Here's Bernardine's story...
Ah, that old favourite, RUNNING AWAY.
How many times have I fantasised about running away over the years? Quite often during certain times in my life.
I’d raid my ‘running away fund’ (not that I had one), I’d fly to New York with a backpack of essentials then criss-cross America on a Greyhound bus. I’d go to Los Angeles and Hollywood, to Las Vegas, to Chicago, in fact to all the names I’d heard of in films and books. I’d stay in romantic motels, eat in desert burger joints and drink root beer with cowboys. Oh yes, I’d done my research!
My other fantasy was pure Mills and Boon, it was fabulous. Because I didn’t have a ‘running away fund’ I’d get a job as nanny to a rock-star in Hollywood and live the life in Bel-Air with beach parties in Santa Monica and holidays in Hawaii.
It was a nice thought in the middle of the night but of course I never did it. The fantasy was always great but I wasn’t a runner.
Except for once.
I was brought up in Singapore and went to school at the convent there. (the convent that is now CHIJMES for anyone who knows Singapore). It was a multi-nationality school, I was the only European girl in my class, and a very competitive environment, very ‘Tiger-Mother’. Slowly but surely my mother had become equally Tiger competitive, but I hadn’t. Not at all. I was a dreamer and not in the least academically motivated. I wanted to read Enid Blyton and daydream about adventures, I wanted to swim and dance and collect stray kittens; I didn’t want to study.
It was when I was about ten that I got a really rubbish school report. I wasn’t meant to open it but I did and when I saw that I was fourth from bottom of the class, with a selection of E marks, I just knew I was going to be in Really Big Trouble. So I changed the E- marks to B+ marks and gave it to my mother to sign for me to take back the next day. Sadly the apprentice Tiger Mother decided that B grades weren’t good enough, only A’s would suffice and she was going to see Mother Superior about it the Very Next Day. How dare they?
I was awake all night envisioning the moment when my mother berated Mother Superior for only awarding me B grades and the nun then produced the Real Grades and they both realised I had cheated quite spectacularly.
I was scared witless and the only way out I could see was to Run Away.
We lived in an area of houses with large gardens which were surrounded by long grass (Lalang) and trees and I had this idea in my head that if I could find somewhere to lay low for a few days it would all blow over and I’d be okay to go back. Just a few days.
|The house Bernardine was living in at the time|
To say I wasn’t streetwise was an understatement, I had never been anywhere or done anything on my own, I hadn’t even been on public transport, but it didn’t stop me; I was so scared about the outcome of the meeting. The shame of it.
So I took my nightie, (first clue to daftness), a book on ballet, a sandwich and a glass bottle of water that was in the fridge, put them in my schoolbag and ran for it first thing the next morning. Off I went across the lawn and out through the lalang to a hidden copse-like area. I ate the sandwich, drank the water and tried to read the book. (I can picture the cover but can’t remember the name)
I lasted until the afternoon ignoring the calling until I heard my father’s voice….. ‘Bernardine, I know you’re out there. If you don’t come back we’ll have to call the police.. You’re not in any trouble and there are snakes……’
Ah! I hadn’t thought of snakes, suddenly I could feel them everywhere so I jumped up and ran straight back. The bit about the snakes may have been true but the ‘not in trouble’ bit wasn’t, not when my mother got me and dragged me off to school. She went crackers and Mother Superior was ‘disappointed’; I was given two weeks after-school detentions to pick up my grades and banned from the Swimming Club and dancing school indefinitely. But even that didn’t seem as bad as the thought of snakes creeping up on me in the lalang.
Why had I not even thought of that before I took off? Why didn’t I think of it when I was racing through the lalang? J An innocent in the long grass!
Luckily my father, as always, fought my corner and eventually everything went back to normal although I don’t think my mother ever really got over it. She lived to the age of 95 still mentioning my ‘cheating’ and the ‘shame’ every so often!
Safe to say I never actually ran away again and nowadays I don’t even want to, however I do still take a book everywhere!
Here's Bernardine/Marie's latest book Gracie and you can get it here.
'She made the ultimate sacrifice... but can she now move on with her life?
Can she ever escape her past?
Gracie McCabe is building a new life for herself in the Essex seaside town of Southend working alongside best friend Ruby; she’s put her past to rest and is planning her future.
All that is missing is a family of her own, Gracie desperately wants a baby so when boyfriend Sean proposes she accepts without hesitation.
But a chance meeting before the wedding gives her doubts and when old secrets come back to haunt her, it seems that Sean is not the rock of strength she expected him to be.
Will Gracie find her happy ever after or will she be betrayed and abandoned once again?