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Walking down the hall I Ignored the welcome back posters and all the students milling around in back to school outfits, people shouted around me and lifted their hands in greeting to friends haven’t seen all summer long. I didn’t really have friends other then my best friend Azrael, but he wouldn’t be here this year to protect me from fearful glances and snide comments. I kept my head down, a curtain of red keeping the outside world away like the curtain of the stage, the thin line that keeps the crowd’s eyes from the stage and behind it all the actors and stage crew bustle around in preparation but on this stage it was only me trying to hide a bit longer before the big opening number. My shoes were the same scuffed up ballet flats from last year, but they still fit and didn’t have holes in them plus they were already broken in and wouldn’t give me blisters if I had to run into any bathrooms to cry. The pills rattled in the bottle at the bottom of my purse and I suppressed the urge to reach in and chew some up. The pills would keep me awake since my narcolepsy would make me slip into unconsciousness without even letting me think it through. It’s not like I wanted to fall asleep but sometimes it was a great way to escape, like the time where my ex-boyfriend had pressed me against the wall and started to fumble with my clothing even though I had said no, the air started getting too warm and I slipped into slumber without a sound. But other times it was like a punishment, like somehow I did something wrong and I didn’t know what, like the time that I fell asleep at lunch and woke up a minute later with the teacher shaking me, applesauce in my hair, and the entire ninth grade table laughing at me. I wore tank tops and shorts and even carried around an ice pack to keep me cold because warmth was one of my triggers and I didn’t want to fall asleep again in bio when we were dissecting a frog. For the most part people would avoid me, or act like I simply was faking my illness—that was fine by me—but the rest of the students looked at me like I was contagious, even if I wasn’t, and made rude comments, some of them not fit for repeating. I was the freak with the portwine-stained cheek and narcolepsy, and I was fine with that.
My first class was my homeroom with Mr. M, a middle aged man with graying hair and blue eyes, but I went to the office to have them register my medication with the nurse who was plump and had mousey brown hair that was piled in a bun high on her head like a crown. A small limp crown with flyaway brown hairs, but a crown nonetheless. Inside the little square office space teachers ran in and out grabbing copies, teacher planners, new markers and pencils, and text books that they would use to torture us slowly into a state of pure confusion, homework, and heavy backpacks that we would have to lug from class to class and then home where they would sit untouched and unnoticed. I made my way to the nurses station which smelled like band aids and pennies—which I accommodated with the smell of blood—and sat down hard on the cot that was free, the other one was occupied by a boy who laid with his head turned to the graffiti-covered wall, which was all the better considering he wouldn’t be able to see the ugly reddish bruise like birthmark that covered all the way from the underside of my eye to the tip of my chin like a misshapen moon. I waited, and waited, but the plump nurse—Nanciee as I had come to call her—did not show up.
“Have you been seen by the nurse?” I asked, inwardly flinching at my voice, too loud in the file cabinet cluttered room. Why was I yelling at a guy that was sitting twelve feet from me? He laid there with his face to the wall for so long that I thought he was asleep, so I started pouring out some pills from my pill bottle that I had pulled out of my bag while walking in, and jumped, spilling all the pills, when he answered.
“Not yet, but she should have been here already,” he started getting up and I automatically threw my hand up over my misshapen, purplish, moon. I watched out of the corner of my eye as he picked up my pills one-by-one and dropped them in his cupped palm. He was large, not in a chubby way, but a well developed muscles type of way, he had long dark hair that I couldn’t decide was black or dark brown, and he was tall, or atleast I guessed he was. He looked up; his eyes matched his hair and had freckles that were scattered over his face like an afterthought. “Why are you covering your face?” he asked shaking his hand with the pills clinking together in a soft clack, clack, clack. I looked down at the ground, which was an ugly shade of puke green and gonna-be-sick yellow.
“Because,” I answered simply, and held out my palm waiting for my pills. He just looked at my hand like I had just picked my nose with it and then wiped it on him. I still waited, one hand out-stretched and the other over my birthmark.
“Move your hand,” he shook the pills “and I’ll give them back,” I kept my hand where it was, covering the smooth, red mark that flawed my face. Why did I have so much trouble uncovering it for him when the rest of the world I didn’t care about?
“And if I don’t?”
“Then you wont get your pills back. What are these for anyway?” he said holding a blue, oval pill close to his eye.
“Narcolepsy,” I replied off hand. He looked at me and I could tell he was gauging my facial reaction to see if I was lying, and if he thought I was then he didn’t say anything, even though I knew I wasn’t.
“Well then you wont get them back no matter how much you beg me,” he laughed a playfully menacing laugh, you know the one that goes ‘muahahaha!’ even if the laugh was fake, it hurt my feelings. Damn! Why did I care so much? This was different then any reaction I had had with a total stranger. I shrugged and removed my hand letting it stray to my ear where it messed with a tiny stud earring. I waited for the gasp or the widening of eyes, but neither came, instead he reached out and placed the small pile of pills into the bottle and replaced the lid. “I’ve seen worse,” he said and smiled, which made my heart do a little leap. He didn’t care? Not even a little?
“Doesn’t it bug you?” I asked frowning in confusion at him. He did a one-shoulder shrug and got up.
“Like I said, I’ve seen worse,” with that he left the nurse’s office and the nurse came in. She registered my meds and then sent me on my way to my first period class, but all of that passed in a haze as I thought about the boy- I didn’t even know his name- who didn’t care about the ugly portwine-stain or the narcolepsy that skipped my nervous system.
In my next classes I hardly heard the ‘welcome back students’ spiel because my head was somewhere else entirely, which meant I was thinking abut Azrael and the fact that he was all the way in Egypt, which if you asked me was so much better then being trapped in this hell hole. My mind flit back and forth between nurse guy and Az thinking about how much I really wanted someone to talk to but the only people who would look at me kept snickering. At one point a girl with a silk scarf around her neck threw something at me, I ignored it for a while until scarf girl cupped her hand around her mouth and let out a soft PSST. I ignored that too but the girl kept doing it and so finally after a while I snapped my head around and stared at her.
“What’s up with your face?” she whisper asked, motioning with one manicured finger to her perfect little cheek, which of course was unmarked by an ugly portwine-stain. Even if she didn’t know, hurt uncurled it’s self in my stomach and worked it’s way up my spine. I didn’t think that the girl was trying to be mean but pointing out the stain only made it me want to hide more. I looked down at her hands, one dainty hand was covered in a silk clove, the same color as the scarf she wore around her neck. I wondered at this for a second or two before answering.
“It’s a birthmark that thing you think is so ugly,” I said, I could hear the hurt in my voice and I hated her instantly, just a normal reaction to anyone who was brave enough of pointing out my defect. I was known to be quite a b**** to anyone who did, but that’s just how I had grown to be. Like how my birth defect would turn rough and pebbly over time. That is how I came to be, hard and closed off, distinguished from everyone else and stood out like a sore thumb. The girl smiled at me, a flash of beautiful, straight, little teeth.
“I don’t think it’s ugly,” she tipped her head to the side, dark auburn hair slid past her ear. “In fact I wish I had one, kinda looks like a moon if you ask me and who wouldn’t want to have the moon on her cheek?” I looked at her wondering if she was joking or not, but her smile was warm and friendly. “My name is Trisha I’m new here nice to meet you,” she held out the gloved hand, which I shook.
“My name is Lorcresia, my friend calls me Crest It’s a mouthful I know,” I shrugged and turned back to the teacher who was just finishing the lecture on how we should treat each other as equals, call it irony maybe but I don’t believe in consequences and for the second time today I wondered why the hell I cared so much. The bell rang and everyone rose to their feet as if they were going to applaud the teacher or something.
“So Crest,” Trish said sidling up to me with a pink leather tote back swinging stylishly from her arm. I glanced at her hands, this time both of them were covered in soft pink silk gloves. “I was thinking you and me could go to the mall today,” she continued on, bouncing on her little tiny feet.
“I…uh…why?” I asked nervously pulling my red hair over my cheek, a natural reaction to stress. She slapped my arm lightly and laughed a big HEE HAW as if I had just said the funniest thing in the world. She glances at my face and then fiddles with a big tear drop earring as if suddenly embarrassed.
“Well since I am new here and don’t really have any friends I thought that maybe you wanted to hang out,” she said still playing with that damned earring. I laughed a little; she looked like a scared little bunny, a very pink bunny but a scared one. I shrugged. Why not?
“Sure,” I said and the look that came over her face was like she had just received a gift from god. “But,” —I continued and rushed on when her face fell— “You have to buy me a mocha,” her smile returned and this time I smiled with her feeling a new kinship of closeness with the somewhat stranger.
We left the classroom and she fumbled with her bag chatting all the way to the parking lot, she pulled out a little mess of keys that were hooked to a sparkly lanyard. Man this girl was stylish all the way to her toes! And mentally I looked at myself. Dark red hair with drooping, strange gold colored eyes, a portwine-stain that bloomed over my pale cheek, I was dressed in a dark green knitted sweater that was pulled over black leggings and beat up black flats decorated my feet. I was a wreck, but I really didn’t really need to look good for anyone since no one really looked at me. She hit the fob and a little red thing of a car chirped as if happy to see its owner. I smiled to myself and threw my black bag into the back seat and clambered into the front. Trisha and I were the same height, short with tiny portions, and for once I was happy I was small because everything that Trisha owned was small, like we were so I felt like I belonged and for a second I forgot that I had an ugly stain on my cheek, and I could fall asleep at any given second. I messed with the radio tuner, flipping it from hip-hop to alternative, undeceive.
“Oh my god! I love this song,” Trisha squealed and turned up the radio singing along with it, I knew the song and I sang well but I didn’t want to open my mouth and let the lyrics tumble out. So instead I hummed and tapped out the rhythm on my thigh. When we got to the mall I let myself out and grabbed my purse from my backpack.
We entered the mall in the perfume section, instantly the ladies started to throw pitches for scents they thought we would like to have. Which we didn’t really care about but we smiled, politely said no and kept on our path to a store I didn’t know the name of but had mannequins dressed in lacey short dresses, paired with big floppy hats and strappy sandal heels. Trisha threw open the big glass doors with gusto and euphoria, the women looked up and waved to her.
“Lacy, Jeaelle, Havala, this is Crest, we want something to go with her beautiful hair and ivory skin we also want some low heels that match, I’ll be buying. Bring us some drinks?” I stared at Trisha and at the three women who were scribbling away on a legal pad; they smiled at me and seemed to not notice the big stain over my cheek. They hurried us into the back and had us sit on a comfortable couch; on the other wall was a closed off room and a body length mirror with sides that curled a little so you could see the back.
“Uh, Trisha?” I said shifting uncomfortably on the couch, crossing my ankles over and over again. “What was that?” she looked at me with confusion on her face and then the look passed and leaned back on the couch.
“What? That?” she hooked her thumb back to the main room that was shielded behind a beaded curtain. “They work for my dad, he owns this mall now,” she said off hand like it was no big deal, but I felt my eyes widen to the size of dinner plates.
“He what!” I practically yelled as she fiddled with her cell phone that was bedazzled out in funky colors.
“He owns the mall,”
“This mall? The one that we are currently sitting in ordering around the employees? “ My voice was shrill even to my own ears, Trisha did the one shoulder shrug again and I sank into the back of the couch eyes still wide. What the hell was I doing here with someone so rich when I myself had to scrounge up the money just to go on the lousy camping trip in a few weeks, the one that I really didn’t want to go to but my mother insisted I did. Soon people started to fill up the small space around me, I was used to people but not so many with lacey dresses, tight pants, and loose shirts that billowed around the middle and were tighter at the top then I would have liked. Tape measures were being passed around and shoes were piled in the corner, made up to look like a small pyramid. I just started, after a while of my staring everyone had left and we were left with two bubble teas and about a million different articles of clothing that ranged in colors from deep purple all the way to soft pink. I wondered briefly what was for me to try on and what was for Trisha, then I remembered her saying to pick out everything for me and my shoulders sagged, how was I going to afford all this stuff? I looked at Trisha who made herself comfortable and was sipping her bubble tea from an overly large straw peering at me from expectant dark eyes.
“I can’t afford all this stuff,” I said simply fingering a pale yellow cashmere sweater; it was as soft as a duckling and looked like it would fit me to the most comfortable standard.
“You wont, I will,” I pulled the sweater into my lap and looked at the price tag. My head spun and the room went with it, a hundred and twenty dollars?
“You can’t!” I squeaked, feeling helpless and inferior. Trisha sipped through her straw calmly.
“I can, and I will. Daddy says I have no limit. After we shop I will call my Daddy’s driver have him come pick up all the bags and boxes, then we will go to dinner. And you will have no problem with this because you are very, very nice and you like that sweater in your lap,” I looked down at it and ran my hand over it again. I did like the sweater but it wasn’t that I was worried about.
“Your sure about this?” Trisha gave me a once over and nodded. The nod was solemn and gave you no room to argue. Guess I was going to be getting a new wardrobe.
I tried on a lot of things, dresses, skirts, shorts, tops, scarves, hats, and jewelry and whatever Trisha liked, I got. It was simple. Then when the fashion show was over she hit something on the keypad on her phone and held it up to her dainty ear.
“Bash, come get these bags will you? I’m at the mall in Flure and Mitchella,” then she hung up and grabbed up the yellow sweater, some white shorts and some wedged shoes that had ribbons that tied around my ankles. “This is what you are going to wear,” then she promptly dumped everything in my purse into a white satchel. I stared but I changed into the outfit. My white take top was just a tad bit longer then the sweater and the shorts fit perfectly, I put on the wedges and tied the yellow and white stripped ribbons around my ankles. By the time I stood up and brushed some red hair from my shoulder I felt like someone new. I felt like I wasn’t invisible, like the birthmark wasn’t there somehow. But I looked at the mirror and my hope faded because there as it always was, was my misshapen moon. I squared my shoulders and then I left the dressing room. Trisha had her back to me talking to the store clerk who was smiling adoringly at her. Trisha touched the women and her smile widened; it was like Trisha was putting a spell on her. The clerk shrugged and went off somewhere in the back and came out with a small velvet box, she gave it to Trisha, smiled and then Trisha turned back to me box in hand.
“So, Bash should be here any moment, and then we can leave for dinner,” she set the box into a bag and got a brush and a bottle of something from her gigantic purse, along with a spray bottle with an orange nozzle. I blinked.
“What are you doing?” I said as she advanced towards me with it.
“Oh nothing much, just a spray here and there and a yank or two maybe,” I leapt from the spot I was standing a second too late, Trisha got me by the arm and pushed me onto the couch and then sat on me, while she styled my hair into tousled curls that hung down and around my shoulders. “Now for your makeup,” I put a hand up.
“No one does my makeup,”
“Look I’m going to do your makeup, you will like it, trust me,” she looked me in the eyes and a feeling of calm washed through me. I relaxed and let her rub in all of the creams and foundations, eye shadows and lipstick, then a quick swipe of mascara and I was done. My eyes were ringed with a thin black line thanks to eyeliner, and the soft yellow and orange that ringed my eyes were perfect and shaded. My lips looked like they were just kissed with a deep maroon tinge. I looked stunning. Then I noticed something missing, my portwine stain was covered, not just covered but completely the color of my skin. I went to touch where it had been, but Trisha slapped it away.
“You’ll rub it off,” I smiled at her and gave her a huge hug. I was so happy and excited I didn’t see the guy who walked in and started hauling our—excuse me, my—stuff outside, where a bag carrier waited. Trisha untangled herself from my hug and handed me my purse, then stuffed my old clothes into an empty bag.
“I have to go wee-wee!” She announced loudly like she was a child. “Be back in a jiff,” she winked at me and then bolted out of sight. A guy with dark hair entered the room, he wore a dark jacket and then he looked at me. He didn’t recognize me, but I did him. So nurse-guy was bag-boy? Which meant his name was Bash, right?
“So you don’t remember me?” Bash looked at me and lowered his head to a polite bow.
“Afraid not ma’am,” he said, her voice a deep bass that reverberated from the walls. I feigned hurt.
“It’s the nurse girl, you know the port-wine, narcoleptic, spasmodic girl who drops her pills?” he looked at me and frowned.
“Where’s your birth mark?” he said, staring hard at the spot, I squirmed under his stare.
“Well, uh, Trisha covered it up,” his frown deepened.
“I liked it better when you didn’t hide,” with that he left, and made me feel small again, then Trisha showed back up and looped her arm through mine.
“Din, din time!” She sang and I smiled letting my head be whisked into that happy feeling again. And For once in my life I missed my birthmark.