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November 22nd, 2011

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011 01:54 pm
[It's still a little while before school lets out, so Joe doesn't have to leave his spot by the river just yet. Once the other kids start passing by he will get up, sling his bag over his shoulder and trudge home like he was there all day, even though he's been skipping for three weeks now.

When he first started doing it he just stayed at home and refused to go. His stepfather didn't care, but said he'd have to help out with his half-siblings if he was going to be a good-for-nothing drop-out.

That wasn't even an option. The oldest one is only eight cycles, to Joe's thirteen, and so still practically a baby. The newest one is barely home from the medical centre his mother went into a few weeks ago, and there are four others in between.

They all think he's strange. They all look at him funny, with his dark hair and different features. Joe has started growing his hair out on purpose, wearing it with pride.

It doesn't always make him feel better.

Joe's too old to cry, but he can't help it. Sometimes he just wants his mother back, all to himself. Sometimes he just wants a hug, without a smelly baby in the way, or someone crying and demanding her attention instead. He's sick of being told to grow up and be a man, because they all just say it, but nobody will show him how.

He doesn't fit in at home. He doesn't fit in at school. He's pretty sure life is always going to be this way, and when tears track down his cheeks it's far too late to stop them.

He grabs a handful of grass and pulls it up by the roots, clenching it in his fist until it is crushed beneath his fingers. He'll be okay by the time he goes home. This is normal.]