A Harvest of Pain

She could feel their glares bore into her back as she walked past them. She whirled to catch them unawares, but they were too quick for her. Animated conversations, forced laughter and an obsession with the contents of their backpacks suddenly seemed to be inspired by her straight, unerring gaze.
This power she never knew she had, was incredible.
Shrugging indifferently, she continued on her way to her class. The crowd of milling teenagers parted to give way, strange that nobody seemed to recognize her anymore.
Hastily averted eyes.
To some she even seemed invisible.
She knew, she was there, and, somehow she also knew, that was all that mattered.
Strange, had it been just a month ago? A month since she had been part of a clique, the most sought after elite ‘club’ in the entire tenth grade. She had been on one of their special outings to a popular bowling alley, when afterwards, over burgers and coke, the conversation veered to one that she hated.
It was about a girl who wasn’t around.
The glee with which they tore her reputation to shreds, made her sick to the stomach.
Sicker was the predictable ease with which they would feign friendliness, when they met the victim the next time.
Worst was all when the victim would be oblivious to all effects of mutilation and bask in the extended warmth of the faux sunshine.
Or maybe they knew, she mused.
That was probably why no one ever chose not to appear at these little get-togethers.
Maybe they were not so oblivious after all.
Anyway, after one particularly horrendous maiming session by the reigning Queen Bee, she pushed her half eaten burger aside and said, ‘I’ve heard enough.’
And walked away.
From the royal court of the Queen Bee.
Disbelieving eyes and genuine gasps followed her as she walked away, heart hammering inside her rib cage.
She knew she had done the right thing.
She breathed in the fresher air of peak traffic and felt rejuvenated.
A shudder ran down her spine when she thought what the outcome of the unthinkable thing she had done, would be. She squared her shoulders and held her chin up. No, the deed was done.
There was no room for regret now. She had to face it.
And here she was, facing it.
It had been purgatory.
One month of sheer, unadulterated purgatory.
Not even the most insignificant minnow of the lot wanted to have anything to do with her.
Strange, they always had had a word for her, probably trying to gain access to the upper crust.
Now, she was nobody.
Less than nobody.
Her fall from grace was complete.
The inevitable question came up in class, ‘What have you learnt from your experiences at school this year?’
A buzz of banter and a million knowing looks later, she knew it would veer to her.
And sure enough it did.
A demure little minion of the Queen Bee stood up and gave a very detailed account of how she had been taken in by appearances. She concluded her very moving narrative with how she, the poor dear, learnt not to trust people any more.
Oh, the big bad world!
Everybody looked at her, expecting her to squirm.
But, she didn’t.
She had the conviction that for once, she had done the right thing.
She might have a knife being twisted in her gut, but she would look nonchalant, as nonchalant as a disinterested teenager would.
So, she perfected nonchalance till her wall on a social networking site came alive with references to her.
A thousand memes and long threads of discussions later, she decided to take things in her hand.
‘Hey, there! How’s life? What’s new?’
Silence reigned on the walls for about five minutes.
Then suddenly, the walls changed colour. News of movies, books and music splashed the walls, absorbing all attention.
Really, was that all it took to deflect attention? A direct confrontation?
Well, she was no fool.
She knew she would always be the outcast, for speaking her mind.
She knew the cold treatment would continue for a while, till they moved on to fresh kill.
She would not be part of any group.
Nobody would take selfies with her.
But, what the hell, she didn’t need to live with unease and dread any more.
She didn’t need to conform, for she knew she had done the right thing, hell to the consequences.
Whether things changed or not, some things would be constant.
Her books, her music and her writing.
Her identity. Her identity untarnished with cowardice.
Knowing that, she could live with herself.
At least her soul was intact.
She could harvest a little pain.



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