About the first book:
Something extraordinary is lurking in the deep ocean waters off the coast of Aptos, California. Just a few weeks after moving to the beach town, sixteen year-old Marina has nearly drowned twice, enchanted the hottest guy in high school, and discovered a supernatural creature. If she can manage to survive her increasingly dangerous encounters with unpredictable mermaids, she might just be able to unlock the mystery of her past and learn how to appease the mysterious forces that seem to want something from her... and maybe even find true love along the way.
It was 1979, a miserable year for both me and the country. I was a junior in a suburban California high school, restless and unsatisfied, certain that life was more exciting somewhere else... anywhere else. I was teetering back and forth on the brink, ready to slip off the rails.
I was a tall girl, but she was even taller. She looked like a roller derby queen, big, bleached blond, and perpetually angry. For the purposes of this post, let’s just call her, “the bruiser”. She had a slight underbite, giving her a bulldog set to her jaw, and an angry, hard look to her face. She walked with a swagger, and was always surrounded by a group of followers. Like all the other little cliques of rebellious kids, we hung out in the smoking area on campus.
Yes, back in the stone-age we had smoking areas in high school. Small children walked around neighborhoods unattended, and we never wore seat-belts or bicycle helmets – But I digress.
I had witnessed some horrific bullying in elementary school, but had never been singled out personally, maybe because I was the tallest girl in the school. Back then, people didn’t take bullying very seriously, considering it to be just “kid stuff”. Adults looked the other way, or counseled you to “fight back”. As a younger sister, I had plenty of experience being teased and ditched, so I developed the middle child’s ability to appease and ingratiate. While I felt sorry for those being picked on, I was never confident or brave enough to come to their rescue– it’s always been one of my greatest regrets.
When it started happening to me I was taken aback, and I had no idea what to do. It began with a whispering campaign; dirty looks so hateful that I could feel them viscerally. The bruiser would sit behind me on the bus, talking loudly about how ugly I was, calling me “big nose” and making fun of my clothes and hair. Bullying girls tend to ostracize and isolate their victims, manipulating others to join in and shun them. Not the bruiser. She wanted to kick my ass, and she made no bones about it, sending several people around to deliver the news. I was terrified.
I had never gotten into a fight in my life, and I wasn’t about to confront her. I did my best to skirt around her as much as possible, hoping she’d give up on the idea of beating me up. I avoided eye contact, and hid out in the library (a place she’d never be caught dead). I skipped the bus and started hitchhiking to school, more afraid of facing her than I was of getting into cars with total strangers. I cut more and more classes, and clung to anyone who befriended me, hanging around with older kids, partying and getting into more and more trouble.
My life was in turmoil, and I was unhappy both at school and home. I bailed out, taking the high school equivalency test and running off to live with a much older boyfriend. I got work as a waitress, and after being “discovered” by a regional modeling agent, I started doing some fashion shows and newspaper ads for a nearby mall. By the time I was twenty, I was looking to move to the big city with yet another boyfriend, and a photographer I’d worked with gave me a ticket to a recruitment seminar for one of the larger San Francisco modeling agencies.
I slipped in late, sitting through a routine presentation about what it took to be a model. All the other girls had paid to attend, and I started to think it was just another modeling-school scam. When the lights came up, we were directed to bring our pictures for evaluation by a panel of “experts” seated in the front. Judging by my portfolio, it was pretty obvious that I had more experience than any of the other girls there. They flocked around me, oohing and ahhing at the professional photos and tear-sheets from the newspaper I had in my book.
I looked up and there she was, as big and scary as ever. After over three years, the bruiser stood before me with an incongruously friendly face.
“Hi Derrolyn! Do you remember me?” she asked with an ingratiating smile. I was flabbergasted but polite; no longer afraid, but still the girl that wanted to avoid the messy confrontation. The bruiser peppered me with all sorts of questions about my modeling, and followed me outside for a cigarette break, full of solicitous compliments. She pressed her phone number into my hand, saying “Let’s get together!”, and actually had the audacity to reminisce about times she remembered from high school.
I was astonished, but I didn’t say anything. Was bullying so routine for her that she actually forgot what she had done? What could she possibly be thinking? Now I had the upper hand; I was succeeding at something she desperately wanted to be a part of, and she was shameless in her flattery. Instead of kicking my ass, the bruiser was kissing it.
It kept getting better and better. After the break, I was called out in front of the room to demonstrate a runway walk, and asked about my experiences at photo shoots. When the seminar ended, the names of the girls the agency was interested in were called out. Out of the hundred or so girls in the room, only a few were asked to stay behind. I was one of them, and I watched as the bruiser filed out with a disappointed face. I almost felt sorry for her. Almost.
I’ve often wondered, what exactly was it about me that set her off? I suppose I’ll never know, because in truth, it was really all about her. Maybe she perceived a certain weakness that she had a sick need to dominate, or a boy she liked may have paid me some attention. Most likely, she had been abused herself, and was acting out her own helplessness by turning on me.
What I have learned, and what I do know, is that it is important to forgive, although some things you can never forget. I walked out to the parking lot that day, halfway expecting her to be waiting, but she was gone for good. I was wryly amused at how the universe had served me up a heaping platter of sweet revenge, without my even having to lift a finger. I took out the slip of paper with her phone number, crumpled it up, and tossed it into the trash.
I ended up returning home, and I went back to school. Within a year I met a great guy who loved me for who I was, and I’ve been happily married to that guy for twenty-three years now. We have three daughters who are smart and beautiful, but most importantly, they are kind. Whether they’re volunteering in a big sister program, tutoring after school, or painting little kid’s faces at a local fair, they constantly make my heart swell with pride.
We have the capacity to recognize right and wrong, and that’s what makes us human. We’ve succeeded as a species because we behave differently, working together to protect helpless infants, wise elders, and the weak and vulnerable among us. It’s precisely that instinct that makes bullying so abhorrent to all right-thinking people. While it may not be possible to rid the world of evil, we can certainly try.
I based my character, “Shayla”, on The Bruiser, but I added a twist of redemption. I created a background story, and showed her the compassion that she wasn’t capable of in real life. I even gave her the modeling career she so obviously wanted! I have no idea what became of The Bruiser, and I have no desire to ever see her again, but I believe that we all write our own stories and I hope that she found a way to her own happy ending.
I can honestly say that I wish her well.
Thanks for stopping by the blog, Derrolyn! I really appreciated your post to promote anti-bullying.
Derrolyn was also gracious enough to put all three of her e-books from the Marina's Tales series up for giveaway!!
Official Giveaway Info:
- you do NOT have to be a follower
- there are extra entries available
- all entrants must be at least 13 years old or older
- giveaway deadline is December 9, 2011
- giveaway is open to both US and International readers*
- read my Contest | Giveaway page, as well as my Privacy Notice