“She could remember how nice everyone had been that day… particularly nice… But by then of course, she was in The Pit, and when you were in The Pit, people being nice to you didn’t mean anything. Nothing did.

‘It’s funny, isn’t it,’ said Roland, ‘how people being nice doesn’t help when you feel like that. You know they want to help, you know they’re trying to help, but it’s like they’re in another world. They have no idea how you’re really feeling. Or what to do about it.’

Yes, thought Jessica. Yes, that was pretty much how it had been.

‘And you can try and pretend that everything’s okay.’ Roland was still talking. ‘You can act as if you think it matters whether you’ve done any schoolwork or what you eat or what you wear, but in the end… the pretending is such an effort, and you get so tired, that all you really want is for it to stop. For everything to stop… You look around, and everyone else seems to be able to get up in the morning and smile and laugh and enjoy themselves… and you think, why can’t I do that? Why can’t I be ordinary?  Why do I have to be different from everyone else?’

‘And that’s what gets you in the end, isn’t it?’ It was Francis who was speaking now. ‘The being different. You want so much to be like everyone else but…’ He looked sympathetically across at Roland as he spoke. ‘You know it’s never going to happen. You’re always going to be different.’…

It was one of these letters that described something Jessica remembered and that the others instantly recognized as well. It talked about the extraordinary speed with which the feeling that life had no meaning could disappear on certain occasions and everything become normal again–for a while, at least. How one day you could be in the depths of despair and the next you could wake up feeling… okay. How little things like something someone said, or a scene from a film, or even a piece of music could change your mood in the blink of an eye. And how, when you were in one mood, the other seemed so silly. When the sun was out you could hardly remember the clouds and, when you were in The Pit, it was difficult to believe that sunshine had ever existed.”