Mum said I was going somewhere special today. Somewhere I’d never been before. The car bounced along the fresh-morning road with joy.
“Are we going on holiday mum?”
“Nope, even better.” She replied with a small smirk. Anticipation, curiosity and excitement all struck at once.
After what seemed like hours we reached this place-that-was-better-than-holiday. Two large metal gates stood protecting what looked like a big red castle from a fairy tale. The unfamiliar face of a man in a suit stood guard from behind the gates, smiling at me as I walked towards the castle gripping my mothers hand tightly. “Helo, Tiwdor.” He said with a certain authority that was hard to ignore. I decided if I didn’t make eye contact he would leave me alone.
“Where are we mummy?”
“You’re in school sweetie.” With that I was dumbfounded. It all made sense now – older brother and sister coming home every day in a muddy, stress-stained uniform looking as if they’d spent the day with the devil. I knew they went to a place called school but I didn’t actually think the same would act happen to me! I was shocked but I wouldn’t cry because I wasn’t a baby – my sister had told me so.
With a short peck on the cheek and a brief farewell mum was off, abandoning me with this man that smelt of dad’s aftershave. The sky was a cracked grey – a strong sense of uncertainty in the air; as if rain and sun were discussing which most deserved to take action.
I sat on the floor with the other deserted children. A short yellow haired woman sat on a chair in front of us. She made it very clear that she loved each and every one of us as she asked for our names, smiling warmly. The yellow haired lady led us around the giant playroom, showing us all of the play-things. From sand pits to giant Lego pieces, the choice was astounding – this truly was the place for me. As the day went by I made friends and we chatted about things like our pet dinosaurs and monster friends all the way back at home. We laughed as one of the other boys started crying because he couldn’t operate the Lego blocks properly.
An unfamiliar woman came along, holding a tray of chopped fruit and milk cartons. Everybody was herded around a big red table in the middle of the room. We were all handed cartons of milk and a choice of fruit; everyone enjoyed this apart from the quiet girl who had to drink water instead.
Next we were sent out into the playing ground where the boys raced and the girls went to the quiet corners of the yard to play secret games. Muffled rays of sunlight fell upon the ground invitingly.
Over the fence was an even bigger playground with even bigger kids to accommodate it. I was neither bold nor curious enough to stand by the fence to talk to the oversized boys and girls. I was content splashing water all over my new friend Curtis.
“So where do you live Chew-door?” Curtis asked, obviously having a problem pronouncing my name. “A long way away from here.” was my reply. Suddenly a proud looking boy ran around the playground with a large bell in his hand, flapping it around frantically. I didn’t have a clue what this meant but followed the others into a tidy line facing the big white door. One by one we reluctantly strolled back into the playroom, nobody satisfied with giving up their freedom. The caring blonde woman sat us around her on the floor, and began reading us a story about a mischievous little black bird. I, however, had a far greater interest in seeing how many bobbles I could pull out of the carpet.
“Oi, Gwrando nei di!”
All faces turned to me, two girls at the front giggled; my cheeks became big round tomatoes. A sudden rush of anger rushed through my veins topped off by a slight sense of betrayal. Mum only ever shouted at me like that – I now despised this woman.
But, after another fifteen minutes of her gentle voice telling the story, I forgave her and now listened intently to the story I barely understood. After another five minutes she told everyone it was time to go home. Another; this time quite different, rush of emotion struck me. I wanted to stay here longer, with my new best friend and the story-telling yellow-haired lady. I began to cry – and I wasn’t alone, others did the same.
I walked towards my mother who was waiting by the front gates with the other parents, tears still in my eyes. Sunlight gently stroked the back of my neck.
“Was it really that bad?” She said with a smile on her face.