She lay on the steps, not because she couldn't get up, but because she was curious if anyone would stop to help her. No one did. No one asked. She rubbed at her twisted ankle, tested her weight, then stood. The students flowed around her, a steady ocean of both order and chaos, while she stood still, a wind-up toy stuttering to a stop.
Yesterday was no different. When she tripped over her own two clumsy feet and her notebooks went flying, nobody stopped. Nobody picked them up. They stepped around her as if she didn't exist.
Today the stairs were slippery from wet feet squeaking along them, creating puddles like the one she had been unfortunate enough to come across. She went tumbling down six steps. She counted. And no one stopped.
Were they too absorbed in their own thoughts and worries to see what had happened? Or did they just not care?
She thought she'd seen him glance her way, the one with the storm cloud eyes, long nose, perpetual bed head, and crooked smile. But when she smiled back, wiping her tears on the back of her muddy sleeve, he lifted his hand in greeting to someone behind her. His friend slammed his shoulder into hers, knocking her into a wall that greeted her with open arms. The friend kept walking. Like he'd gone right through her.
The day after, something changed. She could feel it as soon as she stepped through the doors, the ones the other students had let close right in her face despite the fact she was only a few steps behind them. She limped slightly on the way to class, the tingling in her foot similar to the tingling in her stomach when she felt the shift. Something was different. She didn't know how or why, but it was. In her excitement she couldn't even remember why her foot was hurting in the first place, like how every day she couldn't quite remember how she'd gotten to school.
The difference was the boy who'd almost looked at her the day before--the one with the storm cloud eyes, long nose, perpetual bed head, crooked smile--sat behind her in class. She didn't know it until he'd tapped her on the shoulder with his pencil, tapping her with the eraser, tapping, tapping, tapping. A jolt of energy went through her arm, radiating out from the spot where he'd touched her. Contact. When was the last time she'd had contact?
"Hey," he said, and the rasp of his voice, undeniably directed at her, was thrilling enough to make her insides explode, like the contents of a shaken soda. "I don't think I've seen you here before."
What she wanted to say, "You can see me?" But what came out instead was, "I don't think you have, either."
He smiled again, that crooked smile an offbeat Indie song. "Are you new?"
"No, I've been coming here for--" She trailed off, unable to recall.
He didn't seem to notice, instead pointed with his pencil at the doodles on her arm, a quote surrounded by stars. Of course it's happening inside your head, Harry. But why on earth should that mean that it is not real? "Harry Potter fan?"
"I just like the quote. It makes me feel less crazy."
"Why do you say that?"
She shrugged. "Sometimes I wonder if anyone can see me at all."
"What do you mean?"
She snorted. "Really? You haven't seen me all this time."
Something about her sarcasm caused his eyebrows to pull together, form a different kind of crooked line. "I don't know why. I feel like I would've noticed you before."
She ignored his feeble excuse. "Who are you?"
He opened his mouth, but no words left. He opened his mouth with the intention of a response, that much she could tell, but why he couldn't answer, she didn't know.
"I don't know," he echoed her confusion. "I--I don't remember anything before coming to school."
"Neither do I," she admitted. "Hence part of the crazy."
"It's like we're ghosts," he said, almost like he was talking to himself rather than her.
Tires screeched in the distance, memories barreling into her, and then she remembered the pain. Before she could convince herself this heart-pounding panic was a dream, she gripped his hand and dragged him outside, past students and teachers who paid them no mind. He didn't question her, not even when they stumbled into the snowy streets. She jerked to the sidewalk, him stopping with her, and she watched as a car that rippled at the edges skidded on the wet pavement, losing all control, and slammed into another version of her. A younger version. She watched as her other self arced through the air and cracked her head on the street, crumpling in a heap that no one but the driver saw.
The car sped away. It and her broken body vanished.
"Was that--" He started.
"I remember," she whispered.
She turned to him, the words lodging in her throat, spilling out her eyes. Suddenly her foot didn't hurt anymore. Nothing hurt. Because there was nothing. She was nothing. Before she faded into the air, she hoped he understood through the ink bleeding down her face. Lights flashed in front of her eyes. And she rested.