By Gordon Reece
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Just then, Miss Briggs came into the classroom and the girls quickly turned away from me and pretended to be busying themselves at the bookshelf. Miss Briggs picked up the papers she’d come back for and was turning to go when she noticed me – frozen to the spot, struggling to fight back the tears. ’ she asked. And that’s when I nearly told her. That’s when the confession nearly burst out of me on a flood of choking sobs. But then I caught Teresa’s eye – as cold and pitiless as a shark’s – and lost my nerve.
My forehead cracked against the doorframe and, completely stunned, my head ringing, stars exploding in front of my eyes, I slid on some soggy tissue paper and ended up in a sitting position on the wet floor. I was aware of Emma and Teresa kneeling close beside me, holding me still, almost as if they were trying to help me. I heard a click-clicking sound close to my face and Emma’s voice say: This is how you cook a pig. Teresa and Jane burst into throaty laughter – and then they were gone. I sat dazed on the floor for what seemed like a very long time.
Jane gave up music and just seemed to stop caring about her schoolwork altogether. She started dyeing her hair black and painting her nails to match. She filled out and grew big-breasted, and when she was made up she could easily have passed for eighteen. Jane was constantly getting into trouble with the teachers, but nothing they did – not detentions, not suspensions – seemed to bother her in the slightest. It was as if she’d rejected everything to do with school and was like a convict in prison, just bitterly counting the days until her release.