I went to several schools during my primary school years, but this particular school was a small country school with one classroom, one teacher who was also the principal, and two teacher’s aides. Both of the teacher’s aides were old and cranky, and nobody liked them. Hell, I’m not even sure that they liked themselves, they were miserable human beings. But it was well known that if they caught you swearing, they would not just wash your mouth out with soap, they would grind that fucking bar of soap onto your teeth. And if that didn’t work, they could still give the cane in those days. And for most of us, getting the cane at school meant getting it at home too.

The school was raised and there was a wide verandah. My sister and I liked to slide down the bannisters of the stairs even though they were metal and scorching hot. Never mind that we got into trouble every single time, it was still worth it. There were days that I decided I was a proper young lady and would walk down the stairs, but the next day I was a wild thing who would run down the stairs, sometimes two at a time. I know a professional who swears I have multiple personality disorder and maybe I do and maybe I don’t, but I did change things up majorly from day to day. I also lived in my imagination because it was so much safer than the dangers of the real world.

Our uniform skirts were short maroon netball skirts, the ones with like a hundred small pleats all around but flat in the front, a wrap-around skirt, held together by a clip at the end of a small plastic track so that you could adjust the size. Under these skirts we wore maroon bum pants, which is what we called the regulation knickers girls wore under their uniforms. Sometimes when it came time to practice for athletic competition against other small schools, the other girls would take off their skirts and run in their maroon briefs. I didn’t dare. I was a “good girl” from a “good Christian family” who would never dream of doing such a thing. Most of the other kids were Christians too, but they were Catholics so it didn’t count, or so my Protestant parents said.

Johnny liked to come and flip open the clip on my skirt, so that by the time I had run or jumped to the bottom of the stairs, my skirt had fallen off and everybody could see me in my gold shirt with the maroon collar, and the maroon knickers. Johnny thought it was hilarious. He was in year four, the grade above mine. There were only seventeen kids in this small country school which served grades one through seven. Year three was the biggest, with four kids. Those of us in year three had our desks in a group of four.

Among other things on the playground, there were three large tires that were half buried in the dirt, so that you could sit in underneath the tires and get some shade. One day, at Big Lunch (which was lunch time, not to be confused with Little Lunch which was primary school talk for what everybody else called “morning tea” or “smoko”). Johnny was sitting under one side of one of the tires, and I, on the other side. Johnny looked at me and twenty-five years later I still remember his exact words, like it was yesterday.

“Hey Katy, do you want to be dirty with me?” Johnny asked.

“Yes” I responded, thinking that Johnny wanted to play in the sandpit with me or in the mud behind C-Block which was a fancy word for where the toilets were.

Johnny wasted no time putting his hand down my underpants and copping a feel. His fingers lingered. He put a finger inside of me. After he withdrew his finger, he grabbed my hand, and put my hand into his jocks and had me touch him.

It wouldn’t be until years later that I would wonder how a kid that was young enough to still have Daffy Duck on his jocks would know anything about slipping fingers inside of girls. Was his home life as shitty as mine? We were just kids, living in a rural Australian area that was too small to even be considered a town, we were in primary school, still part of the junior school, for fucks sake.

All these years I have claimed that Johnny molested me. That’s what I was told it was called later when I got a little older and my mom gave me a book about puberty to read.

But was it really molestation?

Have I been unfair to Johnny all these years?

What is Johnny’s story?

I have always been ashamed because of the fact that I said yes, even though I had no clue what he was really asking.

Maybe it was all a huge misunderstanding.

Technically I gave my consent.

Maybe I was just the slut of year three.

Or maybe we were just two broken kids trying to navigate our way in the world.

I don’t think Johnny sexually assaulted me.

I think Johnny was as confused as I was.

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