New York, NY
As I move past the threshold, my feet meet the soft, lush grass as my fingers tingle with anticipation. A feeling of weightlessness grows as I leap through the forest. Searching for what, I do not know. The pink satin bow that is bound around my long, lustrous, caramel locks is coming loose the deeper I run through the trees.
“Little fleur, I’m going to find you,”
My ears perk up as the sweet, husky voice calls out to me, reverberating through the air so I cannot place the direction it’s coming from. The drum beat of my heart against my breast intensifies as I scout around for another spot to hide behind, stumbling upon a crystal blue lake. At the sight, I break into a smile before strong, golden, tan arms wrap around my waist and I’m hoisted up in the air.
“Found you, my sweet fleur,”
The giggles bubble up inside of me until I can’t contain them any longer. “Put me down, please,” I say between breaths.
Gently, he places me on the ground, leaving a soft, sweet kiss on the back of my head. I try to turn around to get a good look at the man who is holding me, but before I can, the darkness surrounds us.
No, no, no, not again.
“Please don’t leave me again,” I beg, clutching at the man’s arms, but nothing I do or say will change the circumstances. A fruitless task, but I have to try, nonetheless. The darkness claws at me before it rips me out of his arms. “No, please stop!” I cry out, but it doesn’t. Deep lacerations cause blood to trickle down, desecrating the forest floor before razor-sharp talons bore deep into my chest. Searing pain consumes me as I try to will my subconscious to wake up from this nightmare.
“Come back to me, my sweet fleur, please!” The desperation laced in his voice breaks me all over again. I want nothing more than to go to him, but I can’t.
I scream out in pain as the darkness consumes me.
My eyes snap open, gasping for air and with an emptiness I feel deep within my chest. Every night. Every night this dream haunts me, never changing but vivid and realistic. The phantom pain ebbs away as I glare at the alarm on my nightstand blinking 6:30am.
I turn to the side until frustration sets in and I relinquish the idea of sleep. Throwing the covers off, a cold gust of wind hits my senses. I push my aching body off the small twin bed and head to the bathroom to get ready for the day. I gasp at the reflection that stares back at me: moss green eyes broken, long and lifeless hair that needs to be cut, and ashen skin. My hand reaches forward towards the mirror as a small sob leaves my mouth and I turn to leave.
Time to get ready for school. Searching through my wardrobe, I settle on simple skinny jeans and a black worn-out hoodie to hide what has become of me before I head to the kitchen to make breakfast.
Pinned to the fridge, I see a note from my mom:
“Ellie, I’m working a double at the hospital, so remember the rules and behave. Mom.”
The small two-bedroom apartment within the five story walk-up on the lower east side, in these moments, feels too large and suffocating. My mom is a nurse at Beth Israel Hospital, where she spends most of her time. These morning notes have become my norm. I swallow the pain and paste a smile on my face as I pluck an apple off the counter before striding out the door.
The telltale signs of autumn have begun as foliage transforms from vibrant greens to burnt orange and reds. The air still clings to some humidity, the remains of a summer past. A rhythmic percussion of car horns, the subway rattling, and commuter sounds circle the air. I breathe in a generous intake of fresh air as I take a bite out of my breakfast, getting closer to school step by step.
After 15 minutes, the “Welcome to John Adams High School” sign comes into view. Throngs of people surround the entrance and I try to spot a familiar face in the crowd, but see none. Sighing in resignation, I make my way forward, trying not to get trampled by the crowd. My height is not doing me any favors at the moment.
Out of nowhere my friend, Alexis, jumps in front of my face yelling, “Hey girlie!” and pulling me into an almost painful hug. Her curls of golden-blonde hair and soft, tan skin shine in the sunlight, her angular facial features and long limbs adding to her model-esque appearance.
A crooked, toothy smile stretches across my face as I take in her childish behavior. The darkness that has surrounded me this morning is no longer present.
“Hey stranger, someone seems to be excited to start our senior year,” I say.
“Ugh, I’m excited for this year to be over already. Did you get your schedule? I wanna know if we have any classes together.”
I pass her my phone with the e-mailed student schedule. She looks on, pursing her lips, irritation visible the further she scrolls down.
“You suck, Ellie, we only have the same lunch period. What am I gonna do without my BFF?” she drawls out, putting her body weight on me and demonstrating her distress.
I grumble out, “I’m sorry, Lex,” as we make our way inside.
Opening my locker, my eyes focus on the sea of people invading the hallway. My hands start to sweat, heart rate picks up, and I retreat into myself. Self-hatred grows within me as my anxiety takes hold. I hate being like this, with the internal storm that threatens to brew just on the horizon. Breathe. Just Breathe. In and Out. Slowly. I’m okay. I’m okay. I’m safe. The words continue on repeat, only settling down when the bell rings out. Quickly, I shove papers into my bag and make my way over to my first class.
“Girlie, I know you did not just walk off without saying bye,” Alexis yells, a scowl adorning her face. As I open my mouth to apologize, feeling guilty for letting my emotions overrun my life, she cuts me off.
“Forget it, okay? Meet me in front of the caf for lunch... See you later!” she yells before heading in the other direction, waving to people along the way.
Chucking to myself, I take a deep breath and head to class.
*Ring *Ring *Ring
Stupid tardy bell.
My legs move as fast as possible as I continue to scold myself. I send up a silent prayer that the teacher will be lenient on the first day. The inner monologue takes away so much of my attention that I don’t notice the tall, muscular body in front of me causing me to bounce, fall, and slide back on the ground.
Great, just great, Ellie, good job!
“What the actual fuck are you doin’? Do you have eyes?” Fear creeps its way in. I close my eyes and let this man’s words wash over me. Breathe.
“I-I-I’m s-soo - -” Embarrassment flushes crimson on my cheeks as I try to get the words out.
“Just stop. I can’t understand your stuttering, nor do I care to listen. Just watch where you’re going.”
I feel his heated, angry gaze fixated in my direction as my eyes remained closed, trying to keep the tears at bay.
“Stupid bitch,” he mumbles, walking past me. The sound of fading footsteps eases my frazzled mind as one lone tear slides down my cheek before I dust myself off the floor. Grow up, Ellie.
Cautiously, I walk towards class, not looking for another run-in until I ultimately reach my destination.
Once again, I force a smile on my face, internalizing the pain. I’ve become so good at this I no longer need to think about it – it’s become second nature. Turning the handle, I walk in.
“Nice of you to join us, Miss - -”
“Ellie Duncan, ma’am.”
“Well, Ms. Duncan, please make your way to the principal’s office before coming back to class. I want to be clear to you, as well as everyone else in this class, that tardiness is NOT accepted here. Now go!”
“Yes, ma’am, I-I’m s-sorry,” I softly mumble out before I head in the direction I came from.
“Now, class…” Words fade as the door closes behind me.
This day just keeps getting better and better.
Stepping into the crowded office, I saw the most handsome man sitting in the waiting area. Chiseled face, obsidian eyes, muscles rippling underneath his black t-shirt, looking like a roman gladiator statue brought to life in current times.
“Well, if it isn’t little miss stupid drooling over the big bad wolf,” he sneers, a glint of amusement shining in his eyes.
Oh no! This is the man I ran into. My cheeks flush red.
“I-I’m sorry. I wasn’t paying attention and I’m sorry.” My words tumble out quickly.
Exhaling, he stands from his seat and takes a few steps towards me until he’s a mere breath away from me. “Enough! I’m tired of your voice.” Crouching down to my height, his breath hits my ear and a shiver cascades through every vertebrae. “Stay away from me, understand?” I don’t trust my words, sending a quick nod while not daring to make eye contact.
As he walks past me, the door slams loudly behind him.
I sit in the seat closest to the exit and waited to be called.
“Hey. Hey, you girl.”
I awaken to a pleasant older woman looking down at me. I must’ve fallen asleep. “Oh, umm, I-I’m sorry. I was sent here because I was late.”
“Well, sweetheart, looks like you wasted the entire period here, so why don’t you move along to your other class before you’re late again? Oh, and make sure to have a note tomorrow if you want the tardiness to be excused.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Can’t get any worse right? The rest of the day goes by without issue, leaving me content.
* Lunch bell *
Faint from lack of food. The closer I get, the more the fragrant smell of cheese, tomato sauce, and garlic sends my desire for pizza into overdrive.
“Hey girlie, let’s gooo,” Alexis stands by the doors awaiting me before I speak. She laces her fingers in mine and drags me by the hand to grab our place in line. Hangry.
We pull the trays of food from under the heat lamps and walk over to our table. I’m doing an internal happy dance at the thought of taking a bite of this delicious smelling pizza.
“So, girlie, tell me some gossip about your classes. Oh, before I forget, I invited a few people I met in Chem to join us. It should be fun. Did you see the new guy? What I wouldn’t do for a piece of that! Yummy,” she bites her lip at the indecent thought.
“Umm, my day was okay. Better with this pizza, I can tell you that,” I stammer out between bites.
Waving people over like planes on a runway was an amusing image and brightened up my day.
Four new people joined our table: Jamie, her brother Robbie, Samuel, and Chris. I smile and wave hello to the fresh additions, focus placed back on my food as the neighboring conversation takes hold.
“So, little mouse, tell me about yourself,” said Chris
A look of confusion is plastered on my face before realization dawns on me: he wants to chat with me!
“I’m not a little mouse,” I squeak out.
“She speaks!” Chris declares, earning a snort from me at his foolishness.
“Just a little shy, but I promise to get better once I get to know you.” I wink conspiratorially at the statement.
“Is that a promise, now, little mouse?” Chris smiles.
A quick nod of agreement seems to put him at ease.
“Good,” he states, before turning away to talk to the others.
Hurried goodbyes, a blur of first day information and syllabi for my new classes. A sigh of gratitude for an uneventful second half.
I walk to the entrance to meet Alexis at our pre-discussed location.
Running up to me, she radiates excitement and happiness. “Girlie! Guess what!? First party of the school year has been set up for this weekend and WE are invited… Not just any party, mind you, remember the new guy I was telling you about? It’s his party!”
A wide smile adorns my face. I tell her I can’t wait to go as I cringe at the thought of going to a party surrounded by strangers.
“Okay, bye Lex. See you tomorrow. I’ll call you later when I get home. I gotta hurry so mama doesn’t worry,”
Rolling her eyes, we embrace before waving goodbye.
The walk home is comforting. The long, difficult first day at school rolls off my back until happiness forms in my heart and thoughts of better days to come blossom.
Hey Lovely Readers,
So much drama and it’s only the first day!
This story has been floating around my mind and I’m excited to share it with you. Those of you re-reading the chapter I hope you enjoy the edits.
Gossip Girl …. Just joking
<3 Please don’t forget to follow, like and comment <3