To Feel Alive

Louise has never been lucky in life, losing her best friend and mother within a year, and now has a Dad who barely recognises her existence. All she has left is Cody, with whom her relationship is strictly friendly, and a small but successful business where she anonymously helps girls decide whether a boy is worth dating. But one day she receives an email from Maisie, the most popular girl at school who she tries to avoid at all costs, asking for her help. The choices that follow will make life as she knows it unrecognisable.

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9. Chapter Nine

 

I was greeted, upon my arrival home after my shift at the gardening centre on Saturday – yes, I survived yet again and was not beaten with a shovel to an early death – by another email from Maisie and the payment of one hundred dollars into my bank account. She explained she didn’t want to have to worry about constantly paying me, as that made it seem all too formal. This way she could forget just how ‘pathetic’ she had become. I would have been happy if I hadn’t then read on as to why she felt that way. She continued;

The thing is, ATW, that girl Louise who I said I was going to try and be friends with ditched me. Even she doesn’t want to spend time with me. We made plans and she cut them off at the last minute. I mean, am I going to have to start trawling the math department for friends? They wouldn’t accept me anyway - I’ve been such a bitch to them over the years. I’m just at a loss, and I need some sort of help. I’m going away for a couple days to my director-daddy’s house. I see Louise roll her eyes whenever I describe him like that. Most people do but I can’t just call him my Dad because he isn’t really. He’s my second Dad. My real Dad was kind of crazy and he got my Mum broke and she left him and found my director-daddy. I don’t ever really see my real Dad, but…he’s still my Dad, and I don’t want to label this new guy as being my real one.

This whole thing of emailing you seems so weird. I’m telling you stuff I’ve never told anyone even though I know you go to my school and everything. I don’t know why I can’t be honest with everyone. I guess this is a start. Please reply as soon as you can.

Maisie

I let out a long moan as I finished reading. This was so wrong. She was paying me for this, and wanting some sort of therapy in return, and I didn’t know how to help her. The worst part was knowing how much I’d let her down, and now she’d done exactly what I’d told her not to do, and gone away. I wanted to tell Cody and ask for his advice, but I felt like Maisie had told me this in such confidence that I should keep her secrets…still secret. I felt like telling someone all this would be like revealing somebody’s sexuality before they were ready, and I knew from Weston Cally last year that that sort of thing can really screw you up.

And yet there was a still a part of me that told me Maisie deserved this. She’d never accepted anyone who wasn’t perfect as a friend, and had ridiculed anyone who was beneath the line of socially average. For years she’d gone on doing what she wanted, having what she wanted and never seeing the consequences. As awful as it was to fall from a great height, she’d been playing on the edge for far too long anyway. However, you don’t leave a wounded person hurt. You help them, and that was what I would do.

Yet Maisie didn’t seem to want my help. Cody went back home on Sunday night after I had dinner at his house again and Tessa and Aaron reminded me not to be a stranger; they’d like having me round now and again as they were quite childless now Cody was away, and Tessa’s mothering instinct was struggling with not acting upon someone.

On Monday morning, Maisie was not in any of the classes we shared, and the buzz around the school was that she’d moved to another district out of embarrassment. I really hoped that wasn’t true, as there was only so far I could help her through emailing. Words only go so far; sometimes all you need is a little human contact. But I did receive another reply from Maisie after I urged her not to enter a state of recluse.

Hey ATW,

Can you give me a name to call you? Like Ellie or Jane or something? The name you always wished you had. ATW just reminds me of text talk which I hate and writing it out in full is too long; no offence to your name. Okay that was stupid but oh well. No deletes is my policy with these emails.

I am coming back to school; have people noticed I’m not there? I just needed some time away from it, as well as some shopping time. If I knew who you were I would have bought you something. I talked to my director-daddy about it a little without mentioning too much, and he just said I need to get back out there and demand my position at the top of the social ladder back. Come back with a bang. Smile and stuff. It’s going to be hard but I’ll give it a go, and if it doesn’t work, at least I tried.

Maisie

True to her word, the next day at school she walked confidently through the halls with a new, shorter haircut and highlights, freshly pressed jeans, shoes that verged on being too high to comply with the school code and designer glasses firmly pressed over her eyes. She looked like a supermodel, and everyone stared as she passed though nobody approached her. This was the worst kind of adulation; the kind where everyone is so intimidated they leave you alone, and I knew as soon as I saw her from afar that this was the wrong tactic. She shouldn’t want to get back in with the cheerleaders who had so easily cast her aside. She needed some real friends. Sadly, I had no tips on obtaining those.

I went up to her in first period Geography apologising once again for Friday and would she like to come round this Friday to which she replied, “Maybe, depends if I’m busy,” before turning her fake nose up at me as she always had done. Great. Now I seemed like I was desperate to be her friend when really I just wanted to help her. I knew more about her than she’d like me to. However, I couldn’t use this as a bargaining tool to have her want me as a friend, and somebody she could actually rely on. I’d let her see for herself how this new attitude would do her no favours.

Cheer practice was the real test. Maisie come out with her hands placed on her curvy hips dressed in her uniform, eyeing us all from behind her sunglasses. “Take those off please, Maisie,” Coach Belle said, rolling her eyes, and she slowly removed them, folding them carefully and placing them in the stands. Maisie walked over to Vanessa, Lydia and Candice who were stretching together, and awkwardly dropped their gaze as she joined in.

“So what have I missed?” she asked, coolly. Nobody responded and the slightest blush appeared under the thick layers of makeup Maisie had applied. Coach Belle blew her whistle and practice commenced officially, but I could not stop looking over at Maisie, who was anxiously gnawing at her bottom lip whenever she wasn’t being given instruction.

We all got dressed together in the changing room as usual but Vanessa, Lydia and Candice cornered themselves off with their backs facing everyone so Maisie had no choice but to stand away from them. They were intentionally isolating her, and that was just pure mean. I saw the confidence fall away from Maisie’s face as she put back on her new designer clothes, but they seemed to suddenly hang differently on her body. Even though they must have constant hundreds of dollars, they looked oddly submissive on her introverted body stance.

“Oh shit my sunglasses,” she mumbled to herself, looking around before remembering she’d left them in the stands and running out to get them.

“Could she get any more annoying?” Candice sniped before I was sure Maisie was properly out of earshot.

“She’s such a saddo now,” Lydia added, flicking her hair over her shoulders and picking up her Mulberry bag. I guessed it was a fake from the way the logo was ever so slightly crooked, but she told everyone just how much it had cost so I didn’t bother to question its validity in the world of designer; a world I lacked knowledge of.

“I still can’t believe she actually emailed that stupid website though!” Candice said. “I never really liked her but now…I mean. Wow.” Lydia and Vanessa laughed in response, and I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I ran, still in my cheer top but with my jeans on, out to the pitch where Maisie was desperately searching around in the stands.

“Hey!” I called, and she looked up from where she was perched on a stand in surprise, slipping and knocking her knee. “Oh, sorry,” I said, running to help her up but she rejected the offer, getting up and then sitting right back down.

“I think somebody has stolen them,” she said, slightly whimpering. “They were two hundred dollars; from my director-daddy. They were a gift. And now I’ve lost them.”

“No, you just need to search a little harder,” I said, craning my neck to look without actually getting up.

“Why are you suddenly being nice to me?” she asked, frowning.

“What do you mean? I’m just being normal,” I replied, looking out to the field where the football players were finishing off a play they’d been working on.

“No you’re not. You made it pretty clear last week you didn’t want me hanging out with you.”

“No, I got a last minute call,” I corrected her.

“Not just ditching me on Friday night; the other days. You didn’t really want to help me. So why now?”

“I guess I just came to my senses. And your so-called friends aren’t exactly going to help you,” I said, looking across at her as she awkwardly shifted in her seat.

“There’s a rumour going round it was Vanessa who hooked up with Brody,” she said quietly, and she phrased it so it sounded vaguely like a question; as if she didn’t want to believe it.

“I haven’t heard that, but I will say this; I wouldn’t put it past her.” Maisie nodded slowly.

“I just really thought she was one of those people I could actually trust. Now I have nobody. Well…nobody real.”

“What do you mean real?” I asked, knowing she was referring to ATW. Maisie seemed to realise what she said and an expression of shock and recognition flickered across her face.

“I should go,” she said, getting to her feet hurriedly.

“No, no wait,” I said, also standing, and in such a way she couldn’t get past me. “You’re not leaving until you agree to come round mine on Friday for that movie night. Okay?” Maisie looked down at the football pitch, and I guessed at Brody, weighing up in a split few seconds the pros and cons of accepting my offer.

“Fine,” she said, eyes looking back to me. “I’ll come.”

“Great,” I said, smiling, and she smiled back with half the enthusiasm. It was like a role reversal from last week and I had to really try to get her to do something I knew would be more beneficial to her than me. was giving up my Friday night ice cream party for one. I did like ice cream quite a lot.

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