neck

She had always been an unremarkable girl. Quiet, though not shy, friendly, but not popular, cute in her own way, sure, but not beautiful. She was just ordinary.  But today the halls were silent as she walked through. Hushes and whispers floated in the air behind her half-slumped shuffle. Her shrug and sigh as she adjusted her backpack echoed louder than her steps. They watched like hawks to see if her eyes spied any boys with her incriminating little looks, but she refused to look anywhere but at her own feet.

The rumors had circulated, reaching further than she could have imagined, suggesting the most sinister and most vile. Word got to the principal through a few “concerned” classmates, and it spread its roots across the rest of the faculty. It had been announced privately that there would be nothing done about “the situation” publicly, but rather to let her approach any member of the staff on her own terms. Both the counselor and the nurse protested, the decision was final.

The room was empty when she walked in. Taking her place near the front, she dropped her backpack and tried to hide her neck. Others walked inside laughing and talking but they all fell quiet when they saw her–sitting there so sheepishly, delicate like a wilting flower, like a lost puppy with a quivering tail.  The lecture started in unaccustomed silence, and as the scraping chalk started to dust the blackboard she began  to stir in her seat.

She slunk to the bathroom without so much as a word, all it took was a little welling in her eyes and Mr. Newhouse nodded without breaking his sentence. All the boys watched her as she left, she could feel it. The bathroom stalls were inked in curvy black letters half scratched out. She had checked the halls and had checked the stalls and now found herself alone. She splashed some water on her face to muddy and streak her eyeliner, careful not to disturb the fake bruises wrapped around her neck like a medal.

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