It felt good to grab the last succulent out of my locker. It’s finally cleared out. Another school year is in the past. Next year will be my last year of secondary and I was glad of it.
With a wistful sigh, I turned the small potted plant over in my hands. I touched a finger to the soil and got a rush when its energy ran through me. I prepared to tuck it into the allocated slot in my bag when it was smacked out of my hand.
My eyes widened as the pot shattered, dirt skittering across the floor. Luckily my succulent was intact, but the energy bursting in me waned at the sad sight on the floor.
I turned and saw the culprit. Jennifer Boehnlein. Two of her friends stood on either side of her. Nicole Benjamin and Jane Fossier.
I tried to take a calming breath as mom suggested. It didn’t do much. Messing with me was one thing, but my succulents had never done anything to her.
Jennifer smirked at me, shaking her head. “Hey, Delphine,” she put a finger to her glossed lips. “I think you dropped something.”
Jane and Nicole laughed, throwing their heads back to toss their glossy manes as they placed a hand to their chests. Like lions preparing to attack their prey. Their laughs were filled with mockery and fed my stirring temper.
I was in the process of deciding whether I would retain my dignity if I picked up my succulent when Jennifer stepped forward, her forest green gaze turning dark. “Are you coming back to school next year?” Her tone was light and friendly but her eyes told me she was anything but.
Swallowing, I nodded, forcing myself to keep my gaze on her. Despite pleading with my mother to let me stay in Slisse with my father, she insisted Garden and I stayed here until we finished school. It didn’t matter how many times I got bullied or was ridiculed because of my supernatural powers; she insisted on keeping me here. As if she paid me any attention, either, busy with her three younger (and opales) kids.
Jennifer shook her head and pouted. “No, no, no, sweetie. I thought I made myself clear the last time.”
She’s referring to earlier this week, when she filled my locker with dirt, smearing it all over my textbooks and bookbag, and wrote in permanent marker that I didn’t belong here and needed to leave, in not-so-nice words.
I shrugged, trying to maintain my cool aura but Nicole and Jane’s hard stares were getting to me and I tried to keep my knees from shaking.
“My mom won’t withdraw me,” I said and tried to hide my cringe. I should’ve said something else. . . like. . . I don’t know. Garden was better with comebacks than I. But anything was better than making Jennifer think I was willing to jump through hoops because she didn’t like me.
Jennifer leaned back and a laugh faker than plastic floated from her lips. When she straightened, her eyes were lethal. She poked me in the center of my chest with her sharp nail. “Let’s get one thing clear, epeta.”
I stiffened at the word.
“You don’t belong here. This is opales territory and you epeta scum are mucking it up. If you don’t leave by choice, I’ll make you. Got it?” She jabbed her sharp nail again to hammer her point.
Without thinking, I slapped her hand away from my skin. Her sharp nails left a pinprick of pain in the center of my chest and I didn’t like what her touch was doing to the energy inside me.
Jane and Nicole gasped at her side, matching manicured fingers rising to cover their opened mouths. Shock flashed across Jennifer’s porcelain features before she narrowed her eyes, ivy gaze lit with rage.
It was too late to recover from what I’d done. I’d hit her. Se touched me, but I hit her. A nervous feeling seized me when I thought about what my mother would say if this situation went down the hill it was barreling toward.
Jennifer opened her mouth and made an awful hocking sound at the back of her throat.
She spat at me.
I stepped back in time, her saliva touching the floor inches from my sandaled feet.
I stared at her DNA on the floor then her.
“Go back to the hole you crawled out of, you dirty epeta rat!”
Rage painted my skin red. I’d been cursed at, called all sorts of slurs by opales, even had some things thrown at me if I went on the wrong side of town. But never had someone ever spit at me. Of all the forms of disrespect, spitting it was the worst thing I could think of.
I needed to make a snap decision. Jennifer has made me her target plenty of times, but she crossed the line here. Spitting is not something I tolerate. But was I ready to do the thing that would get her off my back?
I had dealt with bullies many times before. But I’d only fought once before. Then, I had been in Slisse, where sugiatos were the majority, and I lived with my father. Even if no one was with me at that moment, I knew had the support of my town, my dad, and my sister at home. But here, in Vadain? Garden and I were the only sugiatos in this providence. And our mother was opales, and it was hard for her to set her supernatural orientation aside, even in moments like this.
But I had to finish school here. And Jennifer Boehnlein would not let up if I did not make her. I had to take a stand, even if her cronies joined in. Even if I got beat up. Maybe the act would be enough to prove to her I was no longer worth it if our altercations would turn physical.
So, I stilled my shakings knees, took a deep breath and tried not to think about what I was going to do.
I lunged at Jennifer.
She yelped and we fell to the hard floor. I braced myself for the oncoming onslaught of wails from Jane and Nicole but they never came. The only thing they did was shriek Jennifer’s name like seagulls as I wailed on her.
Jennifer tried to shove me off of her, digging her sharp nails into my skin and drawing blood. The pain didn’t faze me. I’d been pricking myself on rose thorns since before I could remember. Her nails had a similar effect that I could ignore.
I drove my fist into her soft stomach. Air rushed out of her mouth and filled my nostrils with the scent of mint.
I reared my elbow back for another hit when hands hooked under my shoulders and hauled me off of her.
I raised my hands and took calming breaths, cooling my temper as the security guard dragged me away. Meanwhile, Jennifer thrashed in the arms of the other security. She reminded me of a rabid dog, the way she barked slurs and tried to tear herself out of his arms to bite me with her gnashing teeth.
The security guard's hand tightened around my arm as he dragged me to the front office. “You’re in big trouble,” he muttered, pushing me through the glass door.
Though his words scared me, I wouldn’t regret my decision.