"As human beings, we need to know that we are not alone, that we are not crazy or completely out of our minds, that there are other people out there who feel as we do, live as we do, love as we do, who are like us" (Billy Joel).
I walked across the parking lot toward the school entrance, paying no particular interest to anyone, although I could feel all of their eyes on the back of my head like daggers. Due to an incident that occurred the previous month, I was immediately branded a freak, but I couldn't blame my classmates. I was a freak. It was just hard to face the fact that everyone was fully aware of my situation below the belt.
I let out a deep sigh, readjusting the straps of my backpack nervously as I entered the school. I thought I'd be able to be lost in the crowd easily, but instead it seemed to part once they noticed the elephant in the room. They would act as if standing within a foot of me was practically a death sentence and I was some sort of contagious disease. Regardless of my extra appendage I was still a person, I couldn't help with what I was born with. So I pulled my hood over my head and chose to pretend they didn't exist, hoping they'd do the same.
The plan was short lived once I found my path intercepted by a girl with slender, jean-clad legs. I looked up to see Lauren, hands on her hips, her wavy blonde hair pulled into a tight bun, making her blue eyes all the more visible as I watched the judgment swim through them.
"Clear the way, chick with dick," Lauren snickered, earning a few laughs from the surrounding audience that began to swarm. It was funny how much of a coward people could be; only degrading others when they'd have a group to defend them.
I wasn't in the mood for her games however and clenched my jaw to hold back all the things I wanted to say to her. She was the one at fault for all of this yet I hadn't told anyone when I was questioned by the staff aware of the incident that occurred.
"Excuse me," I attempted to be as civil as possible, not wanting to give her the satisfaction of breaking me once more.
"It speaks!" she smirked. "That's what we should call you… I mean with you not exactly being a girl or boy, you're hardly even a person right? You're even below my dog and he's-"
Her words were cut off by the sound of my hand making contact with the side of her face, the sound echoing down the corridor. She stumbled backwards, clutching her cheek and looking to me in disbelief. She couldn't believe I had slapped her and honestly neither could I. For four years I had dealt with her endless teasing once she had discovered my secret, probably interpreting whatever we had as some sick friendship. But now… she had outed me to everyone.
"Fuck you," I hissed, turning on my heels only to run smack into the principle, Mrs. Greene. Her eyes narrowed, shaking her head in disappointment at me. When she had learned of my predicament she was more than understanding, serving as a helping hand along with a listening ear. I sank my head in shame, staring at the floor. It felt like my world was crumbling and I kept stumbling over the debris. Why couldn't I just fall already?
"Shouldn't you all be getting to class by now?!" She barked, causing everyone to scurry off like mice toward their individual classes. As the area began to clear, Mrs. Greene halted Lauren, informing her there was still much to discuss before she'd be going anywhere, earning much mumbling of swear words under Lauren's breath that only I managed to hear.
"Come along you two."
I sat in the office, fidgeting with the zipper of my hoodie as I slide it up and down, forcing it to close and open repeatedly until I earned a pestered look from the secretary.
"Sorry," I whispered, ceasing my actions only to start shaking my leg in an attempt to calm myself. How much trouble would I be in? Thankfully this was my first offense, but still, I had slapped a student. Even if she had provoked me, violence was never the answer. Or at least that's what the teachers said.
I was snapped out of my worries once I looked up to see one of the prettiest sights my eyes were ever welcomed to experiencing. A pixie like goddess stepped into view from the hallway, her black hair sticking up in every direction. She wore tight fitted jeans, which showed off her slender legs and a navy blue v-neck beneath her tan leather jacket.
"Alice Brandon, junior," she handed the secretary a sheet of paper, beaming at Mrs. Cope who returned it quickly. Even I had to admit her smiles seemed to be a bit contagious. "Sorry for being late, we had a bit of difficulty locating the school."
"Oh no worries have a seat while I print out your schedule," Mrs. Cope eyed me once Alice's back was turned to her, silently warning me not to do anything that would frighten away the new student. But as I watched the pixie bounce her way over to me from the corner of my eye, I could tell it would take a lot to sour her mood.
"Hi I'm Alice," she held out a hand once she took the seat beside me, half turned in her seat. I peeked back over at the secretary whose eyes narrowed as she expected me to at least humor her in pretending I wasn't some socially awkward reject who'd never have a chance at a normal relationship. Great… I was starting to throw myself a pity party.
"I'm Bella," I forced my best smile, taking her hand within mine and noticing how well it fit within my own. It was warm, despite the constant cold of Forks and soft despite well, anything. Not to mention the fact that with her sitting closer to me I was able to make out the features of her face a lot more clearly. She had to be the prettiest girl I had ever been given the chance of meeting.
I was suddenly brought to the realization that I had been shaking her hand for well over a minute along with staring directly at her like a complete idiot.
"S...Sorry," I stuttered out, pulling my hand back before sneaking a glance over at Mrs. Cope who thankfully had busied herself back on the computer, trying to find Alice's schedule to print I presume. However I could sense the small hint of a smile on her face that she attempted to hide. Very sneaky…
Alice only giggled in response luckily, dismissing the awkward situation as if it were nothing.
"So how long have you been going here?" Alice asked, her attention fully on me which caused me to shift in my chair uncomfortably as I would look her in the eyes only to force my gaze elsewhere occasionally.
"I'm a junior so this is my third year, I've lived here since I was ten so I'd be available if you needed a tour guide."
Her smile brightened at my suggestion, leaning in slightly closer. Already I could tell she was one of those touchy feely kinds of people, which I usually had to distance myself from the most. However, Alice seemed to be a bit more accepting than most people. Still I had been hurt too badly to trust this girl too easily.
"Alice, your schedule is ready," Mrs. Cope spoke from behind the desk. It took me a moment to realize we had both been staring at one another and I quickly re-positioned myself from facing her and averted my eyes to the ground. I could still feel Alice's eyes on me and a blush began to creep into my cheeks, forcing me to undo my ponytail and release a curtain of hair to cut off the connection. I couldn't afford another friend, they'd only hurt me in the end.
Alice took the hint and stood, making her way over to the desk and taking the schedule as she thanked her kindly, turning back to me. I risked a glance upward only to see her smile gently at me. I wondered if she could sense that I had been hurt, like it was something that kind people had a sixth sense about. She walked passed me, waving.
"I'll hold you to your word about being my guide," she said sternly with a hint of playfulness. I couldn't help cracking a grin at her as I watched her leave.
Immediately this grin was wiped clear off my face once I heard the sound of someone clearing their throat. Mrs. Greene stood, looking down at me.
"I heard Lauren's side, now I'd like to hear yours. So if you will," she gestured for me to join her in her office, leading me inside to see Lauren seated in the chair with an unreadable expression.
I had missed two whole periods, which I knew I could make up easily since I didn't exactly have any friends that would distract me from doing anything else. Although a certain pixie had imprinted on my brain, leaving her mark. I wondered how she'd react once the word got around to her that I was packing more than school supplies.
Another idea that lingered in the back of my head was the fact that until Lauren and I managed to overcome our issues, we'd be forced to go to detention every day until the end of the year, which sadly was many months away. That wouldn't have been a problem for me since I was good at sweeping things under the rug for the sake of moving on, but of course Lauren was definitely more stubborn, threatening to get her parents involved. Even I knew she was bluffing since no child would be particularly proud of telling their parents they were making fun of a student with a birth defect.
I made my way over to Trigonometry, reading over the note that Mrs. Greene had scribbled out hurriedly before sending me on my way. Didn't she realize the looks I'd receive coming in late? This was going to be a long day…
Once I entered the classroom I was correct on my assumption, I could feel all eyes on me. My cheeks reddened almost immediately and I cursed myself for getting embarrassed so easily. I handed the note to Mr. Varner, quickly scurrying off to my regular seat. It took me a moment to realize I had desk mate, approaching hesitantly before sitting down beside them.
"Hi Bella," Alice whispered, eyes beginning to flicker around the room as she began to notice how much attention had been placed on me.
I couldn't help but chuckle lightly at this although I quickly suppressed it. I was mildly depressed over the fact that Alice would probably receive the news about me before the end of the day.
"You don't want to be my friend Alice," I said flatly, pretending to focus back on Mr. Varner who had his back to the class as he wrote on the chalkboard.
"Why? Because of your…?" she trailed off, not exactly sure what to say that wouldn't offend me. I turned to her wide eyed, confused as to why she would still attempt to socialize with me when she had full knowledge of what exactly made me an outcast.
"Y… Yeah that. You're uh, you know normal and easily likable. Why hang around someone like me?" I wondered. Why was she even talking to me? Maybe it was all a part of a sick joke to break me even more. But I had to admit, her answer told me that she genuinely interested in getting to know more about the real me and not the title that had been placed over my head.
"The people that have to deal with real problems, they're the most down to earth in my opinion. They aren't as shallow as people who will never understand what it means to be hurt and branded as some sort of outcast. That's why I want to be your friend… I won't have to fake being someone I'm not," Alice never took her eyes off me as she spoke, holding my gaze. For a moment I forgot about people watching us. About the fact that I had absolutely no friends. I only thought of Alice, her words and the fact that I was beginning to develop a crush over the pixie.