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Red Striped Sweater
Stella awoke at 6:00 A.M. She groaned and turned off her alarm. She laid in bed, thinking for a moment. Maybe today will be a good day. She got out of bed and stumbled into the shower. The water ran down Stella's back, stinging the scars on her vertabrae. She gasped from the pain and flinched. Tears streamed from her eyes, blending in with the water from the showerhead. Blending in as usual.
After showering, she decided to get dressed. She pulled a sweater with red stripes on it. She froze. She was wearing that when he...
“Shh, Stella, it's okay...”
“No, it's not okay! Everything is wrong!”
“I can't take this anymore.”
“What? Where are you going? Jesse!”
Stella fell to the floor. She buried her face into the sweater and breathed, just for a moment.. Then she got up, pulled herself together and put on a blue tee instead. Ugh, I'm so fat. She pinched her side and grimaced. Since the seventh grade, food had been her only friend. Food was nice and didn't tease you when you got a big pimple on your forehead. She sighed, resolved to exercise later, and headed off to school.
As she walked in, she heard kids shouting, laughter, and bleeping cell phones. Stella sighed and ducked her head away. Nobody noticed her. She hid in the bathroom until the warning bell rang for first period. She slipped into the classroom quietly. A scary girl with a lip piercing and blue hair sat down next to her. Neither of them said anything to each other. Stella hunched over, focused on taking notes. Her shirt slid up slightly in the back. Two girls in the row behind her saw the scars and looked at each other with widened eyes. But they were too afraid to say anything. Maybe they didn't care.
The bell rang. Stella trudged through a few more classes and then it was time for lunch. They were serving pepperoni pizza. She put a slice on her tray, the smell wafting up toward her nose. She selected a large cookie and a bottle of juice. Stella walked out to the tables. As usual, there was nobody she wanted to sit with. She took her lunch to the bathroom and ate in a stall. She heard a couple cheerleaders walk in. She sat cross-legged in the stall so they wouldn't see her feet.
“Ehmagawd, Jesse Falkins is soooo cute!” one of them squealed.
“I know, right? Who was that kinda chubby girl he dated? Starla?” the other answered.
Stella's cheeks turned red and she tried not to cry.
“He could do wayyyy better. That girl wasn't even on the social radar,” said another.
“Oh, hey, Jenny, you've got some lip gloss on your teeth,” one said.
“I do? Oh, thanks babe!” said Jenny.
“Have you ever noticed those weird scars on her back?”
“Yeah, what's up with that?”
“Hmm, no idea. Oh, we better go, lunch is almost over!”
The girls left. Stella burst into tears. She hated herself and the world and everyone and everything in it. She was ugly and fat and stupid and didn't deserve to have a life. Those scars screamed out that story like nothing else ever could. No wonder Jesse dumped me, she thought.
Stella heard footsteps. Teacher footsteps with sensible shoes. Stella tried to control her sobbing, but she just couldn't hold it together anymore.
“Hello? Are you all right?” the teacher said.
“Sweetheart? Is everything okay?”
Stella attempted to say yes, but she knew it wasn't convincing.
“Honey, come out here.”
Stella put down her tray and stepped outside the stall, wiping the tears off her face.
“Shhh....” the teacher said. She pulled a piece of paper and a pen and wrote down a name and phone number.
“This is the number for a counselor at Oak Clinic on 24th street. I really think she could help you,” she said.
“Thank you,” Stella choked out.
“Don't worry,” the teacher said. “Someday, you will shine, just like you were meant to.”