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Locked Up Tight
Megan’s heart fluttered with excitement and anxiety; she hadn’t left the house for months, except to go straight to school and back. It had been so long since she’d felt the cool air brushing onto her face, and she barely remembered what it was like to have the sun kiss her skin.
Though smart, Megan always seemed to fall for guys who made her feel inferior to them, and she would fall hard. She fell for men who wouldn’t care about her, and every time she fell for one of these shallow being, she would lose more faith in herself. With each man she fell for and got hurt by, she spent more time locked inside her house, until it got to the point where she would stay away, up in her bedroom, where even her parents wouldn’t see her.
It was one night just like any other as she cried herself to sleep, when she received a text.
“Hey Megan,” it read. “You haven’t been at school lately, and when you are, you don’t talk much. Call me?”
The text was sent from a boy named Miles. He was one of the few people who were nice to her back when she used to socialize with people. Reluctantly, Megan picked up her phone and called him.
“Hey Miles,” Megan whispered into the phone.
“Hi Megan. Where’ve you been – are you alright?”
“I don’t really want to talk about it,” Megan said.
“Alright, I understand,” he said.
No, you don’t, she thought.
“Just promise me one thing? Come to school tomorrow. We can have lunch together.”
Megan was silent.
“Okay,” she said simply.
“Good,” he said. She could hear him smiling through the phone. She hoped he wasn’t laughing at her despair. “I’ll see you tomorrow then.”
Megan hung up the phone, and continued crying herself to sleep.
The next morning when she got up, Megan realized that she had to go to school – and she had to have lunch with Miles. Great, she thought.
She headed to the bathroom with her makeup bag in hand, staring at her reflection in the mirror. She put the makeup bag away. What’s the point? She pulled on a pair of skinny jeans and a hoodie that was two sizes too big, made some tea, and took it to go.
The first three periods before lunch were excrutiatingly painful. Megan sat in the back corner of each of her classes, doodling pictures and words into her notebook in silence. No one bothered to talk to her – not even the teacher acknowledged her presence. She was invisible to the class, just like she had been to each of the guys she had ever fallen for.
When the bell rang for lunch, Megan headed to her locker, realizing for the first time that Miles had never mentioned where he’d meet her. Stupid girl, she thought. He probably just wanted to get you to leave the house. Maybe your parents paid him. Instantly, she felt someone come up and hug her from behind, letting go just as quickly.
“Hey, you showed up!” said Miles with excitement.
“Hey Miles,” Megan said, faking a smile. “So, um…where are we eating?”
“You’ll see – follow me.”
Megan followed him to a side of the school she had never been to, back behind a staircase.
“Here?” she asked, surprised.
No sooner had she spoken than Miles pulled at a crack in the wall, revealing a small room. She followed him in, in awe.
The room was mostly dark, except for the back. Light shined through some fine bars and wires, giving the room a warm glow.
“Look,” Miles said, beckoning her over. “We can see everybody outside, but they can’t see us.”
Sure enough, Megan could see everyone outside – laughing, playing basketball, eating – and they didn’t have any idea.
“Sometimes, I feel kind of alone and useless, and whenever I feel that insignificant, I come here and watch everyone outside. It makes me feel like I’m a part of something bigger and better, you know?”
Right then, looking at Miles, she knew.
The next morning, Megan got up and walked to the bathroom nearly an hour earlier than she usually got up. Taking her makeup bag with her, she looked at her reflection in the mirror, expecting the same, sad face she woke up to each morning. Instead, she found a pale beauty with rosy cheeks staring back at her. She felt her lips curl upward, and watched as they formed a smile. She reached for the mascara and started to apply it to her lashes. Next, she changed into a pair of dark jeans and a grey t-shirt, and threw on a leather jacket. She headed towards the fridge and stared at it reluctantly. She decided against breakfast again, settling with a to-go mug of coffee, and left for school, a little more cheery than the day before.
The minutes droaned on and on until the bell finally sounded for lunch, and Megan all but ran to her locker.
When she saw Miles, Megan pretended not to notice at first, and started fumbling with her lock. Then she peeked up just as he started approaching her.
“Fancy seeing you here,” she said.
“Well, look who showed up to school again today.”
“Are we going for lunch?” Megan hinted.
Miles led her to their secret spot. They are together, staring at the world outside, watching people live their lives, oblivious to their existence. Megan had never felt so detached from the world before; but sitting there with Miles, she also never felt so significant.
That’s when Miles asked her to go see a movie with him on Saturday. Tomorrow – a weekend. Megan hadn’t been out in public voluntarily in ages, but Miles asked her again.
“Please?” he said.
Finally, Megan said, “Yes.”
The sound of a car parking made Megan a little jumpy. She grabbed her purse, doing a last-minute check for her lip-gloss, wallet, and keys, checked her hair, and headed down the stairs. She was doing this – she was really, really doing this. Tonight – a Saturday – she was leaving the house voluntarily with Miles, a boy whom she liked, and who had, miraculously, fallen for her, too – a boy who was good for her.
She took a deep breath, reached for the knob, turning it slowly, and stepped outside the door, closing it gently. She stared at her house for a moment – her safe haven – and then shook her head, stuck her key in and locked the door behind her; it was time to take new chances.