I shouldn’t be in here.
The echo of my breathing and the humming of the fluorescent lights are the only sounds breaking the silence, reminding me where I am. I should get out of this stall and back in the hallway. My first high school class, my first real class of any sort in the last nine years, starts in a few minutes and I don’t even know where it is yet. I could hardly breathe out there with my heart doing its best to pound its way out of my chest. Coming in here to calm down was obviously not the best idea. I feel like I ran a mile in the middle of summer. What temperature do they keep this school at anyway? Ugh! I’m sweating.
Great, on top of everything else, now I am going to have pit stains. It’s bad enough people already think of me as a sickly freak, now I am going to be a smelly, sickly freak. Why is it so hot in this building? The toilet seat I am sitting on provides a refreshing coolness through my dress, ironically granting me the only comfort I feel right now. If only I could stay here all day and try this again tomorrow.
The door screeches as it opens and a set of footsteps shuffle hurriedly by my stall. Before the door has time to close, it’s forced back open rapidly, hitting the wall and sending a clang echoing through the bathroom like a gong. Several more pairs of feet pound their way past my stall in the direction of the first person.
“Where ya goin’ slut?” I jump at the girl’s voice, goose bumps instantly covering my arms. “You think you can smile at my man and live? I’m going to tear your hair out!”
I can’t move. Why did I come in here?
“I didn’t smile, I mean I didn’t mean to. He was helping me with my locker and I was just saying thanks, I promise. Please, leave me alone!” She sounds like she is about to cry.
I need to do something, but I don’t want to go through the pain again. They are probably just trying to give her a scare.
“I bet you were saying thanks, skank; I’m sure you were about to show him how thankful you were, too. If you’re going to act like a slut, you should dress like one, right ladies?”
A chill runs down my spine at the sound of laughter from at least two more girls. This is more than a warning. I need to get out of here. I can’t do this now, not on my first day.
Sounds of struggling movement punctuated by a ripping sound.
“That’s better. At least you look the part now, slut. Now get ready to wish you were dead.”
I have to help her. Maybe they’ll leave her alone if I come out of the stall and I won’t have to do anything.
Hoping to see them scatter at the sound, I open the stall door as loudly as I can, surprised and more than a little disappointed about their lack of reaction.
A girl is cowering in the corner to my right, tears in her eyes attempting to keep herself covered with one hand by holding her torn shirt together and supporting herself against the wall with the other.
In front of her, three older girls are looking right at me. They are not going to run away. I don’t want to do this. Not today. It’s not fair.
“Looks like we got lucky, ladies,” the girl in the center smiles, “a slut and a scared little mouse. Twice the fun.”
The two other girls turn and step closer to the one in the middle, all three of them now facing me directly. Fear smothers my courage, freezing me in place.
“Well, Mouse,” the middle girl taunts, “are you just going to stand there looking ugly with your stringy, brown hair and flagpole of a body? Any boy in this school would fill out that rag of a dress better than you do. Wait a minute, maybe that’s what you are, a boy mouse,” she nudges one of the girls beside her. “You girls go find out if that’s an ugly girl or a ‘pretty boy’ in front of us.”
They begin moving toward me. I wonder what the first day of school could have been like. I’ll never know now.
I concentrate on the words I am going to say and give my complete focus to the three girls in front of me. “You three need to leave us alone and go to class.”
Pain sweeps through my body and hits my head like a hammer. My legs buckle, bringing me forcefully to my knees. The three girls stare blankly ahead as they start to walk toward the door. The girl in the corner wears a mask of utter confusion. At least she’s safe.
My head feels like it is about to explode and darkness is taking over my vision. Through the haze, I look to make sure the three girls have left the bathroom before I collapse to the floor, no longer able to hold back the tears. Pain rips through my head like knives trying to dig a hole in my brain. I force my body to shift back toward the girl in the corner. As the blackness closes in, we make eye contact.
At least she’s safe.