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I stare at the knife, as if simply seeing it would make me bleed.
“Do it,” I whisper to myself. “Go ahead… Just do it.” I tentatively reach out for the knife and close my fingers around its handle. Its silver hue reflects my pale, pale hand, which is paired with the blackest color of nail polish I could find. Slowly, gingerly, I lift the knife, and stare at my arm. The smooth, pale skin was nearly perfect. With a tan, I could have been the next Cindy Crawford. Well, a tan, and a complete face transplant. In a swift motion, I hop up and land on the kitchen counter, perfectly positioned by the window next to the sink.
I run the sharpened tip of the knife along my exposed arm, barely grazing my skin. I didn’t press deep enough to break skin. The icy chill of my nerves running up and down my spine was almost better than pain.
A deep rumble nears, and I drop the knife, whipping my head around.
They were home.
I hastily drop from the counter, scattering to grab the knife up off the floor. It’s dirty, so I blow it off quickly and shove it in a drawer.
My parents and 9-year-old brother walk through the door mere seconds later.
“Hello, Annabeth,” They say cheerily.
“Oh, hey,” I respond nonchalantly, hoping to mask my hidden depression. “How was the game?”
“We, uh, lost.” My Dad says, glancing over worriedly at my brother. Davis immediately burst in to tears, kicking off his cleats and running upstairs, his baseball cap flying off his head during the process. My mother leaned down, her arthritic joints crackling as she bent.
“Did I say something?” I ask, confused.
“We lost 7 to nothing,” My Dad says. “Your brother was pitching.”
“Oh.” Nobody says anything for a minute. Mom slowly inches into the living room, where she eventually props her purse on a table and relaxes onto the sofa, flattening herself out and promptly falling asleep.
“Well, I’m gonna go to Doc’s and work on the book,” My Dad says to me, grabbing his keys and exiting the house. I don’t blame my parents for avoiding me- I’d stay away from me too if it were an option.
Bored, I trudge into the hallway where I yank open the closet door. After searching for a minute, I locate my beat-up Nikes, a pair of gray and pink running shoes I’m embarrassed to own. I plop down on the floor and tug them on, not bothering to hunt for a pair of socks.
I’ve never liked real tennis shoes. I tend to stick with Converse, Vans, or something of that sort. I’m craving a pair of black, extra-high combat boots, but my traditional, southern parents would probably kill me if they found out I was into stuff like that. So, I have to suffice for my best friend’s neon pink fishnet stripper gloves that she lets me wear every day at school. That’s the thing about Victoria- she doesn’t give a crap about what people think of her. She dyes her hair pink, wears stripper gloves to school, and does cartwheels wearing a skirt- but she’s not a ****. The ironic thing is, Vic’s about as hardcore Christian as you can get- I guess she just plays by her own rules.
I’m sprinting along the side of the road, taking deserted backstreets and dead ends. My feet are pounding along to the beat of my favorite Hollywood Undead song, and the chill of the autumn air bites at my skin. For me, running isn’t exercise- it’s more of a way of taking out your anger on the pavement. When I’m running, I feel like nothing can hurt me. I’m passing the world by, leaving everything else behind. I pass the Baron’s Inn- a bed and breakfast type motel that my friend Anjali’s parents own. Then I run past the Grand Hotel, a fabulous, extravagant hotel where it costs more to rent a room for a night than some of my friends make in a year.
Before I know it, I’ve passed the city border, and a large sign that reads “Welcome to Point Clear” awaits me. I stand there, my jaw almost skimming the ground. This is the farthest I’ve run, ever. For a minute, I stand there, staring at the sign and what lies beyond. Then, the thought pops into my head that I don’t have to go back.
I could run, I think. Run for miles and miles, leaving the world behind, leaving it all. I would never have to come back. But, no matter how much I want to, I don’t keep going. I bite my lip and pivot around, and continue running back into the city. If I am going to run, I think, I can’t run yet. I’m not ready. I need to settle some things first. And so, as Charlie Scene and Funnyman rap another verse about doing hoes, I feel the slightest bit victorious, and that keeps me going. So, even though when I return home to find my mother passed out on the couch and my Dad’s car gone, the perfect time to lock myself in my bedroom and cut, I don’t, because, at least for today, I’m stronger than that.
The bell rings, and I shove my composition book into my binder. The ripped and worn cover falls off almost immediately, and the sewn pages quickly begin to unravel and break apart.
“Crap,” I mutter to myself as I crouch down to pick up my disassembled history notes. People walk around me and on top of me, too worried about being late to bother with manners. I finally stand up, and after aggressively shoving my notes into an empty space of my binder, I exit the classroom and half- run half-walk to math, my least favorite class of the day.
The tardy bell rings when I am, literally, about six feet away from the door, and Mrs. Ringers promptly slams the classroom door, causing me to bang on it for three minutes before she finally feels sorry enough for me to let me in. I scurry to my seat and slide my purse and lunchbox under my chair. I skim through my binder, attempting to locate a blank sheet of paper while I blindly reach into my purse and pull out one of about fifty pens. I uncap it with my teeth while hurriedly searching for a piece of paper. I finally find one, and I scrawl my name and the class period in the upper left hand corner. I stare at the promethean, in awe. The one day I’m late, and she’s picked the longest challenge yet. There’s no way I can write down the three-paragraph backstory and solve the problem. I touch the pen to the first line of paper when a timer beeps.
“Okay, class,” Mrs. Ringers says, “Smile at your neighbor and exchange papers.” I glance over at Camden and hand him my blank challenge paper. In return, he gives me his fully completed, challenge- solved homework.
“Get out your red pens because today is a red pen check day!” Anxious for bonus points to boost my average, I shuffle through my purse, but all my pens are blue. Where’s my red pen?
Then I remember- I lent it to Lauren in P.E. Yesterday. “Hold your pens up high so you get five points!” I glance around the room. James, who sits behind me, smirks. I glare at him in return.
“Where’s your pen?” Sam whispers to me.
“Well, it it’s still with Lauren, Mrs. Leib’s class.” Sam wordlessly hands me a red pen identical to his own. “Thanks,” I whisper. I stick the pen up, but no matter how high the pen is, I still feel unbearably low.
“Okay, so now that that’s taken care of, check to make sure your neighbor has written out and attempted to solve the challenge. If not, it’s minus five points for not writing it another five for not trying to solve it.” Camden writes a -10 at the top of my paper. Since I didn’t have my homework (again), I had already made a zero on the homework paper. Wow, a negative number as a grade on a homework sheet belonging to a kid in AP math. I’m pretty sure that’s a new record.
“Annabeth, will you please come see me after class?” Mrs. Ringers asks me. I nod solemnly. First, the fabulous Camden made a 115 on his homework while I got a -10, and now this. My day was just so freaking perfect.
The bell rings, and I stay sitting where I am. After everyone else has left, Mrs. Ringers sticks out a single curled finger and motions for me to come. I gulp, slide out of my desk, and shuffle towards her desk. “Annabeth, I’d like you to guess how many homework papers you haven’t turned in to me.”
“How many papers have we done so far?”
“Twenty-seven papers, not counting today’s.”
“Umm…. Nine?” I guess.
“You’re in advanced math. What is nine times two?”
“Eighteen?” I say, wondering what she’s doing.
“Is that a guess?”
“It’s an answer.”
“Eighteen missing homework assignments, that’s almost half.”
“And I’m wondering what happened. I see you start your homework in class!”
“I lose it,” I whisper.
“You know I’m old, I can’t hear you! Speak up, child!”
“I lose it!” I scream, and promptly sink down onto the floor, curl myself in a ball, and begin crying. Mrs. Ringers stares at me for a second, and then opens one of her desk drawers. She pulls out a yellow slip of paper, writes something on it, and hands it to me.
“Here’s a pass to Mrs. Hudson’s office. I suggest you go immediately.” I take the slip, return to my desk, get my lunchbox, binder, and purse, and exit the room, barely able to see due to my tear-blurred eyes while drops silently roll down my face.
I’ve never been to see Mrs. Hudson, mostly because it’s only a few weeks into the school year and I haven’t had a good reason to. And, besides that, I have no idea where her office is.
I stop a passing eight-grader and ask him if he knows.
“Sure,” he says coolly. “C’mon, I’ll show you.” He turns around and walks off, and I follow him. “So, what’s wrong? You in trouble?”
“Um, something like that,” I respond vaguely. We reach the office, and he opens the door for me. I walk in unannounced, setting my stuff in one chair and sitting in another. The boy twitches his hand in a wave- like motion, so I mouth “Bye” in response. He closes the door, and I am alone. Kind of.
Mrs. Hudson stares at me. I stare back at her, looking the strange woman square in the eye.
“I want to kill myself,” I say, and with that, I break down.
I’m sitting in a closet. What kind of deranged person locks a suicidal teenager in a closet? There are storage boxes surrounding me, labeled things like ‘gauze’ and ‘cotton swabs’. Curious as to how many cotton swabs are actually in the giant opaque box, I lift the top and peer inside. To my surprise, the box is full of school shorts. Then I check the gauze box, and this one is filled with shirts. I guess these boxes once held gauze and cotton swabs, but when they ran out they just shoved backup clothes on the boxes instead without bothering to change the labels. These boxes, they’re just like me. Everyone thinks they’re one way based on the outside, but on the inside they’re completely different.
“Annabeth, what are you doing in your next class?”
“Let’s see, fourth period….. I have Home Ec., and we’re doing our Kitchen Safety reports.”
“Sounds safe enough,” Mrs. Hudson says, contemplating whether to send me back to class or not.
“We get to use kitchen items involving our topic to show the class.”
“What’s your topic?”
“The Proper Handling of Kitchen Knives.”
“Never mind, follow me,” Mrs. Hudson says, promptly dismissing the idea of letting me back to class. She’s clearly unable to trust me enough to handle pointy tools. She picks up my things, leads me to a small room in the back of the upstairs office, and sets down my things on a table.
“Hello?” A girl asks, clearly confused to why I am there.
“Annabeth this is Abbey. Abbey, meet Annabeth. You two are going to hang out for the rest of the day. I’ll come get you at 3:03 this afternoon.” Mrs. Hudson exits the room, her ugly snakeskin flats clumping on the hard linoleum.
“Hey,” I say.
“Hi,” she responds. “I’m watching Pirates of the Caribbean 3. I’m having an infusion, so I needed something to pass the time. Wanna watch with me?”
“Sure,” I respond as I notice the machine she’s hooked up to. It’s injecting some kind of bagged liquid into her veins, probably steroids or medicine, but I’m afraid to ask what it is. It might come off rude.
Abbey and I sit at the finished wooden table for nearly three hours, watching the escapades of Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, and Keira Knightly. When the movie ends, we talk and laugh for a few minutes until Mrs. Hudson reenters the room.
“Annabeth, it’s almost time to go,” she says. I swing my purse over my shoulder, slip my Blue Lagoon Vera Bradley lunchbox into the crook of my elbow, and slide my binder under by arm. Mrs. Hudson leads me out the door and says goodbye to me, so I respond with a tentative “Bye” and start out on my journey to the west hall, where my locker is.
“How’d it go?” I familiar voice whispers into my ear, causing my to drop everything I have. I scream and whip around.
“Oh, it’s you,” I say, leaning over to catch my breath.
“Thanks, I love you too. Best friends forever,” the eight-grader says. “Hey, what’s your name?”
“Annabeth, I say. I reach down to pick up my purse, lunchbox, and binder.
“I’m Blake,” he says as he beats me to it and hoists my purse in the air.
“Not fair,” I argue. “You’re like six feet tall. I’m five-four.”
“Hey, don’t exaggerate. I’m five-foot-eleven and a half.”
“Very funny,” I say, and Blake hands me my purse back. The bell rings, and a crowds of people flood out into the hallway.
“Crap,” Blake mutters. “I gotta go; all my stuff is still in my 7th period. See you tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow,” I whisper, and for the first time in all of this, I feel like I’m not alone.