The two major requirements for this piece were:
- The entry must be at or below 500 words.
- The entry must be centered around the prompt "overcoming adversity."
Her name was Adversity and I guess that was appropriate because she had red hair. As red as the blood she coughed up on occasion into white tissues she kept in her pocket.
Her favorite class was English, a sort of dry humor considering she was a play on words herself.
Her favorite class was also mine because I sat right beside her every day. Every day she was there anyway. On none of those days did I say a word to her.
Until she wrote a word to me.
She leaned across the aisle, her yellow pencil clenched between her fingers. She only ever used wooden pencils. It scratched across the top of my desk, but her hand was in the way and I couldn’t see what she had written until she straightened once more.
The faint gray marks almost blended into the desk top: four lines, three dots, and a curve. The rest of the hour, though the teacher must have written and gone over a hundred sentences on the board, the only mistakes I saw were the slight waver of the “i” in “Hi” and how she ended it with a smilie face instead of a period. I wouldn’t have corrected them for the world.
We met at the door to the classroom when the bell rang. Everyone else had streamed ahead, eager to be home and out from behind the bars of school. I gazed down at her, trying to find the word in my throat. I had never realized how short she was, how narrow and frail. Her presence always outweighed mine.
She waited, smiling, and ran a hand through her hair, shaking off the few strands that clung to her fingers.
I watched them drift to the ground as I said, “Hi.” Not nearly as perfect as hers.
She laughed until she coughed, but even as her chest made horrible over-crowded noises, the grin never left her lips.
I glanced back into the empty classroom. The teacher cleaned the last errors off the board.
“You know, you would’ve gotten in trouble if you’d been caught,” I whispered close to her ear. Her heat made my skin itch.
“I know,” she said and this time when she laughed it was clear, “but I did it anyway.”
The teacher looked over at us then, her eyebrows close together.
“Guess we better go,” Adversity said.
I opened my mouth, but she put her finger over it. “I don’t believe in saying good-bye.” Then her skin was no longer touching my skin.
I stayed in the doorway as she walked down the hallway, stopping just inside the open outside door. Sunlight gave her entire body a halo. She pulled the tissues out of her pocket with two hands and threw them all away.