I weave between tables, bag clamped tightly to my chest, eyes fixed on the scuffed wood floor. I manage to swerve around a leg that shoots out to trip me. ‘What IS that disgusting smell?’ says the leg’s owner Becky Cox as she turns towards Jody Alderson, who is sitting beside her. Jody giggles nervously. Don’t retaliate I tell myself Keep your head down like dad told you to. I slide into my seat. ‘You are so ugly!’ she spits, her startling-blue eyes regard me coldly before turning to the class; her audience. ‘I hate you!’ she hisses.
Embarrassment fizzles inside me, spreading throughout my body until it reaches my face, for everyone to see.
The class ripples with laughter, silenced only by Mr Draper’s entrance. ‘Now settle down everyone it’s time to get on with our project.’
I let my fingers trace a name scratched deep into my desk and imagine standing up and striding right out of the door.
When the bell rings at break time, I am swept along in a tide of school kids and flung into the farthest corner of the yard, like driftwood washed onto the beach.
A biting wind howls as I huddle against the wall. I take a couple of bites of my sandwich, before putting it back inside my bag, with the rest of the uneaten offerings inside.
When Becky and Jody head across the playground towards me, smiling and waving something doesn’t feel right but I smile back anyway. Then Becky slips her arm through mine and just for a second, I think everything will be ok. But then she drags me, out into the open and pushes me with all her force onto the frozen ground.
My arms flap wildly, as I try to steady myself but it’s no use my boots can’t get purchase on the slick surface. Inevitability grips me as everything happens in slow motion. I reach out instinctively to try and break my fall and hear a sudden crack as my head smashes into the concrete.
When I look up a circle of blurry faces are blotting out the snow-heavy sky.
‘CAN YOU GET OUT OF THE WAY, PLEASE?’ shouts Mrs Stout. ‘Conner please go to the office and ask Mrs Dixon to call an ambulance. QUICKLY!’
To the side of my head, a scarlet stain blooms out across the compacted ice. I can feel small hard rocks that snag at my tongue. My mouth fills with a sweet liquid I realise is blood and that’s when I wonder if I’m dying because I can’t feel anything, not even the cold.
‘She slipped Mrs Stout.’ I hear Becky say sulkily. ‘I tried to catch her but then I fell too.’
I open my mouth to speak but the words won’t form. Blood runs down my neck and begins to drench my white shirt. As darkness engulfs me, I hear someone screaming.
Amanda lives in Mid Wales with her husband and youngest daughter and a menagerie of pets. She works several part-time jobs but dreams of being a paid writer. She has had a few pieces published over the years but the freedom to write is often quashed by the need to earn money and the demands of complex family life.
Drawing by Sophie Ingram