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Mandy lived in Tewksbury, Massachusetts. She lived a tough life, even though it didn’t show on the outside. At a first glance, Mandy had many friends, good grades, a nice family, and nothing that extremely differentiated her from everyone else. But to the trained eye, Mandy had one or two good friends and many people whom she secretly hated, a lack of enthusiasm for most of her classes, an annoying family that restricted her in too many ways, and she was a lesbian. Mandy pretended all day long. And it was about to break her. Then Mandy got to know Natasha. Natasha brought her back to life, then killed her again.
Mandy was going to her first class of the day, Chemistry. She was a little heartbroken, and a lot fed up with girls. The girl she wanted to date, Serenity, had just moved. They were really close, and if it weren’t for the fact that Serenity was straight, they probably would have had a great relationship. Except Mandy always fell for the straight girls. As Mandy walked into the room, dreading the next hour and a half, something shoved her stomach. From the inside, of course, no one would ever punch Mandy Heartwright. She had an hard exterior that was not afraid to fight back.
Anyway, her stomach felt the tug. Mandy ignored it, happy that she could feel anything after all the numbing pain at the loss of her best friend and love. Mandy was subconsciously aware and afraid that she was depressed, because everyday she would wake up apathetic and sad. Just going through the motions. Like now, when she sat down next to her friend Brenda. Brenda always made her laugh, which was just what Mandy needed right now.
The girl in front of them turned around and said, “Hey, Mandy, did you do the homework last night, or were you too busy listening to god-awful country music?”
Mandy made a face and said, “Shut up, Natasha. Why don’t you just turn around and keep obsessing over your sh***y music, or better yet, softball. Because we all find that so entertaining.” Brenda laughed, and Natasha was about to argue back when the teacher walked in and started the class. Mandy breathed a silent sigh of relief. She didn’t have the energy, heart, or will to fight Natasha.
However, Natasha doesn’t let things go easily. That day at lunch, she caught up with Mandy and kept their conversation going. “I bet you couldn’t play a softball game. It requires exercise, athleticism, and skill.”
“I didn’t say I could, Natasha. I said it was boring.”
“Well it’s not. It’s much more exciting when you’re playing, which you couldn’t.”
“Oh my god. Natasha. Drop it. I don’t care about stupid softball, whether I can play it or not, or how not exciting it is.”
“Softball is such a great game!”
“Fine. If it’s such a great game, I’ll go to all of yours. And I’ll cheer you on, and make a huge scene about it. Oh, and I’ll make sure to stare at all the hot girls’ a**es.”
“No! Don’t come, and definitely don’t check out the girls. That’s weird.”
“Well, now I’m definitely coming! ’Bye Natasha.”
“No! Wait…” but Mandy was already gone. The plan, and the future, was set.
The next day, Mandy went to the softball game. And promptly fell asleep. She woke up alone, and walked home. This continued for the next few games, until one day she payed attention. She decided that if so many people could love it so much, maybe she would too. Mandy had a very open mind, and was not opposed to try new things. It didn’t hurt matters that all the girls wore tight pants. And yes, admittedly, she did look at all the girls’ rear-ends.
But she couldn’t tell who’s rump was who’s, because the batters were all wearing helmets with their backs to her. And lord knows Mandy didn’t know any of their numbers. So when Number 9 stepped up to bat, all Mandy knew was that she played for their school team and she had a great butt. Mandy had no repercussions about checking out these girls because she didn’t know anyone else who was gay, and therefore it was impossible for her to get a girlfriend. So she figured she would have her fun only in her head.
Anyway, Mandy watched Number 9 every game from then on. Weeks went by, and she was dying to know who this girl was. She didn’t want to ask Natasha, because then Natasha would know who Mandy thought was hot and Mandy would never hear the end of it. Plus, she just didn’t trust Natasha that much. She seemed like the type of girl who couldn’t keep a secret. But they talked about it. In the beginning, Natasha kept making fun of Mandy. She called her “The Lesbian”, which hurt Mandy, but she would never show it. As they talked, the girls got to know each other better. They were becoming friends. And with that, they learned about each other’s likes and dislikes, habits, pet peeves, and lives. It was unhealthy for Mandy, because Natasha judged her on everything: her taste in music, movies, and books; her friends; her taste in clothes and decorations; her work ethic; her daily life; her hobbies; they way she treated her family and friends; her celebrity crushes; and, indirectly, her aspirations, hopes, and dreams. Even her lesbianism and vegetarianism were not safe. Brought up in every conversation, Mandy was abused for her personality traits and life choices. And not even when Mandy got sick would Natasha let up. Mandy got shingles, and Natasha thought it was funny, completely ignoring the pain Mandy was in.
However, through all the abuse, Mandy kept hanging out with Natasha. She had no choice, because Mandy was starting to like Natasha as more than a friend. It was just another straight girl who would break her heart, she knew, but it couldn’t be helped. The heart wants what the heart wants, and Mandy’s heart wanted what it couldn’t have. It wasn’t all sad, though. Liking someone new brought Mandy out of her heartbroken slump that Serenity had left behind. And whenever the heaviness of liking Natasha and not being able to feel those feelings reciprocated, Mandy just thought of Number 9 and her great a**. It made the whole world seem better, as a good mystery does. Constantly, perhaps a little obsessively, Mandy wondered who she was. Until the last game. When Number 9 took off her batting helmet in clear view of the bleachers where Mandy was sitting. Mandy almost fell over. It was Natasha.
“How could I have not known?” Mandy asked herself as she walked home. She straggled from side to side, not aware of where she was going. She trusted her legs to take her home. “It should have been obvious. I mean, Natasha’s my friend. How did her jersey number not come up in conversation? Or was I too busy staring at her? Da** my hormones!” This last bit she shouted in her head and groaned out loud. It was going to be a tough week.
Mandy didn’t know when she decided to tell Natasha exactly, but she thought it was Friday, two weeks before school ended. It was raining, and her family was in New Hampshire for the weekend. Mandy felt awful. Natasha, despite their constant arguing and teasing, was her very good friend. And Mandy thought she was perfect. Maybe that’s why she put up with all the bulls*** Natasha put her through. Because in her mind, Natasha could do no wrong. Anyway, Mandy felt that there was a wall between her and Natasha that was her crush. And more than anything, Mandy wanted that wall to be taken down. Nothing between them, no secrets. It was killing her, bursting at the seams. When Mandy had liked Serenity, she dreaded the thought of Serenity finding out. But all she wanted to do was tell Natasha. So she did. That Friday night. It was easy, and through text. Natasha was uncharacteristically nice and understanding. But then the bomb dropped. Natasha, after their conversation about how Mandy liked her was over, said that she liked their friend Charlie. It was tactless, and stabbed through Mandy like a knife cuts through butter, but she stayed strong. She pretended it was okay. That she was okay. Even when she put herself and her feelings out in the open she had to pretend.
Seeing Natasha the next Monday was awkward. First Mandy avoided her. She talked to people she barely knew, to avoid Natasha. But she managed to notice Natasha talking to Charlie. When she walked into Chemistry, she made sure it was after Natasha. Mandy smiled nervously and stared at the floor, the ceiling, the wall, the spot over Natasha’s shoulder, anywhere but directly at her face. Finally Natasha took control and said, “Just sit down, Mandy.” They sat next to each other now, and Brenda was a fast fading friend for Mandy. In fact, she put so much into her friendship with Natasha that all her others were fading. But she didn’t notice until it was too late.
They days went by and things were okay again. Natasha made less fun of her, and they argued less. Mandy chalked it up to the fact that Natasha felt sorry for her, or maybe it was because Natasha felt weird around her. Like they were just meeting for the first time. But she didn’t know for sure. All she knew was that she was happy.
But that didn’t last. Eventually, Natasha went back to her old ways. Perhaps even more so than before. Every day Mandy woke up feeling hopeful and happy at seeing Natasha, and every day she went to bed feeling inconceivably sad at how her life was turning out. She thought, “Why can’t I do more for me? Why can’t I ever do anything? Why can’t I be more like Natasha? Why won’t she stop hurting me? Why won’t she stop the taunting, the comments, and the arguments? Doesn’t she see how much I’m hurting on the inside? My world almost completely revolves around her, and she just throws me aside for Charlie.” Mandy was exaggerating about Natasha throwing her aside for Charlie, and she knew it. But it sure felt like Natasha was. What was worse, Mandy thought she was depressed. Completely depressed. Day and night, she just wished she could be loved by some nice girl whom she loved back just as strongly. But Mandy had already been to therapy. It worked temporarily. But what really helped was her writing. Natasha made fun of it, saying Mandy was just being a Francine, a girl in her grade that was very annoying. But it allowed Mandy to show her true feelings without any consequences. So she wrote fantasies about what her life should be like in her head. She planned them out at night before she fell asleep. And she actually wrote things too. Short stories and a book, on her computer. Her rock to keep her afloat when the river of life got too fast and rough.
One day, a day when Mandy was feeling more herself and less of an empty shell walking around going through the motions of living, she rethought her questions about Natasha, and realized that she had no right to be thinking such things. Of course Natasha had no idea how Mandy was thinking, because Mandy had never told her. So Mandy got her computer and wrote a story. It was the story of her journey through becoming friends with Natasha, growing feelings for her, happily rising above the world like a wave, then crashing back down to earth in a frenzy of feelings and remorse. Mandy poured out her feelings to Natasha in the story, planning to give it to her. How Mandy now didn’t even want to like Natasha anymore because of how she treated her, their constant arguments, and their differing tastes. But she couldn’t stop herself, and ended up getting hurt every day. Mandy wrote this story because she was tired of pretending. Pretending she was fine with everyone making comments and asking stupid questions about her sexual orientation. Pretending the people around her who thought they were friends with her weren’t totally obnoxious. Pretending she wasn’t dead scared that she was in love with Natasha. The thought haunted her and she prayed it wasn’t real. Mandy hoped the story would cause Natasha to empathize with her, and force her to control her tongue when she wanted to make a comment about Mandy. Because Mandy was tired of not speaking up. She was tired of living her life. All she wanted to do was cry. But she couldn’t. And isn’t that the saddest part of all?