Rona’s teacher was talking about Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress and the class was alive with giggles as you would expect from a group of convent girls, but Rona couldn’t find the fun.
How could they laugh when one Saturday last August, less than a mile from where they sat now, limbs were ripped like Play-Doh from T-shirted torsos and children, snatched from their mothers in a haze of blue-black anger. Some of the others had been there too; how could they smile when she couldn’t unsee the carnage on the streets and in the hospital wards?
What was wrong with her?
Rona raised her wool-tracked cheek from where it couched in her elbow pillow and was assaulted by unbidden snapshots of marble eyes peering from pale faces, alien or subterranean faces that didn’t seem human. Her nostrils hummed with the acrid tang of smoke, her breathing choked shallow with invisible, wet dust. As her stomach lurched with putrid memories, Rona was glad she hadn’t eaten in a while and had nothing to vomit.
Blind from her own torment, Rona could not see the other girls fading to sharp grey bone around her, their youth and hope greedily eaten away by undulating shadows of new fear. Their pleasant faces were facsimiles cracking in dry pretence, as if moulded from papier-mâché and their heads nodded for the comfort of rhythm rather than in agreement of anything being said.
Rona scribbled hard on her book with her pen and hadn’t realised she’d ripped deep through the lined pages until a gaping wound stared up at her. She ached to climb inside and bury herself deep in the damp indigo-bruised hole. Maybe there she could hide, and sleep and maybe, just maybe, disappear.