The Blackmailer

Melissa is best friends with someone who wants more than just Melissa. Tiffany knows she is destined for success in popularity, and when she decides to take the chance, she makes it. A heartbroken and confused Melissa thinks an existence without Tiffany is a life without the sun until she realizes that it isn't her fault. Slowly growing insane from the silence and secrets she'd been holding for so long, she lashes out in hopes that her friend will fall from grace and back to her. She goes from the bullied to the Blackmailer overnight. Will Melissa realize it or go insane from the power she now possesses anonymously?

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3. Skipping to the Middle

 

Today was the day. This was it. I walked towards Tiffany’s house for our carpooling agreement, my stomach tied in a ball of nervousness. I rang the bell and leaned against the Gold Pole – a column holding up the sunroof of Tiffany’s house painted gold instead of the other poles' usual white. Every time one of us had a problem, was taking a test, or just needed luck that day, we would lean against it for seven seconds and think of nothing but what we need from it. I’ve aced tests and presented projects well using the Pole, but I’ve never asked to use it for luck on my first day of middle school.

            “Be right out!” Tiffany shouted from inside, and I heard a few things crashing and the heavy footfalls of panicked running through the halls of her home. She opened the door quickly with a piece of jam-covered toast hanging from her mouth as she chewed. She stomped her shoes on and looped her arms through her backpack straps.

            “Did you sleep in again?” I asked. Tiffany nodded, finishing her breakfast and pulling a bottle of water from a pocket in her backpack. Her first-day attire was interesting, to say the least; bright pink shirt, bright yellow jeans, and her signature lime-green canvas sneakers. Unless it was an activity that required her to not wear shoes, like swimming, those were on her feet at all times. She absolutely hated being barefoot.

            “No! This is totally my morning routine. If I wake up in a panic, I’m more likely to remember what I have to do in the morning.” Tiffany said defensively. She leaned on the Gold Pole and counted to seven on her hands silently. In order for the luck to work, everyone has to be quiet. I pulled a hairbrush from my backpack and handed it to her when her seven were up.

            “You did forget something. A big something, too,” I said. Tiffany grabbed the brush and ripped it through her hair, walking out into the street.

            “Whatever!” she laughed. “We’re taking the bus this morning. My mom says I have to try to take it for the first month of middle school before we can restart carpooling to see if I like it or not.”

            “Sure.” I said, running a little to keep up with Tiffany’s panicked pace. “We aren’t going to miss it. I can see the kids at the stop.”

            “Well I can see it.” Tiffany said. Sure enough, the big, yellow, Twinkie-caterpillar-hybrid vehicle started pulling in at the stop. We broke into a race to see who would get in first. I pushed Tiffany in front of me before getting in myself. We slumped into two seats near the middle.

            “Jesus…” Tiffany panted. “What a great… way to start off the… year…” I nodded, slipping out of the backpack. The bus started to move again toward whatever stop was next. We were the only kids inside of it.

            “How do you think this day will go for us?” I asked. I wasn’t particularly nervous; there were going to be tons of kids in the same new-kid position as us, so why panic? Tiffany, however, is always nervous about everything.

            “I’m freaking out inside.” Tiffany admitted, rummaging through her backpack. “Wait a sec…” She dug her arm into the endless abyss of school supplies until we both heard the clink of metal bumping together. She grinned and pulled out a bag with two necklaces inside.

            “I won them in a claw machine yesterday. I meant to win a watch for my dad’s birthday, but I liked these better.” Tiffany said, untangling the chains and handing me one of them. It was a Yin and Yang friendship necklace. She gave me the Yang end of the chain and kept the Yin for herself.

            “I heard that friends don’t always stay friends through middle school, so now we’ve got these to stay together.” Tiffany explained. I tied mine around my neck at the same time as her.

            “Thanks,” I said. Tiffany smiled. The bus halted hard at the stop, and we both slammed into the seats in front of us. I could see about twelve kids getting on at this stop. Three looked like sixth graders, five like seventh graders, and the other four like eighth graders. They all walked slowly up the ramp and into the bus. The eighth graders filled the back, the sixth graders were at the front, and the seventh graders stared at us.

            “Get out of the seventh grade spots.” one of them, the bigger one said. Tiffany and I looked at each other.

            “What?” I asked. The bus driver started to drive again, even though the two kids were still standing.

            “Don’t make me ask more than once. I’m being nice now, but I won’t later. Get out.” said the smaller one, getting closer to me. He smelled like bananas. Tiffany watched me scrunch my nose at the scent and giggled.

            “What’s so funny?” he asked. She shut up instantly and picked up her backpack. I told her to wait.

            “If you weren’t in my way, I’d move.” I said. “Why do we have to move if we were here first, anyway?” I asked. They started laughing, and something made me feel like they were dangerous.

            “Seventh grade privilege,” the bigger one said.

            “Then move it.” I said. It was my first encounter with bullying, and I hadn’t even realized it. Tiffany moved up faster than me, and we sat with the rest of the sixth graders. Their eyes were wide.

            “Did you just go against the sheep?” a boy with bright blue eyes and brown hair asked. “That takes guts.” The rest nodded in agreement.

            “The sheep?” Tiffany asked.

            “It’s a hierarchy.” a girl with short blonde hair cut to her chin and dull brown eyes explained. “We are the lambs, vulnerable and able to be killed easier than the rest. They are the sheep, still under watch but less vulnerable. They have seventh grade privilege. Then there are the eighth graders, the wolves. They have eighth grade privilege. They can tear you apart, they are untamed, and they’re unable to be controlled by the teachers, aka the herders.” I nodded, making a mental note of this whole thing.

            “Do we have to be lambs?” Tiffany asked. “Can’t we move up at all? And is there sixth grade privilege?”

            “If you can manage to get popular or make friends with the upperclassmen, then you could be an honorary sheep or lamb,” the boy said, “but that rarely happens. Just keep your head down.”

            “How do you know all of this?” I asked. “Have you been in this place before?”

            “We have older sibs.” said the girl. “Keep your head down.”

            The bus pulled to a stop. Tiffany and I stood up to go. The boy with the bright blue eyes grabbed my hand and tugged me down. Tiffany noticed and sat down, too, smiling at me like she knew something I didn’t – emphasis on “I didn’t”. We walked out of the bus after everyone else had cleared and the other two split off by themselves, leaving Tiffany and I to discover where the heck our classes were.

            “He totally held your hand.” Tiffany squealed, giving me a nudge and a wink. “And you totally turned red!” I blushed, jerking my arm away from her boy-crazy grasp. She’s been like this since the fourth grade and she came over to watch a rerun of High School Musical – always wanting the Troy to her Gabriella, but more importantly wanting to see me fall for a boy so she could tease me.

            “That is so not true! All he did was help me. That’s it. I didn’t even catch his name. It’s nothing, seriously.” I said through the sudden flush to my cheeks.

            “You so know I’m right!” she bragged. “You know it and you won’t say it!” I didn’t answer, watching the numbers of the doors. We had morning class together, the same lunch period, and an afternoon class. I wonder how we’ll fare without each other in the beginning.

            “I think this is it.” I said, avoiding Tiffany’s assertions aloud. She looked at the schedule and nodded.

            “Yep,” she said, “This is Room C.” We looked at each other and I took Tiffany’s necklace half in my hand. We matched them together, silently promising a forevermore friendship, and stepped inside.

            The classroom was filled with kids our age of all different stereotypes. I sat in a seat, Tiffany to my right, and pulled out a book from my bag as the teacher took role.

            “I like your jeans.” a girl next to Tiffany said. From her looks she was obviously going places in terms of the social ladder; khaki pants, ruffled white shirt, and red flats to match her sweater. Those are totally cool girl clothes.

            “Thanks!” Tiffany said. The girl nodded.

            “You can only get that kind of quality from the clown tent at the circus.” the girl laughed. A few other girls around her laughed, too. Tiffany blushed and looked down at the fluorescent yellow fabric.

            “I think they’re pretty cool.” I said, remembering how we had gone clothes shopping together with our parents and how excited she’d been to see them. Tiffany shrugged, playing with her hair awkwardly.

            “Okay…” Tiffany said with a weak smile. It was the first time that an insult had made a difference. One insult led to another. This was how our middle school career was spent. We got the most audacious nicknames – she was Fanny because of her weight and I was Melonhead because of the oval-shaped birthmark that takes over the left side of my face’s cheek. It’s not very noticeable, but it wasn’t like I hadn’t heard that one before. If I really wanted to, it would be easy to cover the mark with concealer. But I’d never thought it mattered until middle school.

            The days were a living hell. Tiffany and I had become closer, but that was the only plus. Tiffany was teased so much for her size that she had almost developed an eating disorder. I had once been told that I looked like a wrong answer that someone tried to erase but couldn’t get the job done. Yeah – things were that bad.

            Tiffany had gone from being an outgoing and generally happy kid to being reclusive and scared. I had gone from being happy and a little shy to being prescribed a tidal wave of antidepressants and given a one-way ticket to selective mutism around my school.

            I got the worse end of the stick, of course, like I always do. Tiffany had enough room to be able to dig herself out, if she wanted to. But there was no way in hell that I was getting that chance – it was all a mark on my face and stereotypical image that dug me way down into the abyss of “You’re not good enough”.

            It's a place that nobody ever leaves.

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