William Shakespeare once declared, "All the world's a stage."

[Then she's a world-class actor]




The curtain rises and the play begins.

[Cue lights]

The sun is in the sky and the birds chirp with gusto, and she lays in bed thinking maybe, just maybe, today's the day he notices her.

[But that's not likely, is it darling?]

She gets out of bed and stares in the mirror at her mishmash of puzzle pieces – feet that are too big for her legs, fingers that are too short for her palms, and hair too frizzy to be pretty.

[She doesn't look a thing like the picture on the box]

She rummages through her closet and throws on her customary green-and-orange costume, before trudging down the stairs to a breakfast of soggy toast and cold tea.

[Enter Dad]

There are bags under his eyes that mirror the ones under hers, but neither acknowledges them. He sits with a scowl and the newspaper crinkles as he pulls it open.

The smell of stale beer and sweat fills her nostrils, and suddenly she's not that hungry anymore. He barely looks up at her and her plate before turning back to his paper, scowl deeper then ever.

"Eat it," he says, all bite and no bark, and she nods faintly as she tries to keep the disgusting food down.

[She can almost remember a day, not so long ago, when he claimed to love her more than anything.]

She's almost done with the food on her plate, and wondering whether she's eaten enough to satisfy her dad, when heavy footfalls break the silence.

[Enter Shaunie and Paddy]

Her brothers throw themselves angrily into their chairs, as they send glares towards their plates that her father pointedly ignores.

They're not the same brothers they were before, back when their mom was alive and their dad wasn't drunk, and sometimes she can no longer recognize them as the brothers she once had.

[Because those were not her brothers. All that remained was their hollow shells.]

Paddy had been broken – ripped into a hundred shreds of paper and scattered to the wind. His red hair had flown off piece by piece with the help of dad's electric razor, his skin was pale, he smelled constantly of smoke and his eyes spoke of nothing but hatred.

[Cue the forlorn music]

Shaunie was little better. He was a fourteen-year-old boy with a tendency towards alcohol and illegal activities. She sighs as she fingers the glistening gold colored hoops dangling from her ears.

[She's still not sure where he got them, but she doesn't think she wants to know]

"You're gonna be late for school," says her dad with a grunt, but he doesn't bother to raise his head, so she knows he doesn't really care.

"Screw that," grumbled Paddy as he grabs for the car keys. "School doesn't teach me shit."

And before anything more can be said he's gone, Shaunie trailing behind, and she slowly lifts herself from the table, grabbing her faded bag from beside the door.

"Have a nice day," she almost whispers, and isn't surprised when she only gets a grunt back. She stands in front of the door, and sucks in a deep breath.

[She's waiting in the wings for her acting to begin]

She makes her way to school, marching leftrightleft and works on putting her usual scowl on her face. She knows he doesn't like her scowl, and she wishes she could be the chirpy girl of his dreams, always smiling like the sun.

[But can she smile when no one's taught her how?]

And as her feet pull her closer to school her scowl gets deeper and her walls get higher. A passerby nods hello and she glares back with all the hate she can muster. A classmate shouts a good morning, and she responds with the most scathing insult she could think of.

[She figures if she hurts them first, then they can't hurt her back]

She's walking down the hallway, eyes plastered to the floor, when she runs into someone tall and blond.

"Sorry," comes a voice from somewhere above her, and she freezes, because he's standing there, grinning down at her apologetically.

He's grinning.

At her.

[She gives herself a pinch, 'cause she knows this can't be real]

"Sorry," he says again and she almost smiles back. "I didn't see you there."

The urge to smile is gone again as a crushing sense of sadness pulls the scowl back onto her face.

[No one ever seems to see her]

"Here," he says as he notices her books strewn across the ground, being trampled by uncaring classmates. There's a muddy footprint on her textbook, but she could hardly care, because his emerald eyes are focused on her, he was picking up the books for her, and finally she had been noticed.

"Thank you," she mumbles, and he looks surprised that she hasn't insulted him yet. The thought that he expects her to be cruel brings the crushing sadness back.

"No problem," he says, and they stand there silently. She's just opened her mouth to speak when she arrives.

[Enter Kuki]

Her world just got a little darker, because now his eyes are gone, focused on Kuki, the beautiful rainbow of his life, shining bright – she's like a brand new box of 108 crayons in all different colors. Jade-and-umber-and-violet-and-scarlet-and-silver-and-gold radiate from the girl, and she can only wish she was half as beautiful.

If Kuki is the rainbow, then she's the broken gray-and-white-and-black lying abandoned at the bottom of the box.

[All she ever wanted was some color]

When she was little she had color. She was a bright and vibrant red; a leader of an organization long forgotten, best friends with the girl who clearly hates her now, and in love with the exact same boy. She was her father's pride and joy, and her mother's angel. She had friends, she had purpose, she was happy.

[She thought she was invincible, but the world has proved her wrong]

She notices that Wally and Kuki are holding hands, and whispers are traveling around her – apparently there's a new couple at school.

He heart is past broken – it's been ground down into dust.

[Aren't they precious?]

She runs home, uncaring that school's barely even begun, uncaring of the confused looks Kuki and Wally give her as she marches past, uncaring of the tears threatening to boil over in her eyes.

[Only she does care, and she damn well knows it]

The sun beats down on her sweat slicked back, and soon the tears come falling down.

"Hey ugly," comes a voice, and she shrinks a little more. "School is that way, dummy. What? Sick of being nothing?"

"I am not nothing," she whispers to herself, but the words taste wrong, and she knows that it's a lie.

"I hear your brother got arrested again," says the bully, a cigarette perched between his lips, but she doesn't bother to grace him with a response. "Your daddy still a deadbeat nobody?"

[When did her life become a downward spiral?]

"Shut up," she says, without much conviction, and she quickly walks the rest of the way home, letting the front door slam behind her.

[Change scenes]

Her dad's in the same place where he was when she left that morning, newspaper still clutched tightly in his hands.

"I knew it," he said, a glint in his eye as he raised a beer bottle to his lips. "Not such a good girl are you? Skipping school, huh?"

She just ignores him as she flops down on her bed and lets the tears come harder, and all she wants is to be loved.

[But this is not a love story; it's a damned-to-all tragedy]




They say that all the world's a stage.

[Perhaps it's time to take a bow]