One murky March day I was in London for a one-day scientific conference. I arranged to meet Sinead, an old school friend, for a drink, before I caught the train home.
Sinead brought someone else along.
"Look who it is!" she said jovially. "You remember her Margaret Kelly?"
A short curvaceous young woman grinned up at me. She was five feet tall at the most, a pocket Venus. I couldn't place her.
"She was always the tallest in the class!" Sinead prompted me.
"Yes," Margaret smiled. "I haven't grown an inch since I was eleven."
Margaret my best friend at primary school. I enjoyed being petite, but this young woman was smaller than me. I felt huge beside her, an unusual and disorienting feeling. But I remembered Margaret as tall. I had looked up to her, literally.
"And you were May Queen...." I recalled.
"Yes, did you know that ballot was rigged?" Margaret said. She sipped her white wine. "They always made sure the tallest girl won, because only the tallest could reach the head of the statue to crown Our Lady in the procession. Isn't it hilarious?"
I didn't think so. I clearly remembered how desperately I and the others wanted to win that ballot. And it was rigged? Rigged?
Margaret wanted to chat, but I couldn't bring myself to talk to her. Eventually I gave up, and apologised to her and Sinead, explaining I had to get my train. I couldn't get it out of my head throughout the two-hour journey. Margaret Kelly tiny! And the May Queen ballot always rigged! Sister Mary Carmel had lied to us a nun, lied!
When I got home I rang Joanna straightaway to tell her this terrible thing, but she laughed and said: "Didn't you know? I was the tallest in my year, but you never had a chance, being so small. I tried to tell you. They were sure to have you as a flower girl though, being so pretty."
I put the phone down. Everybody connived in it. Sin and truth would never be the same again.
Part of this work was submitted as the Dissertation for the MA in Writing
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injustice | spirituality
Last amended on 3rd September1998 / copyright H. M. Whitehead