I knew I’d find you here.’ Lotte stood in the doorway at the top floor of the empty house, her face still in the shadows, her scuffed black shoes and white ankle socks lit eerily by the torch that lay on the floor. ‘Are you OK?’
Raven didn’t reply.
‘You should have seen the look on Kyle and Brett’s faces when you went for them. They were scared shitless.’
‘Is Kyle dead?’ Raven asked dully.
‘No!’ Lotte looked shocked at the idea. ‘Of course not. He was just moaning and groaning a lot when the nurse arrived, saying that all his bones had been broken and he couldn’t possibly move.’
Raven felt himself relax slightly and the shivering that had gripped him ever since he’d run from the classroom began to fade. ‘Oh well, that’s it then. I’ll probably be expelled again and Dan and Jackie will send me back to the unit.’ He felt numb, as if nothing could really hurt him any more.
‘You won’t be expelled. All the teachers know that Kyle and Brett are bullies. And everyone who saw the fight will say that Kyle and Brett started it. They’re all delighted that someone’s finally had the guts to stand up to those two.’
Silence descended. Raven stared at the opposite wall. Lotte came to sit on one of the crates and looked at him, leaning against the wall, his legs stretched out in front of him, his penknife in his hand.
‘You were expelled from your last school then?’
Raven just nodded.
His eyes did not meet hers. ‘Stopped talking.’
‘What d’you mean?’
‘I mean that I stopped talking.’
‘You stopped talking completely?’
‘For how long?’
‘Couple of months.’
‘Fuck.’ Lotte sounded impressed. Her eyes suddenly locked onto the penknife. ‘What are you doing with that?’
Her eyes narrowed. ‘Is that blood on your shirt?’
Raven flicked the penknife closed and put it back in his pocket. Lotte got up and knelt down on the floorboards beside him. Before he had time to move away, she grabbed his arm and pushed up his blood-flecked sleeve, staring down at the bloody array of cuts across the inside of his arm.
Raven pulled his arm away angrily.
Lotte sat back on her heels, her eyes wide. ‘Jesus,’ she breathed.
Raven angrily yanked down his sleeve.
‘You did that?’ Her voice was faint.
He closed his eyes and let his head fall back against the wall.
‘You did that to yourself?’ she asked softly. ‘Why?’
Raven didn’t answer.
‘Doesn’t it hurt?’
‘So why d’you do it?’
He shrugged again. ‘It helps,’ he said.
‘Helps me feel better.’
‘But how?’ Lotte asked. ‘How can hurting yourself make you feel better? If I hurt myself, I feel worse. If I hurt myself badly, I just want to cry.’
‘It’s the opposite. It takes away the pain.’
‘The pain inside my head.’
‘Like a headache, you mean?’
‘No. Inside my mind.’
Lotte said nothing for a moment. ‘You mean because of Kyle and Brett? Because you’re living in a foster home?’ She gazed at him steadily, then added softly, ‘Because of your mum? Because of how much you hate Steve?’
Raven’s eyes met hers. ‘No,’ he said, ‘because of how much I hate me.’
Lotte was silent. She moved over to sit beside him against the wall. Their arms were almost touching, but not quite. Side by side, they stared straight ahead into the darkness.
‘You shouldn’t,’ Lotte said. ‘You shouldn’t hate yourself. You’re the best friend I ever had. Before you came along I had no one to talk to. And my so-called friends all bored me to death.’
A long pause. ‘You wouldn’t want to be friends with me,’ Raven said. ‘Not if you really knew me.’
‘I do know you. And it’s not just me. Ella’s crazy about you. And I bet Jackie and Dan really care about you too.’
Raven got up suddenly and walked over to the window. ‘None of you know me,’ he said, his voice harsh. ‘None of you. You don’t know me at all.’
Lotte said nothing. ‘Sometimes I feel like that too,’ she began. ‘But it’s just because you’re feeling kinda fed up – ’
Raven turned abruptly from the window. ‘I should have killed Kyle,’ he said.
Lotte shuddered suddenly and pulled her knees up under her school coat. ‘You shouldn’t say things like that. I know he’s a complete twat, but – ’
‘You don’t think I mean it?’ He looked at her steadily. ‘You don’t think I’m capable of killing someone?’
She hesitated for a moment. ‘I’m sure you feel like killing both of them,’ she began. ‘But it’s not the same as actually – ’
‘Everyone’s capable of murder.’ Raven cut her off, his voice hard, giving her a long look. ‘Given the right situation. Everyone. Even you.’
© Tabitha Suzuma