Red (or Valentine)

No-one else sees
That you have long, black eyelashes
And eyes like the sky after it rains
Behind those dirty glasses,
And partially covered by long, messy, obsidian hair.
The smattering of pimples,
Easily preventable,
Hides the beautiful olive tones of your skin.
You could be so beautiful if you just tried.
Won't you try?
Won't you come up
And be popular with me?
Even though I want to
I can't go down there with you
Because
Everyone
Will leave me
Alone.

It took me so long to become "cool"
No one would believe me if I said I grew up on a farm
And loved it,
Even though it's true.
Besides.
Girls aren't supposed to like farm animals
Or peach juice dripping down their chin
In fact, peach juice shouldn't do that at all
As ladies are prim and proper
And not at all messy.
At least, that's what the elementary school kids said
When I came to school with loose wildfire hair.
So, starting in 3rd grade, I straightened it,
Taking great care to brush out the knots and tangles
And making the frizz lay flat.
But that wasn't good enough.
My clothes were all patched.
The clothes that my grandmother had taken so long to sew
With her soft veiny hands
That I so loved to hold.
But that wasn't important.
I asked my parents for new clothes
Fashionable clothes.
They let me have them.
My grandmother smiled sadly when she saw me sometimes,
But whenever I asked her why,
She would kiss the top of my head,
call me "punkin",
And change the subject.
The girls were still the same. No matter what I did,
I would never be "beautiful" to them.
So they made me uglier.
One time,
The last time
I came home from that school,
My nose was broken,
my long hair had been roughly chopped away with scissors.
My parents pulled me out right away.
We moved to the city in the middle of my fifth grade year
After I had recovered.
But I vowed I would be pretty this time
So it would never happen again.
I died my hair brown, still straightening it.
In 7th grade I started bleaching it.
I smiled and laughed instead of looking somber and gray.
I got new clothes and shoes,
Peirced my ears,
Blended with the crowd.
And miraculously, I made friends, and we all became more and more popular.
And I worried that if I took a wrong step
I would lose it all again
and be reduced to nothing.
So I watched my step,
Tiptoeing across the tightrope
high above the
"geeks" and "nerds" and "uglys"...
Until one day,
In the middle of 8th grade,
I chanced to look down
And I saw you.
Only you, out of all the faces in the crowd.
And I wanted to jump down to you,
But my girls walked in front and back.
And I didn't want to be reduced to nothing;
A pancake below the sparkling, pink girls
And the strong boys.
So I watched you like I watched my feet
I pretended it was nothing,
That I wasn't doing it.
And I switched between you and the rope.
You and the rope.
Being careful not to tread in the wrong direction.
And my friends edged me along the endless tightrope, from in front and behind,
And laughed at those below.
Those who had fallen off, and those who had always been there, below.
And I was sure that
If they knew,
If they could tell,
They would all leave me.
So that's why they can't know
They can never know
That I love you.

I'll come to school early.
Leave a note in your locker.
Hope you answer my plea.
"Won't you meet me later
At the elementary school playground?
I'll be hiding in
The curly slide."
Curly.
Such a whimsical word.
My heart,
When I try to remove it from your unknowing finger,
Is curly.
Wrapped around and around.
It became floppy
and could not stand on its own.
So I wrap it back up around your pinky,
Try to tie it on with a red string,
A red feeling

Red eyes.
Your friend.
That one all my friends say is cute.
Say that it's a shame he hangs out with poor unpopular you.
Found the note in your locker,
And he read it right in the hallway.
You blushed and tried to take it from him,
Reaching up as high as you could.
But you were too short
Even with your thick-soled shoes
That I know you would never admit to wearing on purpose.
You would be too embarrassed.
I laugh with my friends as you run away with your books,
Tripping.
Red-faced.
But inside,
I cry.
Maybe a little on the outside, too.
But no-one suspects anything
Because lots of them are getting teary-eyed
From laughing so hard.

It's possible to cry so hard
that you laugh.
I know that now.
I wrote another note
On the same kind of paper
Making sure that I use the same handwriting as before.
Words.
The disguise
That is always reliable.
"I'm so sorry
That my note
Had to embarass you."
I wrote, hand shaking
"I hope you can forgive me.
If you don't mind
Would you please meet me
At the carousel
In Porter Park
On Saturday night,
around nine?
I heard that you
love horses."
I will leave my note
In your desk this time.
Inside that sketchbook of yours
you refuse to let anyone look in.
I won't look, I promise.

My cheeks
are as pink as that gaudy, poofy, frilly dress the girls gave me
For my 13th birthday and the middle school prom combined.
The one I swore I loved
But only wore twice
Because it suffocated me
And was scratchy.
And I swore I didn't wear it because I wanted to keep it nice,
Because I loved it.
I thought it was f-ing stupid.
You kept looking at me while I was wearing it,
Glancing at me from the wall
In your too big suit
And shiny shoes.
And you frowned.
I wanted to go over there
To let go of that stupid jerk
Who was holding my waist
Just a little too low
And far back,
And to ask you what was wrong,
But I couldn't.
And my friends kept shoving me into boys
Who would spin me around until I was dizzy.
And I could only smile a dazzling smile,
Framed with lipgloss
And laced with sorrow,
Because I had thought you would like this dress
Like all these other boys.
But then again, you weren't like anyone else in the world.
I want to see you.
I want to kiss you.
I want you.

It worked.
At least, you met me at the carousel.
The early December air
Had brought the blood to your cheeks.
I hid on one side of the ride, while you stayed on the other.
At first you tried to get a glimpse of me.
But I was too fast.
So you gave up
And sat down on a seahorse
Whose mane matched the color of your eyes.
I switched back to my country twang and said
"Ah like you."
from a pegasus on the other side.
Fitting,
Considering we are opposites
In almost every way.
My hair is naturally red
(Even though it's blonde now.)
Like rust on an old gate.
Yours is the color of the midnight sky without city lights.
I can even see the stars twinkling sometimes
As far as I know, you've lived in the city all your life.
Have you ever seen the stars like that?
"Okay."
You say.
I panic. Is that a no? A yes? A whatever, leave me alone?
"I don't recognise your voice, I don't know anyone with such a thick accent.
I'm sorry, but I can't return your feelings."
You said calmly
"Why?" I stutter
"I like someone else. And even though I can never reach her
I can't stop loving her.
I'm sorry I can't return your feelings."
I looked at you, you who was smiling sadly in the moonlight like a cherub.
"I understand." I said, choking on my voice.
"I can't reach the person I like either."
I ran back to my house
And cried until my eyes were red again,
And wondered if our red string was broken.

People noticed that I was sad.
The girls in my group kept asking me what was wrong.
I told them it was private, to stop asking me.
That I was fine.
They all dropped it after that, going about their normal lives.
Except Kaitlin and Jane.
They kept hanging around me.
They didn't ask me anymore after I told them to stop,
But every once in a while, they look at me in this weird way.
Once Kaitlin came up and hugged me.
I don't know why, but I let her.
They're both a little annoying, but I didn't care anymore.
Valentine's day approached quickly, and I still wasn't over it.
I decided I would try again, but I would try something much more daring this time.
I had thought about it for a whole month...
And decided that I didn't care anymore if I lost all my friends.
It was the end of junior year anyway.
I came up with a plan.

Over the next two months, I let the dye grow out of my hair, wearing a wig to cover it up.
I stopped putting on as much makeup, but I still had a good amount on.
Enough to make me pretty.
I noticed that Kaytlin and Jane had started smiling at me normally again.
They'd probably hate me soon, so I enjoyed their company while I could.
I practiced in front of the mirror over and over again
I wished on every star...
And I wrote.
I wrote love stories.
I wrote this story.
I wrote about what I most feared would happen.
But most of all,
I wrote about what I hoped we would become.

It's February 14th
The day I've been dreading and looking forward to at the same time
You stand there at your locker looking sad
And I don't resist the urge to go over there and kiss you
I do it.
I have to bend down a little to reach your lips, but I don't care
I take off my wig and stare at you
"You.
I love you.
I have loved you for three and a half years
And I don't care what anyone else thinks
Because you're the best thing that's ever happened to me.
And you told me at the carousel that you like someone else
But I hope that you can like me.
Or that you do already.
It has taken me forever to get up the courage to say this
But I love you."
I laughed because my accent had slipped out in my excitement
And I told you my story up until now
In the middle of the hall,
In front of the whole school.
"I know this is weird,
And I know I'll lose a lot of my friends, but
It doesn't matter, because
I have one question for you,"
I blurted

"Will you be my valentine?"





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