Marilyn did continue to wear her Chain of Cross every day. Even though the other children didn't like it, she knew that God did. And if God was happy with her, why should anything else matter?
However, after the day of her last hopscotch game, she tucked the chain under her thick school jumper, out of sight, but most definitely not out of mind; the other girls still gave her disapproving looks, particularly during morning prayers. Marilyn started to keep right out of their way, usually spending her lunch times alone at a quiet corner of the school yard.
Marilyn never forgot the day she gave out invitations for her tenth birthday party. She'd made a sort-of friend from the girl who'd joined their class that year; Elizabeth was her name, and she always seemed to be in a different world. Point was, Lily and the other girls gave her almost as hard a time as they gave Marilyn; "Smellizabeth", they called her. So she and Marilyn had no choice but to be friends.
She'd already invited Elizabeth, who had nodded in reply. Now Marilyn was standing next to Elizabethe in the school yard, next to the part of the field where the other girls were playing a game of football. Marilyn the Jesus Freak and Smellizabeth were never invited to play.
Marilyn was nervously clutching the pile of invitations she'd written out the night before. Her mum had let her use her expensive calligraphy pens, and Marilyn thought the invitations looked amazing.
"Elizabeth?" She looked at the other girl, who was lost in the middle distance, and sniffing loudly. The teacher had been on her back all day to blow her nose, but somehow she wouldn't. Marilyn wished she would too, but didn't say so.
"Elizabeth," Marilyn said again.
"What?" said Elizabeth, looking at Marilyn as though she'd interrupted her in the middle of something important.
"I was going to say, I'm... I'm a bit scared," said Marilyn, hoping for a bit of reassurance from her friend. "About giving out the invitations."
Elizabeth frowned. "What are you scared of?"
"Well... What if they make fun of my invitations? Or if they don't want to come? I've never invited them to a party before."
"Don't want to come?" Elizabeth repeated, like a deaf person. "It's free food. Of course they'll come."
Marilyn was taken aback; "Is that why you're coming?" she wanted to demand, but she didn't. "Okay," she murmured in a small voice.
Not long after, the bell rang, and Marilyn saw the girls start to file in from the field. She jogged forward to meet the closest girl, which was Lily. Lily stopped in her tracks, almost interested to see what Marilyn had to say.
"Lily, I -" Marilyn stammered as the flicked through the invitations, finding Lily's name. She smiled as she handed it to her, a part of her hoping for a smile back.
Lily's eyes fell cold upon the paper in her hand. "What's this for?" she asked, as though Marilyn had handed her a worm.
Marilyn's heart dropped. "It's an invitation. I'm having my birthday party this weekend."
"I see," said Lily, and Marilyn could tell she was holding back laughter.
Samantha and Orlaith, who both thought Lily their best friend, came over to see what was going on. Marilyn heavy-heartedly handed them their invitations.
"Tell me more about this party, Marilyn," said Lily. "Will we have to sing 'Silent Night' over the cake, instead of 'Happy Birthday'?"
This had Samantha and Orlaith burst into peals of laughter. Marilyn's face suddenly felt really hot, and her eyes started to sting.
"That's probably the song we'll be playing Musical Chairs to as well," laughed Orlaith, which set the others into further hysterics.
"Of course not -" Marilyn tried to speak, but her voice cut out on her and all she could do was stand there and stare at them.
"And," Samantha hiccuped, "the party bags will probably have Holy Water in them!"
Marilyn thought the Chain of Cross under her jumper was swelling, weighing a thousand tonnes. She couldn't take it any more. She'd had enough of it. Enough of them laughing at her. She was finished with it. Right now, she would end it forever.
She tore across the yard towards the school, past a daydreaming Elizabeth, the sounds of laughter falling away behind her.
IT ENDS NOW! She screamed inside her head.