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Changes in Me
Author's note: I was homeschooled for half my life until fifth grade, so most of these thoughts and feelings are actually mine. I know how Helen feels. This story is not meant to be offensive in any way.
Before my sophomore year at Willis Henry High School, I was one of "those home schooled kids". I wore my pants to my waist, I had the posture of a running kangaroo, and it seemed that I had never heard of a hairbrush before. I could quote every word from Lord of the Rings, and had read almost every fantasy book imaginable. Don't get me wrong, not every home schooled kid is like this, but I was. I was a girl who wasn't nerdy, but just plain weird.
I will always remember my first day at the odorous, congested, sense of forte vicinity (you know it as school). I waltzed through the cold metal doors to the academy, contemplating how my new Algebra 2 book smelled- minty, with a hint of leather; it stung my senses. I sensed a shove jolting through my body as another teen walked briskly past me, before squealing with happiness at the sight of her shiny straight-haired friends... they appeared as Barbies to me, all looking the same. 'I will never be able to remember all their names!' I thought in distress, for it was my ambition to make friends with all of these new specimens.
Seeing the most kids in one room then I have ever beheld before was quite the sight to take in for me. I felt overwhelmed at the new faces and opportunities for friends, nervous at all the germs and cussing, and surprised at the revealing clothing and dirty looks. 'What am I doing here? I don't belong. These kids have known each other since at least 2nd grade!' were the thoughts racing through my mind at the time, each competing for most important, as I walked into first period math class.
As I bustle into my seat up front, a boy catches my eye; caramel brown hair that is messy in a cute reckless way and shockingly blue eyes fill his features, and accent his long nose and perfect white smile. Nervously, I steal a glance at his hands-a groomed peach finger nailed female hand is intertwined within it. I glance again- and again, and again, and still about six more times. 'Gosh, people must think I have a twitch.'
I hear the Charlie Brown like teacher noises emerging from the front of the room as I grudgingly free my mind of that boy with the peach-nailed girl as I pick at my dog hair filled yellow fleece jacket. Jane, my older sister, advised me to wear something a little more high school friendly, instead of my usual scraggly messy blond waist length hair going free bird down my back, my grandma's old blue jeans, and my fleece which even my mom loves. I don't know, I think I looked cute, but apparently some people beg to differ. I assume the transition between home school and high school is quite tiring, and I really don't think that I will ever be ready for those buttock revealing shorts and breast revealing tops. And the concept of burning your hair to acquire a straight appearance seems, well, just wrong.
Anyways, class ended and we filed out into the hallway like cows ready for slaughter...
I hear laughing and chanting up ahead and I struggle to keep up with the herd. I always love a good laugh. My favorite are from those silly finger puppets my mom used to play with to keep my family of 8 quiet on road trips to the farm or something of that nature.
I hear more laughing and chanting as I approach the scene at a closer distance. I see a skinny neatly dressed boy huddled by a locker which I assume must be his. Another teen boy is standing next to him, repeatedly kicking him in the stomach; the neatly dressed one hurls. I rush forward and hoist the hurler under the arms and carry him from the scene, as people throw inappropriate words at my fleeing back.
"What is wrong with you?" the boy demands to me as I sit him down on a chair in my math room. "I just wanted to help" I reply. What is wrong with me? What's wrong with him should be the question! "Why did you let them do that to you?" he doesn't answer so I don't encourage the answering of my question. I study his outfit: his blond hair is neatly combed to one side and his green eyes pop dramatically against his pale skin. His white collared shirt is tucked in under a dark blue golf sweater. He wears navy dress pants with a brown leather belt and matching brown loafers decorate his feet. I got to say: he's classy. But something is different about him. I just can't put my finger on it though.
I interrogate him about his name, “John," he replies. I smile at the thought of this well dressed teen being called "Johnny"... weird things like that are comical to me, just like how my appearance is funny to certain people. I reply with my name, Helen. John nods and stands up to leave, and as he turns his back, he says to me, "Um, Helen?" I nod in acknowledgement. "Thanks."
The warmth of a smile fills my face: I think I made a friend.
'No, I wouldn't dare! I would gain embarrassment beyond my comprehension if I did it!' These thoughts overtake my mind as I walk slowly down the hallway during the transition between 4th and 5th period in the overly-conjested hallways.
My mental battle is tough- I need to decide whether or not to confront Jake Ronald about him assaulting John. I now realize that as shockingly attractive as Jake may be, he is not a nice or good person, that somebody seriously needs to do something about! But if I confront him, obviously he is not going to listen, and I also don't know what John did to Jake in the first place to make him act out in the way that he did.
Suddenly, I find my answer through a voice from above: the student spokeman's voice making announcements through the overhead intercom system. The voice(female)states that, "Good morning Willis Henry High School! I'm Rachel Lucas with your daily announcements! First off, it's the beginning of the school year, and homecoming will be here in 2 weeks! Next, all you hot jocks out there who are looking for a place, the football team is having try-outs tomorrow after school! Lastly, here is your morning pump-up song!" The lyrics explode in my ears: 'It's my life, it's now or never! I ain't gunna live forever! I just wanna live while I'm alive! It's my life!'
As inspiring as Bon Jovi's song lyrics may be, I find another path to travel: John's blond head suddenly appears in front of me.
"Um, John?" I tap him on the shoulder.
"Oh, hello Helen," he replies. Today, he is sporting a plaid sweater from L.L. Bean with his initials over the pocket protector, kakis, and brown leather boat shoes.
"Can I talk to your for a minute?"
"Sure, but let's go somewhere else."
So we attempt to enter the Senior's pit, but get kicked out with vulgar language and math homework. We spring to a safer location, laughing all the way. The science room on the second floor, room 143 is where we go. Out of breath from laughing, we plop down in two lab stools facing eachother.
"So, tell me: What did you want to discuss?"
"Well," I say, "This may be awkward, but why was Jake Ronald kicking you yesterday?"
He looks at me, smiles, and shakes his head. I think I even hear a faint chuckle escape his lips. "That's personal," he replies. A sly grin crosses his face like a twilight lit shadow.
A sudden mood swing over-takes me, and I edge a little over my seat to get closer to John. He also leans a little closer, and I smell his sweet breath- cherries and spearmint gum. His enchanting green eyes win me over as they seem to dig into my sould and his elegant hand intertwines with mine, and suddenly I feel my palm become sweaty. Something doesn't feel right, even though the moment may seem perfect to an outsider. Besides the unsettling feeling, I sense the tingling sensation as our lips brush, and my eyes light up in happiness; but breaking the special moment, John pulls back. He intesely looks into my eyes, and states that that was his first real kiss. I reply with the true statement that it was mine, too.
I look John back in the eyes. "Will you go to homecoming with me?" I ask. I realize that the girl should actually be asked by the boy, like in the movies, but the moment just seemed too perfect and magical to waste, and I figured if he never asked me, then I may never get the chance for a date during my sophomore year at high school.
Suddenly, a cute image enters my mind of John and I sitting on a blanket eating a picnic in a sun-filled meadow with butter rolls and jam- "Helen," my thoughts were suddenly interrupted by John's sweet voice, "You have a great personality and are really pretty, but, well. Um, ha, this is really awkward, but," I nod to encourage him, but feel the dissappointment in my eyes; I guess he already has a girlfriend. But he speaks again and says, "You've probably noticed that I'm, well, different. I wear different clothes, talk differently, act differently, I sing and dance and act, and, well, I'm interested in different things." Aah, I know where this is going. He's an illegal immigrant! Or, maybe he doesn't really go to this school... "The truth is, Helen, that I don't really, well, um. Look, I don't even know you that well! By kissing you, I probably gave you the wrong idea about me, but I was just trying to see if I could change, but I can't. Oh, Helen, I'm so sorry!"
"Helen, we can't be together because, well, um, because," I nod to him with wide eyes. Where is this going?! His voice dramatically quiets, "Because I'm gay."
I step back in shock… “What? You-you’re-what?”
“I’ve never really told anybody this because it’s really embarrassing if that person isn’t… well, gay, also. Look, Helen, I’m really sorry, but it’s who I am, and I’m not going to change for somebody I hardly know!”
In a type of fury I have never experienced before, I heave a huge angry sigh, and storm out of the room into the bright hallway. I can’t believe this! My first real, and maybe only friend, is gay! I even liked him! Heck, I kissed a gay guy!
Rage overtakes me, and I run into somebody accidently. Oh my goodness, it’s Jake. Suddenly, I feel like my little awkward self again. He glares at me, and brushes past as he struts away down the hall. I get a gigantic whiff of cologne- Calvin Cline, I think, because my brother wears it on his frequent dates. It’s my favorite. Gosh, Jake is so attractive! I am tempted to follow him, but awkwardly trip and fall, hit the drinking fountain, and before I know what is happening, everything goes black.
“Wake up, girly!”
…. “WAKE UP!!”
I wake up. I’m lying on a bed, I guess in the nurse’s office, for the nurse is sitting on her spinning chair in the corner, filling out paperwork with a sour expression on her face. A ginger girl with poofed bangs is leaning over me. She has shockingly blue eyes. She holds out her hand, “Rachel Lucas.” She states. I feel so dazed, “What? I already have Thin Mints….”
“What? No! Rachel Lucas! That’s my name, silly! Student body spokesman and belle captain. I’m also lead soprano in the acapella group. Nice to meet you too! And you are…?”
“Um, Helen Dill.”
“Yea, ok, nice to meet you. C’mon, you’re feeling better right? Good. Let’s go to class.”
So taking her hand, I stand up and we walk out the door.
“Oh, ha-ha sorry! I signed you up for the acapella group! Your mom said you have a great voice! You took quite a fall there! Hopefully it didn’t screw up your vocal chords… ehh, I’m sure you’ll be fine!”
She’s like a chipmunk! Or the energizer bunny… without the drum. I like her!
We walk into the music room, and see about a dozen teens all singing and smiling; they look like they are having a grand old time! My heart jolts: John is in the middle of the group, making a few girls laugh with a voice like an angel. Gosh, I have to stop this! He’s messed up! Maybe he won’t notice me… nobody else seems to, so why should he?
But unfortunately, hope turns to hate as he turns around; his sage eyes bear into my brown ones. His eyes widen, his face flushes, and he suddenly stops singing. Courtesy to the sudden halt in angelic melody, all his little girl cronies follow his eyes and look in my direction.
A short dark girl suddenly speaks up, “Who’s this?”
“Um, well, I’m Hel…” I state, but they don’t exactly catch that last syllable, as my voice trails off; speaking to more than 3 people has always been difficult for me- I haven’t had experience!
The group bursts into maniac laughter- even John, I note with a sigh. But Rachel becomes my savior to embarrassment as she interrupts with a voice full of authority, “Hey! Shut it! Her name’s Helen, got it? No sly remarks, Mark!” A boy with curly black hair, blue eyes, and freckles quickly shuts his smirking mouth, comparative to a Venus fly trap. I try to make thankful eye contact with Rachel, but she is smiling slightly at a tan boy with a dreamy expression on his face…
She quickly snaps out of her trance and rounds up her colleagues with commanding orders such as: ‘circle up! Introduce yourselves! Stop talking!’ Her demands are met, but met with remarks such as: ‘we’re not in preschool! She doesn’t care who we are! Shut up yourself!’
“Now, just like in grade school, we’re going to go around, state our names, and something interesting about ourselves.” Groans of annoyance are her reply. So she starts, “I’m Rachel Lucas, and I’m a ginger!” The next kid, a scrawny girl with glasses and pretty black hair, “I’m Lily, and I’m the oldest of 11 kids.” There are gasps of shock, and the word ‘busy’ slips a couple of times. “I’m Damian, and some people call me Sprinkles….” There is a sudden chanting of ‘Sprinkles, Sprinkles, Sprinkles!’ as this shaggy haired boy speaks. “Hey, guys! Shut it! Sprinkles wasn’t done!”
“No, it’s cool Rachel, carry on,” he replies. A girl with dark brown dreadlocks, blue eyes, and a perky nose speaks next, “I’m Holiday, and I can play 6 instruments.”
“Which ones?” I find myself asking in curiosity.
“Guitar, piano, drums, saxophone, and violin.”
“And she’s good at all of them!” comments the dark girl who spoke earlier. “I’m Taylor, and apparently I am the most outgoing and obnoxious person anybody has ever met.” There are nods of approval as the next singer, a boy with pink hair and multiple piercings speaks, “Um, I’m Spencer. I’ve been in a movie.” I am about to inquire clarification, but am interrupted by the next guy, who was the one that Rachel was staring at earlier, “I’m Nathan, and I am half Italian and half Scottish.” As I look towards the next contestant of introductory, my heart skips a beat as I see John looking at me. He speaks, “Hi Helen. You already know me and something interesting about me.”
Suddenly, I feel shame and slightly hang my head. This is actually a nice boy; he is just confused in the field of attraction. So, to make an attempt to friendship re-united, I slap on a light smile and look into John’s welcoming eyes. His face suddenly shows joyful relief as he returns the gesture portrayed on his countenance. So in relief of our silent makeup, I turn to the next subject to introduce: the boy with the curly hair, freckles, and blue eyes. “Hey missy, I’m Mark. I’ve kissed 27 different girls before.” Eyes are rolled at this remark, and I can tell that winks at several girls in the room, especially Rachel, who moves on rather quickly after the gesture.
A Hispanic girl said next, “I’m Allowette. I was born in Brazil.” There is silence, but then Damian blurts out, “Really?” More awkward silence before Allowette asks, “Something wrong with that Sprinkles?”
“No, not at all. I was just thinking about how much hotter that makes you.”
“Ok! Let’s move on!” Rachel quickly follows before the awkwardness continues, “Anyways… Taite, you’re next.”
A stunning blond girl with half-closed eyes and a smile states, “Ha-hah, I’m Taite… and I’m second-captain on the Belles.” I look Taite up and down. She is wearing a low long-sleeved shirt, short shorts, and a huge flashy ring. I look at her ring, which is in the shape of a heart, and notice her nail color: peach. This is Jake’s girlfriend. She notices me staring at her polish, and snaps, “Were you so isolated as a homeschooler that you’ve never seen nail polish before? Freak…”
I sense my face flushing and try to ignore this comment, but I am hurt. The word ‘freak’ keeps running through my mind like a scratched CD, but I try to focus on the next speaker instead; a classy boy with black flippy hair and shockingly blue eyes stands up, walks over to me, and shakes my hand. “Luke’s my name, Helen. It’s nice to meet you.” So chivalry isn’t dead after all… “I am secretly, well I guess not secretly anymore,” he gives a cute chuckle before continuing, “but I was secretly obsessed with poetry.” I smile and he sits down. My hand is tingling… I like this kid. I like him a lot.
“I’m Jessica,” states a multi-colored haired girl, “I’m lesbian.”
Well, that was much unexpected. So after a long awkward silence, Sprinkles says, “I did not know that…”
“Yea, because I didn’t want you to!” Jessica snaps back. After another long silence with Sprinkle’s face turning into a Christmas tree ornament, the next teen introduces himself. He is a tiny brunette boy who says in a small voice, “I’m Sam. I have, well, you will find out soon enough anyways, so I might as well just tell you now. I have OCD, and it sucks.” Aw poor kid!
“Okay, guys, ‘practice’ is over! Thanks for your cooperation!” mumbled replies are slung at her back as the teens turn to leave. I notice Mark talking to John and overhear them saying, “Hey, stay away from me, alright?” John nods his melancholy head in reply, and I hear Mark speak again, “You’re a creep, got it? You’re a freak that’s messed up, and if you don’t leave me alone, I’m going to make you regret it.” John mumbles ‘kay’. Before leaving, Mark shoves John against the wall in a violent gesture. I go up to John, “Are you all right?”
“I’m fine. Just, don’t try to get involved.” I see the back of his head once again, and I am left alone in the music room.