(dedicated to Nick)

The crisp blue air smothered her lungs.

The first warning bell rang through the quad and the students trampled over the grass, a constant, moving, chattering mass.

Crushed grass smelled like a tangy November. Blue, red, and vintage rag-cloth bags hung off backs like so many ladybug shells as they disappeared into classrooms.

The girl sat alone on the grass, still un-moving, her eyes glazed open. Her crawling black hair suckered into the tree, where she slumped like a broken doll.

The red paint dots on her glossy, dark skin seemed jarring. They traipsed over her lips, under her chin, down her throat, disappearing under her scarf. The headphones fitted over her ears shuddered with music. She couldn’t hear “Rise Against” anymore; something else resounded through her and the ground.

She could hear the






“Come on, Ms. Khaliq.”

Mrs. Nguyen removed  headphones, shaking her. Aaliyah blinked, looking down at her hands as Mrs. Nguyen started berating her. The world seemed very solid under her knees.

Aaliyah shook her head, standing and snatching up her bag.

“Sorry Mrs. Nguyen. I just.. spazzed.”


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