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Fire with Fire
Mama always told me to be myself. When I was homeschooled being myself was easy. I didn’t have to impress anyone, comb my hair, dress up to date. I could just be me. My mom had always feared me and my brother’s safety. I never really liked the idea of homeschooling but it’s what my mom felt was best for us. I would occasionally ask to be enrolled into a real school, so I can have real life experiences. Although my brother didn’t seem to mind I knew that he wanted to experience a normal teenage life as well. I just know he had to be anxious, or had the least bit of curiosity of what a high school was. What it looked like, smelled like, sounded like, that’s all that I could think about. Just the thought of it sent chills down my spine and spreaded a great big smile across my face. The idea of going to a real school for the first time in my lifetime gave me nothing but joy.
The school year had already started and it was late September. I felt as if I had no social life and no privilege to explore the world outside of my room. My daily routine was pretty much all I had to look forward to the following day. There were no surprises because I already knew what to expect. Same old, same old, but at least on Fridays I got computer privilege and I’d go on Youtube and watch high school- related videos. I guess I was a little obsessed with this unrealistic idea of my mom ever letting me go to an actual school, with actual people, actual licensed teachers. But I can see why she fears letting us into this world alone, only be able to pray for a safe return.
My father was killed due to gang-related gun shots 10 years ago. From what little my mom has told me about my dad, she said that he was a school teacher. Mama said that he was so intelligent and kind hearted and he was always helping others and putting their needs before his. He loved his family. I didn’t know my father that well; he died when I was 4 years old. I could remember the little things, how he’d throw me in the air as giggles filled the room, knowing he’d always be there to catch me. Even though I was so young I still remembered the good times I had with him. I still wonder why those boys took such a great man’s life just to prove themselves loyal to their crew. Gangs wanting to see if your worthy enough for them, violent actions and reckless behavior. My father won’t have the chance to see his children grow. I know my mother still hurts and will never fully recover from such a tragic loss. Neither will my brother and I. We’ll never have a father figure in our lives to teach us the things a mother simply can not. Although my mom tries to take on both roles, she will never be able to fill that empty part of us, the part my father should fill.
Today my dad would have been 43. Wow happy 43rd dad! This was one of the harder days. Mom spends most of her time in her room, i’ve never actually witnessed her crying, but I could hear her muffled sobs behind the thick wooden door. When I was younger I’d ask her why she was crying. I thought I did something wrong or maybe my brother made her upset, but now that i’m older i know that it wasn’t John and I who brought tears to her eyes. She missed my father, we all did. As I grew older I stopped asking her if she was okay because i already knew the answer.. The day after dad’s birthday Mom would wake up with swollen, red, puffy eyelids and dried snot outlining her nose. She’d be wearing Dad’s 49er jersey and her fluffy, comforting slippers. She needed to recover from such a heavy day.
Once Mom started acting like her normal, warrior self, she surprised both me and my brother. I think she surprised herself as well. I don’t know what my mom was thinking or what the catch was, but she decided to let my brother and I attend high school. My face stretched, my heart dropped, butterflies swarmed aggressively in my stomach. I didn’t know how to react, there were too many emotions, so I just reacted with the emotion I felt the most. I ran into my mom’s arms and balled my eyes out, showering her with kisses. I was so overjoyed. My brother still just stood there in the same spot, with the same expression as before he heard the news. He was probably still trying to process the words my Mom said, but I saw a grin, a little smirk on his face. Even though he didn’t show it like I did, I knew he was happy.
From that moment on I was thinking more about school than I have ever before. “ What am I going to wear? My wardrobe is horrible. I hope everyone likes me. What if they hate me?” These thoughts hit me like bullets and I began to panic. “ They’re gonna hate me, I’m a weirdo. I don’t even know what to do, what to say! How to act!” I then began to worry. My emotions quickly changed. We would be starting school next Monday and I was a mess. I’m too chunky to fit in my church dresses because they're like 3 years old and my current daily attire is just pitiful. I was going crazy, running in and out of my closet, then running to my mom’s closet to see if she has something somewhat presentable. Her closet is even more sorry. My mom had already bought our school supplies and backpacks, but she didn’t take us clothes shopping because “apparently we have enough clothes already.” As I was going insane day by day, it felt as if time showed no mercy and skipped to Monday. I was so caught up with me and my outfits that I let the days just skip right by me.
“Time for school!” my mom called. My outfit was descent- who am I kidding, I was wearing a faded, wrinkled black v-neck with hiking shorts and black and white knee highs. I cleaned my shoes to the best of my ability, my hair was sorta combed, if pigtails count.
First day of school. This was going to be the best day of my life. I just knew it. It was a nice looking school. I see the colors black and blue a lot around the school. There was a carved eagle sitting on top of the words; Kinmen L. High School, “Ready to Take Flight.” The teachers and staff all dressed professionally and looked much more educated than my mom. The students looked nice, but they were all in their own groups. Some wore all black, others were without shirts as they lifted weights, some wore their pants too high or too low and then some were wearing their little sisters shirts and were missing the rest of their shirts. I’m not sure why but the half-naked group looked like the bosses of the school and that is where I wanted to be: with the important people.
As I was getting my schedule for classes, I see one the girls from “The Important People group” staring at me. On each side of her was a girl, the same girl. I guess they were twins. They were all very pretty and dressed in expensive clothing. They started to walk in my direction, in slow motion just like the movies. As they began to approach me my palms began to sweat and my knees started to buckle. Was this it? Were they going to officially invite me into their group? Two feet in front of me they stopped, staring at me with their overpowered faces and clown-like makeup.
“ You're the new girl right?” they asked.
“yes?” I responded nervously.
“Yes? You don’t know whether your the new girl or not?”
“ I- I mean yes I am new here” I had to stop acting this way, be confident, I told myself.
“Well listen new girl, you see us? We run this school. Those guys over there are ours” as she pointed to the group of jocks. Which I didn’t even notice till now. “Stay out of our way, don’t talk to us, don’t even look in our direction and you’ll be fine. Ok?”
“Ya ok?” her sidekicks echoed. I was silent at the moment, for one of the jocks had caught my eye.
“ Hello, am I talking to a wall? Are we clear?” she said boldly as she snapped her fingers. “Y- ya ok, sure” I said quietly. I was still peeking from the side to get a glimpse of him but I didn’t want the girls to see me stare. I didn’t even realize that they had walked off, I just heard the click, clack of their 3 inch heels.
Once I snapped back to reality, I quickly walked to class hoping to avoid those girls. School ended faster than I’d imagined, and the rest of the day was peaceful. No disruptions. When I got home my mind started to plan things that I felt I had no control over. It began to make a list of everything I was going to change about myself. Those girls think they’re too good for me well they’ll regret not letting me in their little group. The words they said got to me, struck my spine and poisoned my blood with an evil spirit. A spirit that was going to change me.
As weeks went by, I got a job so i could update my wardrobe and buy some better looking shoes. Even though I delivered pizza, I still got good pay checks. Mom would always pack my lunch before school, I’d take it to school but I’d just throw it away or give it to some homeless person on the corner. If I wanted to lose weight I needed to eat less. I probably had one meal a day, I need to lose as much weight as possible in order to fit the current trends. At first it was kind of hard skipping meals but I soon got in the habit and it became easier. Within a month or two I lost 20 pounds. I still dressed nerdy and out of date because I wanted to wait until my wardrobe was complete. Then I’d wear my new stylish clothes and shoes. When I got promoted, my paycheck grew and I was closer to my goal. The day before I would change everything I didn’t like about me I needed to do one last thing: I needed a facial makeover. My mind’s plan was nearly complete. Tomorrow I’ll be the girl everyone wants to be and wants to be with. I slept good that night knowing tomorrow would come soon enough.
The girl I was 4 months would have never gone through with this, but I have seen some things and have some taken notes. If you ask me, I’d say I’m getting pretty good at this mean girl/popular girl act. I leave the house early so my mom won’t have time to comment. As I walk into the school door a gust of wind throws my hair back, “play it cool, be confident” I thought to myself. My heels clicked, clacked like the other girls’ shoes. My $200 red pencil dress had all the boys staring even Marcus. I got compliments left and right. People who never talked to me before suddenly knew my name and wanted to be instant besties. Guys were asking for my number, some were even handing me their numbers. When the Three Devil Divas saw my transformation, they frowned and followed me from a close distance of me all day. As I go to the bathroom to touch up my makeup, the girls just happened to be there too. I already knew they were going to comment on my new appearance. “ Just because you changed the way you dress and look and updated your shoes, doesn’t change the fact that you're still an ugly fat cow. You’re a nobody, you’re always going to be a nobody. Whether you live or die no one will care because you’re worthless. You can hide behind that mask as long as you want but you and I both know what's happening in that head of yours, and those thoughts will tear you down before I get a chance.” Those word pierced my heart and broke my soul. I could have reacted like a sensitive baby but I can’t let her get to me. I have come too far. It was my turn to be ugly in the heart.
“ I changed my outside appearance to match my inside. You think I’m scared of you? Ha! I will destroy you. How about you tell your friends how you maintain such a perfect body. Tell them how you come in the bathroom after lunch and throw up yesterday's lunch and today’s breakfast. Tell them the reason you're so early in the morning is because your dad is a drunk, how your mom and dad are getting a divorce. Tell them that you cry in the mirror when you’re alone because deep down you know that your not pretty. You’re the worthless one.” I shocked myself with those words. It was as if I was overcome by my inner demon. Streams of tears ran down her face. I looked at the two girls as they stared at their friend crying. I was shocked by their reaction. They looked at me, then looked at her. They threw their arms around her and gave her a sympathetic hug, as they rested their heads on hers, comforting her. They looked at me once more a slowly shook their heads.
“But she lied to you guys, she put on a show, she’s a fake!” I told them.
“She didn’t lie to us, we knew. she tells us everything. She’s our best friend” one of the twins said.
“She has been through more than you know, and for you to call her out like that, way to stoop real low” the other said.
“ But she was being mean to me first” I said, not knowing how to respond.
“So you do the same thing? We’re not in elementary school. Seriously, grow up! You can’t fight fire with fire.” I knew they were right. I still felt that I had to play hard, but when when I tried I couldn’t. Tears began to leak from my eyes. I wasn’t crying because I felt sorry, I was crying because of the person I have become. This person didn’t bring me happiness, it just tore me down. I didn’t know what to say. I just slowly turned my back on them and softly whispered, “I’m sorry,” but this time it was the old me talking. The mean side of me left as I cried those tears of forgiveness and disappointment. As I exited the bathroom, with a new outlook on the world and myself.