Dystopian Short Story: I’m Not Sorry

I’m Not Sorry
Melissa R. Mendelson

Emily stood beside her bedroom window and watched her fellow peers board the school bus.  Most of them ignored her or didn’t realize that she was watching them.  Two older boys noticed, and they turned her way.  And one gave her an ugly grin, and Emily touched the jagged, red scratch on her right cheek.  She watched the other boy smack his friend on the shoulder, and then they boarded the bus.  And the bus disappeared down the street.
“I’m not going to work today,” Emily heard her mother say.  “I’ll stay home with you.”  Emily knew that her mother was standing behind her near the bedroom door, and she was waiting for an answer.  “Do you want to stay in today, Emily?”
“I don’t care,” Emily sighed.  “I just don’t want to go to school.”
“Well, you can stay home today, but you have to go back tomorrow.”
“Do I have to?”  Emily turned and looked up at her mother.  “I really don’t want to go back.”
“Emily, you have to, and your father would want you to.  Could you please tell me what happened yesterday?”
Emily turned away from her mother.  She stared out at the empty street.  She thought of the two older boys.  She never did anything to them, but they teased her.  They did more than tease her, and they would never stop.  “They’re not even sorry,” and in the window’s reflection, Emily saw her mother flinch.
“Who, Emily?  Who are you talking about?”
“It doesn’t matter,” and Emily moved away from the window.
“How about we go out to eat and get some pancakes?”  Emily’s mother waited for a smile.  She didn’t get it.  “We could do errands around town, and then we could come back here.”
“Okay, Mom.  Pancakes sound good,” and Emily closed her eyes as her mother kissed her on top of the head.  If only that could solve her problems, Emily thought, but it wouldn’t.  The two older boys would be waiting for her tomorrow.  “Let’s go,” and she followed her mother out of the bedroom.
The diner was almost empty.  The cook was in the kitchen.  There were four waitresses rotating between tables.  There were a few businessmen catching some coffee, and there were also elderly couples sitting near the windows, anticipating a beautiful day. The rest of the town was at work or at school, and Emily took notice of the look that the waitress gave her mother when she saw her.  It was like she wanted to know why Emily was not in school, but what business was it of hers?  And then she smiled briefly at Emily before disappearing to get their order ready. 
Emily leaned back in the booth.  She touched the jagged, red scratch on her right cheek.  She thought of the two older boys again and sighed.  It would have been better, if it was an accident, but it wasn’t.  And those boys would continue what they started tomorrow, and that made her shake.  And as she reached for her apple juice, the glass slipped through her fingers and crashed to the floor.
“I’m sorry,” Emily exclaimed, and her words chased after the sound of broken glass.
The diner went quiet.  The music from the radio seemed to pause.  An elderly couple stopped chewing their food, and one businessman nearly choked on his coffee.  And everyone stared at Emily except for Emily’s mother, who looked down at her watch to see the screen flash red.  Then, the diner slowly resumed its normal activity, but people still looked their way.  And some of them gave Emily’s mother a harsh stare.
“Sorry,” Emily whispered, and again, the diner went quiet.  And Emily’s mother’s watch flashed red.
“Stop it, Emily.  I won’t have enough credit to cover our food.  Do you understand,” and Emily nodded.  “Good. Then, please, don’t say that word.”
“Some mother you are,” the waitress muttered under her breath as she delivered their breakfast, but Emily’s mother pretended not to hear that.
Emily’s mother stared after the waitress, ignoring the stares from those in the diner.  She glanced at Emily, and she slammed her fork into the pancakes.  She looked back at Emily, and Emily started to eat her food. And the two of them ate in silence until their plates were almost empty, and then finally she said, “Was it those two boys again?”
“No,” Emily said, but she didn’t look at her mother.  “It was an accident.”
“It doesn’t look like an accident.”  Emily’s mother wiped her mouth with the napkin.  “I should talk to their mothers.”
“No!  Please, don’t.”
“Emily, they need to stop.  Teasing is one thing, but physical harm is another.”
“You’ll make it worse,” and Emily pushed the plate away from her.  “They have friends.  I don’t.”
“Well, you need to change that.”  Emily’s mother tapped her watch.  A money sign appeared, and she tapped her watch again.  The screen flashed yellow instead of green.  “I might have to cut back on some errands.”
“Don’t say it.”  Emily’s mother looked around the diner, noting the waiting glances on the staff’s faces.  They expected Emily to say it, and she almost did.  “Let’s just go and take a walk around town.”
“Okay,” and Emily glanced up at the ceiling.  She stared at the large, black bubble above them.  Were they watching her?  It felt like they were, and the word lingered on her tongue.  But she refused to say it.
“It’s almost summer,” Emily’s mother said after a long stretch of silence. “At least, school will be ending soon.”
“Great,” Emily said as she stared down at her feet.  “Until next year,” but then she grew hopeful.  Those two older boys would be graduating next year, and she would finally be left alone.  But what about their friends?  Some of them were in the same grade as her, so it wouldn’t be over.  At least, not for awhile.
Suddenly, Emily bumped into an elderly lady exiting one of the local stores. The woman almost fell over.  Emily’s mother grabbed hold of her arm, trying to keep her steady, and the elderly lady chuckled, shaking off the incident.  She was about to say something when Emily said, “I’m sorry.”
“How dare you,” the elderly lady exclaimed.  “You can only say that, if you mean it.  You should be ashamed of yourself for having such a child,” she snapped at Emily’s mother.  “I would be careful that she doesn’t become a repeat offender,” and the elderly lady stormed away from them.
“I’m sorry,” Emily said, and the elderly lady hurried away faster.  “Why can’t I say that word?  I mean it.”
“No.  You don’t,” and again, Emily’s mother’s watch flashed red.  “Now, we have no money left.  We may as well go home.  Come on. The car’s this way.”
“Where did the money go?”
“To pay the fines for saying that word.  Why are you saying that word?”
“Those boys were trying to get me to say it yesterday.”
“So, you’re saying it today?  To me?”
“Why is it such a bad word?”
“Because nobody means it, and if you want to say it, you say it in the house, where no one will hear you.  Understand?”
“Yes,” and Emily followed her mother back to the car.  “Will Dad be angry?”
“Damn it.  Your father needs money for the tolls.  I’ll have to call him when we get home.  Maybe, someone could lend him some credit.”
“What if I did mean it?  How would they know?”
“They would know.  Now, get in the car,” and Emily’s mother drove them back home.
Once back in the house, Emily went to her bedroom.  She sat down on the bed, and she touched her face, feeling that jagged, red scratch on her right cheek.  She thought of those two older boys and how hard they tried to get her to say that word, and at the time, she thought that they were just trying to hurt her.  But because of them, she hurt her mother and her father, and her parents had to pay for her mistakes.  And it wasn’t right, and Emily’s fear melted into anger.  She would go back to school tomorrow, and then she would teach those two rotten boys a lesson that they would never forget. And they would be the ones that were… Sorry.


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