Musings of the Insecure
I am not beautiful, she wrote. Her script was a mixture of cursive and print, the lovely handwriting already a contradiction of her words. I am my mother's keeper, my daddy's little girl, and I thank them for my name, but I do not live up to it.
The notebook slammed shut suddenly, because she felt eyes where they didn't belong, ghosting her words with each loop and scratch.
"There is Camus in your back pocket, and a Biology textbook on your desk," she hissed at the boy next to her. "Surely, they are more interesting than the musings of an insecure girl."
"Sorry," he whispered back, and she could almost feel the heat of his shame in being caught.
She was flustered too; she hated confrontation, and she had spit fire at someone she hadn't spoken to in months. All he had done for the past six weeks was ignore her, shoot various looks of loathing and smoke in her direction, and then retreat back into his own space – in the lunchroom, across the parking lot, in Biology. She could feel herself shaking, so she raised her hand and asked for a bathroom pass.
Once she was there, she splashed water on her face, catching the reflection she had proclaimed minutes earlier as not beautiful. She was all dark browns, eyes and hair and eyebrows and tiny freckles on her neck, against skin the shade of an elephant's tusk. The heat of her hometown, Phoenix, had done nothing to put peaches underneath her skin; if anything, it made her more white, the antithesis sunburn.
She had no makeup on her skin for the water to mess up, so she scrubbed her face with a rough brown paper towel, the only hue on her face a bright red dash across her cheeks and forehead. She was flustered, and this made her color, two rose petals pushing against her sinuses and through her cheekbones. She was almost pretty then, she thought, but still not beautiful, still not Bella.
But she was a Bella, a non-beautiful Bella, and that almost made her happy – she was a walking contradiction, and maybe someone, somewhere, would find that interesting.
When she made her way back to the Biology classroom, smelling of old crinkled brown paper and perfumed sweat, she slid back into her seat.
"Are you all right?" asked the voice next to her ear, his breath all boy and marijuana and the apple she had watched him eat for lunch.
"I'm sorry I lost my temper," she said quietly, though she wasn't sorry.
"I'm sorry I read your insecure musings," he said, sounding like a smile, but she didn't look up at him.
"You are not," she accused, folding her arms over her chest and resting them against the cool black top of the desk.
"You aren't, either," he replied, and she grinned despite her tension.
"We can't be friends," she told him, reminding him of his words from weeks ago, when he had snarled at her for thanking him for saving her life from harsh metal and slick asphalt.
He opened his mouth to speak, closed it, licked his lips, and then settled on a wry smile. "I'm tired of trying to stay away from you, Bella."
Bella looked at the boy, who was beautiful with only one glance and devastating with a lingering stare. His unlined face told of youth, but his eyes – with the antifreeze color and the gold ring around the black pupil, reminding her of a sunflower – told her of hidden wisdom, of secrets she would never learn.
"I'm not chasing you, Edward," she whispered.
He laughed, a clear noise, and it made Mr. Banner look up sharply.
"You couldn't catch me, Bella."
Mr. Banner was about to respond, but the bell tolled. Edward stood slowly, and she watched the lines of his strange copper-color hair, the hue of shiny new pennies straight from the bank. Even in fluorescent lighting, he was unattainable.
"Have a nice weekend, Bella."
Bella nodded at her desk, collecting her books and shoving them into her blue backpack. She felt him go by her, the heat from his body keeping her breath held in her lungs. Then he was gone, and she relaxed and picked up her Moleskine.
She didn't open her notebook again until late that night, ready to pour out the strange day in ink. She was full; Charlie had brought home some good steaks from the local butcher, and it was dry enough to grill, so he manned the outdoors while she made a salad and a pasta side. Now it was rainy, the good kind of rainy, where it made sleep comfortable and quick, and she was almost ready to succumb.
When she flipped it open to the page she had left off on, a very different script met her eyes. Under her rant of beauty lacking, were three words in a neat, elegant print:
You are beautiful.
And, just for a moment, she believed it.