Tenderfoot

Victim Impact Statement

Author

Charmaine Peters has just completed her second undergraduate year of study at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Bachelor of Creative Writing.

This is her second published short story, another story was adapted to use as a short play, and filmed by a group of year 11 students for their media studies project.

Charmaine is keen to pursue a career in screenwriting and/or other professional writing work upon completion of her studies.

She is about to spend a month studying in Germany, where she will indulge her passion for travel, culture and Literature.

by Charmaine Peters


 

Thursday 7th March 1985

My name is Mandy. I’m fourteen.

I’m a pretty good student. I used to be a real show-off in Drama class. I get A’s all the time for English and Art. My Maths teacher, Miss Stein, has a voice so squeaky I can’t stand it, plus she has a really frizzy perm. Sometimes I swear she thinks she invented Maths, because usually I only get B’s, and she takes it so personally. I was good at public speaking, you know, debates, speeches, that sort of stuff. That was last year.

What I really love to do is sing. I’ve won a couple of competitions and some prizes. I won a pen once; it was silver and engraved with my name. I never used it but.

I haven’t sung since it happened. I just listen to the radio or play tapes on the cassette player I nicked from my brother. It makes me feel a bit better, like there’s someone else there, but I don’t have to talk back because they don’t ask questions. People are always asking questions.

I don’t talk.

That’s why I’m writing this, because I don’t talk anymore. That’s why Dr Michaels gave me this book to write in I guess. Mum and Dad sent me to see him so I’d have someone to "talk" to, about what happened. I don’t know why I stopped. I didn’t mean to, I just did it when all the people at the hospital kept asking me what happened. I didn’t know what to say, so I just said nothing. It’s nice sometimes, not talking, peaceful. People leave you alone after a while.

I go back to school soon but.

 

 

Thursday 14th March 1985

I’ve been coming to Dr Michaels for a couple of months. He’s okay for an old guy; he’s about forty-five I guess.

Since I don’t talk, he just lets me draw pictures and paint and stuff. He doesn’t ask that many questions, just jots stuff down in his little book all the time. Anyway, he wants me to practise writing, so that when the trial comes up I can maybe tell my story to the judge in writing. That way, I don’t have to talk in court. They can’t make me anyway.

Besides, they’ve got the statement the police wrote and the doctors’ letters and stuff they can use.

No witnesses but.

 

 

Thursday 28th March 1985

I’ve been back at school for a couple of weeks.

I sit on the library steps to eat my lunch in the sun. You’re not supposed to, but nobody says anything. They’re too scared of Mrs Hathaway. I guess she feels sorry for me. We’re neighbours so it’s a bit awkward because, well, I’ve seen her ugly underwear hanging on the line. She’s always suggesting books for me. I take some home just to keep her happy. I never read them but. Librarians are all so dusty and faded looking, like dried flower arrangements.

At least the other kids have stopped spitting on me.

I mostly get ignored now, which is good. Better than being called slut every day, I guess. Even the teachers don’t pay me any attention, except for Mr Simpson, my art teacher. He sometimes lets me into the art room in the breaks. He brings me cups of tea from a silver teapot in a proper teacup with flower patterns on the side and biscuits on a saucer with a doily on it. Dad says he’s a pansy. I don’t know anything about that, because it’s hard to think of him having a life outside of school.

He doesn’t ask me stupid questions but.

 

 

Monday 8th April 1985

Mum and I went to Port Macquarie for Easter. We’re staying at my Auntie’s. Craig stayed home with Dad, because it’s embarrassing being seen on holiday with your mum and your sister, he says. He took his tape player back off me. He’s an idiot.

Mum sang along to Duran Duran in the car all the way from Gunnedah, just being stupid, having fun. Six hours non-stop! She’s not a very good singer but.

I miss singing.

Aunty Mae isn’t married so she doesn’t have any annoying kids running around.

She lives in a cottage right near the beach. She’s got a little studio set up in her shed. We paint together out there for hours; she lets me do whatever I like and she doesn’t try to get me to talk. Sometimes I catch her looking at me funny out the corner of my eye but.

Mum goes for really long walks along the beach in the afternoons. I guess she doesn’t want me to see the tears. They stay up late drinking wine and talking, but they stop whenever I come into the room.

At night, I can hear the waves crashing on the shoreline. It helps me to sleep, and to almost forget.

 

 

Thursday 18th April 1985

The phone calls have started again since we got back. I don’t know what they say to mum, but she gets really sad and she can’t look at me for a couple of hours afterwards. Dad just gets wild and starts throwing things around the study den. He goes really red in the face and sometimes I think he might have a heart attack.

I hear them talking at night when they think I’m already asleep. Nobody wants to do business with him much anymore. He’s stopped playing golf, can’t find a partner. He says if things get any worse we’re going to have to move. I think maybe to Queensland. Make a fresh start I guess. I hate it that mum and dad are so upset about what happened to me. It’s almost like it happened to them too. Mum’s friends don’t drop in for a cuppa much now either. It stinks.

 

 

Thursday 23rd May 1985

I saw Donna Davis today, at the shops. Some older girls from the public school, had her surrounded and were paying her out about her dad maybe going to gaol for good, that sort of stuff. She copped a couple of slaps around the head. She started crying, only a little bit but. I felt sorry for her because, like well, it wasn’t her fault, what happened. They all saw me and just sort of walked off and left her there. I wanted to do something nice, but she just screamed at me, you bitch! You little bitch. Then she was proper crying, you know, snot crying, and saying, dumb moll. It was really gross. Mandy the moll. I thought for sure she was going to bash me.

She said that’s what everyone was calling me now, ‘Mandy the moll’. A couple of old town biddies were watching us with their lips all screwed up in disgust. So embarrassing. I just wanted to punch them both right in the mouth for it.

 

 

Thursday 6th June 1985

I had to see a new lawyer today. Another girl came forward saying Mr Davis did it to her too, so now it’s going to be something called a ‘class action’, and my first lawyer said he can’t handle that.

This new one asked me stupid questions like, what was I wearing, was it a short skirt, why’d I get in the car with him, and did I have a crush on Mr Davis or something – as if! He’s so old and gross, like as old as my dad or maybe even older!

God. Like I wanted it to happen.

That’s what Mr Davis kept saying too, that I wanted it. Over and over he said it: I know you want this. I don’t see how, since I didn’t even know what ‘it’ was then. He kept telling me to say I wanted it. He kept on telling me, but I kept quiet. He wasn’t going to make me say anything.

And anyway, of course I was wearing a short skirt, I was at netball. Yeah and I got into his car because it was raining and I didn’t feel like walking home in it, and after all he’s my coach, for God’s sake. I trusted him.

Stupid.

God, they are so annoying with all their stupid questions. That new lawyer, I can’t remember his name, tried to hide it, but I could see he was really annoyed by me not speaking. He’s an idiot.

 

 

Thursday 1st August 1985

This is the first time I’ve seen Dr Michaels for ages. He’s got a lady doctor with him today, Dr Fischer. She seems nice, sort of speaks to me like I’m a baby. Probably because I don’t talk. She looks even older than Dr Michaels, like maybe fifty. She was wearing really ugly brown shoes, like the ones I have to wear to school. She was saying how all the other girls, there’s like four or five now, are just writing a thing called a ‘Victim Impact Statement’. It gets read out in court so we don’t need to speak. As if I was going to anyway, not even! So I might write one of those too, I guess.

 

 

Sunday 15th September 1985

It’s my birthday today. Fifteen. Mum and dad got me my own cassette player. Craig got me INXS and Tears for Fears. Totally radical.

Aunty Mae is here for the weekend. She took me to see Back to the Future, Michael J Fox is such a spunk. I wonder what the ‘J’ stands for.

She bought me heaps of arty stuff as a birthday present; she says all I have to do now is find my muse, whatever that means. She’s pretty cool, my Aunty Mae, even though she does smell a bit like mothballs and pinecones most of the time. She spoils me a lot.

Later on mum’s making my favourite - carrot cake with her special lemon icing, yum.

No friends will be coming, most of them aren’t allowed over anymore. I don’t really care. Besides, it’s not like I was going to talk to them, so it’d be pretty stupid, I guess.

 

 

Friday 20th September 1985

We had this interschool sports thing for school today. I’m not on any of the teams so I got stuck helping out with the special kids events. They’re not really events, just token stuff. They just play stupid games and everyone gets a ribbon and then they all sit back on the bus and lick the windows again. Dumb. Anyway, that meant I had to ride on the bus with them and so did this other normal kid, Graham, I guess he got in trouble or something. Anyway, we went to the showgrounds, which is a bit freaky because that’s where it happened, the thing with Mr Davis.

I wasn’t going to get out of the bus, but Graham grabbed my arm and pulled me out. He was being really nice to me and stuff, so I thought he was an okay guy, you know, not trying it on or anything. But then later on he tried to hold my hand and stuff, and then he kissed me on the neck. I totally freaked out and ran all the way home. Just ran without stopping. I didn’t even tell anyone where I was going or anything. I don’t know why I did that, but I couldn’t stand it, I just had to get away.

Mum must have got a call from the school I guess, because now we have to go into the office, his parents too, and it’s all just a big mess again. Everyone will ask me stupid questions.

I can’t wait to move to Queensland.

 

 

Monday 23rd September 1985

Turns out Dad knows, Graham’s dad, they sort of work together or something., They sorted it out, so we don’t have to go in to Sister Anthony’s office now; which is good. Sister Anthony’s the worst. She’s always got this look on her face like, I dunno, like someone just farted or something. She’s a bit uptight I guess. Dad says she needs a good screw to loosen her up.

It’s a bit weird to think of a nun like that but.

 

 

Wednesday 9th October 1985

Dad got the letter today, so I guess it’s official; we’re moving to Queensland. He put in for a transfer ages ago. He’s an architect, but worked freelance from home mostly,. Since business went bad for him here, he’s been working for this firm a couple of days a week in Tamworth.. It’s like an hour’s drive away. It stinks he has to do that.

We’re going to some place called Buderim. It looks small on the map. I’ll have to go to a public school, so no more nuns. Yay! It’s not right on the beach, not like Aunty Mae’s. I don’t care; I just want to get out of here. Mum says I have to ride out the rest of the term, so we won’t be leaving until December, which stinks.

Mum’s going to try and get some shifts at the hospital when we get there. Says it’s about time she got her hand back in, which is pretty funny when you think about it, because she’s a midwife.

Craig’s heading off to Uni on the coast next year so he’s not coming. Says he’s going to get a head start on all the dickheads, move there early and get a job before he starts. He wants be a Phys Ed teacher. God help us. He’s such an idiot.

Dad says it’ll be good to have a steady income, but I think he secretly just wants to get out of here too.

 

 

Wednesday 30th October 1985

I’m back in Dr Michaels’ office. He wants to know why I haven’t written my VIS yet. It goes to pre-trial soon. I don’t think I will write it now we’re moving to Queensland but. Anyway, I don’t need to if those others girls are going to. I just want to forget about the whole thing. Besides, they can’t make me.

Dr Michaels wants me to meet one of the other girls next week, so we can "talk". He says that it might be beneficial to my recovery to talk to another victim because we have so much in common. God, adults are so stupid. As if it’s going to help, because it’s not as though I’m going to talk back to her. As if I want to hear somebody else talk about what Mr Davis did to them. Then I’ll have their stuff as well as mine to think about.

Stupid.

 

 

Wednesday 27th November 1985

It’s my last week of school before we move to Queensland. I can’t wait.

I’ve had exams all week, I think I went okay. I think I’ll get an A in Art, I hope.

Mr Simpson wants to submit one of my paintings in ‘The Premier’s Art Awards’ so, that’s good, I guess.

It’s a bit of a self-portrait I’ve been working on since it happened.

There’s this explosion thing in the middle, sort of like a volcano, but not. And oozing out of it is all of this poisonous lava stuff, except it’s green, like snot from a runny nose, or pus and it’s infecting everything it touches. And the snotty lava eats up everything, a bit like acid would, or else it just diseases them; like my mum and my family, or my school and my friends. And then it goes on out into the town, like to Donna Davis’ family and Dad’s business and the netball team. It’s supposed to be my body I guess, and how my feelings and my voice just got eaten away.

It’s a bit hard to explain unless you see it but.

I called it ‘Victim Impact Statement’.

 

 

Friday 6th December, 1985

We just arrived in Buderim yesterday. It’s really nice. Quaint, mum says.

Except there are so many boxes everywhere I just had to get out of the house and check out the neighbourhood. There was this girl sitting out on the lawn next door, just flipping through a Dolly magazine. And she looked up and just started talking to me, and telling me all about the area and the school and stuff. She wouldn’t shut up. She’s really nice but. Then she giggles and says how quiet I am and that her name’s Sally and how she didn’t even know my name yet.

Mandy, I said, I’m Mandy.