I could not bring myself to write the actual prompt in the title, and ‘bullying’ still aptly describes the theme of the first half of the piece below, which I automatically wrote thinking of young-girls-who-have-just-crossed-into-adolescence as the audience – just to bear in mind when reading 🙂
Er, the actual prompt was provided by my ever-so-helpful partner, to whom I said: “C’mon, give me a prompt, I need to write more, and could do with a prompt exercise!”
He replied: “Boobs.”
Typical. Anyway, my first reaction on hearing it was: teen girls often go through a lot of verbal abuse (from other girls, often, which is shocking!) about their changing (or not changing!) bodies. I definitely did. And that resulted in the below piece 🙂
No word limit adhered to and this time unlike with other prompts, I didn’t start the piece with it, especially as it was just one word rather than the start of a sentence.
As Jenna stared at her body in the mirror, she willed herself not to cry. You’re perfect as you are, she thought fiercely, repeating the words her mother had told her every day before she died. Perfect.
Today, in the changing rooms, Emily had pointed to Jenna’s chest in front of everybody and said, “Look how small her boobs are! She still doesn’t need a proper bra!”, and of course, all of Jenna’s protestations that she was wearing a bra, albeit a junior sports bra, went completely ignored in the face of the laughter that followed. Emily often said things like that about Jenna, and nobody seemed to want to say anything like that about Emily. Or maybe, like Jenna, they just weren’t able to make themselves heard.
After that, she’d kept to herself all afternoon in class, had walked home as rapidly as her legs would allow when the last bell went, and had then shut herself in her room. Her dad had come and knocked on her door a few hours ago when he got in from work, but she’d shouted at him to ‘go away’ and he had sadly obliged. She knew he had obliged sadly, because she heard that all-familiar sigh after she’d told him to go, the one that had become way more frequent since it had just been the two of them.
If mum was here, Jenna would have spoken to her. But how could she speak to dad about how Emily said she had small boobs?! That was impossible. Besides, she knew Emily was in the wrong. So what did she even need to speak to anybody for? Why did she feel so humiliated, if she was in the right? Surely she didn’t need anybody to tell her ‘Emily is just a mean, mean girl, you’re fine as you are!’ because she knew that already. But she still felt really, really hurt. It wasn’t fair. Why did words hurt so much? Emily might as well have punched her in the stomach, the way she felt.
She turned away from her mirror, dressed again in a t-shirt and leggings, and then decided she would go and talk to her dad without actually mentioning the details of the actual words spoken that had upset her so much.
As she slowly opened her door, a weird smell hit her. Like birthday candles. Only it wasn’t anybody’s birthday…oh, no!
She ran down the stairs and straight into the kitchen, where she found her dad frantically throwing open a window in a fog of what looked and smelt suspiciously like smoke coming from an oven that was now quite worse-for-the-wear.
“Da-ad! What did you do?!” she asked, rushing to open the second window before the smoke alarm started wailing.
“I’m sorry, sweetheart! I tried – ” he coughed, and fanned his face. “ – I tried to make a cake for you, you know, that chocolate-and-orange one Mum used to make, because you seemed down, but I left it in too long, and – ”
Jenna stared at him for a moment, and her eyes pricked with tears as her heart melted into a puddle in her chest. Then she strode up to her father and threw her arms around him in a fierce hug, which was returned hesitantly. The hesitation made her feel even more horrible for having yelled at him to go away earlier.
She leaned back to find her dad’s concerned face looking at her. “I’m sorry, sweetheart.” He said again, earnestly. “I mixed it up and put it in right after work but then I forgot about it – ”
“Dad, it’s fine. Don’t worry. Thanks for giving it a go,” she said, seriously. “Let’s see the damage, shall we?”
They approached cautiously, Jenna donning the oven gloves as they went. She crouched in front of the smoking oven, holding her breath, and gingerly pulled out the cake tin. The whole of the cake’s top was blackened completely.
“Ah well. It hasn’t fallen down, though. Let’s get rid of the top, shall we? We’ll see if there’s anything edible underneath…”
All thoughts of Emily completely forgotten, Jenna helped her dad slice the ruined top half of the cake off, revealing a definitely eatable bottom half. Unfortunately, when she tried to tip it out onto a plate, she realised it was stuck fast to the bottom of the cake tin. Jenna looked up at her dad, shaking her head.
“Da-ad,” she said critically. “Didn’t you line, or at least grease, the bottom of the tin?”
Her father looked guilty. “Er…no?”
And then Jenna had to laugh. Dad wasn’t too bad at cooking, really, but he never baked, so these mistakes were hardly surprising. Within seconds, he was laughing too. They both laughed for a good ten minutes and it was such a fabulous tonic, easing her heart in such a way that even if Emily’s words returned to her later that evening, they wouldn’t be able to bother her.
Once they had stopped laughing, her dad wiped a tear from his eye and said, “Are you feeling better, then, Jen?”
She smiled. “Heaps. Now let’s grab a couple of spoons and finish this mess off!”
Thanks for stopping by!
3 thoughts on “Writing Prompt Exercise: Bullying”
This was a very moving piece. I could really get a sense of the scene and both characters. The burnt cake gave light to the emotions of a helpless father trying to support his daughter.
Thank you, I am glad you found it moving 🙂 Might explore the supportive-but-helpless dad’s PoV next…quite interesting to lift other characters out of these sorts of pieces and write about them…!
That’s not a bad idea!