It transports oxygen and nutrients to cells which are suspended in a liquid matrix. This is called plasma. It is leaking down my legs. I feel it soaking into my socks. Red blood cells contain haemoglobin, a protein with red pigment that carries oxygen. Oxygenated or not, your blood is always red. You cannot pretend the liquid dripping down your thighs is unseen.
When Mrs Kenyon walks towards me, my body is engulfed in hot shame. I could have dealt with this. I could have sorted it out by myself. Now the entire exam hall is looking at me.
Her eyes are wet and concerned. My fist curls.
Do you need to leave? she mouths.
Fuck off, I don’t reply.
I slink out of my seat, squeezing my thighs together, trying to keep the blood inside. The plastic chair is smeared brown.
In the toilet, I survey the damage. The insides of my legs are covered in red crust and I’m sore from chafing. I haven’t got any sanitary towels and I haven’t got enough money for the machine.
I walk out of the back entrance of school and hope Mrs Ormerod doesn’t spot me from her office window. I’ve put both socks inside my knickers so I’m walking funny and my shoes are rubbing. I feel more blood spring up from my heels. I shuffle down the road, bleeding and crying and people move out of my way, looking at me like I’m drunk or mad. Or perhaps they can smell my shame. Shame not caused by blood but by poorness and lack. Shame that will follow me through my thin life like a mock-mouthed wraith, cruelly pointing out my bloodied body to the hyenas who prowl now, but one day will pounce.
Donna L Greenwood writes flash fiction, short stories and poetry. Her work has been nominated for Best Small Fictions and Best Microfiction. She has won or been placed in several writing competitions including Molotov Cocktail‘s “Flashpocalypse”. Despite apparent successes, she hides away in Lancashire nursing a nasty case of imposter syndrome.