Up and up and up I go. Ascending the stairs to reach my sanity.
Mrs. Lillian looked up as the door creaked open, and in popped a small Asian girl wearing knee high socks.
"The front office would like to see Emily DePriest," she spoke shyly, looking around the room for the poor sucker that had to face our principle today.
Sadly that sucker was me, and everyone knew it; and everyone stared.
I wasn't usually the type of person to draw attention to myself. I didn't want to be drawn out of the shadows; the shadows were safe. Step out into the light, and a huge target appears on your back. I didn't want that. I already had a big enough one hanging there. Stepping into the light would just give the shooter a clearer shot.
Back to my point. I'm not the type of person to try and draw attention to myself, so when my name was called, I got up as slowly and quietly as I could; thinking that if I moved slow enough, no one would be able to see me. I was smarter than that though. I know that I'm still visible, and visibly red at that. My cheeks had gone a nice shade of pink in the last few seconds.
I nodded to the teacher before following the small girl into the hallway, my bag strap closing in the door at the last second. It yanked me back when I tried to take another step, making the math supplies in my hands go flying in all directions. Papers floated slowly to the ground as I rushed to grab them. The girl knelt down beside me, holding my textbook as I tried to jam the batteries back into my calculator. I grabbed the book from her once I was finally satisfied that I had put the batteries in the right way.
"Thanks," my voice barley over a whisper. Her big brown eyes went wider and her small mouth dropped open.
"I think that's the first time I've ever heard you talk!" she exclaimed. She seemed only slightly more surprised than I was. Her reaction was not one I expected.
Not knowing what to do, I pulled a half smile onto my lips, letting out a short, breathy laugh. I'm sure she could tell how uncomfortable even this little conversation was making me, so she gave me a short nod, a small smile, and stood up, walking down the hallway towards the office. She only looked back to make sure I was following.
The door on the opposite side of the room opened quick enough to make my heart stutter. It slammed against a potted plant, knocking it to the ground with a crash that sounded like lightning in the now dead quiet room. Soil and chunks of the planter hit harshly against the front desk. I had been sitting in the front office, waiting for a good ten minutes, thinking about the anger I was sure to meet in the next room. But, nothing in my thoughts was anything close to this.
My fingers were closed around the arms of the chair. The already pale skin turning a brighter shade of white. My chest rose and fell more rapidly than before, while my eyes drew wider. Our principal, Mr. Darren, was known for overreacting to a lot of situations, but whatever happened this time must have been terrible.
With one hand on the door, and shaking with rage, he managed to strangle out, "Come. Here." He motioned me over with his finger, and when I didn't respond out of shock, he screamed it, "Come here!" His face was redder than when he first bashed open the door, and there was a large vein popping out on his forehead, throbbing along to his raised heartbeat. Without another second's hesitation, I stood up from my seat and walked briskly into his office. The sound of the slamming door behind me made me jump. I clutched onto the strap of my bag like it was a shield that could keep me safe from what was coming next. A forced-calm sigh was let out behind me, and he spoke with forcibly controlled anger.
I sat in one of the armchairs, the same ones as in the office. He sat behind his large oak desk, curling his fingers together and trying to hide his gritted teeth behind them. The vein stood out more with all the straining he was doing, and it didn't help that his hairline had receded a good few inches from where it should've been. He finally let his fingers spring apart, opening and closing his mouth like he didn't know how to start the conversation.
"Tell me, " he had to stop to control his rising voice, "h-how is putting these up considered funny?" He shoved a piece of paper in my face that had been lying face down on his desk. I took it in my hands, gripping the edges tight enough to create creases. I was shaking, fear and rage settling in my stomach; it churned while I decided which emotion I wanted to be dominate. On this paper, there was a picture of Mr. Darren's face photo shopped onto the body of a Victoria's Secret model. Under it read the words, "The fat helps him hide his titties."
Rage is definitely the dominant emotion here.
I lowered the paper just enough to peer over the top of it, looking at him with wary eyes. He wasn't looking at me, just staring at the very edge of his desk with his lips in a tight line, waiting for an answer.
"Th-This wasn't me." His eyes moved swiftly, locking his gaze with mine. I felt my skin crawl at the near hatred found in their brown depths.
"Emily, you have scratched my car, changed all of my computer passwords, and somehow stole my pants and hung them up in the front doors!" he was yelling louder and louder with each word. I was leaning back in my seat, hoping that if the spit that was flying from his mouth couldn't hit me, neither could his rage.
"Why would I believe for one second that this, " he pushed the paper into my face, "wasn't you?!" I couldn't stand this anymore. It wasn't me who had done all those things. But, I knew who had.
"Because, I told you it wasn't me!" I screamed. Suddenly, I was on my feet, my face right in his. He pulled back slightly, surprised at my reaction. I usually didn't fight back. I usually just took whatever punishment he dished out without a word. But, the defensiveness I felt towards this man needed to be expressed.
We stayed in that same position for at least a minute. Just because I knew who had put up these pictures didn't mean that I was going to tell; it would be her word against mine.
He stood back up, grabbing the phone with one hand. Now that he wasn't yelling, his face had almost gone back to its normal color. Letting out a deep sigh, he pulled the phone up to his ear and dialed a number on the keypad.
"We'll see what the cops have to say."
Three hours later I was allowed to leave. The police had been over every security tape and had interviewed me for over an hour, finding no proof that I was the one putting those pictures up all over the school besides the word of one person who claimed to see me. I was told that this person was to be kept "anonymous", but along with knowing who had ratted me out, I also knew that it was that same person who had put up the pictures and done all the other pranks to Mr. Darren.
By the time I actually exited the front office, the hallways were empty and mumbled conversations were coming from the cafeteria. Being called to the office had taken up the first four classes of the day, and now it was time for lunch. I walked forward, not liking the loud slapping sounds my shoes were making with each step. They echoed through the hallway; I swear the people in the cafeteria could hear.
I heard the laugh as soon as I emerged in the doorway. It was a high-pitched, loud cackle that made neighboring tables stare while their conversations fell short in the middle of sentences. It was a laugh belonging to a girl named Evelyn, the school's mean girl. I reached the middle of the room before the laugh turned into words.
"Those were some nice pictures Emily." Then directed towards her friends, "Do you think her fat hides her titties too?"
Giggles erupted from the table closest to my left. My rage had settled a little, and now I just didn't feel like making a big scene. So, I continued walking at a normal pace, ignoring the loud sounds my shoes made. The door leading to the outside eating area was almost within reach, and then Evelyn decided to open her mouth again.
"Ya, go on out there. If you run around a little maybe you'll lose some weight." I rolled my eyes. Just because you can see her ribs through her shirt, doesn't mean that she can call me fat. I was skinny, but in a muscular, athletic sort of way.
I was a foot away from the door when someone's thin-fingered hand wrapped around my arm.
"Wait. I thought it would be good to get a 'before' picture. Maybe it would help your drive to keep losing those extra pounds." I heard the click of her phone's camera and more giggling. You know how I said I'm not the type of person to draw attention to myself? Well, screw that.
Spinning on my heel, I slapped the phone out of her hand. The loud crashing sound that it made as it landed sent the whole room into silence. I took a step forward so our faces were inches from each other.
Recovering from the initial shock, mumbled whispers broke out at almost all the tables. Something big was about to happen; every single one of them knew it.
Evelyn and I were the same height, so I glared into her eyes as I spoke to her publicly for the first time.
"Just because I'm not half anorexic doesn't make me fat." I pushed her back, making her stumble a step or two in her gigantic heels. Another step forward took me just as close to her as I was a second ago.
"Too bad you couldn't use your photo shop skills to put me in the security camera feed. Didn't think that one through did you?" I pushed her again. This time Evelyn fell into a half-empty table, almost landing on a robotics team member's lap. As she stood up, she looked a little shaken. A smirk spread across my face at the thought that I could actually intimidate her. Nothing was said for a couple of seconds. The Queen of Comebacks was silenced. At least for the time being. I interrupted the happy moment.
"What, nothing to say?"
A body pushed between the two of us, blocking my view of her.
"Oi, that's enough." The voice sounded bored, almost like he couldn't be bothered to actually make us stop fighting. I glanced up seeing dark hair and dark eyes with tanned skin. Calum Hood. I'm surprised that it wasn't Luke Hemmings, Evelyn's boyfriend; he must have his best friends do his dirty work for him, unlike Evelyn who liked to have her finger dipped in every bad thing that happened at this school. Calum, Luke, and two of their best friends, Ashton and Michael, were foreign exchange students from Australia. They had come here to Portland at the beginning of the school year on a full soccer scholarship.
Evelyn's voice came back at that moment.
"See, I told you that you were fat. Did you see how much trouble he had pushing you away from me?" I rolled my eyes again. The sudden confidence boost receded just as quickly as it had come. This whole scene was enough attention for a couple of months.
With one last attempt at keeping her silent, I pushed past Calum and whispered in her ear, "See you at home." I got the satisfaction of seeing her eyes widen an inch or so before walking out of the room, eyes staring at me and another smirk spread across my face.