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Golden Rules

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“Tell me what Golden rules you think you’ve broken!” Mrs. Buchanan yelled. When I didn’t reply, she grabbed my arm roughly and pulled me over to the wall with the Golden Rules on it. “Which ones?” She yelled, “Which ones have you broken?”
I was eight years old. It was October, and I was in serious trouble. I was in Edinburgh, Scotland, and I had only moved there that year. This was the third time Mrs. Buchanan was yelling at me in front of the whole class. Every time it had been after lunch, every time it was completely my fault, and every time I had no idea what she was talking about. It was only my second month in Scotland, and I was still fresh from Canada, unable to understand a word anybody said.
I stared resolutely up at the wall. It would help if I knew what I’d done. All I knew was that Lily and all of her friends had come into the classroom after lunch and given me evil looks. Then Evil Robyn had come up to me and said “We’re telling on you for being mean to Lily you know.” I ignored her, kept my head buried in my book. “You know she was really happy before you came!” I looked up at her. Lily and I were both the new kids, we’d arrived on the same day. Didn’t think there was, much point in pointing this out to Robyn though. Besides, I wasn’t 100% sure what she’d said.
Mrs. Buchanan’s voice broke me out of my reverie. “Well?” she yelled, “Any ideas?” I shrugged. She grabbed my shoulders and looked me straight in the eye. I could feel her breath on my face, and I tried not to wince. “All of them! EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM!” All of them? I thought. That can’t be right. One of them was “Keep your hands and feet to yourself.” I hadn’t hurt anybody. In fact, I’d spent the whole of lunchtime in the library! I spent every breaktime and lunchtime in the library. The librarian could vouch for it! I was just about to point this out when Mrs. Buchanan dragged me back to her desk at the front of the room and I was confronted with a sobbing Lily. I knew what was coming next.
“Why do you keep doing this Maya? Why can’t you just leave Lily alone? She’s new here, you should make her feel welcome!” I frowned. I was new. No-one had made ME feel welcome. That was why I spent every lunchtime sitting in the library in the first place. She glared at me. “Now APOLIGISE.” For what? I wondered, but said I was sorry anyway. “That’s better,” said Mrs. Buchanan, “Now hug and make up.”
I didn’t want to hug Lily.
But I did anyway. I just wanted to be able to go sit in my seat in the corner of the room and hide from the rest of my class’s probing eyes.
Nothing ever changed. I never said a thing. Throughout the rest of the year, I dreaded any time we were told to get into partners, or join a group. During anti-bullying week, we got told to write down the name of anyone we thought had bullied us at any point. I didn’t put down anyone. Lily hissed across the table “I’m putting you down Maya.”
When my parents informed me at the end of the year that we were moving away from Edinburgh for Dundee, I was overjoyed. When I left school on the last day, I smiled for the first time on school grounds.



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