Lessons in the Art of War
I was eight when I met Simone. She was beautiful, kind and talented. I disliked her immediately.
Unfortunately for all involved, my dislike rapidly became hate when she offered to show me how to draw pretty flowers.
We were making bookmarks in class; a task I was taking particularly seriously since the teacher had offered to laminate our masterpieces on completion (my love-affair with lamination has not diminished with age…). Unfortunately, my artistic skills had yet to flourish. My flowers were big and chunky, and appeared to have been drawn by a four year old – at the age of eight, this was the ultimate failure.
Simone’s bookmark, on the other hand, was perfection. Delicate daisies decorated her work of art. I could not have been more jealous. Leaning across, I whispered, “Your flowers are amazing,” which I assumed she would understand was all-girl-school-bitch-code for “your artistic ability makes me want to smack you.”
Simone, however, was genuine and kind-hearted. She had yet to be corrupted by the all-girl-school-environment and, therefore, took my compliment at face value. Looking with concern at my deformed creations, she said, “I can show you how to draw them, if you want.”
I couldn’t believe my ears.
… What a cow.
How dare she patronise me like that! So my flowers weren’t ideal, but perhaps that was part of my artistic aesthetic.
Glaring at her with hate that must have been perceptible from the steam exiting my ears, I snatched my bookmark away from her view. “That’s fine,” I hissed, “I don’t need your kind of help,” and I refused to speak to her again from that moment onwards. I had decided she didn’t exist and her hurtful/helpful words would be wiped from my memory.
Simone was unaware of my moratorium on her existence, though, which led to her foolish attempt to become my friend. To be fair, it may not have been my friendship she was after, rather membership into the illustrious and exclusive club of which I was leader. Either way, I was surprised when she approached me one lunch time to request access to my Fairy Club.
“Finally,” I thought, “the time has come for the great Simone to bow before me!”
I informed Simone that entry into the Fairy Club had certain requirements. The most important requirement, I told her in a tone of false regret, was particularly difficult: one must prove commune with the fairies. How? By bringing one of your fairy friends to the club.
Simone was intelligent, far smarter than I had anticipated. “So you’ve communed with the fairies then?”
“Of course,” I said without hesitation, but with a tinge of growing concern.
“If it is so easy for you then perhaps you could show me how, before I attempt the fateful endeavour myself,” she suggested projecting such sweet innocence that I knew I would be vilified if I denied her request. She was learning our ways much too quickly.
“Of course,” I repeated, now panicking.
Where would I find a fairy? Didn’t she know they lived in a completely different reality to us? Well certainly she knew that! It was all part of her evil plan to undermine my brilliance once more!
What a cow!
With insight verging on genius, I decided I would use a piece of dandelion fluff as my ‘fairy friend’.
Presenting my deception to Simone, I looked into her now glee filled eyes, and realised my grave mistake. “Oh, ok,” she smiled. “Excuse me while I go ‘commune’ with the fairies.”
Returning with her own dandelion fluff, Simone skipped into the Fairy Club.
“I present my fairy friend,” she announced.
Looking into her hands, I couldn’t believe it. The dandelion fluff she was carrying was so beautiful. It glistened with undeniable fairy magic.
“That’s not a fairy,” I declared, quickly looking away from her discovery.
“I don’t make the rules, Simone [though I did], and you can come back when you bring us the real thing.”
I knew my authority was now completely undone. Worse: I knew that Simone understood we were now at war.
The next day I discovered she had formed her own club. She now had her own minions and she was in charge.
So much worse: it was a Detective Club.
How she had known that the thing I wanted to be more than anything else in the world, even more than a fairy, was Sherlock Holmes, I had no idea. She had discovered truths about me that I had believed were hidden from all, and she was using them against me.
What an effing cow.
I was so jealous. I left the Fairy Club to wither. I ceased playing with all my friends. I spent all my time spying on the Detective Club.
I still don’t know whether Simone would have allowed me to join her club. I never asked. Too proud, I instead watched and hated from a distance.
All good things must come to an end, though, and so did our feud.
The turning point came the day we were both called to the library to discuss our reading habits with the teacher. Apparently, the books we were bringing to reading time were “inappropriate”. Having mistakenly believed that we could make our own decisions about what we read, Simone and I were punished by having our reading material chosen for us from a slim selection of torturous texts.
Like that, our feud was over. Our hate had a new target.
We were no longer enemies; we were comrades in arms – eight year olds in the battle against censorship and “The Babysitters Club”.