears falling from my eyes, I tore myself away.
My dress, specially bought for the occasion, is suspended from its hanger in my wardrobe, my shoes are nestled in the small alcove above it. Hair styles have been decided upon, make up tested - the confidence grows gradually.
But what is it all for?