Identity Crisis

Freya and Lucy sit on a wooden bench outside the front of their school. Sweet-smelling roses surround them in an ornate garden edged with perfectly shaped hedges and manicured flowerbeds. But instead of savouring the horticultural delights, their gaze fixates on the wrought-iron gates, hoping for a fleeting glimpse of any fit boys passing through the park. All this from their prime sunbathing spot, hoping to brown their legs.

Both girls have a free period, which should be spent catching up on assignments or research. But instead, they sit basking in the sun, chatting about Sarah Myers’ upcoming gathering on Friday night.

“What ‘ya wearing?’ Lucy asks, craning her face towards the sun.

‘Oh, God. I don’t know! Probably my black mini dress with my new platform shoes.”

“You would look good in a potato sack; you always do,” Lucy says.

Lucy admires Freya, possibly even fancies her a little if the truth be known. Freya has been the coolest girl in school since year eight and exudes a magnetic charm. She’s the kind of girl that every lad in the class wants to take on a date but dares not ask; the kind of girl that other girls gravitate towards because she’s funny, confident, and clever without being too up herself; the kind of girl all the teachers love because she gets top grades with seemingly little effort and always hands her work in on time.

The two girls didn’t cross paths until they started sixth form last year and shared the same A-level topics. A few of Freya’s gang had left school after GCSEs, so a position opened up for potential new friends. She’d never noticed Lucy before since she was someone who blended into the background, like an extra on Eastenders, and Freya only hung out with extroverts. But now they sit together and share workbenches during biology lessons, hanging out together outside of school, too.

“Are you going to put Max out of his misery and get with him?” Lucy asks.

“What are you kidding? And then have his smug face showing off to all the other lads? No, way.”

“What drink are you taking?” Lucy asks.

“My dad’s got loads of bottles of red wine; he won’t notice if I pinch one.”

“You’re so lucky. My parents expect me to be grateful for two bottles of Bacardi Breezer!”

 

The next day, Freya is late to class. She rushes in with windswept hair and flushed cheeks.

“So sorry I’m late, Sir,” she says, heading for her usual seat next to Lucy at the back.

Freya is taken aback to find that Lucy is wearing the same denim mini skirt as her, with a matching Aztec-style vest top. The only difference is her cardigan, which is a powder blue instead of the soft pink that she’s wearing.

“You got the memo then!” Freya whispers to her, grabbing her books from her bag.

She’s seething. This isn’t the first time that she’s suspected Lucy of copying her outfit, and whilst she should be flattered, she finds it intensely annoying. Last month, she’d had her hair cut into a cute short bob, and it was only a matter of days before Lucy turned up with the same haircut, albeit her hair a mousey blonde colour compared to Freya’s rich dark chocolate with pink highlights.

“Why are you late?” Lucy says, as though she’s suddenly the teacher’s pet.

“Missed the first bus, and–

“Miss Gosling, first you are late to the lesson, then you disrupt the class by talking. Is it too much to ask for you to give us your attention?” The teacher shouts at Freya, making her feel like she’s back in junior school. Her cheeks burn, and she glares at Lucy, blaming her for making her talk.

During lunch break, Freya sits with Max and Mel – her favourite brother and sister duo – soon to be joined by Alex and Cara – her two besties since year eight. 

There’s the usual banter at the table, with everyone taking the mickey out of Cara for her obsession with Justin Bieber and arguing over who is set to win Love Island. Max is in the middle of killing Bieber’s song ‘Sorry’ when Lucy arrives on the scene.

“What’s this?” Mel says, eying her up and down and then looking at Freya. “Are you two twins now?”

Freya’s stomach knotted up, and she was about to make a smart remark when Lucy beat her to it.

“Well. I can’t help it if she gets her great taste from me.”

Freya splutters, segueing into laughter with the others, but inside, she feels knives stabbing her guts. Who the hell did Lucy think she was?  She’d gone to great lengths to introduce her to all her besties and let her hang out with them, and then she does this?

Freya heads to the loo, where she takes some deep breaths and tops up her orange matte lipstick before adding a fresh line of black wax to her top lid. It’s such an invasion when someone copies your style, she thinks. Her identity is being played with here, and she doesn’t know how Lucy is doing it.

She washes her hands and checks herself in the full-length mirror when the revelation hits her. This morning, she’d posted a full-length selfie on Insta, captured in her bedroom mirror. Clearly, Lucy must have seen her outfit. In fact, it’s where she gets the ‘heads up’ on all her outfits. She decides she will be more cautious in future, angling the camera to hide what clothes she’s wearing.

 

Friday night arrives, and Freya has cancelled arrangements with Lucy, saying Max and Mel are now picking her up. Max recently passed his test and is doing the rounds, picking everyone up for the party. Freya apologises that there’s no space for Lucy but that she will meet her at the party later.  She can’t seem to shift the nauseous feeling that has now developed, realising that Lucy is clearly becoming obsessed with her and is trying to be like her. It’s pathetic, and whilst she knows she should just turn a blind eye, it’s making her angry on a level that she would never have believed she could feel. 

At Sarah Myers’ house, tunes reverberate from the lounge. Sarah, already inebriated with her parents away for the night, greets Freya and the others. There’s a vodka punch bowl in the kitchen, with bowls of Doritos and Pretzels, some dips, and cold pizza slices.

‘You look amazing,” Sarah says, eyeing Freya from head to toe.

“Thanks, I like your top too,” Freya says, munching on a Dorito.  The truth is she spent longer than usual getting ready tonight. She experimented with her makeup a bit, curled her hair meticulously and decided on black tights since her legs were now like crab sticks after too much sun. The Dr Marten shoes add height and a punk vibe, contrasting well with the ultra-short mini dress and the teasing low neckline. Her outfit surmises her signature style.

Freya starts to relax feeling relieved that, perhaps, Lucy isn’t coming after all. Maybe she got the message when Freya had intentionally not saved her a seat in double maths this afternoon and then left after last period before she’d had a chance to say goodbye.  Freya chats and giggles with the other girls, who flock to her like bees to honey.

Taylor Swift echoes from the lounge, and Mel pulls Freya to join her for a dance.

“Come on…” she picks up a few other stragglers en route, and they stagger through to the dimly lit room. A canopy of smoke hovers just below the ceiling, and there’s a distinct smell of weed. A group of girls who are already dancing, part, to make way for them, and that’s when Freya sees her…

There, swaying her hips, waving her gangly arms over her head with her eyes closed in some kind of trance, is Lucy. She’s wearing a mirror image of Freya’s outfit, including black tights and Dr Martens.

“For fuck’s sake,” Freya says. This was no longer a joke.

Freya lunges towards Lucy and grabs her arm, “What the actual hell? Do you get off on copying what I’m wearing? Do you have any idea how annoying you are?”

Lucy’s surprised face looks her up and down before shaking her head and adopting a mask of innocence.

“Omg! I don’t know how that happened. But, you look great, Freya… I love your curls.”

Freya wants to wipe the sickly smile clean off her face, but instead keeps her gaze fixed on Lucy, her eyes boring into hers.

“Yes, you do!  I told you the other day when you asked me what I was wearing, remember?”

“Er, no, not really. Look, I’m sorry if I’ve upset you…”

The knot of anger surges up through Freya’s body, exploding from her mouth.

“I did you a bloody favour this year, letting you hang out with me, and yet you turn into this total weirdo who wants to emulate me…” Freya is now centre of attention, the other girls standing in awkward limbo, unsure how to de-escalate the rising tension.

“I’m sure it was accidental,” Mel says, “You both look really cool, anyway.”

“Don’t make excuses for her.” Freya’s voice is scratchy and cold, “Either she leaves, or I do.”

“Freya, come on. It’s the drink talking,” Mel adds.

In that moment, Freya feels her entire identity being challenged, along with her sanity. Her friends all look at her in disbelief. But it’s not her imagination … Lucy is stealing her identity right under their noses.  

In a blind fury, she raises her arm to slap the whiney little face that stares at her with puppy dog eyes, but just before she swings, Max intercepts and grabs her from behind.

Stunned gasps fill the room, and Lucy retreats, tears streaming down her face.  

Max swings Freya around and stares into her eyes.

“Freya, what’s the matter, babe?”

“She’s what‘s the matter, Max; I can’t stand her another moment.  I don’t want to be near her, and if she doesn’t go, then I’ll go.”

Max sits her down on a beanbag and passes her his lit cigarette.

“Here, hold this for me; let me go and see what’s happening. “

He leaves the room while Mel and Alex come and comfort their bestie.

“We totally get where you’re coming from.” They say, almost in unison.

Freya secretly feels a wave of relief. These guys have got her back. She will make sure to swiftly remove Lucy from their group and get things back to how they were. She will ignore her at school until they finish for the summer break in a week’s time. She can then ask to be moved to a new seat at the beginning of next term.

Max returns five minutes later with a fresh glass of punch for Freya. He informs her that Lucy has left; someone from the year above gave her a lift home. Freya has her victory.

 

It’s the final day of term, and the sports hall is buzzing with energy as the whole school congregates for their final assembly.  Freya fixes her resting bitch face on Lucy as she sits in the row in front of her. She’s wearing chino trousers and a next T-shirt, which is far more her style, and Freya is ecstatic that she finally has her identity back. Lucy shifts in her seat and angles her head to avoid Freya’s glare, which is burning holes into the side of her face.

Before formal assembly starts and prefects are announced for the following year, Miss Hammond takes the stand. Freya is picking at her fingernail, bored, and itching to go to McDonald’s with the gang when assembly ends. 

“And, before we get to other matters, I would like to announce that, with the agreement of the PTA and the governing board, we have decided to make some changes to uniform rules.”

Freya sighs. She’s not interested in what the seniors wear, she’d left that behind her now and wished she didn’t have to be reminded of her younger days by constantly seeing them dotted around the corridors.

Miss Hammond continues, “Due to the inappropriateness of certain garments and safety concerns during lessons, we have decided that all sixth formers will wear uniforms from now on.”  Freya drops her hand on her lap, staring at the speaker in disbelief.

“We believe this will give a better overall aesthetic of the school and bolster our reputation in the wider community.  A detailed list of clothing will go out to parents during the summer holidays, and we expect all pupils to adhere to the dress code starting from next term.”

You could hear a pin drop. Or in Freya’s case a sledgehammer.

She looks up at the back of Lucy’s mousey brown hair, her heart pumping and bile rising in her throat.

She can’t register what she has just heard.

Lucy slowly turns her head until her eyes meet with Freya’s, and the corners of her mouth slowly start to rise. A twinkle gleams in her eye as she gives the biggest ‘fuck you’ smile that Freya has ever seen in her entire life.