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Who gets to decide who she is, anyway? She felt hot tears at the back of her eyes, a warm, moist, uncomfortable wetness. She pulled her hand to her face, but then put it back down in her lap, curled it into a tight fist.
She wondered what made them all scared. Was it her make up? Her clothes? Her attitude? A culmination of all three?
“Trinity Banes,” the secretary called. She had frizzy blonde hair and a wart on her nose. The woman examines her clothes with a disapproving eye. “The principal will see you now.”
“It’s Trinny,” she murmured. She took a shaky breath. There was something so artificial about the school’s office. With its febreeze scent, its lackluster walls painted the color of mustard; the official nametags on everyone’s desk, Mrs. Joan Foster, Mr. Henry Gibbs, nothing quite seemed real. Everything was clean and organized and perfect. So da** perfect, like snow before its been touched or windows that have never met human hands. No smudges or stains, no imperfections or defects.
Trinny pushed open the door and there was Mr. Gibbs, a tall, powerful man with hands the size of dictionaries and eyes gray and shiny like a wolf. He seems to be waiting for Trinny, sitting back in his plush, black chair more suited for a living room than a school. His wolf eyes are narrow, his mouth set in a permanent pout.
“Ms. Trinity Banes?” He asked, confirming who she was.
“It’s Trinny,”she corrected, not meeting her principal’s eye.
“Please sit,” he pointed to the chair opposite his desk. She walked numbly towards it, her eyes to the ground as she sat. Her hands were entangled together as she restlessly twisted them around each other again and again. She tried to remember if she had taken her anxiety medication today. Her feet bounced up and down beneath her, dancing all on their own.
Mr. Gibbs stared intently at a file that lay on his desk. “You’re a….sophomore, yes?”
“Honors English, honors history.” He read. Then he looked up, staring at Trinny with penetrating eyes. He seemed to be examining her, breaking her apart into pieces and scrutinizing each one, criticizing them and throwing them aside. Her dark makeup and black clothes, her greasy hair and tattooed legs.
“Ms. Banes, don’t you want people to take you seriously?”
She blushed and nodded, simultaneously insulted and insecure. It was all very strange, very surreal, to see this strong, macho man with his brow furrowed together and his eyes creased with contempt. It felt almost powerful.
“Your teachers are not satisfied with the way you dress in class. The way you behave yourself.” He paused for a response, but Trinny was silent. “Your chemistry teacher sent you home last week to put on your uniform. You refused.”
Trinny nodded her head.
“Well, explain yourself.”
Trinny’s throat went dry. It all made sense in her head. How she felt so alone and so lost…her clothes and her makeup, her tattoos, they all made a nice shield away from the world. They were how she survived high school, how she survived the girls whose eyes ripped her apart and laughed in her face, the boys who whispered about what a freak she was. The teachers who couldn’t understand her and the parents who thought she was a bad influence. She couldn’t just play along in these trivial games, wear clothes from Hollister and Abercrombie, straighten her hair and wear sparkly eyeshadow. She couldn’t fit herself into the tiny box that was high school; she was sure, if she tried, she would suffocate.
“I….it’s just that-“
“Out with it, Trinity.”
“It’s Trinny,” was all she could manage. Mr. Gibbs raised an eyebrow and smirked. Trinny’s shoulders tightened with discomfort; muscles carrying guilt and anxiety, worry and insecurity, twisting beneath flesh that burned hot with shame. She couldn’t be who they wanted her to be.
“If you choose not to follow the rules, Ms. Banes, I’ll have no choice but to expel you.”
Trinny sat very still, focusing on a mug that sat on the principal’s desk. World’s best husband. She wondered what it felt like to be so loved by someone they bought you a mug. A cheap, generic, utterly typical gift that managed to be lame and perfect at the same time.
“Ms. Banes, do you understand me?”
And she wondered, for once, what it was like to be Mr. Biggs with his big hands and his starched suits and his fake smile. She wondered what it was like to encourage diversity but reprimand differences.
“Ms. Banes, answer me!”
She itched her leg, right on the mouth of her horse tattoo. She glanced at its long limbs, could see the strain of a muscle in its leg. She had intended for the horse to look contemplative and brooding, to maybe mirror how she often felt. Instead, the tattoo artist had made the horse’s mouth slightly open, her eyes wild, as if the animal was caught in that quiet, desperate moment before a scream came.
It’s Trinny, Mr. Biggs. Trinny.