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The Other Kind of Pretty
I have always been told that I'm pretty. My parents, my aunts and uncles, classmates' moms. But now, I'm starting to wonder:
Just how pretty am I?
It's fall. School's just started up again after the summer. I see a few dead leaves strewn across my path. I kick them aside. I see other people on the school's front lawn. No one stops to talk to me. Not anymore.
I see a boy that I've never seen before. He must be new, because he slows as he passes me. He thinks I'm pretty.
He stops all together and asks me my name.
"I'm Julie," I say.
He tells me that his name is Andy. I say that I know. He gives me an odd look.
"So, are you heading in?" he asks, gesturing to the school building. I nod, and I follow him inside.
We sit together in study hall that day, and he lingers by the front door even though his ride is already there, just so he can say goodbye to me.
As I walk home, I'm just a little but confused by Andy's behavior. I might be pretty on the outside, but can't he see that I'm fairly ugly on the inside? At least, everyone else at school can.
I get to know Andy better. He is not exactly welcomed with open arms by the more socially active kids in school, and soon he is my only friend, and I am his only friend.
Now, we've known each other for about five months. I realize that I'm starting to think that he's cute. This surprises me at first. In middle school when the other girls were busy fawning over whatever sugar-coated pop star that the media was feeding them, I was in the corner reading Harry Potter all alone. I was never a teenybopper. I never had "crushes."
It's a beautiful April day. I am still a little raw after realizing that I love Andy. But he doesn't love me. I can tell from the way he tells jokes to me, his eyes never leaving me face. I can tell by the way he talks to other, actually-pretty girls, and his eyes start to wander... It makes me sad.
I am driving to school. Since that day back in fall when I first met Andy, I managed to save enough money to buy this hunk-of-junk car. I watch the beautiful trees zoom by, baby leaves clinging to their limbs. Flowers are blooming. Butterflies are fluttering. I am just... There. In the middle of all the beauty, just me and my ugly car... And Andy.
He's there waiting for me, in the front lawn, as usual. I see that he is unhappily standing next to his mother's minivan. I laugh as I walk over to him and he smirks in return. The sun is being absorbed into his dark hair, and is reflecting off his pure blue eyes.
"Stuck with the Honda again?" I ask, playfully smacking the old thing.
"Yeah," he says, grimacing. Andy is not as lucky as I am. He doesn't have his own car. On some days, he has to drive himself to school in his mom's minivan, because his dad is at work and his mom is busy at home with his baby sister.
We go through the day as per usual. After last period, we split up to hit our lockers and meet up again in the parking lot. When I arrive, I notice with a pang that he is talking to Ally Simmons, one of the actually-pretty girls. I join their conversation, and Andy tries to include me, but Ally is shooting daggers at me. I would glare back, but it's not worth it.
It's getting pretty late. I tell Andy that I have to go home because i have a ton and a half of homework to do.
"Good riddance, Julia," Ally says, snapping her gum at me. I pause, but feel no need to remind this actually-pretty girl of my name.
Which turns out to be all right, because Andy does it for me.
"Ally, her name is Julie," he says. "And Julie has to go home. I'm gonna walk her to her car." He grabs my arm and gently leads me away from Ally. I almost dare to think that we're having a moment until we reach my car and Andy leans forward and says quietly, "Thanks for having my back there. See ya later." And he walks away to his mom's minivan.
I get into me car dejectedly. I pull out of the school parking lot.
I am thinking about Andy. All I am thinking about is Andy. I think about how his beautiful blue eyes could look at someone better than me, but they so often choose me. I think about how he has to love me back, I love him so much.
In fact, I'm thinking so much about Andy that I don't notice the stop sign.
I'm thinking about Andy so much that I don't see the car coming straight at me.
And it's not until just mere milliseconds before our vehicles collide that I comprehend that the other car is Andy's mom's minivan.
Our cars collide, and all there is for a few seconds is confusion. Confusion, bright lights, skidding, screams, and pain. Lots and lots of pain.
I feel something hot and sticky pour thickly from a wound on my forehead. So there's also blood.
I look up in time to see Andy wrench himself unharmed from the destroyed minivan and launch himself at me. He peels open my door and stares at me. He doesn't hide the tears running down from his eyes. Andy kneels down next to me. I hear him speak to me.
"I already called the hospital. An ambulance is on the way," he informs me. But both he and I know that no doctor can help me at this point. I can tell that he knows this by the way he caresses my face, studies every detail of my body, soaks it in, as if this is the last time he'll see it breathing.
I shakily hold a bloody hand out. Tears are freely pouring down Andy's face. He tenderly takes hold of it.
I take a deep breath. "Promise," I whisper.
He nods. "I'll promise you anything, Julie."
"So promise me that you will never, ever blame yourself for what happened here," I say. When he starts to protest, I cut him off with a simple "Promise!"
He looks scared at how weak my voice is getting. I see people slowing down, getting out of their cars. People who go to school with us, surrounding us in a wide circle, whispering, "Who is it? Who's the dying girl?"
Andy leans down and kisses me. I kiss him back.
I hear sirens in the distance. For the first time, I'm scared. Those sirens are ruining my moment with Andy, possibly my very last. And then, under the warm sun, marinating in my own blood, I see it.
I see how he sees me. He sees the long, wavy black hair. He sees the clear, fair skin. He sees the round, full, perfectly pink lips. He sees the naturally rosy cheeks.
But he also sees ME. The real me. He sees my snarky sense of humor, my sarcasm, my need to strive for success, my dream of being a poet. And, I know that inexplicably, he sees my longing for him. And now, I see his longing for me.
And I also know, as his arms wrap around me and his warms tears trickle down my face, that he, like everyone else, thinks I'm pretty. Not the physical kind of pretty, though. The other kind. The real kind. Not the kind Ally Simmons is. I am the kind of pretty that girls like Ally Simmons will never be. I decide to embrace it, as I am embracing Andy.
He kisses me sweetly on forehead, and I realize that I'm crying too. I hear medics running around, shouting orders at each other and us. We just stare at each other silently.
"I promise," he whispers, and looks to be beyond the point of words.
I smile sadly at him. I have aged a hundred years in just two minutes.
"I love you," I whisper. And I don't even get to hear Andy say it to me, because after I say that to him, I'm just...