11 Feb

Sasha goes to school

In the story I’m working on, Sasha is a significant secondary character. By then, she’s grown into a twenty-one year-old monster with a billion dollars, a business empire and a point to prove.

At the age of twelve, I went alone to my half-yearly meeting with my father. Until then, it had been my nanny’s responsibility; all I had to do was stand, listen, and keep quiet whilst she catalogued my progress (supported by evidence, no opinions required), tried to emphasize my achievements, took a verbal flaying, and was given her objectives for the next semester. Crying wasn’t allowed, and before each ordeal we practised and practised until I could bear any attack, no matter how personal, without flinching.

Diana, my father’s assistant and long-term mistress, watched me eagerly for any sign of weakness or distress; I knew she’d find nothing. Eventually the sleek phone on Diana’s desk buzzed: ‘Send her in.’

Father sat at the far end of the library with his back to the cathedral windows, a dark figure framed by the late afternoon light. Gathering all my courage, I walked steadily across the polished floor until I stood in front of his desk. He didn’t invite me to sit, so I stood and waited.

‘I hear you want to go to school in Switzerland.’

Justifying myself would have been a mistake, so I nodded once, thanking my lucky stars that he’d decided to hold the meeting in English, when it could easily have been French or Russian. I kept my eyes fixed on a point just above his chin, reached into my leather satchel, pulled out the envelope with the application papers, and passed them over.

‘Learning’s wasted on women,’ he said, looking at them in distaste. ‘Marriage and child-rearing is hardly an intellectual challenge.’

Neither of us acknowledged that if my grades had been anything less than straight ‘A’s, everyone from my teachers to my mother to me would have paid the price. Outstanding performance was the entry level requirement where my father was concerned.

‘Please,’ I said, before I could stop myself.

Quite what I was hoping for, I don’t know, but I didn’t get it. Red spots danced before my eyes as he flicked one-handed through the carefully assembled package.

Sign the papers, I willed him, biting my lip hard to keep the words inside.

‘Total waste of time and money,’ he said dismissively, but his pen travelled across the paper, and that was all I cared about.

Until I was safely out of the room with the signed forms my plan was still at risk, and I held my breath as I eased the papers slowly off the desk and tucked them away in my bag.

‘What a disaster; too thin, too ugly, too clever -,’

His lip curled as he examined me from my perfectly braided hair to my brand new, shining shoes, and found me wanting in every respect.

You’ll see, I vowed to myself, but out loud I only said ‘I’ll try to improve, father.’

Mother taught me that we must all choose between right and wrong, truth and lie, light and dark, and that their our choices will determine our eternal destiny; I wasn’t sure which level of hell my father was headed for, but I hoped it was everything he deserved.

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