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  • I wasn't popular at secondary school. For a time, I was hanging around with a couple of girls who didn't pick on me, and didn't tell me to go away - which was enough for me to consider them friends. Becky was blond, pretty, loud and generally not messed with - a very useful person to have on side if you were shy, short, wore glasses and liked to do your homework on time like me. Louise was quiet, and caring. I'm not sure what they thought of me, but I was just grateful that I could now travel to lessons and spend break time in a group, and therefore was less of an easy target for bullying.

    Sadly this broke down at lunch time, since they both went home for lunch. My home was too far away to do the same, and I had no one else at the time. So for a long time I walked out of the school gates with Becky and Louise - which gave the illusion to everyone else that I was going out to lunch with them. I would walk with them until we arrived at a small shopping area. It would be crowded with people from the school, but it was a big school and no one else I knew tended to go that way for lunch. Becky and Louise went off to their respective houses near by, and I proceeded to wait. Feeling lonely and pathetic.

    I developed strategies to cope with this 40 minutes of miserable time every day. I adopted a pretence that I was waiting for someone in the shop. Anyone else walking in or out would assume that was the case. What loser would stand around outside a shop for no reason otherwise? Being alone was bad enough, but if no one else knew that I was alone, it made it bearable.

    I spent a lot of those lunch times in the nearby phone box trying to get through to Child-line. I never did. I'm not sure what I would have said if I ever had.

    Then I hit on a winning formula that entertained my competitive side - trying to underestimate the passage of time. The first time, I told myself I couldn't look at my watch until 5 minutes had passed. Of course that first time I looked 2 minutes later and was very disappointed - both in my inaccuracy and at how slowly time appeared to be going. But I got better at it. I got so good at it, that eventually I could avoid looking at my watch the entire 40 minutes I waited. Somehow that made the time pass quicker. I had done the impossible, I had made time pass more quickly when I was having a miserable time. I would be surprised to see Becky and Louise return after their lunch, thinking I had much longer to wait. Of course I was still miserable and lonely, but I was dealing with it in the only way I could at the time.

    Sadly the whole thing was shattered when someone discovered that Becky and Louise were going home for lunch and not to the shops like everyone assumed (and I encouraged everyone to assume). I didn't have the guts to make something up about what I was doing, and probably would have been revealed as a liar anyway if I had. The truth was out, and my pathetic attempts at appearing included were over.
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