In-knock-you-wuss, innockuos, innocuous…as I worked through the spelling, from phonetic to correct, I realised how well it described me—harmless, bland and unremarkable.
Lost to the world, I jumped when the comprehension exercise hit the smooth wood beside me. A covert glance at the delivery girl’s smirk, and I knew.
8/20 – eight out of twenty! I cringed.
Her allotted task complete, my cosmetically rendered, cranially challenged, yet inexplicably popular classmate returned to the front of the room. I watched as she slid into an equally vacant chair and, not for the first time, wondered how she, and the rest of the coven, managed it.
Usually, English was my favourite subject. Sitting at the back of the classroom offered me peace, if not quiet—and a chance to dream. The girls who sat on the front row did nothing but flirt with the young-ish, mirror-shaded, Mr Raper.
His was a name that caused giggles and whispers. “You know what they say about names…”
I knew, but I doubted the whisperers did. In the seventh century, any ‘Mr Raper’ would be working with ropes rather than sitting in a classroom. Not that it mattered; historical fact could still be twisted, to fit the slanderous gossip. Teenagers could be so stupid. They annoyed me far more than they should... considering I was one of them.
It wasn't because I was in a rush to be reach adulthood. It was because something inside me had always felt ancient. I wondered if that made me stupid too.
Stella’s gaze moved to the innocuous, cloudy sky. No stars tonight… 8/20.
The words stopped, and panic swelled within me. There was more than one way to rape a person’s soul. Degradation took many forms.
My teacher was good at meting that out; in big, red, numbers. No one got above thirteen.
I racked my brains for the next sentence—I loved creative writing. It offered me a rare escape, my imagination let loose.
I’d handed my first story in on the same day as the comprehension. We’d been asked to fill at least two sides of A4 paper. I’d filled eight. I hadn’t meant to write so much, but the words kept spilling out.
When would he give the marks for that? My heart thumped uncomfortably and I felt the pinch of pain as my teeth clamped down on my inner lip. My head was starting to ache.
I watched Mr Raper from under my fringe. Raking a tanned hand through his dark, unruly hair, he pushed back his chair and rested his feet on his desk. Those ridiculous sunglasses were beginning to irritate me. I couldn’t tell where he was looking. Could he even see whilst wearing them indoors?
Shifting in my seat, my elbow nudged the comprehension paper. It slid to one side, revealing beneath it—my story. Another red mark, and a scrawled message: 17/20 – This is good. Spelling needs work.
I blinked, stunned.
Mr Raper saw his students just fine.
A breeze displaced the gloom, and moonlight triumphed, granting Stella’s silent wish—to glimpse the infinite, glorious, star-filled universe, and witness its potential. Or-sum, Awwsome, Awesome…