Florence O'Grady hadn't been out of bed before noon in about six weeks. Ever since Colin had taken her to the zoo. She'd seen no reason to. Why leave the comfort, warmth and protection that her bed offered? Why enter into the cruel, hate-filled World when it could be avoided?
She hadn't been out of the house in about three weeks.
And she hadn't made contact with anyone except for her brother Simon in two weeks.
So she was shocked beyond words when she awoke to find her brother standing over her at 6 a.m.
"Get up," he said simply. "You'll be late for school."
Florence buried her bedraggled head in her pillow. What a peculiar thing for Simon to say at this hour of the morning. Maybe he was drunk and would just go away if she ignored him.
"Flo!" he yelled, yanking the blankets from her body. "Get the hell up."
"Are you kidding me?" Florence mumbled into her pillow.
"You wish. You're going to school, like it or lump it. You've been slothing around the place for long enough. You're paler than I've ever seen you, your room smells like you've got a dead person under your bed and -" He paused as he pulled open the curtains and let bright white sunlight stream into the room "- You're getting sort of chubby."
Florence sat up in horror.
"See you downstairs in a few then." Simon left the room, shutting the door behind him.
Stupid brother, thought Florence as she got out of bed and stepped over an empty pizza box to get to the full-length mirror mounted on her bedroom wall. Jeez. Was Simon right? Was she getting chubby? She tilted her head, more and more convinced by the second that her thighs and stomach were bulging hideously from inside her pyjamas. Yuck, she thought, trudging over to her wardrobe.
The first thing she grabbed happened to be a light flowery shirt. As she held it like a precious relic, she thought back a couple of months. The stench of the stables, the heavy riding boots on her feet, Colin's arms constantly wrapped around her waist. Inadvertantly locking eyes with the pretty blonde girl who helped look after the horses on Sundays. Knowing that the longing inside of her was for that girl, and not for her boyfriend.
Florence shook her head and flung the shirt away. Nah. That had been a one-off. She'd barely thought of the stable girl since then, she convinced herself.
Yes. She would go to school today. She would leave the fortress of her bedroom and her oblivion. And she would show everyone that she was normal, she was capable of being accepted into society.
She shook away the nagging feeling that she herself was the one who needed the most convincing.