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Bright red hair, black nails, and an oddly out of place smile. Her hair hung straight down, bright, but naturally red, hair. She loved it, even though the comments hurt sometimes.
“Ginger!” Some people would yell when she walked by, especially in her neighborhood.
Her black nail, painted frequently with the only nail polish she owned.
She was always smiling, though, because she had life, and in her neighborhood, her world, life could be banished so easily.
Flora sat up in her bed, sirens from a police car screaming so close, practically in her front yard. In her front yard… Flora jumped from her bed, running to the front parlor. To police officers had her father in hand cuffs.
“Flora!” He called to her.
“What’s going on?” She asked stepping into the red and blue light flashing lights shining in the front door, which was hanging open.
“Got me again, sweetie, go back to bed, don’t be late to school.” Her father gave her a sad smile. His hands were already behind his back and the officers were watching them carefully. Flora stepped past them and hugged her father, taking in the smell of shaving cream and cigarette smoke.
“Bye, see you soon,” she said flatly. This happened to frequently. The police officer not leading her father out the door hung back to ask her some questions.
“That’s your dad?” He asked pointing with his thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the front door. Flora shrugged.
“Do you know why he’s being taken in?” The police officer stood up a little taller, deciding to act more professional.
“No, I don’t want to know either.” Flora was tired of her father being a criminal and chose not to know why he was in trouble. It helped her think of him as the good dad he had always been to her.
“What?” The police man asked confused. “Where is your mom? Is anyone else here with you?” The police officer glanced around. Flora felt bad she hadn’t cleaned up the house any for a week. Laundry everywhere, food wrappers, paper plates, paper, shoes, and more scattered the floor and furniture.
“My mom’s asleep,” Flora lied easily. She wasn’t going to a girl’s home or whatever.
“Can you wake her up. I’m sure she’ll want to know about this.” The officer crossed his arms.
“She won’t wake up till like 8. I’ll tell her before I go to school, if I can,” Flora looked down at her feet innocently. Her socks weren’t matching, but she didn’t care. One black sock with a striped sock wouldn’t kill any one.
“Ok, tell her to call the police station to find out more about him,” the police officer dusted himself off, like he had just finished hard, physical business and left, shutting the door behind him. Flora waited till it was silent outside, and then curled up on the couch and stared at her knees. The tears prickled in her eyes, but as an expert at making her self not cry, she didn’t let them fall. She hadn’t seen her mom since she was 5. Her mom didn’t want her, or her father. Flora sat staring at her knees, which were exposed because she was only wearing a t-shirt and shorts to sleep in, till the sun peeked in the front window, past the dirty blinds. She would probably be late to school.
Back in her room, which was neat and clean, she readied herself for school. Tiredly, she put her makeup on sloppily, and found some what matching clothes, and changed her socks to two white ones. Sliding her converse on, she checked the time on her alarm clock. 7:35 flashed back at her. 5 minutes late already. Flora walked out of the house, locking the door tightly behind her and then hurried down the sidewalk, towards her high school. Halfway there, she remembered she had forgotten to brush her hair and grab her backpack. She ran her fingers through her hair and figured that anything in that ol’ backpack was useless any ways.
At school, the hallways were empty and when she walked into her first hour, the teacher said she was late for the 3rd time that week.
“I know, and I’m sorry,” she said flatly, uncaringly.
“Escort yourself down to the office,” the teacher said exasperatedly.
“Glad to,” Flora mumbled leaving the class room. In the hall she dragged her feet and made it to the office under ten minutes.
“Flora, what’s going on?” Ms. Clam sat down across from her. The counselor folded her hands on top of her desk and watched Flora’s face carefully.
“Nothing, I woke up late.” Flora shrugged, acting like it was no big deal.
“Flora, they called and told me,” the counselor said it in a low voice.
“That I woke up late?” Flora asked, acting confused.
“About your father, Flora,” the counselor, who had spent plenty of time with Flora, knew her tricks.
“Oh, yeah,” Flora stared at her feet, and noticed her shoes were on the wrong feet. She slid out of her chair and kneeled down where Ms. Clam could not see her, sliding both off and fixing them.
“Flora, what are you doing?” The counselor asked trying to look up over her desk at her. Flora stood up and walked to the door.
“Ms. Clam, may I go?” Flora rested her hand on the knob.
“I’m sorry, Flora, but you have to stay here till first hour is over.” Ms. Clam leaned back in her chair.
“Oh, yeah,” Flora said it quietly and plopped back down in her seat.
“Flora, you know what I just realized, you have visited this office more than any other student this year,” Ms. Clam smiled at her. Ms. Clam was pretty, soft brown hair and big brown eyes, almost looked like a student here.
“Wow, shocker,” Flora mumbled quietly under her breath.
“Look, Flora, I know your bummed and the only thing that will help is if you talk to me about it,” Ms. Clam spoke a little more sternly, making Flora look up into her face.
“Ms. Clam, I really don’t want to talk about.” Flora tried to look convincing.
Ms. Clam reached across her desk and grabbed the box of tissues. She sat them down with a thunk in front of Flora.
“It’s ok to cry sometimes, Flora, everyone does it,” Ms. Clam spoke more kindly now.
“I can’t,” Flora said quietly, staring at the plume of white tissue rising from the colorfully patterned box.
“How come?” Ms. Clam’s voice drifted softly around her.
“Because if I start, I’ll never stop,” Flora broke her stare from the tissue and looked deep into Ms. Clam’s eyes.
“We have all day, Flora,” Ms. Clam have her a half smile.
Flora stared at Ms. Clam, then at the tissues. She leaned forward and plucked a tissue from the box. She stared at the white soft tissue in her hands.
“The sirens woke me up,” she said softly, and the first few tears of a long time slid down her face.