Lauren knows what it feels like to be an extra. It is like the disfigurement of a sixth finger, a useless flap of skin alongside the pinkie finger. She explains this to the school counselor during her one hour mandatory session for truancy.
“See my scar?” Lauren flippantly holds up her hand to exhibit a tiny white line. “This is why my pure ethnic parents didn’t want me. Perfection has no room for a superfluous appendage.” Her sly smile seeks affirmation for her deep insight and impressive vocabulary. The counselor remains silent, ignoring the bait.
Her adoptive parents, the ones who chose her, should have cherished her. But she soon became a burden to this family of seven. They meant well. But being the youngest and initially shy, Lauren did not establish a place. As the third girl in a growing family, she quickly became redundant.
“So I rebel. Big deal… what else am I supposed to do?” Lauren’s taunt hangs in the air unanswered until she grows fidgety. “Besides, I don’t really do anything so bad.”
The counselor finally speaks. “So what exactly did you do that brought you to my office?”
“I don’t want to talk about that.” The ensuing two minute silence finally rattles Lauren enough to offer a sullen explanation: “I don’t like school, so I don’t go much.”
“You appear to be a very intelligent and attractive young lady… well, underneath the attitude and mismatched clothes you’ve adopted. So what is it about school that you don’t like?”
The counselor’s pointed words are accompanied by a genuine smile that pierces Lauren’s resistance.
“I just don’t fit in anywhere, so, you know, I have to make my own life.”
“Where does that life take you when you are skipping school?”
The blush is barely noticeable under Lauren’s bronze skin, but the downcast almond eyes hint of secrets not wanting to be revealed. “I like the street. I hang out with some guys over on 12th street. I smoke and do other stuff.”
“I don’t think so.” The counselor’s challenge hits the mark. Lauren’s eyes mist over.
Looking down again, Lauren barely whispers, “I go to the university library.”
“Lauren, you are not extraneous, as you seem to think. In fact, you have been given extraordinary gifts, and you are a survivor. How about I contact the university you like to hang around, and see if we can set you up with some early entry classes?”
Lauren meets the counselor’s eyes for the first time. She looks for a hint of mockery, but only finds sincerity. Trust is a rare experience for Lauren, but why not? “Ok, if you want to… .” Lauren smiles, experiencing hope for the first time in a very long time.
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