Unbullied is a YA novella that I coauthored with my granddaughter under pen names Alexa & Angel
Dumas. We dedicate this book to victims of bullying across the country and around the world.
Bullying is a serious issue that affects millions of children.
Daddy would never do this to me. Never. The thought buzzed in Kylee Sidhu’s head like a swarm of wasps.
Sitting on the edge of her bed, she stared in mid-air, tense energy pulsing in her ears. She pressed two fingers to her temples to calm her roiling emotions, but her anxiety slowly morphed into anger, slicing through her mind like a knife through butter.
How could she stay calm when Coquitlam was the last place on earth she wanted to be? Deep in thought, she hugged her knees, resting her chin on them. These feelings had been storming through her since Amelia Bennett Sidhu—her mother—announced her decision. HER decision.
Kylee’s opinions didn’t seem to matter to Amelia—although they should have—now more than ever, because now it was Kylee and Amelia against the world.
A crease formed between her eyebrows as the image of herself stared back from a full-size mirror hung on her door.
She’d been told she was pretty to a fault. Her freckle-sprinkled nose twitched. Now, she didn’t see beauty. All she saw was misery. The usual sparkle in her green eyes was gone and replaced only by sadness and something else…
Constantly, Amelia told her she loved her, but her actions proved otherwise.
Why didn’t she ever listen to what Kylee had to say? She was her mother. Wasn’t listening part of motherhood?
Had she ever heard Kylee’s concerns? Likely not—not the words, not the door slamming, not the angry exchanges.
So they had packed ten suitcases with their most precious possessions, and Charlie—their dog. At least, Amelia had agreed to bring Charlie.
A suppressed, almost silent groan forced its way from behind Kylee’s gritted teeth. Her dark hair gleamed under the fluorescent light as she shook her head.
Why did we have to move to this God-forsaken town? I hate her! Kylee’s mind screamed.
Everything was different here. No, everything was the exact opposite from their lives in London. Their house was old, not new. The streets were quiet, not noisy. The ground was sloping, not flat—in fact, their house stood on a hill high enough to reach God. And, to top it all, she had no friends in Coquitlam. Likely, she never will.
And what the heck kind of name is that? Why couldn’t we stay in a town with a name that I could actually pronounce? And spell.
Not one good reason to move, except her mother’s new job—English Professor at the University of British Columbia—which according to her mother, would allow them to live a very comfortable life.
We had a comfortable life. In London.
In less than a week, Kylee would start school.
“You’ll make new friends,” her mother had repeatedly told her.
“That’s not fair,” she had protested, and like most fourteen-year-olds, Kylee guessed, she did her best to hate her mother for making her move.
“Look, we need to do this, you know that.”
No, she didn’t know that. If there was a point to her mother’s argument, Kylee must’ve missed it, but clearly, her mother had made up her mind. Nothing that Kylee said or did would change Amelia’s mind, so Kylee stopped arguing. In fact, beyond the absolute necessary exchanges, she stopped talking with her mother altogether.
Now, what? she wondered.
Would she make new friends, like her mother had promised, or would she eat alone at lunch? Would she ever go to a school dance? Would she ever go to the malls?
Questions… Questions… Questions.
She had left all her friends behind in London. Noah was her best friend in the whole world. She and Noah had known each other their whole lives.
Kylee’s gaze shifted to a picture of her and Noah, propped against a lamp. The picture of them, holding hands as they learned to walk, was taken on their first birthday. She picked it up and sighing, she gently caressed her thumb over Noah’s face.
He was five thousand miles away. They had promised to email and call each other every day. But realistically, they both knew that even if they kept their promise for a while, it would never last. It was human nature to leave the past in the past. In fourteen years of life, she’d learned that much.
Frustrated and scared, Kylee slouched back between soft pillows piled against the headboard. Hugging her knees to her chest again, she searched her mind for a seed of hope. Her research had revealed that Canadians were warm and welcoming people.
Perhaps you should just relax, Kylee, and see what happens, she tried to comfort herself.
“Mum told me that if I stay out of everyone’s way, I should be okay,” Kylee scorned aloud. The silence didn’t argue with her.
She laughed. Probably the most pathetic, sad laugh that ever left her mouth. She heard the despair in it, as a soft knock on the door interrupted her parody. The door opened, and Amelia peered into the room.
“Are you all settled?” her mother asked in her soft British accent.
Kylee’s eyes shifted away from her mother. She was still upset with her.
“Oh, come on, sweetheart. Don’t tell me you will never speak to me again.”
Kylee rolled her eyes but said nothing. Amelia reached and gently patted her daughter’s back. “You know I need this job. Hopefully, now we can start fresh here.”
“You’ve ruined my life!” Kylee shouted louder than she’d intended. Lowering her feet to the ground, she stomped into her bathroom slamming the door behind her.
Amelia sighed and walked out of the room, closing the door with a soft click. She stopped and in a moment of desperation, pressed her palm against the door.
What am I going to do with you, Kylee?
She inhaled deeply and released it in frustration. If she knew something about her daughter, she knew she would not be able to sway Kylee’s standpoint tonight.
Teenage hormones, she found herself thinking, but deep down she knew it was more than that. Since she’d made the announcement, she had often pondered if aliens had abducted her real daughter, because that’s how turned backward she was.
Amelia knew Kylee had reached those special years—torn between the easy life of a child and the enthralling one of a teen, but Amelia felt there was more. A lot more. She had a feeling Kylee blamed her for Rahul’s death.
Kylee had not cried since January 27th, the day her father died, but her school counselor had told Amelia not to worry.
“She’s still in shock. Even if she blames you, she doesn’t really mean it,” Ms. Lancelot had said.
Perhaps it was my fault.
If she hadn’t argued with him, Rahul wouldn’t have taken his eyes off the road.
NoNoNo. I will not go there again.
But just then, the sound of someone’s tires screeching on the pavement outside, sliced through the silence like a high-pitched scream, triggering old memories.
Amelia closed her eyes, fighting images that played at the edge of her mind. However, the wailing sounds proved to be stronger, and fragmented colors pulled together forming images from that fateful day. Each new picture felt more vivid than the last, reminding Amelia that her husband was dead, and she might have been responsible.
She shivered. The memories persisted. Emotional. Scornful. As usual, guilt swept over her.
She was there again…smelling burned rubber and hearing metal parts grinding on the icy road.
The snow had fallen in thick fluffy flakes over a compact layer of ice, and Rahul seemed to think that because he drove a four-wheel-drive he didn’t need to worry about road conditions.
Amelia and Rahul had been celebrating their fourteenth wedding anniversary when they got into an argument about Amelia wanting to return to work full time.
They carried their argument outside the restaurant and into the car, each getting more heated as the words flew back and forth.
Amelia remembered it vividly. “Why can’t you understand, Rahul? You refuse to see how important this is to me.”
“When Kylee was born we agreed that you would be a stay-at-home mom. Now you want to leave our young daughter to fend for herself. You know she’s at a vulnerable age.” Rahul hit the steering wheel with the flat of his hand, frustration emanating from him in waves. “We don’t need the money, Amelia.”
“It’s not about the money. I miss my job. I miss my life outside of being just Kylee’s mom or Rahul’s wife. I need to be Amelia, too. Please try to understand.”
He cut a glance at her, which clearly said he did not understand. They were still arguing as they approached the turnoff, Amelia knew that Rahul was going too fast, but before she could say it aloud, the car skidded and flipped. Everything seemed surreal as the car rolled in slow motion. Amelia couldn’t tell how many times it rolled or even when it stopped rolling.
Slowly, she became aware of the metallic taste of blood in her mouth. The car settled, engulfing her in silence as she drifted in and out of consciousness.
Two weeks later, she awoke in the hospital—the same day Rahul died.
From that point on, Amelia seemed just to go through the motions of life. She had loved him so much that the news of his death had brought her whole world crumbling down. Therapy had helped, but her attitude generally might have rubbed on Kylee.
No, no, no! I’ll not go there again. I won’t waste time on things I can’t change. It was just an unfortunate accident.
Brushing her dark thoughts away, Amelia walked into her tiny kitchen, considering what to make for dinner. She had two choices—frozen convenience food, or stuff she needed to chop and season.
I’m definitely not chopping anything tonight.
She grabbed a frozen lasagne out of the freezer and slammed it into the oven. Brushing her hands at a job well done, Amelia headed for the living room where she collapsed into an oversize rocking chair. She flicked through the television channels, trying to find a good show—one that would cheer her up.
Flu season had started and threatened to be a bad one. ISIS had kidnaped more Western journalists. More beheadings in the Middle East. A teenage girl was arrested in Toronto after stabbing five people, including one of her teachers.
Is there any good left in this world? Amelia wondered.
The screen flickered its images through her mind as if the whole world had turned upside down. She shook her head feeling the blood leave her skin and continued to look for something more positive to watch. When nothing satisfied her, she tossed the remote onto the coffee table and walked over to a picture of Rahul, Kylee and herself, propped on top of the fireplace mantel.
She let her fingers trail down Rahul’s face then linger over the picture. For more than a year since his death, she’d been angry with him for leaving her. Then angry with herself for blaming him. Perhaps now she could finally put all that behind and start a new life. If she could only reach Kylee.