Apple and eggplant coloured clouds promenaded across the faded sky, so washed out it looked grey. Dawn was breaking and as a fragile sun fought its way through the kaleidoscope of clouds, small shivering children arrived one by one to a large overgrown field, where they stood huddled in their respective cliques as they waited for the school gates to open.
Annette, tiny yet cartoonishly ballooned by her oversize jacket, stood by herself, flicking at dewy blades of grass.
There was always so much to see in this field; tiny details that would be lost if you didn’t pay attention.
Black dotted red ladybugs, red dotted black ladybugs, white butterflies delicately marked with wispy brown lines, lazy flies drifting in confused circles, birds calling sweetly as they fleeted across the deepening blue sky, glassy drops of condensation clinging to leaves of every shape, shade and size…
Annette picked up a red ladybug off a blade of grass as sunlight hit it so that the droplets of moisture coating it sparkled and danced.
“Pretty,” she murmured, inhaling deeply as she caught the sweet scent of the wet grass.
“Talking to plants again, huh?” a voice that curdled Annette’s joy, turning it sour, broke into her silent world. It was Iris, a tall thin girl with a pinched face and lips constantly drawn into a line.
Annette didn’t mind hanging out with the other children. She even really liked this one girl, Laura, who was quiet and funny and smart, with large inquisitive kind eyes hidden behind owl like glasses. She didn’t mind most of the other kids either; she just preferred to be here, standing in the thickest part of the overgrowth, surrounded by interesting bugs and tiny flowers blooming among the weeds.
Annette straightened herself up and cocked her head, trying to decide if she should answer.
Iris stood tapping her foot impatiently, her drama-hungry possy a few feet behind her waiting to see what would happen.
“I was…” Annette started.
“You’re a weirdo!” Iris called out, moving forward aggressively, then, noticing the tiny bug balanced on the tip of Annette’s finger, she cruelly slapped it off.
Annette gasped as she felt the blow squish the gentle insect, then stared at the tell-tale stain on her finger where the bug had been. She was lost for words.
Iris was often annoying, but she’d never been this mean.
A rush of anger flooded Annette's tiny frame as Iris and her cronies burst out laughing at her.
“Are you going to cry?” Iris mocked before turning to her friends.
“Let’s go,” she commanded.
Iris was bored of toying with Annette, plus she’d spotted another one of her victims at the far end of the field, sticking out sorely in a bright red tracksuit that she was going to tease him about all day.
Annette watched Iris’ retreating back with so much rage she could feel herself shaking. She vibrated with the unexpressed emotion, turning pink as a strange heat built up inside her and she felt it come off in waves. She wanted so badly to run up to Iris and just…just, push her; smack her to the ground in retaliation for her nastiness.
Annette saw it in her mind’s eye, how Iris’ mouth made an ‘O’ just before she landed face first in the dirt. She wished it so hard her miniscule hands balled up into fists.
Suddenly, Iris stumbled violently as if she’d been pushed. A long snaking vine lying on the ground, hidden in a clump of long grass, was spurned forward as if pushed by a gusty wind -- though there was not the slightest whisper of a breeze -- and it wrapped around Iris’ left foot, tripping her. She went tumbling in a heap of limbs, crying out in fear at the unpleasant surprise.
“Annette, answer your mother,” her dad wasn’t looking at her, which meant he was mad, very mad.
It was hours later, school was over and her head hurt. She’d had to answer to a lot of people this day.
“I didn’t push her, I…” her eyes brimmed with unshed tears.
“However angry we get, lashing out isn’t the answer,” her mum cut in.
“You just walk away and calm down. What you did was wrong,” her dad jumped in.
“You’re not listening!” Annette stood up suddenly, her chair screeching against the polished tile floor, “I wanted to, but I didn’t.” Her voice was raised, but in anguish not anger.
“Go to your room,” her mum said.
“Cool down and we’ll talk later,” her dad added.
Annette was done. She was tired, defeated, and not a little angry. So biting her lip, she walked out. She was already at the top of the stairs on a wide landing when her mum called out.
“Close the door behind you.”
Annette rolled her eyes and sighed. She didn’t want to go back down. Frustration bubbled in her and her throat felt thick with emotion.
She wanted to slam the door, kick it as hard as she could. Suddenly, as if a gust of wind had swept through the house though all the windows were bolted, the living room door slammed shut with a resounding bang.