The Garbage Girl: A Short Story

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As a toddler I developed a reputation for being the Garbage Girl. Every Wednesday as the trundle of the garbage truck echoed through the streets of my village I would bolt outside, princess dress flapping in the breeze to meet my honorary Aunty Katrina, the driver, and Uncle Conrad, the collector. I’d don my child sized gloves and grab the miniature trash picker that Uncle had gifted me, and we’d go to work. My mornings were spent happily skipping after the truck and spearing wayward pieces of trash that were left abandoned in its wake and I’d wait with bated breath for the almighty roar that accompanied the compacting of each bag. My shrieks and giggles of delight could be heard resonating throughout the village and Uncle and Aunty would cheer right alongside me. It was bliss, pure and unadulterated.
Some elders would shake their heads and tut-tut at the sight of me (“she’s a girl! How can her parents allow this?”) engaged in such an unladylike activity but Aunty
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The cake decorating class is next door,” the lecturer sneered from behind his podium. “This is Applications of Software Engineering. Pretty complex stuff.” The unspoken too difficult for a girl hung heavy in the air and all of the excitement I had felt at the prospect of attending this seminar evaporated and I was left gaping at the lecturer’s now turned back. In the dim projector light I could see forty people, all men, turn to look at me where I stood frozen.
I wanted to run. It would be so easy to leave and forget the stinging humiliation that colored my cheeks. I felt the eyes of the room on me as I stood deliberating; fight or flight? Should I stay? Do I dare? Being the only girl in a room full of men is a dangerous position to place myself in. I took half a step back as fear and doubt assaulted my mind. Why am I here, I thought wildly. I don’t belong. What the hell am I doing? I turned on my heel clumsily and, half blinded by emotion, I fumbled for the door
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