The park was empty, everyone heading for the warmth of home, instead of the usual afternoon walk after work. It was overcast, and a cold breeze was blowing. It was quiet. This suited Ari. Unlike those people, her home held no warmth for her, it held nothing at all. It was the place she went to after school, chatted on the computer until she could safely leave it again. Often times she would go for a roller blade, but lately she hadn't been - a mixture of pity for the dogs, the chance of meeting a friend and avoiding the face and person on the bike, who she just could not handle anymore. Besides, tonight the roads were too slippery anyway. She knew she would not be meeting her friend tonight but was not deterred. The drizzle formed a fine mist in the air and droplets coated her hair and eyelashes. Her clothes were damp, without being drenched. She knew she was tired, but the thought of going home, to bear the brunt of her father's anger, was too much. She knew she would not sleep well tonight, aware she had not been sleeping well for the past six months. Exhaustion gripped her shoulder, peeled away the edges of her mind and every one of her defences, her carefully built illusions, tumbled down around her, leaving her shivering. She heavily settled against some playground equipment. Ari remembered how glad she had been to see Natalie the previous Saturday. It scared her to think she had let herself become so attached to a person, so much so she would in tears after a two-week absence. She sighed, knowing that sooner or later her parents would call on the cell phone tucked neatly into her jeans pocket, telling her she would need to return to that prison, to eat a dinner that was tasteless. Was she hungry? Not for that. she drew the cell phone from her pocket, switched it off and tucked it away again. Then she curled up under the playground cover and wondered if there was a point to continuing this darkened, hopeless existence.

. I hope she can drag herself out of this loneliness.