Tuesday, October 9, 2012

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT by Colleen Clayton [Interview & Giveaway]

How can you talk about something you can’t remember?

Before the ski trip, sixteen-year-old Cassidy “Sid” Murphy was a cheerleader (at the bottom of the pyramid, but still...), a straight-A student, and a member of a solid trio of best friends. When she ends up on a ski lift next to handsome local college boy, Dax Windsor, she’s thrilled; but Dax takes everything from Sid—including a lock of her perfect red curls—and she can’t remember any of it.

Back home and unable to relate to her old friends, Sid drops her college prep classes and takes up residence in the A/V room with only Corey “The Living Stoner” Livingston for company. But as she gets to know Corey (slacker, baker, total dreamboat), Sid finds someone who truly makes her happy. Now, if she can just shake the nightmares and those few extra pounds, everything will be perfect... or so she thinks.

Witty and poignant, Colleen Clayton’s stunning debut is a story about moving on after the unthinkable happens.

"I've seen the road to hell, my friends, and it is lined with yellow buses. I don’t say this lightly. For many kids, school is exactly that: Pure hell. I say this with the full authority of someone who knows what she’s talking about because I was bullied. At times, without mercy.

I was born with cataracts and am legally blind without correction so for most of my childhood I had to wear extremely thick glasses. These weren't your garden-variety, run-of-the-mill thick glasses. No, no, these glasses were bona fide facial apparatus. They had bifocals and looked like two snow-globes sitting on my face.  I was tormented because of it. Not teased…tormented.

So, it’s no surprise to learn that I hated school. I hated elementary school, middle school, and high school. I didn't want to be there because I was being bullied every day, singled-out by several classmates, sometimes a whole group of them, for systematic abuse that went on for years. Every day, up through about ninth grade when I got contact lenses, I lived in fear. And the teachers didn't seem to care. There was no anti-bullying movement in the 80’s. Not in my town, anyway. I just got chewed up and tossed aside for being a poor student. How can a child learn if she is afraid all day long? And it was not just verbal abuse; it was very physical at times. I look at pictures of myself as a child and wonder how it was possible that someone could get a thrill out of bullying a person so physically defenseless. I was by far the smallest girl in the class. Teeny, tiny small. Knock-her-over-with-a-feather-small. This must have made the notion of bullying me all the more attractive because at least once a week I was pushed, shoved, tripped, scratched, spit on, and sometimes just outright punched in the face or stomach. For the record, a well-centered punch in the stomach is something you never forget. Your lungs basically collapse in on themselves until you see stars and in the minute or so that it takes to recover, you wonder if you might ever draw breath again. You think to yourself: Am I dying? Am I going to die, right now?

Another time I was shoved so hard that I went sliding headlong across the icy blacktop and my glasses flew off and snapped in half. I was too ashamed to tell the teacher what had happened and she didn’t care enough to pursue the issue so it was easier for her to just yell at me for being clumsy. She taped my glasses back together but because the lenses were so heavy, the tape kept giving way. I had to sit at my desk holding my two snow-globe lenses together for the rest of the afternoon.
It was humiliating. It hurt. Not just physically but emotionally. At night, I would lie in bed counting the hours until morning. I would pray for some kind of cosmic event, a tornado, an earthquake, anything that would stop The Coming of The Bus. I would lie dreading that twenty minute ride to school when I would have to suffer that particular boy who, as an adult, would go on to hurt a woman very badly and serve hard time in prison.

Sometimes, especially in the younger days, I would lie in bed and pray for a miraculous healing, for God to heal my eyes overnight so I wouldn't have to wear my glasses anymore. I would actually picture myself leaping out of bed at sunrise and shouting across the house: I can see, Mom! Praise God, I can see!
So, so desperately I was hurting inside. And you know what? It always hurts to some degree. Those scars never fully heal. I’m 43 years old, a published author, and I teach at a university. I have a wonderful husband of twenty years and two smart, beautiful kids. Still, sometimes when I think of my childhood, especially when I read or write or watch movies about bullying, I feel twelve-years-old again and I wonder in amazement: How did I get through those years? The only answer that I have come up with is that I never gave up hope. Somehow I always believed that a brighter day was coming for me, and when it arrived, I wanted to be around to enjoy it. 

So for any bullied kid out there who might be reading this post, I want you to know that I understand your pain. But, most importantly, I want you to seek help. Tell an adult what is happening to you, a parent, an aunt, a teacher, a cop, anyone who will listen. If that person doesn't help you, then tell someone else until someone does help you. Call a hotline, visit anti-bullying websites, and know your rights. Don’t suffer in silence like I did. You have a right to be helped. You have a right to be unafraid. You have a right to protect your body. If none of this works, if you've done these things and you are still being bullied, stay strong. What you are going through won’t last forever. Eventually, this period of your life will be over and the pain that you are carrying will shrink to just a tiny, wistful ache in the corner of your heart. The rest of your heart, the overwhelming majority of your heart, will be open for better business.  Someday soon, if you are kind and treat others with respect, you will find love, happiness, acceptance, and friendship. And that’s a lot to look forward to.

Your brighter day is coming, my precious friend. Please don’t ever give up."

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