Published: Princess II #25, 10 March 1984, continued in Tammy & Princess, 7 April 1984, finished in Tammy & Princess, 28 April 1984
Artist: Juliana Buch
Writer: Unknown. Possibly the same writer as “Cuckoo in the Nest” from Girl annual 1982, which has a similar plot
Ever since Sharon Day’s mother died when she was young, it has just been her, Dad, and her cat Monk. That’s just the way Sharon likes it. Sharon knows her father is now in a relationship with a woman named Sally, but has no problems with that – yet.
While dropping off Gran’s birthday present on the way to school, Sharon sees Carrie Knight and her gang pass by. She tells Gran they bully everyone at school, taking money off the first years and such, and for this reason she can’t stand Carrie. Gran is relieved to hear that at least Carrie leaves Sharon alone.
But when Sharon gets to school that suddenly changes. Carrie now starts on her, and is bullying her big time. Carrie even steals and sells Sharon’s guitar, which breaks Sharon’s heart because it was her mother’s.
The reason why Carrie has started picking on Sharon becomes clear that evening: Carrie’s mother is Sally, the woman Dad is now engaged to and wants to marry. So Sharon is now faced with the prospect of having this bully for a stepsister!
Sharon tries to tell Dad that Carrie is bullying her, but he does not believe it. Moreover, Carrie is very good at fooling him into thinking she is a sweet girl and the perfect stepdaughter who absolutely adores her new stepfather. She has no compunction in lying to her parents and swearing that she did not do any of the things Sharon accuses her of. Carrie just loves to tease Sharon with her phoney acts towards Dad and telling him how much she likes him.
Although Sharon protests that Carrie is just fooling him and she’s a horrible bully who makes her life a misery, and she’s in constant tears over the whole business, Dad just won’t listen. He thinks Sharon just can’t handle the changes and is being resentful of his new marriage.
Aside from the bullying, Sharon finds herself being pushed into changes that are too fast and difficult for her when Carrie and Mum move in. Sharon and her Dad are vegetarians, but Carrie and her mother are not, so Sharon is shocked at the sight and smell of meat in the fridge. Worse, Sharon has to rehome Monk at Gran’s house because of Carrie’s asthma. And Sharon, who once had her bedroom to herself, now has to share a bunk bed with that bully until the parents get a bigger house.
And now, of course, Carrie is making Sharon’s life a nightmare at home as well as at school, and she’s very slick at covering up afterwards. For example, she and her gang trash Sharon’s belongings. Then she tells Dad she accidentally broke Sharon’s old doll and will pay for it.
Gran is the only one who believes Sharon and understands what is going on. Oddly though, she is not doing much to convince Dad. Maybe Dad is not listening to her either? Dad certainly does not listen to Sharon’s friend Jenny when she tries to back Sharon up about Carrie’s bullying. What Gran does do, though, is attempt to instil optimism in Sharon that things will work out in the end and Carrie will change. Right now, though, there’s no hope of that.
Although Dad knows there is a big problem with the girls, he still goes ahead with the wedding. Sharon has to swallow down tears throughout the ceremony. Mum and Dad think Sharon will just come around, but of course they have another think coming.
Now Carrie pulls her worst trick yet – spiking Sharon’s vegetarian school lunch with meat! When Sharon discovers this she snaps and starts a punch-up with Carrie in the dinner hall. However, the teacher can’t find any trace of the meat afterwards. Later Sharon realises Carrie’s gang pulled a trick there, but when she tries to tell Dad this he still won’t listen and tells her to stop it. Sharon’s response to that is run away from home and take refuge at Gran’s. Dad is anguished at this while Carrie just laughs at it all behind her parents’ backs.
However, next day events take a turn that changes everything. Dad spots Sharon’s guitar at a second hand shop and discovers it was indeed Carrie who sold it there. When he confronts Carrie with this, her last-ditch effort to deny everything falls apart very quickly. The game is up:
Mum: “You’ve lied enough!”
Dad: “Your daughter’s driven mine out of her own home!”
Dad, who resolves to make Sharon happy to come back, makes the decision to split up with Carrie’s mum. At this, Mum really turns on Carrie for what she’s done, and how it will destroy her marriage if the girls don’t reconcile. She shoves Carrie out of the house to make it up with Sharon.
Carrie is shocked and upset at what she has done, and now realises she genuinely likes her new stepfather. She makes an earnest, desperate attempt to reconcile with Sharon, promising she’ll be different. But Sharon rebuffs her because her wounds are too raw. Moreover, she is not impressed with Carrie’s claims of contrition (unlike Gran), the idea of living with Carrie is still too repugnant, and she wants things the way they were. So Carrie and her heartbroken mother clear out of the house so Sharon can come home.
Sharon expects things to go back to the way they were, although Gran has warned her that they can’t and won’t. Of course Sharon soon finds out how right Gran is. Dad might have sacrificed his marriage for her happiness, but he cannot hide his feelings about it (snapping at her, up all night crying, too upset to go to work). Sharon realises their relationship will become embittered because of this. She can’t let him suffer either, but still can’t stand the idea of living with Carrie.
Next morning Carrie turns on her bully gang when she discovers, in typical bully fashion, how uncaring they are about her situation. “I must’ve been crazy to hang around with you morons!” They just about have a fight.
Sharon can see Carrie is genuinely upset, but just says, “Good! I’m glad to see her suffering for a change!” However, she is more concerned to hear that Carrie’s mother was up all night crying too. She does like her stepmother.
In the end, Sharon grudgingly gives Carrie a second chance for the sake of their suffering parents. Soon the family are back together, the parents are overjoyed, and there are already signs that Carrie and Sharon are on the road to becoming the best of sisters. After all, says Sharon, she had always wanted one.
There have been so many serials where parents just don’t listen when their daughter tries to tell them she’s being bullied. And this is one of those serials where just not listening has far more serious results than most – a marriage almost being destroyed and a family torn apart. It’s not just because the bully is very crafty at convincing them she’s a sweet angel. It’s also because they are blinded by love and desperately want to marry each other. So they push headlong into it despite the clear danger signals.
Even without Carrie’s bullying, we can feel how Sharon’s world is being ripped apart by the changes her father’s new marriage is bringing into her life. Sharon was so happy with things the way they were and the changes are all, in their various ways, just too hard on her and unfair. We can hardly blame Sharon for wanting things back the way they were and it would have been understandable if she had been genuinely resentful of the marriage. But the real problem is that her stepsister is bullying her, and because the bullying goes on behind the parents’ backs, they won’t listen when Sharon tries to tell them. They really pay the price for not listening to Sharon and heeding the red flags when Carrie’s bullying almost destroys their marriage.
As with Lindy/Jinty’s “Hettie High and Mighty”, redeeming and reforming the bully is absolutely essential if everything is to be sorted out and end happily, because that bully is now the stepsister of the girl she’s bullying. Otherwise the family can never live together in harmony. However, the road to it is realistically done and avoids the triteness and clichés that have appeared in similar stories, including “Hettie High and Mighty”.
Unlike Hettie, it’s not all that clear just what has made Carrie such a bully. We know nothing of her home life prior to her mother’s new marriage. Her absent father could have some bearing on her conduct. She does carry out her bullying in a very cocky, obnoxious manner, which suggests she’s out of control. She’s also in with a bully gang, rather than being a sole bully/troublemaker like Hettie. So it could be a case of getting into a bad crowd, wanting to act big and feeling like she’s ten feet tall with all the power she gets out of bullying. Moreover, the school isn’t doing anything to stop the bullies. All the pupils know about them but nobody does anything about them. If nobody is cracking down on the bullying, then of course Carrie’s bullying has just gotten so bad. Finally, Carrie sees Sharon as a big wet, which is probably why she chose to bully her instead of trying to get along with her in the first place.
It is a nice change from the usual cliché, where the abused stepsister just forgives her bully stepsister once she changes as Sharon’s counterpart in “Hettie” does. Instead, reconciliation does not come all at once because Sharon’s hurt feelings are too strong. It takes time before Sharon agrees to attempt reconciliation. Even then it’s not because she becomes convinced of Carrie’s remorse or Carrie redeems herself in front of her, which is another common cliché in girls’ serials. Sharon does it for her suffering parents.
There is no doubt Carrie is genuinely remorseful when it comes, and it’s realistically done. Carrie is not only remorseful; she also wakes up to what a good thing she was onto with her new stepfamily and how she ruined it with her bullying. However, while her remorse is essential to the resolution of the story, she cannot convince Sharon or her parents that it is for real. Sharon does not listen and just wants her gone. Mum tells Carrie that if she really had loved her new stepfather, “you wouldn’t have done anything to spoil my happiness. I’ll never forgive you for this!” Dad says to Sharon, “A pity Carrie was such a monster. I-thought she loved me…”. However, the story does not go down yet another common cliché in which Carrie finds a way to convince them she has changed and gets them back together. Nor does it have the family coming together when a big accident occurs because of what happened, which is another cliché.
This is definitely one of Princess II’s best stories because of its realism and breaking with clichés that girls’ serials dealing with similar themes often use. The artwork of Juliana Buch has always been popular and it blends in nicely with the school and family settings. This was Buch’s only story for Princess II, and her artwork would have helped this story to bridge the merger with Tammy because Buch was one of Tammy’s regular artists.
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