The sixth letter was probably slotted under Marylou’s table before class started. She found it while riffling through the pile of books she had stashed there, looking for her philosophy textbook. As expected, the book was nowhere in sight.
The letter was once again clumsily disguised. The writer scrawled with his non-writing hand, so the words were all over the place and required more imagination than perception to figure out its meaning. She had seen enough of these letters to deduce the meaning of this one, “There is no space for you here. Clear off, fatso.”
Marylou took offence at the repeated and unwarranted nickname. She certainly wasn’t fat, at least not as fat as that boy who sat in the front and was always munching on snacks, or the girl with the pigtails who needed two seconds more than others to lift herself from her chair. Sure, Marylou had some chubby parts. Her hips, for instance, showed signs of early puberty, and maybe there was a bit of flab in her arms. If she knew whom the writer was, the first thing she would confront him about was the weight issue.
“I don’t understand who would write such nasty letters to you,” said Goldie, twirling her black curls with a pout. “You’re such a nice person to all of us, and we all like you. I mean, I can’t even name a person who doesn’t like you!”
Goldie, such a darling, and so very perceptive too. She was the most sensitive when it came to people, and always knew what people were thinking, sometimes even before the person themselves. If there was anybody who hated Marylou, Goldie would be the first to know. And yet the six letters continued lying on her table at home, unexplained.
“Mum says she’ll speak to Mrs Disney about it, because people can’t go around stealing my books, changing the answers to my exam papers and drawing rude pictures on my table. But I told her Mrs Disney’s already scolded the class about it. Seems it doesn’t work, though,” shrugged Marylou. She was distressed about the incident, but she wasn’t the kind to let her feelings show. No sense being all hysterical about it; it’d only cheer the troublemaker on.
“Such an immature person he is, whoever that is,” Goldie added. “What does he mean there’s no space for you?”
“Maybe it’s because I’m a transfer pupil. I’m the new addition to the class, you know, who came in abruptly 4 months ago. The redundant outsider.”
“Surely not! I still don’t believe it’s somebody in our class. Maybe it’s some fellow from outside the class trying to cause trouble. In any case you can’t take this lying down, Lou. You can’t revise without your books, and you’ve failed the exams twice when you did study, and I really don’t want to help you scrub those scary images anymore… oh, hey, can I borrow your Maths workbook today? I don’t know how to do my sums.”
“Oh, the workbook’s at home. Can I pass it to you tomorrow?”
“Oh but I do want to get them done tonight, Lou. Why don’t I go back home with you? I’ll just take the book there and go back.”
“Nah, I’m sorry. My Mum’s unwell today so I can’t bring friends back. I’ll pass the book to you early tomorrow.”
Early tomorrow, the book was all but forgotten. When Marylou arrived at the classroom, her classmates were gathered around her desk, gasping and pointing. Girls looked pale and faint and guys were debating what to do with something on her chair. She walked up curiously, then immediately regretted her decision. There was a dead cat sprawled over her chair.
It was a tabby cat, most likely pregnant from the shape of her stomach. Her eyes had been gouged out untidily, so blood coupled with some mushy substance dripped steadily onto the floor. The cat’s claws had been used to scratch a simple message on the table: Get Out.
She felt Mrs Disney’s rough hands on her shoulders, heard her raspy voice calling for the others to go out and call the school attendant. The raspy voice was getting fainter, and as her classmates filed out of the classroom, whispers filling the air, the room seemed to get gradually darker. She felt her body weaken and fell into Mrs Disney’s arms.
She awoke in the sick bay, a wet towel over her head. Mrs Disney and Goldie were sitting by the side, and got up with a jerk when they saw her conscious.
“Marylou, we’ve come to a decision. It’s dangerous for you to remain in school when the anonymous bully has gone to such lengths. You’ll remain at home for the time being, till we’ve investigated this incident. Goldie will bring you your homework everyday. Can you tell us your parents’ contact numbers so we can arrange with them? And tell Goldie your address too,” said Mrs Disney.
“Er. It’s no trouble, really, for me to come to school. My parents… aren’t very friendly people,” stammered Marylou, hastily trying to get up. “My house’s also out of the way, and pretty tiny and run-down… not good for visitors. Really, I’m not afraid. Whoever the person is hasn’t hurt me yet, and probably isn’t eager to since it’ll blow his identity.”
“Wow, you’re really brave, Lou!” cried Goldie, her hands clapped over her mouth. “But even I fear for you now! That cat… so difficult to erase that imagery.” She winced, biting her lip, her thin legs rubbing against each other.
“I’ll need to go back to discuss this matter with my Mum,” said Marylou quickly, her face also turning pale. Goldie was almost frightened she’d faint again after being reminded of the cat. But nothing would convince Marylou to change her mind. She left for home in a flustered manner, her limp beginning to show in her panic. Her longer leg took great strides, oblivious to her shorter leg’s efforts to catch up, till she was sure she had disappeared out of sight of anybody in school, and home was in sight. She heaved a sigh of relief and entered the dark ramshackle house, the door hanging askew behind her. Not bothering to draw the blinds, she flung her backpack on the sofa and closed her eyes. What was she to do now? She had only been in this town for 4 months, but it seemed it came time for her to move away again. For the first time in her life, she felt a pull of reluctance. The people here had accepted her in a way nobody else had; she had not known such kindness would exist on somebody like her.
“So this is where you stay. Quite suited to a pig like you. Couldn’t find a proper home to house you, outsider?”
She froze. The voice was familiar, but not the tone. She turned slowly, as though delaying the truth. Goldie stared back at her, a smirk and a glint in her eyes. Marylou lowered her eyes. Of course it would turn out like this.
“I’m sorry, Goldie. I didn’t mean to turn you this way,” she mumbled.
“Oh yes, you should be sorry,” came the cold answer. “You should be sorry you ever set foot into this town. We thought you were cool at first, a nice girl just transferred in from the city, but it turns out you’re a virus. You destroy our town, and we want you out of here. There’s no space for you here, or anywhere in this world, I daresay.”
If Marylou had heard these words for the first time, she might have flinched, or cried, or done any of the things she had done ten years ago. Now, they only washed over her numbly like music. In fact, she believed each and every word. If twenty different people said the same thing to you, it’d got to be correct.
“Look, Goldie, you’ve got your wish. Tell everybody else that I’ll leave right now. No need to write those letters, or kill cats anymore. No need for Mrs Disney to edit my exam paper in order to expel me either.”
“Oh no, we’re not letting you go to harm other people,” Goldie widened her eyes. They were a pleasant green colour, and would surely look beautiful when she smiled sincerely. Now, they were etched in Marylou’s mind more deeply than the cat. Fearsome and mean. Those same green eyes glared mercilessly as their owner whipped out a knife.
“I’m going to disfigure that perfectly gorgeous face of yours, so you don’t seduce more boys to leave their girlfriends. I’ll cut you apart and let everyone study you, and find out what you are. You’re certainly not human, not with that face, or those unnaturally incompatible legs, and the asymmetrical hands. We’ll see what kind of blood you spill.” She stepped forward, not a hint of relent in her forceful strike. Marylou raised her hands instinctively to bat it away.
Green eyes looked down at the corpse in front of her. Perhaps the strike had been too powerful. The corpse was dragged to the kitchen, though it didn’t matter where it ended up, really. It would be found, and the killer would not be traced. Of course, everybody would know who had done it, and even if they didn’t know they’d still know whom it must be. But it was time to go.
Marylou picked up her backpack and headed out the house, a passing dog growling savagely at her. She had occupied this space long enough, a space that once again did not belong to her. She had misplaced her trust in Goldie, maybe because they shared the same eyes, which was ridiculous, really, on thinking back. Prometheans would never share the same thing with a living human, only a dead one. She briefly toyed with the question of whose eyes she was wearing now. Maybe that person whom she never knew was related to Goldie somehow. In that case, had she just murdered a relative?
Tch, who was she kidding? Marylou was always going to be alone in this world.