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For Elly, it all started in that first year of high school. She often found herself wondering about who she was. She didn’t know. No one knew. She would look at girls and think, “What if I am that girl?”
She would see the quiet and shy girl and think, “Maybe I am that girl.” And so she would talk less in class and sit in the library at lunch, hoping that no one would speak to her. She would stay home on weekends and get lost in her books. She wouldn’t go out with girlfriends or flirt with boys over the computer. She always had her homework done, and the teachers all loved her. After a while, though, she realized that maybe she wasn’t that girl.
She would then see the girl that had one male friend and think, “Maybe I am that girl.” And so she would hangout with him and only him, sitting together at lunch and spending time together outside of school, never anything more than just friends, no matter what he wanted. She would trust him to always be there for her, and he would love her enough to give her just that and nothing more. He would be her friend no matter how much he loved her, and she would be selfish enough to not see. After a while, though, she would begin to see that maybe she just wasn’t that girl.
She would see the pretty, popular girls and think, “Maybe I am that girl.” And so she would act like them until they accepted her. She would buy the clothes they approved and listen to the music they liked. She would flirt with the popular boys and make fun of the girls that were not one of them. She would talk behind her “friends” backs and be talked about. After a while, though, she would come to think that maybe a fake life wasn’t really for her, and that maybe she wasn’t that girl.
She would see the party girl and think to herself, “Maybe I am that girl.” And so she would get a job to buy her booze. She would spend her weekend out all night, coming home to disappointed parents and an inviting bed. She would drink so much that she couldn’t remember a single thing, and hook up with random boys. She would be labeled as “trashy” and “easy”, but she wouldn’t care. She wouldn’t care because she had her alcohol and that meant that everything would be alright. But it wasn’t alright. After a while she realized that maybe she just wasn’t that girl.
She went back to being the quiet and shy girl. She felt as if she had come full circle, but things were much worse now than when she started. She had a reputation she didn’t want and enemies she wanted even less. She had rude nicknames and a record. She wished she had never wondered what type of girl she was. She wished she would have just let things happen the way things are supposed to happen, because she knew that she couldn’t do that now. She knew that she had made everything too complicated, and now she only had one chance of starting over. She wanted to leave those girls behind. She wanted to never have to hear the words “that girl” again. She wanted to start over.
The honk of a horn broke Elly’s reverie. She was standing on the side of the rode in the pouring rain, her long black hair blowing across her face. Her backpack was at her feet and her hand was outstretched, thumb up.
A little silver car pulled up slowly beside her. She picked up her bag and opened the door. Inside sat a young man who looked only a few years older than her. He had brown hair and a look of concern in his eyes.
He noticed Elly just standing there in the open door and motioned with his hand for her to get in. “Well come on, it’s pouring out there.”
She threw her bag in on the floor and then got in, slamming the door shut behind her. Elly stared out the window at the streaming rain as he pulled back out onto the road.
“I’m Alek,” He said, looking at her sideways.
She looked at him, nodded slightly, and turned her attention back to the passing scenery.
“So where are you going?” He asked.
She really didn’t want to talk, but guessed that this was sort of crucial so that she ended up where she needed to be.
“Well where are you headed?” She asked.
“I’m on my way up to North Bay,” He said, and Elly remembered that it was up north, at least a five hour drive away from Guelph, Ontario.
“That’s perfect.” She said.
“Why are you going there?”
“Well,” She wasn’t about to tell him she was running away. She knew he would turn the car right around. Well, that or drop her off on the side of the road, because really, who wanted to be involved with a teenage girl gone missing? “I’m going to visit my aunt.”
“Really?” He said, “What’s her name?”
“Why?” She asked, surprised.
“I might know her.”
“I doubt it.”
He looked at her out of the corner of his eye for a second, and then set his gaze back on the road, just as she turned her head to the window again. Five or so minutes passed before he spoke again.
“What’s your name?” He asked, not looking at her.
The rain had slowed a fraction, but not fully. She took a while to answer, but eventually said, “Elly. My name is Elly.”
“Okay, Elly,” He began, “You aren’t visiting an aunt are you?”
She looked at him, shocked. She didn’t think her façade was that easy to see through, but then again, she never got very high marks in drama. She wasn’t that girl.
After a quiet moment she whispered, “How’d you know?”
He shrugged. “I guessed. You reminded me of someone, and that person made a huge mistake by running away. He was stupid and thoughtless and reckless and he ruined his life.”
“Why did he run?” She asked.
“He thought he had no status, no place with his family or peers. He didn’t know who he was. He never knew what kind of guy he was, and so one day he just snapped and up and left. He left everything behind; his family, friends, and job. All of it.”
“Where did he go?”
He took a hand off the wheel and ran it trough his dark brown hair, pushing it away from his eyes. She had her hands clasped in her lap and was playing with her fingers as she waited for an answer.
Finally he said, “I don’t know.”
She looked down at her hands. She thought about her family back home. She thought of how in about two hours her mom would be coming home from work, expecting to find her in the house, but she wouldn’t be there. She’d be long gone and never able to return again. She imagined her mother’s worried face. She imagined how hurt she would be, feeling like she wasn’t a good enough mother. She imagined her little sister, Abbey, wondering why her older sister was never there to teach and protect her.
“Alek?” She asked.
He nodded, silently, looking out onto the road.
“Can you take me home?” She whispered.
He smiled, slightly, before taking the off ramp to take her home.
It was almost supper time when they pulled up in front of Elly’s house. She could see her mother through the front window in the living room. She was sitting on the couch with Abbey watching television. Elly turned to look at Alek.
“Thanks,” She said, “A lot.” It didn’t feel like enough, but she didn’t know what else she could possibly say.
“No problem.” He smiled at her. “It was fun talking with you.”
She opened the car door and stepped out onto the curb. She smiled at him before she closed the door. She turned to walk away, but then remembered something. She turned around and he rolled down the passenger seat window, leaning across the seat.
“I was just curious,” She said, “Who was your friend?”
He laughed, and for a moment she was almost embarrassed, but then he said, “It was me.”
It was that day that Elly really found out what type of girl she was. It can’t be said in words, the type of person you are. Only the mind knows what type of person you really are. Some people may need the help of a friend, or some people may get the help from a stranger; just like Elly. Alek made her realize that she wasn’t a helpless girl that needed to run from her fears. She was a strong, independent, and happy girl who faced her fears and never gave up on her dreams. She was just that girl.