She sat like a statue at the corner table in the staff canteen. Everyone knew her. No one wanted to sit with her. Everyone went to her to resolve their computer problems. Everyone was intimidated by her strange looks, her pale, almost metallic, eyes and her hair, a white Mohican. Her face betrayed no emotion as she gazed out at the crowded tables. A pair of girls entered and an almost imperceptible smile flittered across her face. They loaded their trays, looked around for a space and seeing one made their way to the table in the corner unfazed by the odd-looking occupant.
Soon they were chatting to Aletta, and she responded. The girls were new and still excluded from the usual cliques. Little did they know by befriending Aletta they risked permanent exclusion. But then, even without that, there was only a slim chance of being accepted. They, unlike their colleagues, came from underprivileged backgrounds. They had completed their studies courtesy of bursaries and to top it all they were black. This was their first day with the company, and they had only met each other in the foyer.
Aletta became more animated than anyone had ever seen when not behind her computer screen.
That first day became a pattern. They sat together. Aletta loved the slow transformation as their wardrobe improved with their regular paycheques. Their confidence soared as their abilities reflected in their output.
The end of the year saw them pick up several awards. The day after they made their way, as usual, to sit with their friend Aletta. “Why has everyone gone silent?” Asked Maya.
“Look around you,” said Aletta. “If looks could kill.”
They chimed together, “We’d be dead! But seriously Aletta why?”
“Because you’re different and I’m your friend.”
(c) Felicity Edwards