Belle felt no longer intact with the world, seeing as Thanksgiving had jumped out from the corner and smacked her in the face. She was especially surprised that she’d been paying so little attention even with New York Cities’ constant enthusiasm for even the smallest of holidays. At least, that’s how she saw it, but what did she know?
A few days prior to the great day of The Turkey, all of Cameron High had off. This meant only one thing for her fellow students; drugs and parties. For her it meant sitting in her room all day and reading a book, or eating. When the twenty-eighth of November had arrived, Belle’s phone chirped and buzzed at a constant rate, all deriving from Francesca. She was too distorted to retrieve her phone as she could barely open her eyes. The location of her room in the apartment has the brightest sunlight, which were both a blessing and a curse.
Her phone paused for a minute, as if taking a breather from continuous buzzing. Francesca must have gotten annoyed with Belle’s inconsistence, and stopped bothering. Belle panicked as much as her exhaustion allowed her before she departed from her bed and stumbled to her phone. Before her fingertips could rest upon the cool glass of the device, her ring tone echoed loudly.
“Hello?” Belle picked up the phone in a hurry; she didn’t want to leave Frannie waiting again.
“Hey Chickie,” she said merrily. Despite how early it was, Belle was happy at least one person wasn’t grouchy. “We’re going to the Thanksgiving Parade and you’re coming. We had a ticket for Maxus but at the last minute he decides not to go of course.” She sounded stressed on the last two words, and Belle pictured her rolling her eyes. “Idiot,” she muttered. “Anyways, be ready by twelve.”
The other end clicked, and Belle stared at the wall. The only time she ever went to a parade was when she was six years old, and she recalled having a nervous breakdown because of the endless amounts of taller bodies crowding her on all sides. That was the first day of many, the first time they were aware that she had the disorder. It was a sad day then, because Belle hadn’t known what was going on, and she was scared. Reminiscing in her mind, the day became even sadder, because she knows it had just been the start of a very stressful life.
She couldn’t go to the parade, but how would she tell Frannie. She didn’t want to call her back, because she was terrible at making even the simplest of phone calls. She could text, but that was rude to just cancel via text message, after Francesca was so excited to have Belle join them. Her chest moved up and down at a fast rate, and she had to sit on the bed. She took the deep breathes the doctor had taught her, hands clasped to the beds edge.
She fumbled through her bedside drawer for her pills, and swallowed them down without water. Her throat itched as the tasteless capsules inched further. She ran to the kitchen for some water, gulping the liquid down until her stomach hurt.
Canceling was a massive obstacle she discovered the more time she spent with her peers, but so was attending. She pictured the situation as two balance beams, one was joining the acquired event and the other was drawing back in cowardice. Attendance was lighter, but that didn’t make it easier.
Different people were sprawled throughout the city, adorned with scarves and hats. Their cheeks were rosy as they puffed out visible breathes, allowed from autumn’s temperature. As the build-up for the much anticipated parade, groups of people clustered together with their families as they found their spots to await the giant balloons.
Belle was told to wait outside H&M, a store where she had about enough money to buy a shoelace. Though her mother made a lot of profit from Sunni’s, she was still wary of giving Belle money because of the whole I-don’t-want-my-daughter-to-be-a-brat thing, by which she was grateful.
“BELLE,” A high pitched, enthusiastic voice shouted; none other than Francesca’s. Belle turned before a body collided with hers, taking her aback. “So glad you came! This is no doubt your first New York City parade, and we’re here to make sure you have a shit load of fun.” Her smile was so present that it radiated, causing Belle to smile like an infection. She tried to block her surroundings out; so many bodies compiled into one place. What if they didn’t want her here? She was just another someone wasting unnecessary space, someone who wasn’t even appreciative of the event. Though Frannie was now aware of her social anxiety, it was clear she didn’t know the weight of the burden Belle carried. It wasn’t her fault; it was no one’s fault. Sometimes she wished it was so she could have someone to blame.
“Hey girl,” Jordan slid beside her, wriggling his eyebrows. Belle chuckled, which helped take her mind off of the hasty environment. She took a lot of medication, far more than she’s supposed to take. She should be fine. He linked his arm through hers. Belle froze with eyes wide.
Frannie turned around, glancing between Belle and Jordan, and then their arms. “Oh God,” her eyebrows fused in annoyance as she threw her arms up. “Jordan, stop being a pedophile.” She trudged over and unlinked their arms, dragging Belle with her as they continued through the street.
“Um, I’m pretty sure it’s not pedophilia when they’re YOUR AGE,” He shouted from behind them.
Victoria was alongside Francesca. She leaned over and smiled at Belle, sending subtle crinkles to the edge of her eyes. “Hey Belle,” she greeted.
“Hey,” she replied, way too quietly. She had to speak up, especially in this atmosphere, but she didn’t know how to do that since she’s trained her voice to stay quiet. Francesca made a sideways glance at her, and her eyes looked worried.
“You’re okay here,” she whispered so Victoria couldn’t hear, “right?”
She nodded, hopefully it looked confident, “Yeah.” She was not.
Frannie brightened up, as if she just solved a problem, “Alrighty!”
Jordan suddenly appeared next to Belle, which startled her. “Sorry,” he said, “Dex isn’t here so I have to mingle with you guys.” He didn’t sound excited.
The four approached an even larger sum of people, their lower bodies pressed up against gray metal bars. Confetti was already littered through the streets, and citizens’ children paraded small balloons and flags upon their parents’ shoulders, happiness taking comfort in their facial expressions. This part of the parade made Belle content; seeing so many people happy. It was a nice thing to see.
“We’re getting to the front if it’s the last thing I mother fucking do,” Frannie said, determination in every syllable. She led, her elbows colliding with people’s hips and rib cages as she greedily pushed them out of the way. Belle could never do something like that. She was being dragged along by Frannie’s gloved hand while Victoria was beside her, taking note of her friends’ actions and doing the same thing. Belle glanced back at Jordan, his expression bored. His eyes shift to her, and he shrugs his shoulders.
“I’m just here because Fran said she’ll buy me ice cream,” He half yelled over the somewhat roaring crowd.
Over the course of the parade, confetti rained and the massive balloons gave her the creeps. They were monstrous, but people loved them, so she tried to relate with that. She couldn’t. Society shouted with laughter, smiling so bright they gave the sun a run for its money. She tried to focus on each individual person instead of the entire crowd. Doing that was a lot easier, because she wasn’t thinking about how many people were jam packed around her at once. She would look at the sky for long periods of time, switching occasionally between that and the road so people wouldn’t notice how long she’d been staring at nothing.
Belle was glad she had worn gloves, because she knew her knuckles were white in reaction to her grip on the bar that imprisoned her. Every bump, or noise that was too close to her ear, sent jolts through her body. She needed more pills, but they were at home. Far, far away.
Placing a gloved hand on her coat pocket, her inhaler rests. In frightening moments, like this one, just the feel of the cool plastic calmed her, and she wished it didn’t. She didn’t like the idea of dependency but the state of mind was a part of her. Belle depended on many things. She knew everyone else did, even the people who claimed they were independent. The difference between her and them is that she has realized this, and they have not, to which she envied. Their ignorance was something she could never have.
When the parade had come to a close, Belle’s face was pale and sickly with angst. Francesca, Victoria, and Jordan went out for treats afterwards, and Belle took that moment to make an escape. She said she needed to get back home in a hurry, and was surprised when they didn’t seem disappointed in her. She was relieved.
She arrived home to a warm and somewhat busy apartment, her mother appearing to be the center of it. She bustled in the kitchen, spooning gravy over the half cooked turkey and placing it back in the oven before she continued mashing sweet potatoes. The aroma was overwhelming, which put a smile on her face. The last time she saw her mother happy and busy was when they were still in California, and she was packing up the boxes and helping load them into the moving truck.
Belle muttered a ‘hey’ as she took off her hat, scarf and gloves while making her way to her room. As she passed by, she cast a glance at her father, who was slouching on the couch. She couldn’t see his face, which was trained on the television, but she knew somehow that his features were depressed. Her father was never depressed, but lately there’s been a change in him and she has no explanation for it.
She killed time slowly in her room as she waited for Thanksgiving dinner. She had opened her window, but after about ten minutes, she realized this was a bad idea and shut it with effort. Now her room had a layer of chill draped in the air, so she shrugged her blanket around her and continued reading at her desk. Her teachers gave no homework over the short break, which annoyed her slightly because she needed something to do. Not only that, but doing homework made her feel smarter, because she knew many other kids weren’t doing theirs.
Did this mean she wanted to be superior? That she wanted to rise above everyone and that she believed she was truly better? Belle bit her nail, and hoped she wasn’t one of those who were in search of constant superiority. But what if she was?
Belle jumped when her mother opened the door. “Dinner,” she said with a flat smile.
Her father had just sat down when Belle joined her parents at the table. The overhead lamp set an overcast of bronze light over the dark oak table, allowing the beautiful turkey to shine in its glory. As Belle retrieved her food, it took a while for her to take note of how quiet the room was. She could hear everything from outside. Every car horn, every wisp of wind against the window, every tick of the clock that was placed to the right of her.
Her parents were never this quiet. They were usually loud, happy and spontaneous people. In fact, in midst of their conversations they could temporarily forget Belle’s existence. Now she felt she was trained on, in a sense, since her parents couldn’t even look at each other. She focused on her plate, hoping they were looking at their plates too.
She stole a look at them. Her mother was smiling, but it was a very light smile. Hardly there, and it looked fake. Smiles had a sense of authenticity to them; one could tell a lot from a smile. Belle knew this because she caught herself observing people a lot, since she couldn’t bring herself to talk to them. However, her father wasn’t even trying. Belle never distinguished him as the mopey type, but this would be a time for that.
“So you’ve been making new friends, Belle?” she asked. There was something underlying in her tone, hiding there but just on the verge of exposing itself.
“Yeah,” she mumbled, her mind elsewhere. Her mind was on her mother, but not her words.
Mom nodded, retrieving her gaze to her plate. Her parents were always too outgoing for her, so she never made much talk with them, but for some reason she felt the need to. She felt like a terrible daughter if she didn’t break the tension in the room with her voice.
He glanced up slowly, eyebrows raised. “You okay?” That was the best she could do, unfortunately. Of course he wasn’t okay.
“Course,” he replied.
She needed to say something, because she didn’t like this. She wasn’t enjoying her parents suddenly becoming her; passive and closed off. “You guys have been quiet for a while, which is really unlike you.” Her mouth pieced together this sentence, and she hoped it would kill whatever problem floated between them.
For the first time her parents locked eyes, as if mentally communicating. She had never felt so excluded. Her mother scowled at him, and that scowl became permanent before switching her gaze to the window. There was no trace of anger in her father, however, but worry. Concern and sadness made themselves present in his blue irises, and he pushed his plate away. He sat up slowly, as if every bone in his body had weakened over the course of the meal, much of which he hadn’t eaten.
She thought he would sit on the couch and flip on the television, but he brushed passed the couch and disappeared into the dark hallway. Belle looked at her mom, who was still trained on the blinds that shielded the window. She felt cold, though the apartment was so warm.
After finishing her meal, she crept into bed and grieved for her parents. She never realized how much their happy personas made her happy until now. There was no reason for this sudden sadness between them, but the thought that there was one out there formed a tear. The dampness spilled and balanced on her lower eyelid before dancing to the edge of her eye, where it fell slowly and gently, as did her consciousness before sleep surrounded her.