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a passionate repentance

Storytime. (Disturbing, badly written, do not read if you are sensitive)

Storytime. (Disturbing, badly written, do not read if you are sensitive)

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may God stand
Once upon a time in England there was an American girl who went to school there. There weren't many schools where she could go, because she was handicapped, and this was in nineteen seventy four, before mainstreaming got any sort of foothold overseas (Or in America, really, but that's another story.)

All her life, this girl had lived in California and Arizona. She was happy in Arizona. She had friends, in the handicapped school she went to, and she had a best friend and she was more able, and more fit than she had ever been before, or since. She didn't really want to go to England, even if it was going to be an adventure, but she and her sisters didn't have any choice. Their father had to go to England, so they had to go too.

England was bitterly cold. None of the little family had ever encountered this fierce a cold before. The girl and her sisters had only ever seen snow fall once, and then it melted before it hit the ground.

These were the fens. The land was flat and the wind tore across the land without stoppage, bending the poplars and the horse-chestnut trees and making the windows rattle like ghosts in a ghost story. On her first night there, the girl watched the shadow of a tree sway back and forth with the wind on her bedroom wall and shivered. She didn't think she would ever be warm again.

They lived in Ely, which is a not-very-big town in East Anglia, not far from Cambridge. In Ely there is a beautiful old cathedral that was built in the eleventh century. It was the seat of an archbishopric, and that meant that there was a palace for the archbishop to live in.
This palace was made of red brick and was also very beautiful, if nowhere near as old as the cathedral. You can see a picture here:

Understand that I am not telling this story very well. I can usually tell stories more easily than this. However,it needs to be said. So let me go on.

This Palace was a school for handicapped children at that time. It was a boarding school but the Headmaster and Headmistress of the school, Mr. and Mrs. X agreed to allow the American girl to attend the school as a day student. The girl was deeply relieved. To have to go to a completely new school was bad enough..in a new country was worse, but to have to stay there overnight? That would be more than her heart could bear.

She came to her new school every day in a taxi, driven by a friendly woman with red hair, named Hilary. Hilary was easy to talk to, but the girl didn't think there were some things you could really talk to anyone about, she was feeling terribly awkward and shy and funny and raw all the time. She didn't think that her clothing was as nice as the clothes the other girls had, and people singled her out because she was the first foreign student the school had.

She was also horribly bored in school. Much of what her form was studying she'd covered already in Arizona and she wanted to do harder things, except for maths, where she was far behind.

She would have liked to have had classes in how to be more English, because it seemed like her American-ness stuck out everywhere. She didn't talk like anyone else, she didn't know anything about the clothes or the music, or who was hot and who was not--all the things that kids her age talked about. She didn't even eat in the same way. She didn't think she was rude, but it was very clear that she was very very different.

Some of the teachers were kind, and helped her. Some of them were more than kind, and taught her things she would remember for decades. But one teacher was not. Mr. X liked to make fun of her. He would imitate her, or he would point out the things that she did. He liked to call attention to the mistakes she made in public. She felt embarrassed and nervous all the time. The more she was afraid of making mistakes, the more mistakes she made.

One day the American girl had riding lessons. This was not something she did very well, but she liked it anyway because she liked animals as a rule, and the horses were gentle and kind. However, on this particular class she had to wear a sweater, a pullover. She had never worn a pullover before. She didn't understand that you have to wear something underneat a pullover. When she was lifted off the horse, the pullover rode up in back and showed her bare back. Still, she had no idea she'd done anything wrong.

Later on that same day the American girl was changing into her bathing suit to go swimming. There was an indoor pool and it was very pleasant to get into the warm water and swim. She liked swimming better than almost anything else.

However, she was one of the slowest people there, and since she was slow, it turned out that she was the last one changing.

She had all her clothing off, and was putting on her bathing suit, when Mr. X walked into the changing room, and began to yell at her for not wearing a shirt under her pullover. The American girl was shocked and ashamed. She was not very happy about changing in front of other *girls* let alone in front of a male teacher. She held the towel in front of her and she cried a lot. She cried so hard that Mr. X was concerned. He tried to make her feel better, but all that did was make the American girl sure that Mr. X had done something wrong. But if he was coming in to explain that he had been embarrassed by her not wearing a shirt under her sweater, then she must have done something wrong too. She quit crying after a while when she realized she was scaring people and when Mr. X left.

She did not tell her parents. She was ashamed and embarrassed. She chose her own clothes, so it was her choice to wear the sweater without the shirt underneath. Mrs. X wrote a letter to her mother complaining about the American girl's clothing.

The American girl's parents took her out of that school. The American school on base would take her, and she went there where she didn't stand out so much and where the work was a lot harder.

A short time after that the American girl's mother came to her while she was putting on her night braces, and told her that Mr. X had been arrested for assaulting a student. (I don't know if a charge of rape was ever made. I believe so but I could be mistaken.) The American girl knew the student too..and had liked her. She thought that that might have been her. She felt guilty and afraid, and even angrier. She never told her mother what had happened.

Perhaps what happened in the changing room was not very bad. It certainly seemed so to me at the time. It was the first time I had ever been unclothed around anyone who wasn't one of my family or a doctor. Even the doctors I went to, being orthopaedic surgeons didn't need to see me fully unclothed. It had never occurred to me to *feel* naked before.

I have had a lot of anger and hatred for this man for a long time. I resented him, not for scolding me, but for *when* and *where* he did it. I also hated him for hurting my friend, someone who probably didn't even know I rather liked her, but I did. I felt helpless.

Now I can see, many years after the fact, that he was not well either. He should not have been in charge of a school of handicapped children. I don't know what his life was like after that, how he did, I have never cared to know.

I have thought for a long long time about making this entry private. But the point of writing it out was that it was no longer silent. It was seen. So if this disturbs you please pass on and read something else. I don't mean to make anyone upset. I just want to get it out, so that I can move on.
  • A Safe Place

    We are the ears that listen, my friend, and we are the arms and hands that reach out to embrace you, when ghosts and demons in the past rise up and plague you. Remember that.

    Regret not your decision to exorcise your own demons, darling. It helps. And remember: we care, no matter what, and we don't judge.
  • hugs you
  • Purging is good for you, kitten. Purging things semi-publicly like this, especially with the potential warning in it, is good for everybody.

    There are a lot of things people are uncomfortable telling others about. Domestic violence (which I've gone on about a few times and had a published bit about, once I was finally able to talk), rape, sexual abuse, just being taken advantage of, they can all be hard to admit. But it is part of the healing process to finally say something.

    So if this disturbs you please pass on and read something else. A perfect line. You needed to say it for you. Readers can pass on it if they don't like it. It's your journal, and your heart.
  • good story

    while not exactly a nice thing to read, it was highly evocative of past suffering. so i'd definitely say well written. like jereeza said, childhood often does contain strong and trasky episodes (good ones too, of course). if they are too horrible, our mind hides them. if it feels able to cope, we remember. my conclusion is that you're doing exactly the coping thing.

    on a lighter note, the school building looks almost exactly like the magnificent mansion where my husband works! must be an anglian thang.
  • Thanks :-)

    ....for sharing your story.
    She did not tell her parents. She was ashamed and embarrassed.
    A really common reaction and why these scumbags get away with it for so long......
    I tell kids to 'go with their feelings'. Teachers I didn't like at school (2) were later charged with sexual assault offences.
    Fortunately it's not so common now acos of the stories like yours'
    being made public, and more awareness of the need for screening people with access to trusty positions.
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