Dismissed

For The Write Stuff competition (1000 word story). The theme is friendship.
FINISHED - final version now up! Thank you for all your help!

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1. Dismissed - 980 words

My heart was stone as I waited yet again to be picked for the football team. Before long, all my classmates had moved forward, donning red jerseys. My teacher's eyes skipped over me when my hand shot in the air to ask as to why I couldn't partake.

Two agonising weeks passed before a classmate took a stand. The recalcitrant girl strutted over, linking her fair hand with my darker one.

"It's okay." She grinned. "I'll stay with you."   

 

They still looked askance when I paced down the corridor, but I let my focus drift away from them because I knew I had her beside me. She had bright red hair that turned into flickering flames when she was angry. Her eyes would narrow; her mouth would purse into a paper-thin line. Without saying a word, people knew to avoid her.

Our voices remained hushed in each other's company; secrets slipped like flower petals from our lips, cherished and sacred. Whenever anyone did dare to interrupt, she pushed them away, telling them she could be friends with whomever she wished, irrespective of what they were.  

I dismissed the fact that she'd referred to me as a 'what', just like I dismissed the fact that she started sitting a little further away from me from that day on.   

 

That Halloween was the first Halloween I had someone to go trick-or-treating with. We dressed like the ghosts from a horror movie we’d watched in one of our sleepovers, baskets expectant on the crease of our arms. Our smiles were vibrant enough to battle the lights decorating the house, even if bits of toffee apple were stuck in our teeth.

"We're going to get the most sweets!" She chortled, and I couldn't help but match the expression of amusement. Her laugh was loud and exuberant: it was impossible to ignore or stay mad when she was this jovial.

I dismissed the amused stares I received as we skipped away, just like I dismissed the fact that although I'd painted my face white, my eyelids were the same shade of dark brown.  

 

Over time, she began to forget the sleepovers we held, caring more about her latest man. Boys grinned as we walked past, not even trying for discretion as they checked out the short skirts she’d taken to wearing.  She waited until she was out of earshot but still in sight to twist her hair around her fingers and pull her skirt a little higher.

I stared at my feet when she turned to meet my eye, just like she refused to meet mine when those same boys stuck out their feet as I walked past.   

 

I should've known to be vigilant when we were walking back home that Sunday. Dad had always made me promise I'd take care of myself, but I had full faith in her capabilities as my protector. 

She was infallible.

They stopped us just before we reached her car. 

A hand pushed against my shoulder, another clamping around my forearm, dragging me away from her. Silent screams escaped from me as I begged for them to leave her alone, but they dismissed it, my words muffled by the cloth they'd pressed to my mouth. 

They wrapped a hand around her long, red hair, tightening their hold as their acrimony gave way to elation. Her eyes popped, bulbous. Tears gathered at the creases in the corner, smudging the mascara she liked to apply in thick layers. 

"You with her?" they asked.  She shook her head, gasping once they released her, strands of curling red hair falling to the floor beside me.

"Swear it," they growled, bending closer towards her. 

She swore, her eyes now crinkling like they did whenever she was about to laugh that laugh I couldn't help but love.

"Like hell! I don't even know her!" 

They all laughed together, and her beautiful laugh mixed with theirs, turning menacing, malevolent. 

The impact of my body hitting the ground jarred my teeth, the taste of dirt and blood permeating my mouth. Shoes hit my stomach, my knees, my face.

Relentless.

Spit mixed with the blows. I curled up tight. Salty tears joined the taste of my dirty blood.

Another day passed before I managed to force my eyes open. 

A man was walking towards me, eyes fixed to the screen of his phone. I tried to call for help, but no sound escaped. He tripped over me, his mouth opening to curse until he saw who - what - I was. 

What he thought I was. 

His feet slapped against the wet floor as he pelted away, dismissing the phone he'd dropped beside me. I let my eyes fall to the black screen. I could see my disjointed hand beside it, the darker than usual skin that encased it. I could see the bright red blood that oozed from the open wounds, the darker brown scabs that had formed over the shallower cuts. 

I compared it to the blood I'd seen when she'd fallen and grazed her knee back when we were ten. Mine looked to be the same colour. I remembered the scab that had formed over it a few days later. Mine was the same colour, had the same rough texture. 

Her words reverberated around my mind, echoing as they shot off the walls.

'I don't know her!'

But she did know me. She knew the music I loved, the shows I watched, and the actors I fancied. She knew I hated beans, hated sports, loathed standing on cracks in the road. 

She knew because she hated the same things too. 

They didn't know me. They assumed they did because we all looked the same.

I thought back to the day I knew she was my hero, and I looked back at the dull red hairs fallen beside me.

She'd dismissed me, just like she'd dismissed our friendship.

 

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