The story so far: Mr Jorgensen asks the daydreaming sara a question she cannot answer, much to the amusement of her classmates. The embarrassing class finally ends and Sara gratefully sets off on her quiet, two-mile walk home
Once across the bridge, Sara looked up for the first time since leaving the school yard, and she felt a little twinge of sadness wash over her as she realised that her quiet walk in solitude was only two blocks from ending. She slowed her pace to savour the peace she had rediscovered, and then turned and walked backwards for a bit, looking back at the bridge.
“Oh well,” she sighed softly, as she entered the gravelled driveway to her house. She paused on the steps to kick at a large sheet of ice, loosening it with her boot and kicking it off into a snow bank. Then she pulled off her wet boots and went into the house.
Quietly closing the door, and hanging her heavy wet coat on the hook, Sara made as little noise as possible. She wasn’t at all like the other members of her family who usually called out a loud, penetrating “I’m home!” upon entering. I’d like to be a hermit, she concluded, walking through the living room into the kitchen. A quiet, happy hermit, thinking, talking or not talking, getting to choose everything about my day. Yes!
* * * *
Her only awareness — as she lay sprawled in front of her school locker on the mud-streaked floor — was that her elbow was hurting, really hurting.
Falling down is always such a shock. It happens so fast. One moment you’re upright, moving quickly forward with some very deliberate intention of being in your seat when the final bell rings, and the next minute you’re lying flat on your back, immobilised, stunned, and hurting. And the worst thing in the whole world is to fall down at school, where everybody can see you.
Sara looked up into a sea of gleeful-looking faces that were grinning, snickering, or laughing right out loud. They act like nothing like this has ever happened to them.
Once they figured out that there was nothing as exciting as a broken bone or bleeding flesh, or a victim writhing in pain, the crowd dissolved, and her ghoulish schoolmates went on with their own lives, making their way back to their classrooms.
A blue-sweater arm reached down, and a hand took hers, pulling her into a sitting position, and a girl’s voice said, “Are you okay? Do you want to stand up?”
No, Sara thought, I want to disappear, but since that wasn’t likely, and since the crowd had already pretty much dissolved, Sara smiled weakly, and Ellen helped her to her feet.
Sara had never spoken to Ellen before, but she had seen her in the hallways. Ellen was two grades ahead of Sara, and she had only been at her school for about a year.
Sara really didn’t know much about Ellen, but then that wasn’t unusual. Older kids never interacted with younger ones. There was some kind of unwritten code against that. But Ellen always smiled easily, and even though she didn’t seem to have many friends and moved about pretty much by herself, she seemed perfectly happy. That may have been why Sara had noticed her. Sara was a loner, too. She preferred it that way.
“These floors are so slippery when it’s wet outside,” Ellen said. “I’m surprised more people don’t fall down in here.”