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I re-adjusted my posture as I pushed through the bright, big orange double-doors to the cafeteria. Keeping my head held high and my nose in the air, I strutted down the crowded cafeteria filled with boisterous jocks, band geeks, and preppy, stuck-up girls checking their selves in their compact mirrors. I tried my best to keep my focus on the table ten yards away where my group of friends sat, chatting. I could feel an unaccountable set of eyes burning the back of my skull. All eyes are on me…again, I thought as I sucked in a hasty breath.
Arriving at the table, I adjusted my black pencil skirt and took a seat next to my best friend, Sam. She was in the middle of a conversation with my other friends, Aiden, Keeya, and Dawn. Feelings of relief washed over me as I whipped out my sack lunch and set it on the table. Sam stopped in the middle of her sentence and glanced at me. “Hey love, what’s up? You look flame by the way.” Her twinkling blue-green eyes glistened with glee. I gave her a slight-modest smile. “Hey Sam, hey guys.” The whole table responded with a simple “hey” in return.
Sam ran her fingers through her mid-length wavy brown hair and started up again. “So guys, like I was sayin’, we should take a road-trip together somewhere. It’s our last year; we definitely need to kick off our summer the right way!” Everyone nodded in agreement; all except me. I just kept quiet and took a bite from my soggy peanut butter sandwich. “We should take a trip to Miami!” A couple of gasps circulated around the table. I just sat and stared.
Across the table, Keeya sat examining her perfect manicured-nails, her eyebrows perking up like she’d discovered a whole new world beneath her cuticles. When she noticed me secretly staring at her stare at her nails, she looked up and cleared her throat. “Hey Leena, we should hang out later tonight. It’s been a while since we’ve had one of our sleepovers!” She widely grinned, flashing me a perfect smile, her hazel eyes bursting with radiance. Her straight, flawless jet-black hair gracefully flowed past the nape of her smooth neck. Keeya was the type of girl who was oddly nice to everyone, and always smiled at you as if seeing you was the highlight of her day.
I slowly chewed on my soggy sandwich and then swallowed. “I’m sorry Kee, I have a prior engagement I have to get done tonight.” Her pearly-white smile suddenly vanished. “Again? Aw, c’mon Leena! You’ve been blowing us off lately and we never hang anymore!” She pouted. “Yeah, that’s so true”, Aiden blurted. She sat next to Sam, slowly taking tiny bites out of her apple and listening. “You never have time for us anymore. What’s up with that?” Now I suddenly felt put on the spot by everyone at the table, but I wasn’t going to give into them and tell them my real routine I’ve been following for almost two years now.
“Sorry guys, I know I’ve let you down countless times, but it’s my job; I can’t just miss work like that.” Every eyebrow visible at the table simultaneously rose. “You never even told us where you worked, you butt-hole”, Aiden interrupted. Once again, everyone nodded in unison. I stopped chewing and nervously looked around the table; at the frustrated, beautiful faces staring at me waiting for a legit answer I couldn’t provide. I quickly performed a scan of my brain, thinking of any logical reason for why I always blew my only group of friends off.
Ever since our freshmen year of high school here at Brenton High, Sam, Aiden, Keeya, and Dawn and I were a tight-knit group of close friends who all stuck together. We did everything together--have slumber parties every weekend, go shopping together, have hot-boxing sessions sometimes after school, and even have long, five-way conversations on the phone. Since they were beautiful, slim, intelligent, and charismatic, everyone at school loved them. Everyday was basically a scene out of the movie, Mean Girls, where every time the popular girls entered the busy halls, every person stopped and stared. And then there was me, the girl who only hung out with them because they were simply my friends. I could give a cr*p about the popularity or fame; I wore whatever I wanted, freely expressed whatever was on my mind at that given moment. However, I’d admit that I still put effort into making sure everyone was fooled by my second identity I’d created just so my real one was kept out of sight. Not long after my Junior year began, I started to pick up an unusual hobby that involved having a keen eye, swift movements, sticky fingers, and insomnia. That habit soon became a hobby, and then an addiction.
“Well…I work at…” I purposefully slurred my words just to buy me some stalling time. I could feel Sam’s, Aiden’s, Keeya, and Dawn’s eyes burning a hole through my skull. “D*mn, is it really that hard to tell us where you work?” Dawn’s freshly-plucked eyebrows furrowed. “No, it isn’t hard. I work at…Walmart. The one in…Panama City.” Sam flinched at me like snakes suddenly slithered out of my eyeball sockets. “What the eff? Panama City, Leen? That’s like three and a half hours from here!” I lazily shrugged. “Hey…money is the motive,” I shot back, completely calm. The table was silent at first, and I glanced at each of them only to find confused expressions on their faces.
“Look, I’m sorry guys. But I have to work for the whole weekend. I promise I’ll call in sick next week.” They remained un-moved. “Mmm-hmm.” Aiden responded. The bell for class rang, and I could feel relief rush over me. Everyone got up from the table and gathered their things. “See you later Leen,” Keeya exclaimed, turning her back on me and heading towards the exit. “Bye guys,” I yelled out to each of them, but they all just seemed to shrug me off and disappear all together. I gathered the rest of my books, adjusted my skirt one last time, and then headed out the doors as well. “Whatever, I guess,” I mumbled to myself as I strutted down the hall.
After the final bell rang 9th period, I quickly went to my locker, gathered my things and headed for the closest exit. At this point I didn’t care whether my skirt tightly clinged to my skin, my four-inch heels loudly clinking against the marble floors, or that every random guy I passed whistled and drooled over me—I just didn’t wanted to be bothered. That was the thing with me; I had two personas. My “School” Persona was primarily used while I was surrounded by people at school who always expected me to be the “perfect, popular, beautiful and intelligent” girl. So, in return, I worked hard to fulfill their expectations. But as soon as school let out everyday at 3:30, I would quickly transform into my other persona, “Solo-Dolo”. At that point, I didn’t give a cr*p about appearances or popularity. I just wanted to be by myself and to do whatever felt right to me, whenever I did it. I think that is what brought me to my addiction.
Juggling my books in one arm and my bag in the other, I sashayed across the school’s campus and into the parking lot. Like a paranoid crack-head looking for a poor victim to ransack, I looked from side to side making sure my coast was clear, and that I was out of sight. I didn’t like confrontation when I was in my “Solo-Dolo” state of mind. In the distance ahead, I spotted my red Mercedes convertible glistening like a big juicy apple within the Florida eighty-seven degree sunlight. Happiness washed over me as I got in the driver’s seat. Igniting the ignition, I put my ray-bands on and sped out of that parking lot and out of sight.
Thirty minutes later, I finally pulled up in the driveway to my three-story brick-house. Careful not to scratch my car, I parked it, and hopped out. My heels still loudly clicked on the pavement as I made way to the front door. With my keys in hand, I slid it in the keyhole, turned the knob and opened the door only to find the house deserted. I dropped my bag on the floor next to the coat-hanger and scanned the corridor leading to the main hallway. “Hello?” I yelled, but the only response I got was that of my echo.
Closing the door behind me, I made my way to the kitchen, continuing my scan of the area. In the corner of eye, I noticed a folded piece of paper lying right in the middle of the marble kitchen table. A gut-wrenching feeling formed in the pit of my stomach because I had a feeling I already knew of the contents in the note. I walked over to the corner of the table as my heels continued to loudly clink against the kitchen’s clean linoleum mopped-floor. Grabbing the note, I unfolded it and read:
My Sweetest Leena, I will be gone for the rest of day due to personal reasons
I left money in the usual sacred spot, just enough for you and your brother
to order whatever you guys desired for dinner.
Take care, and I love you both.
It greatly angered me whenever my mother did this. Ever since her and my dad split back when I was in 8th grade, my mom was never fully home. She’d be up early in the morning to cook us breakfast, but everytime we’d finished, she’d zoom out the door, and my brother and I never saw her until the next morning. I guess the divorce with my dad really made her loose her internal peace, because ever since that horrible day, she would go on countless blind-dates with strangers. That was the thing with my mom—she soon developed personal issues of her own, which mainly had to do with commitment and trust. I completely understood why she would feel the need to isolate her emotions from everyone except my father, but that didn’t mean she had to isolate herself from her children in the process.
Crumbling the note into a tiny ball, I gritted my teeth. My mom frustrated the s*** out of me when she did this. Since I was raised to be independent and not to rely on others to bring happiness, I didn’t mind that she was never around to hang out with me. It was my little eight-year-old brother, Joshua, who I pitied. My brother absolutely adored my mother. Since she was absent after school let out, I’d have to be the one to pick him up from school everyday. The moment he would gallop into the car, a prepubescent grin slid across his tiny freckled-framed face. “Where’s mommy?” He’d always protest. As much as I resented it, I’d always have to force myself to lie to him and reply, “Mommy’s gunna be at work all night, so she won’t be able to see you later.” The way he would slink into the seat and sulk the rest of the ride home broke my heart. Everytime.
My mother had no idea how hard she was affecting her family. For as long as I’ve known, she has always put her selfish priorities first, and us last. She wasn’t any better than my dad, and she knew it; we all knew it. Yet she still continued her routines, and continued to let us down. That’s why I came to harbor feelings of anxiety and depression. As a freshmen in highschool, I was too young to be filling the role of a second guardian to Joshua. I was soon juggling school, homework, a part-time job, and watching over my brother at the same time. Stress and frustration formed horrible anxiety attacks within me, and I didn’t know what to do. I was a ticking time-bomb. I felt lost for so long, until the moment I had discovered my secret stress-reliever. And the more I embraced it, the more I craved it.
Since it was a Friday evening, Joshua called me from school to ask my permission to sleepover one of his bestfriend’s house. After giving him the okay, I tiredly trudged up the flight of stairs leading to my bedroom. I had no idea how exhausted I was until I laid eyes on my queen-sized canopy bed. It invited me to lay with it and give it company, and that’s exactly what I did. As soon as my face hit the cool, soft texture of my plush-pillow, I immediately passed out. It wasn’t easy being the perfect somebody during the day and a perfectly-imperfect nobody at night…
I pried my eyelids open to find myself surrounded in complete darkness. Outside my window, the Miami palm trees sashayed and rocked back and forth, dancing with the wind. The sound of cars zooming by on the nearby street from my house echoed in my ears. For a second I was completely confused to where I was, but I shortly realized that I had passed out on my bed earlier after I had spoken with Joshua. I struggled to reach over to grab my cell phone that was lying on my lamp table adjacent to my bed. Rubbing the excess sleep from my eyes, I checked the time. My phone read 3:30 A.M. My insides filled with bliss as I realized that it was time for me to start my night-crawling. Hopping out of bed, I anxiously scurried around my room looking for my night-crawling outfit and my duffle bag of utensils.
These were the nights I absolutely thrived for. I could feel the blood through my veins bubbling. After I slipped into an all-black get up consisting of a black long-sleeved turtle neck, black comfortable yoga pants, black-on-black high-top converses, and a plain-black scully-cap, I grabbed my duffle-bag, my keys, and my phone, and headed down the stairs. I did one last scan of the house, turned on the security alarm, and slipped out the front door, locking it behind me.
Quietly tip-toeing down the sidewalk about a mile away from my house, I scanned around the premises from left to right. I felt as if my chest would explode from all the adrenaline curdling inside of me. My palms were clamming up with sweat, and I felt extremely fidgety as if I had taken a dose of cocaine before I left the house. But I loved every second of it. This is what made me feel alive. I began my thorough search on every house that I passed. After a while, I started getting a little discouraged because every house that I came across that had potential, someone would turn on a light inside from their window, or another would come out of their home to check their mail.
“Maybe tonight isn’t a good night,” I brokenheartedly mumbled to myself. I was about to turn around and head home and call it a night—or morning—when my eyes fell upon the most beautiful house I had ever seen in my eighteen years of living. The house was a four-story beauty with white paneling and a huge porch that cradled it. The house had big blue shudders that brought spunk to each of the windows, and a big spacious lawn that was perfectly watered and cleanly cut. Just looking at it made my mouth water.
I stood right in the middle of the deserted side walk and just stared in awe at the mansion. My fingers began twitching uncontrollably by my sides. My mouth was as dry as sand paper, and I licked my lips every second. I had to get inside this house. This house spoke to me, and it was asking me to invade it. And who was I to decline such a perfect offer? Switching my duffle bag’s weight to my other shoulder, I hurriedly tipped-toed across the street and started down the long path leading to the back yard.
I was half way down the path when suddenly the front door swung open, and a middle-aged man stepped out into his porch. My heart must’ve grown legs, leaped out from my chest and darted down the street because within a millisecond, I dived into a nearby side bush, the branches scratching parts of the soft skin of my cheeks in the process. Not making any sounds what so ever, I clamped my mouth shut with my free hand and peeked from behind the bushes. The middle-aged man still stood on the porch and took out his keys.
The man looked about five-feet-eleven and was wearing a crisp dark-grey suit. He was carrying a briefcase in one hand, and jangling his keys in the other. My eyebrows rose with interest as I watched this man, because he was very attractive. He stuck his head inside the door, checked his house one last time, and then locked it using his keys. As I crouched down within those cramped, bruising bushes, I could feel my heart beating rapidly against my itchy turtleneck. The man walked down the long path leading to his drive way. Pressing the button from his car key, his black, shiny BMV convertible beeped twice and then unlocked. My eyes almost popped out of its sockets.
I watched carefully as the man got inside, turned on his engine, and backed out of the driveway. Meanwhile, I sighed, relieved that I wasn’t discovered in the bushes. I waited until the car backed out of the parking lot and smoothly navigated down the street and out of sight. Deciding to wait five more minutes just to be on the safe side, I stayed crouched. When the coast was clear, I arose and then did a perfect front-hand flip from out of the bushes, just like smooth criminals did in movies.
Once again, I quickly tip-toed down the path until I spotted a back door around the back of the house. A sly smile slid across my face, and my heartbeat increased as It did thirty minutes ago. Setting my duffle bag down on the steps, I crouched under the backdoor’s doorknob and slipped out a bobby-pin from my hair’s tight bun I had placed right before I left my house. Just to calm my bouncing nerves, I closed my eyes and practiced breathing. When I thought I was good, I slipped the bobby pin into the key hole and tried toying with the lock.
I fiddled and fiddled with that lock for what it seemed like forever, but after thirty more minutes of fiddling and beads of sweat forming on my temples, I heard the keyhole give a subtle click. I stood up after that and wiped the sweat from my forehead. “Now this is where real the fun s*** begins,” I said to nobody in particular. I cautiously turned the knob and the door gently glided wide open, inviting me in, showing a quiet, luxury kitchen. In this moment, all of my insecurities vanished. I truly felt within my element, and my adrenaline rush was through the roof. In this moment, I didn’t give a d*mn about my family problems; my mom and my dad, or my brother. I didn’t give a d*mn about submitting college applications or homework, or what my perfect outfit consisted of for the next day of school. Popularity and social status was of no convenience to me in this moment. I had left all of that stressful s*** at home, along with my morals. I knew what I was doing was wrong, and I would get caught and punished for this eventually in the future, but I didn’t care. As of this moment, life, to me, wasn’t about always making the right choices. I smiled to myself as I felt my sticky fingers regenerate as they did the night before. I stepped inside the house and closed the door behind me.