“It is a man's own mind, not his enemy or foe, that lures him to evil ways”
My entire back feels like there are thousands of killer bees jabbing it continuously. The bed sheets are down to my waist and I lie on my front. The rough fabric of the bed digs into my cheek, probably it will leave a crease mark when I get up. There is a small pool of drool on the pillow, because it was difficult to breathe this way.
All the moisture from my throat is gone and my lungs are airtight. They deflate and expand ever so slowly, as if on a constant ritenuto; gradually getting slower and slower, until they will cease to function.
The pain in my back is too much to bear. It like is knives constantly jabbing me with every move that I make. Whenever I shift in my bed it seems like the sore open up again and I can feel the trickle of blood.
My lips are bloody and raw too, because I have been biting them to keep myself quiet in the dormitory.
The sweat makes my bed sheets wet and they stick to my skin unpleasantly like adhesive. A few strands of my hair tickle my neck. My feet are dangling from the edges of the wooden bed and I am glad for the cool temperature of the bedroom. The air environs my bare back and soothes it down, relieving half of the pain.
Willow's smug smile is still plastered onto her evil face as she sleeps. I want to slap it right off of her, but I am too stuck to move. What she did to me was mediocre. It was quick, but that's not to say that it wasn't painful. If it wasn't Madame Newman yesterday and some other teacher, they would probably let her beat me unconscious.
The worst part was coming back inside. Everyone goggled at me like some new entertainment. Some gave me pitiful looks, others glared at me and then there were those that could only stare, as if in apoplexy.
I had to hobble up the stairs with my back hunched and bleeding. No one spoke to me, touched me or helped me. The rules are the rules, after all. I didn't mind this alienation, because it meant a certain privacy. I am used to it anyway and there wasn't any particular change.
Even when I slept, some stared at me, while other hissed and cursed. To be honest, I have long learned how to block my hearing out and only see myself and Poppy in the room. The rest are merely lifeless souls existing pointlessly in this world.
I didn’t clean my wounds yesterday, partially because I didn’t want Poppy to get up and also because if I did go to the bathroom then Willow would come after me and God knows what she might do again. Not that I am afraid, but it’s better to keep a low profile.
I had no bandages left and I couldn't ask for Poppy's. So I had to resort to sleeping half naked. Today, I have to show Willow that she did not defeat me. We have to exercise every weekend and participate in sport to keep fit and healthy. Even though it will be impossible to run today, I will still try to keep up. It will be even more humiliating seeing her grin of pride.
I gingerly glide my fingers across the surface of my back and to my relief, the pain isn't half as bad as it was yesterday. I prop myself up, pulling the bed sheets with me to cover myself. My hair falls in a messy frizz of cinnamon strands into my eyes and I blow it away, agitated.
At the smell of my own breath, I wrinkle my nose and scowl. I make a mental note to brush my teeth twice today. My arms and legs ache from pins and needles, seeing as I didn't sleep for the whole night.
I dangle my legs down from the bed and pull out a shirt from my drawer, along with cotton trousers. I feel regret about what I am going to do, but I have no choice. I bite down on my lip and pull the shirt over my head, scathing my slashed marks. I gasp quietly and a trickle of blood glides down my lower lip. Clutching the bed sheets tightly, I exhale and close my eyes, waiting for the pain to leave my system.
When I am fully dressed and my hair is up in a loose plait, the others begin to wake up. When a student gets punished, this is custom for them to stare, but they forget about it overnight. What disturbs me is that they still gawp at me like I have four heads. I wonder what Willow told them yesterday. Lies, no doubt. Desperately trying to avoid everyone's persistent stare, I busy myself in making my bed.
Willow strides by me, smiling in a friendly way, but I ignore it. She giggles and whispers something to her friends and they all laugh. I am one hundred per cent sure that it was about me. She disappears into the bathroom and I exhale, realising that I am holding my breath.
I help Poppy with her bed to distract myself and braid her hair. She squeezes my hand in reassurance and skips off to wash herself. I watcher her hop around and a smile tugs at the corners of my mouth. I heard her sleep last night, she made hooting noises, like an owl.
We all make our way down the stairs and line up in the Great Hall for assembly. The boys fill the entrance area, messing and joking about. They are so carefree and light-hearted at times that I wish to be like them. I wonder if they hate each other too? Do they deliberately make fun of each other?
Everyone chatters busily and I hear my name a few times, which makes me feel uncomfortable. I want to sink and melt into the floor forever so no one can find me.
Sadly, Poppy is with the juniors and I can barely just see her little head amongst the mesh of other kids. She stands still and stares at the wall. I feel the urge to hug her and make her smile, but that is against the rules. You can't move from your line.
The Great Hall is long, with high arching windows, as like the rest of the school. The huge wine curtains that used to cover them are not there anymore, probably for the chores today. The morning sun winks at me, its incandescent light sending a constellation of gold shimmering around the hall. The walls are painted a creamy colour, adorned with picture frames of previous teachers and students of the year.
Suddenly, a voice booms through the chatter of the students and all is quiet, "Good morning children," Madame Rees smiles sourly.
Her tall figure seems to avoid the sunlight, making her look pale. Her blond hair is up in her trademark chignon and her glacial eyes stare at us in expectance.
"Good morning Madame Rees!" everyone echoes in unison. Her eyes give a little glimmer and narrow in satisfaction. Chills run up and down my spine, from seeing her like this.
She stands with her head held high, shoulders straight and hands behind her back. Her usual business suit is always black and loosely encloses her skeletal body. She might have been beautiful once, if it wasn't for the nonchalant look in those snake-like eyes or her usual smirk of pretence.
"This morning we have a very important announcement to make," her eyes give another excited twinkle, "a new student will be joining our wonderful school," she brings out her arm to the door and a boy with ebony black hair is walked inside by Mister Anders.
I gasp and a few people near me give me strange looks. Clapping my mouth with my hand, I stare at the boy. He is the one from the labs yesterday. He is the one who threatened to kill me. I feel a lurching feeling inside my stomach and bile almost rises up my throat. My head spins and I try to calm down, digging my nails into my palms.
The boy moves gracefully, his eyes aimlessly looking ahead and his dark hair swaying as he walks. He is taller than I thought, towering over Madame Rees. I can see how strong he is from the outline of his muscles in the uniform. He is positioned beside Madame Rees and she places a protective arm on his shoulder.
"This is James Redwood," she smiles crookedly and everyone merely stares at the boy. I don't know if it is because of his looks or because he is a newcomer, "He had a very hard life before our Peacemakers found him. But now, he is in safe hands. He is in safe haven," she purrs and everyone claps. Everyone except me.
I look up and to my surprise, the boy seems to be looking right at me. I look around to see if I am mistaken, but his gaze never falters. That beautiful gaze of hatred and determination.
I wonder what happened to him? He was awake when I found him and that means something is wrong. I have a feeling that he is here for a reason. It's just not the same as everyone else's.
I focus back and realise that we are now moving outside for our weekly run. Each boy and girl is obliged to participate and this will go towards your final mark at the end of the year.
When we reach the pitch, the air is warm and humid. I can hear birds chirping in the willow trees that line the brick wall. Their leaves fascinate me. They seem so brittle fluttering in the wind like that, but yet they stay strong. Just like me.
I see Mister Jenkins hobble up to us gruffly and in agitation. He is not one to be tried for temper. He will snap at any small thing, so you need to be extra cautious about him. His hair is almost gone, with only a few strands left on the crown of his head. He wears his same old blue tracksuit and grey running shoes. His round face is splotched with red marks and I don't know if it is from the sun or anger.
When we are all lined up into a horizontal line, he walks up and down, past each student. Every boy and girl hold their breath, when he passes them, hoping he won't make fun. That's the other thing about Mister Jenkins. He like to point out people's flaws and call them trash or scum as if a reminder to us all. It's not different for all of the other teachers, but he has a habit of doing it every time we jog.
"Right," he says, with a slight Irish lilt to his voice, "This week we will do running, as always. Ten laps around the field," a groan escapes the students and he closes his eyes in contemplation, then continues, "and then we will go back to playing dodge ball, you useless scum!" he bellows and everyone shuts up. His face is pink in fury and he breathes like a bull, his nostrils flaring. I see Poppy whimper a few feet away from me. She is the smallest of the juniors and my heart swells thinking of her little feet trying to keep up.
We are separated into two groups; those that are weak and those that are strong. I am in the strong group, because running is my second nature. Poppy, however, is not with me. I can see her huge brown eyes look at me in a melancholy way. I smile in encouragement and give her thumbs up. She returns the smile, but it disappears as if it was never there in the first place.
I begin to stretch my arms and legs on the pitch field, when sudden pain hits my back. I feel a hand slap my sores and I wisp around, ready to kill, "Oops, that was meant to be an act of encouragement and friendliness. My bad," Willow shrugs innocently, playing dumb.
"No really," I spit through my teeth, "you shouldn't get your hands dirty. They are full of smut already," she narrows her eyes and leans forwards.
"You and I are not finished," and before I can say something foul, she frolics away to her group of friends, leaving me tomato-faced and on the verge of detonating like a bomb.
Mister Jenkins puts each girl and boy together to run in two's. Poppy is with some shy boy, for which I am relieved. But my moment of calm is destroyed by my pairing. To my bad luck, I am with the ebony haired boy. He glides towards me and I can see his eyes contracting in fury. He must not like this either.
The coach blows his whistle and the stronger group begins to rhythmically pound their feet in adagio tempo across the sandy path. I swing my arms back and forth, pushing harder and harder. We all gradually speed up after the fourth or so lap and my back is throbbing with pain. I clench my teeth and look at my feet to forget about it.
James seems to have no difficulty either. He swiftly moves his limbs in sync with me and I sneak a look at him. I regret it the moment I see him look back. His gives me a glare and turns his head back to the path.
By the time we finish, I am sweaty and out of breath. I finish tenth, which is a good sign. This will be put down in my records, giving me an advantage in my Classification. I sit down on the cool grass and lean my head on my knees, taking deep breaths. Everyone stretches and walks around to cool off. I see Poppy sitting by the other younger children. I am not allowed to come over to her, but I will see her later at breakfast. She doesn't look too bad and she even smiles. I wonder what the boy said to her.
"That was pathetic! You're all dirty-good-for-nothing-trash!" the coach shouts at us, "Line up!" and we all line up in a horizontally in unison. Everyone learned to keep their backs straight and look ahead, never stepping across the white line.
He walks down the row of students and stops a few times to point out people's flaws. He comments on their weight and their height or body parts, which is enough to make anyone cry. When he comes to me, he glares into my eyes and huffs, walking by. I exhale in relief and return to my straight position.
"This afternoon, you will be split up into teams to play dodge ball. The winning team gets bonus points to their records!" he shouts and then dismisses us for breakfast.
Before I can run away from my partner and hide inside the safe building, something yanks my arm and I am pulled back. I turn my head around to see James' powerful hand gripping my thin wrist.
"That hurts," I point out with acid in my tone. I am surprised myself, but I can't help it. He looks at me with focus, trying to figure something out. His eyes are now misty and distant. They are somewhere, where I can't reach him.
As if realising what he is doing, her lets go and I massage my wrist gently. His grip was too strong for my fragile arm and there is a bruise starting to blossom.
"Did you tell anyone?" he hisses quietly, dashing his eyes around to see if anyone is listening. I can sense the fear and worry in his tone. He seems so urgent to find out. What is he so up about?
"Of course not!" I say in defence, "You wouldn't be here if I did. Besides, if I say a word, I am in as much trouble as you,"
He doesn't seem to have thought about this and his eyebrows knit together in concentration, "Fine, lets assume that I believe you. But it doesn't mean that I won't be watching. You remember out agreement?" he raises his brow and I laugh in exasperation. Assume? Agreement? Who does he think he is?
"The one where you promised to break my neck? Yeah," I say and he smiles crookedly. Even though it is not his real smile, it still makes him look beautiful.
"Good. You are smarter than I thought. See you around, green eyes," this time he definitely smiles and with his hands in his pockets, he leaves me furious on the field.