“Go away!” bellowed the dragon, her head rising from my floor.

“Hope doesn’t need you anymore!” Tar Beast screamed. “She needs me.”

“You’re the last thing Hope needs,” the dragon snapped, as her neck cleared the thick and luxuriant rug that covered the shiny and expensive tiles.

“Not like anybody would miss her,” Tar Beast sneered. “Look at her phone; it’s on her desk. Heard a ping today? How about yesterday? Go ahead and check. There isn’t a single alert, message, or missed call. And you know why? That’s because nobody cares if Hope is alive or dead.”

“I care!” the dragon roared, as she sprang.

Tentacles sprouted out of the tar, catching the dragon mid-leap. Its mighty jaws snapped, biting and tearing. Sticky chunks landed on the floor, bounced off the ceiling, smacked against the walls, leaving oily, snaily trails as they slid down.

I couldn’t breathe. My chest was on fire. My heart hammered so hard. All I wanted was for it to stop. At least then there would be peace. No more angry disappointments, no more demands as to why I only got a 92% on my maths exam. “Where’s the other eight percent?” my parents had asked.

No more coaches shouting at me, “Nobody trains for second place, but that’s exactly what you’re doing!”

No more sitting alone at lunchtime, studying, looking for those missing marks, while kids snickered and whispered behind my back.

“Do you know how many times I went without food?” my mother once ranted.

“How many?” I’d asked.

“Each month that had thirty-one days. You know how many months have thirty-one days?”

It took me ten seconds to answer. Ten seconds as her frown grew deeper, her eyebrows sharpened into accusing arrows. “Seven.”

“Seven days a year, no food. No breakfast, no lunch, and no dinner. Seven days each and every year. But do you think I complained to my mother?”

“No,” I’d whispered.

“And why do you think that is?”

“Because you were lucky.”

“That’s right,” my mother had said. I was lucky. “Because there are kids to this day who never get three meals a day, ever. And you’re going to complain to me that you never have time to socialise? That, oh, ag shame, poor Hope, who always has a healthy packed lunch, is expected to study during her lunch time. Go ahead. Go march back to where I grew up, to where your daddy grew up. Ask the kids there how hard your life must be, getting to go to a good school – the best! – and eat three meals a day, every day. Go ahead.”

And she was right. Who would feel sorry for a girl like me?


Tell us: Do you feel sorry for somebody like Hope? Or is she ungrateful?