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Broken Rituals Part II
And then she remembered. She wasn’t six years old anymore. But she was still crying. She rummaged through her suitcase, pulling out the bottle of cheap vodka that she had saved for when the memories came. She paused, Rose wouldn’t want her to do this. It wasn’t right. It wouldn’t last. But Rose was gone. And she was alone again. She gulped it down, her familiar medicine, shuddering at the familiar sting as it slithered down her throat. She was relieved to feel her thoughts turn fuzzy and her mind go numb. It was all she could hope for, really, this numbness. She shoved the bottle underneath her bed, and wrote a note for Grace.
Grace-I was really tired so I went to bed. I’m sorry. -Alice
And she crawled into bed, pulling the covers over her head.
The next morning the light was blinding, and she didn’t want to move. Her alarm clock was blaring, and Alice was half tempted to ignore it, surrendering to the gentle comfort of her warm white bed. But then Grace would come in to see what was wrong, and Alice couldn’t let Grace see her like this, or she would end up with yet another family, or in some home for juvenile delinquents. And so, Alice forced herself to lift her broken body out of bed.
She was somewhat used to this ritual, though she had tried to forget it. She threw the covers off her shivering, naked body, forcing herself to jump up and into the cold shower. She stood there, the icy water beating down on her shoulders. She couldn’t keep doing this. She allowed her knees to buckle under her, and there she was. Crouched on the tile floor, naked, waiting for the tears that didn’t come.
‘He’s a teacher. I shouldn’t do this” Alice reminded herself. And yet...she couldn’t stop feeling, she couldn’t quite describe it, but she knew it felt wonderfully right and horribly wrong at the same time. As he stood there, reading aloud from Shakespeare’s tragic romance, Alice imagined the words he spoke were directed at her, pausing to chastise herself that this was wrong.
Class ended, and Alice remembered that, apart from Mr. Grey, she she didn’t really know anyone at her new school. At lunch, she sat down a table of girls she imagined were popular.
“Hi, I’m Alice.” She introduced herself. The girls looked at each other, and the blonde one, looking slightly irritated replied,
“I’m Carissa, and these are Trina, Spencer, Lulu and Brett.”
“Hello.” Alice waved.
“So.” The chic brunette Aubrey Hepburn look-alike leaned in, “Rumor is-you and Mr. Grey are...more then teacher and student.”
“Oh! No! I mean, he’s nice. Its just- he’s a teacher.” Alice lied.
“Oh” the brunette replied, flatly. The girls picked at their lunches in silence. When lunch was over, the blonde turned to Alice,
“Look, Alex, you seem like a really nice girl, but, I think it would be good if...maybe, you found somewhere else to sit.”
“Oh, okay, sure.” Alice said quietly, wishing she could turn invisible. She had thought, maybe finding friends would make things better, happier. But now she just felt even more overcome with the deep, lonely, empty pit inside of her.
When she had lived with Rose and Henry, she had friends for the first time in her life. Living with her mother, she had never gone to school, or even preschool, so she didn’t know, let alone play with, other kids. In the six foster families that followed, she had been treated like she was different, and she had been. At first it was just that she was shy and not very pretty; but eventually that developed into long, dark clothing and scarlet lines etched over soft white scars along her pale arms. And so she dealt with it. As soon as school was out, sometimes even before, she allowed herself to be consumed by the comforting fuzziness found in a bottle of Gilbey’s Vodka. It made it easier when other kids ignored her, when the memories began to float through her mind, or when Roger’s hand slipped to far up her skirt at night.
But Rose had enrolled her in a small Catholic school, and she wore the modest blue and white jumper like all the other girls, with a small gold cross at her neck and discreet faux pearls in her ears. She had loved it. All her teachers were friendly and soft spoken, hair hidden by the navy veils of virginity. No one thought she was weird there, no one commented on the fading scars on her arms or the dark burns on her legs that could not be concealed with her opaque white tights. And she was happy. But then Rose had lost her job, and she had to leave the pure and pristine world to which she had almost become accustomed.