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Rated: 18+ · Fiction · Dark · #1778919
the world grates on alice's sensibilities
Alice was twelve and a half and suddenly self-aware. In truth, the world grated on her new sensibilities. This was particularly so since she had entered the second year at St Cuthbert's. She was particularly irritated by her new teacher, Miss Perrot.

Miss Perrot,, it was said, came from Africa {although she was white} and was a protestant {although it was a catholic school, jewish and protestant teachers were not unknown.} Miss Perrot had a way of asserting her authority wordlessly, with a pointed finger and a glare, which could be quite intimidating. Alice found it confusing. What exactly did she mean? Miss Perrot seemed to be of the belief that budding insurrection was all around. It had never occurred to Alice that a teacher might be frightened of her, unaware as she was of the subterreanean conflict in the world around her, reflected in the microcosm of the school. nevertheless, she had reached the point where there were, of course, many distractions. were boys one? not exactly. in fact, the boys she knew were studiously disinterested in  her and seemed even to actively dislike her. {however, this did not obtrude too much, as the boys and girls were strictly segregated.} not that she got on any better with the girls. there was a new spirit abroad. the girls had become remarkably self-conscious. about one thing in particular. hair. berets were a part of the school uniform, but the girls refused to wear them any more. they made aconcession of wearing them to mass on friday mornings, but as soon as they came out of church they would tear thear berets off their heads. alice was rather puzzled by this and told her mother about it. mrs o'neill gave a short laugh. "oh, they think they'll show off themselves," she said.it was true, the girls were devoted to showing off themselves - and scrutinising others. Alice felt judged. on her clothes, her complexion {she had a propensity to spots}, and her hair -. especially her hair. Alice did not like ging to the hairdressers very much. her mother had taken her when they were in dublin that summer. she had her hair set. poor alice was claustrophobic and was terrified by the old-fashioned hairdryer which seemed to come half-way over her head. she created quite a scene in the hairdressers.

A couple of women were having their hair done at the same time.

"But they're not so well brought up over  there," one remarked to the other

.Her mother said she almost went through the ground.

Back at school in London, Alice lived in particular dread of the two girls who sat behind her in class. They had taken to sniffing at her hair and giggling. They would take a strand in their fingers and let it fall with a shriek.

Alice was confused. She did not think she had fleas. What meant this sudden attention?

She said to her mother: "Can I get my hair cut?"

It was arranged she could go to the hairdresser's in Putney on Saturday.

Alice and her mother turned up at the hairdresser's without an appointment but it did not matter. It was not busy.

The staff seemed to consist of one young woman. She seemed rather sulky. She snipped gingerly at Alice's hair. 

"When did she wash it?" she demanded.

"Last week," said Mrs O'Neill sharply.

"It's very greasy," the girl said grumpily.

Alice's heart sank.

The girl cut Alice's hair perfunctorily, taking an inch or two off the end.

Her mother paid and they departed.

Alice's hopes had turned to dust.

Alice turned thirteen. The school said she had to see a counsellor.

The counsellor was a middle-aged lady. She seemed to have rather fixed ideas as to what a thirteen-year-old girl should be like.

One day she asked Alice if she thought she was pretty.

"No," said Alice. {She didn't want to appear conceited.}

The counsellor practically went through the ceiling.

"Well, are you sure, Alice, are you sure? Because at your age it is natural to want to be very,very pretty INDEED!!!!"

Her voice rose to a pitch which was quite comical.

"Does she know what the boys really think of me?" Alice thought to herself.

There was Enright, for instance. He was a leader among the boys, in the same class as Alice. Although the boys and girls led a separate existence in school, thet had to share a classroom. Enright waylaid her one day as they were coming out of class. He looked at her and his face crumpled with disgust.

"Yah! Dummy! Dummy!" He pranced about on either leg, his face contorted with hate.

The dank days of October drew on. Alice was walking home alone from school.

A couple of girls ran up behind her and tore her beret from her head.

She retrieved it, but she knew in her heart that the other girls would never again allow her to wear it.

"I will never be able to wear my beret again," she thought sadly.

She came home. The flat was empty. She wentto her bedroom and wept.

"I hate school!" she thought. "It would be good if something fell on a school somewhere."

She wished very hard.

The next week she was late for school.

"Oh, mum! I don't have to go, do I?"

Her mother let her stay at home.

She took Alice shopping. They walked down High Street Kensington. There was something electric in the air.

The man at the newspaper stall was doing brisk business. Closer, and his poster could be seen, proclaiming in bold, black letters against white: TIP ENGULFS SCHOOL AT ABERFAN.
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