This a foray into a specific character for me. This story isn’t horrific but Gertie is one of my favourite characters so I decided to throw it up!
Gertie Myers plodded into work that Monday in her black flowing skirt and sensible shoes – her head slightly bowed and with her limp blonde hair falling over her pale makeup free face. She looked at the floor all the way into the office and avoided eye contact and slipped ungracefully on to her chair in the office. She had no friends as such in work. She had nothing in common with her colleagues. For one thing they were all obsessed with fitness – they talked of nothing but triathlons, Zumba, cross fit, Tabata and some other names of things that sounded like torture to Gertie even though she didn’t know what they were! Then there were the shakes – green and gloopy and full of god knows what! She was sure that some of them had Orthorexia! An unhealthy obsession with diet and exercise for sure anyway!
That morning a sense of excitement buzzed throughout the flimsy office cubicles with walls as thing as cardboard. One of the noisiest and most annoying people in the office flitted from one cubicle to another signing people up to the Miss and Mr. Toughathlon competitions. She stopped at every cubicle and rounded up people for the event like lambs to the slaughter! They were no match for her enthusiasm and forceful personality. Their skinny-limbed, weedy Team Lead was even persuaded to sign up for the event which would happen in two months’ time. But she never stopped at Gertie’s cubicle! Gertie slumped even lower in the chair than before.
At lunchtime they chattered incessantly of nothing but the competition. No-one wanted to discuss the nightly soaps with Gertie and at this stage she never even tried to initiate lunchtime conversation. She sat there looking downwards, quickly ate her ham sandwich every day and then plodded back to her desk trying to avoid her colleagues as much as she could. That day she felt more downtrodden than usual and like an outcast from the others in the office.
That night Gertie had the most vivid and colourful dream since her childhood when she had allowed her imagination to run riot, before she had let disappointments stop her from truly living her life. She was Gertie, but not Gertie as she knew her. She looked confident and slimmer than in real life. She could feel the determination and excitement pumping through her veins. She completed the race, in her dream she was confident and energetic in her brightly coloured leggings and tank top. She outran all of her colleagues bounding over the obstacles – two defiant streaks of mud on her face. Her alarm clock sounded just as she was crowned Miss Toughathlon
She still had a smile on her face when she was about the house dressing in her usual black outfit – black cardigan, black top, black skirt and black shoes no matter what the Season! She took one look at herself in the mirror and ripped off her black top putting on a vibrant purple top in its favour. She still put on the black cardigan over it but it was a start! The euphoria feeling from her dream stuck with her all the way to work. She had never felt this way (well not she remembered) and she was determined to try to keep the feeling.
She was going to sign up for Miss Toughathlon!! She would do it even if she had to walk the 10km and walk around all the obstacles. She started walking every evening for a couple of weeks. Then she broke it up with jogging. She had really started to enjoy her ‘wogging’ as she liked to call it.
She began to feel more and more confident and even started to look her work colleagues in the way into her desk. She still kept her plan to herself. She couldn’t bear if someone ridiculed her idea. So she built up to a jog on her evenings and began to do some home workouts. Everyone in work noticed a change in Gertie but due to her black shirts her physical change wasn’t visible to the naked eye! She wasn’t skinny by any means but she no longer felt her tummy and buttocks wobble when she walked!
The day of the toughathlon finally came and Gertie grew nervous. As she registered near the start line she once again silently cursed her mother for giving her such an old-fashioned matronly name! No baby girl should ever be called Gertrude!! She felt slightly uncomfortable in her new fitted navy and fluorescent green sports top and matching leggings. As she went near the Starting point she saw Catherine. She shouted hello to her ‘Hey Gertie!! Jesus there’s actually a fine pair of legs underneath those black skirts of yours! I never knew you were doing this! Do you want to join us for the race?’ This is probably the point in the story that Gertie should have said yes but after years of saying no to everyone and everything she couldn’t quite force it out of her mouth. She shook her head to motion No and looked downwards. She could definitely manage the muddy run and obstacle course alone she tried to convince herself.
The start whistle blew and people screamed and cheered as they ran off in giant groups. She couldn’t be the only one doing it alone surely? She jogged along towards the first obstacle. She managed the tyre swing easily and with only minimal mud cover! She took some of the smelly mud and smeared two streaks on each of her cheeks just like the dream. Next was a muddy hill to traverse. Gertie had plodded along her whole life so she slowly plodded her way up bypassing many others who slid back as they tried to run up the obstacle. She felt a small swell of pride when she stood at the top of the hill and then slid down the other side with a squeal of delight.
She completed obstacle after obstacle. Some caused her more difficulty than others, like the swim through the thick mud that felt like quicksand! She now neared the 7k mark! Crowds of spectators lined the sides of the course clapping and screaming words of encouragement. She was actually going to do this!!
Even though her legs started to feel slightly shaky and her arms ached she jogged onwards.
She felt her heart sink as she approached the second last obstacle. A giant ten foot wood structure rose in front of her. For the first time in the race she regretted her decision not to join her colleagues. She felt her old self-deprecating feelings flooding back over with all the force of a powerful flood. She couldn’t do this, why has she ever thought she could. Taunts from earlier years from her bullying popular classmates echoed now in her brain. “Dirty Gertie” they had called her.
She pushed the thoughts aside as best she could and decided she would just have to walk this one obstacle although she felt and looked deflated. Suddenly at the top of the wooden wall a face popped over the top. It was Catherine. Oh God, now she’s seen me fail she thought!! Gertie she shouted as loud as ever!! Jump up and we’ll try to pull you over!! Two more faces appeared and hands. She’s never spoken to the other girl and boy but their faces looked genuine. Praying this wasn’t a trick she ran and least at the wall narrowly missing their hands. She slid back to the end of the muddy wooden wall. The old Gertie would have walked away at this point but ever since the dream something deep inside Gertie had awakened!
She paced back from the wall and took a deep breath; she ran and jumped as high as she could. Thankfully her foot had caught on a tiny piece of wood and with their help she had mounted the wall!! They clapped her on the back and cheered!! They all went to the last obstacle as a group. By this stage Gertie was exhausted and every day part of her hurt but she tried to jog to keep up with the others. They waited for her to finish the race together and even though Gertie was the last to cross the line they looked happier than the winners!!
Gertie had crossed more than the finish line of Toughathlon that day! She had crossed the invisible line she’d created for herself as a barrier to people to protect herself. Gertie knew now that she had taken the easy way out and shut herself off from all the bad things that people could do to her but she’d also shut herself off from the good things. Gertie looked head on at her colleagues and smiled. She vowed never to look down again and would face life head on. It wouldn’t always be good but now she could face that. They looked at her mud-streaked happy face and wondered why they’d never seen her smile before. Even through the mud her happiness shone out of her whole face, her bright blue eyes brought to life against the brown streaks and of mud and in that moment Gertie was beautiful. Though she hadn’t won the crown she was the most deserving of the title of Miss Toughathlon 2016!
The Corpse Bride,