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The electronic bell sounded freedom as students and paper flew out of the old school. There were over five hundred students that ran home to begin the summer, except for one. One of the students would make their own beginning.
At the age of eighteen, Leila was undoubtedly the prettiest girl in her class, but she made herself unattractive. She never wore makeup, brushed her hair, or wear nice clothes. Leila was very intelligent, but everyone judged her as an outcast: She loved sports, hated her job, and never told about the abuse she went through. The one thing that kept her going was the thought of someday getting away from her step dad and away from her house.
"Hi sweetie! Leila, I want you to meet our new neighbors, the Johnson’s!" she advertised with a fake girly voice as she pushed me toward the frightened neighbors sitting on our living room couch.
"It's nice to meet you Leila," The kind words from the neighbors became comforting as I smiled. I shook their soft, white hands as I paused with my black backpack on my shoulders, I then headed upstairs. Having company inside our house forced my step dad to not yell; otherwise he would have found an opportunity to yell at me. I grabbed a basketball and headed towards the hoops to avoid my step dad altogether.
I brought my friend Max to the Silverton Park to shoot hoops with him. Max was the one guy who actually stared at my face when I was talking to him. All the other guys would stare at my body and act like they weren't. It bugged me so much! And yet all the popular girls squeal "stop it!", and all they really are doing is playing along! They act helpless just so they can get to the guy without looking easy. Guys are not any better; they will say I love you just so they can have you. That's it.
"So, what about those new neighbors? I heard they are nice," Max questioned, as he scored a point.
"My mom was really hamming it up last night, so I really don't know what they are like," I said reluctantly as I heard footsteps behind me.
“Could I play?" I heard an arrogant voice state. His blue Hollister shirt had white print, and his khaki shorts hit around his knees.
"You must be the new guy," I said as I placed the old basketball on my hip, supporting it with my arm. I knew his type: the type that dressed and wore a mask like my mom did; the type of person that covered their insecurities with material objects.
"I didn't know I was going to be graded," He rubbed his chin as if Sherlock Holmes solving a case. He struck a pose as he said with a snobby voice, “How do I rate now?”
I walked towards him and shoved the basketball into his stomach. I stormed off as Max followed me out of the park.
I cleared the dirty dishes from the stainless steel tables and headed towards the kitchen at the Blue Moon Diner. Inside, I washed the dishes in an oversized metal sink that was only partially filled with water. This was probably because it was only once in a blue moon that I actually enjoyed working there. The blue neon lights were slowly flashing, reflecting dull light against the cheap stainless steel surfaces inside the box-shaped diner.
“Leila, I want you to meet our new chef, Cody,” the manager announced as he waited for my reaction. The same guy who had been striking poses in the park now stood in front of me in the same awkward way.
Why would he need a job when he can afford Hollister and fancy clothes? Focused on getting out of my house, I knew that I needed to avoid relationships. “I quit,” I said as I took my apron off. This guy is trying to get to me and I know I will just end up getting hurt like all the other girls. The other girls fall in love and nobody catches them. I couldn’t afford to fall in love. I marched out of the diner with my hands in my pockets, staring at the sidewalk.
“Wait!” Cody shouted.
“Go away,” my words brimming with anger.
“Why do you hate me? I just want to get to know you?” Cody gasped as he caught his breath from running. He started an artless; backwards walk in front of me to keep up. He tried to look into my eyes, but I looked away out of stubborn pride.
“Know me?! Is that all? You would really waste that much time? Why am I soo special? Why don’t you go find a cheerleader to make out with? You don’t even have to know their name,” my voice filling every syllable with sarcasm as I questioned him.
“Cheerleaders aren’t smart and they cake on their makeup until it flakes. You hide your beauty and you still are the most beautiful girl I have ever seen.” Cody desperately tried to show his love as I stopped my wide strides and my heart melted, as everything around me seemed to pause. I avoided falling in love at all costs, but wouldn’t that be a good test? If Cody could still love me when I am a really hard person to love, then doesn’t that make it genuine? The fact was that I knew I couldn’t ignore my feelings anymore. I couldn’t deny my feelings and forget him. This moment became the most beautiful and cursed moment of my life. I couldn’t control love.
“Why do you think I am beautiful?” I stammered as I looked down at the cement, my heart racing faster than my dad’s new sports car. What is happening to me? Why can’t I brush it off? This is the same guy that I hated not too long ago and now my whole body became full with a warm tingling that I couldn’t hold back.
“Because, you are the only girl that stood up to my ego. You weren’t afraid of what I thought of you. I think every girl should be like that,” Cody whispered in astonishment. I realized he tested me as well by acting really high and mighty. I loved him, but I wasn’t going to tell him because I still was unsure. I still need to find out how he really is.
“Do you want to play basketball?” I questioned as my eyes sparkled with excitement. “I’ll race you to my house!” I yelled as I sprinted.
My step dad greeted me this time with alcohol on his breath as he slurred his words.
“Where have you been…” My cheeks turned instantly red because Cody obviously noticed his drunken state.
“I was at work as usual Mr. Walker” I assured everything had been normal as I walked past him to grab the basketball by the door. “I’m going to go play basketball now! Have a nice day!” I uttered as I ran off the property.
“Is that your dad?!” Cody’s voice cracked as he strained to find a connection.
“I’m sorry,” Cody said.
The sun had gone, leaving its tears in the otherwise black skies. The full moon left enough light for a safe walk home. Cody walked me home as we talked. I don’t know why, but the entire day I had wanted to hold his hand. My hands would start to sweat as the thought kept running through my head. My conversations faded, as all I could think about was the need to hold his hand.
“Did you have fun today?” Cody asked, sporting a smile that would make a little kid jealous.
“Of course I did,” I whispered; as I got close to reach his hand.
“Leila!! Get in here now!” my step dad screeched like a monster as I froze, wondering if I should obey him. I whispered goodbye to Cody as I slowly approached the beast.
I awoke with the right side of my face still sore. I don’t know why my step dad hit me. The only reason my mom married was for my step dad’s money, and that’s what seems to keep them together. She knows it’s wrong and she knows what she is doing is wrong. I looked in the mirror to see a dark bruise where his palm hit me. I couldn’t let my step dad see because he would keep me locked up until it healed. I couldn’t show my mom because she can’t keep her mouth shut. I caked on whatever foundation I could find and rushed over to Cody’s house.
“Is Cody home?” I pleaded as I only showed my left side to hide the bruise.
“Yes he is, just one second,” Mrs. Johnson closed the door and it reopened with Cody at the door.
“Cody I need to talk to you right now.” I whispered urgently as I tried to not show my right side.
I explained what happened last night to Cody and told him I needed to get out. I showed the bruise on my cheek and Cody’s face started to turn red. His lips firmly rolled in, then he nearly shouted, “How could he treat his own daughter that way?! Why would someone do that!!?” Cody stared at the sky, realizing that he needed to stay calm for my sake. I completely understood his anger because I had shared the same feelings about my step dad for the last two years.
Cody and I went onto his computer and researched where would be the best place to live, how much it would cost, how many job opportunities, and what college I could go to. We found an apartment complex that required $615 a month for rent and overlooked Murray hill. Luckily, there were apartments still available. Anxiety built up within me as I planned to leave, because I have waited too long. My soul frantically gasped for air because of its former abuse and lack of freedom, but my soul would no longer suffer. Soon I would be free.
“I’m going to play basketball!” I announced, that secretly meant goodbye. I strolled to the bus stop starting my long journey. And as I waited, I looked up at the stars shining through the black sky and it brought me hope. Hope knowing, that the stars had brought light into these dark and empty places. It made me realize that you could still make things right, even when you’ve been wronged. I knew that when sunrise came, it would have a whole different meaning to me. I realized that I deserved everything I could get my hands on, and this opportunity meant it was my time to shine. It is my life, and I now have the opportunity to make things right again.