- Tara’s Treasure – Nikki: #87 (18 October 1986) – #99 (10 January 1987)
Tara Fleming is a shy girl, that struggles to make friends, this also isn’t helped by her strict parents insisting she comes home straight after school and concentrate on her schoolwork all the time. Her parents do reward her for doing well at school such as buying her a bike but as Tara hasn’t the courage to ask to bike with the others in her class she ends up going on her own. When she is biking one weekend and it starts to rain, she takes shelter in a old abandoned house and finds money stashed there. At first she thinks she should take it to police, but then she decides there’s no harm in taking a little to buy some presents to make friends. She buys one of the girls in her class a cassette that she talked about and leaves it on her desk. Unfortunately she’s too shy to say it’s from her, so she decides to continue to buy gifts in secret until she has courage to tell everyone.
Buying gifts for others doesn’t always work out, such as when she buys a teddy bear to replace the one Emma lost. The other girls tease her for such a babyish gift and Emma blames her friend Lucy, assuming she told people about her original teddy. When Tara tries to buy a top for Lee, she gets the last one available. But Lee’s mother works in the shop and recognizes her so Tara knows she can’t give the top to Lee without revealing her secret. She buys Lee some trousers instead, Lee knows Tara got the top and the other girls have a laugh at her expense wondering where would a quiet, nerdy girl like her wear the top. Tara doesn’t even get to keep the top, as her own mother finds it and dumps it for something sensible (Seems a waste to go straight in the bin she could have at least tried to return it!). It’s clear Tara’s parents really aren’t helping her, she isn’t allowed things that other girls her age like. When tries to watch pop charts, her father turns the tv off and tells her to read book instead, when she buys magazines to get fashion tips, her mother calls them rubbish and wants to bin them. This means more topics at school she isn’t confident talking about.
Tara still justifies her actions, spending the money as she is not spending it on herself. She fully believes when truth comes out everyone will be her friend. Although naive in this thinking, this is the first show of confidence she has had in herself. She is becoming more reliant on her secret gifts, at one point she considers talking to another quiet girl, Jenny, but instead tries to help her with a beauty contest her sister is entering. Two girls, Fern and Doreen decide to catch Ferndale fairy godmother, but ends up in a camera (that was a present) getting broken and they have a falling out. Tara then makes a mistake in trying to impress new sewing teacher getting her a gift, which leads to story of Ferndale Fairy Godmother getting out and this brings the attention of the head. Now Tara is worried and actually begins to wonder where the money came from and whether it belongs to criminals.
She decides to get rid of rest of money by returning it to the house. But after seeing Mary’s bike being run over by a car, she decides one more gift when she sees a second hand bike for sale. Although the person selling the bike looks familiar to her she doesn’t realize it’s the postman and he recognizes her. Mary convinces the postman to tell her who paid for the bike and she goes to confronts Tara. Mary turns out to be a good friend to Tara after she breaks down and tells her everything. The money belonged to an old woman who didn’t trust banks. Although Mary would keep her secret, Tara knows its time to own up to everything. Her parents help pay back the money and also take responsibility for Tara’s desperate actions, as they acknowledge they have been too strict with her. Tara becomes sick with worry about going back to school, but Mary rallies the class around her and they also admit they could have made more effort to be friends.
This has a similar lesson to recent post I Wish… in that money doesn’t solve all problems. Each episode show Tara picking a new classmate to buy a gift for, sometimes these work out sometimes they don’t, but what is more interesting is the development of why she is doing these things. Her parents are not intentionally unkind, but we see how overbearing they are for Tara. She hasn’t the confidence to speak up to her parents. When her father turns off tv and tells her to read a book, when her mother insists she will pick out what clothes she can buy, and that she will throw out rubbish magazines she doesn’t really argue back. She is grateful when they buy her bike for her hard work and she does love them and know they want the best for her, which again makes it more difficult for her to rebel.
Tara does shows she has a good heart, although her intention is to make friends she is happy when the gifts work out and she makes people happy (equally she is upset when things go wrong for people). When she sees an old man get mugged she doesn’t hesitate to help him, which ends up with her losing the concert ticket she bought for a gift (she does get a new ticket from owner who saw what happened). When she finds out the money belongs to an old lady that is in a home, she does the right thing and owns up.
Tara can be misguided, naive and lacking confidence but is still a good person, she just needs the right support She is a sympathetic character and we want things to work out for her in the end.