Stories of the Eyes

June 2, 2012
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“Mom always said that behind every pair of eyes was a story to be told. I see what she means as I look around at the faces of the class of 2012, our class. The story of our pasts together and our hope for a better future are all in our eyes. Will we fulfill that future in our eyes? Only time will tell. Good luck to my peers, my friends as we graduate and step out into the world to become the young women and men our teachers and parents hope us to be. As we become those women and men, let us not forget where it all began, right here in the halls of Robert E. Lee High School, with our friends and memories that will always be in our hearts. I love you all and God bless our futures.”

A tear slid down my cheek as I finished the graduation speech and my classmates threw their caps in the air, some whistling, and some spraying cans of silly string. I smiled.

I walked down from the podium and the first person I saw was Maybeth Childers. She softly hugged my neck and whispered, “I’m sorry.” I looked into her eyes, one of which was bruised and blackened, and they told me this story.

Squish, squish. Squish, squish.

The sound of my old tennis shoes announced my every step as I walked down the hallway. I had my old notebook clutched to my chest, pencil behind ear, and curly blonde hair snaking down my back; an everyday, classic “Scarlet” look.
It was 9th grade and I was every bit of the nerd I am now.

“Hey, Geeky Goldilocks, I think you owe me some lunch money.” I stopped dead in my tracks. A chill went down my spine as soon as I recognized the voice. I turned around to face Maybeth Childers; my worst nightmare had taken a human form. The poems I had written about her filled one of the shoe boxes I kept under my bed. To my notebook and pencil, Maybeth Childers was quite the infamous character.

“I, uh, forgot it, uh, today,” I stuttered. I thought those words could possibly be the last ones I ever said.

“Well, that’s too bad, Scarlet Johnson. Maybe my fist can help you un-forget?” Maybeth raised an eyebrow. That look; that’s all she had to give. I swallowed nervously and dug into my pocket to pull out a crumpled up dollar bill, my hands shaking, and my lips murmuring under my breath a silent prayer that I would make it out of this meeting in one piece.

“That’s what I thought. Get out of my way, you piece of white trash.” She cursed, snatching the money from my trembling hand. I sighed. I escaped a beating, but with the consequences of yet another day without lunch.

Fast forward to two weeks ago; I looked out my window next door to Maybeth’s house. I heard shouting.

“You’re so stupid! You’ll never amount to a hill of beans! I’m ‘shamed to say that you’re my daughter. You hain’t nothin’ but a pile of dirt, that’s what you are!” a voice that sounded like Mr. Childers’s slurred out angrily (I took the liberty of omitting a couple of curse words from his dialogue.) I ran quickly outside and looked into Maybeth’s house through an open window just in time to see a sight I’d see in my nightmares weeks after. Mr. Childers was beating poor old Maybeth with a broom. Her obvious internal struggle to suppress back the tears that were overflowing from her heart, from coming out her eyes, ripped my heart out. The bully who had stolen my lunch money so many times, the antagonist that had tortured me so many days throughout high school, the offender--turned into the victim. Mr. Childers whacked her as hard as he could with that old broom. Maybeth’s face was so bruised it looked disfigured. Patches of purple and blue covered her visible skin. I jerked out my cellphone as fast as I could.

“Hello? 9-1-1? If you don’t get here soon, Mr. Childers is going to beat the life out of Maybeth.”
I stood in front of the window until the police arrived, unsure of what action to take. If I went in there and tried to stop him, would it just make Mr. Childers even angrier? Was he drinking again? Oh, Maybeth, hang on. Not a moment too soon, the reflection of blue lights were dancing upon the Childers’s front door. I stood in the shadows and watched a policeman force open the front door and point a gun at Mr. Childers.

“Sir, let go of the young lady or I will shoot your brains out.”

After it was all over and Maybeth was safe, she asked the officer who called the police. The officer looked grim.

“The little Johnson girl next door,” was his reply. Through the bruises and cuts and disfigurements of her poor face, I believe I saw Maybeth Childers smile weakly as she glanced toward my house.
When I pulled away from Maybeth, that’s what I saw in her eyes: the story of a little girl that was just trying to fight back against the world when it growled at her.

“I’m sorry for all of the times you did without lunch. I’m sorry for every bruise you’ve ever had because of me, and for every put down I’ve ever said.” Maybeth swallowed her pride.

“I forgive you, Maybeth. Children, I’m just glad you’re alright!”

“I love you, Scarlet. Congratulations, valedictorian,” she smiled as she disappeared among the sea of students.

I made my way through the crowd, when another pair of eyes met my gaze.
I met Jessie Erom when I was in the 8th grade. His eyes were like blue velvet and his smile lit up any of my dark days. He pulled out chairs for me when I sat down, and was almost a whole year older than me. Before I knew it, he asked me to the 8th grade dance. Of course, as soon as he smiled his big, goofy smile, I melted and said yes. Even geeks can be infatuated with boys.
I walked into the Schylertown Middle School gymnasium. Dimly lit with a borrowed disco ball and filled with the dressed-up silhouettes of my friends, it felt like I was in a scene from a movie. I walked over to a group of girls in my homeroom class in my modestly fitted blue dress.
That’s when he stole the show; Jessie walked into the dance. He was dressed in his Sunday’s best when he could’ve stopped traffic in a gunny sack.

“You look, uh, pretty tonight,” he said nervously. I smiled.

“Uh, thanks,” is all I could utter.

“Go on, dance you two lovebirds!” Karilyn Banks, my best friend, pushed us out to the dance floor. At that age, you always feel so awkward about yourself; and that awkwardness didn’t fail to consume me then.

“Sorry, uh, my friends are sort of aggressive,” I smiled.

“It’s alright. They’re nothing compared to my friends,” he shrugged. At that, we both laughed. As soon as we got out to the floor, my heart sank. My favorite song came on; a slow song.

Jessie must’ve seen my face light up. “Do you know this song?” he asked.

“It’s my favorite,” I breathed. He swallowed.

“May I have this dance?”
He put his hands around my waist shyly, and we began to softly sway to the music. He smiled that big old goofy, nervous smile that I fell in love with. I looked into his breathtakingly blue eyes and blushed.

“Are you having fun?” I whispered in his ear. His hearing aid made a popping noise. I don’t know whose face was redder; his or mine. Finally we laughed and he looked me in the eye.

“Some friends and I are walking to Mi Hacienda after the dance. Do you want to come?” he licked his lips nervously.

“I would be flattered,” I smiled, unable to conceal my excitement. He smiled and took me around the gym floor one more time, holding my hand.

“You’re the most beautiful girl here,” he whispered. At that moment, to me, we were the only people in the room.

He walked with me to Mi Hacienda, as fancy as a restaurant got in Schylertown (although that wasn’t saying much) and joined our friends. The story doesn’t really happen in Mi Hacienda; most of the story I saw in his eyes were after the get-together, behind Mi Hacienda, alone in the parking lot. I blushed as I read the memory in his eyes.

He placed his big, rough arms so tenderly around me and turned red. “I know this is going to be awkward, but… can I kiss you?”
“Yes,” was the only word I could find to say.

He pulled me closer and wrapped me into a passionate kiss that I could’ve swore stopped time.

That moment, he was a prince and made me a princess.

“Here, I want you to have this,” he slipped his 8th grade class ring on my finger.

We were together for 6 more months after that. Mom told me I had to break it off with him, because we were getting too serious of a relationship for our age. Truth be told, she was right. The day I gave Jessie back his ring he hugged me.

“Thanks for the best 6 months of my life,” he said, and then I watched him walk away with a tear in my eye.
That was the story of Jessie’s eyes.

“Good luck, Scarlet,” he smiled as I walked by.

“Good luck, Jessie.”

They might’ve pulled us apart, but we would always have memories of that dance. I can still feel his arms lingering around my waist, and his lips pressed against mine like that passionate night. The taste of love is bittersweet.

I walked on through my classmates, many of them leaving the gym by now. I finally caught the eyes of the person I was looking for; none other than my best friend in the world, Karilyn Banks.

It was first grade and I needed a new best friend (the last one I had pulled my hair too much.) I thought long and hard about this one night when I was lying in bed. I would go to school the next day and ask someone new to be my best friend.

When I walked into the classroom the next day, a new girl from another school had just transferred into our class. I couldn’t believe my luck! At snack time I went over and sat by her.

“Hey,” I smiled shyly, holding my ice cream in my hand.

“Hello,” the girl smiled back.

“Will you be my best friend?” I asked.

“Will you give me a lick of your ice cream?” she asked.

“If you be my best friend,” I said.

She thought about this. “Okay.”

That word started a friendship that has lasted over a decade.

Ten years later, we were sophomores. I got caught up in the craziness of the world. Darkness was closing in on me from every corner. I felt like despair and hopelessness were the only friends I had left; some friends. I started to think of unspeakable thoughts and of doing unspeakable things. Finally, one day in the kitchen, the gleam of a knife on the sink caught my eye. I could end it all right there; all of my problems would go away. I slowly picked up the knife and studied it; a quick stab through the heart, and everything would be solved. I held it to my chest.

“Scarlet, put down the knife. If you don’t care to harm yourself, at least think of how it would hurt me.” Karilyn was standing in the doorway. Her voice was shaking. “Thank of how it would hurt your family. Think of how it would hurt God.”

The knife made a clank as it dropped to the floor.

“I love you Karilyn. Thanks for being there through everything,” I said through a series of sobs.

“I love you too, Scarlet. Best friends forever?” she asked.

“Forever,” I agreed. Now my favorite picture from graduation is of Karilyn and me, crying like idiots in the middle of the gym floor, hugging each other. Karilyn’s eyes told all of those stories; Maybeth Childers, Jessie Erom, and my attempted suicide. She had stuck with me through it all. She even knew about my new boyfriend, Tyler Newsom.

So I left Robert E. Lee High School with a heavy heart, a sack full of memories, and friendships to last a lifetime. And, my favorite of all, the ability to read the stories in people’s eyes.

I went home and passed by my mirror. I noticed my eyes. What stories did they tell? I studied them closely. They told stories that stitched together with other stories. Eventually they expanded into other people’s stories and right then, looking into my mirror, I realized, that everyone on Earth had some effect on another person’s life, like stitches on a quilt; the stitches weren’t always close together, but the unraveling of one stitch effected all of the stitches. They told of a story yet to be written, the story of my future. I felt like I held it in the palm of my hand. No one can help their circumstances they’re born into, like poor little Maybeth; but life is like a novel with the beginning already written. You hold the pen to write your own ending. Yesterday I was a high school student, today it’s suddenly like I’m an adult.

All of these changes are making my head spin.

The phone’s ring interrupted my epiphany. I picked it up. “Hello?”

“Hey, where are you?! We’re all at Mi Hacienda celebrating. Get your hind end up here! I think Tyler’s supposed to come!”

I laughed at Karilyn’s usual rude tone. I knew she used it because that was her way of saying, “I care about you. I don’t want you to miss this.”

“I’m on my way.”

Some things never change.

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