By: Elizabeth Kesses
Chapter One: Ugly Bug
Once upon a time there was an ugly little girl. Libby wasn't always ugly. The family photo album was full of pictures of her as a tiny tot. Pink frilly dresses, curly locks and an angel face. Her parents used to call her Doe as she had such big brown eyes.
Then suddenly there were no more pictures of her. There was the odd official class photo around the house - her face hidden in the back row. But that was it.
It was not just the photos. There were no more invitations to parties, her friends began teasing her and her parents stopped her doing the one thing thing she loved. So Libby spent more and more time on her own.
One night she overheard her perfect elder sister, Helen talking to her mum.
'You need to get her hair cut or something, she looks so geeky, it's so embarrassing'
Her sister was being spiteful, as usual, but she was right, Libby thought silently sobbing on the stairs. Ever since her 10th birthday everything had gone wrong.
It was the opposite of the ugly duckling fairytale.
Her hair used to be silky like her sisters but now it had frizzed up and looked more like a loo brush. Her mum would nag her to comb it but Libby could not get a hand through it let alone a brush. Her rosy skin had become spotty, her teeth started to stick out and she became blind as a bat so had to wear thick glasses. Of course after that she got called every name under the sun, Pizza Face, Metal Mouth, Fanny Four Eyes. Then to top it all when she got really nervous her armpits would suddenly sweat leaving nasty damp patches on her clothes. She dared not raise her arm in class in case people laughed at her so her teachers gave her lower marks. Libby's mum went nuts, shouting the house down that she had sacrificed herself to send Libby to private school and it had all been for nothing.
It was all so unfair. Growing up was meant to be so much fun, shopping, discos, going out with boys, freedom. That's how it had been for her sister who was naturally pretty and everyone adored her. She had heaps of friends, always had a boy in tow and was allowed to do the things she loved. Her latest fad was singing though no one dared tell her she sounded like a cat being strangled when she hit the high notes. Last year it had been horse-riding and the year before gymnastics.
There was clearly one rule for Helen and another for Libby who had to give up her one true passion, ballet. Her mum said she no longer had a face for the stage and should concentrate on her studies. She had even been accepted to the best dance school in the UK but her mother had declined the offer without telling Libby. It had shattered Libby's heart and she threw away her ballet shoes vowing never to dance again.
Helen had also changed. When they were little they were inseparable, like twin sisters. She had become two faced. To her Mum butter would not melt in her mouth but behind closed doors her sister was a nasty piece of work. She would thump Libby out of the blue or trip her down the stairs. Once she even attacked Libby and bit her hard, leaving huge teeth marks in her skin. When Helen grew out of their toys, she sold them to buy herself a new bike. Libby was left just with her raggedy old doll. Another time they were fighting over their pocket money. That day in a fit of fury Helen decided to aim her purse at Libby, almost knocking her out. Libby of course got the blame for stressing out her sister before her gymnastics tournament.
Helen or Hellie had recently stopped hitting her sister but intead would make really bitchy remarks about her wobbly thighs or the oozey spot in the middle of her forehead. Libby was not sure which she preferred, her sister's sticks and stones or her hurtful words.
Her dad would have stood up for Libby if he had been around. He was always fair and kind to everyone. But he came home later and later and was too tired to listen. He would collapse into his armchair, his suit creased from being squashed on the train and his eyes all red. She would curl up on in his lap like a cat and cry out her troubles in to his shoulder. But he never heard a single word. He would fall into a deep sleep and snore gently.
If home was bad, school was a gzillion times worse. The girls would make throwing up noises when she walked in the room a. They stole her clothes after swimming, put itching powder in her knickers and once stuck a tampax on her back that had been coloured with red pen. She would dread going every morning and was so nervous that she was sick sometimes on the way. Or maybe it was her mum's driving. Or the overpowering perfume her sister wore to impress the boys.
Then one day she found a note in her locker from one of the boys she liked, Fred asking her to meet him in the park. Maybe things were starting to look up for her. Foolishly she believed it and got all dressed up to meet him. She had spent hours covering up her spots and blow drying her hair straight. It looked more like straw than silk. At 5pm she arrived and waited. And waited and waited. At 5;30 all the nasty girls then showed up chanting 'Libby wants a boyfriend, Libby wants a boyfriend'. She ran home crying. Her mum told her off for being a sissie though her dad had hugged her tight, promising her that one day Prince Charming would sweep her off her feet
She dreamt of living another life, going to live in a far away land. She had even asked her parents to send her to boarding school.
'Not over my dead body', her mum had shouted. 'Boarding school is for spoilt posh kids, not our kids. Anyway we can't afford it as Helen wants to go to drama school next year'
Libby made her mind up to go to the furthest university possible when was 18. Scotland maybe. Somewhere fun and different. She hated where she lived. Their town was small, dull and full of bad memories. She wanted to start afresh and have freedom to do what she wanted.
For the time being though Libby had to make do living in her imaginary world. She wrote stories about pretend people to keep her company. Some were human, some were magical. In her dream world she was the popular one, the Queen, the belle of the ball and had so many friends. She even made secret potions from flowers and water in the garden by moonlight and drank them in one go, hoping somehow they would make her pretty and popular again.
But what was most surprising was that you could not tell from Libby's face that she was so unhappy. She hid how she felt from everyone, even her parents. She wore a smile as a mask and stuffed her anger deep inside. But because it did not come out by day it came out in her sleep. If a noise woke her up she would scream and shout, kicking her bedclothes back, covered in sweat. She had horrific nightmares about being locked in a dark room and there was no air to breathe. She would cough and choke in her sleep till her Dad came in to tell her it was just a bad dream. She now slept with the light on to keep the demons away.
Once she tried to defend herself. She had come back from a school trip and her sister had taken over Libby's bedroom, claiming she needed more wardrobe space. All Libby's stuff was shoved in a heap in the corner. It was if she did not exist any more. Her sister was everywhere and she was nowhere. Libby usually so meek and mild lashed out her at her sister and threw her sister's clothes out of the window.
Her sister became hysterical accusing Libby of all sorts. It started a world war III family row. Her Mum screamed at her Dad for being a pathetic father and made him sleep like a dog on the sofa. Libby felt so guilty for having made her Dad suffer.
After that Libby never let her emotions out again. It got her nowhere. She sucked up all her sadness and kept calm and carried on, as her Dad would say.
Until she had the worst day of her life.
The day began like any normal schoolday. She munched her cereal in silence whilst Helen, her sister screeched along to the radio. Her mum was making everbody packed lunch. She was an awful cook. She managed to ruin a simple sandwich. Her dad was discussing dates for their summer holiday to sunny (or more likely unsunny) Sussex. No surprises there. They never went anywhere fancy like people did at school. All the kids in her class came back in September tanned and full of tales of the Greek islands or theme parks in Florida.
Instead they always went to the same pokey cottage, overlooking the same pebbly beach in the same old-fashioned seaside town. The highlight was eating chips in the car, the rain lashing down staring out at the grey sea. Of course they argued all week long. It was the very opposite of holiday.
Her sister had been allowed to do her own thing for the last few years but Libby was stuck with her parents. In any case she had no one else to go away with. Her Dad had suggested Dance Camp to Libby after they got back from the seaside but there was no point now. She hid her glum face in her cereal and thank goodness her sister started shrieking they would be late.
Her mum then dropped them off at school. As usual Helen ran off, not wanting to be seen with her sister. Libby walked into the playground and everybody stopped talking. She walked through the main door and everyone took a step back or turned their back on her. She was probably being paranoid but she had the distinct feeling it was aimed at her.
One of her friends, in fact her only friend, Cally was in class already busily finishing off her homework.
'Hey Cally - did you have a good weekend?
'What's up with everyone today'?
Cally did not look up and kept scribbling, pretending to concentrate on a maths problem. She was not being paranoid. She was obviously ignoring Libby. Cally was supposed to be her best friend. But like everyone else she had turned against Libby. Cally then made a tiny movement, she pointed her pencil at the blackboard.
There in white on black were the harshest words she had ever read.
'Libby is a freak, a geek, a loser and we heard that it's catching so stay away!'.
Libby felt sick to the stomach. Her form teacher walked in and pretended not to read the nasty words, quickly rubbing them off. But the damage was done.
That day was the loneliest one of her life.
In netball no one picked her to be on their team so she ended up not playing. When she took her sandwiches to the lunch table everyone left. Then when she was getting ready to go home in the changing room someone threw a waterbomb and soaked her. All the girls started chanting 'dirty freak, dirty freak'.
She felt so miserable she didn't even feel the cold as she trudged home. She did not have the energy to explain when her mum shouted at her for ruining her school clothes. Helen jumped at the chance to join in the telling off.
Libby had had just about enough. She ran up to her room and stared at herself long and hard in the mirror. All she could see was a ball of frizzy, spotty, messy yuckiness. It was as if someone had put a bad spell on her to make her this ugly.
It started to make her really cross. She wanted to smash up everything in her room. She picked up her old favourite doll and a pen and drew spots on her face. She backcombed its hair and coloured in her teeth. She then tried to rip its hair out and when she couldn't she threw it in the bin. She climbed on her bed and wrote in big thick black pen on her wall, FREAK.
She then caught sight of one her childhood photos on her window ledge. She must have been 4 or 5. She was holding her sister's hand. They looked like twins, perfect goldilocks hair and smiley faces. This cute little girl had been replaced by a freak, a saddo, a loser. She had been pretty and now all Libby could see was her ugly bits. She tore the photo in two and hid it at the back of her drawer.
That night Libby went to bed feeling really, really down. The worst she had in a long time. She tossed and turned, wishing she could wake up as somebody else.
Chapter Two: Freaks United
At about midnight Libby woke with a start. The house was quiet but she heard a scratching noise and it was coming from her room. She has so many scary dreams every night she wondered if she was lost in her fantasy world. But she saw the bright red light of her alarm clock that flashed 2am.
Yet she definitely sensed something in the shadows, the outline of a cloaked figure. Out of the dark two orange eyes shone out. Libby jumped out of her skin and was about to cry out when a withered hand clamped her mouth.
A gruff voice whispered in her ear,
'Don't make a noise. I am a friend, not foe. I am Vera, the ugly witch. I am the ugliest witch of all.'
She stepped forward and there stood the most hideous looking hag. She had the beakiest nose, the shaggiest hair, full of twigs and knots, the most crooked teeth and warts all over her chin and face.
Libby inched herself back into the pillows. She did not know if she felt more frightened or disgusted by what she saw.
'No one on earth is as grotesque as me. I take away ugliness and get uglier myself. I have come to help you'.
Libby could not believe her eyes or ears. This could not be real. It was straight out of a story book. She half expected someone to take off their witch mask and tell her it was a joke. Probably her sister's perverted idea of fun. She blinked but Vera was still there, tapping her pointy foot with the longest green toenails.
'I am here to take you to a special place, where all people go that think they are ugly. It is called OddBods, an Academy for Freaks, a Night School for misfits. Are you willing to come with me'.
Libby nodded, trembling so much her teeth rattled. She had nothing to lose and this could turn out to be the answer to her prayers.
Vera pulled out a gnarled, deformed looking magic wand and tapped Libby and then the mirror in her room.
'So be it. We have enough time tonight to initiate you'.
She raised a spikey fingers and her wonky stick and there was a shriek and flash of putrid green. Nothing happened.
'Drat. I always get it wrong. You see, I sometimes lisp when I make spells. I get too nervous. Can you help me say 'oddity boom to Oddbods we zoom?'
Libby repeated the spell with the witch and and this time with a belch and a gurgle they vanished.
After being thrown around a tunnel, full of stinky yellow gas, that made farting noises - not quite the cool time machine - Libby shot out on to something hard and cold. The familiar dark grey concrete ground of a school. She had expected something out of a fairytale book, enchanted forests or magical castles and was rather disappointed. For a start it was freezing. She was only wearing her nightie and her bare arms and legs were cold. She then heard shrieks of laughter and saw a bunch of children playing in the far corner. She felt her heart sink. It was no different from her real school. Would the kids be beastly here too?
Yet as she looked more closely she realised this wasn't like a normal playground at all. The swings went all the way round yet you didn't fall off. There was a seesaw that threw you high in the air like a trampoline. The climbing frame kept changing shape so kids of all ages could go on it and it had big hands to catch anyone that fell.
As she got closer she felt a sigh of relief. There were all sorts of freaks like her - gingers, shorties, gangly girls, pudgey boys, brainboxes and geeks. Like Libby they were also dressed in nightshirts, dressing gowns and pajamas.
In the middle was a beanpole teacher talking to another teacher with the hairiest face, a bit like a werewolf.
'Ahh you must be Libby', said the Werewolf man.
'I am Mr Cozom the headteacher and this is Miss Frango. Between then was a very strange looking dog with a big body, tiny little legs and lots of curly fur. It was introduced as Possie, a cross between a poodle and sausage dog.
'You have been chosen to come here as you are stuck in your normal life. We do things very differently to your day school you will be glad to hear We will talk more about our OddBod-osophy in due course'.
But before I take you around you must agree not tell a soul about Oddbods. No one must know that you come here. If you do break this rule will not be able to return'.
She nodded slowly, not quite able to take this all in. She had fantasized about going to another school, a boarding school and here she was.
'We need you to prove to us you are committed. We need a sign that you will be a loyal and trustworthy student here, an Oddbod-ette'
She searched her nightdress pockets and they were empty.
'It does not have to be an object, it can be a gesture or an action. Do something that is important to you, that means something to you', added Mr Cozom.
She felt shy and useless. It had been ages since she had done anything that she was proud of. There was one thing she could do. It was her favourite ballet step, a triple pirouette. It had got her Distinctions in ballet exams. She could still just about do it. She started sweating. Thank goodness her nightie did not have sleeves otherwise everyone would have seen her sweat patches.
She prepared her arms in a perfect bow in front of her and without hesitation twirled round three whole times. She elegantly landed back in first position to the sound of cheering around her. She broke into a huge grin. That tingly buzzy feeling was back, the feeling of doing something well.
'Aha we have a proper little dancer before us. Well done Libby, you are through to Oddbods. Come, we will take you on a tour of the school before Freaklasses begin'.
She followed both teachers into the building which again seemed very ordinary. But again she discovered that appearances were very deceptive at Oddbods.
'So first of all this is the dining room - a very important place - for midnight snacks. We only eat food that we feel like eating here and that our bodies ask for. Your tummy will tell you what it needs on the tummy-ometer.
Mr Cozom then stepped on to some scales and it said 'Cheese and biscuits'.
'See. You then pick up a tray and your snack is ready'.
This was the best school dinner ever. Between her mother's bad cooking and revolting school dinners she did not enjoy her food much. It was either sweaty sandwiches, some sloppy brown stew or stinky fish pie.
'Hop on and lets see what your tummy has to say for itself. The scales shook and then there appeared a big jam donut, her absolute favourite. She had not eaten a donut for ages. Her sister had said they would made her fat.
'Aha, you need a little pick me up I see. Go and grab your snack and then lets walk around the main school'.
Libby bit into the bun and it had sweetest, strawberry-est, jammiest filling.
'So, we don't have traditional classes like maths, english or history. We are here to learn about ourselves and how to deal with our odd, freaky bits.'
He pointed to a big board, on it were all things people did not like about themselves. Each had a funny symbol next to it:
My ears are too big (a baby elephant)
I am a teacher's pet (girl with giant head/brain)
My hair is frizzy (an overly fluffy poodle)
My hips are too wide (a hippo from behind)
I get scared too easily (cat with hair standing on end)
My teeth stick out (a rabbit gnawing a carrot)
I don't look cool (a boy in a hippy flared trousers and pink flower shirt)
I am too hairy (a mammoth)
The list went on and on and on. Libby wanted to sign up for each class there and then.
'Of course for you we will start with a general introduction to freaky-ness and after that you will focus on your weak spots. Let's go and have a look at how Oddbods actually works.
Oddbods starts at infant level. Little ones come to us if they have problems in their early childhood. Sometimes they are adopted and have trouble fitting in, sometimes their parents are divorced or one has passed away and they feel abandoned'.
They poked their heads round a door and the room was filled with coloured bubbles floating in their air. Toddlers were jumping up to catch them, gurgling with laughter. Once they grabbed the bubbles they looked inside.
'These are dream bubbles. When you are little it is important to believe that anything is possible, especially if your everyday life is tough'.
It was touching to see that Oddbods had made these sad children happy again. Mr Cozom gave one to Libby. She peered into it and saw a perfect ballerina. Libby felt her eyes sting. This had been her one and only dream. She burst the bubble as she knew it would never come true now.
Mr Cozom's dog, the funny poodle sausage dog, 'Possie' came up to her and lent against her. It made her feel better straightaway. Even the animals had positive energy at Oddbods.
In another room there were were older children, possibly seven or eight years olds making animals out of plasticine. Nothing unusual about that except when they kids put the models down they started to come to life. It was like watching a live cartoon.
A boy with big ears had moulded an elephant like Dumbo that was ambling around the room trumpeting with its trunk and flapping its ears. A little girl with buck teeth had made a rabbit that was gnawing on her book. Suddenly a dirty rat ran across Libby's foot making her jump out of her skin. It was mayhem and the sound of giggling filled the air.
'This is room is where the kids learn to embrace their imperfections. These animals have similar features yet they are seen as positives in nature'.
Libby wondered what she would have created. She had so many things she hated about herself she did not know where to begin. Probably a bug or a toad as they were generally hideous, or maybe a hairy pig.
They moved on to another class.
'This is where we tackle one very specific problem, a pet hate, and we turn it into a positive'.
Libby read the door - 'I hate my feet'.
In the middle children were decorating their feet, some had decorated them with flowers and stickers. Others were making paintings out of their footprints.
In the corner two kids were playing in a puppet foot theatre, lying on the floor with their feet poking through a little stage. Their feet had been dressed up as little characters. One foot had a fuzzy black wig, another a pointy sock that looked like a wizard's hat, the third had a white hanky on it and two eyes cut out like a ghost and the fourth had multi coloured toe nails like a punk rocker. The ghost was trying to scare the wizard who in turn used his wand as a tickling stick. The boys burts into hysterics, legs flying everywhere, having learnt the simple lesson that feet aren't horrid, they are actually heaps of fun.
Libby wished she had come to this place along time ago. She asked the teacher why she had to wait till now.
'Well, you did not need it before. You were a normal carefree little girl and then all of a suddent you felt different to everyone'.
Libby had forgotten how happy she used to be. She used to love life and now it was hard to lift her head off the pillow in the morning.
'Of course we see all of this as a positive. It means you are unusual, not the same as everyone else. But in your teen years it can make you feel like an outsider. Every time you spoke you thought you sounded stupid and so you became quieter and more withdrawn. Your school friends sensed you were weaker and began to bully you. We saw that you were miserable which is why we came to the rescue.'
Miss Frango, the tall stick lady appeared in the corrdor waving her hands at Libby frantically.
'Anyway time is ticking and it is time to get you to your Odd-room. The first step, General Freaklass begins in the hall of mirrors'.
Libby gulped. She loathed mirrors. She avoided going shopping as it meant standing right next to a mirror when she tried on clothes. She even covered the mirror in her room with a scarf some days as she just did not want to look at herself.
'Come on in Libby' she beckoned. The class was full and everyone was sitting in the floor. There were no chairs or desks in the room - just big bare walls and cushions in the middle.
Libby sat next to a skinny girl, with three bunches. She had big owl eyes, like saucers, that were very close together, a big white forehead and hardly any lips. She was staring into space, in a trance. She was wearing all kinds of bead necklaces and had layers of scarves wrapped round her neck. She smelt of burnt herbs or funny incense the priest would waft around the Church at Christmas.
'Namaste, my name's Astrid'.
She bowed to Libby, her hands in a prayer position. She secretively pulled something out of her pocket, a miniature red wooden spoon.
'I like collecting spoons. I made this one myself'. Astrid handed her the spoon and nervously swished her nightie from side to side, waiting for Libby's reaction.
'It's quite, quite perfect, thank you. No one has given me anything like this before'
Astrid stepped in closer and rubbed noses with Libby, like an eskimo. Libby jumped back, not used to displays of affection like that.
'I grew up in a commune and we all had to share everything. I collected spoons ever since I can remember as I wanted my own things. I was also fed up having to use the same spoon as my love brothers and sisters'
Astrid could have been talking Martian for all she could understand.
'Sorry to sound dumb, but what's a commune?'
'O, my parents are hippies and don't believe in normal family life so they joined this village full of similar people and we were born there. I had to share baths, clothes, toys. We weren't allowed anything of our own. Then my parents ran off as we stole too much of their energy. Well that's what the commune master said.
I now live with foster parents. They are nice and my life is easier but I miss my real mum and dad. I have trouble fitting in at school too because I never had rules. The other day I ate a raw egg in the dinner hour. We had one everyday in the commune, to keep evil spirits away. Everyone called me 'eggy breath' after that and yesterday someone left a bad egg in my locker'.
Libby thought her life was tough with her bitchy sister but at least she had a home and her own things. Libby felt sorry for Astrid. She seemed so sweet and honest. She decided she could trust her with one of her secrets.
'I know what you mean about school. I have been bullied by people in my class. They have called my every name - dweeb, four eyes, buck teeth, metal mouth, fuzzball, pizza face and of course freak. Even my best friend turned against me'.
Astrid gave her a spoon. 'Have this. It'll keep you safe and bring you luck'.
Libby had never met a girl or indeed a person quite like her but unlike the girls at school she immediately warmed to her.
Miss Frango hushed the chatter and brought Libby up in front of the class.
Libby went bright red when she saw all the curious faces in front of her. At her real school she was so used to everyone boo-ing if she got up in front of them. Miss Frango put a comforting arm around her shoulder.
'So Libby we take a good look at ourselves in the first freaky-ness session. We have some fun with magic mirrors, the ones you find at funfairs. Then after that we get to look into the truth mirror. It is not like a real life mirror as it will reveal who you 'think' you are'.
In the middle of the room was a cage with two birds, a multi-coloured bird of paradise and a black crow. She released the rainbow bird and the walls transformed into funny mirrors.
A couple of chubby boys next to her were giggling in front of the muscle mirror, showing off their new six packs. Astrid with her skinny-minny body stood in front of the curvy mirror that gave her boobs and hips. Libby stood in front of the tall one. She watched her short stumpy legs become long and slim like her sister's. She had always thought her life would have been easier if she had been a bit taller.
Astrid bounced up and introduced Ben, one the chubby boys to Libby. He had deep black eyes and lovely blonde curls. In fact he was very, very cute. Libby blushed at the thought.
Miss Frango then set the raven free and the fun mirrors disappeared. Miss Frango announced that it was truth time. You could hear a pin drop. As the mirrors appeared it felt like oxygen had left the room. Some children immediately turned away as it was too painful to look at themselves.
She saw a ginger girl stand before one mirror and her reflection had carrots growing out of her head. Astrid saw herself as an alien creature, a space cadette. Ben was a tubby ball, a bit like humpty dumpty.
It was Libby's turn. She felt sick but wanted the truth. There she was. An ugly bug. Slimey, hairy and covered in spots. She turned away her eyes brimming with tears.
She wanted to go now. It had become too much. Her truth was far worse than all the other kids. They disliked themselves or one bit, whether their hair colour or body smell but in that moment Libby actually hated everything about herself. This new school wasn't making her feel better. It was no better than real life. She felt awful, repulsive and even uglier than before. She was about to walk out when the bell went.
Yet the bell kept ringing and then dringing. The bell was not in fact the school bell but her alarm clock beeping that it was 7am. She was no longer at Oddbods. She was back in her bedroom. She looked around and everything was back to normal.
Libby felt upside down. Had Oddbods been a figment of her wild imagination? Everything seemed totally normal around her in her room. She felt her pocket and there was the proof it had all been real, Astrid's little spoon. She kissed it. She chuckled remembering all the crackpot characters and funny old Possie the dog. It was as if her favourite fairytale had come true. Then a dark thought clouded her mood, the memory of the mirror and the bug she had seen in it. Her reflection had been the ugliest of all and she never wanted to see it again. Never ever.
She also remembered she was getting her dreaded exam results today. Last year she had done alright but it was never good enough. She had overheard her Mum telling all her friends that Libby was a big disappointment to the family.
She tried to raise her head off the pillow but it was so heavy she slumped back on the bed. She really wanted to be left alone today. Luckily today no one seemed to pay much attention to her. Her mum was gossiping on the phone and her sister had left without her.
Yesterday at school she had been devastated when nobody would talk to her. Today she was grateful for the peace and quiet. Her head was all a muddle after the oddest night of her life.
As she arrived sixth formers were putting posters up for the May Day event and everyone was too busy chatting about it to bother with her. It was the biggest date in the school calendar, the highlight of the year - a fete with games and stalls, a live Show and then a massive disco party. Each May Day had a theme, last year it was Puss in Boots, then before Cinderella and the year before that The Wizard of Oz.
Libby had danced in the Show every year till she was 10. Her last one was Cinderella and she had been the perfect fairy godmother, in a sparkly silvery tutu. After her ballet training came to an end there was no more Show for her. But she still enjoyed May Day as everyone had the day off school and was generally in a jolly mood. Each year she hoped that one of the boys would ask her to dance. So far no one had. There was also the crowning of the May King and Queen at the end of the night. Of course her sister had been the Queen for five years in a row. Last year the school gave the title to Cally, a huge blow to Helen's massive ego. Needless to say she got her revenge by hiring her own crown and telling everyone that she was the 'real' Queen.
When she had been little everyone had said she would be given the crown one day, for all her dancing achievements. That was then. Now she had nothing to be proud of. She had never been further away from being a Queen, unless it was the Queen of Ugliness.
The big black exam board ahead brought her back down to reality with a thud. She waited for the crowd to break up and searched for her name. To her amazement she had actually done fairly well. An A in Drama and also in Design and the rest Bs and Cs. Yet she dreaded her Mum's reaction. She said 'arty farty' studies were for 'dummies' and a waste of time. She wished Libby was better at History, English, Maths and Science, proper subjects. Her sister flunked her exams every year but somehow she could get away with anything because she was destined for Hollywood and the stars.
Libby then had to have a routine eye test so thank goodness could skip boring double maths. She headed to the school infirmary. Libby had terrible eye sight and she hoped it was not worse. It would mean even thicker glasses. The nurse took off Libby's glasses and put on some others to test her eyes.
But all she could see was dark blobs and blotches. The woman peered into her eyes.
'Hmmm. Now try these'. The nurse put on a different pair.
Libby now saw everything perfectly, in fact everything looked a lot sharper. The burry view from the window of the school yard had become brighter and more focussed.
'Interesting, very interesting. Your vision has actually got better. A lot better. Very unusual at your age. I haven't seen anything like this before. Not to worry it may settle down if not you will need some new glasses'.
Curious and curiouser. Was Oddbods altering her sight?
'Have you thought about lenses? Many children have them now as glasses don't give you full vision, especially in sport'
Libby wondered if that was why she could never catch the ball. Or maybe it was because she had two left hands.
'Well here's a prescription if you change your mind. You're a pretty lass and it's a shame to hide behind those Mr Maggo specs'
Libby hadn't been called pretty in ages and she did not believe it for one second. She took the letter and stuffed it her pocket. Her Mum had refused to buy her cool designer glasses and made her have the thick ones worn by grannies so there was no way she would let have lenses. Libby sometimes wondered if her mum wanted her to look ugly.
She wolfed down her sandwiches so she did not have to taste them and then headed to the changing room for her absolute worst, rounders.
But someone had stolen her kit again so she decided to hide in the changing rooms. If she tried to explain to the teacher she would get a detention. Also every time she played rounders there was a disaster. Last time she had been hit in the mouth - probably on purpose - by the rock hard ball. It had chipped her tooth and she ended up at the dentist for hours. Wherever she stood she always seemed to get in the way of the ball.
The snotty formleader had spotted her and marched Libby out into the field, in her vest and pants and made her bat. She kept missing and the captain of her team finally sent her off, calling out 'See ya, Granny pants'. The Oddbods classmates were from a different planet, kind and gentle as opposed to spiteful and cruel.
At the end of school she was surprised to find her sister waiting for her at the gates. She never walked home with Libby these days. She should have guessed, Helen wanted something.
'So little squit, I saw you bunking class, do you want me to tell mum? I won't if we make a deal. I need you to cover for me as I am going out tonight', she had a smug look on her face, like the cat that had got the cream.
'Where are you going? In case there is an emergency or something'
'Never you mind and if you dare breathe a word, you will never have a single friend at school again. Well you don't have any now so that won't take much effort'.
Helen strutted off, with her nose head in the air. She could be such a snotty cow, thought Libby. She saw her walk up to a tall guy in a leather jacket, leaning against a lamp post. He was really good looking and quite a bit older, a real man not a silly boy. The guy kissed her on the lips. She became all giggly and stupid. She was the one behaving pathetically now.
Libby didn't know who he was, definitely too old for the sixth form. She walked home in the rain as her sister had taken the brolley. Typical. She put her key in the door and tried to slip upstairs quietly but her mum was in the kitchen.
She was baking a cheesecake. Though it looked more cheesy than cakey.
'I made it for you two' Her Mum never made cakes. Maybe she had won a golf match or had flirted as usual with her coach.
'She's out tonight', mumbled Libby. Her mum stopped stirring. 'I mean has an extra singing class so stayed behind at school. Anyway I better head up as I have heaps of home work'.
'You're a good girl' It was so funny. Every time her sister went out for the night her Mum was as nice as pie. Libby wondered if her Mum was actually as scared of Helen as she was.
She wanted night time to come fast, to see if Oddbods was real or a fantasy. Was it every day? Would it be the same class? Would she see Ben and Astrid? Would she like it this time?
Her mind was so exhausted by the whirl of questions that she fell into a heavy sleep.
At 2am she was woken up by a banging around the house, probably her sister back late. The bang got louder and she realised it was from within her room. Vera was back with her cranky stick and tapping Libby's desk.
'Itsth time to go to thschool agwain' she stammered.
'I dont want to go today. Please let me go back to sleep. I have had a really rough few days. I just want to be left alone. Also I'm not sure Oddbods is doing me any good. i feel really rotten tonight'
'No Libby, you must go today. Trust in us. It will be a better day.'
Libby sighed heavily. It could not be any worse than the last few days and wrapped her dressing gown tight around her. Then with one final bang she found herself back in OddBods.
The bang had transformed into the sound of a ball hitting the ground. Libby found herself in a field where Ben and the other kids were playing a ball game. Her smile dropped. She had had enough of sport for one day. Why did games always have to involve a silly ball? She had always been afraid of balls, especially catching them. It was the same for all ball games.
Rounders was too violent so Libby would run away from the ball rather than towards it, she would rather be boo'd off than hit. Tennis was also a disaster. She missed every shot - it was if there was a hole in her racket. But netball was the worst. She could not catch or throw for that matter so was given the worst position, GoalKeeper. She was so short there was no way she could get the ball off the GoalShooter, who was at least a whole foot taller than her. She looked like a little dog, jumping up again and again, trying to reach the ball above her head and failing miserably. The one time she actually caught the ball she had been elbowed in the face and her glasses had broken in two. Her mother refused to buy new ones so she had to stick them back together with sellotape. She looked even more ridiculous than usual. She was rubbish at ping pong, croquet and even mini golf.
She saw Astrid, on the edge warming up by hopping from one leg to another like a mad bird. As soon as she saw Libby she out her hands together and bowed, saying that funny word namaste again. Libby had no idea what it meant but it made her feel warm and yummy in her tummy as if she had taken a spoonful of honey. Astrid explained that the game was called OddBall. Each team has to come up with an unusual way of passing it to their team mate. It has to be unique to you, she explained earnestly you can't copy anyone else. If you do it well the ball glows bright with energy.
Libby sat down and watched for a bit. Ben with his rather chunky thighs had wedged the ball in between and was hopping. Astrid who had joined in was able to do a hand stand and pass the ball with her feet in the air. A boy with corkscrew curly hair was able to bounce the ball off his head to the next player.
'Go on your turn' encouraged Astrid. 'You will be surprised how much fun it is'.
Libby was stuck. She wracked her brain. Surely she could think of a new way to pass the ball that did not involve her clumsy hands. The one thing she could do was use her legs. She had used them well before as a dancer. She had never been happier than when she was practising her footwork at the barre. She had won many medals when she was little but it had all gone. The lessons, the pointe shoes, the feeling of self-confidence.
She still had dancer's feet though. So when the ball came to her she pointed her toes in her slippers and flicked it to the side. She thought that they would tease her. But they all looked on in amazement as she gracefully kicked the ball. Immediately it glowed bright. This was the opposite feeling to the one of failure she had experienced in normal sports lessons.
A hearty lady approached them. She was the opposite of a Miss Frango, who was all boney. This teacher had a huge bosom, a big hair do and wide waddley backside.
'Hello Libby I'm Mrs Moozle. I hear you're a new OddBod-ette. Today some of you will be confronting our phobbies'
'Phobbies'? Libby wondered what on earth she meant, or maybe like Vera she had a lisp.
'Yes yes, the activities or hobbies we are afraid of doing, that have become a phobia.
'We can tackle any fear here, fear of heights', she pointed at sky high stilts, 'fear of climbing trees', they looked up at the tight rope above them and 'fear of swimming'.
In front of them was a tub of yellow gooey, squelchy liquid. Astrid was standing at the edge, already stripped down to a lime green fluorescent swimming costume.
'I'm learning to swim today Libby, YIKES! Its a honey bath. I can float and if it gets in my mouth it tastes yummy. Take one of my spoons and have a taste'!
'Astrid', Mrs Moozle explained 'is afraid of the water so she never learnt to swim. 'In her real school they forced her head under water and she hates it now. Here she starts to swim in honey soup first as its sugary and she won't sink'.
Astrid stepped in and waded through the caramel gloop. Libby dabbed her finger and licked it. It was syrup-y and yummy. Astrid sank down and her bunches stuck out. She thrashed around and ended up upside down floating on her back. She licked her lips as she lay on the surface of the goo.
'Right you two, time to do some digging'
Ben and Libby exchanged puzzled glances.
'Yep, you have buried your true talents deep down and it's time to dig them out. Ben stopped singing because his Dad wanted him to play more football and Libby's Mum wanted her to focus on her school work. Both wanted the best for you, but they were not your true passions'
Ben got all flustered.
'But I can't sing any more. I stopped being in the choir two years ago and now my voice is all out of tune. I used to be so good and now, now it's all gone to pot'.
Libby could so easily relate to him. He had big sad eyes and was shuffling his feet, nervously.
'So Libby my dear today you are going to get back into practice for dancing whilst Ben has some singing coaching'.
Libby gasped. She had not danced for ages. But before she could say thank you but really no thank you, Mrs Moozle had dragged Ben and Libby over to some round bowls.
'These are our singing bug bowls. The little grubs will only change form if you sing and dance harmoniously'
In front of them were dozens of glass bowls. Ben stood ready. He coughed and spluttered but nothing came out.
Libby squeezed his hand, wishing with all her heart that he did well. He then tried again and a strong round sound came from deep in his throat.
The caterpillar stirred. Ben took another breath and out came a powerful low pitched sound that sent shivers up Libby's spine. The bug began to open slowly. Libby could see some colour, then a head, antenna and finally bright purple wings. To her astonishment out flew the most beautiful butterfly.
The teacher then signalled for Libby to begin. She felt awkward and embarrassed but she looked at Ben's earnest face and quickly forgot her shyness. She took a step out in her bare feet. She slowly began to dance around Ben.
Slowly all the bugs opened and transformed into rainbow coloured butterflies. A pink one flew out landed on her shoulder as she gracefully glided around. Libby was as delicate herself as a butterfly, her arms as floaty as wings. As Ben sang louder dozens of butterflies were released from their ugly little cocoon. They fluttered around Libby like a rainbow halo. She had never seen anything like it. By the end she was covered head to toe by a patchwork of butterflies.
She was having the time of her life. She had forgotten about her bad day at school. Oddbods was the most wonderful place ever. Then Mrs Moozle hit one of the bowls with her conducting baton and it echoed around. The chime became a beep and Libby found herself yet again back in her room. She patted down her body instinctively but all the butterflies had gone. It had been a night of fairy magic and she swooned thinking about the dreamy moment with Ben. But all good things come to an end and her mum shattered her fantasizing by barging in withoput knocking.
Chapter Three: Broken Dreams
She was in a bustlng mood and ripped open the curtains blinding with the direct sunlight.
'Get up, get up lazybones. You're late for school as usual. You don't want a detention on your birthday tomorrow, do you LibLib'. She trilled in the most irritating way.
She had totally forgotten about her birthday. She used to love her birthday. Just hearing the word birthday used to make a her tummy flutter like butterflies she had danced with. As her birthday was late spring she always had a party in their garden. Her dad used to put up fairylights and the special rainbow birthday banner.
Before dozens of friends came to her parties. She would wait at the window to see who arrived first. When she was 8 she had to hold it at the Church Hall as there were so many people. That year she had a magician that cut her in two and blew up animal balloons.
That was until last year when everything changed. She had sent out the invites and not got many repies. Her dad had told her not to worry. Then on the day itself she waited and waited and wait. No one came. Finally Cally and her brother turned up. Her dad had organised a pizza making party. In the end they didn't bother making pizza and ordered a takeaway. It used to be her most favourite day in the year and now was very much her worst. There was no way she was going to have a party this year, she did not feel like celebrating at all, not in the real world anyway.
Libby's life was as up and down as a yoyo at the moment. She verged from absolute joy back down to earth to despair the following morning. Oddbods was pulling her one way and reality another. It made her feel like she was going round in circles. She did not know how much good it was doing her in truth. Maybe she should stop going to Oddbods. But it was too late now she had looked over the other side of the fence and she liked what she had seen. It made her feel a world apart from her mum, her sister and Cally. But she did not seem to care as much as before. She might be a Freak, an Oddbod-ette, but she wasn't alone. In fact maybe the real freaks were people like her mum and sister who lived like robots, putting make up on because the magazines told them to or being bitchy because that's what everyone else is.
She dragged herself out of bed and went to breakfast. Her mum was chatting to Helen excitedly as she dished up gloopy looking scrambled eggs. It looked like something their cat had thrown up.
She sat down at the breakfast table. Her mum and sister were watching celebs on breakfast TV.
'OOO look at her, she has saggy boobs' The skinniest, most stunning model ever was walking down a catwalk.
'You need to be careful Libby, you don't wear a bra enough and this is what happens if you dont' Her sister stuck her boobs at the mirror as if to say look at my perfect ones.
Her sister had spent hours at the gym and beauty salon from the age of ten. Hellie was a size 8 and Libby an average 12 but she was made to feel like an elephant next to her.
'Lib, do you know what day it is? Maybe her sister had remembered that her birthday was tomorrow after all.
'They are announcing the castings for the May Day show.'
Of course, today was all about her sister, as was tomorrow and every day afterwards.
'IT is my BIG break this year. Casting directors will be at the Show, you know?' Helen could not care less about her sister. Yet when the boot was on the other foot everyone had to spoil her on her birthday. Helen was forever wittering on about her singing and how she wanted to be on TV one day. Secretly Libby had had enough of her voice. It was like someone scraping a blackboard with their nails and it was all the time and everywhere. It was in the shower, in the car, in her bedroom late at night, in front of the TV, in front of her friends at school. Even in the toilet which made it echo even louder. Deep down she wanted to tell her to shut up and that she really wasn't any good. But of course Libby would not dare stand up to her sister.
Helen sat there at the kitchen table all proud of herself, plastering thick foundation on her face.
'You not entering the Show Libby?' she asked, all sugary sweet. Helen knew full well that Libby did not have the guts to audition.
'Maybe your tutu does not quite fit any more?' She sniggered.
Her dad had walked in and heard everything. For once he had a stern look on his face.
'That is quite enough Hellie. Don't forget young lady, pride comes before a fall. Now stop preening yourself like a peacock and get to school this minute'!
Helen threw her plate in the sink almost smashing it and slammed the kitchen door huffily, leaving Libby to walk to school alone, again.
'Don't worry pet, I will drop you off today'. He kissed the top of her head.
She loved being in her Dad's car. It was homey and smelt of old leather. He always played the same soothing classical music and tapped the wheel with his fingers.
'Libby pet, how are you doing?' he offered her a boiled sweet, like a doctor would do before an injection.
Libby shrugged. She knew if she opened her heart she might cry for days.
'Tell me, my Lib, are you OK, really? I haven't seen you smile in such a long time. It's like the sun is constantly behind the clouds these days. In fact you haven't been your self since you stopped dancing. I think maybe we were wrong to make you give it up. I even told your Mum last night that we made a mistake. You see she wanted one of you to go to a good university and get a decent job. She really does want the best for you both. Helen seemed so determined to sing it ended up being you. It was not fair of us to do that. It's your life and you should feel free to do what you love doing'.
Libby fought back the tears, staring out of the car window so her dad could not see how upset she was. There was no way she would dance again. It was all too late.
'But I can't go back Dad. I had my chance. I even got into the best dance school! Then Mum wrote that letter saying I had to give up my place. I haven't danced for 2 years now. I had one chance and I blew it. I feel like a prize idiot'.
Her Dad leant over, took her in his arms like a baby and stroked her head.
'Please can we not talk about it any more. Please never the word ballet not for the moment any way'. She whispered into his coat, sobbing.
'My Libby. You are unique and have special gifts that will bring you a lot of happiness and success. Trust me. You're not a failure. You are a brilliant dancer and always will be. Here's an early birthday present, my darling girl'.
He handed her a leather keyring. 'This is a lucky charm and it will protect you if you are ever in trouble and I am not around'.
It did not look that special but it was the thought that counted. 'Thank you Dadda. I'd better go. See you tonight'.
As she walked into the school building she could feel the buzz in air. All the popular girls were hanging outside the main hall. Libby kept her distance.
They all filed into the hall and the Head Teacher was standing on stage with a familiar young guy, a very handsome one too. Mr Grant the head master clapped his hands for silence.
'Today boys and girls we have officially launched May Day'
Everyone whooped for joy.
'This year after much debate we have chosen the theme of... Beauty and the Beast'.
More cheering and whistling. It was the second stab in her heart today. Beauty was her ideal role, a peasant girl who falls for a man for his spirit and character, not the same old perfect Princess and Prince Charming story.
'As usual there will be a fete all day, then an evening Show and after that the big disco party.
This year we are priviledged to have with us a proper drama student who will help put on the Show. This is Jude in his first year at the theatre school nearby. The castings will be on Monday so please sign up if you want to audition by the end of play today. You will need to prepare a song or dance'.
Libby would give anything to go for a part in the Show. Ballet was back on her mid after dancing with Ben and talking to her Dad. It might be possible at Oddbods but not in the real world.
Outside the hall a gang of the popular kids were signing up for auditions. One shouted out loudly as she walk past.
'Who is going to play the Beast? OOOO, I wonder, what about you Lib??? Hahahaha'.
The crowd roared with laughter. She wanted the ground to open up and just swallow her up. Helen walked up and broke the crowd up. Libby was relieved. She knew it would have kept going until she had either burst into tears or ran off, or both. Helen took Libby to one side.
'Did you see that hot guy on stage? THAT's my new boyfriend. I am seeing him again tonight so you'd better cover for me. Tell the olds I'm rehearsing my audition. Right?' she said menacingly, tugging Libby's plait hard.
She should have guessed. Her sister could not just pick a regular guy, but the one doing directing the Show to make sure she got the best role.
Thanks to her sister Libby was now late for class. It was physics. She could not stand science. Her mother made her choose it as an option, in case she wanted to go into medicine. Her Mum was such a hypochondriac, so overdramatic that she wanted a doctor in the family.
She sat there daydreaming. This week had gone so slowly since this strange new life at Oddbods had started. Some times it felt so far and others just there, by her side.
She desperately wanted to share it with someone. Yet no one would understand and she did not want to break the promise she had made. In any case her Mum would not believe her, her Dad would fret and HelenHelen would use it against her. Cally was the only one who might understand.
'Elizabeth!' Teachers always called her by her full name when she was in trouble.
'Please concentrate! You have a test next week and your grades are way below average'.
Everyone turned around her to look at her and she buried her face in her text book.
At lunch she went to find Cally who was with the cool girls behind the gym block. Penny, the most popular girl in the year and a model, was smoking.
'What are you doing here goody two shoes?' hissed Penny 'Wanna smoke with us?'. She blew the cigarette smoke in Libby's face who immediately began to cough.
Freddo then appeared, looking lovely as ever in a crisp white shirt and jeans. Penny stubbed out her cigarette and walked up to him, kissing him on the mouth in front of everyone.
Libby had liked Fred for years and knew that he would never look at her now, not after being with a perfect model girlfriend. They had been childhood friends, had played camps together and swapped conkers. He had told her once years ago that he hoped they would marry one day. It was silly kiddy nonsense but she had secretly believed him. She had to get away and ran back to the main school building, the wind cooled her hot tearful eyes.
She had double maths and a big test which was so complicated at least it took her mind off her broken heart. Though she never understood the point of equations. When would she ever need them? After the gzillionth sum final bell chimed.
Her mum was waiting for her after school, wearing alot of make up and in a very tight yellow dress. She looked like a stuffed chicken, thought Libby. But she had to admit she looked pretty good for an old person. She picked her Dad up at the station who kissed her Mum full on the mouth. It was a yucky sight.
'I am off out to a golf dinner with your Dad this evening so put yourself to bed early, OK?' With that they dropped Libby at home and zoomed.
Great. All alone again, the night before her birthday. As soon as she got home she went straight to her room and sat at her desk doodling. She saw she had written 'Freddo' over and over again without thinking. She scribbled it out and wrote Ben instead.
She was so fed up she went to bed after a quick glass of milk and a biscuit. It was only 7pm. She shut the curtains tight to keep out the daylight. The house was so quiet apart from buzzing insects. She watched them dance in the shaft of light. She softly hummed to the flies, as Ben had done to the bugs. Was it her imagination or were they now flying around in a circle, all in the same direction. Libby's voice became quieter, her head nodded off and her eyes started to droop. She had sung herself to sleep.
It seemed that she had been asleep for no time at all when someone was prodding her. Vera was floating above her with her twisty stick digging in Libby's rib.
'Come on Libby, you'll miss the ride if you don't get a move on. Ready?'
Libby wanted to drift off again but Vera's shriek made her hair stand on end 'Oddity boom to Oddbods we zoom!'