By Holly Bourne
There are too many people.
They clutter the pavements. They let their stupid children scream as they run under the garden hose. They chat outside until late. They play music at barbecues. They don’t seem to care that they’re killing me. They have loud, pointless building work done on their perfectly adequate houses. Crash crash crash of the scaffolding going up. Builders yelling over the blast of their radio. Ping ping ping goes my phone. People sharing their noise. Here’s my ENDLESS NOISE. I exist. I am one of the too-many people and I need you to know I exist by screaming out my loud stupid noise.
I just want it to be quiet.
To not have to listen to the damn noise.
I just need peace.
But the noise is everywhere.
A scrape of the chair being pushed back from where it’s wedged under the door handle.
Mum’s voice. “Olive?”
I hear the creak of her footstep on the floorboard. I wince. Close my eyes and squeeze my hands over my ears.
I feel light on my closed eyelids.
Her breath hits my cheek. I’m going to have to open my eyes. I peel one open, jerking back as the light floods my vision. It takes a moment until I have the energy for the other eye.
Mum’s worried face comes into vague focus. “What are you doing under here?”
If I wasn’t so tired, I would probably care about the wobble in her voice. But it’s like every single muscle of my body has a weight tied to it with a gift ribbon, pinning me down to the carpet.
Because I am on the carpet.
I am under my desk and my desk is covered with two duvets.
My mouth feels stitched shut. But if I don’t answer her, she won’t go away and leave me alone. And all I want is to be left alone.
“Olive? Please? You’re worrying us sick. Talk to me.”
I close my eyes again to give myself the energy required to open my mouth.
“I’m just resting.”
I gulp from the effort of talking. “Yes.”
A sigh. It makes me open my eyes to see her pinching the top of her nose. I have let her down again. I am ruining everything again. I am so worthless. I hate humans. I hate that they’re everywhere. But the human I hate most is me.
Because it makes Mum’s face look like that.
“You have to let some air in.”
But she doesn’t hear me whimper. Her feet pound across my room. No no no. I cower before it’s even happened.
“You’ve got to let the world in, Olive. Look, it’s your dad’s birthday and you’ve not even wished him a happy one. Try. Please. For him. Come on, pull yourself together.”
She tells me to pull myself together the moment she pulls open the curtains. She does the one thing that will ensure I do the opposite. The light hits me like bullets. She flings open the windows and the world comes rushing in – loud and brash and, God, I hate summer. I can smell the meat of barbecues. I can hear the lawnmowers roaring. I can hear the birds squawking and the buzz of insects and the fun that everyone else in the world is having. It overloads me. I desperately rummage back under my blankets. Even though the air is heavy with heat. Even though I’m sweating so much I’ve not needed the bathroom all day. The world is drowning me and the blankets are my oxygen mask.
“We’re having your cousins round for a barbecue at six,” she says. “I want you up, showered and dressed by then, please. Just…try. Please, Olive. Maybe we can do it together? How about that?”
I try to bury further under my covers but Mum claws them away.
I would cry if I knew how.
I’ve forgotten how.
“Olive, you’re scaring me.” Her voice is soft again. “Whatever is happening right now, don’t let it win. Okay, darling? Come on, get up. You were fine last week.”
I can’t have been fine last week.
I can’t remember what fine feels like.
“I’m going to come and check on you in twenty minutes.”
She is closing the door. She is leaving me alone.
God, I am so tired.
A plane flies overhead and the noise of the engine makes my body feel like it’s been plugged into an electric current.
I don’t think I can handle this much longer.
Four hours later
Oh thank you, thank you, thank you for raining.
The sky has ripped open, chucking fistfuls of water from the clouds in giant clumps. They splatter against my head. My hair is already plastered to my face.
I’ve remembered how to cry.
I sob as I run through the woods up the road from our house, my gold ballet pumps slipping in the new mud. Lightning spasms across the sky and thunder belches around me.
It drowns out my screaming.
No one is around to hear it anyway. The windows are closed. The barbecues are rained off. The rain has driven everyone inside and I am the only one here in the clearing, screaming up into the sky.
Screaming because I’m so scared.
Screaming because I can’t believe it’s happening again.
Screaming because it’s so much less life-threatening than what I really want to do.
My top is plastered to my body, my jeans are heavy with rainwater. I run and scramble and tumble through mud. My heart feels like it’s been sliced down the middle and every painful thing that’s ever happened is oozing out of it. Leaving a slimy trail behind me. I’ve got to keep moving. I’ve got to keep running.
Running away from myself.
Running away from what I want to do.
I keep going and going, down little paths through the trees, losing my bearings. I have to keep running. Keep moving. Until, until…
I come to the top of one of the clay cliffs.
The drop is sheer enough. I slow to a walk, moving closer to the edge. The rain is softer under the canopy of trees. I hug the trunk of an oak tree and think about things I shouldn’t.
I want to do this so much.
I want this feeling to end so much.
And I’m not sure what happens next, and I’m not sure how much time has passed, and I’m not sure of the sequence of things, but the drop is still below me and I’m crying and standing on the edge of it but I’m still holding onto the tree trunk, but then…then… Several men in uniform are walking slowly out towards me through the storm, their hands outstretched, the rain bouncing off their helmets.
And they’re saying:
You have 0 of these in your Basket.
Welcome to Camp Reset, a summer camp with a difference. A place offering a shot at “normality” for Olive, a girl on the edge, and for the new friends she never expected to make – who each have their own reasons for being there. Luckily Olive has a plan to solve all their problems. But how do you fix the world when you can’t fix yourself?
Pre-ordered a copy? Simply send a confirmation of your order to firstname.lastname@example.org by 8th August 2018 and we’ll send you a little #KINDNESSisCONTAGIOUS parcel to celebrate! Because Kindness is Contagious, and Holly Bourne wants to show you how.
Holly Bourne is an author and a journalist. Holly's first two books, Soulmates and The Manifesto on How to be Interesting, have been critically acclaimed and translated into six languages. The first book in the Spinster Club series, Am I Normal Yet?, was chosen as a World Book Night book for 2016 and was shortlisted for the YA Book Prize. The Spinster Club series has also inspired the formation of Spinster Clubs across the UK and Ireland. Before becoming a full-time author, Holly was editor of TheSite.org - a charity-run advice and information website for young people.
Visit www.hollybourne.co.uk to find out more.