Letters.

Dear 5-year-old Seò,

When you’re 14 a boy from school will put his hand up your skirt. You will push him off and tell him to fuck off; you will shout it in the middle of the lunch hall and heads will turn. When you walk away, he will follow you. He will grab you by the shoulder and turn you round to face him. He will grab your hand and stab a pencil through it, and then you will pass out from shock.

The teacher will turn to him and say; “what have we told you about this behaviour, it’s silly”, knowing that I am just another name on a long list of other complaints. Rumours of him attempting to unhook girls bras during social dancing have been long accepted. But she will turn to you and tell you that your language was unacceptable, that violence was not tolerated in the school. That you should have kept your mouth shut. She’ll look down at you and tell you that if you can’t say anything nice then you shouldn’t say anything at all. She will ironically tell you to keep your hands to yourself. She will later call your mum but skip the “a male pupil groped your daughter” detail of the story, she will only tell her that you pushed someone and called him nasty names. You’ll be angry from now on.

Dear 16-year-old Seò,

I could tell you that in the future, you should ignore that boy holding the guitar; to not text him back after meeting him for the first time; to ghost him; don’t agree to a second meeting and then a third and a fourth. I could tell you not to meet his family; to spend the weekend at his house; don’t go on a sunny holiday to Spain with his family. I could tell you to not fall for his performed faint after he grabbed your neck and you got scared, I could beg you to not run over to him with open arms ridden with misplaced guilt; don’t cry; don’t apologise for getting scared. But I can’t tell you that, and I’m sorry.

Dear 19-year-old Seò,

All I’m going to say to you is, no matter what happens during the next two years of your life. It was not your fault. You did nothing wrong. He did.

There are days where you will feel dirty; consumed with shame that pins you down at night. There are days where you take the anger you feel towards yourself out on your skin and you will feel like you deserved that stinging feeling. It was not your fault.

You did not allow it to happen to you, he did this to you. He should feel that shame that weighs down on your ribs, making it impossible to breathe and makes you choke on tears. Don’t let people tell you that he broke you or that he’s stolen something from you, the only thing he took from you was time and your copy of Pornography by The Cure. You are not an empty home; nothing has been gutted from you. You are not a shadow of who you once were, no matter how much you feel like a ghost. You are not a broken doll. He has taken nothing from you. You are whole.

Dear 21-year-old Seò,

You will swim in the sea. You will go for long drives. You will sing and dance with friends. Strangers will become sisters who hold you up. You will feel the sun on your face. You will forget the dates. You will cut your hair short. You will grow it long. You’ll grow lavender in the garden. You will be in rooms full of people who love you. You will learn to love your own company. You will forgive yourself. You will have off days. You will feel empowered. You will read what you like. You will doze in the park. You will buy sunflowers for yourself. You will smile in photos. You will watch the bumblebees. You will feed the pigeons. You will find power in the small things you lost. You will run for the last train home. You will sing Taylor Swift songs in the car. You will shift that blame. You will have long baths. You will find things that pull you forward. Trust me.

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Seonaid

History & Publishing Studies graduate. Gàidhlig and Scots enthusiast. Book fan and occasional writer.