A Galaxy Obscured: A Moment’s Sketch

This is just a fragment, a little yarn that spun into my head unasked just now.  Perhaps I might take elements from it in the future.

 

On the wall, she could hear the passage of the second hand, mocking the afternoon.  Sixth period was the slowest time of day, the refuge of misfit seconds that refused to pass away in ordinary fashion.  Her eye wandered over her classroom, which was filled with the skittery, flaccid knee-jerk of the overhead fluorescent panels.  The view was singularly uninspiring–a sea of parted hair or furry crops, still and uncommunicative.  Except by the room’s single slit of a window.

Lilia, daydreaming. As usual.  She’d long ago dismissed the idea of calling the girl’s attention back from wherever it went during those reveries.  Not only did it have no impact on the habit, but Darlene had the impression that she was breaking into something precious, a private communion.  And the sense of killing a small animal in the cruelest way possible was too much, even for the jaded creature she’d become.

She rattled papers on her desk and cleared her throat.  “If you’ve finished your essays, please bring them to the front of the class.” She looked at Lilia, who was the only one not still frantically scribbling away.  As one or two panicked faces emerged from the shoal of heads, she continued, “You have twenty minutes remaining.”

While the awkward teenager pushed back her chair, Darlene waited through the inevitable chaos her motion betokened.  A bag was overturned, pencils and notebooks splaying across the dirty linoleum tiles.  These were gathered, once more stowed, and the child stood up, one hand rising unconsciously to push her thick glasses up the bridge of her nose.  Lilia Hastings Goodman.  With a name like that, one would have expected a more graceful creature.  In the case of Lil, Life had not seen fit to endow her with both a complete sense of self and physical grace.

Her skirt had been twisted askew at some point, and now hung drunkenly.  The girl had hitched it up above her navel, as if physically girding herself for some battle.  Her shoes were badly scuffed and the tights she wore bore the stains of a confrontation earlier in the day.  Darlene took in the vicious scrape that ran in an angry red peal up Lilia’s forearm, ending in a darkening smudge of dried blood.  Physical violence among the students was frowned upon by the school, but there were still those who sought to enforce the pecking order by coming down hard on their fellows who paid no attention to them.

Poor Lilia.  Darlene couldn’t decide if she was a strong soul or simply didn’t notice how many toes she was stepping on by remaining unbowed.  She took the sheaf of paper from the girl who sniffed resoundingly, blotting out the irritable ticking of the clock and bringing a smattering of groans from behind her.

She looked down at the papers she now held, addressing the girl quietly, “You may read for the remainder of the period.” The pages were completely filled with lines of Lil’s neat handwriting, ruler straight across the unlined expanse. Darlene knew what others, including Lil’s parents, did not.  Behind the sloppy facade of this frumpy child was something incredible.

The children who routinely ambushed her on the north side of the school, where the cameras did not look, were afraid of her, a reaction Darleen feared the girl would inspire in many.  She looked up and met the gaze of Lil from behind her smudged lenses, suddenly finding an answer to her earlier musings in their still appraisal.  She shivered and forced a smile, making a great show of beginning to read the essay.

For all her awkward appearances, there was nothing unbeautiful about how Lilia saw the world. There was no trace of the pettiness or cruelty so evident in her classmates.  Lilia’s secret was that her dreams were big enough–beautiful, iridescences, unfolding on the page, like galaxies–to blot out the tawdry, sordid surroundings of her apparent existence.

 

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