September 22, 2012
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The pale skin of Sam’s bony shoulder peaked out, her favorite bright yellow sweatshirt was slipping down towards the middle of her bicep, revealing a cut full of drying blood and a bruise that covered more of her shoulder than a cap sleeve would. She quickly re-centered the sweatshirt on her body and cuddled up in the extra fabric, having bought one size too big. She placed her backpack on a bench in the hallway as the group of girls she called her friends did the same. One of them had clearly seen the less than perfect shoulder, and saw no reason not to bring it to the attention of the entire group. She reached over to Sam and pulled at the hood of the yellow sweatshirt, leaving the right shoulder exposed once again. The entire group stared at the joint. Sam quickly tugged the sweatshirt back into place, and started chipping away at this week’s manicure.
“Sammy, what the hell happened to you?” One of them asked.
“Oh that? It’s nothing. I slipped in the shower the other day, it’s like way hard to shave and sing Britney to yourself at the same time.” Sam forced herself to smile, hoping a Britney Spears reference would throw everyone off her case.
“OMG I totes sing toxic to myself like every morning. That song has the best music video ever made,” the second one chimed in. Sam knew the girls too well.
“You always were like way clumsier than the rest of us, SamSam, I guess it’s just that secret tomboy in you,” the third said, bringing the conversation back to Sam’s imperfections. Number three had said tomboy as if it was some sort of transmitted disease, something so gross you were never allowed to discuss it publicly.
“It’s lucky you’ve always been so pretty, otherwise we never would have spotted you as a potential clique-mate.” The first girl said this and thought she was being super sweet, meaning it as a compliment. Sam had never in her life felt lucky that she was pretty; it didn’t seem to have gotten her anywhere good thus far.
“Maybe we should give you gracefulness classes,” suggested the third girl innocently. They treated Sam as if she were an underprivileged student in need of free SAT prep classes. They wanted to teach her how to take on the world in the same way everyone else already could.
“We’ll go shopping after school. You’re gonna need a new dress for homecoming. Good thing long sleeves are trendy.” The second spoke, one and three nodded in agreement.

Just as Sam was thinking of a good excuse for why she couldn’t join them in the festivities that shopping entailed, two arms wrapped around her torso as her smiling boyfriend kissed the top of her forehead. “Hey, beautiful,” he whispered, quite enough to feel like it was just for her, but loud enough so the girls could hear. The six eyes of the girls transformed, no longer looking at Sam with eyes of pity but with eyes of green envy, as if she was the luckiest girl in the world. She was lucky, lucky for having him. She knew that he was the most amazing guy in the world and she knew that they knew it too. It was almost better to know they wanted him, regardless of how much she wanted him herself. He made her feel special; she’d never been special. “Braanndonnn,” girl number two whined cutely, “have you seen Sam’s shoulder? She’s all torn up. You really need to start protecting your girlfriend the way you protect that goal on the soccer field.” His smile faded from a real one to a forced one, but only Sam would have been able to tell. He kept his arms wrapped around her, his chin comfortably resting on top of her head. “Don’t you girls worry, I think I do a pretty good job protecting Samantha.” He was the only one who called her by her full name and although she had insisted on being called some shortened version since kindergarten, she liked it when he called her that. It was long, and it was beautiful, and although it was supposed to be hers, it was his. She was his and nothing else she was seemed nearly as important. “Samantha, why don’t I give you a ride home? I wouldn’t want anything to happen to you while you were walking.” The girls all thought he was the sweetest, wishing it were their legs getting a break in his car. Sam thought it was ironic that he was the person in charge of protecting her. She needed lessons in grace and lessons in being good. He was perfect but she was not. She was bad all the time he told her, and every time he hit her, she deserved it.
The bruises and cuts reminded her she needed to be better. They reminded her that soon she would need a bigger yellow sweatshirt to cover up all her problems. She waved goodbye to her friends and as she walked with him she started chipping all the nail polish off her other hand.

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