Self Hatred

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Chapter 1

Math is the absolute worst class I’ve ever sat through. I hate it so much.

"Let’s ditch." ~Tara

"It’s the first day." ~Hailey

Shaking my head. She turns around and rolls her pretty brown eyes at me as Mr. Santos drones on about behavioral expectations as seniors.

I open to a new page in my notebook and draw a small, dainty flower, outlining it with a lavender highlighter, and drawing plucked off petals as they weep to the ground.

Mr. Santos asks us all to go around and share one interesting fact.

My best friend goes first. “My name’s Tara and I like to paint my nails...” I roll my eyes because no she does not like to paint her nails.

Next up is Megan. “I’m Megan and I’m going to cosmetology school!” She said excitedly.

Whooped-de-doo...′ I said internally as I rolled my eyes.

I stopped paying attention after that, coloring in the flowers I drew at the bottom of my notebook.

“Ms. Dawson?” Mr. Santos called.

“Oh, um, I’m Hailey and I... uh… I like to read?” I said.

He nods and continues to the next person behind me.

When the bell rings, we have one more student left, and Mr. Santos asks us all to wait.

“I’m Jason Morgan... I like big lips and big...” Jason begins.

“Smiles?” Mr. Santos finishes for him.

My eyes roll with such force I think I strain the right one.

“Morgan is the absolute worst...” I told Tara as she walked over to my desk. I don’t watch as he puts his arm around his new flavor of the week and walks out of the room. “Sorry he’s your cousin...” I joked.

“Like 2 times removed or something... Whatever... I see him like 3 times a year at family shit... Come on, we’re going to be late for gym...” Tara said.

“Shame...” I said rolling my eyes.

The rest of the day passes painfully.

Last night, I had a chat with myself as I laid in bed breathing through anxiety. My breathing shallow, quick.

I promised myself I wouldn’t be that girl this year. I promised myself to have a good time, memories, the best year of my life. It’s what my mom would want, I think silently and nodded.

Yes, it is.

I smile through the pain of gym when Tim Peters calls me to be on his team this year.

Star quarterback, blonde hair, deep hazel eyes, and the fastest beer drinker in 12th grade. His reputation precedes him, that’s for sure.

“Dawson...” He smiles as I walk tortuously to the line behind him.

“Please pick Tara...” I begged.

“No can do... Mark already called her...” He said with a chuckle.

“Fuck my life...” I groaned.

After gym, Tara exuberantly details her goal for this year.

“I’m going to finally fuck Brandon...” Tara said.

“Brandon Cruz?” I asked in disbelief.

“Yes...” She sighs dreamily.

I jump into my black jeans, suck in to button them, and pull on my loose blouse.

“Tara, come on... Of all the guys… Him?” I asked with a raised eyebrow.

Truth is, Tara has harbored these deep feelings for Brandon since he moved here in the 6th grade.

I think he’s said a total of 10 words to her in all these years, but she’s always got her eyes on him.

“He’s quiet and brooding and so fucking hot...” She reasons. “I watched him lick the ice cream off his spoon at lunch today and nearly came...” Tara exclaimed.

“You know what?” I start, smiling back at her, “If you want to be another notch on his bedpost, who am I to stop you? You have my promise to be the best wing girl...” I said.

She flashes her beautifully straight teeth at me.

“That’s the spirit! Tell me your goal...” She more like demanded.

I think for a moment, slipping into sparkly flats and primping my long brown hair.

“To go to more parties...” I tell her honestly. “To get drunk...” I added. “To get high...” I finished after a short moment.

“Woah...” Tara said, sitting down, fixing the strap of her shoe. “I like this new and improved Hailey... Something tells me this year’s going to be so fun...” Tara said as she wiggled her eyebrows.

I couldn’t help but laugh and roll my eyes at her.

It’s the end of the day, and as I’m walking out of the building to Tara’s car, when someone bumps into me, elbowing me in the back of the head.

“Ow, watch yourself, jerk...” I said irritably, rubbing the back of my head.

Jason Morgan and the girl slung on his arm both turn to look at me.

“Maybe you should watch yourself...” Daphne Frisks, a spitfire with wild red hair and wild red lipstick, hisses.

I roll my eyes and shake my head.

“Good one...” I tell her, bypassing them. “If you weren’t too busy sucking someone’s dick all the time, you’d be able to see where you’re going...” It was low blow, and honestly pretty mean, but I’ve had enough of today.

I want to go home, and she’s standing in my way.

“At least I know how to suck dick, Virgin...” She spits.

I move past them but not before I hear the laughter.

Fucking Daphne. Fucking Jason.

I walk the few yards to Tara’s car and wait for her.

She hasn’t arrived yet, and my foot taps impatiently against the blacktop.

Daphne and Jason walk closer and closer. I don’t see his black mustang parked anywhere near Tara’s car, so the fact that they’re walking closer means Daphne wants to pick a fight.

My breathing increases and I cross my arms to cover it. I wonder briefly how tough I look because I am definitely shitting my pants.

Please don’t have an anxiety attack right now...′ I tell myself internally.

Daphne stops a few feet in front of me. She’s so pretty I have to look away. Brown-copper eyes rimmed with short black lashes, skin white as milk, cheeks rosy, glowing orbs. She’s radiates.

“What?” I ask quietly.

“Oh, not so brave now, huh?” She pushes.

I look back at her. Daphne’s eyes tempt me. I have a sharp tongue, whittled from years of pain and neglect, but she has sharper right hook.

“What do you want?” I ask her again, straightening up.

With crossed arms and crossed fingers hoping she’ll back down, I square my chin and show her I’m tough, well, kind of.

“I think you owe me an apology...” She demands.

“For what?” I balk.

“Bumping into me...” She’s smiling now.

“You bumped into me...” I defend, but it falls on deaf ears.

She wants a fight.

Jason drops his arm from her shoulders as she moves to stand in front of me.

“I’m waiting...” She sings, twirling red curls around her finger. “Don’t you think she owes us an apology, Jay?” Daphne asks in a baby voice.

I glance behind her to Jason who’s got a cigarette in his mouth and a lighter to the end.

He simply looks at her.

His sea-green eyes give away nothing. He looks unbothered either way.

This is not the same boy who held my hand when I was little.

This is not the same boy who picked wildflowers for me to put in my hair.

This is not the same boy who called me crying because his cat died when he was eight.

This is the Jason who never came to see me when he came back from the beach the summer my mom died.

This is the Jason who teased me relentlessly until the end of 10th grade.

This is the Jason who made me cry on the anniversary of my mom’s death when I was 15.

This is the Jason who has ignored me for the last 2 years, saying the bare minimum.

Black ink colors the skin of his biceps, spilling out from under his short-sleeved shirt.

Dark brown-copper hair blows in the September air.

He turns his head to the group of students who have gatherer behind him, waiting for his response. But it’s not Jason Morgan who speaks up.

“Let’s go...” Brandon Cruz said, walking behind me, not bothering to stop or look at the scene before him.

Brandon is a man of very few words.

He’s 1 year older than us, having to repeat a grade in middle school when he transferred.

Dirty blonde hair in both color and cleanliness pile atop his head in messy spikes.

It’s sunny and warm, but he’s got his leather jacket on.

An unlit cigarette hanging from his lips.

Brandon embodies emo, angst, bad boy in the best way.

I’ll give it to Tara, he’s definitely fuck hot, but he gets around so often it turns me off.

“You won’t get so lucky next time..” Daphne sneers, checking my shoulder with hers when she walks by.

Jason takes his time following his friends. He doesn’t look at me, or anyone else really, as he kicks loose rocks with his vans.

I want to tell him to put out that stupid cigarette.

I want to tell him a teacher’s probably watching, and he’ll get in trouble, but we’re not 9 anymore, and he certainly doesn’t care.

Jason makes it a point to avoid me at all costs as he cuts through the parking lot, in between cars, and makes it to Brandon’s beat up Honda where he stops and pulls Daphne to him by her belt loops.

He bends to kiss her hard and fast on the lips which she happily accepts, wrapping her arms around his neck, resting her back against the car door.

He deepens the kiss, pushing her with his hips and pinning her between the metal body of the car and his front.

It’s like he’s warning her. This isn’t love or even like, it’s an angry kiss but to everyone else it’s a kiss that tells everyone what the couple will do when they get home.

I look away before they break apart.

The crowd of students stare in awe.

Tim walks up to me and smirks.

“What?” I asked.

I’m really not in the mood to be teased about almost being beaten up.

“You’re like the only girl to never back down to Daph...” Tim explains.

I listen as my peers whisper to each other about how badass I am for standing up to her.

My anxiety increases.

I notice I’m still cross armed. As I release my arms, I see deep, red-purple crescents on my biceps that my nails left from gripping too hard.

Blood vessels have popped and I wonder how long it’ll take before they’re gone.

Tara finally makes her way out to the car.

“Sorry, I couldn’t get my fucking locker open...” She explains having no idea what just went down.

I said bye to Tim and explain to her everything on the way home.

She squeals when I mention Brandon’s name and smirks when I mention Tim’s.

“That boy likes you...” She says.

“No way...” I retorted.

“Since, like, 10th grade when you wore that cat girl costume for Halloween...” Tara teases causing me to laugh.

“Text me later...” I tell her, hopping out of the car and swallowing nervousness as I walk up the steps to my house.

My step dad’s car is parked haphazardly in the driveway.

The keys jingle from the lock on the door that is ajar.

I pull his keys out and toss them on the table in the hallway.

His shoes are scattered feet apart in the entry way.

When I walk into the living room, he’s laid out on the couch snoring away.

Beer cans litter the coffee table, so I pick them up and put them in recycling with the ones from yesterday.

In the kitchen, I straighten up, make dinner, then do the dishes.

Dad finally wakes up and walks into the kitchen, grabbing a glass of water and another beer.

I know better to ask if he really needs another one.

Last time, he raised his hand to me.

When I coward away in fear, he walked out the front door and didn’t come back for 3 days.

We don’t speak, there’s nothing to say.

The moment he walks into the room, my anxiety spikes and I almost choke on the lack of air in my lungs.

The first time he hit me I blamed it on his drunkenness.

He didn’t know what he was doing.

The next time he hit me, I blamed myself.

How could I be so stupid?

Why would I push him knowing what he’s capable of?

Now, when I see him, whether he’s sober, drunk, or somewhere in between, I keep my distance and say as little as possible.

I don’t remember the last time I looked him in the eyes. I don’t even really remember what color they are anymore.

Clouded with bottom shelf liquor and loathing I’m sure.

When he walks past me to the garbage, I walk out of the kitchen and up the stairs.

Quietly, I lock my door and sit on my desk chair to do what little homework I have.

When I’m done, Tara calls but I don’t answer.

I look out my bedroom window and watch the tops of tall pine trees sway with the wind.

I feel the urge to climb down the lattice and run to the playground, my safe space, but I haven’t heard my dad’s car leave yet, and I don’t want to risk him knowing where I go.

I pull open Facebook and scroll through.

Tara shares a picture of her new shoes.

Tim makes a post that doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Daphne posts a picture of her and Jason.

I click on it and, after further inspection, deduce it’s taken in his room, in his bed.

In the background is the chain of rosary my mom gave him when we were younger.

Black and blue beads look dull 10 years later, and maybe he’s forgotten he even has it hanging on the wooden bed post, but it shines like the North Star.

I look past her thousand-watt smile and his naked, inked chest and focus on the fact that Jason still has a piece of our childhood so close to him.

I allow myself to feel nothing.

In fact, I convince myself it wasn’t real, and try to forget it ever happened, the picture and our childhood.

At night, when it’s quiet and my door is locked, I let myself wonder how different things would be if my mom was still alive.

Would we still be living in our old house?

Would dad have become a drunk?

Would I still be the one making sure bills are paid or the house is clean?

Would I be best friends with Tara?

Would Jason still be my friend?

Would I be this girl I am now?

I turn on my back and place my hands on my belly, something Google tells me to do when I’m anxious.

Dad’s boots bound down the steps and he’s out the front door.

I sigh in relief as I hear the crunch of tires on gravel before he peels out down the road.

Would my dad still hit me if my mom were alive?

It’s nearly 11 and I can’t sleep. So I text Tara.

"Playground?" ~Hailey

I throw on a sweatshirt, leggings, and my sneakers as I pull open my window.

I don’t think my dad will come home, but I don’t want to have to worry about sneaking back in, so I always keep my door locked, and shimmy out of my window and down the plastic lattice along our house.

I walk the four blocks it takes to get there, and park myself on the swings, back to the woods.

The street lights are still on and I’ve been here enough times to know they don’t go off until 1 in the morning.

The eerie creek of the swing set, a lullaby that calms my nerves.

I breathe in when I swing forward, and I breathe out when I swing backwards over and over until I’m calm.

Would I still have anxiety if my mom were alive?

I’m on the swing for an hour before I hear the noise.

It’s a rustling enough to shake the trees behind me.

I’m more afraid of what it is than who it is.

I look to my left and see yellow and red slides, a merry go round, monkey bars, no one and nothing.

The rustling stops, and so does my swing.

I look to my right and see the old basketball court with crumbling blacktop, a torn net, and 2 tall figures hiding just out of clear sight.

I relax a little when I see they are people and not wild animals.

I let my feet glide against dusty mulch as they propel me back into motion. I grip the metal links and lean back straightening my arms, closing my eyes.

My hair blows wild in the late evening wind.

When I’m relaxed enough that my eyelids begin feeling too heavy to open and my belly is full of quiet ease, I stand and make my way to the road.

Sometimes Tara can’t get away from her house, and sometimes she sleeps so heavily she doesn’t hear my message.

I figure tonight was one of those times.

The 2 figures are still on the court, sitting near each other.

Cherry red embers glow in the darkness.

They sit on their bottoms, just out of the halo of light emanating from the streetlamp.

I have to walk past the basketball court to get back on the road, and even then I can’t make out who it is.

They don’t want to be seen.

I strain my ears to listen for a voice, but I hear nothing.

I give up and continue walking back to my house.

When I arrive, my dad is still gone.

I breathe.

Sleep finds me peacefully.

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