"You smell like a corpse."
"Go kill yourself. That'd even make God happier."
"You're such a nobody. Almost 17 and can't even land a girlfriend."
"Wimp." As I walk down the hallways of Hargrove High School, I realize that the shorter one-word insults are better than the five minute lectures pointing out my every flaw. Picking at me from the inside out. All in all high school is a painful experience, especially if you're that kid who everyone hates. I bet you know who I'm talking about. He's unpopular. His clothes aren't new, he smells like cheap cologne and looks like he got bashed in the face with a hammer when he was a baby. That's me. Even the nice kids, the ones who aren't that good looking or popular themselves seem to keep their distance, leaving me to eat alone at lunch and face the mean kids on my own. After years of this sort of treatment from the rest of society, one tends to accept they're a loser instead of denying it. They act the part. It becomes less hurtful that way.
I trudge into class, ready for another day of slacking off and sleeping through the lesson. I have geography first and our teacher, Mrs. Finch, is a pale, fat woman who always wears black clothes and neon colored wigs. I play this little game with myself, guessing which hair color she'll choose for the day. I guess green, but as I walk in I see she's sporting bright red curly hair. Damn it! If I lose my little guessing game I have to purposefully put myself in the pathway of a bully. It's like self punishment for being such a let down.
"Okay class, before we start the lesson today," she begins in her loud, nasal voice. "I would like to announce that we have a new student coming today! Her name is Hayley Vivian and she's from New York. I expect all of you to be very nice and welcoming to her. She should be here any minute." Unless this Hayley Vivian chick looks like a model straight out of a magazine, no one's gonna be nice to her. That's just how it goes. As long as you're pretty you can expect to be treated wonderfully. But as long as you're like me, there's no hope. Just die. That's what the other kids politely ask me to do. I wonder why I haven't yet.
I rest my head on the desk and prepare for my first nap of the school day. I'll miss out on all the info needed for some upcoming test and I'll fail. Then I'll try to hide the bad grade from my mom, but she'll find out eventually and try to talk to me about it. Then I'll get mad at myself for being such a disappointment, and instead of trying to turn my life around and trying to be a good son, I'll take out my anger on her. I'll hit her again and again and again. Like I always do when I'm mad that she's such a good parent. When I'm mad that I can't ever do the right thing.
Why does she still love me? Does she still love me?
I'm about to fall asleep when the chatter from the other kids dies down to a low hush. I open my eyes to see what's going on. A tall girl with bright blue eyes rimmed in mascara, long straight dark brown hair and a small silver nose stud stands in the front of the room, smiling beautifully at the class. Wow. Yep, definitely model material. Yep, definitely never gonna look me in the eyes and say hello. It'll be a miracle if she ever even notices my existence.
"This, class, is Hayley Vivian." Mrs. Finch introduces. "Hayley, would you like to tell everyone a little about yourself?"
"Well there's not much to tell." Hayley chuckles. "My dad's a banker. We just moved from Albany, New York. I play soccer, baseball and consider myself a bit of a tomboy, yet I'm obsessed with makeup." She laughs. "I guess that makes me more girly huh?" Everyone laughs at this, mainly because she's the one laughing this bubbly, cute, contagious laugh. I even find myself smiling slightly. Oh yes, she's going to be very popular. She seems fun, laid back and she's pretty. We will never be friends.
"Is there anything else you'd like to tell us?" Mrs. Finch asks, amused.
"Um, no, not really. I just hope that I can fit in, make some friends and that Hargrove High School will be a good experience." Hayley says. She won't have to worry. Girls like her fit right in.
I close my eyes and lay my head on the desk again. I hear Mrs. Finch's loud voice telling the pretty soon-to-be-popular new girl where to sit, but I'm not listening. Soon, her voice fades into the background and so does the shuffle of the other kids getting out their notebooks to write down whatever she's blabbing on about.
It's lunch time now and I just got through four periods of sleeping without being caught! Is this one of the lucky days, maybe? A day when, even when I'm last in line for lunch and reach for the milk carton at the bottom of the cooler, that milk isn't spoiled? Is this the day my sandwich has extra mustard and my apple has no holes? No such luck. By the time I get to the counter the cafeteria is out of milk. And apples. And the sandwich I get is missing mustard and ketchup and meat and tomato and lettuce. I got stuck with the dreaded cheese sandwich. But this is how it is, when everyone pushes and shoves their way to the front of the line and you get stuck waiting in the back. This is how it is when no one gives you a second glance. This is just another day.
I take my boring cheese sandwich and sit at my table in the corner. I decide to go through with my punishment later; right now I'm too hungry to risk losing any fight. That's why my table is away from the crowd and I can eat in peace, hoping no bullies decide to stop by and say hi. But as I'm chewing my terrible lunch menu, I see exactly who I don't want to see coming my way, Chloe Brawnson and her crew: Madison Ivory, Paige Hammond, Jenny Glow and....Hayley? Figures. Of course they'd grab the new girl to join them on her very first day. And she'll probably become their life long best friend, because Chloe's like a magnet. Everyone's drawn to her for some unknown reason. Unless you're on the receiving end of constant insults and verbal blows. Then you learn to hate the girl who dyes her hair almost as often as I hit my mom. No. Less often.
"Hey Patrick, what are you eating? Something you got out of the garbage?" she asks with a fake smile. Madison, Paige and Jenny giggle. Hayley watches on silently.
"Yeah." I mumble. I stretch my hand out, offering the sandwich to her. "Want it? It's disgusting. Just like you."
"Ouch! I'm so hurt." she says sarcastically, giving me her best fake sad pout. Before I can retract my sandwich offer, she knocks it out of my hand. I stand up, knowing that I can still eat my sandwich if I get it off the floor quickly enough. But it's too late. Chloe is squishing my sandwich, smashing it with her heel, turning it to mush on the tiles. I stand there, frozen. There goes my dry, kind of disgusting yet slightly filling lunch. Haley gasps in horror but the others laugh heartily.
"If you still eat that, you really are the most pathetic being on Earth. So pathetic you shouldn't even be alive." Chloe hisses. And with that she walks away, Jenny, Paige and Madison at her heels. Hayley stands there for a second, staring at me, still surprised. For a moment I think she's going to say something. Maybe offer me another lunch? Say she's sorry? Ditch Chloe and offer to sit with me? No such luck. Paige calls her and with one sympathetic look over her shoulder at me, she's off. One more minion to add to Chloe's growing list.
Just another day.