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The road was lined with trees filled with hues of orange, red, and yellow. The sun spilled across the sky, casting its golden glow upon the young girl's delicate face. It was a quiet morning unlike any other. A soft breeze blew against her brown tresses as she raised her head in time to see a dry leaf floating down. "It's no use," she sighed, then dropped her head again and looked down at her feet as they made contact against the cold cement. The soothing melody from the birds, the whispers from the leaves, all seemed to come from a distance, miles away. Her mind struggled to wrap around these events which had occurred just hours ago. To her, however, time appeared to drag on endlessly; these happenings felt a lifetime away. But she strove to remember them.
"Marie! Why is your face all red and swollen? Have you been crying?" her mother had asked alarmed as soon as she had entered through the back door that afternoon.
Caught, with no place to flee, she had stood rooted, her eyes fixed on the floor, avoiding her intense gaze. She mumbled an incoherent response as her mother walked to her side. Kneeling down beside her, she put a comforting hand on her shoulder. She placed a finger under her chin and gently forced her eyes to meet hers. "Now tell me, dear, what is the matter? Has something happened at school?"
"It's nothing, mom," she murmured. A pregnant silence filled the room. "Please," she said at last, choking back a sob.
Her mother watched her closely, gauging her expression, as if she could discover the issue if she stared at her daughter hard enough. It proved useless. With a defeated sigh she lowered her hands and said, "I won't press for now, but I hope you will tell me in time." She brushed her hair away from her face and placed a soft kiss on her forehead, before steering her upstairs. "Go now. Wash your face and rest. I will come up in an hour or so when dinner is ready."
"You don't have to worry, mother," Marie assured her. "Really, I will be fine." Soon. She hoped.
"If you are sure," she gave her an uncertain look before walking away.
Marie did not go and wash up as she was told. Instead, she walked numbly towards her window and watched absently at the street below. Whatever had transpired during that hour, she could not recall. Dinner came and went, filled with awkwardness. However, just as she was heading for the stairs afterward, a knock sounded on the door. She hesitated, tempted to ignore it, wanted to run from whoever was on the other side, but the night had other plans. "Will you get that, dear?" her mother called out from the other room. Reluctantly, she walked across the hall and opened it.
She stood transfixed; her hand held tightly onto the doorknob as if to keep her legs from buckling beneath her. "What are you doing here?" she asked coldly.
"You left abruptly today," the person at the other side responded as she gazed at Marie.
"Why, tell me, Kara, what should I have done instead?" Marie spat out in return.
"I don't understand why you are so upset―"
"Why? You are asking me why?" she immediately said, "How about the fact that you told everyone what was going on with my parents? Is that not reason enough?"
"It's just a divorce, Marie," Kara replied exasperated, "There is nothing usual about it."
"How can you be so heartless?" she asked horrified.
"You didn't say it was a secret," she added.
Marie stared at her friend, not knowing what to say. Her eyes reflected pain and at the same time, bewilderment. The day had felt surreal, as if all were a dream, as if she would wake up at any moment. She blinked a few times before saying in a steely voice, "Haven't we been friends long enough that you should know I don't like my life being discussed as if it were a piece of gossip?"
"You know it's not like that. You are exaggerating, Marie, making a big deal out of nothing. You need to open up; no one will judge you, you should know that" said Kara.
Marie bowed her head, her hair covering her face and hiding the tears that had begun to fall. They stood there for what seemed like an eternity. There was not a sound; the world stopped at that moment for these two girls, waiting for their next move. "I don't wish to speak with you anymore, Kara. Get out," she finally said in a soft voice. With those last words, she closed the door and ran to her room, ignoring whoever might have called her then. She did not come out again for the rest of the night.
That morning Marie had forced herself to roll out of bed. No one had come to wake her; there was no need for it. She had passed the night recalling the day's events. Sleep eluded her until she was too tired to think anymore, her emotions―her hurt―too raw. She suspected her family was trying to give her space. Either that or they were avoiding her after last night's confrontation with Kara, for her voice must have carried across the hall. She did not want to face them at any rate; she had suffered in silence these past weeks. Her feelings had finally surfaced when she faced Kara, and now, they knew how she felt. She did not want to talk to them; she only wished to forget. But forgetting was difficult, for she was constantly reminded of it. Her father's laughter missing from her home, her mother's tears whenever she thought no one was in the room, the pity looks she felt as she walked into class―all haunted her ceaselessly day and night. There was no stopping them.
Now, as she walked to school, her gray eyes misted at the memories of the previous day. As much as she did not want to see anyone, she forced herself to numb her heart. She readied herself for the battle ahead, just as she had been doing for the past weeks. Even though she could not believe such seemingly impossible deeds coming from Kara―her best friend, her confidante―she had to accept them. For to not do so meant that she had to admit she made an error―that she had overreacted, that her best friend had not really hurt her, that she had misjudged her instead―and that meant she had to give up her pride. And pride was all she had left.