CHAPTER 1 -
Every day as she got on the bus, she would tell herself - "Today, you will be confident. Today you will show them all, you are not frightened." She would try to stick her chin high, attempt to ignore that voice inside her head that said, "Nobody will like you if you walk with pride. Put your face down." But she wouldn't, she had to try to resist that itch in her head for a little while longer as she slipped into the aisle seat beside her friend - Leah. She knew as usual, they wouldn't acknowledge each other, but on good days Leah would poke her on the arm, or in her slightly babyish voice shout out - "Hiii." Then Aisha would smile at her friend or give Leah a weirded out look and after that was over, Aisha would go over that whole scenario in her head, how she could have been more fun? How her other confident friends would have handled the situation? Was that the reason people called her boring?
Another poke on her arm broke her out of her frustrated musings, she turned towards and looked at her other friend - Gwen. She gave a tentative smile at her friend and tried to put on her best 'I don't care' or 'I'm sleepy' look on. That's what most kids looked like in the mornings. Her friend was a lot like her but completely different at the same time. Where Emily couldn't relate to anybody because she didn't follow any trends or social norms, Gwen knew all the different songs, she knew how to get angry enough to gain her confidence and she knew the native language. Sometimes, Emily felt left out because she thought if she knew the native language she would be able to communicate better and be more fun. But Gwen and her shared the same insecurities, Emily had an uncanny ability to see past façades, even though she could see right through an unguarded façade, she still managed to fall head over heels for them. Why was it that she could never make friends with the straightforward type? She knew by the look in Gwen's eyes, Gwen was also afraid of being judged. Maybe not as much as Emily, but Gwen was. That was probably the only reason Emily could meet halfway with her.
But where Emily's deep rooted insecurities, large ego and self consciousness made her seem like a scared, extremely nice person afraid of getting angry. Gwen's made her seem rude, overconfident and generally irritating. But of course, everyone still loved Gwen, even though ALL THE FREAKING FRIENDSHIP BOOKS IN THE WORLD TOLD HER THAT YOU HAVE TO BE NICE TO MAKE FRIENDS. So far that didn't work out so well. If there was anything Emily couldn't stand, it was people unnecessarily going on making fun of her over the same thing, and it was when those people would make fun of her because they were still insecure about themselves that pissed her off. That was the kind of person Gwen was. But of course, even though she would get angry, she could never show it. What if they would never talk to her again? What if she was overreacting? Deep inside her, Emily knew that if she got angry, people would finally respect her. But she had that ability to shut that part of her out. The part that could have got her respect and confidence. She shut it out.
Now she found herself caught up in some sort of idle chatter with her friend, trying to look interested but in reality, she didn't care about who did what in her school. She didn't care about any gossip. But she knew enough gossip to keep the conversation going, and her friend in all her obliviousness would shout out "Oh my god, you've said this so many times" or tell her to shut up really loudly. And Emily would look around with her apologetic eyes, trying to see if anyone was looking and then another voice would shout at her and tell her to act confident because then she would get respect. God, how much crap goes through her head in five minutes?
She got down the bus steps and as per usual, she waited for Gwen to get down and they would walk for a bit and then Gwen would halt giving Emily the signal that she should wait too. Then Leah would get out of the bus, at a snail's pace walk towards both of them and Gwen and Leah would trudge on, Emily almost every day spotted Gwen giving Leah a secretly adoring look before ignoring Emily altogether and continuing a conversation that Emily had nothing to do with. Then Emily would just start up a conversation with their other bus mate - Lolita. She wasn't particularly fond of Lolita, the girl being rude, stubborn and with the same overconfidence that most kids her age fought with. But there was something very straightforward about her personality that gave Emily some relief from all this artificial coolness and subtle expressions that she should interpret that her friends seemed possessed.