Her Name Was Matilda

Becca & Matilda

She wasn’t only my best friend, she was my only friend. A mild celebrity in our small school of 134 children, Matilda’s mother moved into our quiet town in the middle of February. She was the new kid. Our school never had a new kid before. Especially not in the middle of a school year.

On a blistery cold day, on a day when all 134 kids prayed for a snow day, we were forced to face the horrible winds and go to school.

This was the day my young life of 9 years changed forever. Huddled in the corner, I was trying to hide my tears. Tommy the Terrible smeared my drawings with chocolate. Every drawing on the wall remained untouched – but mine. It felt like he’d rummaged through my personal stuff. It felt like he’d hung my flowered undies on the flagpole. As though he’d slapped me in the face over and over again, I thought I’d never recover. When Mrs. Heinsworth disciplined him he never uttered a word. He simply stared at me the entire time. Daggers of hatred pierced right through my skin.

That’s when she walked in the class handing a piece of paper to Mrs. Heinsworth. The disciplining stopped instantly. Tommy the Terrible transferred his gaze from me to the new kid. She was small. She couldn’t have looked a day over six. At the most. She had fine porcelain skin and big silver dollar eyes. She scanned the classroom and rested her friendly gaze on my tear-covered face.

“Children, we now have a new friend who’ll be joining us. Everybody please say hello to Matilda.” I was the only one who remained quiet. The last thing I wanted was Tommy’s attention. Matilda pointed her index finger towards me. “Can I have that desk next to her?”

Tommy faked a cough yelling out “Loser”. The classroom laughed all begging for his acceptance. Not that they found him funny, but they were collectively relieved to not be the focus, his strong focus of hate.

Matilda sat next to me. Slid her desk closer and lightly touched my arm. She smelled like lilacs. Which was impossible for mid February. Yet lilacs surrounded her like magic. I took one long breath and tried to get as much of her into my lungs. I was in love.

I tasted the salty tears as I smiled and opened my mouth to tell her my name. “Hi Matilda, I’m Rebecca but you can call me Becca.” She giggled with her hand covering her shy smile. “Becca and Matilda. Our names even rhyme! We’ll be the bestest of friends!”

 ***

“Pick up the phone Matilda” I drummed my fingers nervously on the table. “Just go without her, you’ll meet her there. She’s probably at the salon getting her hair done.” I looked at my mom and rolled my eyes. Matilda. Getting her hair done. Yeah, right. “Mom, really. Do you sometimes stop to listen to yourself?”

I quickly took off my prom dress and put on my tore up paint-splattered jeans. Grabbed my lucky tee and hobbled to the door as I was struggling to slide into my flip-flops. “I’m going out to Matilda’s, I have a bad feeling about this!” Before my mom had a chance to say anything holding me back I grabbed the car keys and slammed the door shut.

I loved driving with the open windows making my hair madly fly about occasionally blocking my view, I never felt so free. As soon as I turned around the corner, I saw Tommy’s pickup. He was parked on the wrong side of the street, his signature classy move. Would he ever leave us alone?

I pulled into her driveway, and let the engine idle for a few minutes. The lights were out, the house looked empty. I hesitated and second-guessed myself over and over. Turned the key and dropped it in the ashtray.

I didn’t shut the car door I left it open to avoid making any sound. I walked towards the house and found the front door open beyond the screen door. It was quiet. Too quiet. Rather than walk in the front I made my way towards the back, closer to Matilda’s room.

I quietly made my way in. That’s when I heard her crying. I rushed into Matilda’s room like a superhero coming in for the rescue. Matilda was lying on her bed. Tommy was on top of her. He wasn’t moving. Matilda was sobbing and struggling to breathe.

Shaking to the core, I grabbed hold of Tommy’s tuxedo and pulled him or rather rolled him to his side. Tommy was a big boy. At first I thought he was passed out drunk on top of my best friend.

That’s when I saw the blood. Matilda and Tommy were soaked in it. I was shocked at the sight. Movies always show bright red liquid. Nobody ever told me in real life a puddle of blood was closer to brown than deep bright red.

There was nothing bright in this room.

“What have I done?” Matilda’s question was more of a shrill scream. “Are you ok? What happened?” Matilda looked at me with the crazy eye. “Nobody is ever going to believe me!” her fingers unclenched releasing the knife. It made a loud metallic clanging sound when the blade hit the floor.

Matilda’s dress was ripped down the front. “I have to go the police. I have to explain what happened. It was self-defense. I didn’t mean to kill him. I have to tell them that. They’ll believe me, won’t they?” I didn’t know what to say. She was freaked out. Anybody would be under the circumstances. Yeah, Tommy was a horrible person, hence the nickname, but he was the school quarterback. Their school never won the state championship, never even won a game before Tommy.

 ***

Dyke Kills State Champ!” It was in all the papers the very next day. As if the press was ready for it, expecting it to happen. They made him look like a hero. Testimonials of a great person were on the evening news. People mourned the loss – already forgetting the evil things he’d done.

 ***

“In the matter of people against Matilda Sweeney what say you?”

Guilty.”

They took her away. My Matilda. The very first day I met her was beyond a tear-covered face. The very last day I saw her was, again, behind a tear-covered face. She turned around to face me as they pulled her out of the courtroom and pointed her index finger in my direction.

Her name was Matilda. She was not only my best friend. She was my only friend.

______________
This is a Studio 30+ writing prompt. I love prompts, won’t somebody prompt me? The picture is an old picture of my sister and I. And… I dedicate this post to Becca from Everyday Life just because I want to start a new tradition here by honoring my faithful readers…

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18 thoughts on “Her Name Was Matilda”

  1. wow what a great story it’s like one of those lifetime movies you watch where the wrong person is convicted just because of who she is. brilliant writing

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    1. I’m speechless. Coming from a person I consider to be an incredible writer (YOU) this compliment is … I just may print it and frame it!

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    1. Actually I have so much more developped in my mind about Becca and Matilda, I even wrote an alternative ending to this one… So who knows?

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  2. The story felt so very real. I liked the intro to show how long they had been friends and the gesture of Matilda pointing her finger to connect fourth grade to being taken away. The only thing that took me away from the reading (since I seem dreadful about e-mailing concrit) was the moment of leaving the car door open. I don’t think she needs ‘some unknown reason she doesn’t understand’. I think she is in a hurry and can just go. She’s finally chosen a direction and suddenly she feels urgent. I was also a little uncertain that she was found guilty. Although it varies from state to state, you are typically allowed to kill someone in self defense on your own property, especially inside your dwelling. I get what you’re doing with the headline and the suggestion that the perception of this bully’s heroism combined with Matilda’s sexual orientation controlled the entire trial, but it might help to make the circumstances more dicey. For instance, what if it happened AT the prom? What if she brought the knife because she feared she’d have to defend herself? The story is a powerful one, and those ideas aren’t meant to detract from the strength of the bond you built up between these two women in so few words. Well done!

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    1. Yeah – all that came from simply “Her name was Matilda” the name has so much depth and meaning, especially about the part of her porcelain skin and lilacs… And I have no idea why?

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  3. I’m stunned…I’d say speechless but let’s but let’s be honest it’s me and I always find some words. This was AMAZING! I want more. I want the filler. I want the whole story. I want the Lifetime movie. I’m serious. Write it…write it and pitch it. NO WAY it doesn’t get made into a movie…NONE! This was brilliant.

    I’m off to pimp the heck out of this moving and amazingly written piece.

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    1. Wow. You’re making me smile and gush all at the same time! Thank you thank you thank you… You’re very kind and generous (I saw all the pimping and it gave me a sudden urge to grow my nails extra long and paint them a deep deep red)

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  4. So heartbreaking and real, gut wrenching and plausible. The innate sense of fear we all feel with the thought that in defending our lives from death, we may have to defend our lives from prison. Very sad. Your writing is so descriptive, full of heart.

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  5. Very nicely done, Marie. I love how you tied their first meeting and their parting with tears and a pointed finger. Honestly, I would HATE to live anywhere where it’s ok to print slurs in a headline. That’s just cruel.

    Well done!

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  6. I really really liked the beginning, the fall back into fourth grade and everything else. It was brilliantly written. I’d same the same with the middle. This whole thing has an air of Thelma & Louise about it that I just love. I’m with jesterqueen on the guilty verdict though. Perhaps it would have felt more realistic (?) if we had a little more drama, a little more insight, perhaps. I really really enjoyed this. I do hope you’ll do more with it in the future.

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