Cynthia looked like a bomb had been set off in her face; she was that stunned. It took her a couple of seconds to react. It was the same with the onlookers. Rilah's heart beat very quickly, she didn't know what had overcome her. She had no idea what Cynthia and her goons would do to her but she was sure it would be gruesome.
Mr Ndlovu, whose attention had been caught by the deadly silence in the room, turned around and raised his thin eyebrows. Cynthia fixed Rilah with a glare, its intent clear: this wasn't over, not by a long shot. She settled into her chair, and the class followed suit.
As the lesson went on, Rilah could feel lasers burning holes into every inch of her body. People were whispering amongst themselves and she knew it was about what she had said. Her newfound confidence diminished rapidly and she could feel doubt creep into her and slowly turn into fear.
Mr Ndlovu didn't finish his lesson on time; he was still explaining this year's project to the class so the Mathematics teacher, Mr Bandu, came in while he was wrapping up. Mr Bandu wasted no time starting his lesson and you could feel the tension and agitation in the class. They had been expecting a confrontation that very minute.
Rilah couldn't take it anymore. She packed her bag and asked the teacher if she could be excused. If anyone else had asked, the answer would have been a straight NO. No hesitation at all but Rilah was Bandu's best student in maths. He hesitated for a moment and answered gruffly, "I want my work first thing in the morning Rilah."
"Thank you, sir", Rilah said with relief. She hurried out of the classroom, not risking a peek at Cynthia. She went to her safe haven, the library and took out her maths book. She sat in a corner where she would not be easily seen and she worked on her trigonometry. In thirty minutes she was done with both the classwork and homework. She tried drawing but she came up with dark, depressing pictures only. She shoved them into her bag and went to the girls' toilets. She was splashing water on her face when she heard the door slam. She didn't need to look up to know that it was Cynthia.
Her neck was grabbed roughly and then she was looking into Cynthia's dark orbs that flashed with anger.
"You think you can disrespect me and get away with it? You think you are now so big you can insult me? You thought wrong Rilah. I'm the queen here. Me. You are nothing but a low-life scum, whose family doesn't even care about." Rilah tried fighting back but then she started having flashes of images. Pictures of Cynthia slapping her, pushing her against the wall, and finally flushing her head down the toilet. The flashes ended, leaving Rilah's spirits deflated.
Cynthia kept on hurling insults and Rilah tried her best not to defend herself, in case it further angered Cynthia and her flashes became reality. However, it seemed that Rilah's silence only made her madder. She slapped Rilah across her left cheek, drawing a little blood.
"Fight back Rilah. Come on, you lost your voice now? You want Charlie to fight for you? Well, Charlie isn't here to protect you anymore. You thought you could hide behind him, didn't you? He's gone now. He. Is. Gone", she paused and smiled wickedly. "Even your parents left you. Dumped you in an orphanage because you were a scum from day one. Turns out mommy and daddy are the same." She tossed the last statement to the crowd that was watching and cheering.
Rilah felt rage build inside her. She was not angry because Cynthia had insulted the Huberts, the family who had left her at the orphanage. She was angry because her insults were also directed to her real parents, who she knew were good people. She had flashbacks of them often enough that she still remembered them.
Rilah pushed at Cynthia, and swung a right punch while she regained her balance. Cynthia held her bloody nose while her goons rushed to help her. Rilah tried to make a run for it but one of the goons, Samantha, grabbed her and pinned her hands behind her back.
Many people were astounded; they stood with their mouths open and some just glared at her. Samantha pushed her to the sink and held her against it, rubbing her eye painfully against the ceramic. When Cynthia had stopped her bleeding nose she wasted no second in grabbing Rilah and pushing her to the wall.
Samantha and Portia, the other goon, pinned her to the wall while Cynthia landed punch after punch to her midsection. Rilah could feel her stomach twisting, she had not eaten since yesterday afternoon. After only a few punches, she crumbled to the floor. She could hear people shout at Cynthia to stop but only faintly.
Next thing she knew, she was picked up and dragged to a toilet stall. Right before she was dunked, one guy in their class, Zac, tried to make Cynthia stop. It obviously did not work because Rilah felt her ears and mouth flooded with water. Cynthia and her crew pushed her head down the toilet while they flushed. When the water ran out, she herded her followers out and made sure no one stayed behind to help Rilah.
Rilah wrung out her hair and got out of the stall slowly. She didn't even dare to look at the mirror as she knew what she would find. She washed her face again and wiped it on her shirt. She should have known that Cynthia wouldn't have worked alone. Rilah picked up her bag - which had not been vandalised, thank goodness - and she left the restroom. It was now break time and Rilah headed to the library.
"Hi Sue, do you have any book for me?", she asked Mrs Nzimande, the librarian, in a quiet voice. Susan looked at her pitifully and asked, "What happened to your eye, Rilah? And you look so sick."
Rilah was quick with her reply, "Period pains. I was so woozy I hit a pipe on my way here." She forced an embarrassed smile.
Susan looked at her with doubt but forced a smile to her lips. "You must definitely go home then. Let me call a teacher."
"Can I at least read a book until break ends?" Rilah did not want to go out of the school while the learners were watching her.
"Until break ends. You are a hazard to yourself. " She handed Rilah a book and went off to tell a teacher. Rilah buried herself in the book until Susan came to lead her out of school.
"Rye! Rilah!" It was Sylvia, running towards her. "Rye, what happened?" Her concerned friend ran her hands up and down Rilah's body.
"Nothing. Just ran into a pipe", Rilah shrugged.
Sylvia rolled her eyes, "The saying is 'ran into a door' but no worries, I'll interrogate you after school. Be safe!" she shouted as she ran to her class. Rilah got out of the school, already dreading the afternoon.