“Where you going Ara?”
Kanani. Great. That’s just what I need.
Before I can react, a hand clamps down on my shoulder, forcibly turning me around so I’m facing her. To say Kanani Taylors was pretty would be the biggest understatement of the year. Originally from Hawaii, her skin is much more tanned and exotic than anyone else at school, a shade that I guess could only really be defined as mocha. Matched with her long, curled, ebony hair and eyes that perfectly replicated the exact shade of dark chocolate, she was a sight to behold.
Me on the other hand…
“Come on Ara, I just wanna chat.” Maybe it’s the sarcastic tone, or the smile that’s a little too one sided, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t going to be a chat I want to participate in.
“N-No thank you.” I stutter quietly. I try to get out the way and escape back to Aunt Natalie’s house, but she tightens her grip, keeping me in place. I can tell now that I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.
“Did I ask for your opinion?” Kanani questions me, the smile/smirk still plastered on her face. I shake my head slowly. “Didn’t think so.”
For the next couple seconds my body goes numb, and I can no longer feel anything. Just when I wonder whether this is just a dream, Kanani lets go of my shoulder and slams her fist into my jaw. I fall to the ground in agony, my cries only escalating as Kanani continued her assault, kicking my stomach as I lay on the concrete of the school playground. Despite the deafening sound of her kicks and my cries, I can still hear her mum call her in the distance, most likely from her car, and she stops immediately. To help her look like the good guy, she even helps me up, though she then pulls me close.
“See you next term, Arabella.” She whispers so quietly that I know it’s only meant for me. With that she departs for her mum’s car, her laugh swept away by the wind.
I sigh and turn around, perfectly aware of the tears rolling down my cheeks. “Yeah. Next term.”
That’s the only thing I can think as I cry on my bed, being quiet of course so I don’t attract Aunt Natalie’s attention. I remember when Mum was alive I would be able to go to her when I had problems and troubles. Now I have no one. Aunt Natalie loves me, I know-and I love her, but…she just wouldn’t understand. And there’s no-one at school who’s going through what I am. If they are then they’re doing a brilliant job of hiding it.
“Ara dear, dinner will be ready in five minutes!” Aunt Natalie calls from downstairs. I don’t reply, in case I give away the fact that I’d spent the last fifteen minutes crying. Instead I decide to change out of my uniform. Hopefully that would also give me the chance to apply some makeup to make my face seem less red and blotchy, and also cover up the nasty bruises.
As I pull off my school shirt, I find myself frozen to the spot. My stomach is covered in bruises ranging purple to black, small to large. I’m used to bruises, but this... My eyes glance at my arms, at the scars that decorate them up from my wrists all the way to just short of my shoulders. These are not from Kanani, or any other bully I’ve crossed paths with, nor are they from careless accidents or a tragic mishap. No.
These are my friends.
Brought out of my trance by my aunt’s reminder, I quickly pull on a long sleeve t-shirt and change my school trousers for a pair of jeans, trying not to stare at the replacers that are scattered on my legs. I quickly put on a pair of slippers and almost run downstairs, joining Natalie in the kitchen where’s she sat at the table. She asks me how school went, and I spit out the same old lies about it being great, that I talked to my friends and all. I even spout out some gossip that I overheard from some of the others in my year, and soon she is satisfied and we go on eating in silence.
This is what happens every day after school. She believes that I go around the school grounds with this imaginary Marissa, Hannah and Rebecca. She thinks that I talk to them about the most popular bands, or ask about how Pauline’s music recitals are going. I’ve dug myself into quite the hole of lies here.
But it’s what I must do.
She just wouldn’t understand.