Sitting at the back of the room again, staring at the clock. My back pushed against the wall. My head pounding. My mind running away. Making noises. Creaks and groans. Doors opening.

"Hello?" she says. "Is anybody there?"

I clamp my hand over my mouth. I am not breathing. She stands there for an eternity, and eventually I am forced to take a breath. She turns on her heel and kneels down before me.

"What's wrong?" she says, her eyes turning, searching for the me inside this wreck of blotchy face and sobbing.

"Nothing," I whisper. "I'm fine."

"Don't be ridiculous. Of course you're not fine," she says, sitting down next to me and putting her cold, cold hand on top of mine. "Is it these exams?"

"No," I say, "but they aren't helping. They're relentless. Year after year, day in, day out, exams, tests, every day. I can't cope with it all. It's not as if I'm going to pass anyway."

"Do you not want to do them?"

"To be honest, at this very moment, I'd rather die."

She draws her hand away very fast. I turn to the window. It is winter. The sun is already beginning to set. Our shadows are cast and she is sitting on mine. I begin to get restless.

 "You're so young." She is looking at me with the strangest expression on her face. "You're so young. Look what you've got ahead of you!"

"What? What have I got ahead of me?"

"A life of your own. A career. Love."

"Who needs love when you can have death?" If I was dead, I think, I wouldn't know or care what I was missing. I'd be oblivious to it all. I'd be asleep. Finally.

She runs her hand through her hair. "Wait here," she says. As soon as she leaves the room, I exit from the window and climb down the trellis at the front of the building. I'm not going to die today. I'm not going to love, either. Today I shall exist. Nothing more, nothing less.

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