I have a secret. I have many secrets, actually. Secrets that could destroy my family. Secrets that could destroy me.
I feel like I should care about things, well, not things, per se, I’m not having a love affair with my iPod or anything, but no, I feel like I should care about people. And though I have a sliver of empathy for those around me, it’s not enough to sustain my existence, to incorporate me into this shitty reality I’m forced to call my life.
I feel like a loosened cork on a wine bottle, just barely contained and feeling the pressure to explode free from bondage.
Not that I know anything about wine, or bondage, for that matter. I mean, how can I? I’m only sixteen, but a very mature, and troubled, sixteen according to school officials.
Yes. I am a troubled teen. I’ve been labeled. I suppose someone with my background can’t be anything BUT messed up.
I’m being watched. Not in a blatant, in-your-face sort of way, but more in a sneaky, sideways, worried way. I can see the adults in my life pause and study me, though they try hard not to let on that they’re looking. I know that my teachers think I’m suicidal and I’ll admit, there are days I feel tempted to smash the mirror in the girls’ bathroom, take a large chunk and slice it across the railroad tracks of my wrist.
But I don’t. Something always holds me back. I don’t know what that something is, but it’s strong, stronger than my desire to end my miserable life.
I don’t have anyone I can talk to. I don’t really have any close friends, and my family is worthless.
I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking I’m a cliché, and I suppose, you’d be right. But this cliché is MY LIFE and I’m sick of being so predictable. I don’t want to be a bad girl anymore, I want to be a bad girl with good intentions.
Does that make sense? Probably not. I don’t make much sense nowadays. I’ve been experimenting with crack, but I’m thinking I’m not that crazy about it. I don’t see what the big deal is, but apparently, my mother, or the woman who takes care of me because trust me when I say, I don’t think of the woman who I live with as my mother, is quite into it. In fact, I can’t count on one hand the number of times my mother has not been high.
I know, how droll. How predictable. But this is my life.
I continue to stare into the girls’ bathroom mirror. I have come to terms with the fact that I’m not beautiful. Though I guess you could call me pretty, if you were stoned or something. I’m like one of those girls who look good in certain light and only on certain days and only if you’re wearing glasses.
I’m not trying to get your sympathy here, I am who I am; I have accepted the fact that my mother is the beauty in my small, and pathetic family and well … I’m not.
I turn to study my profile, which is not bad, if I say so myself. It’s strong, and a bit angular, but the lines are attractive and I’m probably one of the few teenage girls on the planet who is actually okay with the shape of her nose. It’s a little on the pixie side, though not too cutesy – it suits me, I think.
But then I turn to look straight ahead and the illusion of anything beautiful disappears. My eyes are a little too close together and my lips are so thin they are virtually non-existent. I’ve toyed around with the idea of possibly getting lip injections but with my luck, I’d end up looking like Angelina Jolie after a really bad crack trip and my lips would be so swollen my chin would ultimately disappear.
Though I’m unhappy with the shape of my eyes, I like the color – they’re blue, only not a deep blue, but rather a lighter shade of blue, almost a grayish-bluish color. I know, vague, right? But picture this: the ocean. Can you see how blue it is? Okay, now picture the tide coming, the waves are rolling in closer to land, note how the water gets lighter as it gets closer to shore until that last little lap or two transforms into a foamy, almost milky gray blue as it breaks over your feet. Yeah, that’s what my eyes remind me of: dirty ocean water.
I take a breath and step back from the mirror. I glance down at my watch and note the time: 12:46 – lunch is nearly over.
I spend most of my lunch hours in the girls’ bathroom. Why? Well, why the hell not? I don’t eat, I simply don’t have an appetite. And no, I’m not one of those girls who starves themselves simply because it’s “cool” to look like an undernourished bean pole. I just don’t eat that much. As a result, I’m thin, or painfully skinny, as my counselor likes to caution me. The bitch. As if I care what she thinks of me. She’s only pretending to care about me anyway – it’s her job. And besides, I can see the jealously in her eyes whenever she looks at me. I can tell, by her pudgy hands and hungry eyes, that she wants my life.
Why? Because I’m popular. And I have nice clothes. And I’m a cheerleader.
I sputter a bitter laugh and point at my reflection – I bet you didn’t see that one coming, did you.
Unhappy people come in all shades of miserable.
I run my hands down over my short, pleated skirt. Our uniform colors are purple and gold – my two favorite colors. It’s the homecoming game tonight and if all goes according to plan, I’ll be crowned homecoming queen. I laugh at my reflection, though I must admit, the sound is a bit hollow and certainly joyless.
Everyone likes me. Though for the life of me, I can’t figure out why. I’m nice enough, I suppose.
I shrug, flip my hair over one shoulder and thoughtfully examine the tips for split ends.
It’s about time for another trim.
I have nasty thoughts about nearly everyone at my school, save for Melinda.
I like Melinda. She sees through my bullshit. And she makes me laugh, and not one of those fake, bubbly stupid laughs either, but full belly laughs, the kind that bring tears to my eyes. She’s not funny in a ha-ha sort of way, but rather, she has a tendency to turn a simple situation into something … humorous so that people are left wondering, was she kidding or did she just insult them?
Not everyone gets Melinda. Not everyone likes Melinda. But nearly everyone is scared of Melinda, which is probably another big reason why I love being around her so much.
I smile as I think about her. She’s gorgeous, at least, in my eyes. Her eyes sparkle when she is about to say something witty and I love discussing literature with her, she has an uncanny knack for pointing out the macabre in nearly every story, and then giving it just enough twist to make it sexy and interesting.
The bathroom door swings open and a group of about six freshmen girls stumble through. The pack stops abruptly at seeing me causing the girls in the back of the group to bump into them. They look like something from a Three Stooges movie and for just a moment I’m tempted to smirk, I wish Melinda were there to help buffer my hypocrisy.
“Oh, hi Gabby,” the leader of the pack stutters out.
I lift a hand in greeting, relaying just the perfect combination of friendliness and nonchalance. “Actually, my friends call me Gabby, you can call me Gabrielle.” I reply and move away from the sinks so they can each have a turn to wash up.
I’m not sure why I said that. I wasn’t really in the mood to be nasty, but their blatant desire to be noticed and accepted reminded me all too well of my attempts to be popular when I was a freshman.
I glance at my watch again, 12:52, it’s nearly time for me to go back to class. Though I’m itching to remove myself from the awkward silence that has now ascended on the room, I claim a small bit of mirror space and lean in to make a show of examining my eye makeup.
I assume a relaxed, and somewhat bored expression, but my senses are on high alert and I watch every move they make in my peripheral vision.
“So, are you excited about the game tonight?” the leader of the pack asks me.
I shift my eyes over to her and deliberately wait a full five seconds before answering her. I’ve learned, through years of experience, that nothing makes a person more uncomfortable or insecure than long, provocative silences.
After my stare has her dutifully squirming, I shrug. “Sure. Why not.”
“I … I voted for you,” another smaller girl on the outskirts of the group says. I notice, with some slight amusement, that the three girls at the front of the group turn to give her a dirty look.
It doesn’t take me long to ascertain the pecking order of this particular group of hens. The mousey girl that spoke to me was obviously the low-girl on the totem pole. I decide to throw her a bone.
“Why thank you … uh … what’s your name again?” I offer the girl a soft smile and note with supreme pleasure the more popular girls of the group narrow their eyes in jealousy.
“Holly,” the girl replies shyly.
“Thanks Holly, I appreciate that.” I move toward her, purposefully ignoring the other girls. “I love your sweater. Where did you get it?” I ask while gently fingering the silky threads. Actually, I don’t particularly like the garment, but it always amuses me to play the nice girl now and again.
“O…O…oh, this?” the girl stutters and then blushes a lovely shade of fuchsia. “My mom found this on sale…” she stops herself from adding more as the other girls openly snicker. She said the “S” word – popular girls don’t talk about sales. But she’s sincere and I like her honesty, which is refreshing, so again, I pour on the charm.
I can hear the door to the restroom open and close in the distance, but I ignore it as I address Holly. “You have a smart mom. Why pay full price when you can get it for less? Only stupid girls pay full price.” And with that, my glance encompasses the rest of the pack with soft disdain.
“Party’s over, girls. Scram,” a voice breaks in and I hide my smile before turning around.
At the sound of Melinda’s rough and no-nonsense tone of voice, the girls jerk to attention. The girls do an about-face and in their haste to leave, stumble into each other before exiting the restroom. I lean up against the sinks, cross my arms and chuckle.
“You just scared the shit out of them,” I say with amusement.
Melinda shrugs, but I can see the ghost of a smile beginning to break across her luscious lips.
“Freshmen irritate me,” she replies while washing her hands.
Again, I sputter a quiet chuckle and turn around to face the mirror once more. I reach into the small pocket in my skirt and pull out a tube of lipstick.
“Doesn’t your third block class start right about now?” Melinda asks while ripping a paper towel from the dispenser and drying her hands.
I shrug while applying a fresh coat of lipstick. I purse my lips, rub them together and give them a soft smack before answering her. “Probably.”
My eyes meet Melinda’s in the mirror and a jolt of excitement squeezes my lower regions at her expression.
“Is the good girl going to be late?” Melinda gently teases me and I arch a brow at her.
“It sucks being good all the time.”
Melinda offers a nod of approval and smiles. “I wouldn’t know.”
I can’t help it, I laugh and feel my shoulders relax somewhat. “Are you going to the dance tonight? Please tell me you’re going.” I pocket the lipstick tube and keep my eyes downcast. I don’t want her to see how important her answer is to me.
“I might show up.”
I hear the first warning bell in the background – I now officially have three minutes to get to class.
“Are you going with Todd?” she asks and I look up quickly to gauge her mood. Her expression is neutral, but her eyes sparkle with life.
I must admit, I’m pleased.
I bite my lip. Should I play coy or tell the truth? I tuck strands of my hair behind my ear and give her a thoughtful stare before answering.
“I’m meeting Todd there, but we’re not necessarily going together.”
Melinda moves the few spaces required to stand directly in front of me. I can smell her heady perfume and I watch, transfixed, as she runs her tongue across her lower lip.
“Which means you don’t necessarily have to leave with him then, right?” she asks.
Our eyes lock and for one insane moment, I’m tempted to close the distance and kiss her. I blink instead and give her a slow smile at her insinuation.
The tension stretches for a few more seconds before she pulls back and nods with satisfaction. “Then I’ll be there.”
Melinda gives me one last lingering look before she turns around and heads towards the exit. “You better get to class, you slut.”
A shiver of excitement snakes up my spine and I laugh as she exits the restroom.
I maintain the smile as I quickly head toward the last bathroom stall and slip behind the door. I just need one second to make sure my secret is still there. I had written it down a few times before, but the night custodians had found it and cleaned it off.
I don’t know why I feel compelled to leave my secret on the bathroom wall. I suppose it’s because I don’t have anyone in my life I can tell it to and if I don’t expunge it somehow, then I will explode from the pressure.
I close the door and turn my eyes to the corner where I’ve scratched into the surface, in small, neat letters:
I think I may be a lesbian.
To my utter surprise, another message has been scratched directly under it:
I gasp and stare at those two lone words for long moments before succumbing to a wide smile. My heart begins beating with excitement and I suddenly know who wrote those two words.
I leave the restroom feeling more free than I’ve ever felt in my life.
(Second story in this series coming soon).