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Marianne Peters was in her room trying on some new clothes. She was to start in her new class at Walbaugh High school tomorrow and she just couldn?t wait.

As she stood in front of the mirror trying to find an outfit that would impress the young boys at Walbaugh high, her mom called from the kitchen below: ?Marianne, come on down here – me and dad have bought you a present!? Marianne went down to the kitchen and saw the box on the kitchen table

?What is it?? she asked

?- Open it up!? her mother said, and Marianne quickly tore the paper from the box and reached into it: ?It’s a?bicycle helmet?"?-Yes, so you don’t fall of that bike of yours and get a concussion!"

?OH MOM! – I can’t wear that on my first day in high school! – The other kids will laugh me out!?

"It’s for your own protection honey, and I won’t argue with you about it!She’s right, Marianne", her dad broke in "When I grew up, there was this kid named Billy…"

"Dad, please! "

"BILLY APPLEGATE was his name – And he fell on his bike and cracked his head wide open on the edge of the sidewalk! He spent six months in hospital after that- and came back something of a retard"

"Are you sure the same thing didn’t happen to you two?"

"You stop that, Marianne, and try the helmet on? her mother said Marianne put the helmet on and went to the mirror in the hallway

"I look like one of the monsters from "Alien Invasion", I look like a DORK!"

"It’s better to be safe than sorry, her mother said – and if there?s any more complaints I?m taking you down to aunt Cheryl?s beauty parlour and have her give you a crew cut – and then you?ll really want something to cover your head with!?

Marianne took the helmet off and went up to her room. There was no sense in arguing. She knew her mom, and she might just do something like that: When Marianne was just a baby her oldest sister Carol was in her teens and a bit freaky. She wore her hair down to her behind, listened to loud rock music all day long, and one day she told mom and dad she was joining a group of hippies who were driving an old bus to California. The next day mom took her to aunt Cheryl?s beauty parlour, and when she came back all of her long hair was gone and instead she had gotten a ?bob?-haircut with the hair cut just below the ears, really short bangs, and clippered around the nape! ?- Sorry, no squares on our bus?? the hippies told Carol, and left without her. But mom didn?t stop there: to keep Carol occupied mom got her a job washing hair and sweeping the floors at Aunt Cheryl?s parlour. When Carol showed up on her first day Aunt Cheryl told her she had to look neat for the customers; so for the entire nine months Carol worked there she couldn?t grow her hair, but had the ?bob? trimmed by aunt Cheryl every first of the month: bangs, nape and sides ? snip- snip- snip- while aunt Cheryl drank her morning coffee and hummed to one of those Country and Western radio stations she liked. Carol just hated it so much! And she was so mad at their mom she didn?t speak to her for almost a year.

The next day Marianne arrived at the school on her bicycle, wearing the helmet. When she stepped off her bike, she noticed that there were plenty of people riding on bicycles, but NONE of them were wearing a helmet. Of course not, she muttered to herself: nobody wanted to look like a complete idiot – like she did! She decided it was best to sit alone and avoid attention before she had to go and meet her new class and teachers, but the minute she sat down a voice said:

"Hi – I?m Jennifer!" Marianne turned around and saw a girl her own age that was also wearing a bicycle helmet

"I thought I’d better go and talk to you ? you?re the only other person wearing one of these idiotic things! " she pointed to her helmet which was even more idiotic than Marianne’s: It was obviously designed for children and had little pictures off Buggs Bunny and Daffy Duck on it?

"Your mom bought it for you, right?" the girl asked her, and Marianne nodded

"Yeah, the same here, I don’t know what they are thinking – but at least we’re safe from getting dates!"

Marianne laughed, and introduced herself:"I’m Marianne Peters,? she said, ?but just call me Mary??

"I’m Jennifer Albers ? and you can call me Jen" Jennifer was on her second year of High School and she began to explain to Marianne about all the things going on there and who everybody was. After the first week Marianne thought life at the new school had turned out just great. The Classes were a bit dull maybe, but that didn?t matter because she had Jennifer to hang out with and Jennifer knew everybody and where the fun was. This went on well into the early fall until suddenly one day Marianne discovered it wasn?t going to be ALL fun:She and Jennifer had just arrived at the school and where pulling their bicycles along the pavement when she heard a voice coming from behind them:

"Why do you wear those stupid fucking things on your stupid fucking heads?"Marianne turned her head: Behind them stood a girl almost six foot tall, dressed in a black hooded sweatshirt and with straight blond hair that reached to well below her waist. She had a pretty face with high cheekbones, narrow but finely curved lips and a straight nose. Her face was so filled with piercings ? something Marianne hated – that it almost took away the attention from her sparkling green eyes that were dramatically set off by pitch black eye liner.

The blonde girl looked at them with deep contempt?Marianne was almost speechless from the sight of her but managed to say in a low voice. ?Err?my? my mom and dad gave it to me, to protect me if I fall off my ? bike…"

"My maaaaammy gave it to me" the girl said, mocking Marianne?s accent "And what is it with you two, anyway? She continued ? – You?re always hanging out together, are you fucking lesbo dykes or what??

Marianne just looked at her, too scared to say anything.

"And what about you – your maaaamy do these for you every morning?? she pulled one of Jennifer?s braids that was sticking out from under her helmet

"Stop that!? Jennifer shouted and moved towards the girl

?Down little puppy!? the girl said and kicked Jennifer so hard in the stomach she fell to the ground "- Stupid little dyke-girl, go home to year mama and get some warm milk!" the girl sneered, and now she put her knee on Jennifer?s chest and pulled out a switchblade from her sweatshirt: ?it must be awful hot with all that hair under that stupid helmet – let me help you out here!? she grabbed one of the braids and sliced it off with the knife so close to Jennifer?s head, she scratched the skin and blood started pouring out

"STOP THAT" – Marianne was fighting back tears now?

"Go on! Take a swing at me dyke-girl! And I’ll have my posse here in a split-second!" she pointed to the car park behind them: A group of seven or eight pale and thin girls stood gathered around scooters, all wearing black and red hooded sweatshirts and trying their best to look mean and dangerous. All the girls had either deep-red, bleached white or jet-black hair and wore the same thick black eyeliners as the tall blonde. To Marianne they all looked like the scariest people she had ever seen in her life, and a big grey lump of fear began to build up in her stomach.

"Gimme that!" the girl tore the helmet from Marianne’s head and threw it to an Asian-looking girl who pulled up her leather mini skirt and squatted down with the helmet between her legs.

"What is she doing?" Marianne said

"I’m afraid she’s peeing in your helmet Mary!!" Jennifer replied, still cringing on the ground from the brutal kick. The Asian girl rose up, pulled her skirt back in place and threw the helmet at Marianne:

"Lick that off when you’re through licking each other, dyke-shits!" she shoutedThe tall blonde threw Jennifer?s cut-off braid on the grass in front of her and went over to the scooters. She jumped onto the back of one of them and the whole gang revved up the engines and prepared to take off?

"RIDE HARD-DIE FREE, STUPID HELMET-DYKES!? she yelled at them, and the scooters roared out from the car park with the girls fingering them and their impressive hair waving in the air behind them. Marianne stood and stared at Jennifer and her severed braid lying on the grass

? Oh, my God what happened, who were that girl? ? Let me help you up Jen!?

"Don’t mind her, Marianne!" Jennifer said rubbing her stomach"Her name is Rhonda Simmons – her parents are filthy-rich and she’s just hanging out with that scooter gang to irritate them, it’s all bullshit with her!"

"Is that really true? SHE?S got rich parents? – I thought she came from a trailer-park!"

"Oh no – filthy-rich they are, and they’re on the school trustees board too – that’s why she can get away with skipping classes and acting like that – nobody dares to say anything!" Jennifer picked up her braid and looked at it ? well, my mom?s been bothering me about getting a haircut for this summer anyway, I guess it?s time to go now!?

Marianne suddenly had a bright idea and said: ? My aunt Cheryl has a beauty parlour – I bet I can get you a haircut for free? Jennifer?s face lit up: ?but that?s great! Let?s skip the first class and go there now?

Marianne stopped for a moment, and replied ?Oh, well, maybe I was a bit quick there – she has a preference for doing short styles- I mean: really short??

Jennifer smiled ? Mary, look at me: butchered hair on one side of my head, and a braid on the other I?m sure your aunt can make me look a lot better! Let?s go there before we run into my mom!? Marianne smiled and they jumped onto the bicycles.

True to Marianne?s worst fears, aunt Carol decided the only way to even out the difference between Jennifer?s remaining braid on the one side of her head and the uneven short hair on the other side, was to simply buzz her head on both sides! To Marianne?s surprise Jennifer agreed to this and even tried to look happy about it when they left the parlour: ?it?s so much cooler and lighter, It?s just fine?? she said, but not with great conviction.

Life went on for the rest of the term and the two girls quickly recovered from their terrible experience – even if Rhonda and her gang would mock them whenever they saw them, especially Jennifer and her short hair. The two girls just ignored them and hoped they wouldn?t get beat up again, but Marianne dreaded the prospect of having to go through three full years of High school living in fear of the gang.

But suddenly one day during the summer holiday, Jennifer came over to Marianne?s house, and she was in high spirits: "I?ve got news for you Mary: The bitches finally got it!" she said triumphantly

"Who?" said Marianne?

?Rhonda Simmons and her gang, that?s who! – She and two other girls from the gang had an accident with those dumb scooters!?

"Oh my God – that’s terrible!" Marianne burst out

"Oh, come on, Goody Two Shoes – they deserved it! And from what I’ve heard it wasn?t fatal or anything – but we could still hope they?re in a coma and never wake up again!"

"Don’t say that Jen!" Marianne replied, but she couldn’t help feeling some satisfaction.Three weeks later she went down to Walbaugh High for the schools opening. She had arranged to meet with Jennifer at the main entrance, and the minute she got there she saw Jennifer coming straight at her, waving her arms and shouting: "Mary, Mary! I’ve got the most amazing thing to tell you!"

Jennifer was just about to start talking when a big limousine stopped further down the street and none other than the dreaded Rhonda Simmons stepped out. The private chauffeur picked up a brand new mountain-bike from the trunk of the car and handed it to Rhonda. She grabbed it by its handlebars and walked onto the high school grounds, pulling the bike besides her.Jennifer and Marianne could hardly recognise her: She was dressed in a pair of plain khaki shorts and a white t-shirt, her face was without the piercings and heavy eye-makeup – and high on her head she wore what looked like a brand new baby-blue bicycle helmet!

Marianne just stood there staring for a long time: "what happened?? she finally said ? – where are the scooters? The bitchy friends? The piercings and the trailer trash make up? – And why did she put us through hell for wearing bicycle helmets when she’ s wearing one herself now?

"Maybe her accident wised her up about wearing a helmet…" Jennifer replied with a strange tinge to her voice.

"you really think so?" Marianne said, and Jennifer started laughing hysterically:

?Oh, please, Mary, sometimes you just crack me up! – That?s NOT the reason she’s wearing one!"

"What do you mean?" Marianne replied, and Jennifer began rolling her eyes"Oh, this is SO great ? you really haven?t heard the story yet, haven?t you?? Jennifer looked straight at her

"Heard what story?"Jennifer put her arm around Marianne, and tried to control her own laugher.

"Alright – here goes: the accident she and the two other girls had wasn’t so bad, but they hit their heads – Because big bad scooter-chicks don?t wear helmets, remember? – So when they brought them into the emergency ward the doctors scanned their heads, as a routine. They discovered that the injuries on their heads had actually created small clogs of blood inside their skulls – and those clogs had to be removed or they might grow bigger and damage their brains…"


"That meant they had to do surgery on their heads? Jennifer explained, ?and if they have to do surgery on somebody?s head – you know what happens?? she smiled at Marianne, who shook her head.?The head gets SHAVED!?

"They shaved their heads?!"

"Yessuree! All three of them, and ALL over! – Smooth as babies behinds with a razor and all! You can?t have any stupid little hairs getting in the way of medicine!

"Oh, my GOD!? Marianne put her hands on the top of her head ? ? that hair was so long! It will take them ages to grow it back!"

"Oh, but you haven’t heard the best part yet" Jennifer continued:"The doctors said that with injuries like that; new clogs of blood might emerge over time; so for the next year they have to go to the hospital once a week to have their heads scanned"

"For a whole year, that?s just??

"No, listen to me – now comes the REALLY cool part: This scanner they use is so very, very sensitive, and there has to be as little interference between the scanner and the patients skull as possible, so every week when they go there to be scanned: – The nurses shave their heads again!"

"They shave them every week!"

"Oh, YES they do!? Jennifer?s eyes shined with joy, and she parodied a head-nurse?s voice: ? Oh, hi girls, it?s been a whole week hasn?t it? ? Well, let?s get those heads of yours SHAVED, then – come right this way?? ?Isn?t that absolutely fan-fucking-tastic!? she went on: ?- and Brenda?s ugly piercings had to go too, and her daddy said NO MORE scooters, she can ride a bike from now on, and no more bitch-friends and skipping classes, she has to take care of her studies! And believe me: that helmet of hers only comes off when she?s back home in the privacy of Mommy and Daddy?s mansion – just imagine what she must look like underneath it! – And I bet those two other bimbos make sure the hood stays UP on their stupid sweatshirts from now on!?

Jennifer almost went into hysterics and threw herself on the grass; and now Marianne joined in. They stayed on the lawn for some time, laughing, talking and trying to imagine what it was like to be in Brenda Simmons and the other girl?s shoes. Then the clock in the school?s clock tower struck twelve and they had to part to join their classes. When Marianne entered the class room her teacher, Mrs. Parker, noticed something different about Marianne and said:

"You look really good this year Marianne, – a big smile and all!" Marianne didn’t answer but just sat down at her desk. There she sat for a long time and looked at the calendar next to the blackboard. She was thinking to her self: there?s fifty-two weeks in a year. FIFTY-two. She smiled again.

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