When I woke up the room was pitch black. I sat up, intending to open the curtains, but then I remembered the other girls were asleep next to me and I froze in place, scared that moving would wake them up. I turned around, awaiting a harsh word, but I was met with silence. Actually, it was way too silent.
I turned around very slowly, and now that my eyes were used to the darkness, I noticed the girl’s figures on the beds were missing. I glanced at each bed; I was alone in that room.
I moved to the curtain and pulled it harshly, the morning light taking over the room. I turned around just to check one more time if I was really alone in that room; I was. I checked my digital clock, reading 07:43. Of course, they woke up early so they wouldn’t have to interact with me.
I sighed, wondering why I was so surprised. Since my outburst in the canteen they had been giving me the silent treatment, and although I felt quite wounded by their reaction, I knew all along that this would happen. I just never thought they would do everything in their power to avoid me, as if being in the same room was me was painful.
Before getting dressed, I went to the laundry room at the end of the corridor to iron my white shirt, putting it on while it was still warm from the heat of the iron. I usually did all my laundry when I had no lessons after lunch on Wednesdays every week, but the tiny wrinkles that had appeared on my shirt from the day before were difficult to ignore. The cue was not long and sooner than what I would have wanted I was making my way to the canteen to have breakfast. However, I didn’t leave the building before retrieving Summer’s letter from under my bed and placing it inside my blazer pocket. The idea of leaving it unguarded when I went to lessons was suffocating, the possibility that someone could go inside my room and find it out of question.
When I got outside I noticed Summer’s red bicycle leaning against the lateral wall of the building. It looked quite abandoned, some dry leaves which had not disappeared from last autumn sticking to the wheels, the tyres and the seat greyish from the small particles of dust. I walked towards it and gave it a quick swipe to remove the dirt. At least Harry had a good taste. That was a good trait, I supposed.
As I inspected more attentively the red bicycle and its adorable basket, through my peripheral vision I saw a small group of girls who exited Hall A pointing at me. When I looked upwards they immediately looked away. Such idiots; they weren’t even decent enough to admit they were mocking me.
That was when I heard Amanda’s irrefutable cackle.
I made it look as if I hadn’t seen her along with my other dorm mates, but I kept a constant eye on them as they exited the door. They must’ve been in the community room all that time, for I had not seen them anywhere, not even the bathroom.
I instantly wanted to hide, to run to the back of the building and wait until they disappeared, but I didn’t. Although the last thing I wanted was confrontation (I had had already enough of it in the canteen the other night) I wasn’t going to give her what she wanted. I was going to stand my ground. She didn’t rule the place, and I could be wherever I wanted. Besides, since she was giving me the silent treatment, chances were she wouldn’t even talk to me.
In that moment I realised that what I was feeling towards Amanda was what I had felt for Harry when I utterly despised him. That was how I knew that situation was quite serious, not just some routine quarrel.
“Well well, look what we have here,” my prayers were ignored as Amanda’s voice pierced my ears “Anna stealing unwanted junk from the poor. That must be a new low!”
I didn’t answer, knowing that she was only trying to pick a fight with me, although it did take a lot of self-control not to reply some nasty things.
“What happened to you? Did the cat steal your tongue?” This time Lottie spoke, surprising me. Again, I did not turn my head towards them and pretended that I was busy with the bicycle. They went from total silent treatment to wanting to spite me, which I could only guess was what they must’ve agreed on that morning while in the community room. Unbelievable.
“Anna, we know that you want to be our friend again, but if you keep on doing stuff like this you really are pushing us away,” Amanda said, and although I wasn’t looking at her I could imagine her pointy index finger swinging in all directions as she said those words. “The girls and I have decided to forgive you for your impossible behaviour last night in the canteen, and trust us, we are doing this because we are really your friends!”
“You bitch,” I said under my voice, so low I almost didn’t hear it myself.
“What did you say just there? Speak up, or did you lose all your speech from yesterday’s dinner?”
“I said,” I paused, looking upwards and raising my voice “You bitch!”
Amanda and the other two girls gasped in horror.
“You did not call me that!” Amanda spat after staring at me with her mouth gaped open, her body stiff with anger.
Deep down I felt a wave of anger so strong all I could see was white, the most intense colour of fire. My initial instinct was to strike Amanda, to hit her with such strength she would collapse on the hard floor, but my fear of confrontation spoke louder and I walked away, the girls calling names after me.
I just wanted to hide. I just wanted to disappear and never come back. I had had enough of it, I couldn’t take it anymore. There was no one I could trust, no one who cared about me... That was when I remembered the words Summer wrote in her letter to me: I advise you to seek help from Nurse Marion. She told me to do this in the case of me caving into the pressure of “fitting in”, and it was quite ironic how there was no way I would be caving in after the way they treated me.
I had never talked to the nurse before. I had seen her though, in the canteen, in the main building, walking around the school, but I never had the need to talk to her or go to the infirmary. I didn’t get sick easily, not even with a common cold, but when I did I had my own supply of medicine to spare the need to ask for some. That made me uneasy in going to speak with her; I could already imagine her surprised expression as I told her my motives in wanting to talk to her, but I had to do it, I couldn’t carry on living with that burden all by myself any longer. I had to tell someone, and if Summer said I could trust her, even though she was a complete stranger to me, I was willing to take a chance.
Nurse Marion’s POV
“Okay, you’re all good. You can go now.”
I tapped on the band-aid softly and smiled at the eighth grader who was sitting in front of me. He got up and thanked me for the dressing, leaving the infirmary. Once left on my own, I started to put away the utensils I had used. I was already used to this routine, and although it might’ve seemed quite tiresome, I was incredibly contented with the job I had. It was a quiet, calm life, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. For starters, I was safe inside the walls of the school, had a secure job, and was surrounded by people who needed me. It was all I could ask for, especially in days when a coloured woman was lucky to have such a respectable job like I did.
The only criticism I could point out was the fact that, sometimes, I felt a little lonely. I had been feeling even more lonely in the last days since Harry and Summer decided to leave. I was already so used to their constant presence in my infirmary that it was hard to detach from the unconscious feeling that one of them would burst inside my workplace.
When I heard that they had run away I couldn’t believe it. I knew that they weren’t having the easiest time but it never crossed my mind that they were that miserable.
I couldn’t help but replay the events from the night Harry got into an almost deadly fight with two students in my head. That kid was out of control that night, and I feared that he wouldn’t calm down. He had given so many headaches I had lost count. In fact, I had never looked at Harry as a kid to be trusted since the incident with John. Every time he came in my infirmary to heal cut wounds from fights with students, my will was to pour alcohol on the open flesh so he would learn the lesson, but that exceeded my job description.
Funny how fast my opinion of him changed.
It was the night after the fight that changed everything, I remembered. I had never seen anyone so helpless, so devastated as Harry was that night. Independently of the actions in his past, I didn’t have a heart of stone, I felt really sorry for him for seeing him in that state. What moved me the most was the fact that he felt beyond the weight of his personal consequences, he knew he was the cause of Summer’s suffering. Watching him in such pain was hard for me to do, since my job is to ease pain, to make it go away, but I couldn’t.
That was when I heard a knock on the door, bringing me down from my thoughts.
“Come in,” I answered, wondering who was the next student who needed assistance.
A girl I had never seen before opened the door slowly. Her white blond short hair was striking. her small figure complementing her shy demeanour.
“Hello. My name is Anna Holden and I have something you might want to read.”