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Chapter 1

Grown-ups lie. All of them.

"Just a few more minutes...." Catai mumbled, turning over in her bed as the warmth from the sun coaxed her into staying where she was.

Sighing, she opened her eyes and stared at the stone wall. Her body felt stiff and tender, where she was beaten the previous day. Every part of her was protesting in pain.

Her gaze fell on the mark that had formed on her arm.

"At least you're the same colour as my birth-mark." She forced a smile, determined to be positive.

She took a deep breath and smelled disinfectant. Her tiny room use to be a cleaning room and always smelled of disinfectant. She was starting to hate the smell. The small cot she slept in took up most of the space. The closest she had to curtains was the line above her bed which she could use to dry her clothes on. The lone window was small, but the sun managed to shine on her entire cot. She had a good view of the stars at night, but in the mornings, the sun came in either burning her awake or warming her enough to want to sleep more, like today. There was NO in-between.

"Come on, get up!" Catai forced her stiff body to sit up, gasping as she did. Every bit of her hurt so much. She would have to do a check in the shower for new bruises. The thought of the water spraying on her made her swallow her tears and attempt to move again. The water always felt good on her body after one of these attacks.

Thinking about the shower reminded her she was wasting valuable time. She needed to get there before the guys did. If the other students in the school discovered that she was a girl, her injuries would be significantly worse. She had heard how some of them spoke about women. It was like there was no respect for girls here. That's why she was still trying to hide what she was from them. They all frightened her. Every single one of them. She felt like the only piece of candy thrown amongst a pack of ravenous boys. Or a piece of meat amongst the wolves.

But she could do this. She had to.

She had just made it off her bed when her door opened. She turned instantly. Her heart was beating as if it was about to explode. She had locked it last night! She knew she had!

A tall man appeared over her, with a set of skeleton keys in his hands. His thin lips didn't smile. He wore dark, round glasses that barely covered his eyes. His eyebrows seemed to grow from the glasses like some furry creatures. His hair was brushed back neatly and showed off his widow's peak that was lying flat on his head as if it was too afraid of him to slip out of place. Catai felt her body grow rigid in terror.

"Stupid, weak child." Her father frowned before reaching out towards her. She instantly raised a hand to her face and tried to take a step back, but there was no other place to go in her tiny room. She felt his fingers circling around her arm and yanking her toward him. "Pathetic child," he said with disdain.

"Let me go." She yelled as he pulled her out the door, but he ignored her. She felt tears prick her eyes partly in pain and partly in humiliation. She was still in her sleepwear, which was a pair of underwear and an oversized t-shirt she had received amongst her school uniforms. She tried to pull it down to cover herself, but it was a useless exercise. The shirt was oversized but not that big.

"Who's a pretty boy then?" Laughter began following them down the hall.

The boys started to leave their rooms for their morning preparations. They stopped just to watch her as she was dragged through the hallway, like some dog. She could feel their eyes lingering all over her as she passed by them.

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