The murmurs around me exploded as soon as I got up from my seat to submit my notes to the teacher who was seated at the head of the class. The teacher raised her head and looked around me while I just stared at her. “SILENCE!” she roared, and the class became alarmingly silent. Her eyes skimmed through the words written on my book and a hint of a smile crossed her face. She flourished a tick mark on the last page and said, “Beautifully written, Vrithika.”

My face warmed up at the praise and I dipped my head and thanked her. When I took the book from her hand and was returning to my seat, the teacher called out, “Vrithika! Come back here.” I turned back towards the teacher who motioned for me to come to her side. She asked me to bend over so as to whisper in my ear in a chastising way, “You should be more careful during these times.” Realization dawned in my guts as she continued, “Your blood leaked.”

Self-realization gripped my whole self as I stared back at everyone who had their eyes on me. Now those murmurs made sense. I rushed to my seat, took out the pad from my bag as discreetly as possible and pleaded with my eyes to my best friend who was seated beside me to accompany me to the washroom. She looked over to the other side of the class where the boys sat, looked back at me and shook her head furiously, as if in shame. Resigned, I dashed to the washroom alone after getting a nod from the teacher.

I stared at the blood jarring on my uniform. I tried to wash it with water and now it looked like I had peed on it. I groaned at my situation.

Dirty. Impure. Indecent. Negligent. Reckless.

All the words that my mom would have called me if she saw me like this, ran through my mind. A tap on the shoulder roused me from my train of thoughts. Rounding up on the touch, I came face to face with a girl wearing a hijab. She tugged at her scarf while handing over whatever was in her hands to me. I looked down at the bar of soap that dropped in my hands and raised my head to see her eye to eye. “Aqsa? This is…” I couldn’t form comprehensive words. She shook her head at me and helped me wash the blood off my clothes by being verbally supportive.

“You have nothing to be ashamed of,” Aqsa said while inspecting the wet uniform. I lifted my head at her and spoke, “and now it looks like I have wet my pants. I can’t possibly return to class like this!” Aqsa giggled softly, not sounding offensive.

“No, our classmates can figure it out but others might actually think that.” I sighed and said, “I don’t think this will dry fast enough.”

“Don’t worry, next period is break-time. We can stay here until then.”

My eyes almost watered at her words. “I’m sorry for keeping you here for my troubles.”

“It’s nothing.”

“Well, it’s something for me. You can return, you know? I can wait here until it looks okay.”

At that, she raised her eyebrow. She blew raspberries humorously. “You’re still embarrassed.”

She stated that as if it was fairly obvious. I gulped down the invisible lump down my throat when I said, “Everyone would be.” After a pause, I whispered, “They are going to tease me about this for the rest of the school year, aren’t they?” Aqsa rolled her eyes at that. I respected her guts, truly.

“Tell me, Vrithika, would you tease another girl if the same thing happened to them?” “No,” I answered as it was quite obvious.

“There you have it, who is to say that others will do that to you?” And I pondered on it. I thought about the reprimanding tone in which the teacher spoke. I thought about the way my friend shook her head at me in humiliation. I thought of the way everyone stared at me in the class as if I was something to be kept afar.

However, I also recalled how kind Aqsa’s eyes were when she stood beside me when I was washing my uniform. I remember how soft-spoken and thoughtful she was when she thought to bring me that soap bar. I thought about how there were many girls like me who saw these spots as dishonorable dollops but still moved on with their heads up.

“Regardless of what you may think, it’s truly a blessing, Vrithika. See this thing inside you as a beautiful flower instead of it being a potent weapon.” My heart fluttered at her words. The bell rang and soon enough, girls rushed into the washroom. Many barely batted a glance in our direction. Some smiled. My classmates looked at me in pity. I regarded them back with some grit and they smiled too.

When the bell rang again, signaling the end of the break, I patted down my uniform. It had dried. Instead of walking out with my head hung in shame for what I had done, I walked out with my head held up high in pride with the feeling of knowing how beautiful mother nature’s ways are. “You’re beautiful, nonetheless.

That spot was just a spot, you still have a lot more to hurdle over,” said Aqsa, whose voice echoes to this day in my heart; I feel it embedded into a spot in my soul.

Yes, I am beautiful nonetheless.

Author: Salma Mehwish K M

Salma is 16, a fantasist, an aspiring writer, and an accomplished dreamer who would love to make a change and leave a mark on this world.

Find her here: @theenchantressqueen on Instagram

Edited By: Divya Rosaline