So many stories Belle had read always began with an elegant, well thought description of the sky. She decided to begin this tale with a depiction of the ground. Her shadow was crisp and sharp as it moved with her body on the bumpy concrete, which had spots that glowed in the light. The sun was always heavy and hot in California, where it shined its brightest. She saw a rigid pebble, and kicked it out of boredom as she walked home from school in silence.
Today was the last day she would ever be at that school. It was the last day she would take this route home, and it was the last day she would see her friends. Well, not for a long time, anyways. She will miss this quiet, almost serene walk back to her white house with the porch swing.
However, no matter how much California had made an imprint on Belle, she couldn't be happier to move. Her mother owned a boutique called Sunni’s, and this store was a favorite in California. Over the years her mother had formed a branch across the state, but this didn’t seem to be enough. Some men in the big city made her a job offer that her mother simply couldn’t refuse, and here she was now; walking her last walk in California to her home she will spend only one more night in.
When she opened the front door, the edge hit a cardboard box labeled ‘Dad’s crap’. Many other brown boxes sat scattered across the now furniture-free floor, labeled in thick dark sharpie. “Hun?” Mom practically shouted from the kitchen; she had a loud voice most of the time. “Belle, pack up the rest of your stuff. The truck will be here soon.” She told her with a smile as she retrieved back to the kitchen. Belle didn’t reply; she just wasn’t in a mood to talk at all today.
She trudged upstairs soundlessly, dropping her backpack on the top stair as she crossed the spacious hall and into her now bare room. She had taken her posters of her favorite bands down last night, resulting in her white walls being painfully dull. Her furniture, which was now packed up and put away, had left marks in the shiny wooden floorboards. She crossed the room, the polish of the floor allowing her reflection to follow her. Belle leaned against the plain wall, slowly scooting down until she was sitting, facing her open doorway.
The trees rustled with the breeze outside, which made its way through her feather light curtains and onto her fair skin. She was going to miss California’s breeze.
Beneath Belle’s eyelids she felt the orange streetlights of the Brooklyn Bridge pass as the car edged nearer to New York City. The trip took about three days, which had brought over a wave on exhaustion that Belle simply couldn’t shake. She felt butterflies in the pit of her stomach just thinking about her new home, which was only minutes away.
“Belle,” Her mom whispered, shaking her knee slightly. “Look.”
She opened her tired eyes slowly, and her breathe hitched at the lights. Absolutely stunning. The thought that her vision would get used to this beautiful imagery was amazing. She sat up slowly, her muscles stiff from leaning in the same position against the car window for several hours. Her phone buzzed, the bright screen stinging her eyes. Belle’s friends hadn’t stopped texting her until she left school that day. It wasn’t until then that she realized how much her friends cared, which made the experience of leaving more painful.
Belle felt the car suddenly turn before she glanced out the window. They were officially in the city; the once distant buildings had now consumed them. The chaos was overwhelming, and far different from California’s subtle sunny days. Belle felt a kick of adrenaline by just sitting in the car. Being amongst it all, she loved it. Her dad continued to drive along the extensive roads until they approached a building titled “Manhattan House”. They pulled in behind the large moving truck that had surprisingly arrived before them.
“I need to go find a parking garage, you guys lead the movers.” Dad said as Belle and her mother stepped out of the car.
The rush of the cars whizzing by swayed Belle’s hair as the two entered the extravagant building. Her mother led the movers to their apartment through the elevator, and Belle thought best to step out of the way as they continued their job. She sat down in a chair in the lobby, watching people come and go, appearing oblivious to their surroundings as the engaged with the electricity of their own separate worlds.
She should have been all too excited to see her new apartment. She should have ridden up the elevator with anticipation, but yet she killed time in the lobby. She wanted to live in the moment, and take in the scene she would witness for God knows how long. Belle enjoyed this new kind of life that she was witnessing all around her, and she desperately wanted to be a part of it, not just a Californian bystander.
But at the same time, she knew she didn’t belong. Belle was aware of who she was; a shy and quiet girl whose disorder of social anxiety practically controlled her. New York City was a place for pandemonium, for people with ambition and the need for success; at least, that’s what Belle had interpreted from the social media. How was she ever going to function in this environment, with the very thought of people looking at her triggering a variety of impractical thoughts? There was only so much her medication could do.
For now, she hoped the pills would do enough.
Belle and her mother ate breakfast at a café that was down the street from their apartment building because the food was supposedly amazing, and their kitchen wasn't set up yet with the addition of having no food. Her father stayed home and did business work on his laptop, which was all he really did. Despite the fact that her mother ran a business, she was much more laid back about her work and most likely wouldn't start focusing on Sunni’s until three days into living in the city.
Belle was aware that she started her new school, Cameron High, tomorrow. She had closed out the thought, and will hopefully continue to close it out until that day started. But it was difficult, as her anxiety of new people and their perceptions of her weaved through every crevice in her clouded mind. What if they didn’t like her? What if she was a nuisance to them? No, she was. She will be, right?
Belle had constant battles consisting of this in her mind, which even involved her friends in California. Usually, when she would open up about her anxiety to them, they would reassure her that they loved her and all that friendship crap. But this time, she had no one to console her. No one knew her, no one knew what she dealt with, and they would all judge her.
“Honey,” She heard her mother say, which sounded very distant compared to her thoughts that were practically screaming. “I can see it in your face, you’re thinking of tomorrow.”
“Well of course I’m thinking of tomorrow, mom. How could I not think of tomorrow?” She replied blatantly as she bit into her bacon cheese sandwich.
“But you’re not just thinking, you’re thinking.” She told her, sounding like a seventeen year old girl who was trying to explain how hypnosis worked.
“Oh, you know what I’m saying.” She said exasperatedly after a few quiet moments of Belle just staring at her. “I know your medication will help, but I just want you to remember what we talked about. Everyone judges, and there is no way to escape that. But they will judge you no further than anyone else, okay?”
“Okay.” She said. That’s what Belle admired about her mother the most, is that she was honest. She wouldn’t lie and tell her daughter certain things about the world to make her feel better. She was truthful, and she had this way of making the horrible truth sound not so horrible.
“Anyways,” Her mother continued, “You should focus on the positives, like boys. You’ll meet a boy, that much I can predict.”
“Hah,” Belle replied, looking down at her plate that had barely been touched. Even with meds, she still had trouble eating in public. “Can we not?”
“You know, I see the way boys look at you. They all got the hots for you, but of course they would I mean look at the mother.”
“Right, sorry. Sorry I am embarrassing you within the conversation that no one is listening to.”
Belle thought differently. What if everyone was listening? She shuddered at the thought. The rest of the day involved her and her mother wandering New York; her mom buying “new school clothes” that Belle knew she would never wear, and getting acuity of their new surroundings. The walk home was long, and by the time they had arrived back to the Manhattan House, her legs burned. She had enjoyed the walk, with the exception of so many people; she had never looked at the ground so much in her life.
That night Belle and her father worked together to get her bed set up. Belle’s new room had wide windows and clean wooden floors. Once her furniture and posters were set up, she would have a cool and homey environment that would bring her unease down at least ten notches.
After her parents had gone to bed, she snuck into the kitchen, the clock displaying a very late time. She hated going to bed too late on a school night, but she had forgotten her medication. After she popped a few with a class of water, she retrieved back into her almost empty bedroom. She had left the window open, the noises of the city below bringing a somewhat comforting atmosphere to Belle that allowed her mind to slip into slumber with ease.
The air was cold and bit at Belle’s uncovered skin as her and her mother paced down 66th, attempting not to be late on her first day at Cameron. Although Belle had studied the crap out of the Google maps page, and pretty much knew exactly where to go, her mother had put the argument at rest of accompanying her anyways. Soon enough, Belle and her mother began to walk amongst clusters of teens with backpacks.
“Follow the backpacks,” Her mom muttered, squeezing her arm encouragingly. Belle looked at her mother, and saw tears forming in the woman’s eyes. Crap.
“Mom, not here. Love you,” She told her quickly before hugging her for only a moment as she broke away, parting into the mist of students.
“Love you, honey!” She shouted as she waved goodbye, her expression and voice filled with emotion. It’s not like she was going to see her daughter again in a matter of eight hours or anything.
Belle continued walking, all too aware of her surroundings as she watched her steps carefully upon the ground. She considered maybe perhaps looking at some people, to give off the impression that she wasn’t as weak as she actually was. But then she thought differently, quickly erasing the silly idea from her concept. It’s better to act as herself, to not give a false view. Also, it was easy to be herself, and she’d been acting the part for a while.
The school began to appear amongst the thin trees that were planted in front of it. It was tall and old, the bricks worn and brown. Overall the school had a very dark, almost creepy persona. The difference between this school and hers in California was striking. Belle hoped she would fit in; she had trouble adjusting at times, and she didn’t know how she would adjust to the sad beauty of this place.
After several moments of just staring at the school, she realized she didn’t know where she was going. Belle quickly pulled out her schedule and glasses, her sight always ten times better when she wore these. The glasses also gave her a sense of comfort, and she didn’t know why. She decided she would keep these on for a while.
Belle navigated through the school in a rush, desperately not wanting to be late to her class on the first day. She thought she felt eyes look at her, but when she glanced up, they were in their own world of socialization. She tried to remember what her mother said; everyone judged, but they weren’t judging her any more than anyone else. That wisdom seemed distant and cloudy as she walked through this new environment. She was scared.
When she arrived at her first class, English III, almost the whole class apart from a few empty seats was there. Her heart quickened with the sight of so many, staring at her, judging her. Stop, she thought to herself.
“Belle Vermont?” The teacher, a kind looking old woman, read from a slip of paper as she glanced up at Belle.
“Yes,” She responded quietly. Oh God, she sounded so shy. They won’t like her, none of them will. Who likes shy people? Does anyone like shy people?
“Ah, Belle! Welcome to English. Everyone, this is Belle Vermont, our new student.” The woman said to her class kindly.
“She’s hot!” Someone from the back shouted. The whole class erupted with laughter, and Belle felt her face burn. He was joking, he was definitely joking.
“Alright, alright settle down you kids. Now if we could just find you a seat-”
“She could sit here!” A feminine voice from the east side of the room said.
“Right, Hun, go sit with Francesca.”
As Belle sauntered over, she observed Francesca before the girl could notice. She had dark hair and dark eyes, dark shaded clothes, and a piercing above the brow. She couldn’t have passed as Goth, however, because Belle saw a certain lightness in her. Her expression was bright and kind, and clean of all the crazy make up.
She smiled at Belle warmly, which brought her a great comfort since she hadn’t assumed even one person would like her.
“Finally we get a new student! I’m tired of all these idiots. I’m Francesca, but call me Frannie.” She extended a hand. Belle took it cautiously but gratefully at the same time.
Before she could reply, she heard a male voice clear his throat next to her, demanding for attention. “I’m Brandon,” He told her, gazing deep into Belle’s eyes that made her uncomfortable on many levels.
“Hi,” She said quietly, looking down at her desk.
“I think you’re scaring her Brandon, give her space.” Frannie told him sternly.
“Oh, whatever.” He waved off, “Where’s the big guy?”
Francesca glanced towards the back of the room at an empty desk. “Oh, you know him and his hangovers. Idiot.” Belle enjoyed the way Francesca referred to everyone as idiots.
The classed whizzed by, consisting of long glares at the clock, and the obnoxious passing of notes between Brandon and Francesca, most of which were doodles Belle didn’t have the time to make out. She realized that she had been staring at her desk for a while, so she decided to glance out the window, propping her cheek in her palm. She had a clear view of thin green trees, swaying slightly, and the town houses across from her side of the school. She noticed almost each door was painted a different color, from dark red to a luxurious gray. They blended nicely, and Belle enjoyed the sight.
Suddenly the bell rung, shocking her out of her daze. She packed her bags quickly, and decided to wait for everyone in her aisle to clear out before she moved. She wouldn’t want to get in their way. Belle noticed Frannie was waiting by the door while students exited, her thin backpack straps clasped in her hands.
“Hey, Belle.” She greeted with another warm smile, “Since you’re new and all I thought I’d show you around.”
“Oh, thanks.” She replied after processing this. She felt secure having Frannie around, which made her feel a lot better, especially considering this was only her first class.
“You know, it’s kinda weird that you had your first day on Friday. But it’s probably more convenient so you have to weekend to process all the assholes you’ll have to attend this school with.” Frannie chuckled at her own joke, which made Belle chuckle.
As the two strode through the school, Frannie leading her to her next class, she continued to talk about how stupid everyone was, but also how one could succumb to love them. She explained the school activities and sports that Frannie didn’t know much or care about, which was much like Belle. She could give a crap about any school activities, and also because she felt too awkward to join anything that involved socializing.
“Well, here it is.” The two arrived at an open doorway. “Hey,” Frannie said before Belle could enter, “Give me your number, cuz I don’t know the next time I’ll see you. I gotta bombard you with questions about the west coast later.”
Belle was surprised anyone knew or cared where she was from, but nonetheless gave Francesca her number. Before she could enter the classroom, Frannie stopped her again.
“We’re having a hangout tomorrow at my place if you wanted to come? I can text you the address,” She said kindly.
“Okay,” Belle blurted before she could stop herself.
“Great! I’ll text yah!” She replied enthusiastically as she parted ways and disappeared amongst the crowd.
Oh God, oh no. What had she done? Of course she didn't actually want to go to a hangout with a group of random strangers, one of them being a person she’s only known for a single class period. When she had first met her small group of friends in California, she only considered hanging out with them after months. But, she didn't want to appear rude to Frannie, especially after her being so kind.
For the rest of her second class, she contemplated on what to do about the situation. She could lie and say she was busy, but busy with what? When it came down to it, Belle was a terrible liar, even over text. And she had just moved to the city, how could she already have plans?
She’ll think of something, eventually. Belle simply could not go, no matter how much of her medication she took. She would make a fool of herself, and they would all laugh at her. She knew it, she knew it.