Artwork by Marc Scheff

Artwork by Marc Scheff

The teenage girl takes one final pull on the stub of her cigarette then throws it in the direction of the portly old man from next door, his innocuous waddle leading him towards the canal. Though innocuous, his walk grates her to her very core. The fact that he’s heading to the canal makes her fury rise further like a disrupted volcano. She was going to walk to school that way. Despite her mother promising her a lift if she waited five more minutes the girl gets up and trudges off. It had been 10 minutes and the last thing she wanted to do was be in the car listening to her mum attempting to carefully pry into her life.

The pariah, she thinks as she passes the houses along her street. That is her nickname at school. The Pariah. Some idiot had read it somewhere, discovered its meaning and attached it to her. Everyone loved it and so it had stuck. Fucking parasites. I’d much rather be an individual than be one of you.

Thick black eye shadow is the only makeup she wears as a form of protest against the undignified girls at her school that deem it appropriate to coat their faces in layer upon layer. But, despite her rebellion, the simplicity of her application actually goes further in highlighting the magnificence of her light blue eyes and milky skin complexion.

Angry at the world for their lack of understanding and capacity to merely follow, the girl shuts them out, blocks everything around her, with her music. Her angry music. Her scary music. Her misunderstood music. She smiles as the ferocious sounds and shrieks slam into her ears at maximum volume. She feels soothed as they wash through her entire body.

The crisp cool air of the dewy morning filters her lungs. So she pulls out another cigarette and lights it. The calm and serenity of the fresh new day is disrupted by the screeches and smashing of drums and pounding of bass guitars that explode out of the chunky headphones atop her head.

Her thoughts drift to her father and brother and she clenches her teeth furiously. Two years her parents have been separated. She has seen her father and brother only three times over that period and spoken to them much less. Eight months it’s been since she last saw them. And she’s glad. For as long as she can remember her parents were never close. Maybe a family life didn’t suit them as individuals? Maybe they regretted having children so soon after marrying? Then why did they have two? Her father now seems embarrassed of his daughter, the way she chooses to dress and her lifestyle, while her brother, whom she once considered a friend, merely looks at her as a grotesque stranger, mocking her behind her back. No problem. She doesn’t need them. She doesn’t need anyone. She tries to remember why she chose to live with her mother and why her brother chose to live with her father. But so much has occurred, so much pain has been felt, that memories of the past have begun to blur and the reasoning of actions has now fogged.

A hand grips her shoulder and she jumps. She hates physical contact. She swivels round to confront her assailant with glaring eyes and clenched fists. But her countenance relaxes as soon as she meets the piercing green eyes of the smiling girl stood before her, who’s mimicking the actions of sparking a cigarette lighter with her hand. The Pariah pulls back her headphones like a bride unveiling herself to her partner on her wedding day. “I’m sorry,” laughs the green-eyed girl. “I didn’t mean to startle you, but I just need to borrow your lighter if that’s cool?” Her voice is husky and her accent marred by her home country and her adopted city. Her mouse-blonde hair is long and dreadlocked. Her cheekbones are high. Her jawline seems as if it were carved out of marble and modelled on a goddess. A simple silver hoop is pierced in her nose.

“So…is it ok then?” the green-eyed girl encourages, laughing again. Unaware that she’d been gormlessly staring the Pariah mumbles her apologies having snapped out of her hypnotism. She rifles through her bag, pats down her pockets. “It’s in your hand…” the girl croaks sexily.

“Oh yeah,” the Pariah nervously mumbles. She hands over the lighter, her hand slightly trembling. When the green-eyed girl’s fingertips brush against hers in the exchange she feels a tingle. A hot flush rises to her cheeks. She watches the beauty before her place the roll up in between her sensuous lips. The tips of the tobacco hanging out of the end crackle and glow when ignited. It resonates with the feeling in her heart during this brief moment.

“Thanks,” says the green-eyed girl squinting behind the drape of grey smoke that masks her mesmerising features. She hands back the lighter with a wink and a smile, and the Pariah almost buckles at the knees while watching the girl walk away.


James Massoud


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