Friday: October 12, 2018 (9:37 AM)
I take a deep breath and lean back in my chair, taking in my nearly finished painting. Spotting a small white space I missed, I dip my brush daintily into pastel blue liquid and lightly stroke it across my canvas. Fragments of conversation are thrown around the classroom carelessly; I squint my eyes in concentration, creating a wall in my mind surrounding only me and my painting. My world goes silent.
“Did you hear how many points I scored last night?!”
A sentence slips through the cracks and I furrow my eyebrows in frustration. Filling in the bit of white space left on the piercing sapphire iris, I lean back and take in my finally completed picture, grinning with pride.
“Yeah, you bet I fucked her, bro!”
I grit my teeth and tuck one of my loose, hazel locks behind my ear. Spotting a dark smudge on my painted girl’s nose, I grasp the end of my sleeve and dab cautiously at the speckle. The image of her perfectly shaded face smearing flashes through my mind. I wince.
“Ready to get slammed tonight? Man, this party is gonna be the shit!”
A rare smile stretches across my lips as I soaked in my finished work. I’ve been working for weeks on this enchanting portrait; a canvas painting of a girl dressed in all black but with hauntingly bright, midnight blue eyes. Glancing up from my desk for a second, I break my mental wall and scan the room for Mrs. Tyler. She’s nowhere to be found. Instead, I lock eye contact with a cheerleader blowing bubble gum and immediately look away. Last time I held a distant gaze at someone too long, my sketchbook ended up soaked and ruined in the sink.
“Well, what do we have here?”
The girl’s taunting voice comes right over my shoulder, sending a shudder down my spine. Desperately trying to rebuild my wall, I keep my eyes glued to my brushes and busy myself with picking little paint clumps from their bristles. Maybe if I ignore them, they’ll lose interest and leave me alone.
“I’m talking to you, dyke.”
Trembling, I twist around in my chair and am met face to face with long hazel curls and a bright red cheerleader uniform. Kelsi Marder and her posse’s eyebrows are furrowed, their lips pulled back in a snarl. She blows a huge gum bubble, inches from my face. It pops and I flinch; I grip my brushes so tight, my knuckles turn white.
“Wh…what is it?” I stammer, staring at the floor. The girls join together in a sickening chorus of laughter and the queen-bee finally cuts them off with a swift flick of the hand.
“What’s that little painting you got there?”
My eyes widen as I realize her interest. My heart beats furiously, the last thing I want is for them to take my creation but there’s nothing I can do about it unless I want my head slammed against the desk. So, I just pray Mrs. Taylor will be back soon to save the day.
“It’s…my final…final project,” I reply meekly, a lump forming in my throat. I bite my lip and squeeze my eyes shut, wanting nothing more than this confrontation to be over. We’re in a classroom surrounded by people so surely they won’t pull anything? But I know better, doubt slips into my mind as I remember the shit they’ve pulled right under teachers’ noses.
“Do you believe in fairness?” Kelsi asks suddenly, catching my gaze as I glance up for a second. Her peculiar question catches me off guard. This might be the longest time she’s actually talked to me.
“Uh…I guess so,” I answer, cautiously.
“Well, you see, I don’t have a final project. There was a huge game last night so I just didn’t have time. All my other teachers excused me from assignments but, of course, Mrs. fucking Taylor said that ‘was no excuse.’ Like, what the fuck is that supposed to mean?! Anyway…don’t you think it’s more fair if I have a final project instead of a loner like you that could die and no one would care? I am head cheerleader after all.”
A small tear slips down my cheek as her cold words pierce me like daggers straight through the heart. I slowly grasp my drying masterpiece with shaky hands and without a word, lift it from the desk and into the girl’s perfectly manicured hands. She smiles and tilts her head, batting her eyelashes.
“Good choice, dyke. Now don’t get any ideas; I’m not going to fuck you in return or anything.”
Her posse starts giggling hysterically and with that, she tosses her perfect curls over her shoulder and stalks back to her seat. I think it’s over but my eyes widen as she dips her fingers into orange paint and wipes it across my hair. I immediately yank the hood on my sweatshirt over my head and try not to dissolve into sobs. Through teary eyes, I watch their whole table glance in my direction and whisper, giggling. A football player suddenly shouts out ‘dyke’, causing a loud eruption of laughter throughout the whole classroom. I bury my face into my arms resting on the desk, my ears were burning with their chanting. The whole classroom joins in a chant about me and I can’t take it anymore.
Finally, the bell sounds and I immediately scoop up my backpack and race into the familiar supply closet a few doors down, slam the door shut, and crumple onto the floor with tears flowing down my cheeks.
Raking my fingers through my sticky, matted hair, my mind is filled with curses and hateful swears toward those girls. I try to remind myself that nothing good will come of them after high school but those optimistic thoughts are taken over by those of hopelessness and self-loathing.
I wrap my arms around my stomach, resting my head against the cold linoleum floor. Staring blankly under the closed closet door, I watch hundreds of feet shuffle towards their next class, fragments of their conversations seeping through the cracks. Each joyful, carefree discussion is a stab in the heart; no one cares I’m curled up on the floor wet with my tears. No one cares I have sought refuge in this supply closet three times in just one day.
The hallway noise eventually fades as people disappear into the classrooms and I’m left alone, sniffling in the deafening silence. I’m missing a Biology quiz but I don’t care. I’ve missed so much of that class, I have a D and my parents are on my ass for that but if I slip into class late with puffy eyes and tears streaking down my face... everyone would see and I can’t face them anymore.
Suddenly, there’s a soft knock on the door and I immediately scramble to my feet, wiping frantically at the mascara smudged down my cheeks. I grasp at my pounding chest, forcing myself to take deep breaths to slow down my frantic heartbeat. I have to stay silent or an unwelcome visitor might step in and ruin my sanctuary.
“Ro? You in there?” someone calls from outside.
As the familiar voice reaches my ears, my tears turn into those of relief.
“Quinn! I’m in here!” I cry, my voice cracking. The door is flung open and as I take in Quinn’s appearance, I launch forward, craving his embrace but stop as I notice blood flowing from his nose.
Inches away, I lift a steady hand and wipe away the blood gingerly.
“Did you get in a fight again?” I whisper, brushing back his usually perfectly slicked back hair. As he nods, his eyes glued to the floor in humiliation, I envelope myself in his warm embrace. Clinging to his shirt, I bury my face into his chest and we stay there in silence. It’s like we’re drowning but the only thing keeping us afloat is each-other.