She came to my school in about the 2nd grade. She had the whitest skin and hair I'd ever seen. She wasn't allowed to watch the movies we watched in class. She couldn't draw pictures of people or animals. She wore tights and long denim skirts and long sleeve shirts no matter what the temperature. She told us it was because of her religion.
Besides her very apparent oddness, I knew only one other thing about Claudia.
Claudia had a lying problem.
I'm not sure now how I recognized the lies, but somehow my little 7 year-old mind filed Claudia under "fibber." I was never friends with her and didn't want to be. Claudia was weird and likely couldn't be trusted. The other kids didn't involve her any more than I did, and she was pushed even further outside the social circle then her religion ever required her to be.
Claudia came to school one day with a story that made all the kids crowd around her. She told us how her little brother had stolen an eraser from the book fair. It was one of those cute little erasers that was shaped like a pony or a basketball, fit on the end of your pencil and smudged more than it ever really erased.
Little Brother had swiped the eraser and, when confronted by dad, had lied and said it was Claudia. She pulled up the side of her skirt to show us the results.
Daddy had whipped Claudia up one side and down the other. The white, almost transparent flesh was replaced by a black and purple bruise the size of a dinner plate. It was deep and awful and covered the entire top half of her thigh. The crowd gasped and asked the obvious. "Does it hurt?"
I had never seen anything so awful. I'd had plenty of spankings but none of them had ever, ever produced such an effect. Claudia seemed to relish the attention and yanked her skirt up for anyone who asked. She'd probably never been so popular.
I wonder now if I should have known better. Is my childish memory exaggerating the severity? Could Claudia's skin just bruise easily? Maybe she'd just fallen down...?
Maybe I should have said something.
But I didn't. Poor Claudia the Liar had been perversely beaten. I was just a 2nd grader, and I could recognize that something wasn't right. But I didn't do anything about it. I ogled the bruise then went back to my desk, forgetting all about her.
Claudia moved away at the end of that year, just as quietly and friendlessly as she had come in. I never told a teacher or my parents about what she had shown us. I filed the memory away, and now it only comes back every so often, for reasons I'm not sure of.
Perhaps it's guilt. Or remorse. But, either way, no matter what, I know I will never, ever forget the girl named Claudia.
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