Sometimes at night, when it is so dark the darkness becomes almost smothering, I lie awake listening to the cars outside and the endless crying of the baby next door. I think back through my life, to try and comfort me into restful sleep.
I remember summers from my junior school days. The images yellowy, orange, warm, happy. Endless weeks abroad, the sun almost unbearable in its cruel sunburnt heat. A time when swimwear wasn’t a terrifying thought—flabby thighs, see-through bikinis were things I was oblivious to. My parents, endless sources of ice-creams and drinks, not the embarrassing, overprotective people they have become.
Every year I would go to summer camp—my sister, our two best friends, Jemima and Sally, and myself. We awaited the holiday with desperate anticipation. When I was ten we went to France alone for the first time; our previous camp experiences had been confined to a large mansion house in Shropshire. There we were at the coach station on the departure date. Armed with matching purses, our straw-blonde hair drew us together, a giggling, whispering bunch, the most devoted Boyzone fans. We were an endless source of lies. We were a set of orphaned quadruplets. We had been left millions and lived on our own with seven swimming pools with dolphins in them. We were almost feminist in our approach to boys, the fat boy who dared to send Sally a love letter obviously had not realised the cruelty of which we were capable. After arranging a secret midnight liaison behind the archery course we bombarded him with water bombs and cruel chants.
We were exclusive, we needed no-one else. We scoffed at the other girls and made up secret names for them that kept us awake until midnight giggling. The entrance to our room was taboo, out of bounds to anyone other than ourselves. A place where innocent inquiries could end up with your hand trapped in the door and where friendly invites always had hidden agendas. A place where the boys from our group would congregate eagerly trying to guess the password and secret knock. They were a gangly, nerdy crowd and were an endless amusement to us. Toby mistaking the shower for a french toilet, Ben crying constantly for no apparent reason, and Mark the little, hairy one, an unfortunate target for our jokes.
I smile to myself as numerous comical incidents flash randomly across my mind. Just as sleep is beginning to tug at my eyes and my thoughts are turning to dreams a more sobering picture comes to me. My innocent childlike memories are shattered. I think where we all are now—the ‘blonde bunch,’ ‘friends forever’—and come up with a more recent vision. The fallout, when the tables were turned and I was the one they wrote spiteful notes to, the one they giggled at, whispered about. Suddenly those holidays don’t seem so nice; they were an omen of what we were to become, bitching, malicious, ruthless teenagers.