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She’s there when I enter my form room, alone and tucked in the corner of the room, face merged with the darkness that has been excluded from the brightness of daylight. Maybe she’s just quiet.

I look around abruptly, but it’s just the two of us. I smile hesitantly, wanting to be friendly but cautious of the possible consequences. I don’t want to become her. Maybe she’s just secluded.

Minutes of silence.

Do I say anything to her? The silence is loud and I feel obliged to throw a greeting. Maybe she’s just afraid.

“Hello.”

She glances up, surprised. Her mouth opens then closes, as though she doesn’t know how to reply. Eventually she replies an attentive “hi”. I smile again and focus on my homework. Maybe she’s just shy.

“Nice hair,” a snide voice remarks from the entrance. I instantly swivel around, my stomach flipping over, but relief sweeps through me as I realise the sarcastic comment isn’t directed at me. The sickening feeling returns when I realise it’s directed at her. A boy I’ve never seen before enters cockily with a large group behind him. I recognise some of them from my classes.

She hunches down in the chair, with a hood that is designed to cover most of her frizzy hair. She tugs the hood regardless, but the light still too dim to see whether she’s embarrassed. Maybe she’s just self-conscious.

“Maybe you should brush it sometime, d’ya come off the street or somefink?” He laughs along with the crowd behind him. I watch silently, crying inside. She doesn’t react, still glued to her book. The boy glances at his friends, annoyed with her lack of reaction and moves closer to her. “Look at me when I talk to you,” he hisses.

Yet again, no response. Maybe she’s just smart.

“I said LOOK AT ME!” He yells, twisting her flimsy, plastic chair to face him. They’re eye to eye, nose to nose, anger to calmness and hatred to silence. “I said, d’ya come off the street or somefink?” Her return is placid, smooth as silk and bland as snow.

“Is she a mute?” Someone in the clique asks me and I shake my head, acknowledging our brief exchange of words earlier. Maybe she’s just wary.

The boy sniffs and leans back, moving his arm to her shoulder in a fake-friendly pose.

Without warning, a fluid motion whacks her swiftly on the nose and blood instantly pours out. For good measure, he punches her in the stomach which she exposed when moving her hands protectively to her face in contorted pain. Doubling over, she drips blood on the floor, wincing in pain. Maybe she’s just weak.

“Retard,” the boy mutters and walks out, knowing that the fight has been won. He notices me out of the corner of his eye and bends down to my desk, whispering threats if I ever breathe a word of this. I nod, gobsmacked, fear mingled in my actions. He leaves swiftly, his posse following him, laughing at her feebleness.

Before I can say anything, the girl rushes out closely behind them, tissues pressed roughly to her nose, already a bruise forming beneath her cheekbone. A tear leaks out of her eye, mingling with the blood and sweat which smells distinctly of fear. A sob escapes her throat as she races out the door and more tears follow the first, mocking her faults and vulnerabilities.

Maybe she’s just human.




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