The Betrayal of Bindy Mackenzie (9 page)

12

Bindy Mackenzie
24 Clipping Drive, Kellyville, NSW 2155

The Director
Office of the Board of Studies, NSW

Dear Sir (or Madam),

I am a student at Ashbury High, a loathsome school in Sydney's windswept Hills District, and I am writing to inform you that I will not write again.

I have written two letters to date and I have not received a reply. Although I find this astonishing, outrageous and unforgivable, I will refrain from comment.

Enclosed is a brief Report on the third session of FAD. It is more brief than my previous Reports because I do not believe you are reading them. Nay, I do not imagine you even cast your eyes over the
envelopes!

I considered
not even preparing this Report
but I am the sort of girl who follows things through.

Accordingly, I will continue to write Reports, but I will not send them to you. I will keep them in my drawer at home,
and, should you wish to peruse them, you had better get a search warrant. No, that is bitter humour. You need only contact me. But I will not hold my breath.

Disappointed, dismayed and disbelieving, nevertheless, I remain:

Bindy Mackenzie

Brief Report on ‘Friendship and Development' prepared for the Office of the Board of Studies, NSW

by Bindy Mackenzie

Session 3
Little happened of note in this, the third session of FAD, except that:

(A) I missed the first fifteen minutes
The session took place at the Blue Danish café. The bus to Castle Hill was surprisingly crowded and most of us had to stand in the aisle, occasionally grabbing at the back of a seat or at someone else's ponytail for balance.

Prior to the bus trip I had found Try and explained that I did not have permission to leave the school grounds. ‘I'll just have to work in the library,' I sighed, apologetically.

‘Good news,' said Try, with a slow, shrewd grin. ‘Your mum mailed the slips in to me. Bindy, will you give me a chance?' Her tone slipped to a gentler key, and she added: ‘It must be rough on you, living away from your parents. Your mum mentioned it in her note. If you ever want to talk—' But we were standing in the senior common room. (I had been surprised to locate Try there—most teachers stay out of
that student domain.) A crowd of Year 12s had just arrived, and wanted to get past us to the coffee machine. I used the distraction to flee.

Upon arrival at Castle Hill, I excused myself to go to the bathroom as I felt a little odd. I then became disoriented. I turned past an ice-cream parlour that was certainly not there when I arrived; it must have been installed in the few moments while I was in the bathroom.

Eventually, I asked a woman in a pet supply shop for help.

The woman smiled and said, ‘This place can get confusing!' which almost made me cry. Her voice was so kind. She gave me directions, and also pointed out a centre directory, in case I got lost again.

I found my FAD group at the back of the Blue Danish, in a section made private by a richly-brocaded curtain brushing the floor. They were seated on low, worn-looking orange armchairs: either perched on the very edge of the chair, or slouching back into the springy cushion, legs stretched out and feet up on the coffee table.

Try had chosen a simple footstool to sit upon, leaving the last orange armchair for me. She is so tiny that the footstool seemed just right for her, like one of Bella's doll chairs. She had asked the group to describe an important event from the last week. ‘No events of note,' I responded, when it came to my turn.

(B) We discovered that Astrid is reincarnated.
Try explained that the next few weeks are going to be all about
us.
We are going to find out who we are.

‘Well, I'm reincarnated,' declared Astrid, her green eyes gazing around the group. ‘I know that much about me.'

We all looked at Astrid with expressions that said:
pray tell.

She gave a modest shrug, so Sergio asked: ‘Who did you used to be?'

‘Not “who”,' said Astrid, shaking her long dark ponytail. ‘
What
did I used to be? That's the question.'

‘Ok, what did you used to be?' Toby obliged.

‘A carnation,' said Astrid. ‘I'm a reincarnated carnation. It's something I've kind of like always known.' She shrugged modestly.

Finnegan examined Astrid's face. ‘I don't see it,' he said, after a moment.

‘Are you sure you weren't the fertiliser used to
grow
the carnation?' I said. ‘A trick of your memory there?' (Astrid, I should point out, is probably the most vicious girl in my year.) I hoped to make the group laugh with my comment, but it seemed to go unheard.

‘That's a pretty flower,' murmured Try. ‘The carnation.'

‘When did you—bloom?' said Sergio.

‘Where?' said Elizabeth. ‘In a garden? Or a carnation farm?'

‘Ok,' said Emily. ‘Good. This is what I want to know: at what
exact
point did you die? If you just grew and then died, okay, fine, but what I want to know is, did someone pick you and put you in a vase and if they did, did you get to be alive while you were in the vase and see the inside of the person's house or did you die as soon as you were picked and did that hurt?'

‘Or were you in someone's lapel?' suggested Try.

(C) Toby behaved like a rock star.

Try handed out questionnaires to help us find out who we are. She assured us that she did not want to see our answers.

‘So you don't want to know who we are?' I asked.

‘It's not that, it's just—' She was flustered.

Astrid rolled her eyes at me and said, ‘Confidentiality is
vital,
Bindy.'

‘Indeed,'
I said, meaningfully. I was not sure what I meant.

A sample page from my questionnaire is attached. It gives you the idea.

While we were filling in the forms, resting the papers on folders, or on books, or on our laps, Toby Mazzerati spoke in a low hissing voice and said: ‘Is everybody having a good time?!!' He cupped his hands around his mouth and made an urgent breathing noise.

I realised he was imitating a rock star at a concert. The breathing noise was supposed to be the sound of cheering.

We all continued writing.

(D) Briony spoke three times.
At one point, during the session, I observed that the tiles on the wall had a cylindrical pattern which reminded me a little of cucumbers.

‘Sea-cucumbers,' I reflected, ‘have no brain. They live on decayed material that floats in the water, and they are poisonous.'

Then I turned toward Briony, and fixed my gaze upon her.

Immediately, I noticed a fly buzzing around the light-shade.

‘That fly's big,' I said.

The group regarded me, uneasily.

‘It puts me in mind of a Queen Alexandra's Birdwing,' I continued. ‘That's the largest butterfly in the world. It's poisonous too.' Now I turned toward Elizabeth, and fixed my gaze upon
her.

There was a moment of thoughtful silence in the group.

Then, an extraordinary thing happened. Briony spoke. Her words sounded gravelly at first, but she cleared her throat, tried again and what she said was this: ‘Seacucumbers are related to sea stars and sand-dollars.'

‘Really?' said Finnegan, his whole body turning towards her.

It is strange enough for Briony to speak once.

But guess what happened next? She spoke again.

‘Also,' she said, this time focusing on Finnegan's golden hair. He nodded his encouragement. ‘Also,' she said again, ‘sea-cucumbers vomit out their own internal organs when something wants to eat them.'

Astrid replaced the friand she had just picked up.

‘Wow,' said Try, nodding with polite amazement. ‘How about that?'

And just when we thought that wonders would never cease, Briony spoke a third time. ‘My mother's a marine biologist,' she explained. ‘I don't know anything about butterflies though.' And looking at me, she concluded: ‘Sorry.'

She grabbed her cappuccino, slurped from it, and blushed.

(E)
Finnegan went to get sugar for Elizabeth but Elizabeth explained that she didn't take sugar in her coffee, which led to some confusion as Finnegan had understood her to be
asking
him for sugar. It turned out that
Emily
had been the one asking but Finnegan had mistook her voice for Elizabeth's.
The above is self-explanatory.

(F) Everyone drank coffee.
I suppose it
was
a café.

(G) Try invited everyone to her home for a ‘get-together' on Saturday.
Extremely short notice, no?

Certainly, she is the only teacher I've known who has invited a class to her home.

I explained that I drew the line at spontaneous, unplanned, impulsive Saturday ‘get-togethers', and could not possibly attend.

(H) Try asked for my mother's phone number.
I pretended not to hear.

Attachment to Report on ‘Friendship and Development': Sample page from ‘Who am I?' questionnaire (as completed by Bindy Mackenzie)

a) The first thing I see when I wake up in the morning is. . .

aus auβber bei mit von nach zu seit gegenüber (
German
prepositions which take the dative case.) (They're on my wardrobe door.)

b) The last thing I think about when I go to sleep each night is . . .

hydrogen helium lithium beryllium boron carbon nitrogen oxygen . . . (The periodic table.) (I recorded myself reciting it and play the tape each night.)

c) Something I enjoy doing is . . .

eavesdropping on strangers. I do this on the bus, around school, in shopping centres, and in libraries. I type up transcripts of their conversations. I find transcripts intriguing.

d) My favourite person to talk to is . . .

my brother.

e) A person I admire is . . .

my father. He is ruthlessly ambitious
and
always succeeds.

f) A person I miss sometimes is . . .

Kelly Simonds. She was second speaker on my debating team last year, but has moved to Austria as an International Exchange Student.

13

My Buddy Diary

by Bindy Mackenzie

At the end of today's FAD session, I held the door of the Blue Danish open because I believed my buddy, Finnegan Blonde, was behind me. However, when I turned back, he was actually at the register, buying an extra takeaway coffee. Realising my error, I let the door swing closed.

Another thing: After school, I joined the Castle Hill Gym to take kickboxing classes. This was in accordance with my buddy's challenge. The classes are on Tuesday afternoons, at the same time as my piano lessons. I am therefore unable to attend. I might try a hip-hop class instead.

The Dream Diary of Bindy Mackenzie
Wednesday, 11.45 pm

Just got home from ‘babysitting' for Eleanora, and fell asleep at my desk. I dreamed I was wading, barefoot, knee-deep, through inky black mud. It was one of those dreams without much light—perhaps a lantern hovered at my
chin, otherwise grim darkness. I tried not to mind the slow, warm ooze of the mud between my toes, but when it curled around my shins it seemed malevolent. And then I panicked as my foot landed on something coiled and hard.
Just a root,
I thought, but my ankle brushed against skin.
Just a corpse,
I thought, and woke with a clamp around my chest.

Night Time Musings of Bindy Mackenzie
Thursday, 1.00 am

Still can't sleep. My mind has wandered far from images of inky black mud. I am thinking, instead, of open doors.

Often I hold a door open because I think someone is behind me, and then I discover they are actually a long way back. There was the incident with Finnegan, but also, at Kmart the other day, I held a door for my supervisor, who has a knee-brace and walks with a cane. It took light years for her to limp over, even though she tried to hurry so as not to hold me up. ‘Thanks,' she panted, but I heard something
other
than thanks in her voice.

I therefore believe that I am not very good at:

judging distances

Further Night Time Musings of Bindy Mackenzie
Thursday, 2.00 am

I have stomach cramps.

I wonder if training in archery or firearms might help to improve my ability to:

judge distances

Further Extended Night Time Musings of Bindy Mackenzie
Thursday, 3.00 am

At least, there is this: today I revealed the poisonous souls of two more people.

Second Further Extended Night Time Musings of Bindy Mackenzie
Thursday, 3.05 am

Wait, no, it was not today, it was yesterday! Now it is the next day. It's early the next day, of course, but it is the next day. The Thurs-day. The Thor's day. Thor is the Norse god of thunder and so am I, I just realised, the god of thunder, the goddess of storms, for I know how to bluster and I know

Oh, what am I talking about.

Let me say this. I treated my symptoms of anti-climax by
doubling
my efforts. It was like getting
two
planes on the runway instead of just one, or
twice
as many engines, or
twice
as many flight attendants, oh, what I am talking about.

Anyway, two poisonous souls instead of one. And I spoke their souls
to their faces
instead of just writing them down.

I felt a shadow of guilt as I did this and here is why: there is a difference between poisonous and venomous.

A poisonous animal is one that has toxins inside it. It doesn't attack you, but let's say you eat it? You die (or you get sick).

But a venomous animal has something
like fangs
which it uses to
attack
you—to
inject
you with its venom. You don't have to eat it, you just have to get in its way.

Briony, Elizabeth and Sergio are merely poisonous. They don't mean to do harm, they're like a sea-cucumber or butterfly. Their poison is really a defence against predators. They are not so culpable as the venomous ones: Toby and Emily and Astrid.

And so I felt the shadow of guilt when I turned on Briony and Elizabeth today, and yet I wonder now: why feel guilty? Remember what Briony wrote on my Name Game? I believe she has just the right mix of stupidity and manners to write something as nasty as this:

You can't help who you are, Bindy, and maybe you will change this year? Good luck with Year 11.1 think you will change.

She probably believed it would encourage me.

Elizabeth Clarry, meanwhile, is often short and sharp. I therefore conclude that it was
she
who wrote:

A hit too smart.

Too smart for what, Ms Clarry? Too smart for you? Can't run fast enough to keep up with my brains?

So.

No guilt.

They ought to know the nature of their souls, and I have revealed them. (Although, it was disconcerting to discover that Briony already knew about her soul. Her mother is a marine biologist! Who could have predicted?)

Next week, I will complete my task.

The final victims are Sergio and Astrid.

Sergio is innocent enough, but, like a platypus, he can surprise you with a spurt of venom. (I suppose that technically makes him venomous, since he can
attack,
but not very often, and not in the same league as that venomous three.
None is in the same league as Astrid.)

I believe it was the platypus who wrote that I wear my hair ‘weird' and suggested that it takes ‘guts' to do so. Sergio has laughed at my hairstyle before, and is just the sort of person to twist cruelly into ‘compliment'.

There is no doubt in my mind that Astrid—the sea wasp—wrote this:

I have never spoken to Bindy, but I am sure that behind her extremely annoying personality she is a beautiful human being.

I have two things to say about Astrid:

1.
She lied when she said she had never spoken to me.
2.
She is the most venomous of all.

Third Further Extended Night Time Musings of Bindy Mackenzie
Thursday, 4.03 am

Strange, after a day like today—I mean yesterday, of course— a day when I revealed two souls, and furtheralsomore . . . what a strange and wonderful word! Furtheralsomore. I love it. Anyway, furtheralsomore, I refused to attend their Saturday ‘get-together' at Try's house—
they
will be wasting time, filling in foolish ‘confidential' questionnaires and
talking about
themselves,
but I will have a wondrous Saturday! After Kmart, I'll get homework done, maybe summarise my History notes, work through Hanon's
The Virtuoso Pianist, Complete Piano Exercises,
match up some of my odd socks. I'll write my speech for English next week. I always win that speech contest. I'll feed the ca—

But where was I?

Ah, yes, strange. Strange that my symptoms of anti-climax persist even after revealing two souls.

I still have the headache, my stomach hurts, and I'm
so tired.
Yet I cannot sleep tonight—perhaps I fear a return to that dream of corpses and tree roots. My arms are so heavy and numb I scarcely believe that I can lift them.

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