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The Pursuit of Happiness
The rain poured down to the ground, as I trudged into school. The fluorescent lights caused my pupils to shrink, making me squint. I shook the water off my green raincoat and made my way to class, rubbing my eyes. History was my first class and I knew that it was a lost cause for me to try to stay awake. My teacher, Mr. Stamm, had a monotone voice, which would vibrate through my head every time he spoke. I just wanted it to be June, because graduation was the best word in the world to me right now. The bell rang as the students maintained their mindless chatter about random things. I sat silently, watching the cars drive by through the window.
“Good morning, class,” I shuddered as Mr. Stamm spoke his first words. His voice rattled every inch of my body, like nails on a chalkboard or the tearing of Velcro.
“Morning, Mr. S!” exclaimed Jenny. Jenny was always sucking up to the teachers and administrators. I was disgusted the way she shortened his name like that, almost as if she were flirting with him. She had a history with student-teacher relationships.
“Gross,” I muttered under my breath, imagining Jenny and Mr. Stamm holding hands. A boy sitting next to me glanced over, but I ignored him.
“Let’s open our books to page 564 and I want you to compose a rough draft for an essay of the primary source on that page.”
Students began writing and whispering to their neighbors. I assumed that Mr. Stamm would get aggravated once he paid attention long enough to realize the noises. I shrank down into my seat and glanced over at the clock. What seemed like an hour so far, was only a few minutes. I felt a wave of heat overtake my body and I prayed for the class to end. I pulled out my notebook and began my tedious assignment.
The bell rang and we exited our class. I knew that I could use the notes from my math class, because I was on a field trip the day before. I saw Jenny who was in my math class as well and I decided to ask her for the notes. I walked to her slowly, grinding my teeth. Please, just let me get this over with, I thought.
“What do you want, Adrienne?” she barked.
“I was just wondering if I could get the math notes from yesterday, since I wasn’t there.”
“Yeah, I don’t think so. Get your own notes.”
“Oh, okay…” I felt a wave of tears, but I held them back. I didn’t know why people were so mean to me. What did I do wrong to deserve that treatment?
It was time for math class, now. I didn’t like math and I knew that we were starting a project today, which meant partners. I walked silently into class, still thinking about Jenny and the feeling I had of rejection. I felt empty inside and I wished for answers.
“Class, I hope you all thought of a partner for our project,” our teacher reminded us. “Get with them now please.”
The madness began with chairs scraping against the tile floor and desks being pushed together. Before I could even blink, I was alone. Everyone had a partner already, and as I looked around, kids were laughing and whispering about me.
“Look! Adrienne doesn't have a partner again!” someone said.
I sat down quickly and hid my head in my hood. I couldn’t explain the embarrassment I had, although it was displayed blatantly on my face. Students began their work, and I started my project alone.
The rest of the day went by surprisingly fast. My classes were the same as usual and before I knew it, I was on my way home. I put my books into my room and looked at myself in the mirror. The shimmering threads in my red blouse reflected the light from the lamp on my dresser. I stood straight up and gazed into my own eyes. I am pretty, I thought to myself. I realized that my golden eyes stood out against my brown wavy hair. My jeans fit tightly to the curves around my muscles, not too bulky, but not like a twig either. I was normal and average and I didn’t understand how I could even be considered anything different.
I walked downstairs and into the kitchen. My mom was standing at the counter, reading her bills. As I went into the pantry and grabbed a bag of pretzels, she looked at me as if she were fed up.
“Adrienne, do you really need those?” she asked and I paused for a moment.
“Uh, I guess not, mom,” tears filled my eyes as I quietly put the pretzels back to where they belonged. She went back to reading her mail and I pushed passed her to my room. I wasn’t surprised that she said this again. Doesn’t she realize the pain she puts me through? I asked myself. With silent tears streaming down my cheeks, I turned on my radio to full blast.
“ADRIENNE!” I heard my mom screaming over my music. I turned it down to hear her banging at my door.
“Come in,” I sighed. Is she here for another talk about my weight? I thought to myself.
“Adrienne, I think we should talk. Your father and I are worried about you,” she paused as she sat at the foot of my bed, “we think you are depressed. You aren’t the happy girl we knew when you were younger. What happened to her? You are never smiling and you always seem to be miserable. You don’t care about your studies and you seem to have no motivation to succeed,” she explained. I didn’t know where to begin with that statement because I have all A’s and I always have had them.
“What are you talking about? Just because I’m not smiling 24/7 doesn’t mean I am depressed,” I rebutted. I was fuming with anger and frustration.
“You don’t have any friends! And you talk about running for class president, but how will you win? No one will vote for you! You need to become friends with people and make an effort to hang out with them,” she was beginning to shout.
If only she could see the way I am never included in groups in school. The way that my classmates never ask me to be their partner during group projects, the way I am always working alone. I ask them to be partners or sit with me at lunch, but they say no. It is not that I am not making an effort, it’s that they just don’t want to be my friend.
“Okay, mom,” was all I could think of to say. It wasn’t worth arguing over something that I would never win. She doesn’t understand and she doesn’t make an effort to.
She wonders why I don’t spend time with her. Why would I want to be around someone who treats me the way she does? Why would I want to be hanging out with friends that don’t make an effort to be kind? I don’t understand what happened since grade school. I was always the popular girl with all the friends, but then I reached high school and everything changed. My friends stopped talking to me, but I was certainly not depressed about it. Although it would be nice to have a good friend to talk to, I am content by myself. My boyfriend is in college, but I see him on the weekends. I cannot wait for the day when we are both far away at college. As soon as my mom left and the door closed, I picked up my phone.
“Hello?” Reilly asked.
“Oh, Reilly! I’m so glad you answered,” I couldn’t help the tears from flowing again.
“What’s wrong, honey?” he was really concerned. I managed to choke back the tears long enough to tell him the story about how she said I have no friends.
“Again? She did this again? How many times do you have to try to explain your feelings to her?” he was furious. “First of all, you’re beautiful and you should never be concerned with your weight. Your mom is clueless and insensitive and she needs to understand that what she is saying is wrong! Baby, you need to believe that you are the most wonderful and perfect person alive and that no matter if your mom sees it or not, it’s the truth! Secondly, you do have friends and I know how hard you try to make friends. Please know that I would vote for you for class president, and that if you have friends or not, you’ll always have me.”
How did he always manage to cheer me up when I was upset? We have been dating for two years and he has seen this side of my mother before. He knew that she was like this and that she never stops. I’ve told her time and time again about the way she hurts me, but I can never get through to her. It doesn’t matter; I know she needs therapy or something, but until she gets help, I know that I’ll be fine.
“Awe, thank you, Reilly,” I smiled, “you always know how to make me happy. I wish that you could be here, I could use a hug.”
“You know I want to be there for you, Adrienne. I love you so much and I hate to hear that you are upset,” he said sincerely.
“I love you, too. You know that I am happy, right? I mean, I have never been so happy in my life. I don’t need friends to prove that, I have you!”
“You don’t need to explain this to me,” he chuckled.
“What’s so funny?” I asked.
“I bet you look so disheveled right now. You probably look so cute,”
“You’re in trouble when I see you next! I’m going to beat you up,” I joked.
“You mean, you’ll try to beat me up,” he corrected me.
“We’ll see!” I was smiling again, “I love you.”
“I love you, too. Hang in there and I’ll see you in a few days.”
The phone line went dead and I knew that I would be able to make it until I could see him again. I was genuinely lucky to have such a caring and considerate boyfriend. He treated me so well that there would be no way I could ever be depressed. I remember one time when he knew I was having a bad day and when I got home, he was standing on my porch with a dozen roses. He told me that he knew I deserved 1000 roses but they didn't have that many in their inventory to sell.
My parents were wrong about me and although there would be no way to explain it to them, I knew that as long as I followed what was true in my heart, I’d be okay. As the darkness of the night settled into my room, I set my head on my pillow. The constant hum of my radio was making me sleepy. Just before I closed my eyes, I saw the picture of Reilly and me beside my bed. In my head, I thought about his smile and the way he makes me feel. The feeling brought a comfort to my entire body, which helped me drift right to sleep. That night I dreamt of being with Reilly and living in a world where nothing could ever go wrong.