As soon as the bell rang she stuffed the books into her bag and ran.
Everyone knew about the hole in the fence, but she hadn’t been brave enough to venture that far before. Today she didn’t hesitate; she just needed to get as far away as possible. She squeezed through the gap, the wire ripping at her jumper. She ran into the copse and kept going until she found a patch of leaves to sit on. They were slimy, and made the bottom of her trousers dirty.
She reached into her bag, pulled out the sandwiches she had made that morning and tossed them into the mud. The crisps and chocolate followed, their bright wrappers sitting tauntingly on the surface.
She had escaped school for the time being and that relief brought with it hot tears. She knew what the others said about her parents. She could hear some of the hushed comments when they came to parents’ evening or a school play. But Cara was supposed to be her friend, the one person who she had shared her deepest thoughts and worries with. To find her making jokes about her mum and howling with glee cut much more deeply than the whispers.
Her hurt turned to anger. Couldn’t they see what they looked like to other people? It wasn’t just their weight; it was their clothes and their appearance. Surely they noticed heads turn when they walked into a restaurant, and people exchange smiles. Surely they knew how much they hurt her. Why couldn’t they be like other parents?
She lay back, and the wet leaves kissed the back of her neck.
Her stomach rumbled. She turned on her side, reached over and picked up the discarded snacks.
The wind shook the branches above and her friend’s laughter echoed through the trees.