Welcome to boarding school. A four-year long sanctuary for exceptional teenagers to improve their already amazing academic results and sports performances; all with the goal of eventually landing you in a JCrew U.
I had just entered a new world. The world in which the ivy that covers the century-old walls pulls tightly at your morality and judgment.
Just standing there, on a step, out front of the Main School Building, I could notice a few crucial things. The first thing I noticed was that while other girls proudly strutted around in a pair of Jack Rogers sandals, I wore a pair of well used White Supergas. The second thing that I noticed was everybody was clumped into little lookalike cliques; the only criteria being that you fit the particular clique’s ideals. Whether that ideal was a behavioral trait or a certain appearance being maintained was up to the clique itself. The third and most important thing I noticed was that while others traveled in packs along Bander Lane, I stood alone.
International was a word that was used to describe me a lot in the first few days. I had come a day earlier than everyone else. It was supposed to help us be settled in; I would soon learn that no amount of extra time would ever help me be settled. After a full day of orientational activities, I come back to find my parents gone. The only sign of their existence in my room was a note hung up on my pin board, “We love you Annabelle, XOXO Mommy, and Daddio”.
That night, I was one of two girls in my dorm. I was all alone. I slept with my light on that night, too scared to turn it off. Over the course of the night, the light flickered out. To this day, I still hope that my mom came to my dorm room that night and turned off my light, just as she had done for the last 14 years of her life.
When I first entered this prep school, I only knew one person- Simone Gardens. She was round faced with long silky chocolate colored hair. We had met through a family friend. The first days of school I latched onto Simone. I was like a leech, clinging onto her and the friends that she had made. I told myself that I was happy, I wanted to believe so badly that Simone, Holly, Cara, Maddison, Monique and Peyton were my group. My very own personal clique.
This parallel reality that I had created for myself, where everything was happy and shiny and I had a popular group of friends, started to slowly fade away after the first dance of the year: Disco Night. This was no regular ‘80s themed dance where people dressed up in neon colored jumpsuits and where disco balls glimmered and shined the whole night long. This was the kind of dance where girls spent hours coating their faces with overly expensive makeup. This was the type of dance where girls were encouraged to wear tight spandex dresses and order costumes from lingerie websites.
The night of the dance, I went upstairs to Simone and Holly’s room in a sparkly romper from Zara and white converse, to find that I looked completely different from the six girls standing in front of me. As Maddison half-heartedly lined my eyes with a jet black eye pencil, I could see disapproving looks wafting from Simone, Holly, Maddison, Monique, Peyton and Cara’s narrow mini scuba skirts and lacy bralettes. With that, I quickly switched into a pair of Cara’s 4-inch stiletto black heels and Holly’s black lace, tight fitting, a pencil dress and ran out the door with my “new best friends”. Along with the sparkly plum colored romper that I left behind, I also left behind a small piece of myself.
During the night, I tried to enjoy myself, but the moshpit of teenagers that surrounded me was starting to make it a little bit hard to. The first hour or so I giddily jumped around with the girls but over the course of the next 30 minutes, the four of them peeled off. One at a time. They had left to go make- out with their respective crushes. Left me all alone, dancing to “This is what you Came For” by Calvin Harris. For those of you who don’t know, the song starts as followed:
Baby, this is what you came for
Lightning strikes every time she moves
And everybody's watching her.
The song’s timing was quite ironic. The irony being that nobody was watching me. Nobody wanted to dance with me. Or even talk to me for that matter. It was at that moment at which I slipped away and returned back to my dorm.
At brunch the next morning, I spotted my “friends” sitting at a table on the left near the back of the dining hall. Cara, Holly, Maddison, Peyton and Monique were all there along with Blanche and Imogen. Simone was the only one not there. With half a strawberry waffle in one hand and a glass of chocolate milk in the other, I made my way over to sit with them. With every step that I took closer to them, I could see their happy, laughing faces slowly turn to frowns and their conversation lesson.
“Hey guys!”, I said with a massive but forced smile.
Almost in unison, they looked up. Just as quickly they had looked up, they looked straight back down. Not a peep. Not even a simple smile or nod to acknowledge my presence. Nothing.
I ran back to my dorm. Correction. I raced back to my dorm. I tried to hold back the thunderstorm that was forming in my eyes. Bubbles of oxygen try to enter my throat. I feel that suckle of fear nipping the back of my spine, making it’s way up through my trachea, bouncing through my naval cavity and shocking my brain, ultimately triggering the appropriate emotional reaction; panic, fear, and sadness. Once safely tucked away in a secluded corner of my room, I let it all out. Buckets of tears poured out of my swollen eyes and puddles formed on the ground around me. For hours, I sat in a wet ditch of salty tears and human misery.
Oceans of tears and hurricanes of exasperated breathes gushed into my mom’s phone. I could hear the sighs of despair my mom let out through my heaving gasps and pants. I don’t remember how long I sat there crying into my phone. No words were spoken on my behalf for an extended period of time. I did not need to talk, the gallons of tears bursting out of my tear ducts did all the talking for me.
“Sweetie”, my mom finally broke the silence with a soft tone, “ Do you need to talk to someone, you know your proctors are always there for you to talk to”.
With that, I hung up the phone then promptly curled up in a ball of self-pity and shame. Didn’t she understand? I was trying to talk to her! I had no intention of talking to the self-centered, popularity seeking, supposedly super sweet proctors that lived on my hall.
Proctor was a term used for an upperclassman that lived on a hall with underclassman. Their assignment; to help the underclassman get adjusted to the school and help through any problems. Currently, my proctors, Sierra and Annalise were receiving a failing grade from me.
Annalise, Alise she called herself, was a senior from the heart of New York City. Born and raised on the Upper East Side, Alise had become a custom to a certain lifestyle. She walked with a certain gravitas that made her hard to approach. She was incredibly mature and she made sure everybody knew that. She wore a very different face with me then she wore with the more popular people on my hall. In the beginning, she made a bit of an effort to get to know everyone on the hall but by the time October had rolled around, she had made it very clear whom she preferred.
Sierra, on the other hand, was very bubbly and incredibly socially outgoing. Her height and her long bouncy brown hair created the perfect dynamic duo. Sierra was defiantly more compassionate and genuinely nice. However, she had a certain way of spinning our dorm activities to her social favor.
While Alise and Sierra’s social calendars were completely booked with parties and nights out, my calendar was fully booked with alone time (aka cry time). I spent my free time curled up in a little area in the back right corner of my room. Because I was spending so much time there, I decided to decorate it a bit. A soft eggshell rug was laid down on the ground in the corner, I draped a soft pink fuzzy blanket over the top of the rug and placed a few pillows against the wall. After adorning the wall above with fairy lights, I took a small container box and put a few books on top of it. And there it was; my sanctuary. On the weekends, I would sit in my little corner and read a book or cry.
At night as I went to sleep, I looked up at the pin board above my bed. I thought it was a great idea to have pictures of my friends and family but all it was doing was making me miss the more. I missed my best friend Sam and I missed my mom, I missed my sisters Anna and Addie and I missed my old life. My mind pictured all the things I was missing out on. I wanted to rip the pictures apart, tear them, break them, until there was nothing left of the small fragments of love, laughter and hope each picture represented. However, I could not bring myself tear the pictures up, for if I were to, I would be destroying the small amount of hope I still had that one day I could possibly return to that life. The life I so badly longed for.