In the midst of forty other children, with forty pairs of eyes gawping at her and the muffled sniggers that erupted in the wake of what she had just said, she stood mortified, stock-still at her seat. Beads of perspiration broke out across her forehead and then coursed their way down her temples.
She would’ve liked nothing better than for the floor to split open and the vacuum to suck her in and consume her whole.
She looked at the teacher, who stood behind the flimsy wooden table; her matted hair with streaks of grey here and there; the light, gaunt face that was now absently looking down at the textbook that lay open on the desk in front of her; the well pronounced collar bones, her angular arms, her fragile frame and the plain red salwar kameez she wore that now reflected the colour rising steadily to Leisha’s own face.
Why doesn’t she just ask me to sit down and plough on with the lesson, Leisha’s heart was pounding in her throat.
The clocks were set to the speed of a snail’s pace. Leisha’s fingers absently picked at the edges of her desk, her nails chipping away the cheap brown paint.
Casting a furtive glance sideways, she glimpsed two boys, who had whipped around in their seats and were whispering to two other girls seated behind them, snickering, gesticulating, whispering and then laughing mutely . The derision amply evident on their stupid faces.
Scumbags, Leisha told herself.
The classroom felt nauseatingly stuffy. A muscle in Leisha’s jaw twitched.
It took the steelshrill sound of the bell at the end of a few light years to bring her ordeal to an end. The teacher left the class and Leisha thudded back into her seat, her empty gaze directed straight ahead.
‘It’s okay, man! Forget about it,’ Pia said to her casually above the drone of the casual conversation and snorts of laughter that issued from the rest of the class.
For all her bellicose yearning to yell at Pia and tell her that it wasn’t okay, at all, and call out her nonchalance whilst squashing her nose flat with a hardcover book, Leisha managed to shut her belligerent self in. The rest of the day and night was a haze.
As the days, weeks and months rolled by, the spectre of this horrible incident would cull itself out of Leisha’s spool of memories and rear up right in front of her, making her stop dead in her tracks, whitening her knuckles, draining her face of all colour and casting her mind back to the worst day at school as scenes from it careered through her mind, lucid and fresh.
As every other workout, night out, driving lesson, nap and dance session was haunted by the mind numbing spectre, which Leisha thought lurked in some shadowy corner, merely biding time, looking for a chance to lunge at her, seizing her off guard whilst the air around her was rent with the piercing sounds of derisive laughter and sniggers, Leisha conceded defeat.
Years later, she would lie in bed, and the spectre would airily descend upon her. Unsolicited though, as it always was, Leisha wouldn’t make any effort to stave it off. It would hang there, nimbly, floating inches above her. In conceding defeat, Leisha had let the spectre become one with her.
Subservience would give way to wonder. Out of curiosity, although interspersed with unwillingness, Leisha would finally begin perusing the spectre at close quarters. Flaying multiple layers and deconstructing the illusionary complexities, in the end, Leisha would find herself gaping down at hollow bowels and nothing else.
The thought of having accorded the wanker a space of such pronounced significance, when it was insignificant enough to vie for prominence with a single sand grain of the Sahara, like the rest of its ilk, all of who walk the face of earth through those who let the spectres in, would be hard to come to terms with.
Yet, Leisha would smile, mildly. Her face would beam up at the prominent feature, which would gradually become a thinning column of wispy smoke before vanishing altogether.