I didn't know pain until I saw Hailey Sharma's fist flying at my face.
Her knuckles struck my nose and I fell to the tarmac. The sky spun above me like a Mary Go round, a grey, murky Mary Go Round that none of the kids wanted to ride. The school seemed grey too. It loomed over to the left, and I wondered why none of the teachers were rushing out to stop the fight, only to remember that it was a weekend. Or was it? Hell if I knew.
"G-Get up, bitch!" Hailey shrieked.
I blinked the stars out of my eyes and turned my head to her. "What?" I asked. Everything was hazy.
Hailey stood over me, and the little girl looked much larger from the ground than you'd think. Her fist clenched tight—red blood on raw brown skin—and tears streamed down her cheeks. Her makeup didn't smudge, though. She always wore waterproof.
I blinked once more, and then realization struck me harder than she did. "You hit me," I said. That's when I started to cry. "You hit me."
Her lower lip trembled. "I-I didn't break anything, did I?"
My fingers flew to my nose, and they drew back blood. Lots of blood. It just wouldn't stop coming. But it wasn't broken. "No."
"Well then you deserved it, you fucking slut!"
I scrambled to my feet and pushed her back, yelling, "What did I do?"
Hailey stumbled, recovered herself, and said, "What did you do? What didn't you do? I told you that I wanted to keep this a secret, and then you go and put it on Instagram for likes?"
"Hails, I took it down."
"After five hours!" she cried. "I begged you, Loreen. I begged you to delete it as soon as you put it up, and I know you saw my texts because you're too much of an idiot to turn off your read receipts." Hailey covered her face with her hands and shook her head.
My heart squeezed and I reached for her, but then drew back. It wasn't a deal, was it? No, of course not. I blurred out her face, so who would have known? Who would have put in the time to figure it out? "You're being a child. Even if someone found out, why does it matter? You're going to have to come clean about it eventually."
"Loreen," Hailey moaned. She sounded like she was dying. No, she sounded like I'd killed her. "I want to go to the Olympics. If any of the girls on the swim team found out then I wouldn't even make it to nationals."
"They'd kick me off the team! Who wants to change in front of someone who likes girls?"
Hailey raised her fist again.
I flinched and shielded my face, waiting for the impact, but after a few seconds it didn't come. I looked through my fingers, and then my hands fell.
Barbie Maxwell had Hailey in a headlock. Hailey struggled, trying to turn around, but Barbie kept a surprisingly strong hold on her. She had oddly muscular arms, not the kind you got from playing sports, the kind you got from genetics.
Barbie began muttering into Hailey's ear, and slowly Hailey calmed down, the panicked look fading from her face. It was the most bizarre thing I'd seen, like, ever.
Hailey Sharma, with her waterproof cat eye-liner so sharp it could cut a bitch, and perfect matte liquid lipstick and clear brown skin, kept in a headlock by Barbie. They were complete opposites. Barbie was like the anti-Barbie. Barbie wore black shorts that were too tight on her so you could see her pasty, hairy legs. She had a constellation of pimples on her cheeks so red they seemed painted on. And I wasn't for plastic surgery, but if Barbie Maxwell chose to get rhinoplasty I wouldn't blame her.
Barbie let go of Hailey and I took a step back, but instead of storming at me Hailey turned on her heel and speed walked away. I stared after her, but she didn't look behind once.
And then I turned to Barbie. "What the hell are you doing here?"
She glared at me with her hands on her hips, but the effect was set off by her lazy eye. "A thank you would be nice."
I rolled my eyes. "Thanks, I guess."
I shifted on my feet and hoisted my satchel higher on my shoulder. She continued to look at me. It was beginning to get uncomfortable.
"Hailey's told me all about you," she finally said.
She must have seen the shock on my face, because she added, "Yeah, we're friends, and from what she tells me you're an asshole."
"Hey! Fuck off, alright? I'm a perfectly decent person."
She smirked at this, showing off her braces. "And you've screwed every other girl in the school. Hailey was the next name on the list, wasn't she? Jesus Christ. I knew you'd do something like this. I told her."
"It isn't like that," I said. "I like Hailey. Really."
"But you don't know her."
I balled my fist. "I do! Okay, maybe not that well, but we only started dating a few weeks ago. But I know what shampoo she uses, and I know how much she loves swimming and how important grades are to her. I know that she fights with her parents that she's terrified to come out. I know—maybe not that much, but I'm still learning." I sighed and wiped the blood from under my nose. "And I know that she has a temper—that's for sure."
Barbie quirked an eyebrow. "So why did you do it, then?"
"The picture? I thought she just needed a bit of a push, you know? I thought it would make her happy in the end. Look, I get it. It was wrong. You shouldn't force people to come out, yada yada, but... I don't know. I'm stupid sometimes."
Barbie laughed. "Maybe not so much of an asshole after all." She walked up to me and poked me in the forehead. "No, just human. Anyway, Hailey wanted me to say that she's breaking up with you. Oh, don't give me that look, I'm sure it will take you no time at all to find a new girl to bother."
Barbie took the finger off my forehead and sauntered away. I turned to watch her leave. "Just make sure that girl isn't me."
You know, she didn't look so bad from behind.
I didn't know love until I saw Barbie Maxwell's ugly face.
Isn't it ironic that the ugliest girl in school was named after a doll that symbolizes the epitome of North American beauty standards? Barbie wasn't like that, though. Barbie was a fucking weirdo. She didn't shave anywhere and she had such a big nose that I thought it was a deformity for the longest time. She had a lazy eye that always made her look a bit intoxicated, and a lisp from the braces that she'd been trying and failing to straighten her teeth with for five years.
I'll be honest with you, I didn't fall for her right away. But all of that love-at-first-sight stuff is bullshit so it doesn't matter. Barbie was perfectly imperfect, as I am, and as we all are.