I feel alive. I feel like flying. How can someone have that much power?
She stands in front of the class. She's singing. A song that no one knows.
The birds do, though. They really stop and listen. Just like how Dad said.
I feel warm. I smile. All of us do.
There's a knock on the door and Dad opens it. I look up from my homework - sometimes, I wonder why I'll ever need to learn arithmetic when my future lies in baking or dying in an arena - and I feel the need to run.
But I sit still and I watch as she hands Dad a squirrel. From the shadows. The light falls on her face and she's smiling, just a little. There's a little coal dust and a leaf in her hair. My hands itch.
When she leaves, Dad looks at me knowingly and ruffles my hair. I turn back to my book and clutch the fallen leaf in my hand.
The buns in my pocket are a little warm and they make sitting down uncomfortable, but I don't really notice. She's there. In the corner of the schoolyard.
No one approaches her. No one approaches me. Even though they encourage to make friends, the atmosphere in school always feels stilted, stiff. Like a pile of dough with too little water and too much flour. Thick.
I want to wade across the yard, through the humid air, and say a greeting. But like the dough, my tongue feels awkward.
I look down and eat my bread instead.
My hands and bottom sting and I wince as I take my usual place in the yard, pulling out the bun that my mother gave to me that morning with sullen grace.
I look up, and am startled when my eyes meet hers. She seems to want to say something; I see her lips part as her eyes dart towards the marks on my hands.
And then she looks away. I look at my hands.
By the time my eyes find her again, she's not looking at me anymore. She's holding a dandelion in her hand.
The bell rings.
She walks through the District with her braids bouncing up and down. I adjust my schoolbag and watch with envy as the boy, the other boy, takes her hand and chats with her. They walk, laughing, in front of me and my hands clench because I want to be him.
The fork in the road always appears too soon, and I slow down as they turn left, towards the Hob, again fiddling with my bag as I watch them being slowly engulfed by the crowd.
When her braids disappear from view, I head home.