It was a few weeks after my sixteenth birthday and the winter sun was smiling on my face as I carefully parked my bike in the racks at the back of the school playground. I wasn’t late for a change and had been feeling better about myself since my birthday. After thinking everyone had forgotten about me, it was nice that they were all home to give me a surprise and for the first time in ages I felt like I belonged there.
I almost smiled to myself as I closed the lock on my chain. I loved this late July weather ― even though the air was still chilly there was a hint that spring was just around the corner. The wattle trees were covered in bright yellow flowers as if they were millions of tiny stars all bursting to shed their light. It was hard feeling sad when everything was so pretty.
I breathed deeply to smell the fresh air and swung my bag onto my shoulder. I was finally strong enough to face a day at school and turned towards the playground.
As I got closer to the school building though, I had to walk past a group of senior girls. They were sitting on a bench and I kept my head down and hoped that they wouldn’t notice me. Even though I was looking at the ground I couldn’t help see their smooth shiny brown legs out of the corner of my eye as they baked in the sun.
I was right alongside them when I heard one of them call out.
‘Hey, check out the freckled freak,’ she said to her friend in a loud voice. I tried to walk a bit quicker to get away from them.
‘Oh my gosh, look at her. They’re all over her face.’
‘Better watch out, Ruth,’ the first one said loudly, ‘Redheads have a fiery temper, you know.’
‘I’d like to see her try. She’s so little as well.’
I had gotten past and was trying not to run.
‘Hey, carrot top,’ one of them yelled after me, ‘Why don’t you come back and talk to us?’
I reached the school building and pushed the door open, but I could still hear them calling out and laughing as I hurried inside.
I half ran to my locker, trying to hide my face by pretending to be in a rush to find my books. A curly lock of hair fell across my face and I brushed it away impatiently. That damned red hair was the cause of all my troubles.