Pre-game fic featuring Colette. Not fluff this time, it's a bit of angst. A fic written to show the side of her she would keep hidden and that might be forgotten because of the smiles and brave faces that she puts on.

Spoiler warning: slight spoiler about what'll happen to Colette when she goes on the journey of regeneration.

Disclaimer: I don't own Tales of Symphonia, Namco own it I believe. I just really like writing about it.

Colette sat down on her bed, curled herself into a ball, her legs close to her body, grabbed her pillow, clutched it to her chest and bowed her head into it, trying her hardest to hold back the tears which were threatening to spill from her eyes. She rocked slowly back and forth, trying so hard not to let the heavy, solid feeling lump of pain in her chest pour out in the sobs that were fighting to escape from her body.

She mustn't cry she told herself. Her grandmother would be disappointed if she cried. She was the Chosen, she was supposed to be strong. But, she thought bitterly, the fact that she was the Chosen was the reason why she felt the way she did now. As that thought crossed her mind she mentally chided herself for thinking like that but found her train of thought continuing along those lines anyway.

If she wasn't the Chosen, she thought, she wouldn't have attention drawn to her and could probably manage to just hide away in class and escape the notice of the other children. She wasn't sure what she'd done, whether it was her title that they didn't like, if it was the way she looked, that fact that she paid attention in class because she wanted to learn. Whatever it was one thing was certain, the bullies in the small Iselia school had chosen her as their target.

It wasn't just the punches and objects thrown at her that hurt, it was their words as well. Today in particular their words had been even more painful than the punches and kicks she'd received.

She hated the changing room where they changed into and out of the clothes they wore for sports lessons because, as the teacher often didn't bother to check in on them, it provided an ideal place for the bullies to attack. They'd done so particularly viciously today. Someone had stuck their foot out and tripped her up as she was walking to the peg where she'd hung the drawstring bag that she'd put her clothes in, causing her to hit the floor painfully. The pain had been added to when she'd been kicked as she tried to get up.

Not content with just that they'd taunted her with words too. They were older than her and had put her down by making her feel stupid and ignorant. It wasn't her fault, Colette assured herself, that she didn't know as much as the older girls when it came to certain topics. They'd had longer to learn stuff and didn't have to concentrate their studies on matters related to the journey of regeneration. She was sure that her teachers and family didn't tell her things sometimes because they didn't think it was worth their time. She was the Chosen and they seemed to think that she only needed to be taught about subjects connected to that title. She was, she thought, lucky that she was allowed to sit in on ordinary school lessons.

A lot of them didn't seem to teach her anything new though, so much of what they were taught seemed to connect back to the Chosen ritual. That, she thought, was probably another reason why she was picked on, some of those lessons probably seemed dull to the other students and they chose her as a target to get rid of frustration.

She did like some lessons though. Language lessons were wonderful, learning new words, hearing new stories. She loved listening to or reading a good story and longed to have access to more books. The only books she possessed, it seemed, were ones that were connected to her title. Except for one well loved book of stories she'd saved up for and had bought herself. That was one of her most treasured belongings.

The other lesson she liked, possibly for a similar reason, was art. In art lessons, like in language lessons, she could use her imagination. She could take herself away from the world of prayers and rituals and her title and could explore other places. When allowed to paint whatever she wanted to instead of particular objects set up as subjects for the whole class to paint she loved to imagine far away places and express those thoughts onto the page. The freedom of having a blank piece of paper and paints to turn into whatever she wished was wonderful.

Drawing and painting were things she enjoyed outside of school too. When allowed to spend time with Lloyd after school she and he would often sit together with a pile of blank paper, crayons, pencils and paints and create picture after picture after picture.

Lloyd had given her one of the pictures he'd drawn once. A detailed sketch of her sitting on Noishe's back. She'd tucked it into the notebook which she used to write thoughts and feelings in. A sort of diary.

She kept it secret though, hidden away from her family. The sort of things she wrote in it seemed very un-Chosen-like. Sometimes, though, she felt the need to dump thoughts and emotions out of her head and onto the pages of that notebook just to express them in some form. She needed to tell someone about it and the blank pages were the only things that would listen.

She couldn't ever talk to her family or teachers about the way she felt sometimes. They would become cross and angry at her for sometimes being frightened, unconfident or upset. She was the Chosen, she was supposed to be confident and sure of herself and her role, someone who others could look to for reassurance that everything was right and going as the Goddess wanted it to.

It was so difficult though, especially when she was bullied. She had, to begin with, tried to discuss the matter with first her family and then her teachers. Her grandmother and her father had been unhelpful, telling her simply that she shouldn't let what the bullies said get to her. They had offered no sympathy, clearly thought it was something that would make her stronger and so better prepared for her role in the future. It wasn't. The words ripped away at her, slowly shredding her confidence. It was bad enough that she sometimes felt ignorant because of the gaps in her knowledge where she'd had to learn Chosen related stuff and hadn't been taught more general life stuff because, as someone who was destined to become an angel in order to help restore her world, she wouldn't have a normal life. She didn't need bullies to rub the fact that she didn't know as much as the other children in. She felt bad enough about it without them reminding her with taunts, using her as the butt of their jokes.

Her teachers hadn't been much more helpful either. At first they'd said they'd do something about it, had told the bullies off and issued the occasional detention. That hadn't put the bullies off, however, and they continued on as if nothing had happened. The teachers continued to only give warnings and a detention or two, they hadn't really tried to solve the problem it seemed. Colette didn't want to be a bother, to make a fuss, as Chosen she knew she should be strong and do her best to solve her problems by herself, but she knew she wasn't perfect and wished that the teachers had tried a bit harder to put an end to the bullying.

She hiccupped and wiped away the tear that was rolling down her cheek with her sleeve. She shouldn't cry, she was the Chosen, Chosens didn't cry. She couldn't help it though, the pain she felt was too harsh to keep bottled up inside. She buried her face in her pillow and tried not to make any noise, fearing her grandmother's reaction if she found her crying. Colette knew what it would be, a look of disappointment and a lecture in which she'd be told that she had to be strong because the world was depending on her because she was the Chosen.

She was only small though, and the world seemed so big…