I can hear voices, muffled and unclear. They seem concerned, or perhaps confused. Who am I kidding? They’re loving this, yet another excuse to laugh at me. Yet another direction to attack from. Damn. As if they didn’t think I was weak enough already, here I am, lying on the floor and groaning. My head is still throbbing, but I’ve become accustomed to that by now, the pain is in my knee. I must have caught it when I fell, I don’t know, but whatever happened it’s very uncomfortable.
I shift my weight onto my other leg, a collective murmur of excitement and relief accompanies my movement. Damn. They noticed.
“Are you alright?” Comes the first voice, with a predictably unimaginative question. A nice attempt at sincerity, but not sufficient to make me want to get up. As I would have thought, the rest of the crowd now join in, in a cacophony of unhelpful and unnecessary questions.
“How are you?” I’m fine thank you; I’d be a lot better if you’d stop bugging me.
“Does it hurt?” Of course it hurts, I’ve been unconscious for God knows how long after falling down a flight of stairs.
“Can you hear us?” Yes, unfortunately, I can hear all of you, which is why I haven’t got up yet. Although, I am starting to think I might have to so you’ll all shut up. Damn.
I open my eyes and let them focus on the nearest pair of shoes, the polished black reflecting slightly the dim light of the hallway. I notice a pair just behind, leather boots, up to the knees, Ellie. Damn. She is standing on tip-toes, one foot shifting constantly to try and keep balance. I could just reach out and pull her ankle, watch her fall, but no. I can’t, what would that make me? A lot of enemies. So I focus on getting up, slowly, my arm cooperates and pushes me to a sitting position. The wall is strangely inviting, letting me relax into its smooth skin. A few people lose interest, now that I’m conscious and breathing, but most remain. Avoiding eye contact, I observe Ellie’s strange excitement at my situation. Leaning towards me, hands on the shoulders of the two boys stood in front of her, her digging fingernails causing a grimace on their faces. When she notices me looking, she quickly returns to her usual stance, crossed arms and staring eyes. I rub my eyes, wishing her away, but she remains. With a groan I release myself from the wall’s cold embrace and gently stand, I stumble as my knee almost gives way, but I feel a hand underneath my arm, helping me up.
Looking to the side, I see the girl, definitely shorter than me and with shoulder length blonde hair. I don’t recognise her at all, maybe she’s in the year below. She smiles at me, truly sincere and with warmth that takes me aback. Her blue eyes seem to brighten suddenly, as I attempt to return her gesture. But Ellie’s scowl reminds me to be wary, not wanting to give her more ammunition, I shrug away the girl.
“I’m alr—ʺ The ‘r’ stumps me, my accent conflicting with my intention. “I’m OK.” I decide to lessen my embarrassment. The girl opens her mouth to object, but Ellie cuts her off.
“You’re what sorry? I didn’t quite catch that.” I scowl at her, and spit my reply.
“Řekl jsem, že jsem v pořádku!” I can see her delight in my outburst, and I instantly regret it. She raises an eyebrow before making a calculated response, designed to hit me as hard as possible.
“Careful or you might be with your Mum by Christmas.” It worked. I take a shaky step closer to her smug face, which is oozing with pride. I feel the anger building, my left hand tightening as I raise my right fist, preparing to hit her just as hard.
“Wait! Stop!” I hear my sister’s voice, pleading, desperate. Her words bite me through her tears, as she continues to beg. I turn and see her cowering beneath a table on the stone floor of the house, afraid to move but ready to scream. I take a step towards her, she stares for a moment before running past me to the door.
“Stop!” This time it is the girl, and I realise my mistake. The floor isn’t stone, there is no table and my sister is not here. But the memory was enough. I drop my fist and stare blankly at the girl. She seems more than a little confused. “Sorry, I just, didn’t want…” She trails off; I continue to stare, noticing more and more similarities between this girl and my sister. The same hair, the same eyes, the same voice, the same smile. A disgruntled cough announced Ellie’s departure, I vaguely see her strutting away, but that is not important. Who is this girl? Why does she look like my sister? Why does she sound like my sister? Why is she just standing there? Questions dart around my brain, occasionally colliding to form strange potential answers.
“What’s your n-name?” I manage, with difficulty. She smiles apologetically as I stumble over the ‘n’.
“Abigail,” She replies quickly. “You’re Volani right?” She seems afraid of her own words, as if I’d be offended at her knowing my name. I nod slowly, watching her relax. She looks down for a moment, whispering something to herself, but, realising she is being watched, she quickly looks up and smiles. “I, um, I have to go, I’ll see you around.” Before I respond, she hurries away, leaving me to interpret her nervousness alone.
I find my bag on the floor. Why was she afraid? Well, the answer to that is obvious, I just threatened to attack someone and she was standing between us. I could quite easily have let my anger out on her instead of Ellie. But why did she help me? That’s less obvious, pity maybe? Or maybe there is such a thing as good-nature, though I doubt it. From my experience the only people who help me, stand to gain something, or are about to let me fall again. But for now, it seems, Abigail is on my side. I swing my bag onto my shoulder and start to leave. And for a second, I feel myself smiling, genuinely. Perhaps…perhaps today wasn’t so bad.