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The fuming rain stung my face with frozen pins that numbed my skin until it was close to bleeding. A raging gust of wind lashed at my auburn nest of hair, blinding me in the flooding darkness. I pulled my thin, rain soaked jacket closer to my body to conserve what heat that was left inside me, and quickened my pace to the door. This was nothing though compared to my buckled knees that were gradually sinking under me, and my heart that had just recently stopped beating. My thoughts were swimming in a pool of anarchy, but I pulled myself together enough to ring the doorbell of the priceless French, chateau-styled mansion that stood in front of me.
The siding was a sand cement wall, but not the fake hollow stuff that my house had. A russet wooden veranda, which now sheltered me from the enraged rainstorm, was a Picasso carved creation. I took my forefinger to the banister and surfed down its downy, iced, polished exterior. My thoughts turned to the one room, cluttered, apartment I shared with my mother. Though it was only one room, you’d probably find a needle in a burning hay stack easier than the door of the apartment. It was chockablock with gimcracks, from thrift stores nationwide. I lifted my eyes to the endless rows of windows above me, which were also bordered with the same breathtaking architecture as the terrace.
It was a mistake. She forgot she ignored me. She forgot that her friends hated me. All Melissa could remember was our old friendship, something that had been gone long ago.
My eyes returned to the ground, as I felt my face grow hot. I shouldn’t be here at all. Just looking at this house made me realize the great difference between me, and the people at this party. I wrapped myself tightly in a blanket of self pity, which was all I could do to prevent myself from fading from the moon’s glimmer. The world swarmed all around me in a hurricane of flames before my eyes. I reached for the railing, holding onto the security it gave me. As soon as I turned to leave, a ray of light escaped form the door introducing me to a girl I had never seen before. Her head was draped with tresses of black licorice, which stood out against her washed out skin. The wardrobe she wore consisted of navy skinny legged jeans, with a red, studded, plaid belt, and a dark green cami. My presence caused her to raise her brow in absolute disgust. I gave her a shy smile in which she returned with a hostile, venomous glare.
“Mel,” she twirled back inside the house stomping towards Melissa. This was a reaction I expected, being the outcast among the girls in my school. My attire came from thrift shops and yard sales, not of the latest style, nor of any of the popular brands. I shouldn’t be tall, thin as a stick, enjoy classical music, take collage prep, the list goes on.
The girl was having an intense conversation, pointing and waving her hands towards me in frenzy; Melissa only nodded with a wide grin on her face. Then Melissa bent forward to whisper something in the girl’s ear, and whatever she said made the girl stop in an instant. My hands grew wintry and clammy as the blood was drained from them. Amused by Melissa’s words, the girl walked away, and Melissa came lithely toward me. A cold sweat broke out on my face, and I unintentionally took a step back. Her long, blonde mane swayed with her statuesque figure as she strode to the door.
“Hey Al!” She grabbed my arm and pulled me inside a blinding void, closing the door to the real world behind me. It was dark besides the various colored neon lights that glowed from the ceiling, making it hard to intake the loveliness of the interior of the house.
It’s been the longest time since she’d call me that, I gave her my grandest smile letting her know how much I appreciated it. It made me remember the vivacious Melissa I once knew and adored. “Don’t mind Val, she’s just moody because of the rain.”
Melissa reached for my hair tie and pulled it out, letting my hair fall to my shoulders. Being soaked with the cold rain, it sent chills racing up my spine. “You know you look beautiful with your hair down, don’t keep it up all the time.” Not wanting to disappoint her I left it as she made it even though it had froze the muscles in my shoulders.
Grace Delenio from my English class suddenly popped up behind Melissa, her red curls bounced off her shoulders as she did. Grace and I never associated ourselves with each other, knowing the precarious boundary between us. The only time we acknowledged each other was when she used me to pass notes to Ethan Collins, her boyfriend, the star of the freshman football team, during class.
Her presence sent my heart shooting up into my throat, making it hard to breathe. My legs began to tremble as well, I was unstable and terrified. The pulse running through my veins beat hard enough it could have broke through my skin.
She ignored my presence though, that was always good.
“We need some more drinks, you have more right Mel?”
“Yeah, I’ll go get some”
“You don’t mind, do you Alice,” Grace asked me with her piercing gaze suddenly bringing her attention to me, daring me to object.
“Oh no, we were just finishing.” Her words struck me, and absorbed the radiant bliss that had occupied my heart.
“I’ll make sure we talk by the end of the party,” Melissa promised. Her words seemed to have some hidden meaning behind it.
Melissa waved goodbye wiggling her fingers, and turning their backs to me they laughed as they left.
Their laughter made my face hot, my damp hair stuck to the back of my sticky neck. Perspiration lubricated my hands, felt exposed as I was alone.
“You’re so mean,” I heard Melissa scold mockingly once they were a little ways away, and at that they burst out laughing even more. In an instant they had set flame to any bit of happiness left in me. I clenched my jaw to keep the heat from escaping from my mouth.
I let myself wander the house, desperate to safely extinguish my anger. Not that my efforts were rewarded. The blasting sonar released from the DJ’s speakers just added to my annoyance. I wouldn’t even call it music what he was playing, but whatever it was I loathed it. My hands were smacked to the sides of my ears attempting to drone it out. People throughout the room snickered, and sent antagonistic, malicious stares my way. It only made me wonder why Melissa would invite me to her end of the school year party in the first place.
Without warning I was shoved from behind and into the girl in front of me. My hands flew out in front of me to stifle my fall but ended up pushing the girl to the ground. Her neck snapped back, and her eyes narrowed as they met my face. Tiffany’s lips were pulled up over her teeth in a snarl, and my eyes widened in horror.
A cold, liquid substance bleeds through my shirt, and hitting my warm skin it send chills up my spine discontinuing any attempts to help her up. My fingers search my shirt for the wet spot,
We’ve haven’t spoken to each other since sixth grade, when she met Grace and her posse. She thought we should expand our friendship to other people, by that she meant her other friends didn’t like me, thought I try not to think of it that way. Before then we were stuck to each other like glue, it was you get one; you will get the other policy. I remember when we met in first grade, I also knew the teacher too, Ms. Luella. This, I know because Melissa always talked about her “moving mole”, that made me giggle every time. She was my best friend, well actually my only friend; and a special bond grew between us. I would comfort her when she needed me, she would stick up for me, and by the end of first grade everyone knew not to mess with us. We used to tell each other we’ll be best friends forever; we’d never get married, and grow old together as friends. As it’s turned out so far though, it’s not going to happen. This invitation was a complete surprise.
As it got later, the clamor of the party toned down as more and more people left. I was shocked that so many people left earlier, than stayed later. I really started to get worried when the only people still here were Melissa, Grace, Valerie, and me. Finally, I decided to check the time with Melissa, if the time was wrong I’d be walking home. My mom was out with her boyfriend Roger, knowing her; they were going to be late before this.
I walked over to Melissa, “When does this party end?”
“Oh, the time on your card was later than everyone else’s. I knew we wouldn’t get a chance to chat during the party, so now that everyone’s gone we can get up to date on each other.” My eyes flickered to Grace and Valerie who were eating what was left of the snacks, Melissa saw this. “You know Al, they really want to get to know you. Could you at least try to get to know them? Hm?” My eyes stuck the floor with a sudden interest, feeling my blood rise to my face. “We’re going to go upstairs in my room, have some fun, okay?” My heart melted in my chest, freezing my blooding its place. I loathed the way she used the word fun, my head snapped up at her with wide eyes, also the way she said we. It wasn’t the game only, but in the back of my mind I knew I couldn’t trust Melissa, or her friends. Her eyes glistened with a laughter that pierced me, numbing me to my core. I could already feel myself trembling uncontrollably, and the room around me turned a lonely black and white prison. There was a reason for me to be here and I fell for it, and now I was trapped. Grace and Valerie found my reaction to be hilarious, and that just dropped me one more layer closer to heck. My mind was shrieking and pleading for me to run out of the house, but my feet were fixed to the floor. Melissa seized my wrist stealing the life from it, and hauled me up the stairs.
It didn’t take her very long to drag me to her room since she’s not as scrawny as her appearance. Not that it wouldn’t have felt really long, with me stumbling blindly all the way. When we reached her room, I fell to my knees, from both mental exhaustion and the massive headache that was building up. The state I was in couldn’t possibly be called sober, and they were taking advantage of that. Melissa came into my sight, squatting down to meet my eyes.
“You should just calm down if you don’t want to start something,” Melissa’s voice went from loving to death threatening in an instant. The bitter edge in her voice made me wonder who else would want to harm me. This side of her was something I’ve never seen, her gaze was merciless towards me; her prey. Grace and Valerie entered the prison cell, smiling at a joke that was unapparent to me. They all sat on the ground with me, creating a circle with our bodies.
“Mel didn’t lie when she said we’d be having fun,” Grace started. “For you, I’m not so sure how much fun you’ll be having.” Her words sent my blood flaming all the way up to my eyes. My jaw clenched until the pressure hurt my teeth, I wasn’t about to be a pawn in their little game any longer. I shot up like a bullet, standing firm and steadfast.
“Well what if I don’t play your little game,” I shot back; my arms folded tightly trying to hold my courage within me. They all just smirked, which made my heart skip a beat. It wasn’t friendly either, and I knew they had something up their sleeves. Melissa took out her phone and scrolled through it.
“Then if you don’t, this photo here might not be very happy if you know what I mean.” She turned her phone towards me, and I fell right through the floor. I couldn’t feel my heart anymore, but I didn’t really care. I was on the screen of Melissa’s phone, with nothing on but my under clothes. A waterfall of hot tears poured out of my eyes and stuck to my face. It was at the end of gym class when she came in the locker room to use the bathroom. I was the last one in there and didn’t notice her take it being to busy trying not to be late for class. “I could send this picture to anyone in an instant with just a press of a button. If I were you I wouldn’t dare defy me,” her voice jumped up a few notches. I buried my head in my lap not wanting to look at any of them; it made me sick just being here. With out warning pins punctured my skull, causing my head to come up. Grace stood above me, holding my tangled hair in her hands and pulled, brining me forward on my hands and knees. An insentient puppet I was, in their sordid plot.
“Do you know how much your cowering annoys people? Always staring at the floor like it has something for you, just suck it up!” I winced in pain as she tore at my hair for a third time. If this ticked her off so much why did she cause me to do it, I didn’t dare ask her though.
Then I noticed Valarie just sat there staring at me during these past events, my suffering not fazing her at all. She was nothing but a follower adding to the Grace posse, and in a way I pitied her even after all she’s let befall upon me. Grace dropped my hair letting fall to my face. When I felt it was safe to move, I sat back on heals. My shoulders were racking, with that picture in their hands I was powerless.
“Melissa wanted to send it immediately after she showed me, but I thought you should have some choice in this. Our agreement is that if you meet our request we’ll delete this picture, but if you don’t I’ll personally make sure everyone in the school sees this picture.” I looked into her eyes to see if she was telling the truth, if I should waste my time gaining any lost hope. Whatever it was I was going through with it. “We decided that you’ll be going to Jerald Hopkins High School next year for your sophomore year.” She held up the application papers and waved them in my face. I just stared at her blankly, was that it? All this and she wanted me to go to a private school; did I bother her that much? It suddenly hit me, and an icy wind propelled itself in my face bringing me back to reality. That was an all boys school. My reaction caused them to crack up. It wasn’t a chance they were giving me; it was an impossible dare giving them the liberty to say it was my fault for the picture to be publicized.
“Just send it Grace, she’ll never do it,” I looked at Melissa as she said this wondering how we were ever friends. My jaw tightened, and my breath became hard enough that it sounded thunderous.
“I’ll do it,” I said firmly. Both their jaws dropped about ten feet and looked as if I slapped them in the face.
“What,” Melissa stuttered. The doorbell echoed throughout the house, my mother finally arrived though a little too late. I rose to my feet anxious to leave before anything else was asked of me. Grace’s hand rested on my shoulder and brought her lips to my ear.
“If you can stay there for one semester without being discovered, I promise you the photo will be off Melissa’s phone.” I felt her shove the application papers in the pocket of my tattered jacket. “But if you tell anyone or if they find out you’re a girl, don’t think that’ll ever happen.” Her hand came off my shoulder and I hurried down the stairs and to the door. I didn’t know how long I’d be able to keep her stipulation, and I was afraid to find out. Before I left though, I needed to know something. I turned towards Melissa as she followed me to the door.
The elation that occupied my heart when she inveigled me to come here only pained me. Looking at her, in her eyes was enough to make me wince.
“Why,” it was the only word I could manage before warm tears rolled down my face. She was surprised by my question; it made her think for a second.
“I don’t know.”