The scent of dry-erase marker was one she’d been certain she would never smell again. Yet there it was, pungent smell permeating the quaint little classroom with its sunny windows and dark wood desks lined up neat grid lines. It was a strange thing to notice, but it felt safe in a way the dozens of eyes on her did not. The dull whispers of conversation echoed almost too loudly against her nervous ears. Having grown accustomed to a certain volume from the nurses and even more so the single voice of her father, the cacophony of sound – no matter how soft – unnerved her.
“Class, I have someone very special for ya’ll to meet,” Mrs. Shipman, her new homeroom and English teacher, brought attention to her presence. Tension rose as they realized that confronting them now was the elusive occupant of the old blue house at the end of Maple Street. “This is Ayida Jean-Baptiste, our newest student.”
Ayida kept her head low, face obscured by white hood.
“Go on dear,” The teacher encouraged, a touch impatient and inappropriately eager. “Don’t be shy.”
Shy wasn’t the word and the encouragement did nothing for the tremble in her fingers. The threat of the gazes in the room wasn’t the reason she clenched the brim of her hood. The initial shock associated with disgust – and more often pity – was a prevalent occurrence since her convalescence in the hospital. It was nothing to get worked up over much less make her hesitant. The color of her anxiety was ending all chances of interaction by revealing her face. However, what else could be done other than lower her hood and let the light show them what had been hiding in their town.
Disfigurement distorted the right side of her face in the form of a long rugged scar from hairline to swell of cheek, interrupted by her damaged eye where lid drooped heavily over blown pupil. Devoid of Life, the matte gray hue gave the appearance of fish eye in opposition to her expressive frost gray one. Nothing but a miracle had kept sight in it. Across this long scar was a separate, smoother line of raised skin. The stiches had managed to dose this long split of her mouth making the scar trail from the corner of lips to the apple of cheek like a Glasgow smile. Mahogany flesh was mottled down her neck, hinting at unseen damage beneath soft yellow blouse. The only saving grace was the abundance of thick sable spirals about her shoulders and face. The ringlets could not cover the imperfections, but they offered a more positive juxtaposition that made her just a bit easier to look at.
Of course, the reveal delayed verbal reaction from the other students as they stared and gave Ayida a moment to take them all in. The furrow of brows, curling of lips, widening of eyes in varying expressions, and slight leaning away of some gave much away as to the climate of the room, but it didn’t prove to be positive. As she let her fingers slide away from the lapels of her jacket, she wet her lips and pressed her teeth into the flesh of it.
Remember. This isn’t about you.
“My name is Ayida Jean-Baptiste.” Pause. Breath. Careful with the lisp. “I got into a really bad accident last year when I first moved to Calista. That’s why I look like this.”
“Go on dear, it’s okay.”
No its not. “It’s uh, nice to meet you all finally and—”
“….face is effed up!”
“What’s up with your eye?”
“She look like leatherhead…”
Mrs. Shipman glared and struck her desk to silence the building giggles and uncouth questions. “That’s enough! If you don’t have anything nice to ask her, keep your mouth shut!”
A few scoffs and snickers remained.
Ayida looked up at the frustrated woman. “I can just sit down.”
“Oh…of course dear. Let’s find you a seat,” she said flashing a sympathetic smile that was not returned.
-Harli V. Park –
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