I sat there at the grave sight a long time after everyone else had left. It was a nice funeral with a wonderful outcome. He had known a lot of people so of course the show was great. A thousand memories came flooding back to me as I stood before that engraved tombstone. There laid my baby... the only man I ever could and ever did love. My little granddaughter Sadie came up. “Me-maw...” She said softly. “Yes, honey?” I replied.
“Where did Grandpa go?” She asked, innocently.
“To Heaven.” I replied in my raspy and tired old voice.
“Is he gonna come back and play with me?” She asked.
“Well, one day you’ll play with him. But not too soon, I hope!” I said with a chuckle.
“Can he still be my best friend?” She asked with wide, eager eyes. I pulled her onto my lap. I groaned wearily as I did. I wasn’t as young as I used to be, that’s for sure. I held her small body close to my old, feeble one. She sighed.
“I miss him.” She said weakly. Sadie was shivering from the cold. I held her closely in my shaking arms... just like he used to do to me.
“How did you and Grandpa meet?” She asked. She wriggled out of my grip a little to turn around and face me. I stared at the engraved letters on his tombstone before answering.
“Well... that’s a long story.” I replied weakly.
“Yaaaay! Story time!” She cried. She looked up at me with those young, eager, innocent eyes of her’s. I let my gaze wonderful from her bright eyes to the white tulips lying at his grave. I chuckled to myself as I recalled our story. What a wild one it was. What a great time we’d had those past few years. The wind blew Sadie’s beautiful dark hair in the wind. She had her grandfather’s hair. I stroked it back gently.
“You might be too young though.” I said.
“Grandma, please!” She pleaded. “I’ve been through some dark times.” I protested.
“Grandmaaa! Pleeease!” She wailed. I sighed.
“Well, Sadie... it all started when I was about seventeen...” I began. I just sat there miserably as there jeered at me. They soaked up and enjoyed my pain. Hot tears burned my eyes. Before I know it, they were sliding down my cheeks. I kept my head down trying to hide them as they continued their hurtful insults. Their words were like knives cutting deeply into my thin flesh. With every horrible name they said I got an indescribable pain in the pit of my stomach. Even my so called “friends” were laughing along. I thought they’d stand up for me. I thought this year would be different... how could I have been so stupid? I got up and left the table. I still heard them hurling insults and flinging cruel names as I walked away. I went into the bathroom and let the tears fall. I slid down the wall and crashed onto the floor. I sobbed uncontrollably. I had no friends, no life, and no one to talk to. Why was I even here? Maybe the world would be a better place if I just wasn’t in it. The words they said echoed in my head.
“Oh really? You think he likes you? You think anyone would like you? Loose about fifty pounds then we’ll talk.” “At least someone thinks you’re pretty.” “Give up the guitar act, Sam. You’re just... not quite there. It’s a one in a million shot, let’s be real? Could you ever be that one?” “You’re no supermodel, Sam.” The words they had said were tattooed into her mind... ugly, stupid, fat, worthless, nobody wants you, nobody could ever love you, you’ll never get anywhere. I had to stop thinking about it. It was just too much to handle. I was really different and I knew that. But because of my differences I was thought of as an outcast. My friends could never stand up to the cool kids. They laughed along with them when they cut me down. I wiped away the remainder of the tears falling from my face. My heart was so heavy. To top it all off, for the past year I had been suffering from a very severe case of depression. Every night when I crawled in bed and drifted off all I wanted to do was sleep... forever. I had discussed my issues with my mom, but she had no idea how bad it really was. She didn’t know the thoughts I had every night. How much I hated myself and hot badly I wished I was someone else. No matter how bad it got I could never really put her pain into words. It was just... to hard to describe. I peered in the mirror. Black mascara smudges trailed down my tired face. My trembling hands grazed her swollen, puffy eyes. My face was tear stained and red. I really didn’t want to come out. Just then, Angela walked into the doorway. She took one look at me then pulled me into a giant bear hug. It felt so good to be embraced by someone for a change. She squeezed me tightly and it felt so good... to know I was loved. She pulled away from me and looked into my eyes. I couldn’t look her in the eyes without crying. The tears welled up again and slid down my face. “Hey, hey... don’t be sad.” Angela whispered. I tried to muffle my sobs that were stuck in my throat, but they burst out painfully,
“Wh-why am I s-so d-different? I j-just w-wanna b-be like other k-kids.” I stammered in between sobs. “Different is good... different is beautiful.” Angela stated with a warm smile. I shook my head and begged the tears to stop.
“Th-there’s n-nothing beautiful about m-me.” I whimpered.
“There’s beauty in everyone, Sam. Society tells us that we have to be flawless to be beautiful... but we are beautiful because of flaws. Differences aren’t to be run away from... they’re to be embraced.” Angela stated. My whimpers died down as Angela rocked me gently in her arms. “Thanks, Angela.” I said sincerely. I really meant it too. I don’t know if I could survive without this girl. “Anytime.” She said, offering me a warm smile.
“What would I do without you?” I asked, wiping my eyes.
“Die!” Angela joked. We both laughed, but the laughter hurt because... that was probably true.
“I did try to stand up for you.” Angela assured. That wasn’t true. I know she could never stand up to those guys. She was brave... but not quite that brave. I actually wanted to be angry with her for not standing up, but I knew I never could be. She was the only reason I had any friends at all.
“Are you ready?” She asked, finally. I nodded hesitantly. I peered one last time at my sour looking face in the bathroom mirror. My eyes were crusty from crying and my face was swollen from all the crying. We walked arm in arm out of the bathroom. I came to a sudden stop in front of the classroom door.
“Are you ready? If you’re not we can wait here until you are.” Angela said. I heaved a heavy sigh that came from the very pit of my stomach.
“No... I’m ready.” I said a little less enthusiastically than I expected.
“Okay.” She said giving my hand a little squeeze. She opened the door and we both slowly entered. Everyone stared at me as I walked in. I kept my head down, but I could feel their eyes on me and their stares penetrating into me. The teacher didn’t ask any questions.
“There’s a seat for you right there, miss Baker.” He said somewhat compassionately. I nodded my gratefulness and slid into the seat.
“We had an emergency.” Angela said unnecessarily. The class snickered. I sank down in my chair. My stomach twisted in knots. I had a burning hate for everyone who ever said anything mean to me, but every time I thought maybe I could do something about it that little girl inside me popped out and I freaked. I actually tried speaking to the principal about it once... it only made it worse. Everyone found out it was me that ratted them out and I now had a new nickname... the snitch. I always tried standing up for myself once. I told them that they were being hypocritical in calling out my flaws when they had plenty of their own. They’d shout across the room,
“THAT’S SO HYPOCRITICAL OF YOU! OH, WOAH NOW... LET’S NOT BE A HYPOCRITE.” I pretended like I didn’t hear them and I didn’t care, but the words stung... really badly. I used to skip out on school because it was so bad, but then my grades dropped and now I was having to battle keeping those up as well. That was another thing. I’m dyslexic. School has always been a really big struggle for me. Some kids seem to just whiz by in school and not even give any effort and still manage a top-of-the-notch grade. Well, that’s not me. I had to work... no, fight for my grades. There were so many times when I thought it would just be easier to give up and go home. Maybe I could drop out of school and go work at a burger joint or something, but one little thing always kept me going... my dreams. I dreamed of being a famous guitar player in a band. I saw myself on a stage in front of millions of people wailing away on my guitar. A smile crossed my lips just at the thought of it. Laughter filled the room, snapping me back into attention. I looked around confused. “But this man was a hypocrite because he put a law against violence when he was doing it himself.” The teacher repeated. Once again, the class roared with laughter. Tears started welling up again. Anytime the class thought I was being dramatic they’d all cry, “TOUCHDOWN!” They all screamed it louder as my tears hit the table. I kept my eyes glued to my desk pretending not to have noticed...but I noticed and everyone knew that I noticed. I could hardly even pay attention in class because it was so bad. All I thought about was how cruel the bullies were and what I wished I could say to them. I stared at the window. A little bird flew away. I was envious of that bird. I wished I was like that bird. I wished I could fly far away from this evil place. I wished I could break away. Breaking away... that’s all I ever really wanted to do in my life. But I felt like an invisible chain was permanently bound to me, dragging me deeper into my never ending ocean of dark and deep depression. My heart longed for acceptance...the ability to fit in. I was hated and despised. How could anyone ever begin to love someone like me.
Someone like me... who was I anyway? I was an animal... a caged animal. No one could see the cage, no one could hear my cries, no one could feel my pain, but I could. Finally, the bell rang shattering my thoughts. That was the sound of my sweet freedom. I darted out of the room, avoiding eye contact with anyone. I wouldn’t let anyone see my face. They’d just laugh. They enjoyed my pain. They thought my tears were funny. Whenever someone made fun of me I got this queer and awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. It was a mixture of remorse and burning anger searing in my soul. My whole body got a burning hot sensation that ran throughout it. I wasn’t really one of those girls who could shake things off really easily, but... I always had to pretend that I was. I hurried into the hallway. I passed by a pretty young girl named Izzy. You see... Izzy and I used to be best friends. We had known each other literally since birth. We used to play together in the nursery. My cell phone was full of pictures of her and I. Sometimes I scrolled through them when I missed her. It was packed full of pointless selfies, piggy back-rides, birthday parties, and sleepovers. She acted like a different person when she was away from school, but in her defense everyone did. I hated high school. Everyone acted like demon possed zombies, but when they left this morgue of a place they were actually...human. They were like real people with a heart, soul, and actual real problems! I never knew this. One day our talking just...stopped. She started hanging out with a beautiful and popular girl named Leslie. I didn’t blame her. Leslie had every boy in the school drooling over her. She was really funny, stunningly beautiful, and insanely popular. Leslie started clinging to Izzy ever since Izzy promised to set her up with her boyfriend, Conner. You see that was the thing with Leslie... you had to have something to bound over. You couldn’t just be friends, there had to be some common interest with the two of you in order for her to even consider hanging out with you. When the common interest died... so did your friendship. I hated her for that. I hated that she stole my best friend. I hated Izzy too. I hated her for leaving me. I know it’s my fault a little as well. I never really made the effort to go and talk to Izzy, but then again... I had never been good at seeking people out to talk to them. Usually, people had to approach me first because I just wasn’t clingy like that. It just...wasn’t me. Things had changed so much in the past few years. I had lost so many friends and so many people had changed. It seemed like my life was just one big exit door that everyone was eager to run through. I felt like I had no true friends. I had spent my weekends the past few years at home... on my computer. I used to go to people’s houses and go to sleepovers, but now... I was alone. We passed by each other every day. I guess she wanted me to pretend...pretend that we had never stayed up all night talking, pretend that we had never gone to each other for every problem, pretend that we’d never gone shopping together, or gone to concerts together, or discussed boys together, but we had. It hurt so bad to see all my friends slowly snatched away from me. I could have done something... I could have fought to keep her, but something stopped me. Something inside me told me that she wasn’t just my best friend. She had other friends too and what kind of a person would I be to try and stop her from befriending other people? I never wanted to be one of those friends, who acted like they owned you. Lord knows we all hate that. So... I backed off and slowly watched from a distance as my best friend became a stranger. It’s a beautiful thing when two strangers become best friends, but it’s the most painful thing in the world when two best friends become strangers. Someone bumped into me really hard, startling me, and shattering my thoughts.
“Sorry.” I said. I looked up...it was Leslie.
“Oh, I’m sorry.” She said flashing her gorgeous pearly whites at me. She was one of the only people who was actually nice to me... but I hated her. She helped me up. I stared at her flawless face and wanted to punch it as hard as I could. Why couldn’t I have her luscious perfect, blonde curls or tan, clear skin? Why couldn’t I be a size zero and have perfect blue eyes? “What’s your name again?” She asked, while helping me up.
“Sam.” I answered a bit coldly. “I saw you playing guitar on the stairs yesterday... you were good.” She complimented. It was a big deal to get a compliment from this chic. I shrugged it off though. She meant nothing to me. “Thanks.” I said, shortly.
“See you around!” She said as she strut off. I rolled my eyes.
“What an airhead.” I muttered as I pushed my way through the crowded hallway. It was lunchtime. I dreaded lunch all day. I always sat alone. The first time it was really bad. I just sat there absolutely miserable, but I had gotten pretty used to being alone by now. I didn’t like it... but I had gotten used to it. I got my lunch and set my tray down at a table far off in the corner where I usually sat. I looked around. Everyone seemed to have a clique or a place where they belonged. I had no one. It used to be I’d skip around and hang out with all sorts of varieties of friends, but when you get to high school there’s no more of that. You have to choose. I sighed as I looked at everyone around me so happy. I had nowhere where I really belonged. I was an absolute outcast. Despite what you might think, I was not at all used to being an outcast. In middle school, I had loads of friends. I was actually somewhat popular. I got complimented a lot, people wanted to be around me, some people even looked up to me. Look at me now... I was nothing. I often wondered what it would be like if I died... no one would care. No one would probably even notice, I mean they all hated me anyway. I really needed some medication or something to help me cope with all this, but I just wasn’t willing to go that far. I was still struggling with admitting I had a problem. So... every day I went to bed knowing I’d wake up more miserable and regretting life more than I did the day before. I put one foot in front of the other and tried my best to make my way through this crazy life I was forced to live. It was the next to last class of the day... math. I hated math. I really stunk at it. I tried my hardest... honest I did! But my best was never enough to get the grade I desired, or my parents desired, and diffidently not the grade my teacher desired. I used to run out of class crying every day because I couldn’t get it. No matter how hard I tried I could never do it. As I said earlier, I was dyslexic. Dyslexia had really affected my life in many areas. I felt very different from the other kids in my grade. My brain just worked a lot differently and I couldn’t quite comprehend things the same way that they seemed too. My mom knew I was different ever since I was about four years old. She said I was just slower at learning things and that I even colored differently than the other kids in my pre-K class. My math teacher didn’t appreciate my lack of understanding when it came to math. I just don’t think she quite understood me. It took me hours to grasp one simple math concept. It really upset me seeing as I was trying my best. She always made me move whenever I talked. One time, she told me to move and I refused. I just sat there stubbornly as everyone else stared at me expectantly. “Sam!” One boy cried. I stared at my paper stubbornly. “Sam!” He cried again. I didn’t respond. “SAM!” He cried one last time. “What?!” I demanded, my head shooting up. “Move.” He and his friend said in unison. I let out a loud sigh and glared at him. Stubbornly, I got my stuff and tossed in onto the table in front of me. Everyone giggled, I wanted to kill them all. “Sam!” My teacher cried, snapping me back into attention. I was so surprised that my body jolted forward, catapulting me out of my chair. Everyone snickered cruelly. Great, just one other thing to be dangled over my head. “You weren’t paying attention were you? This is why your grades are slipping so badly, because you never listen to me.” The teacher stated coldly. It really embarrassed me when she said things like that. I didn’t want the whole class knowing I was doing poorly in class. I just stared at her. She stared right back at me as coldly as she usually did. “Leslie, will you please pass out the tests?” She asked. “Of course!” Leslie said, as she cheerfully sprung out of her chair. All the guys flirted with her when she gave them their tests. I threw up in my mouth a little as she flaunted her skinny self around. She plopped my tests on my desk and offered me a smile. I wanted to knock those pearly whites right out of that spray-tanned snooky face. I glanced at my test... it was another F. I was used to it by now, but it really did disappoint me secretly because back in the good days, I used to make very good grades. I let my mind drift to how different my life was a few years ago. A few years ago, everything was nice. Everyone was friends, there was no drama, the little bit of teasing I got was playful, I made good grades, and everyone just got along. But now everything seemed like an absolute dog eat dog world. I longed to go back to when everything was different. Life was paradise back then... but the sad thing was I didn’t really appreciate it. I whizzed through those years without a clue of what my high school years would be like. I was so busy living my life that I didn’t step back to see how God had blessed me. I often wished I had a time machine... I’d go back and re-live those years. I would enjoy them and cherish them while I had them. Everything was so perfect then. Everyone was friends, everyone was beautiful, no one every judged, and life was just a little ray of sunshine bursting within us all. But look at me now... I felt like anything, but sunshine. But I always pasted a smile on my face. I once heard a smile is the best makeup a girl can wear and that’s so true. Beneath those smiles can hide the deepest and darkest pain imaginable. The sweetest and happiest faces always seem to tell the saddest stories. This is because we spend our lives trying so incredibly hard for happiness that we often fake it, then we miss out when we’re blessed with the true happiness because we’re so occupied pretending. People often said I was so happy and vibrant, but those people... they just had no idea. I was hiding. I was hiding behind this massive smile, but inside I was breaking and felt like I was slowly fading out of existence. I didn’t belong anywhere. Everywhere I went there was some sort of insecurity in the back of my mind that I couldn’t seem to shake. I didn’t feel like I could go on anymore. I was hated and judged every place I went... church, school, and even home sometimes. I wasn’t really much good at anything either so it was easier to be picked out and judged. I remember being on various sports teams and always being the worst. I remembered how the coaches pitied me along with every other girl on the team. Those practice hours were the absolute longest of my life. I practiced so hard, but I just wasn’t good enough to make it. Riding the bench became a pretty usual thing for me. It was absolutely humiliating and I simply couldn’t bare to be humiliated. I didn’t understand how I couch be so terrible at something I wanted so badly. I knew that there was something in this world I could do right. I know I’m good at something I just haven’t found it yet. The bell rang shattering my thoughts as if they were made of glass. It was the last class of the day... P.E. I hated P.E. Every class the team captains picked teams and guess who always got picked last? Your’s truly. “Okay, Captains! Pick your team.” Coach instructed. “Mallory.” One captain said. “Casey.” Another called. “Andrea.” “Lisa.” “Lesley.” “Lilly.” “Abby.” “Angela.” “Anna.” “Jenna.” “Claire.” “Valerie.” This went on for what seemed like hours. I stood in the every front trying to make myself known, but no one noticed me. But I guess I was started to get used to it. Yet that horrible outcast feeling crept into my heart. “Sam... I guess.” I guess...wow. I sadly walked over to their group. They could all read the pain that was clearly written on my face. “What’s wrong, Sam? Were we being hypocritical?” One girl asked with a smirk. I turned around and pretended not to hear her. She was relentless. “We wouldn’t want that! Let’s all try and not be a hypocrite for Sam, okay, you guys?” She sneered. Burning anger fled throughout my soul. Everyone giggled. That was it. I was tired of being a little pushover that everyone could thrown to the ground, beat on, and step all over. I shoved her with all my might. She fell on the ground. I jumped on top of her and punched her in the face. I felt several hands yanking on my shoulders trying to wrench me off her, but my firsts wouldn’t stop flying. I grabbed her hair and tugged violently on it. Finally, someone ripped me off her. I turned to face who dare touch me during this moment of rage. It was Leslie, I cocked my hand back and slapped her with all my might. She grabbed her cheek and gawked at me. I had left a hand print on her face. I actually almost couldn’t believe I had done it. She had never been anything but nice to me, but I just couldn’t seem to control myself. A guy tried to come at me for hitting Leslie. It was one of the boys that told me how I ugly I was. I thrust my elbow out nailing him in the ribs as he charged toward me. He yelped out in pain and fell to the floor. His buddy charged toward me. Again, it was a boy who hated me and continuously talked about me behind my back. He grabbed my arms, I tore from his grip and ripped away. His hands were grabbing for me again... I couldn’t help it. I sank my teeth into his tender arm. He shrieked in surprise and pain. I dug my nails into him. I felt hands grabbing at me from behind. I kicked my legs violently and wriggled this way and that. I thrashed about relentlessly and tried to wrench free out of the arms. It was the P.E. coach. I retreated and stopped my helpless spazzing. Tears flowed down my face when I had realized what I had done. I wept bitterly... what had I done? The P.E. coach carried me to the office. My shoulder shrugged up and down as I sobbed. The P.E. coach and I had always been good friends. Now I had ruined her good image of me. I had ruined everything. I buried my face in my hands and I yearned for a better life. I was a monster... and boy, was I in trouble too. Finally, my sobs died down. They had already called my mom in. I was dead. We never got along as it was. All we ever did was fight...about everything. But to be honest, I was going to let her win this battle. I really didn’t want to argue about this because I knew I was wrong. But...so were they. I sat there for what seemed like hours. Angela passed by. She looked at me like I was some sort of criminal, but I guess I kind of was. Finally, the principal called me into his office. I guess he was waiting until I stopped crying. I sat in front of him with pure misery in my eyes. The principal could sense it, but he showed no mercy. My mother walked stood beside me stiffly, still refusing to make eye contact of any sort with me. She looked so disappointed. I hated disappointed her more than anything in the entire world. A sinking feeling bubbled up in the pit of my stomach. It was a feeling of guilt, disappointment, and depression all writhing in my stomach. Have you ever had that feeling before? You feel like you need to grieve... like you want to scream, cry, and shut the entire world out. You just wanna sleep...forever. But you just can’t. You have to get up and face the world and any consequences that may have come with it. I wanted to crawl in my bed and never come out again. I wanted to throw up once I’d come to the realization of what I’d just done. My mom set her gaze on me. She just sat there and stared with tears in her eyes. “Are you going to say something?” I whispered. “My baby... my precious little girl, how could you do something like this? This isn’t the sweet little girl I’ve raised.” Mom said softly. My stomach turned into a horrible knot deep inside me. “You don’t understand.” I said. “No, you don’t understand... you don’t understand how incredibly disappointed I am.” Mom said. It kind of seemed like she was always disappointed in me. Sometimes I felt like we hated each other. But right now... I didn’t hate her. I wanted to run up, hug her, and tell her how sorry I was for everything I had ever done to her. But I froze and just stood there as she tried her best not to cry. The principal told us both to sit down. I sat down and stared at him in complete misery as he talked. I couldn’t even really quite hear what he said. I was too busy drowning in my sorrow to hear a word he said. I already knew I was going to be kicked out of school. I really didn’t need him confirming that. I actually wasn’t even that sorry. I usually had a very guilty conscience, but not this time. I was reminded of all the pain this evil place had brought me. I remembered very clearly sitting with my nerdy little cliche of friends and watching longingly as the popular kids laughed in one big group. I often wondered if I should go over there. I knew they might not exactly reject me at first, but they would diffidently stop all conversation and awkwardly eye me as long as I stood there. I remembered sitting there thinking how much I loathed this school and everyone in it. The part that was most painful? I saw my friends slowly sucked into their little death trap of popularity. People I that had been at my side since I was a little kid being drug away from me by some rich, snooty, popular kids who had only been at this school a few months. It hurt so badly watching my friends just... leave. I mean, do you even understand the pain of seeing someone you care about more than anything morph into a monster before your very eyes? No... you probably don’t. But it is probably one of the hardest things to witness. It’s almost like someone dying. You know that they will never be there for you anymore, they won’t care about you like they used to, and won’t even acknowledge your existence. People often said to me, “Be kind to them and it will get better.” or “Just go talk to them.” It wasn’t that easy. Once they had in their minds that they hated you there was absolutely nothing you could say, do, or show them to gain their approval. Once you were hated by them you were a permanent outcast forever suppressed in their memories. I’d hear the things they would say about me behind my back, I’d see them laughing, and for the longest time I just watched it happen in front of my face. But there comes a breaking point where you have to stand up for yourself. Everyone said, “It’s only a joke. Lighten up.” But now look at me... broken and alone. I sat here sobbing in front of the principal. Is your joke still funny?