Imaginif prompts for daily writers.
If you wish to join the Writers Prompt Daily simply use the below photo (changes daily) as a prompt and post a short story, poem or paragraph to your blog. Leave a comment and your link here so that all participants can come to you and read/comment/encourage. Stories below are copyright and are Megan Bayliss' writing around the below daily picture prompt.

Say "no" Neeve Cope

The pink chalk on the Music Teacher's desk was too much for Neeve. It was so delicious looking, so drooling with the scent of watermelon juice that Neeve just had to have it. She did. She put it into the pocket of her expensive new jacket and quickly left the classroom.

Waiting for her mum, Neeve felt guilty. She was twirling the pink chalk, still hidden in her pocket, round and round between her fingers. Her Mum, the celebrated family lawyer Eva Cope, pulled into the drop and go zone, tooted the horn on her new red BMW, and waved brightly to Neeve. Neeve left her hand in her pocket to protect the stolen treasure and feigned a smile as big as an upside down Sydney Harbour Bridge.

"Hey Mum!" she pretended as she slid onto the still leather smelling front seat. "School was great today. I won an award. It was so embarrassing getting it on assembly. All the kids crowded around me to see it."

"Fantastic sweetheart. What was this one for? You get so many we're going to have to build an extra room to hang them all in. Seat belt darling. Quickly, I'm in a rush. Clients waiting."

Not caring if she got into trouble, Neeve scrunched up the award and threw it over her shoulder. She chattered on to her mum about the music award and the leadership camp that she was asked to go on.

"Miss Carnt said that I could teach a workshop on staying motivated and how to fit in homework when you have so many extra curricula activities to do as well. I don't think I want to go. Can I go paint balling instead that weekend Mum?"

"Paint balling? That's new. Of course my sweet. You can do anything you want - you're a girl remember."

Mother and daughter laughed at their private joke. Lucky Neeve's dad wasn't there because the "Girls can do anything" sticker that Neeve had stuck on the fridge really annoyed him.

"People can do anything," he would say. "Giving girls special attention because they're female is false economy. Look at me: I had a dreadful childhood. My parents were poor, couldn't afford to send me to anything, but I still made it and I'm a boy."

Neeve and her Mum would roll their eyes and walk away. Sometimes if seriously busy Eva Cope was in a playful mood she would tease her husband a little and say, "yes, but girls grow into super women. Boys, well, they just stay boys." Eva would blow Nathan a kiss and Neeve and Eva would run giggling up the hallway into the music room. The annoying sounds they would thump out of the piano made Nathan's head hurt. The girls loved it though; anything to unsettle his controlled Barrister exterior was a game to them.

Over dinner that evening, big burly barrister Nathan Cope passed his beautiful, trendy little wife the dish of smoked salmon crepes she had requested another of. He winked at her, nodded toward the pride of their life who was silently playing with her beetroot and said, "Nice shade of watermelon Neeve's wearing on her lips. Buy that at Myer did you Neeve?"

Neeve's face burnt red. She wasn't wearing any lipstick because Dad had said 12 was too young for lipstick. Her hand flew to her pocket to check that her criminal activity was lying silent. Her mind raced, "Now is the time to tell them. Everyone is in a good mood. I won't get into trouble." Instead of getting her secret off her chest, Neeve chewed her beetroot and opened her mouth wide to shock her father with the red mash inside her mouth.

Purposely controlling his displeasure, Mr. Cope laughed, "Oh Neeve, you're such a rebel. Where did such disgusting behaviour come from? Now go finish your music homework."

Alone in the music room Neeve sat with her violin resting on her lap. She held the bow in her hand and thought of the stolen pink chalk. Without further thought or reason, Neeve raised the bow above her head and bought it smashing down against the side of the table. It broke in two. Ruined. Her parents were in their studies, doing law work no doubt. They were always doing that in the evenings and Neeve was left to be the studious child that she was. They had sound proofed the music room and with the door closed they couldn't hear a thing. Nobody came to check on Neeve's outburst. Nobody was there to ask Neeve what was troubling her. Nobody understood that Neeve had a secret and that she badly needed to tell it.

Taking the pink chalk out of her pocket, Neeve viciously snapped it in two as well. With the larger bit she wrote swear words on the sound proofed sparkling white walls. Standing back to admire her handiwork she realised that she hadn't actually written what she most wanted to say, "I hate music. I hate Mrs. Carnt. I hate her." After scrawling it in the biggest letters she could, Neeve calmly left the room and prepared for bed.

Around midnight Neeve was woken by her father, "What the hell is going on Neeve Cope?" he roared at her. "What the hell have you done?" Neeve pretended to be asleep which was silly because with her father's booming barrister voice bouncing around the bedroom a dead person would have woken. Mrs. Cope stood stiffly by the door. Angered beyond belief by Neeve's music room outburst Eva Cope was unable to speak. With Neeve not responding to her father's demands to know what had happened, the parents walked away in frustration.

Breakfast was dreadful the morning following the outburst. Neither parent looked or spoke to Neeve. The cereal packet slammed down onto the table in front of her and the tea she had only been allowed to drink as of this, her last primary school year, was not given to her. Her father gobbled his bacon as though he was a common, uncivilized hungry person. His highly unusual table manners scared Neeve. She knew he must have been really upset this time because nothing, NOTHING, used to rile him. Neeve had grown skillful in listening to people's out of character behaviour and her father's behaviour was snapping at her.

Mrs. Cope looked drawn. Her gorgeous salon red hair was unbrushed. It hung around her shoulders like red-back spiders dropping from their web. Sitting in her black silk nightie, Mrs. Cope nibbled her toast. Unable to stand the unusualness, Neeve broke.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry," she sobbed. "I don't know what happened. It was like somebody else took me over and made me do bad things."

Stonily, Mrs. Cope looked through Neeve while she stated the plan for the day. "You're father and I have cancelled our clients today Neeve. There will be no school for you, no music. There is a psychologist coming to visit us this morning. She is going to assess your pathetic outburst and talk to us all together about getting you back on the right track."

Neeve felt the weight being lifted from her. "Finally, finally. Someone is going to listen to me. I have to tell them. I WILL tell them."

The family therapy was hard. Neeve was embarrassed and her parents were shocked. Her mother cried. Her father paced with his hands behind his back. Every now and then one of them would go to Neeve, hug her, and cry into her shoulder. Neeve just sat; stunned that she had finally told the truth about her music teacher.

Nathan Cope stopped his pacing. He pulled his chair up to face the young female psychologist. His knees were touching hers and Nathan didn't care. This was serious business and the family needed help.

"Explain this to me again please," he demanded in a watered down version of Barrister cross examination, "how is it that a female, a FEMALE teacher could do what she has done to Neeve. This is something that happens to my clients, to people without financial resources to protect their children. It is men that sexually assault children; not women. They care for children. Surely?"

Patiently, the young therapist explained that sexual abuse is something that can happen to anyone, regardless of their financial status. Being wealthy or intelligent doesn't stop someone from being robbed. How could it stop someone from being assaulted? With great compassion, she also explained that women could be perpetrators too. Most importantly though, the young psychologist stressed that Neeve's recent rebellious outbursts were Neeve’s way of trying to tell people that something was wrong.

"Why didn't you just say no, Neeve? Why didn't you tell us?" Neeve's mum sobbed.

Feeling very alone, Neeve though back over all the times she'd tried to tell her parents; about how hard it was to find the words to explain what had happened, how hard it was to understand that her favourite teacher was touching her private parts. Neeve HAD said no, she had started to act out of character and did naughty things that would draw adult attention toward her. Nobody heard her behaviour. They saw it, and dismissed it as Neeve becoming a teenager. Nobody heard her scream for help, her scream that was saying "no."

"I did say no, Mum." Neeve slumped down in her chair and cried into her folded arm. "This has all gone wrong. They don't believe me. They blame me," she screamed inside her head. "Why did I ever think it would be good to tell?"

As though they could read her mind both parents went to Neeve's side. Her mother hugged her tightly, kissed Neeve's salty face and crooned words of belief and thanks. Tussling Neeve's hair, Nathan Cope quickly assessed the best way to handle reporting the abuse.

"Neeve," he began in a serious voice. "I am going to report this to the police. That woman has to be punished for what she has done to you. Either I can use the phone in here, or I can go into another room so that you don't have to hear. Just say no if you don't want to hear my conversation."

Neeve sniffed, thought for a minute and looked up into her Dad's concerned face. Catching her breath so that she could talk without stuttering, Neeve said, "No Dad. No more secrets, no more hiding. I want to hear what you say so that I can tell you if you've got anything wrong. I want to talk to the police. I want no more music from that teacher."

Just as Neeve's dad reached for the phone, Neeve's mum butted in without saying, 'no, stop'. She held her hand out toward her husband. Interrupted, he looked at her, waiting for further instruction.

"Darling," Eva said softly to her hurting child, "I now understand that you have the ability to say no inside your body and with your behaviour but that sometimes the words that come out are different. Show us darling; show us with your behaviour that you want Dad to ring the police from in here."

Struggling away from her mother's embrace, Neeve moved to the telephone. She picked it out of its cradle and placed it into her Dad's hand. Feeling safe, believed and supported at last, she threw her arms around her Dad and snuggled into his suit. "Just say no Dad. No more teachers that trick kids. No more teachers that hurt kids. Go on, ring, tell the police... just say, no more pretending, no more lies, no more secrets".

"Out of the mouths of babes," the big burly barrister said as the tears rolled down his cheeks. "Out of the mouth of my babe, the most wonderful daughter a man could ever hope to protect."

If you wish to join the Writers Prompt Daily simply use the above photo as a prompt and post a short story, poem or paragraph to your blog. Leave a comment and the link here so that all participants can come to you and read/comment/encourage. Story above is copyright and is Megan Bayliss' writing around the above picture prompt.

6 Response to "Say "no" Neeve Cope"

Sammi said...

I'm stunned.

I like that even though the story is about child sexual abuse, there are other important messages too. And those messages are really clear.
No one has automatic immunity.
TALK about it.
Believe your kids.
All behaviour communicates.

Amazing writing, Megan.

Mountaingirl said...

The silence is broken ....

Megan Bayliss said...

Thank you, Sammi and MG. The most important message for me when writing that was to get across to parents that behaviour is communication. It is just not words that come from our mouths (or hands as is your case)but words and volume come from children's behaviour too.

Julie has supplied a photo prompt for tomorrow and then we have two of Sammi's for the next two days.

MG if you have a prompt to send in, please just do so. Just ensure it does not break any royalties if you use photography other than your own.

Julie G said...

Shit Megan, I feel like I have been transported back to all those times I did speak and or rebeled...screaming for help and nobody noticed, or if they did notice didn't act.
I wonder how many of our lives would be different if someone noticed? How different my life would be?

Megan Bayliss said...

That's good Julie - it means the writing hit the mark.
I so wish people would act when they see kids doing things out of the ordinary. If only we adults had the gumption and the training to listen to children's behaviours, our futures would be a lot different.

To all adults reading this who may wonder where to get some professional tips and direction, try Parent Sense: a protective play tutorial.

Mountaingirl said...

Thanks for the offer Megan - I post my photos here if you ever want to help yourself :-)

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