What follows is one selection from an Anthology I’m working on.
The books title: “Front-Line Heroes.”
I want to pay tribute to ALL the Front-Line Heroes. The Soldiers, Paramedics, Police Officers, Firefighters, Doctors, Nurses, Drug Enforcement Agents, Teachers, Foster-Parents, Counsellors and Carers.
The selfless angels that work the streets every night from all the marvelous charitable organisations. They are the Front-Line Heroes … every precious one of them.
I hope my stories assist in further understanding their utter devotion, and undeniable humanity, and how they may need to deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
These are all works of fiction. However I hope that each reader will recognize these people, and give thanks that they exist.
My Name is Flic.
A Short Story.
By Suzanne Burke
Some people grow into the name they were given at birth by a mother caught up in hormone driven, wishful thinking. I wasn’t one of them. She named me Felicity. Now, I’ll grant you there is nothing wrong with the name. But, you know, sometimes people have a visual image pre-ordained in their heads that have all the Felicity’s as golden-haired, blue-eyed and sunny-natured, shining examples of goodness.
So, everyone that knows me understands that I prefer to be called Flic.
It had always been strange coming into this office. Trepidation was my constant companion on those days. The smell of the furniture polish never changes, nor does the light penetrating the squeaky-clean glass of the double glass doors.
It’s lonely here gazing down at the quadrangle, knowing I can see so clearly, without being observed.
I feel like an intruder in other people’s guarded moments, yet I need the comfort that observation will grant me right now. I needed to know what’s waiting down there in the quadrangle. I need to prepare.
The new intake of girls stand segregated for now, whilst the teachers act upon predetermined decisions on who to pair them up with. Each newbie will be partnered with an older, more experienced member of this community of discarded young people. A mentor to help ease them in to the difficult period of adjustment that lay waiting.
I watch the body language of the group, I need to identify them for my own satisfaction … I’ll know better how to move among them that way.
Four of the young people are quietly standing, eyes downcast, shoulders slumped. They have long believed themselves unworthy of being loved. It would take time, and patience before that could change … if it ever did.
Three of the new intake are afraid. They have been suddenly taken from their comfort zones, their sanctuary. No matter how bad it had been, it was familiar, and something they had lived with all of their lives … until now.
Now the courts had made the choice to remove them from that environment. To place them into the care of people trained to help them redefine who they were.
Definitions were difficult in those early weeks and months as both teachers and students struggled to be accepted. I knew that.
I recognized two of the girls standing to the rear of the assembly. These girls were not new. I know them. They had been placed in foster homes and returned when they had proven too difficult to keep. The haunted look in their eyes battled with the sadness, as they accepted finally that the only home they would ever know … was this one. Until and unless they found the courage it would take to make it alone. My memory was rippled with the scattered bodies of these kids.
I knew their anger seethed just below a surface they created to expel any thought of comfort or human contact. They had long ago witnessed just how their skin could be stripped from their bones with words used like weapons on their fragile defenses.
I knew that anger. I also knew that it could and would explode into violence, unleashed by any one of a thousand trigger situations they could suddenly find themselves in …utterly unprepared.
The other girls stood out clearly, they didn’t walk to assembly, they strutted. Tossing long hair and smiling as if they held a secret that only they could ever see. These broken babies flirted with everyone, irrespective of gender or position in the pecking order. You were human and breathing and that was enough to force them to offer you themselves in return for whispered lies of love. Learning to stop equating sex with being loved was a lifetime of counseling away.
I knew too that the teachers burned out fast here. Some managed to survive all the pain they witnessed daily; but it was the support network they had outside these walls, that offered them their only tangible comfort.
Those that tried to absorb all that they witnessed in the vain hope they wouldn’t get flamed into nothingness by it … they crumpled like singed tissue paper and burned to a cinder. Many of them would never be able to teach again.
I looked on as a few of the youngest students started to cry. I watched them comforted by the others that had enough heart still left in them to offer it.
It all came down to the look in the eyes of both students and teachers. There was a hunted and haunted look that ate into your soul and remained there … indelible, immovable, and endlessly sad.
The door opened and Margot the school secretary caused me to turn away from the window.
She glanced at her wristwatch and gave me what passed for a reassuring smile, “It’s time, Flic.”
I nodded and answered, “Be right there.”
She smiled in acknowledgement and left the door ajar.
I gathered my scattered thoughts and wrapped them around me as I walked downstairs, and caught brief smiles of recognition from a few of those assembled.
I stepped up to the microphone. “Good morning, everyone.”
And sixty voices echoed back at me, “Good Morning Principal Flic.”
I had traveled full circle. I had come home.