One of them was being raped by her step father. One lived in a home where fighting and screaming happened too regularly. One lived with drunks. One lived in a home where she was almost entirely invisible. These aren’t excuses. These are facts. The circumstances of their lives made them angry. Although you couldn’t always see it in them, it was there, just below the surface and easily tapped into. Mostly they were eleven year old girls doing eleven year old girl things. They played jacks and skipped and chased each other around the playground at school.
She was different. She was bigger than the rest of them and her hair was never clean or brushed out properly. Her clothes hung on her awkwardly and her shoulders slumped with some unseen weight on them. She was the same age as the rest of them but somehow she seemed to be worn out by life already. This day she looked particularly…ugly.
They were all playing a game with a basket ball. Rules were made up as they went along but there was a tension in the air that seemed to grow with each throw of the ball. Arguments kept erupting and the game had to be stopped while the rules were tweaked again and again. The game was serious now. It was important that they finish it right. Anger energized every toss of the ball. They were fighting for power. Power that none of them had at home.
But she wasn’t playing it right. She kept missing the ball. She moved too slowly to retrieve it when it whipped past her. Her lazy movements and lack of enthusiasm irked the rest of them. Somebody swore at her. Her face went red but she didn’t move any faster to get the ball the next time it came towards her. This angered them even more. She’s not even trying!
The ball was flung into the air again. It was coming straight at her. If she had been more into the game she would have seen it coming. She should have been paying more attention. It hit her hard just above her left ear. Everyone stopped moving. She did nothing. She just stood there with her hands at her side. It must have hurt but her expression didn’t change.
Then the girl, whose step father raped her regularly, picked up the ball and threw it hard at her again. Nothing. No reaction. Someone else picked up the ball and aimed it for the back of her head. Whack! The expression on her face still didn’t change and she wouldn’t cry. Someone else grabbed the ball and aimed it at her. She just looked down and waited. She refused to fight back and it made them angrier. Whack! One more blow to her head. Another throw and the ball thumped into her chest. This time she looked up at them and they saw the change in her. She may not have lifted her arms or cried out but she was affected by them. It showed in her eyes. Their cruelty had blown out the last flicker of hope she’d held. Her eyes were empty. Her soul had retreated.
The ball slowly rolled away from her but nobody wanted it anymore. No one said a word. One by one they walked away. Sick to their stomach by what they’d done; sick to their stomach with the world they lived in.