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My heartbeat increased as she moved closer to my row. The entire hall was silent. As if time had come to a standstill. So quiet, that I was afraid if she heard me breathe I’d be in trouble. “Hands out front!” she yelled as she came to the boy just a few seats away from me. She wore her specs at the tip of her nose which I, for some pointless reason feared would slip off any second. With her gray and black frizzy hair tied up neatly in bun and a dress as pale as her skin, she almost seemed immortal.

“Hands out front!” she squawked. This time in front of me.
She had reached me.
Everything around me reeked of fear.
I couldn’t think clearly.
I shuffled in my position trying to get myself to speak up. But my lips wouldn’t part. “Hands..out….front! I said!” she yelled again almost startling me . I felt as if all eyes were on me now. And before I could even think, she quickly pulled both of my arms from behind me and firmly examined them thoroughly. “Long nails. I see…I see. Well I’ll take care of that.” she bellowed, while frantically scanning me throughly. I had shut my eyes by now. Hoping this whole situation would just vanish from right before me. I felt her bony cold grasp free from my arm while the other still as tight as ever. A sudden current of pain escalated throughout my entire body. Almost causing me to wail out loud, but it wasn’t that easy. Not for me.
One,
two,
three,
four,
five,
six,
seven,
eight,
nine and finally ten. I counted as the cold, metal clipper went one by one past each and every finger. With each count, more pain, more pulling and tearing, more shreds of skin and more warm sticky stuff oozing out.
Which I figured was blood.
But I had decided. I would only open my eyes once this nightmare was over.

A routine cleanliness check that would happen every week at Our Lady of Grace Juvenile School of Bronx. It was the newly appointed warden’s first day at work. She had just been transferred here from a prison job. You could easily guess she was “hell” just by looking at her.
Only if I were able to speak up.
Able to explain myself.
Able to tell her that  my nail clipper had been snatched from me and flushed down the toilet by some bully.
If only.

But I was a wimp. Just as my father would say. I silently thought, while dragging myself through the dark hallway towards my bunk. “Here, I think you might need this.” said the freckled boy while handing over a pair of scissors. He had this sorry look on his face. His name was Nicholas. I remembered him from when I arrived here. It was also his first day that day.
I silently accepted the scissors and went on.
Hunkered beside my bunk and started snipping away.
Cutting off the remaining shreds of skin. The blood had dried up. My fingertips felt sore and my hands, sticky. But at least the nails had been cut. Till the very bottom. And that’s what mattered. Right?
Because till date I fear growing out my nails never being able to forget.

I learned my lesson.

Was it necessary?
I do not know.

Could there have been any other way of conveying it?
Yes.

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Surprise?

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Everything seemed so beautiful or perhaps it was just confined to her emotions?
She didn’t know.
All she knew was that today nothing could go wrong. It all felt like a fairytale, just as the ones she would secretly hear her neighbor reading to her child every night.
A shining sun, clear blue skies, white birds flying just above and the deep blue ocean.
How lucky must these people be who get to see this everyday, she thought to herself and smiled secretly inside.
She had a feeling she might become amongst the fortunate very soon.
Just the thought of it made her full of joy and she clutched the neatly tied pink box as tight as ever.
Skipping through the cobblestone alleys and curiously observing the surroundings they finally stopped at a green door.
Her father let go of her hand, turned towards her and said,
“You remember what I taught you right?”, to which she obediently nodded.
He then knocked.

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Everyone always told her that she looked exactly like her mother. The same eyes, rosy plump lips and jet black hair. But she would never take their word seriously, not until she had seen for herself. Mother had gone away to live with her momma and baba in some other country, as she was told. Nothing seemed wrong about this whole arrangement. In fact, it was very sweet of momma that she went to look after her parents. If she were in her place she’d had done the same. She felt pride in her momma.
It was always fine for when she felt lonely she’d always long for a person who’d hug her tightly, kiss her forehead and talk to her all night long. Who could that person be perhaps? A question she always asked herself. Not her Baba for sure. He was never home.
Ever since her Baba had informed about them going to surprise momma on her birthday there hadn’t been a single night she had slept properly. The excitement and curiosity was too much for her little self to handle. Even Baba had begun to notice her and started showing a bit affection ever since.
Everything was perfect as it should be and she couldn’t have asked for anything more.

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The twisting sound of the door knob made her come back to reality. She for a moment had totally been lost in her own sweet thoughts as always. She straightened up her posture and elevated her gaze towards the door.
“Surprise Momma!”, she yelled as she was told.
The butterflies in her stomach which were fluttering uncontrollably, suddenly came to a stop.
A handsome looking half naked man almost as old as her Baba was standing at the door asking who we were looking for.
“That’s not momma”, she silently thought to herself.