On Monday, I get to school early. It's raining quite heavily so I take shelter in the gazebo. It feels quite strange in there when it's completely empty. There seems to be a lot more room than there is, and the quietness makes it unfriendly.
After a while, I start to hear the sound of voices.
I listen without intention.
"... so awkward!" Finishes a voice a recognise vaguely.
"I know, right?" Says Anna, a voice it's hard not to recognise.
"I can't believe you came up with that!" The other girl exclaims. "You're such a liar!"
"Well it's not like I could tell the truth!"
There's a patch of silence in which I move to leave, but upon doing so, I discover that Anna and her friend are standing outside the gazebo, with only a sopping blanket preventing them from seeing me.
I stand awkwardly. If I leave, they'll know I've heard, but I need to go in case they say something I don't like. After all, I know what they say about people who listen in doorways.
"Anna, why do you hang around with Lola?"
I listen with full intention, although I can already tell I'm going to regret it.
"She's my friend," Anna replies, and I'm momentarily relieved at this display of loyalty.
"No, I mean really."
"...I'm not racist, Jodie," she mutters. "Lola is actually my friend."
Another stretch of silence.
"I feel quite sorry for her," Anna says finally. "She has such a bad life, it's almost pathetic. And she tries so hard not to let it get to her."
Pathetic? That sting, and yet I still wait and listen.
"So you're friends with her out of sympathy?"
"... I guess."
Again, the conversation pauses for a while. I want to go before I hear something that will truly hurt me, but I can't.
"When I first saw her," Anna says, sounding quite guilty, her voice low and quiet. "I remember thinking that her skin looked... less clean than mine."
Jodie laughs. "That's because it is."
"What? It's true!" She exclaims. "You're the one that thought it!"
"Oh my God," Anna mumbles. "You're right."
After that, I hear their wet footsteps as they walk away.
Slightly taken aback, I sit back down and stare at the scars on my wrist. I stroke the one that I have for being black.
This scar, this count, is supposed to represent the fact that I get bullied because of the colour of my skin. That's what it's there for, and yet, this is the first time I have heard a racist remark directed towards me personally.
It hits me like a shower of stones against my chest.
First, that my best friend could talk about me the way she has. Secondly, and even more harshly, the realisation that I have cut myself for no reason.