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Home Sweet Home
They are the perfect ones. Glossy, straightened hair held up in ponytails. Faces caked in makeup, creating large eyes, long lashes, flawless skin, perfectly shaped red lips. Compared to your rough, frizzy hair and acne, they were angels, and you couldn’t help but wonder what it was like to be them. As the bus rumbles along the road, you silently blend in with the cool steel wall, tucked away in the corner of the very back seat. Snatches of their conversation, told in high, perfect voices, drift through the air.
“Did you hear about what Stephanie did? She was cheating on Brad with Jerry...”
“Oh my god, isn’t that, like, his fifth ISS this year?”
“I legit saw Paul smoking weed behind Dunkin Donuts yesterday...”
On the other side of the bus, you can hear the jocks talking about basketball or something, blasting rap music from their fancy headphones. The volume was so loud you could hear “Young, Wild, And Free” all the way over here- it’s a wonder they didn’t all go deaf. Every day, this was the routine- You sat, silent, day after day, and witnessed middle schoolers act like high schoolers. Smoking, drinking, and cheating in 8th grade? High school was going to be a nightmare.
“Hey, loser!” A high, birdlike voice calls in your direction, and you turn to see the fakest, meanest girl of them all. Long, straightened bleach blonde hair, twice more than the amount of eyeliner needed, icy blue eyes that stared straight through you. You try to ignore her but she smirks and starts pulling your hair and poking your face. You turn away, but her perfect little posse of friends join, and their words cut your heart like knives.
“Where’d you get that shirt? The Dumpster?”
“Ew, you’re so fat. Join a gym, won’t you?”
“Hey Rudolph, nice nose zit!”
You turn away as a tear slips down your cheek, and the bus pulls to a stop. Laughing and joking, the popular crowd all get off, texting on their iPhones, continuing the gossip fest. Some of the boys and girls grab hands and walk like that, laughing and talking to each other. Their neighborhood was standard paradise to a person like you. Big houses, colorful gardens, a pristine swimming pool in every backyard. There’s an expensive car in every driveway and a smiling mother at every door, waiting for their perfect children to come home. Later, around five, the father would come home from work, and they’d all sit down at the dinner table and have a normal family dinner time. The children would sit there and nod their heads in mutual agreement while the parents talked about politics. You could imagine this all in your head, even if your life was a far cry from being that perfect.
The bus doors close with a snap and the bus stumbles off down the road, sunlight catching chipped yellow paint, faded tires leaving the occasional mark on the smooth blacktop. You watch out the window as the picture-perfect neighborhood disappears in a cloud of exhaust before turning back to face the back of the seat in front of you. You pull at a loose thread on your faded gray zip-up sweatshirt and scuff your old sneakers on the rubbery floor of the bus. They didn’t understand. They didn’t understand how their words hurt you, how they affected you. You sniff and wipe your eyes as your sleeve falls back, revealing crisscrossed scars on your wrists.
Soon, with the sound of a dying raccoon, the bus screeches to a stop in front of your dusty, dirt driveway, vanishing into the woods. The doors open and you slowly step off, barely touching the ground before the bus is speeding off again, leaving you coughing in a cloud of dust and fumes.
Fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes is the walk along the winding driveway, surrounded by pine trees that stretch for miles in every direction. For fifteen minutes, there are no bullies, no angry teachers, no anyone. Silence is your best friend, the friend that you never have to talk to, the friend that gives you a shoulder to cry on. Silence was there for you when no one else was. And those fifteen minutes give you time to be alone with silence, your savior.
But fifteen minutes isn’t a very long time, and you soon reach a dilapidated old house. Paint is peeling off in big chunks and several windows are broken. Moldy curtains hang limp in the windows, and weeds stretch to almost four feet high in the once-beautiful and now neglected garden. An old, rusty truck sits the center of the yard. Then, as you are trudging up the sagging front steps, you hear the tinkling sound of broken glass, a man’s drunken yell, and a slap, followed by a woman’s muffled sobs.
Home sweet home.