Chapter 7

The lunch is grilled cheese sandwiches. The group standing in front of me is too loud, their screaming laughter triggering waves of nausea within me.

The line crawls on.

The crowd swallowed Brandon, who brought his own lunch. Before he left he muttered something about sitting with some of his art friends.

He did not invite me.

At last I reach the trays. I take a plate of grilled cheese from one of the faceless lunch ladies and place it on my tray. Then I turn to face the cafeteria: a sea of faces staring back at me.

My heart is suddenly racing. My legs feel jittery, but detached at the same time. My head is screaming for me to avoid human contact at all cost and dash out of there as fast as I could.

Instead I begin to make my way toward an inconspicuous corner that seems to promise safety. I keep my eyes on the blotted floor tiles as I walk, to avert those watchful eyes.

Just walk. Just step. Just breathe. Just hold that tray steady.

Just walk just walk just walk…

The cafeteria is full of chatting voices and roaring laughter, yet I can sense a tide of whispering gathering around me.

Inching closer…and closer…

Hey isn't that the new girl?

Yeah, I heard she had a seizure or something. It was just sick.

I heard she's retarded.

I heard she transferred here from a mental ward. She's, you know, not right in the head.

Just look at her hair and clothes. Does she look fucked up or what?

I heard she's too stupid to speak.

No, she has this really nasty tumor thing growing in her throat…

I heard it was growing in her brain.

Don't talk to her, you might get it.

At last I reach my corner. I plop myself down to sit only to discover that the bench is covered in sticky syrup. I get up but it's way too late. My face heats up.

I glance at the table next to me. It is a group of girls in all black. They are snickering at me.

I check the back of my lime green sweater. It is thankfully unstained. My brown corduroy pants are ruined though.

My head is now so low it seems to be at level with my shoulders. I pick up my tray, and walk walk walk, over to the Goths' table. Desperation fills my every step.

They eye me with distaste and some edge away.

I sit next to a girl who is dressed entirely in chains. She turns my way with difficulty, her spikes leering at me.

"Who the fuck are you?"

I have no answer for this, so I just keep my head down and take a bite of my sandwich.

"Helloo? Are you a retard or something?"

No I'm just…so…tired.

I settle for shaking my head slightly.

"Hey. Do…you…know…English?" She asks, deliberately slow. Her friends shriek with laughter.

I take another bite of the grilled cheese. The cheese feels moldy in my mouth and the bread dry.

I had forgotten to get milk.