Story ~ Fear
Story and song lyrics written by Jana Elizabeth.
Read by Richard Scott.
Voice of Emily by Jana
Sound FX, Music and Dog Yaps by Bertie and Minnie Toy Music Box Sound Effects by Pond5
Now that Emily was 12, she could walk to school without her parents. And even better, she could go with her best friend, Heidi, who lived on the same street as her.
The only problem was, that Emily had to walk the long way round, which took them a good 15 minutes longer. She just could not take the shortcut through the park.
Most days it didn't matter that much, but there were times when it was a real a pain, like when it was raining, or when they were late for registration.
But Heidi never complained. Even if it meant getting a detention for being late, Heidi walked beside her friend.
They had been hanging out at each other’s houses for as long as they could remember. The best times were when they had sleepovers and could sit up late talking about anything and everything and everyone.
So if anyone understood why Emily could not walk through the park, it was Heidi.
Emily was a sweet girl, bubbly in nature and full of fun, except when she was shy at times. She thought it was really tough to be both bubbly and shy - like both parts of her personality were fighting.
And she had an even bigger problem… A problem that affected her daily life, as it caused her to avoid certain places where ‘they’ might be.
She was always conscious of where she went and got quite good at finding ways to avoid bumping into any of ‘them’. It was always in the back of her mind to take a preemptive tactic to keep away from ‘one’. I mean she planned ahead good and proper before she headed outdoors or to a friends’ home. She could spot ‘one’ a mile away! And if ever that happened, she’d hurtle across the road in a flash to the other side, sometimes without thinking. (Which is obviously very dangerous as we all need to be aware of road safety!)
She was beginning to feel that her own fear was hindering her from living life to the full. She was starting to become tired of constantly dodging her big fear:
Big bouncing dogs!
Tiny yappy dogs!
Even the cutest little teddy bear dogs with big puppy eyes!
She was scared of them all!
But the strange thing was, she didn't dislike dogs. In fact she was quite fond of the idea of them.
What she wanted so badly was to be able to pet a dog like ‘normal’ people did. She was sad that she wasn't like her big sister, Lola or Heidi who were able to happily and easily play with a friend’s dog, without going into a full blown panic attack! Poor Emily really felt she was missing out. She had tried many times to pluck up the courage to pet one but just couldn't manage it. There had been brief moments where she very bravely agreed to accompany her parents for their long country walks they enjoyed so much. You see, they lived in a little part of England, called Oxford which is blessed by lush, green countryside. A great place to go for beautiful walks along the River Thames where dog lovers also take their beloved pets for fresh long runs or walks along the meadow.
There were those times when Emily was younger, that she had tried to overcome her fear. She’d muster up the mental strength to venture out for a family walk, and face her fear, but it usually ended in tears and a feeling of dismay.
“Daddy, quick there's a dog coming! Help me!”
“Ok, ok calm down Emily, it's miles away.”
“Oh no, it's off the lead!” she shrieked. “Just hold my hand, it'll be fine,” her dad would say with a reassuring smile. And then she’d hold on to her dad for dear life, heart beating fast, until the owner and perfectly nice dog passed her. It had to be some distance away before she could let go of her dad's hand and breath a sigh of relief again. And it didn't seem to help when she’d watch her sister fussing over a friendly dog, playing with him and tickling his belly and happily talking to his owner about what breed the dog was, how old he was, what his good and bad habits were, how much it cost to groom his coat, and other dog owner chit chat.
She hated the fact she had a mental block when it came to dogs. She had no idea where it came from. People would ask if a dog had bitten her. But no. Nothing like that had happened that would easily explain it. She had no idea where her fear came from?
And the worst part was that her fear sometimes caused her the most excruciating embarrassment.
There was another time, 4 or 5 years back, when the family were out walking in Port Meadow, when a dog wanted to come and say ‘hello’, much to Emily’s horror!
And that was the time her dad absentmindedly let go of Emily's hand to pet the dog and say ‘hi’, back. Emily broke out into uncontrollable hysterics!
She was so frantic that she accidentally wet herself!
The poor owner looked horrified and hastily took her dog away. It took a lot to calm down Emily. Not surprisingly, that was Emily's last outing to the meadow, for a long time.
The next day, her mum and dad gave her a beautiful music box. Emily’s parents hoped it would make her feel better.
It had a little song and the words were:
“Thank you my friend
For lifting my heart
Thank you my friend
For taming my soul
I was unruly..
Sing this happy song,
No more being afraid..”
She liked to listen to it at night when she was lying in the dark.
Occasionally the whole dog thing got to her and she would cry: “Mummy, why can't I be like Lola? Why am I so afraid of dogs and she isn't? Why am I so different from everyone else?”
Lola, for instance had a part time job as a receptionist at the dentist surgery where Emily was registered. She hadn’t told Emily that the dentist had a dog. A huge Doberman called Max. But he was a gentle giant, who slept under the desk. When Emily was standing there once, he licked her leg - and I needn’t tell you that Emily completely freaked out.
Her mother would try to console her, “Darling, there's nothing wrong with you. Honestly have you seen Lola when a spider gets near her? You'd think a murder was taking place! What I'm trying to say is, that lots of people have fears of different kinds - you're not alone. I know it's hard for you because you know how much Lola wants a puppy. Daddy and I have discussed and agreed that we’ll put it on the back burner for now. We’ve told Lola that we have to postpone the idea for now but will consider it when the time is right.”
“Lola said she hated me Mummy,” Emily said tearily. “And she called me a freak!”
“Yes I know,” replied her mother with a sigh. “We all talked about this and Lola did apologise to you. Look I'm sure your phobia will pass as you get older. I don't think it'll be a problem forever, ok?”
“I hope so Mummy,” said Emily drying up her sniffles in her mothers’ blouse.
But it was a problem. And then, it became an even bigger problem. Probably the worst thing that could have happened, happened.
Her best friend got a dog.
“How could you do this to me?” was her reaction when Heidi broke the news about her fluffy brown and white cavalier spaniel puppy.
“But he’s so sweet,” said Heidi, “and besides I didn’t want to do this to you. My mother has always wanted a dog, and now she’s working part time, she can take him for walks.”
“But.. but.. I’ll never be able to come to your house again!” Emily exploded.
And the next day she got up ten minutes early to walk to school on her own.
And when Heidi arrived at school, Emily ignored her.
That evening, Emily’s mum asked what was the matter. But she did not reply. She went straight up to her room and put her headphones on.
And while she was lying there she wondered if she would avoid Heidi the next day. And the day after. And what would she say if she bumped into her ex-best friend on the street - and what if she had her little dog with her? How in the world would she keep wearing a ghost face then?
And then she thought about how they had played together.. since they were just three years old. And how Heidi had walked the long way round with her, even when it was raining, even when they were late for the school bell. Heidi had been very supportive to Emily over the years and she realised she couldn't lose her best friend over this.
And she got up, went out the front door, and walked round to Heidi's house, a few doors down, and rang the bell. The first thing she heard was a shrill little ‘yap yap’. She shuddered. Even though she could tell from the sound that it was only a tiny little thing that made it - practically a mouse you might have thought - that didn’t help. She felt a familiar foreboding. Heidi’s dad opened the door. He said, “Oh, hello Emily. Heidi’s in the back room cleaning up some pee with disinfectant. Her mother made her sign a contract that she would commit to. She’s never been fond of dogs, but gave in, in the end because she begged her for one so much.”
Emily thought for a moment, “Really?”
“I suppose you’ve come round to see Schumfy?” said Heidi’s dad. “We can’t help loving the little scamp, he knows he’s cute and can get away with anything.”
“Yes, I’m really looking forward to giving him a cuddle,” said Emily. It was a lie but not as big as the one Heidi had told.
She opened the door to the back room, and saw the little thing come bounding towards her.
“Ahh!” She quickly slammed the door.
“Emily, are you ok?” said Heidi’s voice through the door. Emily was too busy taking deep breaths to answer. Eventually she said, “Hold his collar. I’m coming in.”
Soon she was facing her fear! Schumfy was about ten inches long, had floppy ears, and was scrabbling to be released from Heidi's firm grip. His claws were scratching frantically on the floor, as he tried to come near enough to greet her. She turned away her head. “All right, let me stroke him.” It took all her courage to say that.
She cautiously pet the little wriggling bag of fluff for at least ten seconds. It wasn’t long. But it was a start.
And that was ‘Fear’, written by Jana Elizabeth and read by me Richard Scott, for Storynory.com.
And Jana is going to do a little piece about phobias under the section of the website called ‘Jana’s Studio’.
She has written a short article with her personal take on fears and phobias, including an interview with a child/adolescent psychiatrist.
She’s also got other plans up her sleeve with upcoming music, more interviews and articles on factual topics including a fun interview with ‘yours truly’ coming up soon. So look out for that!
For now, from me, Richard, goodbye.