I waited outside my classroom in the damp chill for Claire and Gerrard. The other children had all left but no one came for me.
“I can walk,” I told my Friend. “I know the way.”
Two blocks past the school four big boys jumped from behind a thick hedge. Gerard and Charles quarreled with them after school.
“That’s Gerard’s sister,” one of them called out.
“Let’s get her,” another boy said.
Suddenly I was lying prone on the ground. Their fists pommeled my back. A sneaker crashed into my side.
“Let’s go,” a boy said. “Old man Marcus’ll see us.”
Pain throbbed in my arm and back as I pulled myself to my feet. My knees ached. My book and lunch pail were in a puddle. I picked them up and limped home stunned and sobbing.
“I want my Marmar,” I begged my Friend. “I want my Marmar.”
The woman met me at the door, blocked my entrance.
Her fist on her hip, she asked, “Where have you been?!”
“They forgot me so I walked by myself but some big boys beat me up,” I wailed.
“You should have gone back to school and reported them to the principal,” she told me.
The sky was growing dark. Big rain drops had begun to fall.
She pointed towards the school, “Go and report them to the principal.” She stepped back inside, closed the door, and watched me through the glass panes.
As twilight fell, I limped back in the rain with scraped hands, bloody knees, wet shoes and clothes. More tears leaked out when I discovered a rip in my navy, corduroy skirt; my chest hurt.
“It wasn’t her!” I sobbed at my Friend. “It wasn’t her! It was that woman!”
Something dark made me jump. I peered closer, pouted at the shadow of a shrub. “They’re waiting for me,” I said.
The principal, Mr. Evans, gave me a puzzled look as I entered his office, “Did they forget you?”
Tears became heh-huh hiccups as I choked out the story.
When I was quiet, Mr. Evans lifted me into an armchair and dried my tears. His hands shook as he emptied the contents of a packet into a styrofoam cup and added water from an electric kettle. With a smile, he handed me the cup of cocoa. “Let’s see if we can do something about those cuts,” he said. “This will sting.” He cleaned and bandaged my wounds, then drove me back to the house and walked me to the door.
The woman let me in, “Go change into something dry.”
Mr. Evans smiled at me from the porch. As I began to turn away, anger replaced his smile. He didn’t come in but kept the woman at the door for a long time.
Next morning, the pain in my knees woke me. The bandages had slipped; my pajama bottoms had stuck to my scraped knees.
“Stop!” I screamed when the man ripped the fabric from my wounds.
“Gros bébé,” he sneered and smacked my thigh.