Part One: Mother and Child
If someone were to ask Kasey how she was feeling, she already had her answer prepared. She would announce that she could certainly not say she was unhappy but she could not say that she was entirely happy either. Kasey was pleased with neatness of the statement; its circularity seemed to convey both the fullness and emptiness of becoming a mother. Perhaps even more importantly though, it possessed a certain drama to it, and she enjoyed its suggestive strike of pathos. She looked forward to making her eyes cloudy and declaring it wistfully to the girls who would gather giddily around her. She would declare it the way one might do at a press conference, simultaneously inviting intimacy whilst gently acknowledging its theatre.
This was to be the first time Kasey had stepped out in public since the birth. It had been nearly three months, but apart from strolling the pram around the park a few times, Kasey had not found the energy to leave the house. Or perhaps, she had just found reasons each time not to breach the front door. The baby left its prison and she entered hers. But together they were complete.
After mother and baby returned from hospital, she was surprised and saddened that it was only Tina who came to see her. If she was being honest, Tina was her least favourite member of the gang she used to rule over at school. In fact, Tina was positively irritating and she had only allowed her to remain in her gang because she had pitied her, and now it was Tina who held the privilege of sympathy over her. Whatever Tina’s motivations though, it was more than Becca and Jasmine, she supposed. Not one visit. She assumed perhaps their mothers had stopped them from coming to see her. With GCSEs looming it provided the perfect excuse against it, she deducted. It did not bother her, she told herself, not really.
Initially she had imposed this self-imprisonment in vitriol against the betrayal of her friends. If they were not going to come and see her, why should she pander to them? But since then, it was the throbbing numbness that kept her inside. Today however, something had changed. Somehow her emptiness had become so great that it overflowed and burst. The situation came to colour. Kasey had come to the conclusion suddenly – as if it had been lurking in the cigarette fumes of her mother’s flat all along – that she was losing at her own game. For the first time, she caught the ghost of who she had been before the baby. The girl in the grey pleated school skirt rolled up at the waist, the girl giggling in the empty school corridor and making silly faces through the window at her friends still stuck in double maths. The girl who wore glitter nail polish, the girl who marched up to the Londis checkout with a bottle of rose in one hand and a six pack of lager for the lads in the other unarmed with fake ID.
The other children’s parents had always perceived her as the naughty girl, the rebellious one with a bite to her manner, and this is what made her great. She did not fear the rules imposed by adults because she saw thorough them, and she had learnt very early on that grown-ups were exceedingly fearful and silly creatures. In turn, she knew that her audacity unsettled the adult presumption of authority and for this they feared her. This is why they excluded her from school. But now, at the age of fifteen, she was the grown-up, she was the mother, and she had allowed herself to catch that curious disease of adulthood – that ridiculous disquiet that accompanies authority and she resolved to fight it any way she could.
Part Two: Two Children
She planned to arrive at the train station at quarter past three. Ten minutes before the crowds from school were set to descend upon the platform. She would need that time to compose herself, to make sure her foundation had not been smudged by sweat following the gruesome exertion of pushing the baby’s pram up the hill to the station and check that the baby looked beautiful. Yes, she and the baby would sit there on a platform bench in regal defiance, waiting to shock Becca and Jasmine and the others. They would be confronted with their betrayal and there would be no escape. Her presence there would not just be a demonstration against the peers who abandoned her, but against her fellow grown ups too. She could see into what the women in Barbour jackets and pearls would think before they had thought it themselves – a girl, no more than 15, so adamant in her rebellion to have a baby and flaunt it around in front of the other schoolchildren like it was the latest fad. It was completely outrageous. It was brilliant.
Kasey lived in the council houses at the bottom of the road that joined the school and the station, but the other girls lived out of town and the train took them to their detached brick houses hidden in the hills of the countryside. Having never got the train from school before, she would be invading their territory. It was a move that colonised a space in which she had always been excluded, which she could repaint with herself and the girls’ guilt. Yes, the train station was the perfect site for her rebellion, but it was also the only place. The only other alternative was the school, but she could not return there for fear it might look like she missed the dump.
When she thought back to the act that brought about her expulsion, Kasey felt neither regret nor anger. The details were clear, but the emotions returned to her hollow. In truth, it felt more like something she had watched on the endless stream of daytime television than something she had done.
When Ms Curthshaw, her plump, cross-eyed English teacher, overheard Kasey discussing her pregnancy at the back of her classroom, she was sent to the Deputy Head’s. At first, Kasey did not register that this time was any different. She used the same, “Are you talking to me, Miss? I can’t tell who your looking at” response that was ten out of ten times guaranteed a laugh, she used the same satirical strut out of the classroom, she flashed the same middle finger and front-teeth smirk behind Ms Curthshaw’s back. It was not until she entered the Deputy’s office that she became suddenly and irrevocably destabilised.
What she had expected was a room filled with anger and exasperation but what she had been hit by was a million particles of… pity. With his mouth fighting off a strange grimace and his eyes seemingly locked on her stomach, the Deputy Head had suggested that she return to school next year to finish her schooling. Continuing, with an irksome cautiousness, he broached that perhaps she was not doing as well as she might want to be doing anyway and this would give her time to get her marks up rather than fail completely.
Kasey, blind with fury, had stormed out of the office where she caught sight of the red fire alarm box on the corridor wall. She kicked a chair out of the way and smashed the plastic with her elbow. Then, in a gleeful moment of inspiration, she positioned the chair in front of the deputy’s door to prevent his egress. In the playground she stood waving at the deputy’s window with a delicious smile on her face before turning theatrically through the crowds of exiting pupils. Later, a visit from her form tutor to her mother’s flat informed her, in sympathetic tones of course, that it would not be appropriate for her to return, next year or -thereafter.
With this past victory in her mind, Kasey’s latest plans for rebellion all of sudden felt rather insufficient. She needed an act of true defiance and drama, something potent and damaging. She needed something that could transform her from a shadow into something so luminous and so bright they would never be able to look away from her again. They would be fixed in her light, they would never be able to escape. The train platform was not enough.
The tracks though, they provided a seductive opportunity. Kasey felt almost giddy with the prospect. The cinema of the baby and her falling onto the tracks before a train desperately trying to brake in time exhilarated her. No, more that that, it rattled, it stung, it caressed. Her head felt heavy and dizzy and the back of her throat bubbled with a pleasant nausea she had not felt since her expulsion. It was the ultimate rebellion – against the eyes of condescension, against the school and her friends, against the absent father and against all the rest who had abandoned her when she needed them.
With a renewed energy now, Kasey began to get herself and the baby ready. As she picked out their outfits she reflected that it was not the first time she given thought to the unthinkable, in fact the desire visited her often, but it was the first time the thought had presented itself fully formed. She felt it was a narrative she could enact with grace and style, and she thought on in delight as she picked out her most notorious shade of red lipstick and searched for the glitter nail varnish. The others in their uniforms would be as grey as the platform, she would glisten in colour…
But as quickly as the plan had been brought to colour, it is as abruptly taken from her. It is stolen by the baby who has begun to scream and cry. The wailing, which usually inspires a dreadful frustration in Kasey, punctures her effervescence and drains her rebellious blood. In its place, an indescribable compassion invades her bones and her heart. Moved by a nameless agency, she lifts the baby out of its cot and weeps with him as they sit and rock each other, two children, on the stained carpet of her bedroom.
It is then that Kasey realises that perhaps she will not go to the train station today, and perhaps she will go tomorrow. Today, she will be strong for the baby. She will feed him, she will bathe him, she will put him in a clean grow and kiss him until he is happy. She is a child but she is a mother.
SYNOPSIS: Our rebellions does not just take the form of coup d’états, public protests and war, they are staged in our everyday life too. Kasey’s Rebellion explores the psychology of rebellion from the point of view of a teen mother recently expelled from school.
Picture courtesy of Christy Keeney – Christykeeney.co.uk