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The little instigator

Aged twelve and the tell-tale signs are kicking in.  By this point I really wasn't sure where Dan was heading with his story, what it was he was trying to explain away.  He just sounds like a troublesome pre-teen to me - I'm quite glad I only got to know him when I did!

During the second term of my Year 7, Mark was taken sick and didn’t come to school for nearly two weeks.  We were told that it was flu, followed by a stomach bug, but none of us had heard from him and we were duly concerned about his welfare.

            I started to seriously consider what it was that was keeping him off school for so long.  I ruled out measles because it was a boring solution, and started to imagine broken limbs or something more serious.  Cancer, in the end, seemed to be the most salient solution.  It was the illness I had the most experience with, through the series of scares and deaths that I had seen in various dramatic guises.  I didn’t know much about it, but I knew that the mere mention of the word could reduce people to tears.

            “When’s Mark coming back, Miss?” I asked Miss Lawrence during one registration.

            “Next week we hope,” she beamed back at me.  I loved that smile. 

            I clung onto the ‘we hope’ element and started to speculate. 

            “Do you think it really is a stomach bug?” I asked Alex as we walked on to our next class.

            “I think so,” Alex replied.  He didn’t get suspicious about stuff unless I brought it up first.

            “Usually people are only off for a while if they’ve broken a leg or…”  I purposely tailed off.

            “Or what?”

            “Dying,” I said with perfect dramatic effect.


It takes very little to generate a rumour in a high school and before long Alex had started to make enquiries about Mark’s health.  This meant that people asked him why he was asking and Alex wasn’t one for lying.  I don’t know who he first mentioned Mark’s potential cancer to, but within three days the head-teacher  - Mrs Owen – had to call an assembly to insist to the children that Mark was not dying from cancer and would be back with his class-mates early the next week. 

            I was amazed how quickly word had got around.  It was an intricate network of children that held the school together.  Take the school bus, for example.  Kids from all over the school are mixed up based on geographical location, so things get overheard and dispersed like dandelion seeds.  All it had taken was a couple of questions and I had generated a huge buzz that had taken the school by storm. 

            When Mark returned the next week he was greeted very enthusiastically and found himself feeling surprisingly popular.  He later found out that everyone thought he had cancer, but he had remained touched that people would care.  I couldn’t help but be intoxicated by the whole incident – I had created a real moment where no-one got hurt and no-one got punished.  Although I had vowed to leave such thrills behind me with the death of Daniel Lizar, I managed to tell myself that this was somehow different.

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