The school bell rang and I checked my timetable to see what room I was meant to be in. My heart sank when I saw that it was a double period of health and exercise. I groaned and walked reluctantly toward the change room at the back of the gymnasium. I hated changing my clothes in the open with all the other girls watching me, so I hurried into a toilet cubicle and got changed in there.
I sat on the toilet lid listening to the girls in my class talking, and I waited until I could hear them walking out to the oval. I opened the door and poked my head out to make sure nobody was there, then hurried outside before I got into trouble for being late.
As I ran out into the sunshine, I was conscious of how bright my skinny white legs looked as they poked out of my shorts like matchsticks. All the other girls in my class seemed to have such perfect smooth skin. Mine was just covered in freckles and I always tried to hide it by wearing long sleeved shirts and pants.
Mr Norris was just marking the roll and luckily my surname was right down the bottom.
‘… Sarah Walker?’ he called.
‘White, Molly White, is she here?’
‘I’m here, sir,’ I called out as I ran to join the group of girls.
Mr Norris turned and looked at me for a moment with his beady black eyes, before looking down at his list and making a mark.
‘Okay, that’s the lot,’ he said. ‘Right, ladies, today we are playing soccer. Alison and Virginia, you two are the captains and you can pick your teams.’
I should have known those two would be the captains. They were always the teacher’s pets, no matter which class it was. Alison had long brown hair and a cute little upturned nose. She was one of the girls that had perfect skin, and she already had a boyfriend as well. Virginia was a stuck up rich girl with thick brown hair. She would have been really pretty if she didn’t always have a sneer on her lips. She had a boyfriend too.
One by one the two captains called out players to join their teams. I hated this part, and I started to get more and more embarrassed as the group of unpicked players where I was standing got smaller and smaller. Soon I would be the only left and that meant everybody would be looking at me.
‘I’ll have Jane,’ said Virginia. ‘You can have the fr…,’she paused and looked at Mr Norris. ‘You can have the other one,’ she said, pointing at me.
Mr Norris blew his whistle and all the girls ran into their positions on the field. I ran over to the wing because that was where I had played when I was little.
All of a sudden play was under way and the ball came sailing my way. I froze and it bounced right past me and went over the sideline.
‘Oh, you idiot. What were you doing?’ Alison yelled.
Play continued and I tried to run around and look inconspicuous, until the ball came my way again. I started moving towards it this time when Virginia came running past.
‘Out of my way, freak,’ she sneered as she bumped me with her shoulder. She got to the ball first and kicked it down field.
I managed to keep away from the ball after that, but just before the end of the game the ball came my way again and there was nobody else near me. I stopped it with my foot, and then kicked it a little way in front of me and started running. It was just like in the dreams I’d had when I was a little kid and I thought I was going to score a goal this time. There was nobody between me and the goal post except for the goalie and as I drew my foot back to kick the ball Virginia came sliding in with her legs and knocked us both to the ground.
Mr Norris blew the whistle and gave me a penalty kick, but Virginia laughed as she got up and stood with her hands on her hips glaring at me. ‘Hey, let’s watch the little freak kick the ball,’ she said loudly.
I wasn’t sure what to do, but Mr Norris told me to put the ball on the ground and then kick it toward the goal as hard as I could.
I wished I could just disappear because everybody was watching me, but I did what he said and put the ball down. I moved back a couple of metres and then ran forward and tried to kick it with my left foot with all my might, but it hurt my foot and the ball just rolled to a stop as the goalie came forward to pick it up.
Mr Norris blew the whistle again and the game was over and we had to go back into the change rooms. I followed everyone back inside and disappeared again into the toilet cubicle to change my clothes.
When I thought the coast was clear, I opened the cubicle door and stepped out into the empty change room—except it wasn’t empty.
Virginia and Alison and a few of their friends were standing there waiting for me.
‘So the little freak has finally come out,’ said Alison.
I started to walk toward the door but Virginia moved across to block my way.
‘We don’t like freaks around here,’ she said. I tried to step around her but she grabbed my hair and pulled me back. I turned to face her when suddenly something hit me really hard in the face. My eyes went all blurry and I felt dazed as tears started running down my cheeks.
‘Oh, look it’s a cry baby.’
‘She’s crying freckles,’ someone else yelled.
‘Give it to her, Ginny,’ said another voice.
I felt a hand punch me in the middle of my chest and then I tripped over and fell to the ground. I looked up to see that I was surrounded by faces all staring at me and yelling things but I could no longer hear them. My head was spinning and everything had gone silent, then I blacked out.
I woke up later to find myself in a white room. Through the door I could see the headmaster’s office and I realised I must be in the nurse’s room.
‘Oh, you’re awake dear?’ said the school nurse. ‘I’m told you had a nasty fall at soccer during health. Some of the girls brought you in here. You are lucky to have such good friends.’
I reached up and felt my face where it was tender. I also had trouble breathing because my chest hurt so much.
‘I was just about to call your mother so she can come and get you,’ the nurse said.
‘Oh, please… don’t do that. I’m okay. I can ride home.’ She looked at me doubtfully but eventually let me go.
I had to ride my bike home really slowly because of my chest, but as soon as I got home I raced inside and locked myself in my bedroom before Mum could see the bruise on my face. I didn’t know how to explain it to her.
I saw my writing journal sitting at the end of my bed and I picked it up and started angrily ripping all of the pages out of it. I kept going until every single page was screwed up and thrown on the floor, then I threw myself face down on my bed and cried and cried and cried.