Part FourMature

School for me is vital the next day. It interests me so much more than cleaning up my mother and Seb's mess, I decide. From beginning to end, the place is just fascinating.

Walking in to find out something new that Anna has to tell me. Lunchtime, where I can sneak glances at Trish to try and figure out why she's staring at me. It's also the only time of day I can keep an eye on Seb. All through the day, lessons, where I can always find out something that I didn't know before.

A lot of people take school for granted. A lot of people don't understand what it does  for them.

It turns out that Anna isn't at school today. Someone says she's ill.

My first two lessons are Maths and Physics. Two lessons I dislike simply because I'm not very good at them.

At lunch, when I attempt to make my way to the dinner hall, I'm redirected outside. There's a huge gazebo-type tent in the yard, which I hadn't noticed in the morning because I was late.

The fire, I quickly discover, had spread from the kitchen and burnt down the entire dinner hall. Now we're required to eat in this gazebo until the kitchen is rebuilt, which is going to take at least six months - if we're lucky.

The divide between the black kids and the white kids is really obvious. The black families have all claimed their places, and no doubt they will stay in those places until we get the actual building back.

Seb and I are sat between Trish, with her group of boys, and a family completely made up of girls. It is that all-girl family who are the sole providers of one of my counts.

All us black kids have at least one bullying count. From the white kids, that one, because we are black. Not many people only have the one, though. Trish is lucky enough to only have one count.

The counts are symbolised by scars on our forearms. The amount of scars a person has represents how many counts of bullying they have.

Trish's scar is on the top of her wrist. It's pink and it stands out against her skin, which is darker than mine. Normally she hides it with long sleeves or a sweatband, or something like that.

My scars are smaller than hers is. Obviously, she can take a lot more pain than me. Mine are small little dashes on the side of my wrist, and aren't that much lighter than my skin.

I have one because I'm a black kid. Another because I'm friends with a white kid. A third because my brother doesn't talk. My fourth is solely provided by the all-girl family. They don't like me because my family is small.

That's the reason they don't like Seb, as well. He has a count because I am his sister. He's mute in public, that's another one, along with the last one I know about - that he doesn't eat.

Seb has more counts than anyone. All the way up his arm. All different lengths and varying degrees of thickness.

I don't know how he got so many counts, or how he survives with them.

But, like I said, I don't know a lot of things.

Heather Keshrilo, as she would, sees the new and unfortunate seating arrangement as a golden opportunity to get at me.

"Hello, Lola Tarapachii," she says in her usual greeting.

"Hello, Heather Keshrilo," I say in my usual response.

She smiles in a very unfriendly way. "Are the rest of your family ill today?"

"No," I mutter as I take in her chemically straightened hair, which she's re-curled with curlers. Productive.

"Well, where are they, then?"

"Heather, you and I both know that I have no other family here."

"Are you sure?" she says. "Maybe I should ask your brother - oh wait."

I'm about to reply, but I get distracted by about twenty pens and pencils falling at my feet. Looking over in the direction they came from, I see Trish roll her eyes as she picks them up.

I duck under the table to help her.

"I'm so sorry," she says.

"It's OK," I smile, passing her pens over.

"Thanks," she smiles back and we return to our seats. She chucks the pens at one of the guys, and the rest of them laugh. I'm guessing they actually belong to him.

That's the first time I've talked to Trish, and it'll probably be the last. We really have nothing to do with each other.

She keeps watching us, though.

The End