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House of Rags
Every morning when I wake up, I build a house of cards. Cards are beautiful and when you put them all together, they’re oh-so-fragile. The worst part is when they all fall down. You realize that you put all that work into something, yet it was really for nothing.
This morning, I pull on my standard wear: a plain T-shirt and a pair of halfway faded blue jeans. The jeans are baggy now and no longer stylish from too many wash cycles in our old Kenmore. My family doesn’t have enough money to support too many new investments like a new washing machine. Maybe that’s why I love card houses. You can buy a pack of cards for a couple bucks and it can entertain you for hours.
I am the four of clubs, one of the most unremarkable cards in the entire deck. No one notices the four of clubs.
I throw my worn sweater on, and on top of that I lug my ultra faded backpack. It still has pictures of horses on it. I haven’t gotten a new backpack since fifth grade.
As I head out the door, I heave a sigh. So begins yet another day of torment in the life of Molly Morrisson, sophomore.
After the long trudge to school through the mud, I enter the peeling painted blue doors of the school. You would think that after forty-two years the school could shell out enough money to repaint the doors, but no. They’re still as ugly as ever. I try to slink through, unseen, and head to homeroom before the buzz of first bell.
But we all know the punch line. Of course I don’t make it. Halfway to my locker, I hear it. I try not to, but there’s no way to block out the same taunting voice I hear everyday.
“So, what’s the outfit today? Plain, with plain and, wow, not even a plain accessory. Yeah, you’ve really outdone yourself today, Rag Girl.” The jeering voice of Jericah Simmons infiltrates my head. I try to picture towers of cards where her head is. My mental towers come crashing down.
“Shove off, Simmons,” I turn to tell her, and then realize that behind me is not only Jericah, but eight of the scariest girls I have ever seen in my life. Each one has half an inch of eyeliner on, skirts shorter than their underwear, and a shirt that leaves less to the imagination than it hides. As ugly as they appear in my mind, this is the style. In the eyes of every other student to walk these halls, these girls have it all. The queens of hearts and diamonds.
My heart and all my other internal organs are suddenly in my throat. Frantically, I look around for some pillar of support to lean on to help get me out of this corner I’m in. At the perfect moment, my best friend, Emily, turns the corner and heads toward us. “Emily!” I call. She jerks her head towards me.
Emily is my ace, the one that saves you in a tight spot.
Slowly, Emily slips between the girls and stands behind me. I turn and whisper out of the corner of my mouth, “Okay, Ems, how are we going to do this? I vote you block for me by causing a distraction and I’ll make a break for it. Or we could stay here and get the pulp beaten out of us, either way.”
“Um, Mol, I don’t know…about, um….I, um, have to go. I have a biology test to make up and you know Mr. Snider. He doesn’t let you make stuff up after two days, so, um, bye!” she calls over her shoulder as she shoves through the girls and speeds away to the biology lab.
Jericah laughs. “So you’re not even going to defend Rag Girl this time? Pathetic,” she calls after Emily, hoping to spur a response. To my dismay, Emily pretends not to hear and steers into the lab, leaving me alone again to fend for myself. Once again, I am nothing but the lonely, plain four of clubs, unremarkable.
Unless you consider a black eye, two dead arms, and a brilliantly burgundy bruise on your stomach a good thing, you will agree when I say that it didn’t end well.
Now school’s out. The buzzer has set me free again. But I’m not free of these sterilized halls yet. There’s something I have to do.
I run to Emily’s locker as all the other students pour out of the building like fish in a river. Suddenly, there’s no one left in the hall but the two of us. Confrontation time.
“Emily, Jericah has called me ‘Rag Girl’ since second grade. You never let it go before. Why now?” The words tumble out of my mouth like candy from a piñata. My somber gaze pores over her face, searching for the answer in her eyes. But she looks at the floor as she makes circles in the gray tile with her sandal. The tiles are card shaped.
“Well, it’s just, you know—“ she falters.
“It’s just what?”
“It’s just, that, I kind of have a rep to uphold now that I’m class secretary. I mean, I know I’m not president or anything but—“
“But you’re too cool to be seen with Rag Girl now. Your designer jeans simply don’t match my plain red T-shirt anymore,” I cut in. “I understand…I’ve gone through this before. Don’t worry, I can deal with it. It’s cool,” I lie, gritting my teeth, praying for those words that would save me. Please, please, say it. Say it, say it, say it. Say you love me. I need her to step in and contradict me, tell me I’m the best friend a girl could ever have. Never before have I wanted something badly enough for it to feel like a hole burning in my chest. I feel that burn, in this eternal moment.
She pauses, contemplating her answer. She slowly raises her eyes up to mine so that our gazes lock. And time stands still.
“Molly,” I hear her voice crack. “Molly, I…can’t do this. Don’t make me choose. My new life as popular with the friends I want and parties and new clothes and football games and—“ she stops herself as she begins to get carried away. “Or…” her voice drops to a whisper. “Rag Girl.” Her voice breaks. “I’m sorry, I truly am.” Tears threatening to fall, she turns on her heel and walks to the end of the hall and out the ancient peeling blue doors. Expressionless, I stand.
I stand alone, in my fallen house of rags.