"Put your bags down" said Jackie.
I put my bags down against the youth club wall like this was a reasonable everyday request. It wasn't. I quickly realised that I was surrounded by a large group of girls from the year above me.
Jackie punched me in the face. It didn't hurt as much as you would expect.
My arms were still at my sides as Jackie punched me again. This time I could feel a sharp stinging in my cheek.
I was having a fight. How was this possible? I'd always avoided confrontation and had only ever hit my brother (like you do and even then I wasn't allowed to hit him hard because he was ill).
Jackie grabbed my hair and pulled my face down towards her raised knee.
Oh God. Don't cry, Sandra, don't cry.
I had to fight back otherwise I was going to get beaten up. I pulled away and lost a handful of hair. I tried to hit Jackie, but she seemed too far away. I tried to grab her hair and put her face on my knee but it felt like I was underwater. I was hurting now. My head hurt.
I could smell cheap hairspray and cigarettes covered up with Impulse body spray.
I looked up at one point to see Mrs Butcher driving the school mini-bus with her netball team in the back. Our eyes met. Mine pleading with hers. She drove off.
I was going to be late home.
"FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT" rang in my ears. It felt like the whole school was watching. No one helped me. No one tried to stop us tearing at each other like angry cats.
Satisfied she had taught me a lesson, Jackie shoved me away from her. Her gang greeted her with congratulatory back slaps and well done Jackies. Someone lit a cigarette for the victor. She took it, half grinning, half wincing. They walked away.
I brushed myself down, watching clumps of my hair carried by the breeze. I picked my bags up and walked home alone.
That was 26 years ago. It turns out that I had snogged Jackie's boyfriend, Steve, one afternoon in a small town churchyard. I didn't know he was Jackie's boyfriend, but apparently that was my crime. I was 14 years old, naive, cheeky and invincible. I was wearing my 'Frankie says RELAX don't do it' t-shirt. When my friends and I walked past him and his mates, he said "Steve says relax, do it". I never saw him again, but ended up with two black eyes for a quick kiss.
My Mum said I was bullied because I was pretty and clever. Sometimes it can be any excuse, the way you dress or speak for instance. The school, unhelpfully, said I shouldn't walk around on my own. These bullies made my life a misery until they left the following year. This was the first of many incidents, although I was too scared to fight back after that. The worst incident resulted in a suspected fractured skull and rather a lot of blood down the back of my coat.
I still look over my shoulder in that small town.
This is a pretty extreme example of bullying and it scares me that one day my boys may be picked on. My experience hasn't made me any tougher. I've had low self-esteem ever since. I really don't know how to protect them.
This post was written for the Sleep is for the Weak Writing Workshop. This week I chose prompt no.4 Have you ever felt bullied? At school? At work? In your personal life? How did you deal with that? Tell us your story.