When was the first time you ever felt scared? Do you even remember? I don’t know if I can really recall the first ever time. But one stands out in my mind for sure. The first sense of absolute terror. The first time I broke the law. The first time I played knock and run. (Yes, I know, it’s not really breaking the law, but it sure freakin felt like it.)
I’m gonna take you back a good twenty-ish years. Look at me. Seven year old. A disney princess dream. Big innocent blue eyes, head constantly in the clouds, hair exactly like Matilda. I was as harmless as they come.
And I was of course, totally susceptible to peer pressure. Even if I didn’t actually know what peer pressure really was.
I lived next door to a girl called Rosie who had hair like Rapunzel and seemed totally fearless. One day, we were walking home from school with two boys, Guy and Elliot. Now I was way too young to be thinking about boys in any kind of way, but something about walking home with these two and Rosie – instead of on the arm of my mum – made me feel cool. Untouchable. Or something. So when they suggested we play knock and run, it seemed like the most crazy, insane, brilliant idea I’d ever heard of.
Little did I know whose house they had in mind.
Now back in the day, we were all in Mrs Scull’s class. Who, despite her name, was absolutely wonderful. She was my favourite teacher, she was kind and creative and she let me sit on her lap when we had to watch the BFG and the scary giants came out and made me cry. (Side note, the new soon to be released BFG film looks incredible and the giants look just as scary.)
And then there was her teaching assistant, Mrs Tanner. And it was well known around the carpet area that if you got away with saying “yes Mrs Toilet” during registration, then you were pretty much crowned king or queen for the entire day. Not very many of us did get away with it though. She was one of those women who scared the bejeezus out of you with one look. Her dark blunt bob swung around her cheeks like knives. Her eyes were an icy blue, and her sizeable walk was one that could overturn even the heaviest of tables. She was just not one to mess with.
And of course, hers was the house my so called friends had decided upon.
It sat in a corner, proud white stone walls, noisy gravel drive, the most adventurous and dangerous of all knock and runs. Now I’d never done anything like this before, I’d always wanted to, but the angel on my shoulder always set me straight. But like I said, it was something about these three friends. So I ummed and ahhed and weighed everything out as best I could for a scared seven year old, but finally agreed. It would be me and Rosie who would do it, and the boys would stand guard.
So we crept our way to the door. Took a few breaths, suppressed our giggles. And…I just couldn’t do it. I was facing the reality of possible death here. Who knew what Mrs Tanner was capable of! I was frozen solid, my fist hanging at my side, my eyes as big as saucers and full to the brim with terror. But Rosie just pounded the door in front of us. Fearless. Then she grabbed me and we ran. Like Forest Gump shedding his braces, we ran.
Round the corner and down the road, faint angry shouts following us. And I thought it was over.
The next day.
An entire school assembly was called. To talk about the behaviour of pupils. To talk about how some pupils rapped on the door of a beloved teaching assistant. To talk about how these pupils were in serious trouble.
So there I was. Terror flooding through me again. Angel on shoulder telling me to confess. Peer pressure telling me to stare solidly at the floor, sweat beading on my forehead.
And it’s taken twenty years, but I’m finally ready. It’s time I confessed.
Mrs Toilet, I’m sorry. I just wanted to be cool…