I didn’t believe that I was in the hospital until I saw many people in a white cloak. How was it possible? How did my mother pay for the hospital charge? Or was there a donor from the Fairyland who gave us a charity? I thought wild imagination had spread over my brain. My heart giggled.
“How do you feel now?” A doctor approached me and asked. I was amazed. Was I in paradise? A handsome angel came to me. This man had the same age as my father. The white cloak coated his towering and brawny figure. His complexion was just perfect with a pointed nose, brown round eyes, and full pink lips. “How is your arm? Does it hurt?” he asked other questions. I shook my head. Then, he talked to a short-haired nurse, prescribed some medicine, and left after parting me.
I passed out my gaze to my surrounding. The patients inhibited most of the beds. A crowd filled the emergency room. It seemed rush hour for all the medical staff. The new patients kept coming. Some of them were lying down unconsciously. The rest groaned with no shame.
Meanwhile, I was struggling against the cold weather. I felt like freezing as the air conditioner bit my skin and bones with its below-zero-Celsius temperature. I knew no one here. I saw my mom nowhere. She must have been working hard to take me here. That fact broke my heart.
“Mom....” I was startled and opened my eyes. That miserable woman has stood up by the bed. Her appearance was so heartbreaking with a seedy face and tangled hair. Stitches decorated her colorless long dress. It provoked me to condemn life. I turned my face to the opposite side to conceal my sadness. “I shouldn’t have been here.”
“You fell fainted.”
“That’s good. And it would have been better if I had died.”
“What are you talking about? Get well soon.”
“How can you afford the hospital charge?”
“That’s none of your business.” My mom didn’t answer my question. She went outside, instead of after uttering the sentence. She hurt more than I did. Her eyes told me everything. How could she live with a man like my father?
Many students were scanning my filthy old uniform and half-crushed colorless shoes. They were caught pinching their nose when I passed by to protect their sense of smell from my odor or to secure their dignity.
After three days of being hospitalized, I came back to school, Star Senior High School, a place where I had to face many challenges, disdain, bullying, and neglect. These were the things I suffered from almost every day. Their ignorance could be much better than being bullied. I had set a goal to complete my three-year senior high school well, without writing down another sad story.
Our school building consisted of four floors with a lift and stairs connecting one floor to another. I always avoided using a lift to go upstairs, dodging to converge with other students. I loved being alone. That was only a term for not having a friend.
“Ouch....” I almost fell. Someone ran upstairs quickly and carelessly and nudged my shoulder. I wanted to scold him. Yet, my brain muted the voice from my tongue. I kept my vexation in mind.
“Sor....” I heard his uncompleted word. Hesitation appeared on his visage. I didn’t even deserve an apology. It was all due to my look. My stare drew attention to the blank area in front of me, having no interest to glance at him. “Be more careful,” he said curtly. I chose not to reply to his word.
The noises deafened my ears when I got into the classroom. The chair in the back row was waiting for me. It was my seat where I could escape from all the bad things in this school. I put my bag in the drawer, laid my face down on the desk, and opened the door to my imaginary world. At least, the joy welcomed me there with open arms. No one was allowed to come in but me. I locked it firmly.
“Ilana....” Someone called my name among the noises floating in the air. My head is still stuck on the desk. My eyes shut. A voice full of doubt heaved on my ear. My mouth was still mum. “Ilana, thank you,” he mumbled. I blinked my eyes and lift my face reluctantly. A boy with glasses had been standing by the desk with his gaze looking down on me. A nerd. That was the first impression before I concluded him. I had to admit that this boy had a tall, well-built body with fair skin. His face was stunning with a pointed nose, brown slanting eyes, and straight short black hair. My brain brought me back to reality from observing that boy when our eyes met. I evaded his gaze.
“What kind of good deed did I do to you?”
“You lent me your pen in the last English test.” I almost burst out laughing, listening to his reason. This guy was too innocent or something.
“What? It’s just a pen.”
“It values more than a pen for me. You offer me a friendship.” I was stunned. “My name’s Reno,” he continued. The name sounded familiar on my ears. However, I didn’t intend to recall my memory.
“And you have had my name, haven’t you? Could you please get back to your seat? I’m not in the mood to talk to anyone right now.” I knew my rudeness might have hurt him. But, that was the best thing I could do to stay away from that boy. My world sparked a fire that would be able to burn him down.
I placed my head on the desk and tilted it facing the wall. My tears almost ran down my cheek. I couldn’t breathe in well, thinking about how hard my life was. Students’ boisterous voices and laughter still loaded the room. Why were they damn so happy all the time? Was it only me who was trapped in a cage of misery among those in school uniform?
The canteen stood sturdily in light green skin guarded by grey pillars. The brown tiles roofed its structure. Its big wooden door sneered at me and ridiculed me because I couldn’t afford to buy food there. My feet halted and turned right to the park, not far from that building that was still watching me.
I chose to have a seat on one of the benches under the big tree, then closed my eyes and let the fresh air load my lungs. I felt that my stomach grumbled. I hadn’t eaten anything since this morning. I was trying to get rid of hunger and thirst. Unfortunately, I failed. My hands squeezed my belly unconsciously.
“Take this.” My eyes half opened, squinting. That boy, Reno was handing me a sandwich. I pretended not to see and care. “Just suppose it represents my gratitude,” he was still pursuing. The food almost made my mouth water. My hands reached the snack in his outstretched palm of a hand.
“Thank you,” I said. The sandwich ended up in my stomach only in a few minutes.
“If you don’t mind, I can buy you more next time.”
“No. You don’t have to do that. Otherwise, you assume me as a bully.”
“No, at all. I do it with pleasure.”
“I know. Thank you, anyway.” I took my steps away from the bench without allowing him to debate on me. But, his next words forced my feet to be glued in their place.
“Can we befriend?”
I’d never imagined having a friend before. My life sucked me. The thought of friendship never arose in my mind. And this boy begged for it. I couldn’t reach his hand. We were not on the same level to be what’s so-called friends. We couldn't stand side by side. I pushed my body to move and neglected what he conveyed. Telling him yes meant pulling him into hell.
The sun stung my skin viciously. The shady tree couldn’t protect me from the hot attack of the sunshine. The sweat damped all over my cloth. The worst part was the vehicles polluted the air and generated a fuggy stench on my uniform. The engine roaring in the road worsened my mood.
It took more than one hour from the school to my house on foot. Yet, the journey seemed longer than it was. Exhaustion absorbed all my energy. I ceased once in a while to fuel my energy and brushed the sweat away on my forehead. After catching my breath as much as I could, I dragged my feet to the slum area where my house was located.
Suddenly, five violent well-knit scamps cut my steps. One of them in the red t-shirt pulled up my bag. What he did almost made me fall backward. The one in blue, the tallest of them was trying to touch my chin. Fortunately, I dismissed his hand right away.
“Return it to me,” I shouted at them. Unfortunately, my voice trembled. It evoked their laugh out loud. “I said, Give me my bag,” I exclaimed louder.
“Your bag and its contents are not comparable to your father’s debt. What are you waiting for? Grab her as a bail.” I wriggled. But, they had strength over me. God granted me His mercy. Someone came from nowhere, punched the faces of those five bastards, and kicked them all. They ran away. The man turned back to me. And he was the one I recognized.