The sun set over the sloped roofs of the highland, the calm hanging wet in the air. Seaspray over on the wind and the sky drowned in mauvve streaks. Another Sunday night. Soon, another monday morning.
And I dreaded the days. I dreaded them in a thick sweat that plagued me every night, every day, every second. A wave of disgusting tears that clogged my throat and burned my eyes.
It was such a small, inoffensive word. Yet it holds such a vast meaning so different for each individual. It's defined for me by the hoards of males that chastise and ridicule me, and the females that ignore, pity and are generally repulsed by me. It's an odd mix. I'm an odd girl.
"Kira! Come sit by Jenri! I'm sure he'd LOVE to sit next to you!"
"Oh yes, pleas Kira, I'm so desperately in love with you, won't you sit with me?"
Fueled by the tears ad screams of the night before I take my seat alone at the back with a vague sense of dignity and, I can only hope, an air of indifference. The boys' irritating yells continue until Dr Mbali calls silence.
"Class! We have a new student in our midst, Gods help him, so do your best not to ill him on the first day." The boy stood next to him smirked. I'm sure his thin face and high cheekbones on caramel skin could have meant he was vaguely attractive, but his acne and unnaturally well-shaped eyebrows hid it perfectly. His chinos and turned up collar and sleeves also screamed of ill-gained popularity. He'd fit in perfectly with the males that yell abuse at me.
"Iqab, you can sit..." Mbali's eyes search for a moment to find the only available seat which is of course next to me in the corner. I wonder in the bac of my mind if I merely smell. "Next to ira." Mbali motions towards me, winning another smirk from Iqab's thin lips. He makes his way across the room to me, bag slung across one shoulder smacking everyone in the face, to the muttered condolences of the other males. He gives Jenri a comradorative punch on the shoulder and I resolved never to trust Iqab. His black eyes may look like they glint with intelligence but I'm assured that they don't by the friendships he seems to have made. The hopes I'd had of a male from the outside seeing me differently to those on the inside were crushed in that single shoulder punch.
I became an empty shell and stared at Iqab as he sat, then at the board. Mbali made some sorts of notes on the motions of the Universe, muttering as he did so. The class was finally dead silent save for hurried scribbles on paper. When the questions were set and the class volume rose to mumblings, Iqab nudged me.
"I like your ring." It was a pattern from the star actress of Marsia, which was popular with alost every person on earth. It was delicate leaves from a fae history woven from silver.
"Thanks." I replied, my voice even but low.
"I always loved Marsia. So violent, yet so compassionate in tone. It's got such an incredible pace, and what they say, how they say it is so remarkable."
He could've taken the words right out my mouth. I ignored him and continued to answer questions.
"But I never got it, in the last series. You've seen the finale, right? So she let the boy hide in the closet when the gunmen came. And she sat outside the cupboard and let them shoot her. Why would she do that? They could easily have both hid, even just in that one cupboard, right?"
"Wrong. For one, she was predisposed to melodrama and even in a life or death situation she would've found the romance and final drama of sacrificing herself far too interesting an idea to hold back. Furthermore, she was fueled by a deep maternal love. Lastly, if the gunman had found the empty room he would've searched the cupboards and they'd both be dead. She saved one life and created her perfect death people would have to take notice of. A win-win situation."
My cheeks burned from the horror of exposing my thoughts to another so easily. Iqab didn't notice. He sniffed and seemed to ponder what I'd said quite deeply.
"You've got a good understanding of the mind, Kira." That was his second to last sentence to me before Now.
In the 3 lessons a week that followed he watched me. I don't mean stared; it wasn't that intense. It was quite a gentle feeling of being watched really. He never spoke even a quiet hello to me, just watched me and made the occasional joke with Jenri 3 rows in front. So, of course it came as a surprise when he stopped me after class with a hand on my chest and eyes boring into mine. It was scary to be honest. Mbali stayed behind as he alwys did, checing answers and marking essays. He was an odd choice of audience for Iqab's embarassing display. I guess the Gods are mysterious like that.
Iqab shuffled in front of the pale painted brick wall of the lab. I don't know why they never plaster the walls; it looks so tacky. "So Kira, I, er, was wondering if maybe you'd like to go on a date with me?" Oh Gods, these were the worst kinds.
See, when the boy sniggers you know it's a joke. There's no doubt and shame and you can just walk away.
But when they act all serious and shy there's doubt in your mind. Even though it's happened 17, 00 times before you still think: "Maybe... Maybe this time they really like me." and perhaps you believe them, and they look alright, and you're so desperate for a friend you'd happily give them anything, and you say yes before you can stop yourself and they burst, erupt and split apart in such an explosion of raucus laughter it cuts you like a knife. "I can;'t believe it!" They say. "I can't believe you acutally fell for it!" Aw, well done. This moron was able to make the same joke a thousand had before him. So why did it hurt so damn much still?
Not this time. And I'm not just saying no this time. I am sick of this.
"Seriously?" My voice sounds more deadly than I expected. "Seriously? You expect me to believe that you - a boy that has only spoken 3 sentences to me at most - wants to go on a date with me, the class freak? A girl so freaking weird she is rejected by every peer she's ever met; a girl reminded every 20 minutes exactly how undesirable she is, as though the last hundred times just weren't quite enough?" My voice is getting louder than I want, ecposing more emotion than I want. I try to intimidate Iqab. I'm in heels so I' almost as tall as him and I walk my full height towards him, backing him into the hideous wall.
"What, did you think you were the first? The first boy who'd ever pretended to like me for a joke? Laughed at my pathetic ass with his pathetic-ass-friends afterwards? Do you have any idea how it feels - to be so incredibly repellant that people ask you out for a joke, like "look at this bitch she's so stupid for thinking anyone would ever like her when she's so repugnant." Did ou ever stop to think of that?"
He was well and truly backed up, his body bent uncomfortably a way from me, his wide black eyes only inches from mine. For the first time, I felt powerful. Like my fears and panics didn't matter; Like I was strong. Well, for the first time outside the arena.
I enter the stupid ring Matron forces me into with a shove. The air is choked with sweat and grime, and the white wash walls and targets next to crumbling stone benches hardly aquate to an "arena." Yet, the stuffy air feels fresh to my lungs. I feel free for once. I lift up one of the guns laid out in front of me, guessing this was where I should start. The cold metal hurt my hand but it was refreshing pain. I aimed at the target and shot with one hand. The blast knocked the gun back and I hit the ceiling. Good thing this was a one story building. I aimed again and focused on keeping my hand straight. After only 3 tries I hit the target dead centre. Smiling, I moved over to the wrestling ring.
"And I know why you do it too, Iqab. Yes, in part because this deception makes you feel so damn clever and makes up for the fact you lack any intellect. But mostly it's because you are so goddamn afraid maybe I'm better than you that you've just got to keep me in my place right? And that is pathetic." I let the whimpering Iqab out from under my constricting arm. How weak. I followed him out with a look.
I noticed red spots on my jumper and realised tears had flown without sobs, without even my permission. I wiped them off on my leather fingerless glove.
"Well that was fairly impressive." Mbali chuckled and rose from behind his desk where he'd obviously been listening intently. He approached me and I heard a faint hiss.
"It's nie to see you so empowered outside of the arena, Kira." My name snapped me with force back into myself. I remembered my panics and how weak I was. I nodded and Mbali and awkwardly turned to get my bag and leave.
"Oh no honey, I'm not done with you just yet." He came closer still and I smelt an out of place aroma of sweet vegetation on the air. Mbali smelt of peppermint and lime. It was terrifyingly compelling.
"You see hon, you have this dilectable little gift, don't you? This ability to act for survival, to read the people around you so instictively. I gotta say, this is the first time I've seen it outside the arena in that little tiff. We could develop it, you know. Make you a hero. You could work with us, the Invaded. I think you'd be such a valuable addition. But we just can't let you go in this state."
He worked his arms around my waist and I stopped breathing.
"You see, right then you were strong. You were... Dominant. And I think you can see how arousing that particular display was. But we just can't let a female get away with that, now can we?"