The birds chirping outside woke me up before my mom did. Here in Pushmataha, the sun is shining brightly and the air is lukewarm. Without an air conditioner, it feels like 80° degrees in here. On top of that, I share one tiny single room with my mom and my younger brother, Connor. Although the room is tiny and there is barely enough space, Connor and I would divide the room to ourselves. He would claim the left side of the room while I chose the right, which has a tiny window where I would look out sometimes during the night.
“Breakfast is ready!” my mom yelled from the kitchen. I quickly got up from my mat that I’ve been sleeping on for a while and stretch my sore back. After pacing around the room several times, I shake Connor awake. He scratches his head and I notice drools running down from his mouth. Ew! I made a disgusted face at him and he just grin at me.
“I’m hungry, Mel, “ he said as he rubs his tummy in a circular motion.
“Let’s go eat then, “ I replied. We race to the kitchen to see who can get there first. My feet shivers as I step on the cold cement floor and our footsteps echoes beneath us. As always, I would beat my brother to the kitchen first. My mom welcome us with a warm smile. Our kitchen is even smaller than our bedroom with a barely working stove and a running faucet. Sometimes we have to cook outside on a fire pit. While mom prepare the breakfast, Connor and I place newspapers on the floor and quickly position ourselves. Mom came back with exactly two glass of milk and two pieces of small bread.
“How about you, mom?” Connor asked, “aren’t you going to eat?”
“Oh, I already ate,” she responded. A lie. I can easily see it on her flushed face. And it’s been like that for a while and I hated it. I hate the fact that my mom starved herself to make sure Connor and I are well fed. Sometimes I wonder why we even have to go through this. But I remember, our world isn't filled with cupcakes and rainbows. I first heard this phrase in my favorite movie, “Trolls.” Although this is a fact, I am not able to accept it. All my life, I thought I was strong enough to fight back against this cruel world, but little did I know that it would be this hard. Before my mom and Connor could see my wrath, I storm out of the kitchen. Outside, I lazily poke at the ground. My mom followed me of course. My mom is someone who I might not have the best relationship with, but she knows me the best out of all the people I came in contact with.
Not knowing where to start, she offered, “Are you okay?”
I just shrug. “I guess,” I answered.
Without warning, she takes my hand and put it on top of hers. “I cannot promise you that everything will be okay,” she said, “but things will get better… soon.”
“How can you just say that?” I yelled at her and immediately regret. Connor is watching us from the front door so I lowered my voice. I don’t want Connor seeing me like this.
“Melissa, I have something to discuss with you,” my mom said suddenly, changing the topic. We pick a spot under an old oak tree in front of our house with Connor out of earshot.
“So, I’ve been waiting to tell you this,” she said excitedly.
“Go ahead,” I said casually.
“I know this might be hard for you to believe, but you’ve been selected by the district of Pushmataha County to attend Crystal High under a full ride scholarship!” she squealed.
“What!?” I exclaimed. I just look at her with a panic expression. Is she out of her mind? How on earth was I going to a school that is 2 hours away from home and is mostly filled with kids from upper classes?
“Uhhh.. this isn’t fair,” I fight through hot tears.
“It’s the best opportunity you can ever have,” my mom added.
With fists tightly clenched, I got up and storm out of my mom’s presence. Next week, I will have to transfer to Crystal High. No matter how I thought it through, this doesn’t seem right. I know I was one of those intelligent students in Pushmataha Academy who got pretty decent grades and was considered a good kid, but out of all those students, why me? Keeping all of my anger in, I squeezed a blue heart-shaped stress ball with all my strength. I really need help with finding better ways to deal with my stress.
It’s an hour till school starts. Usually school excites me, but this morning, my brain feels very foggy and I am in a bad mood. However, I got myself ready for school within 15 minutes. Pushmataha Academy is 20 minutes away from home. Connor and I usually ride our old bikes to school, but this morning I feel like running. So, while Connor rode on his bike, I silently jogged beside him. I am sweating rapidly, but my mind is more at ease and I feel more release from myself. I first drop off Connor at his school and then I run again until I am out of breath. As always, Hailey and Hannah are the first people to greet me. I’ve been friends with Hailey and Hannah since 3rd grade. Hailey and Hannah are twins, but they have total opposite personalities. Hailey is one of those people who speaks out their minds, whereas Hannah is more of a shy person and is like an old soul to me.
“How was your morning?” Hailey asked.
“It was awful,” I said honestly.
“What happen?” asked Hannah with a concerned expression. Before I could open my mouth to speak, the first bell rang. We all hurry inside before we could be marked tardy. Although Pushmataha Academy is a small high school, it is cramped with so many students from all over the place. It is one of the poorest school in Pushmataha County, Oklahoma. As the result, most of the students that goes to this school are from areas that have a high poverty rate. The classrooms are in barracks divided evenly by grade level. The buildings are very old and rusty. On top of that, the school doesn’t provide students with lockers, so we have to take our belongings with us everywhere we go.
Sitting in my creative writing class, my mind is somewhere else. I thought of all the possibilities of what might happen to me if I did attend Crystal High. I will eventually have to tell Hailey and Hannah, but thinking about it made me feel sick all over again. Since we’ve been friends for such a long time, I don’t know how they will react.
“Melissa,” Ms.Livingstone called. I must have not answer because the whole class begin to stare at me, including Hailey. I feel like they can see right through me.
“Yes?” I answered slowly, bringing all of my senses back in.
She looked at me for a second and said, “Please see me after school.” At lunch was when I decided that I will not be going to Ms.Livingstone after school. I feel very bothered by my decision, but I was not ready to tell Ms.Livingstone, Hailey, or even Hannah about the “opportunity” that I have receive and how I feel about it. I still need some time, I said to myself. I was planning to tell them all tomorrow.
I continued the rest of my day with stiffness, where I basically avoided everyone. As soon as school was over, I headed home immediately. I usually walk home with Hailey and Hannah, but I know that they will fill me up with tons of questions, so I prefer to walk home alone. When I got home, my mom was already home from work. She worked at a nearby community garden with very little pay and under a scorching hot sun. She sees me from the distance and waves at me. I just kept walking.
“How was school?” she asked as I got closer.
“It was just another normal day,” I replied.
“There’s something waiting for you in the house,” she said excitedly.
I went inside the house and there laid on my mat was a short sleeve t-shirt, a pleated skirt at knee length, and a suit sweater. Although it looked simple, they were all woven very beautifully and made with thick fabric. The t-shirt was pure white and both the pleated skirt and the suit sweater were dark blue. There was also a sticky note that says, “Crystal High’s Uniform” beside it and beneath it was my name. Crystal High, I said to myself as I looked at the uniform over.
It was morning around 5:30am when my mom shook me awake.
“Go put the uniform on,” my mom said hurriedly.
“Why?” I asked sleepily.
“They are here to escort you to Crystal High,” she said carefully.
“What!?” I shouted, “I thought it was next week.”
“That’s what they told me,” she responded, “but I might’ve heard it wrong.”
How could this happen? I haven’t even informed Ms.Livingstone or Hailey and Hannah about it.
“Go hurry and get ready,” my mom said as she left the room. I just sat there helplessly and hot, angry tears stream down my face. I do as what my mom told me and as soon as I was done, I was out of the door. I didn’t even have time to say goodbye to Connor. Outside, there await a sedan limo along with two other people. The gentleman that stood on the side of the passenger’s seat wore a nice black suit. Next to him was a nice looking lady. She greeted me.
“Good morning, Ms.Colt,” she said smiling.
“My name is Clara and this is Tim,” she said gesturing to the gentleman.
“We will be escorting you to Crystal High,” Tim said with a flat expression.
I just nodded. From the limo, I watch as the world around me begin to transform as we got closer to more of the Oklahoma city. There were several tall buildings and skyscrapers. The roads were well paved and it looked clean. It was such a beautiful sight to look at too. This must have been what the real world looks like, I thought to myself.
I must have dozed off because the next thing I knew I was jolted awake by Clara’s voice.
“Melissa, we are here,” she said softly. Crystal High is breathtaking to look at even from a far distance. The buildings are structured perfectly and although the buildings are in barracks, they are furnished from top to bottom. It was filled with thousands of high school students.
While Tim drove away with the sedan limo, Clara lead me to one of the barrack and into one of the rooms. The room was vast and I think it belongs to Clara. Once the door is securely locked behind us, Clara gesture for me to sit down. For the next few minutes, Clara lecture to me all the things that I need to know about Crystal High. Before she could take me to my first period class, she warned me about not telling the people here where I was from or my family background. She also told me that my mom is aware of this too. For a second, I felt very angry at my mom for not telling me these things ahead.
“Why though?” I dare asked.
“You don’t know how things work here,” that was all she said.
My first period class was Physiology, which was taught by Mr.Wilson. He introduced me to the whole class.
“Good morning, class,” he said, “meet our new transfer student, Melissa.” Everyone was staring at me and I look away to the ground.
“Make her feel welcome here,” Mr.Wilson continued.
I took my seat on the front. I took Physiology in my sophomore year of high school, but I decided to take it again because it always interest me. I learned that in here, classes are very short. Also, there are a variety of interesting classes you can take here.
In lunchroom, I sat alone at the corner. Most students are still staring at me, but they don’t dare come close to me. I was enjoying my lunch when four group of girls came toward me.
“You are the new transfer student?” asked one of the girl with beautiful eyes and a full lip. She might be the leader of the group.
“Yes,” I said, it comes out more like a whisper.
“So, what are you doing here?” she continue asking.
“Come on, Ashley,” said the girl with a ponytail, laughing.
“I… um..” I started, but didn’t manage to finish.
One of the girl with a heart-shaped earrings was about to say something, but Ashley stop her, “Let her finish, Nikki.”
They waited for me to say something, but when nothing happened, they sneered at me and turn their heels on me.
When school was over, Tim and Clara came to pick me up and take me home.
“Is everything going well for you so far?” Clara asked.
So far, so good,” I lied.
When I got home, my mom and Connor greeted me at the front door. “Melissa!” Connor said excitedly. I gently patted his head. My mom looked tired as always, but when she sees me, she forced a smile.
The next few weeks continued the same. I feel like a puppet now. With my life so under control, my choices are limited. I did whatever Clara told me because if I didn’t, then everyone in this school will know who I really am and I might become a social outcast. As I adapted to this new life of mine, I began to drift away from things that I valued like family and honesty. Lying has become a habit to me now. I also began to spend less time with my family. On top of that, the feeling of humbleness and meekness within me were long gone, now replaced by a self pride that was like a poison to me.
One night, I was sitting by the windowsill thinking about how much my life had changed. Then, my mom joined me. Ever since I attended Crystal High, I stopped having a heart-to heart conversations with my mom.
“Not sleepy yet?” my mom asked.
I nodded my head yes.
“Is something bothering you?” my mom asked. This was my chance. I could tell her honestly how I really feel or ignore her question completely.
“Mom..” I started, “I know this might upset you, but I don’t want to go to Crystal High anymore. I know this is a good chance for me to improve my lowly life, but I am not happy there, mom.” Tears starts to well up in my eyes, but I continued, “Everyone there knows me as a cool person who is from a rich family and I don’t want to keep living my life as someone I am not.”
My mom’s eyes are teary now too. “Oh, Melissa,” cried my mom and she hold on to me so tightly.
“Mom, promise me you will never send me away like that again,” I whispered in my mom’s ears.
She nodded repeatedly and kept saying I won’t. Tonight was the first time I slept peacefully.
When Tim and Clara came to pick me up for school the next morning, my mom told them that I will not be going and the looks on their faces were priceless. They’ve never expected this. But, they did drove away and my mom stood proudly. When she saw me at the front door, my mom winked at me and I have never seen her so happy in her life.
Although my mom suggested that I go to school tomorrow; by that I meant Pushmataha Academy of course, I insist on going. Hailey and Hannah were so shock to see me. As soon as they saw me, they embraced me tightly and I felt instantly connected with them again.
“What happen to you?” they asked.
“Well, I can explain myself,” I said innocently.
“Don’t act like that with me,’’ Hannah said playfully.
I don’t know what was funny, but we were all laughing really hard, almost knocking ourselves to the ground.