'What happened to you Ana? You look like you've been in the wars,' Reuben greeted as soon as Ana came into view at the end of the school day. She tried not to wince in pain with each slow step that she took, her ankle throbbed in protest to the weight she was putting on it. Her cardigan had taken on mud stains and remnants of orange juice and there was a tiny cut slashed across her cheekbone.
'I fell over,' she responded lamely, sinking into the passenger seat, thankful that she could rest her ankle. It had taken until lunchtime for them to catch up with her round the back of the science block. Paige had thought it'd be hilarious to pour orange juice over Ana's shirt and to kick her in the shin. She missed though and instead caught the bone on her ankle. The mud stains were self explanatory, they had tripped her up.
Reuben knew she was lying but he didn't push it further. He knew when to keep his mouth shut.
The drive home was quiet and far too short. Ana watched the trees pass by in a blur of green and brown, merging together like a watercolour painting. All too soon Reuben was pulling up outside the familiar Victorian style building that was supposed to be known to her as home. It didn't feel like home though; it felt alien and distant. Like somewhere she was stopping only temporarily.
'See you later Ana, ring me if you need anything,' Reuben told her earnestly. She smiled and got out the car, ignoring the shakiness of her legs. Their car was parked outside which meant they were home, which meant she'd have to face them. She didn't know what that would mean though. They were unpredictable. It all depended on the mood they were in.
The house was quiet as she stepped inside. She kicked her shoes off into the cupboard under the stairs and headed straight upstairs.
'Ana!' Her stepfather bellowed. She sighed, her stomach twisting into an uncomfortable knot, and backtracked to see what he wanted.
'You're looking like shit,' he commented as she entered the living room.
'What happened to your face?'
'I fell over.'
'That was smart of you,' he sneered. He was wearing a vile, coffee stained shirt that may have been white at one point but was now a murky beige colour. His stomach protruded over the waistline of his tracksuit bottoms and he was scrutinizing her with steely gray eyes.
'Yeah, I know. Anyway, I have homework to do.'
He completely ignored this last bit. 'Make me dinner, I'm starving.'
'But it's only four o clock,' Ana pointed out without thinking.
His expression turned furious. 'Don't back chat me! Do as you're told!'
'Sorry,' she mumbled, heading into the kitchen. There was hardly anything in the cupboards, just a few pots of herbs and some dried up breadsticks. She checked in the fridge, a lone tub of butter and a few slabs of bacon sat by themselves on the bottom shelf.
She decided to make a bacon sandwich, flicking the grill on and cutting the fat from the meat. She laid three rashers out flat and waited for them to cook.
'I don't know what's taking so long!' Her stepdad called.
'What are you making me?'
'Fine just don't burn them like last time. Fucking useless.' He muttered this last bit but she could hear it easily from where she was stood. She was thankful he wasn't in a bad mood tonight, this was one of his happier moments. When he got angry, she was the first to know about it.
When she handed him the plate, he snatched it from here without saying anything. She breathed a small sigh of relief and headed up to her room to crack on with homework.
They were expecting a new student at Rupe Forti High School tomorrow. Ana wasn't particularly interested in this, if anything she was secretly dreading it. She knew Paige and Sarah would get to the new student, giving Ana yet another tormentor. Just another person to shout abuse at her. To allow her to live her life of misery and anguish.
Ana's phone buzzed in her pocket.
'Ana,' Reuben's voice spoke from the other end. 'I have a crazy idea.'
'You're full of crazy ideas. What is it?'
'You know I said we should move away? I was thinking, my friend has a spare flat that he said he'd rent cheaply to us. It's in good condition and it's close to the city center.'
'That's awesome. But you know I can't do that. Where is it anyway?'
'Down in London.'
'London?! No, I definitely can't do that.'
'Why not Ana? You don't enjoy your life here, I can tell. I know about the girls at your school. Don't tell me that cut on your cheek is from tripping up.'
'So what? What's running away going to prove? It's just going to portray me as a coward. I can stand it okay Reuben? Just please, stop filling my head with crazy ideas.'
She hung up on him, not wanting to listen to anymore.