Screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeech, my alarm clock buzzes. I turn it up, my eardrums feel like they will burst from the wailing noise. Third day of school, great. Yesterday was just brilliant. Britch and her buddies tried to get me to talk. Britch and her buddies tried to hang out with me. Britch and her buddies tried to ignore me, finally, but they couldn't. THrow on my clothes...just like every other day...and race out the door, grabbing a bagel as I go.
I get into first period on time, sulking to my back seat, avoiding stares and dodging the "popular crew" and their feet, out to trip me. Boom. Drop my books flat on my desk. It makes heads turn, and eyes, they stay, staring at my newfound, orange streak of hair amidst the black. They whisper...I ignore...Same old, same old.
"Ahem," Mrs. Rochantzik...our ?English? teacher, startles us into attention. "Today, we are starting a new project," she says. "It is a group project," excited murmurs resound throughout the room, "and I will choose your groups!" Only Mrs. R is excited about that. The nerds give each other sympathetic looks, each saying, Sorry, hope you don't get an idiot. The popular crew moans and the girls all whine. Same with the jocks. Or maybe the jocks just don't care. All those sporty people care about is their sport. Duh. As for me, I stay sullen. Always disconnected. Too easy.
Sometimes Mom asks me why: "Why don't you go to the movies with Amber anymore? Why don't you have any friends over anymore? What happened to Amber? Was she mean to you? Did she not include you? Why don't you make new friends? Why don't you meet a new friend every day and tell me about them when you get home from school? Why ... Why? Why? Why? Why don't you wear something colorful? I never knew you had so many black things..." It goes on and on. Well, really, she doesn't do that anymore. She used to. No one really says much to me anymore. That was back when my mom was actually interested in my life.
And why don't I wear something nice and colorful? Because you blend into the shadows a whole lot easier when you dress to fade. Put a bubbly, tall, athletic, cheerleader blonde and a dark, shorter, non-athletic, Goth girl together, and who does everybody look at? Everyone looks at the Blondie. Popular Blondie. She's the one that all the guys want to make out with. She's the one that all the girls want to be in with. She's the one trailed by the wannabees; the one who can silence a whole hallway by just being; the one that all the jockies raise their eyebrows at.
It makes me sick.
I, on the other hand-being the Goth-live in the darkness. She lives in the light. I, am trailed by nothing, the shadows cover me everywhere I go; life continues on all around me as if I don't exist; sometimes I wonder if I'm even alive; no one knows me, no one wants to be with me; I don't want to be with anyone else. Every friend I thought I had left me when I killed Kassandy. I just realized this morning that I must have killed her. How else would she have gone away? And why else would everyone hate me so much? The shadows consume me, suffocating and punishing me, because I killed Kassandy. But I'm still mad at her.
This girl comes up to me...I have no idea who she is. We walk in silence for about five minutes and then I realize that she's been talking for the last "five minutes of silence". I look at her, questionably when she stops, "What??" she looks at me. "Did you not hear what I just said? Is that a bad idea you think? What are your ideas?" she's so worrisome, I just stare at her. Did I miss something? And this, is where she freaks, "Did you miss something??? Really? Have you even been listening to me? Do you have any idea??? Do you even know that we have a 100 pt. project in class that's due in a month??? You are despicable!" And she leaves me there, trying to figure out what the heck she was talking about...and I realized...
When I saw her face next period, in the hallway, I saw just a flash--she passed me in such a huff. Em.... Em.... oh it starts with an "E"....Em...Emma. It was Emma. She--she's in my grade. Of course. Yes. I look around, wondering whom else I never notice. Who else is there that I don't realize is in my grade? My mind shifts suddenly when I realize that she was talking about a project. A project? 100 points??? What??!!??
I shift through my memories, my thoughts, everything somebody has said to me in the past 24 hours. A project that we have in History; a project that is due; a project that we were told about today, in first period; a project that is a group project. A group of pairs. Aw, what fun. I'm paired up with Emma Jane Rose. Great fun. Brilliant. This should be interesting. I'm so submersed in my thoughts that I actually decide to walk up to Britch and her groupie.
They don't seem to hate me, which is a plus. I mean, not like I care or anything. I don't give s*** for any of them. I know they don't for me. Britch tries, but she really doesn't care about me at all. She knows she doesn't. She just feels sorry for me. Well I don't want your d*** pity. I don't want your welfare-care or your empathetic charities.
"You just suck! All of you! You all suck!" I exclaim as we walk through a crowd. It's way too quiet. Heads turn, and I give them the evil-eye. Suddenly a hand comes out from behind and stops me. No, there's two hands. They're resting on my shoulder. "What the---? Get off of me creep!" Britch turns around and stares. The crowd around us rushes past. Who has the nerve to continue their hold on me like this? They better watch it...I can make life miserable for whoever it is...
"Hey..." Britch warily starts towards me and my captor then falters back. I am like stone under these hard hands. Man, they're big. This can't be some, fruity, blonde, sugar girl. Too skinny. These hands are like slabs of beef. And then it hits me so hard that I almost turn around.
"Britch! You...you...planned this! You...I bet you're paying this freak to get in my personal space! You...that's why you didn't protest when I decided to walk with you! ...You've been planning this all along!" I can't believe I feel so used. I can't believe I'm thinking of her as a traitor. I'm not supposed to grow that...bond...with people. They always disappoint you.
"No!" Britch's eyes flash with a feeling that I cannot read. But does it look like I care? No, I do not.
"Look, I'm going to turn around in 15 seconds. I swear, I'm gonna punch you freak behind me in the face. You are going to rue the day you were born." Britch's eyes grow bigger. "Ok, Here goes ! 15...14...13..." I hear a dangerously low laugh behind me as the hands slide down to my waist.
Okay, so this is just great. I freeze; I don't count; I don't move; I don't think I breathe. I may not know much about Britch, but by the look on her face, she's as freaked out as I am. Some small part of me is whispering that she has nothing at all to do with this. If things weren't frozen already, they froze when I heard the rough whisper in my ear,
"Hey. Don't be afraid of me. You think you’re all that don't you? Too cool for the world. Who needs you? Who do you need??" I breathe in sharply as he squeezes my hips. "Well, let me show you what you're missing. You stay with me, you see the world."
"EW! Get off her you f***ing freak!" I’m surprised. I’ve never heard Britch say that dirty of a word. But don’t look at me; I’m not that dirty either.
"...F***ing freak? Yes, I guess I am," I feel my insides strangle themselves into a knot. I feel vulnerable. I do not like feeling vulnerable. Vulnerable is the feeling you get when you’ve given up. I haven’t given up. Don’t you count on it.
A take another sharp breathe in. “Who the hell are you and what do you freaking want from me?” I say this quietly, but with a strong, deep tone that I think both Britch and me were surprised to hear at this point. Really, the most I expected myself to utter was a squeak softer than a mouse.
“Me? I’m your worst nightmare, baby,” eeeewwww. What. The. Heck? Who does he think he is? But he continues, whether I want him to or not, “Huh. What do I want from you?” I could feel his eyes boring into my skull. “Look babe,” I cringed. “I’ve been held back in this d*** school and I started late. I should be in my sophomore year of high school. Whereas, I’m only in 8th grade,” his words were like spitfire on the back of my neck. “I’m just looking for a bit of fun in my life. I see you. You don’t think anyone sees you. But I see you. And don’t think I’m the only one. I’m not. You think you can hide in the shadows and escape the world. But let me tell you one thing, you can’t. I know you can’t. You try that and the world’s gonna backfire on you. Like me. You are so full of it. You think the world is just gonna work just right for you. Well it’s d*** not. It’s I-swear-to-freaking-hell not going to just bow down to you. And there’s just gotta be somebody to set the sick people like you straight, right? Why doesn’t it be me?”
There were more to those last five words than seen on the surface. I decided right then, subconsciously, that it was my turn out.
I stepped backwards. He chuckled. “Do you really think that’s going to hurt me?” I didn’t let up; I remained on his feet. Now he was mad, “Get off my f***in’ feet!” I couldn’t help but giggle. Think about it. I hate to say it, but think about it. How weird does that sound? I think he was shocked as I was about my giggling, so I took this as an opportunity to attempt a twist free of his grip. I turned around and punched him. This was a mistake, since he still had his hands around my waist. He pushed me away, and sent me sprawling on the ground. Well, at least I was free. We had that taken care of. But now he looked mad, angry, deranged. He was coming at me and he might as well have been holding three flaming pitchforks for all I knew. He was as angry a red as the sun, and I knew for sure, that if his rays so much as touched me, they’d leave there a deep, red, burn.
So I ran.
Britch pulled me to my feet, “What are you sitting there for? Get up!” We banged out the front door of the middle school. We ran and ran and ran all the way up to the next building. There, we stood to catch our breath.
“What a freak…” she finished the sentence with something that sounded along the lines of “song of a b****, I just hate that guy,” she looks at me, and continues. “He really was held back…and he started school later than everyone else.”
“I can’t believe he hasn’t been kicked out!” I exclaimed, fiery, surprising Britch and myself, once again with my outburst.
“Well, as you saw, that guy sure is darn sneaky. And everyone’s afraid of him too,” she nodded as she stuck a piece of gum in her mouth. “Except you,” her eyes sparkled as she turned towards me. “You’re definitely the first person I’ve ever heard stand up to him like that. Once word gets around--and word will get around,” she softly adds. “that you stood up to him…wow. You will be the hero of every one he’s ever picked on.” She pointed another stick of blue gum at me, then she glanced at the gum. “Want one?” I flicked her off. Don’t ask me why, I just did. She ignored me nonetheless, “Alrighty then. Too bad for you. More for me,” and with that she popped her 4th piece of gum in her mouth and chewed slowly.
We stood in silence outside the doorway. I bet we looked like a couple of bums just laying in wait for some unknowing idiot to come along. Oh no, not me. That would be the freaky dude that totally sabotaged my personal space earlier. I hide waiting for everyone to go away. So why was I out in the sun? Too lazy to go inside, I guess. But it definitely wasn’t because of Britch. Nope, definitely not. No way, so don’t you think it was because of Britch. I mean it.
Sooo…now, now I’ve got this English project. How exciting. How daring. How primitive. No, just kidding. But Emma Jane Rose is superbly good at being annoying. She should write a book on how to be annoying. Actually, on the other hand, she really shouldn’t. I think that would make me cry. And let me tell you, not very many things make me cry. I am The Shadow, remember? And last time I checked, shadows don’t cry.
This really stupid song came on: “Big Girls Don’t Cry” by Fergie. I should change it to “Shadows Don’t Cry” by The Shadow. But I’ve really never been such a big fan of music, so I guess not. Plus, the more I listen to the song, the more I’m utterly revolted. I’m not even going to say any more. I’ll just end up cussing…so…So much for that idea. Like I was going to follow through with it anyway. I don’t even know where that brain blast came from. I immediately turn off the radio.
Haha. I almost laughed. I think that you were thinking that I of all people listen to the radio. Guffaw. Snort. Chuckle. Oh, yes, I am laughing my guts out at this very moment… Or…not. Really, yes, I guess I do listen to the radio. But The Shadow does things abnormally. The Shadow looks for the stations that only come in as static. I listen to it occasionally if I’ve had an overly depressing day or any other time when I need to feel numb. Numbness is a virtue. That’s my Creed. And that’s what I tell Emma Jane Rose on Wednesday. I tell her that and she gets really shocked or something. But do I care? Nopers. It was almost kind of entertaining in a way.
I walk into English class on Wednesday to be warmly welcomed by the open arms of Emma Jane Rose. Yes, very much so if to be warmly welcomed by the open arms of Emma Jane Rose is to be scowled at and grunted at and frowned upon. Yes, I know, really? Grunted? She really truly grunted at me. No friendly hello? What is it that I see you do when you see your friends? Oh … yeah… you hug them. I guess I don’t blame her. She must realize that if she ever hugged me that she’d be beaten up black and blue, have a broken, bloody nose, and hopefully--hopefully--have puss coming out her eyeballs. I’m not exactly sure how I would manage to do that…but I could probably find it on the Internet. Plus, going on the Internet for prolonged periods of time gives me these major bags under my eyes. All the better to disguise myself my dear.
Yay. Morning. … Whatever. I slap my snooze button off, go through the morning routine, grab my jeans that I’ve been wearing for the past two days, and throw on a random shirt plus my hoodie. I go downstairs…and voila! My dear mother is in the kitchen, sitting on the tiled floor playing patty-cake with the cat. … Well…I wish that’s what she was doing. She’s actually trying to make breakfast, and utterly failing.
“Mom!” I rushed over and turned the stove off, pulled the eggbeater out of her hands and poured the soiled remains of biscuits and eggs down the drain. Stainless Steel, it says…Oh, how pretty you are now with gunky food like throw up plastered all around you. It’s gorgeous. Believe me. … Or not. When Mom sees the food--she must have been up for two hours to make this big of a mess!--go down the drain, she sits down on floor, and starts to cry. I bend down to her level and try to comfort her. I try to show her that, yes, I’m okay, I’m not crying, and I’m definitely not bawling. I try to show her that I’m okay. See? I’m getting a bagel out of the pantry. I’m shoving it into my mouth. I look at the clock…”Oh crap.” I’m going to be late. I run out the door, with my backpack slung over one shoulder.
When I get to school, I realize that I forgot to lock the door on my way out. I walk through the door and nobody’s around. Sh**. It better not be the weekend.
“Mind your language, dearest,” Mrs. Fruntoun comes up behind me. Shit! I talked out loud! “Yes, dearest, you are talking out loud. If you do that again, I will have to write you up.” I hold my tongue until she slips around the corner. I’ve got to work on not talking out loud. It’s hard for me not to speak my mind. It’s always been like that. But now, I guess, I just don’t notice it as much. Once she’s gone and far down the hall, I let it fly. Crap. Sh**. D***…I’m freaking late! My mom is probably going to walk out the door and get run over by a car! I’m on Fruntoun’s Watch List! Everyone’s going to stare at me when I walk into first period! …Or maybe I should just skip. I hear footsteps behind me. Crud. Another teacher? Or maybe…
“Jodi. Are you alright?” Crud. It is another teacher. Double crud. It’s the school counselor. Triple crud. I’ve been avoiding her all year. Let’s just pretend I’m not here. It works with everyone else.
She leans her back up against the lockers. Okay, then. If I spoke out loud, she ignored it. “Look, Jodi,” she turned her head towards me. “I haven’t got a chance to speak with you. If you ever need anything, you come to me alright?” I just look at her. Yeah, right. Sure, thing. “Just call me Miss June,” she just looks at me. “Jodi…hmmm…that’s interesting, we have the same initials.” Great. I have the same initials as the school counselor. I can’t flick her off. I can’t cuss her out. I’m not stupid, you know. She stands up straight and turns completely towards me. “Jodi. The world isn’t always going to let you crawl in a corner and wait to die. Step out. Wake up! You don’t have to bend over and smell the roses, but at least get somewhere! Whether you have potential or not, doesn’t matter. What matters is what you do about it. If you sit in the corner and die, it’s going to be a lot worse for you. And it will hurt other people along the way as well. You might end up hurting other people more than you hurt yourself.” She pulls a piece of paper out of her pocket and hands it to me. “Take this note. Don’t expect another one. I expect you to get to school on time whether anyone else does or not. I also expect you to get at least and A- on your project with Emma.”
And with that, she walks away. All I can do is stand there and gape. I had been about to cry a few minutes before. But when she started talking, I forgot about it. I forgot about it all. Nobody--nobody--had ever talked to me the way she did. Everyone always says, “Oh Jodi, it’s going to be okay. Everything’s going to be all right. It’ll all work out. If you ever need a shoulder to cry on, I’ll be here.” Seriously, somebody actually said that to me once. Who says, “I need a shoulder to cry on?” And what if it’s not going to be okay? What if it’s never going to work out? What if I know that nobody cares? To heck with you all. That’s what I want to say. I actually want to say more, but I don’t think anybody would like that. As if I care what people like. And each person talks to me as if they know what I’m going through! Which they don’t! They talk to me in a little baby voice that should only be legal to use with babies and pets, if that. Sometimes, people talk really slowly as if I can’t understand them. As if I’m mentally ill. Nope. That’s my mom you’re confusing me with.
And she wants me to call her by her first name? Call her Miss June? I’m not going to talk to her, let alone call her Miss June. That’s crazy. Does she really think that I’m going to ask for help that I obviously don’t need? She needs help! Everyone else needs help--not me. I don’t need help. I swear I don’t need help. Why would I need help? My life is just fine how it is. I dwell in the darkness.
But for some reason, Miss June’s words keep flowing through my head. I don’t understand it. There was one more thing she said as she turned the corner. I may have made it up. As she turned the corner, I could almost swear that she stopped for a split second and said: “And Jodi, I may surprise you. I may know more than you think I do.”
I close my locker door and glance at the clock. Five minutes until the bell rings. Almost in a trance, I pick my books up, and walk into first period. I don’t even notice all the stares as I give the teacher a note and walk to my desk. I almost don’t notice all the whispers and points and stares. I almost ignore it.
But I don’t.