They called her the Beast
They called her the Beast. She wasn't ugly or particularly bad looking. But they called her that anyway.
I didn't know her. Brief conversation while we were in line for the microwave was the extent of our relationship. I first heard the term "The Beast" when we were sorting the Valentine candygrams after school.
A boy in my class had sent a See's Candy lollipop to another boy. The note had said, "From the Beast." I had disregarded it as a boys-will-be-boys thing. I didn't intend to get tangled up in their cruelty to each other. It wasn't something that I was all that concerned with. Sure it was mean, but guys could hold their own against each other.
The day of delivery, I noted it again. "That's really mean," I remarked to the trusted eighth grade homeroom teacher.
"What is?" she asked, looking at me questioningly.
I read the note aloud.
"That is," she agreed.
"I wonder who it is…" I mused to myself, note in my hand.
Two of the more "in" girls looked at each other.
Apparently the homeroom teacher noticed too. "Do you know who it is?" she asked.
One nodded reluctantly. "Yeah. It is really mean," she said.
"Do you say anything when they call whoever it is that?" she asked again. I inwardly smiled. Good ol' Ms. Murphey.
The other nodded vigorously. "Yeah!" she said emphatically. "But they didn't listen."
I almost scoffed a sarcastic 'yeah right' but restrained myself. The two were favorites of the guys who were probably the creators of the nick name. That particular spot in the guys' hearts was one by not speaking up.
But asking around some (the idea of not knowing something like the identity of someone who was being gossiped about by the guys of our school is something that bothered me) I found out that the Beast was not, in fact, a boy, but a girl. A seventh grade girl who went by the name Chaney Andrews.
She was a slim brunette with unruly curls and a face very slightly plagued by the acne that was present in almost every teenage girl's face at that time. But she was pretty in a plain way and awkward in an endearing way and I felt bad for her. She had done nothing to attract this attention from the eighth grade boys except been unconcerned with things like makeup or attention. She was just there, floating on the outer edges of our consciousnesses as the "New Girl in Seventh Grade." My friends and I had better things to do then contemplate the new seventh graders but this brought her to my attention.
There was a small contingency of girls in the seventh grade who were quite unlike the rest. They did not wear navy Hollister jackets and dark washed skinny jeans. They did not spend hours in front of the bathroom sinks examining their chins or stick straight hair.
They were the girls who were still in that extremely uncomfortable niche of adolescence; the ones who represented the awkward main characters in teenage dramas. Yet there was no Prince Charming for this group. Nor was there any kindness from their peers. Maybe this was because they really weren't Hollywood beauties who immediately become noticed after they shed their glasses and ponytail.
They were a nice group, always willing to talk and seemingly always there for each other. They minded their own business.
And as I stared up at my ceiling, I contemplated. Earlier that week, a boy and I had been looking at the pictures on the Yearbook website.
"Oh, it's the…" he trailed off awkwardly, shooting a furtive glance my way.
I frowned. "That's really mean," I said.
"I didn't say it!" He was already defensive.
"Still!" I cried.
We were quiet after that and he wandered off to lick his wounds.
Another friend of mine of the male persuasion had said it that week as well. We were sitting in a group of a few of friends during break, lounging about like the snooty, presumptuous eighth graders we were when a girl mentioned Chaney Andrew's name.
"Oh, the Beast!" he had said with gusto in recognition.
I said nothing, gloomily looking down at my shoes and wondering why the people of our school were such jerks.
Remembering these things, my eyes traced a pattern on one of the pictures I had taped to my ceiling. Was I any better? I didn't say anything to them after they said the offensive name.
I confided in another friend the next day.
"It's like emotional rape!" I said dramatically as I tossed my milk carton in the nearby trash can.
She nodded, "Yeah. She's never done anything to them and they're such jerks!"
There was no question as to who these "jerks" were. The eighth grade boys' morality had declined over the summer and the effects of that was obvious and prolific when one looked hard enough.
"But," I said quietly. "Am I any better? I mean I don't say anything."
"Of course you are!" she said, surprised. "You aren't the one saying it, are you? Besides, what can you do? Even if you do say something, they're not going to stop."
It was an obvious reminder of my power amongst not just the guys of our school but guys in general. Maybe another girl, a more charismatic, social butterfly kind of girl could have turned the tides for Chaney Andrews but I wasn't the one to do it.
"And you know what's worse?" she continued angrily. Without waiting for a reply, she continued on, "It's not even that good of a laugh for them. It's what, thirty seconds of laughter? This is gonna effect her for the rest of her life, I mean if she finds out."
I nodded, "Yeah! And even still, they say she doesn't know about it. She may not know the specifics but you can tell if someone is saying stuff like that. You just can."
This exchange made me feel better but not completely. It was still happening. This cruel form of junior highers' bullying would follow Chaney Andrews for the rest of her life and it wasn't even that good of a joke.
A girl with curly hair ran into her room and slammed the door loudly. No one was home. She threw herself onto her bed and sobbed into a worn out horse stuffed animal. Her body shook. She looked to be about fourteen and is wearing a flattering pair of jeans and a well fitted top. A closer look would show the dirt stains.
There was no one there to listen to her cries or rub a gentle hand over her back. She cried alone, mulling over her pain. Thinking about what just happened.
"Relax," she told herself fiercely. "This happens to girls all the time, it's no reason to go flying off the handle."
But her words didn't soothe her for she cried still. Cried and cried as if with the tears, the feeling of injustice and violation would flow out.
She lay there for a while, too drained to count the minutes. After a while she lifted herself up and walked into the bathroom. She took a long shower and emerged with her skin slightly raw looking and her eyes still red and puffy but she had stopped crying.
She put on some pajama pants and a baggy shirt and stared morosely at the wall. She leaned against the pile of pillows, stuffed horse in her arms.
She sorted through the memories of that night. A frenzied flurry of hands to rid her of clothing. Back to the flashbacks. The pain. The jeering smiles of those older boys who she didn't know. Grunting. That moment when she overheard them talking about her. The Beast. Thrusting. Not stopping. Never stopping.
"I just wanted to feel loved," she whispered to the empty room.