Windblown hair stuck to her face as she backed away, fists raised. Her overalls were stained with dust and blood and one shoe had come untied.
When the teasing started years before, she had ignored it like her Mama told her to do. She walked past the stares and those who whispered behind their hands about the tiny girl in their hallways. Today her bookbag was full because it was library day and she had brought home worlds to explore. She concentrated on the weight on her shoulders and the path ahead of her.
“Nuts”, “crazy”, “insane”, “psycho”, after awhile those insults all started to sound the same. Still easy to keep walking as they hurled their words at her hoping one would stick. “Freak” was one she had learned to embrace. That just meant she wasn’t like them.
When she turned the corner the four of them blocked her path. His group had hidden in the lane near her house and waited. They must have cut class early to be out this far before her. David was leaning on his friends shoulders like they were the only thing holding him up as he spat insults at her one after the other, laughing. His friends chimed in with “yea!” or “man, you’re so right!”. Abigail couldn’t get through them, not without a confrontation.
She didn’t want to hurt them.
“David, let me through. I want to go home,” she said politely but forcefully, like her father had taught her. She gripped the straps of her bookbag tightly, looking down their ratty sneakers.
This made them all laugh harder.
“Home? You want to go home?” David made a face like he was crying, “Pwease boys wet me go hooooooome. I want my mommy!” Mock sadness cleared and arrogance took over, “Big you can’t see your mommy, remember they took her to the nuthouse with all the other SQUIRRELS!”
Abigail didn’t hear their laughter over the pounding of her heart. She took a deep breath in through her nose and raised her fists, set her feet in a wide stance, and lunged. His friends were still laughing when the first blow connected with David’s stomach. When he doubled over in pain she threw her elbow up into his chin. Blood spurted from his nose and onto her overalls.
In the back of her mind she knew that what she was doing was wrong, there would be consequences. But consequences are for later, when the adrenaline has worn off and the world has lost its red veil.
At six years old Abigail was the youngest person within 4 grades. Her intelligence was remarkable and easy to display. Her other strengths had to be hidden away, always, her father had told her.