Wander

Rose Farren is a runaway. A refugee, if you like. She's a handful of painful memories tied together with a rucksack and a worn-out hoodie. She's been travelling for a year all around England, and planning to move onto Ireland to find the best chance of escape and maybe finding her father again. Does she have time to think of love during all this? Pssh, no. That is, until Jamie turns up...

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3. "What's up with your face?"

 

Three

Rose

I’m asleep. I’m quite aware of the fact, because I face the same dream each time. And every damn time, I still wake up shivering and sweating and crying out for help.

Pathetic, isn’t it? A fifteen (sixteen?) year old like me crying for their mother, especially after two years running from life.

The dream starts the same way.

I am twelve years old, starting secondary school for the second time. They had to pull me out of my old one after I got an acid thrown at me in Science. It was only pH6 or something, but the boys still got suspended and I still left. So much for equality.

I am starting at my new school. In my oversize uniform, I blend in with the rest of the crowd, especially if I keep my head down.

Oh God.

Oh, please, God, no.

We’re in the middle of assembly when the year head scans through the crowd, her eyes narrowed. “I believe we have a new student. Is Rose Farren here?”

I shrink down even further in my seat. Please, God, no.

My form teacher is staring at me, looking down at her list of names to check. He makes little shooing gestures with his hands. “Go on!” He whispers encouragingly.

I get up as slowly as I can.

“Ah, there she is!” The year head- I never bothered to learn her name- smiles scarily. “Come on up, Rose, there’s no need to be scared!”

Uh huh. Nope, I have no problem at all facing two hundred pupils, twenty five who already think I’m a freak, and the rest of them won’t think I’m weird at all. It’s not like I’m blind in one damn eye or anything.

I stumble making my way onto the stage, which causes snickers throughout the room. When I reach the microphone, her hands clamp on my shoulders, meant to be comforting, but it feels more like a vice. “So, tell us your name and a bit about yourself, dear.” She says, still smiling that freaky smile.

“I’m Rose Farren.” I mumble. I can only see the left side of the room, and they’re staring at me, eyebrows raised. Can I hear snickering on the right side, or is it my imagination? Keep calm, Rose.

“Speak up, love.” She mutters.

“I’m Rose Farren.” I say, louder, my voice cracking. “And I’m new. Is that enough?” I ask the last question in a whisper.

“Tell them about your hobbies.”

Jesus Christ, I was about to scratch this woman’s eyes out. “I don’t have any hobbies.”

Yes, I was definitely hearing snickering now.

“Oh, all right then.” She says, looking irritated. I retake my seat thankfully, staring down at my polished shoes, feeling the glare of two hundred pairs of eyes on me.

I thought that was the worst part over. I was wrong.

I hug my folder to my chest, a sort of shield, as I make my way out to the hallway after assembly. People mostly ignore me.

“So, what’s up with your eyes?”

I turn, face flushing already. Two boys and two girls stand behind me. The girls are hanging off the boys’ arms, looking at me with a sneer.

I clear my throat and enunciate every word clearly. “Is it any of your business?”

“Well, so-ree, freak.” The taller boy spits.

I smile sweetly. “Will that be all? Because I have more important things to do. You know, like watching paint dry.”

I probably shouldn’t have said that last word.

“You takin’ the piss, squirt?” The other boy says, untangling himself from the blonde girl’s arm, glaring at me.

I realise my mistake, too late. “Oh, no, I didn’t mean anything.” I say quickly, backing away.

“I think she was. I think we ought to teach her a lesson or two about manners.” The taller boy says again, and the girls giggle stupidly. “Go on, Jack!”

They approach me and I drop my folders, looking desperately around for help. But the older ones don’t care and the younger ones are afraid. They pass by us like water passing rocks in a creek.

“Please don’t hurt me.” I whisper, backing up to a wall.

“Please don’t hurt me.” The leader, Jack, says in a falsetto, laughing and standing so his face was inches from mine. His breath is fresh, which is weird. “What you gonna do about it, freak?”

“P- Please.” I plead. My throat is closing up and I can’t breathe and I’m going to die I’m going to die I’m going to die.

The shorter one grabs my wrist and pulls me over to him, wrapping his arm around my neck. He pulls me out to the middle of the hallway, and Jack leans down, pushing my fringe away from my right eye. “Wow, what the hell?” He says. “What’s wrong with you?”

The girls look anxious now. “C’mon, Jack, a teacher will find us...”

“Yeah, you taught her a lesson...”

Jack ignores them, and instead hits me, hard, on the cheek. “I asked you a question.” He hisses.

“I’m blind in one eye.” I hiss back.

He bursts into malicious laughter. “Well, isn’t that just dandy. So, say if I go over here...” He disappears to my right, and I know that I’m crying now, from the pain in my cheek and the complete terror I’m feeling and the fact that I’m so goddamn helpless against these two thugs. He’s going to hurt me, I know.

“You can’t see me?”

I nod slowly, pulling at the other boy’s arm. Jack laughs delightedly again. “Well, then, we’re going to have a bit of fun.”

“Help!” I shout, my voice cracking again.

“Larson! Bailey! Just what do you think you’re doing?”

I look up at the prim voice and the sound of heels, and almost sob in relief. The year head is striding down the now almost empty hallway, her scary smile gone, and now she just looks scary.

“I... I... we weren’t doing nothing, Miss.” The two boys jump away from me, and I land hard on the ground, pushing myself backwards with my feet, sobbing.

“I can’t believe you two!” She shouts. “Terrorizing a new student, and especially one with a disability...”

“Hey. Psst. Blondie.”

I push through the layers of sleep until I’m looking up, confused, at a familiar face. “Jamie?”

He grins. “I thought you were having a nightmare, you were shaking and crap.” He says, sitting back on his hunkers.

“I... I wasn’t dreaming anything.” I lie, pushing my hand through my hair.

Jamie grins at me through his long fringe. “You’re coming to a party.”

I stare at him, the word taking a while to connect in my brain. “... A party. Me. With you. You’re taking me to a party.”

He grins. “Yeah! Won’t it be great?”

“You’re kidding.”

He sighs, deflated. “Come on, Wander, it’ll be...”

“Rose.”

“What?” He looks at me, confused.

“Rose. My name is Rose.” If the two assholes from before could know my name, why shouldn’t he?

“Oh, alright then. Rose.” He grinned. “Nice name.”

And it’s so lovely, so sweet, so remarkably Jamie, that I start crying there and then, great racking sobs.

“Oh, crap. Crap crap crap. Rose? Uh, you okay? It wasn’t something I said, was it?”

“They hurt me.” I said, using the sleeve of my- his- hoodie to wipe my eyes. “They hit me in the face.”

“Who?” Jamie says. “Rose, who hurt you?”

“Two boys from my old school...”

“Oh, right. Oh, Rose, I’m so sorry, I never realised...” He says, before pulling me into a hug. I cry into his chest, clinging to him for all I’m worth.

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