When Holly came to school with a black eye, her classmates weren’t surprised. Although she had only been at Henderson High School for three months, this was not the first time she had come to school with an injury. For her first two weeks at Henderson, she had hobbled around on crutches. She’s also come to school with scratches, bruises, a dislocated finger, and a variety of other injuries.
As Holly walked down the hallway to her first period class, she could hear her classmates talking about her. Few of them were even bothering to whisper. She wondered if they all thought she was deaf.
“Her father beats her. Her parents had eight kids so they wouldn’t have to do the work around the house. If she refuses to do the work, or she does it wrong, her father beats her until she can’t get up again.”
“I heard he smacked her in the eye with a baseball bat this time.”
“No, it’s her boyfriend that’s abusive.”
“He got jealous, because she was talking to another guy.”
“I heard she got in a gang fight.”
“Her family moved here to get away from the gang violence, but it just followed them.”
“No, it was just a brawl at a bar. She has a fake ID, and after a few beers, someone said something about it not being real. She got mad, and she lost the fight.”
Holly attempted to not laugh at how far from the truth her classmates’ theories were. Her father was one of the gentlest men in the world. Even growing up, he had refused to use spankings as a form of discipline. He preferred groundings for older kids and timeout for smaller kids. She’s never had a boyfriend, let alone an abusive one. She had to wonder about the logic behind the gang fight theory. Wouldn’t there be gunshot wounds and knife wounds rather than just a black eye? Yet, the bar fight theory was one of her favorites. It was also one of the few that she hadn’t heard with her other injuries. It was funny that her classmates gossiped about her getting into a bar fight when she was probably one of only a few seniors at Henderson who had never even tasted alcohol.
As Holly walked into her first class, she sat down next to her friend Kelli. The only people at Henderson who knew the real reason behind Holly’s injuries were Holly herself, Kelli, and Holly’s other friend, Derrick. It wasn’t that Holly was trying to hide the reason behind her injuries. It was simply that Kelli and Derrick were the only people who had actually bothered to ask her. Holly figured that if people felt the need to gossip behind her back, they didn’t deserve to know the truth. Besides, it gave them something to talk about. If they weren’t gossiping about her, they’d gossip about something else.
“How’d you get it this time?” Derrick asked, sitting in the seat on the other side of Holly.
“No, wait, let me guess first,” Kelli whispered. “You were playing football with your family. You weren’t watching the ball, and it came down and hit you in the eye. Boom, instant black eye.”
“Close,” Holly responded. “Actually, my ten-year-old sister, Ericka wants to play tennis professional someday, and she is really good. She needed to practice serves against someone. No one else would volunteer. Despite my inferior tennis skills, I figured I might get a racket on one or two of her serves if I was lucky.”
“And you got hit with a tennis ball in the eye instead?” Derrick guessed.
Holly nodded. She felt a little embarrassed. This was part of the reason she didn’t just get up in the middle of class and announce the real reason behind her injuries. Bar brawls and gang fights made for better stories than a little sister who was great at serving a tennis ball or a game of Ultimate Frisbee that ended in a dislocated finger. She felt a little badly that she allowed the abusive father story to circulate, but anyone who knew her family would know that one was a lie at least.
“Maybe you should just hold the racket in front of your face next time to block the ball,” Derrick joked.
“I think a football helmet might do the trick,” Kelli teased.
“Yep, I’m the klutz born into an athletic family,” Holly went along with her friends’ teasing.
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