Peer Review by Ciara Cagemoe (United States)

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Different

By: fierywonder


5th January, 2015

"Leave her alone!" 

You'd expect someone who wore a brave face to be coming to my rescue, but as I managed to peel an eye open from the ground where I laid, curling into myself, all I saw was a girl terrified to her very core. 

In that moment I hadn't quite realised just how much this mattered, because I was kind of too busy concentrating on how much pain I was in. My sides ached from the all the fists that pounded into me that very day, a layer of pain forming over the old bruises that had just started fading. I lowered my head and screwed my eyes shut and my hands curled into fists because it was just oh so painful.

All I could think about how the boys then rounded on her, their voices not quite yet having hit puberty, but still they tried being intimidating, calling her names and telling her they were going to hurt her because she couldn't mind her own business. 


And I imagined her fleeing, just because. 

I heard footsteps, indeed, but they were coming from arrogant, annoying boys who didn't know better, and I could tell because it was a few mixed together, uneven as they ran.

Curiosity peaked within me, but not enough to make me forget the anguish for even a few moments to be able stare blearily at what was going on. So I remained in my position, hoping that this pain would go away - it had never hurt this much. 

I nearly missed the words that followed her sigh full of relief, "That was scary."

And I just started laughing. Not full-on laughing. Not exactly. 

I think.

I didn't care that she might start to question why she even helped out a crazy person in the first place. To be honest, all I could think about me lying on the ground in the foetus position and her standing, safe and not as harmed as me. Physically, at least.

I wasn't mad at her. Not at all. Maybe I should have been, but I genuinely found it funny, and I was honestly intrigued by her, if anything.  

And as I casted my eyes at her as best I could through my laughter, she was wearing an expression that seemed to say what the heck is wrong with you and okay, I still like you anyway.

But her face was cast in shadow as everything seemed to be painted in black, and before I could understand, I was in a state of unconsciousness, the image of her running towards me imprinted on the back of my eyelids.

***

(Still) 5th January, 2015

I did not, however, wake up as I did falling asleep. I wasn't sure if she was expecting me to awake in a fit of laughter, but it seemed like she was because she stared at me cautiously, and I smiled, but as I did, it seemed to take a lot more energy than I was used to, and so it turned out to be a smile crawling its way out of the depths of tiredness but failing.

How are you? were the words written all over her face, and I gave her a thumbs up. 

My eyes wandered the room then, taking in the turquoise décor, an examination table in the middle of the whole green-bluish space, and I realised I was in the nurse's office. 

I looked back at the girl who sat on a plastic blue chair beside the bed I was currently resting on, and she gave an awkward wave of her hand, saying, "Hi."

She was so weird.

My lips curled into a smile that seemed happier and more full of life than the last one, and I waved back with a nice to meet you.

***

28th February, 2015

She pulled her lips in between her teeth, her leg wasn't bouncing like it did on a normal day, and she tugged on a lock of her hair excessively. 

She was nervous. 

Her hand wrapped around the wooden instrument that was in perfect condition, fingernails lightly plucking at the strings. 

Her brown eyes scanned her room as though she didn't wake up to the desk pushed into the corner, books piled on it, clothes hanging off of her chair and fairy lights hovering over her bed every day. 

I rested a hand on her thigh and they snapped towards me.

"You don't have to do this." I laid it out there in the space between us, so she knew that it was okay to back out.

Her hand dropped away from her hair, her teeth stopped gnashing against her lips, and she hugged the guitar tightly to her chest, shifting in her seat. 

"I... I want to. For you." 

Her words stumbled a bit at the beginning but they were resolute.

Go on and you'll be great played my face, and she seemed to take comfort in that, because she took a deep breath and closed her eyes and started strumming, her voice soft but beautiful at the same time and it was just so right for her.

When she strummed the guitar, all of her was laid out before me to see, and I understood why she was hesitant to do so, because it was never easy to trust someone quickly and bare your soul. 

But she did.

So I smiled.










 


Peer Review

I don't know what age group exactly you were intending to portray here, but it feels very childish, very young and innocent. I think that is a good thing---I think it suits the story. I also think that was something that took planning or at least attention to details. I appreciate that sort of youthful feeling, of how suddenly friendships click and begin on a whim and how fast they develop into a strong bond, something deep and shared. I also appreciate the strength in vulnerability that you seem to have portrayed in both characters, and the strength they lend to each other at different points in their lives.


The end with the nervousness of the girl creates a relatable and rather surprising tension (meaning that I think it was executed well as perhaps not everyone would find an ordinary seeming moment as sharing one's own voice/music with another as scary). I am curious though, about why the narrator was being beaten. Maybe some of that external conflict there could be explained more---also how/why the girl stood up for the narrator and was able to fend off the bullies. Perhaps weaving in some more of the girl's motive/how she had to over come an internal conflict to intervene, would make for a richer story.


I think the girl should be described more, although I do like the ambiguity as it allows the girl to be anyone the reader imagines. Although, in the case of this story, I think more description of her could be helpful for highlighting the friendship. I think that her motivation should be highlighted/explained, and I think the scene in the nurses office needs more. Maybe a brief conversation? The girl could introduce herself and talk about why she helped the narrator??
What I get from the story is that neither of the two halves of this friendship are especially strong, but together they are. That they support each other because they honestly care, even if they are unsure whether the support is strong enough to hold the other friend up. But it always is. To me, this friendship feels like a house with a roof that always seems like it will blow off in the storm and the house will get wet, but it never blows off. The house never gets wet, and it keeps the roof on.


Change and add what feels right to you, what feels right with the story, what is true to the characters. Write what is in your head, let us in so we can read your stories and learn something from them. I think you have crafted good phrases and images and a powerful message about strength and vulnerability. While I really want to know why the narrator was getting beaten up and why the girl intervened, leaving it unknown is also kind of nice--as it gives this sense of "it doesnt matter why she did it--she did it because she cared"...which is strong indeed.


Reviewer Comments

:) Keep writing! You have a unique style and unique stories to tell, so keep telling them! I hope you find my comments helpful.