Pande.Me | Reading time approx. 14 min.

The Day In Between

Rita Chikondiwe Lungu / Isdora Makole 14.07.2023

My name is Mckayla Michaels, only child of the most popular power couple in my town. I live in a small town called Smallville where everyone knows everyone and so they try so hard to stay relevant; some through charity work and others through mingling and lingering with the rich and politicians. I think that my parents relocated here to start over and try to raise a family away from the busy life of the city only that now they are even busier with trying to portray a picture-perfect family. My father is none other than the mayor himself and my mother is a big shot lawyer. My parents are extremely out of touch with my reality; they are hardly ever home and when they are, it’s because they are hosting an extravagant party.

I don’t even think that they have a clue what sport I play or what my favourite subject is in school as long as my report card has straight As recorded. It has been so long since the last time we sat down and had dinner together as a family; I spend more time with my nanny Sarah and my cat Oreo. I call her Oreo because of her deep black ink fur with white around her neck. As for Sarah, she is an elderly sweet old lady in her 50s who has been with us for as long as I can remember. To be honest, she is the one who raised me, makes sure that I have my dinner and knows when I am sad without me having to say a word. I love this about her, and I love her. Honestly, I even dread to imagine my life without her in this big empty house.

It’s Monday morning and as usual I am running late for school because I have to look perfect. I pull on my short uniform that shows my long-toned legs and proceed to get a quick glance of myself in front of my big square wall mirror as I tie up my long blonde hair into a ponytail. I love to tie up my hair because it brings out my perfectly chiselled cheekbones and bright coloured green eyes. I grab my school jacket and fasten my badge that reads ‘School president’ as I dash out of my room through to the living room. Sarah shouts for me to grab my packed lunch from the kitchen and as I head for the kitchen, I run into my mum looking stylish in a white suit, black stiletto heels and a bold red lipstick to complete the look. Her short brown hair is pushed back. My mother is 40 but looks nothing like it and I hope to look like her when I’m older. Everyone says that I’m a spitting image of her.

Like I knew she would, she stops and adjusts my collar. She inspects the work of her hands before pronouncing her verdict.

“Perfect! By the way, darling Mckayla, I am glad I caught you before leaving. I wanted to let you know that daddy and I will be hosting a luncheon for his re-election campaign this Friday afternoon. I want you there on your best behaviour and no excuses."

I stare at her blankly and wonder why she couldn’t just come to my room and let me know. But I’m not too surprised; it is typical of her to dismiss me when she knows I have plans, so I nod and grab my lunch and kiss Sarah goodbye. I slam the door on my way out and jump into my red Porsche.

Arriving late at Parklands High School is a way to make a statement for most seniors, to create a spectacle and draw attention from the juniors. I don’t even have to try; I’m constantly being watched and always have to be well put together. All eyes are on me when I drive inside the school. The teachers at my school hardly ever reprimand me and I’m guessing it’s because my father is the mayor. My boyfriend Brad is captain of the school football team and that alone draws a lot of attention from the other girls. I always have to be perfect and deserving of all the good things in my life. I work extra hard but the only problem with this is that it gets lonely. I always wanted a sister to share my life with back at home hot school gossip with and maybe if I had one, I would be happy going home but all I have at home is my diary because it’s not everything I can share with Sarah.

Later that afternoon during the English class, Principal Barnes called an emergency assembly meeting. We immediately made our way to the hall. Principal Burnes greeted the entire school then went on to make his announcement.

“It is with great sadness that I am making this announcement effective immediately after this assembly. Seeing the escalating cases of Covid-19 on the news, we have decided to temporarily close our school with all school tournaments cancelled until the situation is under control. Your parents have already been informed, and all our classes will be conducted online until further notice.”

That very week, I was in my room upstairs when I heard noises coming from downstairs. When I went to take a peep, I saw to my surprise that there was a bunch of people in our dining room having a luncheon despite my parents knowing very well that gatherings were banned.

A few weeks later, the news broke town about the mayor and his family hosting a luncheon where 10 more people were suspected to have caught Covid-19 and the rest were in isolation with their families. The papers and news headlines spread like wildfire, disheartening headlines calling my family selfish and hypocrite. My dad caught Covid-19 too and when the news broke, the town felt he deserved it for being irresponsible and not leading by example in protecting many lives. It was a tough couple of weeks and even I was not spared from the slander. I had so many mean comments on my Facebook and Instagram pages.

I became so depressed at home that Sarah mentioned it to my mother. She and my dad agreed on something for once, deciding to send me to therapy against my own will. Me, a popular girl seeing a shrink would ruin my reputation further. As if my father's scandal hadn't done enough already.

Luckily because of the pandemic, the therapy sessions were online. I dreaded them but I convinced myself that it wasn’t too bad since I didn’t have to physically meet up with her and run into someone who would spread the word. But the sessions were not too bad; in fact, they were even helpful.

"I want you to list 5 things you are most grateful for."

When I began to write these things down, it hit me that I had a lot going for me, and that others could benefit from therapy too.

"Ms Dew, I want to help other people that are lonely during the lockdown around the world but don’t have access to a therapist to help them resolve their traumas and anxieties like I do.

That weekend, I set up one corner of my room to record my live podcast videos. I opened up about my depression and loneliness. In the first few days, I got negative replies but by the fourth week I had gained 500.000 followers on my account. I could not believe it.

In the weeks that followed, it was just me, my podcast and Ms Dew on zoom. I shared some of the coping mechanisms I had learned in therapy and even joined the popular platform TikTok where we shared fun challenges and had fun in the comfort of our homes. My videos went viral with national TV picking up with headlines that read, "local mayor’s daughter champions mental health while in lockdown.” This also helped skyrocket the numbers on my father’s campaign because he was still running for mayor. A majority of people expressed their sympathies when word got out that my father was in fact still unwell and admitted to St Caroline hospital. Unfortunately, he didn’t survive.