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A Useless Girl

Ria Ray was a girl of no use. She was so useless that her aunt called her A Great Big Handful O’ Nothing. A peculiar green moth, her trusted friend, had made a good snug home in her doorknob. Every few days, Ria, with messy hair and a face lined with grime, would track mud all over her house bringing her muddy insects to eat.

Whenever she heard her aunt trudging up the stairs, Ria would climb onto her window-sill and pretend to be invisible. She dreaded and dreaded the Tasks she was handed. She would either get out of their clutches by falling asleep, or by running as fast as she could to the nearest train station, zipping vigilantly through the traffic. She would climb onto the first train pulling out, breathlessly asking for a ticket to Mount Doom, even though she had no money.

The conductor, Toffy, was not Ria’s friend. He would immediately ring up her aunt and tattle, inviting her to box her ears. Ria was sure that her ears would become twice the size of her fists if her aunt kept pulling them the way she did. She would jerk her by her arms, clip her upside the ear, and Scream. 

Everyone always thought Ria was trapped in her world. No one could ever look at her too long; she always stared back so steadfastly that they would hurry and look at their shoes.

She was locked up in her room most of the time, minding her own business. She’d be tearing her hair out over the monsters in her closet and running around stopping spidery bats from unscrewing her fan, when all of a sudden her blasted aunt would push open the door, allow daylight in, and make her world disappear. All in a second, she would be left alone, in a big empty room with stark white walls. 

She hated it, so much that she took every chance she could get to escape to the cinema, or bury herself inside a book, or go to Scruffy’s house.

(She had once made a ladder out of shoeboxes all the way from her basement to her Wise Friend Scruffy’s terrace, and nearly broke her neck the first time she tried to use it.)

All her teachers said she had rabbit in her blood.

Ria’s hands had star-shaped markings on them, and the bats whispered that they’d been left as a symbol of a Great Upcoming Day. No one knew what the day was, or when it was going to come, but rumor spread that it was going to bring all of Ria’s Giant Book Friends to life.

The Giant Book, Ria’s best friend, was a magical thing. Every time she opened it, she found it very easy to do nothing, and go nowhere. She would switch on a yellow lamp, settle into a tall stool just a smidge too high, and pore over her book until her eyelids started to droop. She would often loll over and fall asleep right there, trapped in her head just like everyone said, and wake up with great reluctance the next day to run from Tasks all over again.