An awkward silence swept across the room as she stepped in. Heads swiveled in her direction, eyes filled with sorrow, faces bathed in pity. She gripped the textbooks even tighter to her chest, so tight that her knuckles turned ashen and her fingers lost all feeling. Her gaze turned down as she walked past them, steadying her sights on the tiled floor until she found her desk. The loud drone of the bell signaled the beginning of class and along with it returned the normal hustle and bustle of student chatter.
"Welcome back, Tess," acknowledged Mr. Pierce from the front of the small room. "It's good to see you."
She managed a slight nod and what could be construed as a mumbled "yeah," praying that he would just get on with the lesson.