Part One

Daisy

1. Girl in the mirror

I am
               Daisy.
As ordinary as the flower.

I’d like to be
               brave
                              brash
                                           bonkers.

I’d love to be
               fiesty
fierce
free.

Or blonde
bold
bad.

But I’m not.
Fifteen years old
and as ordinary as
daisies.

2. I don’t like school

According to the science teacher
everything on earth
is made of
atoms.

Metal, wood, plants,
ev-ery-thing.
Even ourselves.

Made of teeny tiny invisible
atoms.

But she’s wrong.

At school,
everything is made of
rules.

Especially the teachers.

Take Mrs Clarke, the year head, for example.
If she cut herself,
bleeding painfully,
she would drip rules
not blood.

She opens her mouth and
out
shoots
a barrage of
complaints
threats
orders.

Don’t wear your skirt like that!

Don’t walk there!

Don’t wear make-up!

Don’t talk to me like that!

Don’t run!

Don’t leave your bag there!

Don’t!
Don’t!
Don’t!
Don’t!

‘Don’t bother!’

says Erin.

As long as I have Erin,
everything is ok.

3. Bestie

There’s no better friend under the sun than Erin.

She’s my
BFF
Best Friend Forever.

We go together like a
               bucket and spade
               tea and biscuits
               thunder and lightning
               Wifi and password.

4. Purple Polish

Erin is lying on my bed

pointing her feet like a dancer

brushing strokes of
               sparkly
                              purple
                                             polish
                              onto her toes.

‘Did you hear that Maeve is going out with Ronan again?’
she says
rolling her eyes and laughing.
‘We’ll never hear the end of it,’ I sigh.

Maeve loves talking
herself up
even more than she loves
talking down
to us.

Erin can imitate Maeve’s voice perfectly.
She jumps up from the bed,
hand on cocked hip,
just like Maeve.
She poses a pout on her face.
‘Daisy, sweetie,’ she says in a
               stretched
                              breathy
                                              drawl.
‘Have you had a boyfriend yet, honey?’

Then the fake laugh
like breaking glass
exactly like Maeve.

5. The Feudal System

We learned about the Feudal System in first year.
There were diagrams, showing the

                                                                           King
                                                             the Lords
                                              and the Knights, keeping control of
                               The lowly people, the Peasants at the bottom.

We’re still operating in a feudal system here.

Maeve and her disciples are at the top.
They’re not rich, but
                              beautiful.
                                             Preening peacocks
                                                            posing in the mirror.

Next are the sporty ones.
               Athletic, lithe, driven.

Under that comes
                              the clever.
(As long as they socialise
and mask the fact that
they’d rather have their
noses
stuck in a book.)

Second from the bottom are the
               boring people.
We are the plain ones
like
               vanilla ice-cream
               salted crisps
               bread and butter.
We’re not different enough to be at the bottom.

With the
               oddballs,
               the misfits,
               the nerds
on the outside looking in.

6. A cup of tea

Knock knock
on my bedroom door.

Mum,
tea in hand for me.

A cup that says
               welcome-home-from-school
and

               is-everything-alright?
and

I’d-like-to-check-you’re-not-on-your-phone-instead-of-doing-your-homework.

7. The Stone Age

I’ve never counted
the number of times
my mum says
‘put down your phone’
in one day.

The figure would be like
               the number of keys on the keyboard
                              or daisies in the garden.

But I have to remember
that she herself was a teenager
in another time
on another planet
without internet.

Without.
Internet.

Imagine that.

She tells stories
of life before Google.
In the Stone Age.
Trips to the library
to do homework
because all the information lay
in books.
Number-freckled index cards
telling you
the location of books
in the absence of a digital catalogue.

Maps made of paper,
directions from strangers.
Getting lost.

You didn’t see a photograph
before you paid hard cash in a shop
to have them printed.
Pictures were without filters.
#nofilter
#ouch

It should come as no surprise that
Mum doesn’t understand.

Máire Zepf was the first Children’s Writing Fellow of Northern Ireland in 2017–2019. She has written over sixteen books for children ranging from picture books to a young adult verse novel. She has won the KPMG/CBI Children’s Book of the Year, two White Ravens, two Oireachtas Awards for Fiction, and much more for her writing. She is also an active community organizer, creating workshops and collaborating with various artists and writers. She strives to inspire children and works in both Irish and English. Nóinín / Daisy, excerpted here, won an Oireachtas Award for Fiction and was nominated for the 2020 KPMG Children’s Book of the Year.

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