This Girl

Do you know ‘that’ girl? She’s the one who always attracts the light, glides along like she’s riding the wind and collects hangers on like the pied piper. You must know her. The one who always (effortlessly) knows just what to wear and what to say: like she was born cool.ThisGirlImage01Her hair never less than a perfect, flick-able chestnut mane. And if she smiled at you, it would make your day. Well that girl is me. She is me. Right up until I look in the mirror, leave my room or open my mouth in public.

And how do the two of us manage to co-exist? Well not always so smoothly. She can sometimes be cruel. But she is also the reason that Aaron is in my life and that makes the situation bearable.

The other me isn’t really worth describing, except to say that I have one big, stand out feature that can’t be ignored, the genetic mutation that is my spotty skin. My friend, Kale says that when I wear make-up you can’t notice but even she can’t deny when people say things to my face. By people, I mean mainly the brainless boys in my year at school.

ThisGirlImage03So what’s the point, I hear you ask. The point is this, it’s all been leading up to this and I am about to meet the hottest boy ever face to face. I’m excited but mostly scared. Actually, I’m completely scared, there

ThisGirlImage02really isn’t any room for excitement. And how did this happen? How did I - me - get a date with a hot sixth-former.

Here’s how, prepare yourself for genius.

Kale and I ‘accidentally’ saw Aaron’s number in Kale’s sister’s phone. Jade is also in the sixth-form and part ‘that girl’, part absolute monster but as her extensive phone list proves, she is good for some things. And the first time I call him, Aaron, I’m in my room alone. Can you believe it! I just grab the phone and dial his number (withholding mine of course). Kale and I had planned to ring him a few times together but totally chickened out.ThisGirlImage04

ThisGirlImage05Apart from ogling Aaron around school, he sometimes drops into our drama class. I love drama, it’s my favourite subject. You can forget about yourself for a while and become someone else.

Aaron is like the school drama star and he sometimes comes to our lessons to help Mr West, our teacher.

He won’t have noticed me though as when he does come in I suddenly can’t forget myself at all and end up hiding at the back of the class. So I love drama, he loves drama, we have something in common.

And when I call him and hear his voice, something amazing happens. ‘That’ girl takes over. Aaron responds amused and I (she) teases him, his “mystery caller”. Then we (she) talks about drama and films, like we’ve (they’ve) been talking everyday, forever. And when the conversation comes to an end, he asks if we can meet, I tell him not yet but if he’s lucky I might call him again.

And there it is, it’s been two weeks and we’re like good friends, with a bit of flirting too.ThisGirlImage06

But yesterday, he asked to meet me face to face. Of course, he doesn’t realise that it’s me, he doesn’t know that I exist actually at all. And he doesn’t know that my skin is bad. Yet in a moment of madness she agrees. ‘That’ girl says, “yes”.

Aaron’s not just really good looking but he’s also got what my stepmother calls ‘edge’. Note – I don’t really like my stepmother but my mum says I should try and make more of an effort. I think my mum’s just glad that dad has met someone else and isn’t her problem anymore. So, Dad’s got this new wife and seems happy but I think she’s way too young for him. Anyway, enough about them, let’s back to me.ThisGirlImage07

So, I’m in my room, absolutely petrified and about to do the unimaginable, meet Aaron who is both gorgeous and cool. I’ve spent even longer than normal applying my foundation and I have to say, I think it looks ok.

We agreed to meet outside this coffee shop where I often go with Kale.ThisGirlImage08 I secretly figured it wouldn’t freak me out as much if we met somewhere I know. But walking from my bedroom to the shop, it's like little bits of me fall away with every step.

It’s nearly time and I wait outside the shop, trying to feel like I did in my bedroom. Then, I see Aaron get off a bus further down the road. And, it’s like my legs suddenly can’t hold me up. So, I do something really stupid, even for me and dive into some bushy trees at the side of the shop, covering myself in leaves and scratching my arms.ThisGirlImage09

When he arrives, I have a good view of him from behind. I wish I could just step out and introduce myself. Why can’t I just go for it like ‘that’ girl would? Why can’t she just take control? Then, and this bit still makes me cringe, my phone which is in my bag starts ringing, really loudly. I franticly try to silence it and when I look up, Aaron is staring into the bushes.

“Hello?” He shouts.

“Hello”, I reply, but I’m still in the bushes. I’m actually wearing the bush.

“Talking trees! Very Lord of the Rings”, he says. “Are you going to come out, mystery girl?”

And I’m in a corner. There’s nothing I can do but walk out. So I do.

Aaron looks surprised and then bursts out laughing. I’ve heard laughter like that before. It makes me shrink.

Here I am, trapped in my worst nightmare, only it’s real.

So I run.ThisGirlImage010

I start running and hear him call out but don’t stop or look back. I just want to get home. Tears start building and my vision blurs. I run faster than ever before. Reaching my house, I fly through the front door, up the stairs to my bedroom and dive under my duvet.

Now I can’t hold back my tears. I hate myself. And ‘that’ girl is here. She gives me a look like I let her down. I hear my mum come through the door and tell her to go away, though she probably can’t understand as my voice is muffled by my pillow. She eventually leaves and I cry until I fall asleep.

Then later, my door opens again. It’s Kale. I know it’s her from the clatter-clatter noise her jewellery makes. She sits down at the end of my bed. But I don’t want anyone to see me, not even her. So I remain buried.

Kale asks why I’m upset but I don’t answer. I want to tell her about Aaron but feel so stupid that I can’t.

“Lily, I think I know what’s wrong. But please don’t take any notice of what those idiots say”.

I hear Lily pause, waiting for a sign that I’m listening but I can’t respond or even move. I’m suspended in a giant web of my own horrible feelings.

“Do you know, when Jade and I first moved here, we got teased because we looked different. It was horrible. Jade had to do a lot of fighting for both of us. But I guess those people just got bored or maybe got a brain cos things got better with time and they started to leave us alone”.

What, Jade and Kale actually got teased for how they look! They’re like honey coloured and gorgeous.

“Anyway”, Kale continues,” call me later if you feel like talking, and when you feel a bit better let’s do something fun, like shopping or the cinema. You’re my best friend, Lily. Please don’t be sad “.

Kale gets up and I hear her shut the door as she leaves. Her words are a bit like sucking a lozenge when you’ve got a really sore throat, soothing but only for a short while as suddenly I’m thinking about what happened with Aaron again and the pain is back. I groan and close my eyes, shutting out the world.ThisGirlImage011

How long have I been lying here: it feels like hours, days. My pillow is a pancake of mess from makeup and tears. Just as I consider emerging from my bed, there’s a knock at my door. Urggghh, it’s my stepmother. I keep my head buried and try to muffle my ears but hear the words ‘nurse’ and ‘treatment’. I hear the rustle of paper and sense she’s put something on the cupboard next to my bed. And then she’s gone. I wait minutes before coming up, just in case she decides to come back. She’s left a leaflet next to my phone.

Then, my phone begins to ring. It’s him, Aaron! How did he get my number? I’m going to ignore it. I can’t.

“Hello”, my voice is a squeak.

“Lily, Lily it’s Aaron”.

I can’t actually speak.

“Lily, why did you run off like that?” he says.

“You laughed at me.” I answer, squeaking again.

“Yes, I did, I’m sorry. It’s just that I wasn’t expecting to see an eighth grader. You sounded older on the phone. It was a bit of a shock really”.

So, he wasn’t actually laughing at the way I look, I think. I don’t know what to say. My mouth opens but nothing comes out, where is ‘that’ girl when you need her?

“How did you get my number?” I blurt out.

“From Jade’s little sister, I’ve seen you with her” he says.

“Kale’s not little, she’s like 5 foot 9!” Did I actually just say that?

He laughs. I made him laugh! And, he actually knows I exist!

“No, in fact you’re quite the actress I hear” he says.

“You actually know about me!” whoops, I didn’t mean to say that out loud.

“Yes, Mr West talks about you a lot. You’re his shining hope for the eighth grade! He says you’ve got talent and a great imagination. I’ve been hoping to see you in action but whenever I drop by you kind of ignore me. I was starting to think I smelled or something”.

I laugh.ThisGirlImage12

“So, I was surprised but pleased when you turned out to be my mystery caller. Anyway, I would love to see you act sometime. And Lily, You really don’t ever need to hide away. You’re a cool girl and you really make me laugh. I enjoy talking to you.”

He sounds really genuine, not jokey, not sorry for me but as if he actually means it. Warmness spreads right down my body like I’m sitting in the sunshine.

‘I’d love for us to carry on being friends. Only next time you see me, promise you won’t ignore me or jump into any trees!”

Friends. Ok there it is, friends. But I don’t feel deflated or like my bubble has been burst. I know deep down that a six-former wouldn’t be seen dead dating an eighth grader, it just wouldn’t happen. I’m actually really chuffed that he wants to be my friend.

So now, a week later, things feel a lot better. I finally spoke to Aaron at school face to face and it was fine. Who am I kidding, it was more than fine, it was amazing! Oh and my stepmother – her name’s actually Julie - has a friend who’s a doctor and I’m going to see her about my skin. Apparently there’s a treatment that might clear it up.

So where did ‘that’ girl go, I hear you ask. Well, I just couldn’t tell you because I don’t know. She simply disappeared. Maybe because this girl finally took control or maybe because ‘that’ girl never really existed, she was me all along.ThisGirlImage0_Final

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The prevalence of skin disease exceeds that of obesity, hypertension, or cancer. Despite skin being the largest organ of the human body, dermatological research remains one of the most under funded areas of medicine. In a world where society has an increasing preoccupation with image and it’s importance to every aspect of a person’s life, sufferers of skin diseases are feeling and being more marginalised and isolated than ever.

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