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“And that girl.” Another of my friends piped up. “Where’d she get those clothes? The Second Time Hobo Emporium?”
Everyone laughed. I guess it was normal for them. And I laughed too because really it’s the only thing I could do.
I can’t say I was comfortable with their mockery, or that I supported or enjoyed it like so many others seemed to. But I wasn’t exactly the “Shut up because they’re as good as you are” sort of person either. Really, I would just sit there, day after day, and listened to them talk about the next “that girl.”
That girl was too skinny. That girl was too fat. That girl had on way too much makeup, and that girl needed to work out. Really, everyone to me was starting to look like a potential “that girl.” All I knew is that “that girl” is the one thing on this earth that I never wanted to be. Nobody wanted to be “that girl.”
He walked by me. I stared down at my neon green plastic lunch tray. I was never--had never been--brave enough to tell him hi. Unless, of course, he said hi to me first. Which he sometimes did.
“Oh my God, look at that girl.” She rolled her eyes at the girl behind us, just picking at her lunch, adorned head to toe in black. “Anorexic much?”
Someone laughed. I didn’t look up to see who it was. “I don’t blame her! Just look at her! Like I’m innocent. I gained like, five pounds this summer. I am so fat.”
“You are not fat! I wish I was as skinny as you! I’m like, over a hundred and thirty!”
Someone snorted. “Yeah right.”
I guess I stopped listening after that. I fingered my stomach. I was over a hundred and fifty pounds. Not exactly what they would consider “skinny.”
My eyes raised slowly to the girl behind us, who met my eyes for a millisecond before lowering them again.
But at least I wasn’t that girl.
The warm wind of time whisked away the days like the warm colored leaves falling off the blazing trees of autumn. Days turned to weeks turned to months, and the conversations would repeat. The latest assignment, or social event, or concert. Whatever, you know? I remember Lindsey saying that she went to a Justin Beiber concert and how super hot he was. I was seething with jealousy, but I wouldn’t tell her that. After all, I have a reputation to maintain.
He held my hand as we walked through the double doors of the gym. His smile seemed to light up the room much brighter than any of the flashing lights or streamers that seemed to rain down from the ceiling, frozen mid-drop.
“Come on!” He tugged my hand, leading me onto the dance floor. I still couldn’t believe that he asked me! I was in shock! I mean, the coolest guy I know, barely knows my name, and he asks me to the big Crystal Ball. I couldn’t seem to get my heart to beat quiet enough.
After a couple of songs, I was out of breath, though whether from the vigorous dancing or from him I had no idea. And I didn’t care.
His smile grew really wide, then dropped for a moment as he looked at something farther away. I turned around to see what he was looking at, but his smile was back. “I’m gonna go get us some punch, cool?”
I smiled, stuttering like the dork I was. “C-cool.”
I somehow made my way over to the chairs along one wall n a daze. My head was in the clouds. I was floating. I still couldn’t believe he chose me!
“…totally dumped him and he ended up taking some loser. Sucker. . . .”
I wondered vaguely who they were talking about. But I didn’t much care. So this was what bliss felt like.
“…Everyone knows, so why bother to hide it? I mean, why doesn’t she just come out and admit that’s she’s cutting herself?”
I shook my head in disgust. They were talking about her again, the infamous “that girl.”
Suddenly, the flashing lights seemed to be giving me a headache, the room unbearably hot. I needed some fresh air.
I turned to the girl next to me. “Hey, if Randy comes back, let him know I went outside.”
The girl smiled, but it seemed a little off. I took that for a sure and found the exit.
The cold air on my face was exactly what I needed. Any thoughts of “that girl” soon evaporated, along with any worry I had. I closed my eyes and spun around in circles, smiling to myself as my silky dress flared out slightly. It was green, to match my eyes. It was the perfect night.
I sighed and opened my eyes. The stars were so beautiful, like a thousand little diamonds fighting for space in the night, each brighter than the last. But the moon was nowhere to be seen. It wasn’t a new moon. . . .Where was the moon?
Don’t ask me why I wanted to see the moon, but suddenly it was my top priority.
I rounded the corner of a building to see the moon. It was there, all right, but I saw so much more.
Her fingers were in his hair, their mouths pressed together in a passionate kiss. My kiss.
Suddenly, the stars seemed so ugly.
I turned on my heel and ran. Just ran. I didn’t know where I was going, just away. That was my only thought. Away.
Away from her.
Away from him.
Away from the stars.
Away from the traitorous moon.
I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, happy endings are for fairy tales and all that. And she was so much prettier and skinnier than I ever was. It really was no competition.
I burst inside. I was losing it, I could feel. I rushed into the bathrooms, the clean door swinging closed behind me.
I locked myself in one of the plain green stalls, green to match my dress, green to match my eyes. I felt the first tear escape my eye.
And there was the toilet. Maybe, I thought. Maybe, if I wasn’t so fat, maybe he would have wanted to keep me. Maybe I just needed to be smaller, prettier, not me.
I didn’t want to do it, really. Throwing up into a toilet was not appealing. But having him was.
I heard the door to the bathroom open, voices leaking in. I don’t care what they were talking about.
But if I threw up now, they would hear me. I know they would. So I guess that choice was spared.
As I spiraled deeper and deeper, down, down, down, I laughed at what I had thought earlier.
I still couldn’t believe that he had chosen me.
After lunch, the bathroom was there again. I knew that it wasn’t healthy, and I had never done it before, but I found myself walking in, ever so slowly. Just once, I told myself. Just once, and maybe he would take me back. Just once couldn’t be all that bad, right?
But as soon as I entered, I heard something. Or someone. Gagging. And then, puking. Someone had beat me to it. I stood frozen for a minute, trying to figure out who it could be. Gathering my senses, I stepped into a different stall, watching through the cracks for when whoever it was would come out.
A girl stepped into my line of vision, wiping her mouth once, then exiting like nothing had happened.
Suddenly, the temptation was gone. For the most part.
It was her.
I walked by the band room on the way to the office to use their phone. I had stayed late and needed a ride home.
Inside, I could hear something. Piano, I guess. But I hadn’t heard piano like this before. It was so beautiful.
I paused outside, listening intently. But the music had stopped. I peered in the window. Someone was sitting there, just staring at the keys like he was expecting them to do something other than be existant. And after a minute, he put his hands to the keyboard to play.
I listen to music all the time, don’t get me wrong. But I had never felt it like I felt this. It was so sorrowful, so so sad. It hit something deep inside me that I didn’t know I had. And without thinking, I found myself opening the door to the bandroom from the outside.
He didn’t stop or pause. Just kept playing that sad, sad song. I stood in the back, mesmerized.
“Can I help you?”
He didn’t even miss a note. Just kept playing.
“Sorry. . . .I just heard and. . . . .”
“Stacy, right?” He turned around, apparently finished with the song.
“Nate. Good to meet you.”
He turned around again and stared at the keyboard intently.
“Uh, yeah. Good to meet you too.” His black hair covered one eye. He was one of them. “Listen, I got to go. . . .”
“Somewhere, to do something. I get the drill.”
I bit my lip nervously. He knew my game, and he was calling me on it. “Sorry but--”
I opened the door, and looked back over my shoulder as he started to play again.
“Yeah. . . .Bye.”
As the door closed, I heard one lone note stutter.
At school, she looked so different now. Now that I knew her secret, she looked so…ugly. I couldn’t even stand to be around her. I sat at a table all by myself, picking at my food nonchalantly.
I looked up. It was that guy from yesterday. . .what’s his name? Nate?
I looked down at my salad. “Yeah, fine. Just tired.”
He sat down across from me. I fought the urge to glance over my shoulder. I would get all hell for this later from them.
“Mind if I sit here?”
I didn’t say a word the rest of the time. Just sat there wallowing in self-pity and regret, pictures of him floating through my head like a broken record. Over and over. He had cheated on me at the dance.
So why did it feel like it was my fault?
Nate sat with me the next day too, and the next. I got used to it pretty quickly. I never said anything. I still was afraid that someone would get the wrong impression.
But one day, I looked up from my food and said something that I instantly regretted. “Would you teach me to play piano like you did?”
He looked up, probably as startled as I was. I wanted him to flat-out reject. I wanted him to say “No. What are you kidding? NO way.”
But he just blinked and said “Sure.”
I didn’t say anything else, so he added. “How about tomorrow after school?”
I found myself nodding. Don’t nod! I don’t want to agree! I didn’t mean that! Take it back!
But the bell rung, and he got up, and I guess as much as I hated it, I had a lesson tomorrow.
“No, not so jerky. Like this.” He put his hands over mine, reaching over me, making me play. I was uncomfortable with the closeness. It was kind of creepy. “Get it?”
No. No I don’t get it. I don’t get what there is to get. “I guess. . . .”
He put his hand an octave higher than mine, going through a few simple motions for me to remember.
“Just work on that for now. I have to go.”
He left before I even got to say goodbye, the door clicking shut behind him.
I turned back to the piano, frustrated. Why did I even ask for this stupid lesson? I’m already no good. I’m no good at anything. I’m too fat, too ugly, too stupid to be anything useful.
I practiced the motion he had showed me.
I wasn’t good enough for him.
I played it again, faster. Failing.
I wasn’t good enough for her.
My finger twitched.
I wasn’t good enough for anything.
And it made me so angry, so sad. . . .I just. . . .I just. . . ..Words couldn’t explain it right.
I moved my hand way lower on the scale, playing it again. The notes were deep, dark, and resonating. It felt good. It felt so good. It felt sad, angry.
I played it again, low.
It felt heartbroken, like the piano was crying with me. It felt so good. Better than words. I played it, over nad over nad over again, just to hear it. Something clicked.
So this was what a heart was.
Nate and I started to hang out more. We had a couple of classes together, but it was more than that. We continued the piano lessons. It felt like I could tell him anything, like he wouldn’t judge me like everyone else did. He wouldn’t think I was fat, or ugly. He wouldn’t care if I did something unusual. It was like I was carrying around a weight all day, but when I was with him I was resting. It was great.
And the more and more we started to hang out, the more and more they noticed. They stared at me, like they were asking me what I was doing with one of them. How dare I? They started to distance themselves from me, especially her. And especially him.
And the farther away from me he got, I got more nad more depressed. It got to the point where every night seemed like a battle to live. All the pain, the reget, and most of all the guilt, crushed me like a bug. The mirror was now a torture device, the green dress from so long ago it seems an ugly reminder. I sunk deeper nad deeper, digging for myself a hole that I don’t think I would ever fully get out of. Turning to the darker things. Becoming more and more different. I was becoming one of them.
It felt good.
She sneered as she looked over at me. I stared down at my lunch tray, picking at my food subconsciously. She was four tables away, but I could hear her all the same.
“Oh my God, look at that girl. Anorexic much?”
I wanted to hit her in her pretty little face and call her every dirty word in the book and some that aren’t.
The others stared at me, some piteous, some sick. Did they know that they are the reason I am like this? Do they really understand why I am the way I am?
I never wanted to be this person. I never wanted to be one of them. I never wanted to be that scary person dressed all in black, with black died hair. That was never me. I didn’t want to be that. I didn’t choose to be that. They made me like this. It’s their fault, not mine.
They call me anorexic to hide that they are bulimic.
They call me a fashion disaster to hide how much their clothes cost them, so much more than money.
They call me friendless to hide that they don’t know whether or not they have any real friends themselves.
They call me a loser to hide the fact that they will never succeed.
Nate reached over and touched my hand. Our eyes met, and I knew what he was thinking. He was trying to tell me it was okay, that everything would be all right.
I fingered the hand positions to a song that I was working on on the piano. My heart. I really hoped that he was right. Because now I was the one thing that my nightmares had warned me of, and it was partly his fault.
Yeah, that’s right.
I was That Girl.
The woman’s hands shook, the note dropping to the floor in a puddle of water that she had spilled. The ink blurred out, fading out the horror that was reality. She could not reread it again and again like she wanted to, even though she knew what it said. Everything she needed to know was in the first line.
I’m leaving you.
She ran into the living room, hoping to see him sitting there, like he always was. But it was empty. Just to be sure, she had to touch the chair where he sat, to make sure that it was empty. She wanted to meet his skin, but all that was left was the coarse fabric, nothing but a ghost of the man she thought she loved.
Tears fell from her eyes like shooting stars across the midnight sky. Tear after tear after tear. Down, down, down.
She wanted to scream. She wanted to run. She wanted to throw something or blame somebody. But there was no one else there. Her knees were weak. It was all her fault.
She collapsed, no longer able to hold herself upright. She crashed to the floor with a loud thump.
The TV blazed, left on, totally ignorant of her heartbreak. In reality, she realized, no one else knew nad no one else cared. She was totally alone in this. The rest fo the world just wanted to hurt her, it seemed.
Some live concert thing was showing. She tried to watch it, just to keep her mind off her beloved. But it was so hard to concentrate.
The woman who was singing looked oddly familiar. She was sure she had seen her before. She just didn’t know where.
The woman ended one song and went to sit down at a keyboard, bringing the microphone with her. A guitarist took off his guitar and joined her.
The crowd went deathly silent.
The woman’s voice rung forth. “Okay, now this song means a lot to me.”
Cheers from the crowd as the echo faded.
“--And I’m sure that most of you know it.”
“So if you want to, go ahead and sing along, okay?”
Screams and whistled form the audience, and a lot of clapping. But despite the invitation, when the song started, everyone went still.
The man and the woman both put one hand on the keyboard, each playing a half of the song. And for the first time they both sang. It was so heartbreaking, so sad. But the only thing that the woman watching the television could remember was the chorus.
I never meant to let you see,
The hold that you have over me.
The pain, the gain, the lies, the start,
You take away my broken heart.
Accidents lead to ammends,
And the cycle will begin again.
By the end of the chorus, the woman gasped as she recognized the singer. She should have known. They had gone to high school together. The singer had had a boyfriend that the woman stole and married. And now, he had left her. Cruel irony.
And to end the concert, the woman finished by saying one simple sentence that had the crowd going nuts. Then she hugged the other pianist and they went off-stage hand in hand.
The sentence was still ringing in the woman’s ears long after the show was over.
“I never meant to be that girl. But I wouldn’t trade it for a second.”