Lizzy #2

Jim was still in bed, grumbling that it was time to get up. But Lizzy was almost ready. She’d pulled her school smock in under the covers to warm it and a got dressed in a tangle of sheets and blankets. But it was too cold to put a toe out of the bed, never mind change out of her nightdress out there. In school she’d heard about the Big Circle, where the polar bears lived; but she was convinced it couldn’t be as cold as her bedroom on a winter morning.

As Lizzy passed Jim’s bedroom and headed down the stairs, she knew she should call him to make sure he was awake but she didn’t. The longer he slept, the longer she had.

Before she got to the bottom of the stairs she could hear the crackly radio and her mam singing along to some old wartime tune. As she opened the door, the familiar smell of the fumes from the Superser and the porridge made her feel good. There on the table as usual were the dregs of Dad’s tea. Having been reared on loose leaf tea he always left a mouthful in the bottom of the mug, even though mam only ever used tea bags. Most of his 4 sugars were left behind in the bottom of the mug. Her mam would leave the mug there for Lizzy and every morning she’d enjoy her breakfast tipple.

Do you want porridge?
Yes Mam.
I’d say please!
Yes please, mam.

The steaming hot bowl was placed in front of her and she reached for the sugar.

Not too much now!

Daddy’s tea was always provided for, but only a sprinkle was allowed on the porridge. But that was the way it was, Lizzy knew no different.

As she sat there, warm and safe in familiar surroundings she longed to stay home from school; like that time she’d had her eye infection. She wanted to look at her mam light the fire and then watch some telly with her. Then after she’d popped to the shops, come home to make dad’s lunch. But if he came home and Lizzy was there but not almost at death’s door with some consumption or other, there would be big trouble. So she knew not to even ask.

Lizzy’s Dad had a very strict work ethic. You went to school or work unless your leg had fallen off and even then, if he thought you might be able to carry it, you’d have to go!

Breakfast was a time in the day that Lizzy wished would never end.
Mam was still calling up the stairs to Jim, but there was no sound.

Did you call him?
Yes, she lied.
Jim! Will you get up you’ll be late for school.

Lizzy swung her feet under the table and smiled. The heat of the Superser was lovely on her legs. She knew that soon she’d be walking to school and the cold would bite her bare knees.

She could hear the sound of Jim grumbling his way down the stairs and Lizzy knew the daily precious time with mam was over. She looked at her in her dressing gown, her hair a bit of a mess and eyes tired from last night’s ‘few drinks’. But to Lizzy she was perfect.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

The walk to school was short and if Lizzy turned around she could see her own front door til just before she got to the school gate. That made her feel safe. For some reason for all the people in her life, she didn’t always feel safe.

Lizzy Redmond
Louise Barry….

Lizzy was lost again. She was fairly good and responding to her own name, but once Miss Fitzgerald moved on she was back in dreamland. Her current favourite daydream was to be asked to sing a solo at mass. Only Mary Boland and Michelle Kelly ever got solos. Lizzy remembered Fr. Hegarty saying that it was wrong to be jealous. She didn’t believe him. She was only jealous cos she knew she was better than Mary and Michelle, so that must mean it’s ok. She thought about being picked for the solo and the look on Mary and Michelle’s face when she was. That made her smile.

“What are you laughing at Fatso?!” sneered Martina Muldoon
“Nothing!”, said Lizzy, realising she was the only one with no copy in front of her. She scrambled to get her maths book out but by the time she found the right page and her pencil and the copy, it was time to do something else. Lizzy felt she spent her whole day rummaging in her bag for something. She didn’t like school.

Out in the yard Lizzy went in search of Rachel. Lizzy didn’t really have any friends but at least Rachel McGuigan would talk to her. She knew it was only cos Rachel fancied Jim and wanted to talk about him. But Lizzy didn’t care, at least it meant she wasn’t on her own. As she looked around for Rachel she saw Martina Muldoon with some girls from another class. They had poor Mildred Marlybone cornered again. Poor Mildred, thought Lizzy, but quick as a flash she moved on. She knew that if they were terrorising Mildred, they’d leave her alone for now.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Years later engulfed in guilt and shame, Lizzy cried for two days when she heard that Mildred had died of cancer. How she was what was called ‘special needs’ and was bullied every day of her school life, much to her parent’s distress. An only child, her parents went to her grave every day until they were no longer able to.


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