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Tahira stared down at her hands. She was wringing them endlessly: one of the many quirks that singled her out as a freak. What did that even mean, anyway? Everyone has quirks. But, just because hers were visible, they defined her. It seemed unfair. There were a lot of things that were unfair. Being a “freak” barred her from opportunities, friendships, and even normal conversation. She eventually learned that it was better not to talk at all than to (Heaven forbid) actually speak, and reduce the people around her to chiding. It was like they spoke another language. There was a much more distinct language barrier between her and her classmates than there could ever be between her and someone of another country.
She was nervous. The first day of school. The word was frightening. She spelled it out in her mind to visualize if she could say it backwards. It wasn’t one of the convenient words, like sad. She said that one in her mind as the German article das. It means the. The lonely little word that seemed so insignificant, that it was sometimes not even capitalized at the beginning of a title. Many people, when using a second language, skip the altogether. Her thoughts were interrupted by the nauseating halt of the car. She had arrived. The tall school loomed over her. It stretched around her. It pressured her thoughts. It was the torturous place where she was ridiculed for the way she thought, and forced to think like everyone else. She was put in such a confined box, that her brain wanted to shut down from it completely, so that the piece of paper that supposedly indicated her smarts—or stupidity— showed ominous letters D and F. Death and fear. Deprecation and faults. Depravity and falsehoods. Or just plain dumb failure. She hated those letters.
She was wringing her hands again, and jerked them down to her sides in an attempt to break the habit, but her brain started to bear their stress. She started wringing them again to ease the overload. “You can do this,” she said to herself, but just then, a tall girl came up from behind her. “Are you still talking to yourself?” She was with a group of tall girls. The same ones from the last, miserable year. They all started giggling at her as they walked girlishly toward the intimidating building. She changed her mind. “No. I can’t do this.”



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