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Fear No Evil
I wandered the hallway aimlessly, looking down at the frayed ends of my shoelaces. On all sides and angles, people bumped and scattered around me, some mumbling for me to “watch it” and others simply shoving me aside. Florescent lights flashed in gleaming tiles and glinted off the floor. The shine leapt and skipped in disorienting patterns, and ached as it entered into my eyes. The brightness began to prod at a headache that rested on my temples. I closed my eyes as I fought the current of people, mumbling to myself the prayer of protection. Though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I shall fear no evil. I walked with my eyes closed; they weren’t there if I did not see them. And while I walked along the violent population known as high school students, I tried with all my heart to fear no evil that came my way.
I winced when I caught my reflection in the glass trophy cases and the dull shine of freshly painted lockers. In a blur, I could see my dark curls bouncing in tangled ringlets around my shoulders. It curled around my cheeks like weeds, and I threw up my fingers to push it away. When I lowered my hand it was laced with at least six or seven kinky black hairs, which I let slip onto the ground. I paused in front of the attendance office to see myself in the glass. My home has no mirrors, because according to my mom “We have no room for vanity in this house, Mary Claire. That room is saved for Jesus.” But I felt a thrill tingle through me as I saw myself, like listening to a conversation containing a secret.
When I looked at myself I understood why the kids thought I was strange. I even thought I was strange. Each of my features looked mismatched, as if I had bought each trait at a different second-hand store. My dry crusted lips were scarred and chipped from where I’d eaten away at the skin, and sagged unhappily at the corners. My skin was void of pimples and blemishes (Thank the Lord, I was spared that pain of adolescence) but simply because I washed it constantly. So constantly that it has become rough and dry, dead skin collecting like dandruff on my used sweater. My collarbones protruded sharply from my chest, and with my fingernails I traced the deep hollows they left. Looking at myself felt satisfying in a dirty, wicked way.
I heard a tapping on the other side of the glass and gazed up to see Mr. Arnolds, the attendance man glaring down at me. He wore a neat sweater vest and button up shirt, his sleeves rolled over rotund biceps. I jumped backwards, my eyes widening to saucers on the window’s surface.
“Hey, beauty queen, let’s keep it moving, people are working here,” he said. He wore thin framed glasses surrounded by copper wire, and he pushed them up the shiny bridge of his nose. I nodded quickly, and scattered down the hall like a frightened rodent searching for shelter.
I turned on my heel and trudged to my locker. I knew where it was by memory, right next to the boy’s restroom that stank of testosterone and sweaty fabric. I could hear them inside, slapping each other’s bare skins and bellowing low growls. I shut my ears to it. Their primal catcalls began to reek of sin as much as they did of exercise-induced filth. I turned my back, attempting to become invisible as a few hair-legged, thick browed boys tumbled out of the doorway, laughing and wrestling as they went. That smell, I thought, I can’t take the smell. Again, I threw my hands over my ears, praying and praying to the God who created me. The God who sat on a throne so high He could not make out my plea for help in the sea of desperate sinners. Fear no evil, Mary Claire, fear no evil.
Mindlessly, I stared at a pimple on Matthew Syndale’s chin as he glided down the thinning hallway. He was itching his nose with his index finger, teasing around its corners and preparing to descend into the dark cavern when no one was watching. His hair was a transparent blonde, cropped short enough to see his wan scalp. His face was covered with merciless acne as well, specifically on his cheeks. Indents and scars were etched into his skin, giving it the consistency of lumpy, unmixed batter. Perhaps oatmeal is a better comparison.
I smiled at him, but regretted it immediately. He never looked up, never flinched, and a wishful part of myself wondered if he had seen me. I felt shame swell in my stomach, Stupid, So stupid. Boys don’t like you, Mary Claire, boy just don’t. I continued to watch his back until he turned a corner and disappeared.
People shuffled along in a steady outpouring. Tall girls, with fresh leather purses trotted in small packs to the cafeteria, squat chunky girls pulled at their shirt collars as they tottered to the library. High schoolers of every kind mixed and mingled around me like toxic waste. Few met my gaze, and those who dared drew away, a raw fear jolting their bodies. Somewhere I swear there is a rulebook for all of this, and underneath the dusty cover of that damned book there is a section titled AVOID MARY CLAIRE STEVENS AT ALL COSTS. And they all abided by this rule as if it were gold.
They all looked so different; but underneath they were much the same All were afraid. All were cowards. All were lusting after their budding peers. I looked up to my Lord, concentrating in prayer. In barely a whisper I said, “Please, Lord, give me the strength to love them. They can’t all be damned; they are all of You, aren’t they? My brothers, sisters, Your children? We can’t all be on the track to the devil’s fire, can we?” my heart was open to His words but nothing came. Only a silent affirmation of what I could not un-feel; they all do not deserve a place beside their Father.
Three boys, younger than me but thick with fat and loose muscle, gawked at me on their way to the gym.
“Dude, she’s talking to herself!”
“She’s psycho, man, she’s in my bio and she said we were teaching ‘dirty falsities” like evolution. She says crap like that all the time.”
I wanted to yell at them. “YOU WILL TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR SINS!” but I let their words run through me like a dull knife as they continued on their merry way. One of them contorted his hands in a twisted position I didn’t recognize. Whatever it was, the other boys thought it was hysterical.
The cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, the sexually immoral, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death. Revelations, the Word of God, irrefutable proof they are all on a path to eternal suffering. They are wicked, they are evil; and as much as I beg Jesus for the strength, I cannot help but loathe them.
I turned back to my locker, peeling out worn textbooks and ripped papers that would be company during my solitary weekend. My library book launched onto the floor, squeaking on the plastic tiles as it slid into the busy hallway flow. I stooped onto my knees to pick it up, clawing at the shiny speckled floor, searching for the flimsy book between fast-paced legs pumping in front of me. A heavy boot came down on my pointer finger, drawing out an uneven shriek from the back of my throat. No one stopped, and I groaned when lukewarm fluid began to pool beneath my fingernail. In the distance I could hear laughter, cackles that echoed throughout the hallway like smoke. I felt a muscle inside me tense. A defensive muscle, sworn to protect but was being inevitably resisted, maybe for the better. Finally I spotted my novel, fresh tears and folds on its surface.
Again, I outstretched my hand, but just as my swollen finger grazed the book’s spine, it was snatched away by an unseen hand and disappeared into the abyss. In a curious way, it reminded me of Jesus ascending into heaven, lifted unto the right hand of His Father. Unfortunately, my novel had reached a being far less… holy.
I gazed up the long, narrow legs that stood before me. Clad in pink, pleather heels and pale skinny jeans stood Phoebe Marling, flocked by a crew of thin blondes gawking at my scrawny book in the palm of Phoebe’s hand.
“Wow,” Phoebe mused, “I didn’t know Virgin Mary could read.”
Realizing I was still on the ground below her (like a wad of post-chewed gum), I stood up to face them all. My kneecaps jutted out, farther than they should I’m sure, and wobbled beneath my humble skirt. Fear no evil, goddam it, fear nothing.
My mouth gaped open, a biting rebuttal prepared to strike Phoebe where she stood, but nothing but a mouse crawled out from the depths of my courage. “Th-that’s m-mine. Can I h-have it back, please?” I took a bumbling step forward, nearly slipping on a loose biology paper.
“Fat chance, virgin.” Phoebe said, lifting her hand and pushing me back onto the cold, metal lockers. She had on cherry nail polish, and little bits of it clung to my sweater.
“Now,” she began, her voice dripping with power and authority, “let’s see what this masterpiece is titled.” She cleared her throat. Dramatic pause before she brings out the big guns, the real fun. “Angels Contacting Humans; The Hidden Messages From On High.” One or two of her henchmen gurgled with nasally giggles. That sound, I can’t stand it. Like a familiar friend, it made itself comfortable in my head, staining my mind with its signature tune. How they laugh at me, oh you should hear it on this end. Somewhere in my throat a vile, bitter taste began to swell. I felt it moving inside me, rising and rising to the top…
She threw her full hip to one side, leaning on an invisible wall as she read on. “Do you not see, my children, the messengers of God are with us all? Those of faithful heart can hear their chorus around them, singing songs of praise and hymns of warning. Warning to those leading a life of corruption; unprepared for the End Times which shall come with the second coming of our Savior.” Phoebe threw her head back with the others. I noticed she had a gold tooth in the back of her jaw, and red lip-gloss on her front teeth. Her breathe smelt sugary, too sweet. I felt the smell poke at the vulgar taste inside me, enraging it enough to surface. Oh no, it’s coming. “Holy s***, you don’t believe this crap, do you?”
She passed the book off to Charlotte Hamilton, a curvy redhead, who began to examine the worn book with the vigilance of a hawk. Finally! She found a flaw, call the press! She used two pinched fingers to pulled out a thick, kinky piece of ammunition. “EWWW!” she shrieked, almost dropping my book, “There’s, like, a pubic hair!” In between her elegant fingers she held a long, dark hair that was thick as twine and rough as sandpaper. It was from my head, mind you, my sloppy mess of unmanageable curls. I shed like a dog, always scratching away at my scalp. Nothing I owned wasn’t coated in a veil of dark hairs, which unfortunately for me resembled –
“PUBIC HAIR! DISGUSTING!” they shrieked. A couple took cautionary steps back, holding their thin stomachs and heaving out laughs. I’m going to be sick, please go away I’m going to be sick I am!
“No!” I begged, grabbing at the air, looking for a foothold, “It’s my hair! You know that! It’s from my head, my hair, my curly hair, please stop!...” I began to gag, my hands trembling around my throat. “Please-“ I started, but it was too late. I folded over like a lawn chair, vomiting on the ground and my biology homework. Like roaches, they scattered, wailing as I hobbled to the trashcan, hurling all my stomach’s contents into the aged garbage. The fermented trash didn’t help much, either. Tears streamed down my face, collecting on the tip of my nose and stinging my dry skin. From beneath the tears and embarrassment, I felt a moment of triumph seeing my puke on Phoebe Marling’s pink heels.
I looked back after what felt like an eternity of purging, and I was alone. Once or twice someone would pass by, cover their nose and yell, “GROSS! Do you smell that?” And with watering eyes and scrunched faces they would run from me. Not in fear the way I run from people, but in disgust the way people step over muddy puddles or look away from road kill. That kind of disgust they felt when they saw me.
The janitor found me about fifteen minutes later, standing in a puddle of puke outside my locker. It was on my shoes, in my hair, down my shirt, and worst of all, all over my library book. The cover now only read Angels Contacting Huma and its words, which had seemed divine poetry to me, were now stuck together in useless clumps. Ruined. Everything around me was ruined.
The janitor groaned as he approached the scene, and mumbled for me to get out of his way so he could clean this mess up. “Nurse’ office is downstairs,” he grumbled monotonously, his stare vacant. He glared as he faced off with what would surely ruin his appetite before dinner. “I want you to go lie down until your parents can come and pick you up. Don’t want you getting sick somewhere I gotta clean.” He gave me a pointed glare and turned to his supplies. I didn’t move.
He returned with a mop and jug of bleach that stank worse than my vomit. “Am I speakin’ French, kid? Go to the nurse’ office and call your parents so I clean up ‘round here.”
I waddled down the hallway holding my aching muscles, and I could hear a sloshing inside my loose clogs. Behind me, a slow recital of curses slipped from the janitor, and I picked up my speed until I found a door with a poster explaining asthma on it. The door had a gold plaque on it reading “Nurse Holly Thompson” and I thought that was funny. If caring for puking girls and bloody noses was a job glamorous enough to deserve a gold plaque, then I deserved a medal. My mother often told me that there was no value in fine metals, and she didn’t allow so much as a silver plate beneath her roof. Except, that is, for the humble gold crosses she and I hang around our turtlenecks so everyone can see them.
Sweet relief ran through my body as I entered the office, which had a blissful chill to it. I could feel sweat making my skin tacky and burn, but the room began to take the stinging edge off. It tickled my skin like a fur coat I tried on once, a coat made of rabbit’s fur that sparkled like twilight. I was almost tempted to use my allowance to take it home, but I thought better of it. Ugly girls needn’t pretty things.
Nurse Thompson was a round, soft-faced woman creeping up on the age of a grandparent. Her lips had that wrinkled purse to them even when she laughed, and her eyes were warm from years of putting on Band-Aids and handing out Kleenex. She jumped when I came in, her copy of Eat, Pray, Love bumping her keyboard as she hopped up in her seat with speed I had doubted her capable of. “Oh, my, I’m sorry dear, I didn’t think I’d be seeing anyone this late in the day.” She peered at me through her bifocals with sincere persistence, seeing beige stains on my sweater but not positive what to make of them. “You came just in time, I was almost on my way out… what was your name again, dear?” It was then she noticed I was crying.
Her face melted into a softer expression, and she placed her doughy hand on my shoulder. “Oh, did something happen, honey? Well, you just sit down anywhere you like while I get you a cool towel for your forehead and so you can…er…clean up a bit.” Mrs. Thompson then handed me a square bucket the color of Pepto-Bismol. I knew it was clean, but all the same it felt odd and grimy in my hands. “Use this if you think you’ll loose your stomach again.” She smiled with her eyebrows drawn, and left with her washcloth for the bathroom just across the hall.
Alone at last, I thought. My eyes and spirits had become too tired to cry, and I moved on to the stage of sniffling and whipping my nose with my sleeve. I was still shaking, but my mind had become absent enough that the embarrassment of previous events was, for the moment, tucked away in a neat little folder waited further review. I lowered my body onto the sanitary bed, and was nearly unconscious when Nurse Thompson thundered back into the room, her cheerful voice breaking apart the nightmare forming in my mine.
“Put this on your forehead, sweetheart, it’ll help with the nausea.” I nodded, and took it without opening my eyes. I could feel her pleasure with herself, and she told me
“Your color is already improving, hun. And now that you’ve clamed down a bit, would you remind me what your name is, sweetie?”
Her voice sounding the way honey would feel if you drank it. I barely whispered, “My name is Mary Claire Stevens.”
She made a huffing noise as she plopped back into her wheeled chair, and she said, “Oh, that’s right! What a lovely name. Very classic, why, I think I have a second cousin with a name like that. It might be Clarisse, I can’t seem to remember.”
She cleared her throat, and I could feel her breath over me. I looked up and there she stood, blocking the light from the reclusive lamp atop her desk. She handed me a glass of water and I drank it down quickly. When I set it down beside me, I noticed I had left a hair in it.
“And what grade are you in, Mary Claire?”
“Tenth,” I said, sitting up and looking towards the ground. I still smelt of puke, and I could feel it weighing down the ends of my hair. She must have noticed this, too, because she told be I could go to the bathroom and wash off while she called my mother.
“This is the third time I’ve seen you this week, Mary Claire. I think something bad may have happened to you, and later I think your mother and I are going to have a long talk to the principal about it.” Again, my stomach lurched, so much so that I leaned over the pink bucket and made a terrible, frog-like noise. She reached to hold my back, but I sat up and looked at her briskly.
“Nothing bad happened. Please just call my mom so I can go home.”
Nurse Thompson nodded solemnly, and I headed to the bathroom to wash the puke off myself.
By the time I got back to the Nurse’ office, Nurse Thompson told me my mother would be here any minute, and would come into her office to pick me up. I nodded and we sat in silence for a few long minutes until my mother came.
My mother stepped into the room at around a quarter to four with a wild look to her eyes. She had curls like me that grew closer to frizz by her roots, and had large green eyes that always watered. Both Nurse Thompson and I stood up formally when she came in; it felt like the right thing to do. And after I stood up I ran into her arms and burst into a fresh round of sobs.
“Shh, it’s okay, my lamb, it’s alright. Now I want you to stop crying, Mary Claire, because we are going to the car. And I want you to hold your head up high when you do so.” She crooned, her fingertips light against my helmet of hair.
She turned to Nurse Thompson. “Thank you so much for looking after her, Mrs…” Nurse Thompson raised her right hand in protest, fine pink blush rising on her cheekbones.
“Heavens, Mrs. Thompson is what all the kids say, call me Holly, I insist.” She paused, and cleared her throat. “And it was my pleasure. I think your daughter has had quite a hard day, Ms. Stevens. Is there any way you and I could step outside for a moment and talk?”
My mom shook her head in a small, regal motion, and said, “You can reach us at home, but for the time being I think it’s best I take my daughter home for a while.”
I couldn’t have been more grateful for my mother at that moment, and without thanking Nurse Holly I left the room with my head tucked close to my chest, the curve of my eyelashes providing a thin visor to block the blinding sunshine.
My mom wrapped her arm around me as we left, and I hated how uncomfortable it made me. Not many people still lingered in the hallway, but those who did made it a painful to be there. One boy was talking to a girl wearing a knit hat (which I found odd) and he made a whistling noise at my mother’s backside. She wore a long, cotton skirt that had been through the wash too many times, and a few guys that wore leather and jean jackets stepped on the back of it so the fringe of my mother’s underwear was visible on the small of her back. She turned back and yelled, “You should all be ashamed of your behavior! Do you not know the meaning of respect!” They chuckled until we reached the glass doors leading to the outside of the building.
We both were silent as we got into the rusted doors of our 2001 Toyota Corolla. It was that strange color that danced between the barrier of light green and dirty silver, and was scratched from years of snow and slapdash driving. Mother and I were used to layering our clothing (first an undershirt, them a turtleneck, then a sweater…) so we liked the car to stay on the cold side of the thermometer. I curled into the familiar leather seat that was indented with my form, and hid behind the tinted windows until my mom pulled onto Baker Street.
The radio hummed “Lead me to You” by PJ Anderson on the Catholic radio station. No one else at school listened to music by him, or by anyone like him for that matter. They liked Justin Bieber and One Direction, bands with nice looking boys who didn’t always wear shirts. I wish the boys that Mother let me hear sing were pretty like that.
“The kids at school are awful to me, Mom. They make fun of my…” I looked down at myself. “They make fun of me.”
My mother kept her eyes on the road, checking her speed in quick, passive glances. “We’ll say a prayer for them at dinner,” she said softly, turning up the radio just a hair.
“I don’t want to.” I said. I could feel the Lord’s eye burning into my back as we drove. Hell, Mary Claire, those filled with hatred go to hell…
“MARY CLAIRE STEVENS!” Mother slammed on the breaks of the car hard as we ran into a red light, the impact jarring me forward. The seatbelt flung me back into the chair with enough force to make me gasp. “That is sinful talk,” she hissed. “It is not our job to judge, but to forgive. At the End of Times, He will judge those who have done Him wrong. Not you.”
“They’re savage, Mom.”
“And what are you?”
“I’m sorry, Mom, I’m sorry. But…but they called me names. They think I’m strange. Can’t I –“ I stopped myself there, wiping tears that hung off my chin. I was about to ask her why I couldn’t just be home schooled, but I already knew the answer to that. “Because money doesn’t grow on trees, Mary Claire. If I don’t work all day then where is our money going to come from? Money for our house, and our car, and our clothes…” She would continue this rant as long as she could think of things we owned. Because it doesn’t matter if they hurt you Mary Claire, God is protecting you. You do trust God, don’t you?
I let the noises of the round, soft bumps and shakes, fill up the car and we drove the rest of the way home in tranquility.
I felt my shoulders hang lax and the breath run from me as we pulled up to the front of our one-story home. It was not a big home, but a clean one. Although, looking at it from the outside you might have a different opinion. Dirty rain had often assaulted the home, and its paint had given up the tired fight of clinging to the home’s rotten panels. Mother swept and cleaned whenever she could, but even simple repairs were beyond her. “That’s a man’s work, my lamb. And it’s the Sabbath, so I don’t see how it’ll be fixed today by any means.”
Springtime melting had just begun in the tired town of Derry, Maine, and my feet were immediately caught in a filthy stream pouring into the gutter. It weaved its way through the wool in my socks, and it burned in a way I almost… enjoyed. It was strange, but I kept standing there until my mother started yelling at me to come inside.
“You’ll catch your death in that cold, Mary Claire!” she called from the droopy stoop of our front porch.
I think something inside me may have snapped at that moment. Something very important, I guess, because I don’t think I’ve ever gotten back to the girl who entered the school that very morning, thinking maybe the day would be better. After that day, I don’t think I ever will. As I stepped out of the freezing gutter I said, “Is that an offer?”
The front door opened with a creak, and the first thing I saw was a painting of the Passion. Jesus, bleeding from his side, his face contorted in a twisted version of his former beauty. He was surrounded by a glow, speaking his final words to His Father. From the kitchen, I heard my mother calling me. With an old wooden spoon in hand, she said,
“Why don’t you go upstairs and shower off, sweetie?” I nodded, and without my soul in my body, I marched into the tiny bathroom that we sometimes hung our coats in.
The bathroom was small, with four hooks on the door. We didn’t have much space in our closet, so sometimes our jackets ended up next to the towels. I stripped down until I was completely exposed, and for once I was thankful we had no mirrors. This part I don’t like to talk about much, so forgive me for keeping what follows brief. I stepped into the shower and turned a knob. It happened to turn on the cold water, but that was fine with me. It stung and numbed my skin, and helped with the pain as I drew a razor across my naked wrists. I hadn’t turned the light on, and my blood flowed black from my body and ran down the drain. It was like the blood and water spilling from Christ’s side as he started on his road to death. And I can tell you that I stepped in that bathroom not expecting to come out. I can be honest about that. But I guess God had a different plan, because by some miracle I stopped bleeding (bleeding much, anyways) and I got out of the shower still trickling warm blood, that was turning pink with clean water. Jesus Christ, I can’t even kill myself right. After a while I gave up and dried myself using my sweater.
I forgot the rest of that night almost completely. I ate dinner beside my mother, and she didn’t see my wrists. I had bandaged them up with a pair of stockings I had, and threw them away once the cuts healed. She asked me if I had said my prayers that day and I told her I had. I think we ate spaghetti, but it may have been macaroni. I got light headed when I was washing the dishes, but I didn’t say anything and instead went to bed early. I fainted on my bedroom floor in my flannel pajamas, and I woke up the next morning hung-over and alive. I was covered in the sweat of deep nightmares, but I couldn’t remember any of them.
I got ready for school in the same way I usually do, and my mother drove me to school as she usually did. We didn’t speak of the day before and we drove, listening to the same Christian radio we usually did.
“Aren’t there any other stations on?” I asked her, and with a curt nod of her head she said, “Not anything a good Christian would be interested in.”
She kissed my forehead as we pulled up to the pale, brick building, which made me queasy. My peers laughed and ran around each other, living a life I never could. A young girl and an older boy kissed on the railing leading up the school, her leg pulled up and around his lean thighs. Kissing is a dirty thing, Mary Claire, so look away. But I didn’t look away. There was something beautiful about the couple; something fresh. The girl giggled, and reached up on her tiptoes to where he was waiting. I knew what they were doing was bad, wrong, but they seemed so happy I didn’t care.
“Have a good day at school, my little lamb. I love you.” My mother said, stroking back my wild mane. I told my mother I loved her very much, too, wanting to stay in that car with her forever. I got out, driven with strict duty. Drenched in sunlight I walked along the sparkling, wet pavement that led to my torture. I continued to stare at the couple, and when I walked past them the boy called to me, “What are you staring at, perv?” I didn’t respond, I just walked forward with the force of Jesus riding on my back.
The bitter janitor I met yesterday had vigorously cleaned my locker, and it now smelled of bleach. My biology homework was now gone (another casualty of my encounter the other day) but all my textbooks had been whipped clean with Clorox. I dug out the one labeled “BIOLOGY”, and walked to my first hour lost in a crowd of thoughtless people.
My least favorite class of the day was the one I had to face first. The science room had blinding, white walls with temperamental lighting. Little, dead things in jars floated along open cabinets and a plastic skeleton wearing pink sunglasses stared at me the whole class. The desks were old, and had been carved on using pencils and pocketknives. My desk, at the front of the classroom and a bit to the left, said “AJ + JD FOReVeR” and “RAYAN WUZ HERE”. There were other profanities scribbled in pen I would rather not mention. A few mentioning my name, too.
I was first to class, and the room began to grow louder as the clock neared eight. Phoebe Marling, of course, was seated behind me not by choice but by the fabulous invention of the seating chart. She was talking to Matt Penski and Chelsea Harley, about a television show I hadn’t seen nor heard of. “…what do you mean you haven’t seen Gossip Girl? It’s, like, classic beyond classic.”
Matt laughed, and his pretty face dimpled. “Sorry, Phoebes, it’s a chick show.”
The conversation was bland, so I’ll spare the details, but it sounded something like that until the bell rang and class began.
Today the teacher fumbled in exactly on time. Mr. Mandels, a man with a beer gut and a metal thermos, rubbed his temples as he thumbed through a thick binder. “Well, I can only assume you are as excited to begin class today as I am.” Some people laughed, but I didn’t. I just didn’t find teachers funny. He took out two large Advils and swallowed them without drinking whatever it was in that thermos. “Work on your notes due tomorrow. Turn your assignments into the basket before class is over, and try not to ask me any questions.” He started to sit down, but paused to add, “And no talking. Please.”
I opened my textbook, and before I even got out my pencil, I heard a voice soft as cream whisper in my ears.
I felt anxiety pulse through me as I began to write the chapter’s title on my lined paper.
“Hey, slut, I’m talking to you. That thing you did yesterday, that gross, shitty thing you did? I’m gunna get you back for that.”
I didn’t flinch. I just wrote about science.
“Can you hear me, virgin? You can understand fucking English, can’t you?”
Mr. Madels looked up from over the cover of a self-help book, or maybe a book on philosophy. “Hey, who’s talking?” he called, his brow furrowed in the frustration that could only be compounded by a series of poor decisions. Matt laughed and gave an adorable, smoldering look to Phoebe. She shrugged, tapping the back of her heel in a steady drumming behind her. Mr. Mandels looked back down at his book, and the torment began again.
“I’m gunna make you bleed. No one ruins my Kate Spade’s and walks away in one piece. You think you’re clever, virgin?”
I spoke up in the silent room with alarming volume. People twisted in their desks to stare as I stood up from my chair and looked down at the pretty, blonde head of Phoebe Marling.
“I fear no evil,” I told her, “I fear no evil, and I no longer fear you.” Phoebe’s mouth hung loosely at its hinge, but still she looked as if she could break into a smile. I didn’t want her to smile. I dug my palms into my desk and arched my back like a cat, leaning over her with tendrils of spit slipping through my teeth.
“You can go to hell, you whore! Straight to f**king hell where you belong. All of you, you can all GO TO HELL! I’m not going to let you hurt me, you evil b****! GODDAM YOU, all of you!” Tears ran wild down my face, but I kept going. “I’m F**KING DONE WITH YOU! GO TO HELL AND LEAVE ME ALONE!”
I could hear Mr. Madels in the back of my mind yelling, too, telling me to sit down and asking me what the hell was wrong with me. Lots, Mr., lots. I left all my books except for one, and walked out of the room with more eyes on me than ever before. Some were outraged at my blow to their queen, and made comments I didn’t hear and didn’t want to. Others just looked at me. And others laughed at Phoebe with the bitter, instinctive aggression they assault me with.
I was shaking, crying, and by the boy’s bathroom I stopped to read the book in my hands, “Angels Contacting Huma”. But the thing was, the book didn’t help much. In truth, it sounded like a lot of bullshit, bullshit I’d defended all my life, and you know what? I was tired of doing so. So I left the school empty handed that day, my book and angels and golden cross rotting at the bottom of a trashcan with the rest of the high school garbage.