Shirley’s voice, joined by the echoing hyena-like laughs of her vapid posse, resonates across the schoolyard to where I sit under the apple tree, eating my lonely lunch.
Oh, not again. Hasn’t she done enough?
“Yes, Weirdo, I’m talking to you. You’re a freak and you know it, a total freak of nature. Wait, no… nature is far too beautiful for the likes of you.”
I try to ignore her, and make a small scene of taking a huge bite out of my sandwich. A bit of tomato juice dribbles around the corner of my mouth and falls—splat—onto my brand-new white shirt.
Shirley’s posse continues to howl with laughter. I see the tomato-juice-less corners of Shirley’s lips pull themselves into a perfectly crescent shaped smile, her pink, shimmery, lip-glossed lips hiding her teeth.
I look straight at Shirley: her narrowed blue eyes looking like chips of glass; her small nose turning up in my direction; her once-famous long, chocolate-colored hair now cut pixie style.
I imagine needle-pointed vampire teeth forcing themselves out of her gums, her face contorting into a vivid picture of agony they pierce her shimmery pink lower lip and continue stabbing into them like miniature knives.
How could you?
I try to stand up, but my new shoes are too big. My foot twists inside them and I fall painfully onto the grass. The posse starts howling again.
“Go away, Shirley.”
“Go away, Shirley,” she mimics. “Go away, go away… Yes, I think that’s what you should do, Freakbrain. Nobody wants you here. So, shoo, shoo!” She flaps her hand at me as if I am a pigeon. Nothing but a particularly annoying bird which poops on her life and makes a mess of it all.
Her words strike what should be a hard blow, but it’s just an itch now. Just another annoyance… with that little spark of pain inside that just won’t stop hurting.
I stare at my lunch, which has now spilled out onto the grass.
“Come on, gang,” says Shirley, eyeing me disdainfully. “The baby needs some time to pick up her foodie… or her mommy’s going to be weally mad.” Snickering and jeering, they start to walk away slowly. Kids around me are staring—but, finally… they are gone.
I guess that’s the end of my lunch.
It hasn’t always been like this. There was a time when I could breathe, a time when I wasn’t that loser or freak or weirdo. That was the time when I was Shirley’s best friend.
We were inseparable. Completely stuck together, the best of friends. We had a club, a handshake, even a secret code. Lots of our belongings were shared—there are still purses and bags in my house labeled or embroidered with clumsy “SV”s. We could often finish each other’s sentences, leaving many an adult staring at us in puzzlement, wondering how we could be so close when it was obvious we weren’t related. Both of us knew that breaking our friendship would tear ourselves apart.
However, I had a secret. A deep, dark secret which nobody knew about, not even my all of my family.
Shirley was closer to me than anyone.
I thought I could trust her.
I told her my secret.
I thought she wouldn’t mind. Maybe she would even like it. Maybe it would bond us even more.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
She screamed things at me, things which tore through my mind like knives and left scars which, to this day, have not faded. She threw things—books, pens, her schoolbag, her shoes. She ripped apart our friendship with one spit at my feet and a shoe which tore open my forehead, sent me thudding to the ground in darkness and confined me to the hospital for one agonizing week.
I was completely numb for weeks after that. I returned to school to find that Shirley had found new friends, and had spun some story about me attacking her in a crazy mental fit. Needless to say, that was it. Students began to look at me in the way people look at lunatics. The teachers didn’t trust me.
But the real low came when they started calling me freak. Shirley started it. Everyone thought it was because of my apparent insanity. But only Shirley and I know the real reason. And it hurts.
Shirley had been my best friend since we were born in the same hospital on the same day. She had made so many promises, and so had I. We were going to live next door to each other, visit each other every day—except when on vacation—and have children who would be born together, just like we had been. Childish dreams, maybe—but that’s what we were, just two primary school girls who had a bond that could never be broken.
Or so we thought.
All it took was a simple whisper. A glob of spit. A shoe. And the most painful words I had ever heard.
I pull out of my daydream to find that the bell has rung for last period and I’m sitting alone underneath the apple tree, my head and arm against the trunk, with tears streaming from my eyes.