Confidence

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Jessica Marie Lane looked around the area as she walked to school, seeing nothing but dark gray sky and cold, white clouds of breath. Winter, she decided, was not a season of color. A chilled breeze shook her tall frame, forcing her to quicken her pace and hug herself tighter. Her slightly heeled boots clicked with every step, the sound of each heel tapping against the pavement audible to everyone but her. Reaching up a long, pale finger, she pushed a strand of blonde hair behind her pierced ear, pressed in her headphone, and used her other hand to turn up the volume of her music. Jess considered her outfit, light blue denim jeans with a white tank top and dark gray hooded sweater, and shivered.
“Fashionable, not practical,” she whispered softly to herself. As much as the girl hated dressing to impress others, she had noticed how the other kids used to react to her. The whispering and giggling when she would walk past them hadn’t affected her much because she has assumed that they were just talking to each other about their day. It was when they started pointing, teasing her with their malicious grins, and spreading rumors about her that she changed herself. Jess became aware of how she wasn’t like anyone else that she knew, causing her to think that she was too different. Self-consciousness ran through her veins like a poison flame, infecting her originality and creativity and licking at her rapidly burning confidence. She bought the clothes the other girls bought, listened to the same music, and dyed her hair blonde. Her personality was still the same, but she put up an act whenever around the other teens. It was like her life was a movie, scripted and planned. She had to follow the act or she would be fired.
“Why do you dress like that?” Jess turned at the sound of her younger sister’s voice, pulling out her headphones.
“What was that Lily?” She asked. “I’m sorry; I had my music on.” The little girl, Lily, looked up at her with big, blue eyes.
“You never used to dress like that. Why do you now?” The teen sighed. Her sister wouldn’t understand the social struggle that she went through; everyone loved the 4th grader because of her sweet personality and beautiful face. Jess was just plain in comparison and needed to work ten times harder to make people like her.
“I like these clothes.” The lie slipped of her tongue easily. Follow the script, she thought to herself.
“No you don’t. You don’t look like my sister anymore. You don’t act like her either.”
“Whatever Lily.” The two girls continued their walk to school silently, each not knowing what to say to the other.
“Jess! Jessie Marie!” Upon hearing her name, Jess sighed. The speaker, a curly haired brunette wearing a nearly identical outfit, ran up to her.
“Hi Rachel,” she greeted. “Why so happy?” The girl latched onto her arm in excitement.
“John told me he loved me! And we’re gonna like, be together forever!”
“Love is merely a madness, and, I tell you, deserves as well a dark house and a whip as madmen do: and the reason why they are not so punished as cured is, that the lunacy is so ordinary that the whippers are in love too.”
“Huh?” Rachel just stared at the taller girl as if she had grown another head. Jess could’ve laughed at the teen’s confused expression.
“Nevermind.” Jess kept walking. “I just don’t believe in love; you know that.” Looking disappointed, her friend saw another person.
“Anna!! Annabelle!” The blonde dismissed her with a shrug. Oh well, she thought.
“Hey! You!” Another voice caught the sophomore’s attention. It came from another kid at their school, a freshman. “Hi, I’m Chelsea! I heard you quoting Shakespeare; that was amazing! I haven’t met anyone here that has ever read As You Like It.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Jess lied. “I don’t read.” The girl’s smile faded.
“I don’t believe you. Besides, I see Romeo and Juliet falling out of your bag.” Jumping, she checked her bag; it was closed, and nothing was sticking out. “I knew it! You actually thought it was there! You do read.”
“You don’t know me. You don’t understand.” Jess turned away from the girl, arriving at her locker.
“I think I do. You’re Jessica right? The sophomore? I bet you don’t agree with any of the other kids; I bet you’re not like them! You’re obviously smarter, and I can tell you’re miserable in those clothes. Put a coat on!”
“I can’t.” She closed her locker, books in hand, and ran into her next class. Looking out of the door, Jess saw the girl, Chelsea, sigh.
Her day went by without any excitement: the same as any other day. She didn’t see the younger girl, and no one questioned her about it.

“Jessie!” She saw Rachel again. “I am so happy!!! I’m in love!” Remembering their conversation earlier, Jess smiled a little.
“With John?” Her friend frowned.

“No!! I broke up with him like, 2nd period! Where have you been?! I love Mike! Like, we’re gonna get married one day! Be my maid of honor?” Confused, she nodded.
“Sure,” She meant to say it as an answer, but it came out sounding like a question. “I have to go pick up Lily from school; I’ll see you tomorrow.” Walking over to the grade school, she saw her sister hugging her friends goodbye.
“Jessica!” She sighed again. Why did people need to shout her name all the time? Turning to the voice, she saw the girl from earlier that morning again. “Hey! I brought you something.” The redheaded freshman handed her a small, multi-colored friendship bracelet. “Be my best friend?” she asked.
“Why? You don’t even know me.” Jess was really flabbergasted. What did this girl want from her? Chelsea smiled.
“I’m going to help you find yourself,” she explained. . “’cause that girl I’m looking at, she’s not the real you.” Hesitantly, Jess took the bracelet from the younger girl.
“Friends?” she asked cautiously.
“Friends,” agreed Chelsea. Jess allowed herself to smile; maybe this was the beginning of everything for her.





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