My first piece was named “Puck.” I went down to the stationer’s to buy it on tick, and the ginger-haired boy served me, and his face had a rust-colored blush, like a dock leaf in autumn, because he had to go to the small room at the back of the shop and ask his parents if it would be all right to serve me, as our bill had not been paid. On my way home with “Puck,” I met Hessie Sutton and smiled at her, shyly and excitedly, but when she glanced at the parcel under my arm and the music half wrapped, and gave an understanding smile, my face clouded in a fierce frown. How dare she see me and divine my excitement! How dare she! How I hated her!
That afternoon, when I went for my lesson, she heightened my sense of shame. “I saw you.” She pounced as soon as I entered the room. “I saw you,” she said, like a detective giving evidence, “coming home with your new piece of music. I guessed how excited you were!”
"I wasn’t caring at all," I said sullenly.
"Yes, you were," Hessie Sutton insisted. "I saw it in your face! I knew!"
I did not understand why she should appear so triumphant, as if by seizing on a momentary aspect of my behavior she had uncovered a life of deceit in me. Why, she honked with triumph like the soldier who brought back the golden horn from the underworld as proof of the secret activities of the twelve dancing princesses! I did not realize that people’s actions are mysteries that are so seldom solved.
"I knew, I knew!" Hessie Sutton kept saying as I sat down to try out "Puck."
From that day, I no longer enjoyed my music lessons. I was weary of being spied upon. People were saying, observing me closely, “She’s filling out, she’s growing tall, look at her hair, isn’t that Grace’s chin she’s got, and there’s no doubting where her smile comes from!”
You see how derivative I was made out to be? Nothing belonged to me, not even my body, and now with Hessie Sutton and her spying ways I could not call my feelings my own. Why did people have so much need to stake their claim in other people? Were they scared of the bailiffs’ arriving in their own house? I stopped learning music. I was in despair.
[from “Prizes” by Janet Frame]