‘If the Unit is for damaged people, what does that make me?’ ‘Koff offers an uncomfortable insight into the troubled teenage mind and the inadequacies of the state education system.

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Please note: this extract may contain language that some might find offensive.

Monday morning and there’s a problem. I’m sitting in the Unit again even though I did my three days out of class and now Mr Stevenson says: it’s time to go to your English lesson, Emily, but I know I’m not going. Don’t ask me to explain how it is. It’s not as if it’s the work; we’re doing War of the Worlds by this H G Wells guy and it’s weird. I kind of like it even though the sentences are long and I sometimes get lost in them.

After the weekend I’ve just had, I think of going into a class where it’s all quiet and I’m supposed to keep my mind on H G Wells and write about how the author builds tension bla bla bla and I just know I can’t do it. So I go to the Unit and sit and argue and swear a bit with Mr Stevenson. Then of course the lesson has started so if I go now I’ll be late and there’ll be that agonising moment when I have to go in and everyone’s looking at me.

 Then Miss Taylor is in the Unit and she says: Are you going to English, Emily? But I shake my head and she knows I won’t move at the moment so she goes away.

Mr Stevenson says: Come on, Emily, let’s go but my head is down and I’m not shifting. I get my jacket over my head and I pull at the bottom of my sweatshirt until it’s covering my knees and hunch myself into the chair until the rest of the world is out of sight.

Miss Taylor asks: Shall I take you to class? Her voice has gone all soft and what she thinks is persuasive.

I say: Fuck off! into my chest and press really hard at my eyes with the palms of my hands so tears can’t show me up.

Nothing on the outside. The rule.

© Ali Cargill 2013