The next day Mhuiri arrived at the school yard to find Rei waiting for her.
“Morning.” Rei said smiling. “I thought you'd come earlier. Anyway, how did you find the homework?”
“Not too difficult, and it isn't like I have many other things to take up my time.”
“Hah!” Rei began laughing, “Good one. Me either.” she said, mockingly. “I've got absolutely nothing to do other than homework.”
Mhuiri looked at her in confusion.
“Heh ... wait, are you serious?”
“You have nothing to do, other than homework?”
“Pretty much, though there is one other thing that kept me busy last night.”
“Oh? And what was that?”
“Well, as I was getting ready to do my homework, I found something in my bag. It was a letter someone slid into my pack before we left school.”
“Who was it from?”
“That's the thing, it doesn't say. It's signed 'secret admirer', nothing more.” Mhuiri said, handing over the letter.
“Wow Mhuiri one day at school and you're already getting love letters. Good job.”
“Love letters? I'd hardly say he's in love with me, he doesn't even know who I am.” She thought to herself, “Nobody does.”
“Oh Mhuiri.” Rei said, waving her hand, “You don't understand boys. They say they love you, then they love someone else in two minutes.”
“Oh” Mhuiri was visibly disappointed. “So he doesn't like me?”
“Well, no, he does for now.”
“How long will it take for him not to like me?”
“Psh, what am I a magic eigth ball? I don' t know, boys are weird. They think you like them when you don't, they accuse you of flirting when you were just carrying on a conversation. They're just altogether messed up. The worst part is that when you actually do like one, you could smack them in the face with it and they won't put two and two together.” Rei sighed. “They're hopeless.”
“Well, thank you for letting me know.”
“No problem, anytime”
“Should we go to class?”
“Not until the bell rings.” Rei looked up. “Huh, looks like a storm is coming.”
At that moment, the speakers let out the tone that signalled the beginning of the days academic activities.
Tuesday's schedule was different than Monday's, and Mhuiri was upset to discover that she barely saw Rei at all throughout the day. She was looking forward to seeing Rei at lunch so much so that it seemed to make the morning classes drag on. When lunch finally did come around, she was one of the first people in the cafeteria. She sat down at a table near the entrance.
It didn't take Rei long to find Mhuiri in the cafeteria as she was sitting alone. “Hey you, how's your day going so far?”
“Not bad I suppose.”
“Did you already eat?” Rei asked, looking at the empty table.
“No, I'm not hungry.” Mhuiri said.
Mhuiri could tell that it bothered Rei that she wasn't eating. She looked around and realized that it did single her out. Still, she had no want for food. She made a choice those years ago, and she didn't intend on changing anytime soon. “Are you eating?” She asked.
“I already did, I had a spare while you were in Geology, so I stuffed myself then. Since you mentioned it though, I am a bit hungry still.” Rei got up and grabbed Mhuiri by the hand. “Come on.” She said, plucking her from the bench.
“Where?” She saw that Rei was dragging her to the food line. “Oh, but I'm not hungry.”
“That's ok, you don't have to get anything, just want some company while I'm waiting in line.”
“Alright.” When they arrived at the line, the smell of deep fried foods was almost as overwhelming as the sound of sizzling fries and corn dogs. “This doesn't seem like very healthy food.”
“You kidding me? This place charges you for their food. You think they'd make any money if they sold salads and lentil soup?”
“I see your point.”
“We used to have free food in my old school, but it wasn't much better. Their the reasons for crappy food wasn't for making a profit but rather for spending as little money as possible. Healthy food is expensive. This crap is cheap and every teenager I know will choose it hands down before anything that is green.”
“Don't you worry about your health?”
“Don't you? Not eating is just worse than eating this stuff.”
“I eat at home.” Mhuiri said, though lying was not her strong suite.
“Hey, I'm not judging.” Rei said, waving her hand. “Besides, the only thing I'm really concerned about with this food is getting fat, so I try not to eat too much of it. I may not be the prettiest girl in school, but at least I'm not the biggest right?”
“I think you're pretty.”
Rei looked at here and smiled. “Thanks Mhuiri, I appreciate that. I think you're very pretty too, and apparently so does someone else around here. Have you figured out who your admirer is yet?”
“No actually, I haven't figured it out yet, and no one's attempted to put anything in my bag today.”
“Did you ever leave your bag unattended yesterday?”
“Only when I went to the washroom, which is when we met.”
“Hmm, does that mean it's someone in our maths class?”
“I suppose it would mean that.”
“Huh, who could it be? Maybe someone who sits near you?”
“I don't think so. There are girls around me mostly , Chelsea and Amanda I think are their names, and you're behind me.”
“I think Kyle's on the diagonal, and he's hot. I can't see him writing like that though. He's a bit of a bonehead. No, something like this takes at least a little bit of intelligence. Now finding a boy with a little bit of intelligence, that narrows it down. There aren't many.” Rei said, laughing. “Well, there's Mark. He's a bit of a loner, but he's articulate and could have written that. Not to mention the way it was folded is a clue too. Keep an eye out for that.”
“That's a good point Rei. I should see if anyone else folds letters like that.”
“I'll let you know if I see it.” Rei turned from Mhuiri and faced the counter. “I'll have a burger please, and some fries. Pop to drink.”
At the notion of pop Mhuiri's eyes widened. “I'd like a pop too please.”
Rei smiled, “It's on me.” She said.
After lunch Rei and Mhuiri went their separate ways. It took her a coulpe of minutes to find the Biology class, but luckily she wasn't late this time. When she walked through the door, many of the seats were already taken. She walked to the back of the class and sat down. Two of the girls from her Maths class were sitting at the front. They were peering back at her and talking to each other, snickering. Mhuiri immediately felt uncomfortable. She waved to try and break the ice, and even though they saw her, they turned to each other and continued laughing. “Just ignore them.” Mhuiri thought to herself.
Mhuiri felt a wave of relief come over her when the teacher walked into the classroom and asked for everyone to be quiet, ceasing their annoying laughter.
“Welcome to eleventh grade biology part two. I know most of you from last semesetre, but I've noticed one new face. Nice to meet you.” He said to Mhuiri nodding in her direction.
Mhuiri smiled awkwardly and turned to the window, though she kept looking at the front of the classroom through her hair.
“Well, let's get started. We've got cells to talk about. But, before we get into cells, let's get a little philosophical first. Can anyone tell me what life is?”
The classroom was silent, all but for the tapping of a pencil and the chewing of gum.
“Nobody? Come on. Chelasea, what is life?”
Chealsea, one of the girls who had been staring at Mhuiri from the front of the class, looked at the teacher with an idiotic glare. “I don't know, something that's not dead?”
“Well ... yes you could say that. Life is indeed the difference between inorganic or dead organic material and living organic material. What else though? What are the things that describe what is alive? I guess none of you read the homework I assigned for the holidays.”
The class laughed.
“Alright, well, life describes the difference between dead organisms or inorganic material from organisms that are alive. We can tell that they are alive because they fit a set of criteria. These criteria describe that they have to undergo metabolism, have the ability to grow, reproduce and, through natural selection, adapt to their environment from generation to generation. Today we're going to talk about metabolism and it's functions.”
Mhuiri's heart dropped. The teacher continued with his lesson, but she heard nothing but muffled words.
Mhuiri didn't have the ability to reproduce. She couldn't grow, and did not subscribe to the list of organisms that were capable of maintaining a metabolism.
Mhuiri, was not alive.
She felt like getting up from the classroom and walking home. She felt like turning herself off like the machine that she was. She felt insignificant.
The remaining hour of Biology went by without a single word from Mhuiri, she was comatose in the back of the classroom, trapped in her own mind so much so that when the bell rang to signal the end of the class, the teacher had to nudge her arm to get her to realize it.
“Are you alright?” He asked.
“I'm fine.” She said, tears forcing their way up into her eyes as she got up from her desk and raced out of the room.
She made her way to her next class in a daze. The hallways were arteries filled with automatons that were unaware of her presence as she collided with them.
“Hey, you going to change?” came a voice, pulling Mhuiri from the shadowed solitude of her mind.
“Huh?” Mhuiri asked, looking around to find that she was in a locker room. She didn't seem to remember the moments leading up to her arrival there.
“Huh?” the girl mocked her, “What are you a deaf mute?”
The other girls laughed.
“Get changed or we'll be late.” came another voice. She didn't know any of these girls.
“What am I to put on?”
The girls laughed again.
“What you can't find your gym clothes? Didn't you bring any?”
“No I wasn't aware that I had to.”
“Well I guess you're screwed. Let's go, she can figure it out on her own.”
With that, the girls left the change room.
Alone, Mhuiri wasn't sure what to do. She had no gym clothes to wear, and the school hadn't provided any to her. She had no choice but to go to the gymnasium with her current clothes. So she did.
When she walked into the gymnasium, the girls burst into laughter. The teacher on the other hand, simply stared at her.
“What are you doing?” Asked the teacher. “Do you have a medical slip saying you can't participate?”
“No sir.” Mhuiri said, trying to speak over the laughing girls. “I don't seem to have any gym clothes.”
The teacher looked at the other girls and then back to Mhuiri. “I put out enough uniforms for everyone.” He said before turning to the girls. “Where'd you put it?”
“It's right where you left it sir, seriously, we didn't do anything.”
The teacher turned to Mhuiri in annoyance. “Go back and get changed. Hurry it up, you're wasting class time.”
Ashamed, Mhuiri returned to the change room and searched for the shorts and t-shirt that the other girls were wearing. It wasn't anywhere in sight. Finally she opened the trash bin, and found it there, sitting in what looked like an old sandwich. Mhuiri sighed, and changed into the gym uniform.
When she came back into the gymnasium, the smell from her clothes was strong enough that everyone noticed immediately. The boys held their noses and whispered to each other. The girls shook their heads, as if it were her fault alone that she smelled like garbage.
“Alright.” The teacher said. “Split yourselves into groups of two.”
The boys and girls began pairing up, but coincidentally no one chose to be with Mhuiri.
“Come on girls. I said pairs of two, someone pair up with her.”
Again, no one moved.
“I won't ask again.”
The girl named Vanessa grunted. “No way, she stinks. I'm not pairing up with her. She's disgusting. That's probably why she was kicked out of the last school she was at.”
“Vanessa! I didn't ask you. Move now or you're going to the office.”
Vanessa crossed her arms. “Fine.”
The teacher began to turn to the rest of the class, but then turned back. “Are you going?”
“No.” Vanessa said, her head high.
“Then go to the office.” He said pointing to the door.
“Ugh.” Vanessa stomped off and cast an angry glare at Mhuiri before leaving the gymnasium.
The teacher sighed. “Everyone else, start the circuit.” He turned to Mhuiri. “Except you.” When he walked up to her he shut his eyes. “Ugh. They really played a number on you didn't they.” he said, reacting to the smell of her clothes. “I'm sorry I didn't know it was this bad. Go back to the change room and clean yourself up. You can go do some self study until the end of class.
“Thank you.” Mhuiri said, before leaving to the change room.
Vanessa was still changing when she walked in. “You little brat. You're on my list now. You can say goodbye to any smidgeon of dignity you might have. I'm going to do everything -” she walked up to her and pointed her index right into her face. “- everything in my power to make your life miserable.” she pushed Mhuiri's face away with her finger. “Got that?”
Mhuiri said nothing, and stood there with her eyes closed until she heard the door. She sighed as tears ran down her face.
As quickly as she could she got into her own clothes and ran out of the change room. When she reached the stairwell, she stopped. Before her were the stairs that lead up to the main floor and the library. Next to her was an exit. Outside the storm that had been brewing all day had finally unleashed onto the cityscape. Day had turned to night. The darkness was periodically lifted by the flash of lightning followed inevitably by the low rumble of thunder.
Mhuiri opened the doors and walked out into the rain. She gasped at the cold as her clothes became drenched and stuck to her body like shrink wrap. She tilted her head back and let the heavy droplets splash against her face and pull back her hair.
She let the rain hide her tears as she cried.