Stella stacked her books into her backpack, ready to go to school. The long summer holiday had just come to an end and every kid was learning how to be students again. It was a cool morning in Indiana and Stella was in-between moods. She wasn’t sure she wanted school to resume, at least, not yet and at the same time, she craved for some outdoor space. Her summer holiday had been memorable, spent just the way she wanted it.

She picked up her phone and rushed down the stairs alongside her brother as though competing for who will make it first to the living room downstairs. They smiled quizzically at their mum and Stella headed for the door.

“Hey honey, you are forgetting your breakfast” her mum said, pausing from the food she was dishing to look at her daughter.

“Mum sorry. I think I will pass, just for today. I’m kind of running late and you know how I hate to be late” she pleaded, praying in her heart that her mum lets her off the hook even though she knew it wouldn’t be that easy.

“Alright. It’s your first day in school after two months of non academic activity, you think you could handle no breakfast?”

Stella wasn’t sure if that was rhetorical or meant for her to answer. She stared at her mum, meticulously thinking of the safe words powerful enough to wriggle her out of this web she had found herself in.

“You know what, for your own sanity and for my peace of mind, I will just package you a lunch box. Just give me a minute”. She was out and back into the living room before Stella could protest. Stella collected the food, thanked her, kissed her goodbye and rushed out.

Luckily, her car didn’t misbehave that morning. She was in school within minutes. The chattery from her class was evident, the teacher was yet to arrive. “All for rushing”, she sighed and took her seat. She hated having to ever wait for teachers. Dipping her hand into her backpack, she took out the book she had been reading, Francine Rivers masterpiece, “Redeeming Love” and buried her head in it.

The voice of teacher Daniel as he made his way to the front of the classroom brought Stella back to the world of Indiana Highschool. She took a deep breath, brought out her academic books and aligned her mind, ready to learn.

As teacher Daniel went on and on about his topic “Excretory systems”, Stella could see herself smiling. Something really good had happened to her during the summer break. She had spent the entire time reading one thing or the other, from novels to motivational books to books on different topics. It’s funny how the more she read, the more the craving. It felt nice to finally find something she was at home with, something that awakened her sense of belonging.

The morning classes soon ended and the usual rush for the cafeteria followed sooth. Stella made her way to her usual seat, clutching tightly to her back bag. Taking a quick glance around, she took her seat and concentrated her gaze on her table. Her classmates were no different. They still stared at her like she had the plaque.

As she ate her lunch, she buried her head on her novel, totally disconnecting her mind from her obviously toxic environment.

The drive home from school was quick and smooth. She had enjoyed the rest of her classes and was ready to round off what was left of the Redeeming Love so she could read through the topic from school.

She had always been an average student, one who never read her books, one who always felt inferior and useless because her colleagues thought she wasn’t good enough. She smiled as she remembered whom she had become: an ardent reader, a lover of knowledge, a studious student.