Finally, the day had arrived. The day where I would stop thinking, planning, theorising. The day where I would finally act and get out of my thinking nutshell, and finally, hopefully, uncover the truth.
I needed solid, palpable proof that Harry Edwards and Summer Daniels were in love (and if possible, to what extent was Anna involved), which I had no clue what could be. The only thing I was sure of was that it was surely something personal, something that was in a private place, a challenging place to reach.
I knew using Amanda would help me overcome that barrier: she could search Summer’s personal stuff in her room, which increased my chances considerably, but I knew that I couldn’t trust her. She would waste no time in telling everyone, and of course, all the credit would go to her. I could not risk that. The reason why I started this was exactly to be a hero, to be remembered, and if she knew about my plan, she would take over and I would stay forever in the shadows, like I had always been.
I had ruled out the obviously impossible places to search: Summer’s dorm room (and Hall A altogether) and Harry’s room, which pretty much narrowed my searching places. The only place I could think of was Summer’s bag.
Since the argument my colleagues had in the classroom, I had started to pay close attention to Summer’s routine. I noticed that, when she had a lesson in the same classroom twice in a row with lunch or break in between, she would leave her bag inside the classroom. That would be the perfect time to go and search.
The moment I caught that pattern I checked the next time we would have two lessons in the same room, which was that day, Monday morning. It would be simple: nobody would notice me; nobody would ask where Anthony had gone because they wouldn’t even notice Anthony was gone.
This story of always being forgotten, it was about to end.
As I walked into the classroom that morning, Summer was already sitting at the back of the room like she usually did. You could see an invisible shield around her as she ignored all the looks and whispers. It looked as if she was in a whole different dimension, a world of her own, when actually, she was just waiting for the teacher like the rest of us.
The lesson went smoothly, as it always did, and once the bell rang, everyone got up and started to close their books.
“Okay kids, you know the drill, you can leave your stuff here if you want for next lesson,” The teacher said as he got up from his desk with a mug in his hand and walked towards the door.
It was break time and everyone had left everything in the room. Every desk had a bag on its side, and Summer’s was no exception.
“Anthony, will you close the door?” asked one of the guys from the class, the last one in the room with me.
“Yeah sure,” I answered. He left the room, leaving the door wide opened.
I rushed to close it once he was out of sight. I was in that classroom alone, and Summer’s bag was in my reach.
I knelt down on opened it straight away. I wasted no time and rummaged through the bag, opening every pocket, every compartment. I found books, pens, a pair of gloves, even some rotten sweets at the bottom, nothing strikingly accusing. The second I laid eyes on some letters I couldn’t help but open them immediately, only to find out that they were all from Summer’s parents. Surely they wouldn’t incriminate her, so I looked inside her wallet, but apart from an old photograph and some change, it was empty.
There was nothing there. There was nothing that could link to their relationship, or even Anna. What did I expect to find anyway? A love letter from Harry professing his love to her? A charm bracelet with a heart around their names? That was definitely something I couldn’t imagine Harry Edwards being part of, not ever in a million years.
But I was desperate to find something, so I began to read Summer’s letters, the ones she exchanged with her parents, in hopes that she had told them anything about her relationship with Harry, although I didn’t have much hope (I bet not even Summer was proud of telling her parents about Harry).
And she did not. Actually, the letters were all lies. She told them that everything was great, that her friends were spectacular and that she was the happiest she had ever been. She told them about the race team, about how proud she was of herself regarding her performance on the team.
I knew she was a liar, but that? That was a whole new level of lying... She was creating a new reality, telling her parents how everything could have been if she hadn’t started to be friends with Harry.
Above all this, something caught my attention at the end of each letter. She would ask if their life was “any easy” and if they were “making any money”. Summer’s parents would reply something along the lines of “we are doing this to give you a better future” and “we are going to get out of this together”.
It didn’t make much sense. Why would Summer ask her parents if they were making any money, implying that they could not even make it at all? Why would she ask if their life was easy if she told us that they went to work in Switzerland? Surely they had an important job, like most of the parents of the students at Hudson. Why would they go to Switzerland otherwise? And why would Summer’s parents want to give her a better future? She was already at this school; a brighter future was impossible!
It made no sense, but taking into consideration the lies she was telling her parents, all of their conversations could be just that, a bunch of lies.
I placed the letters down and started to dig again. I only found more pens, some hair bands, a broken ruler... Useless things! Everything was useless and I was wasting time!
That was when a light bulb lit up in my head.
I took a closer look at the picture inside Summer’s wallet. A family of three, a little girl with two braids in the middle of her parents, holding their hands. An old, small, weather-beaten shack behind them, broken glass on the ground. Everything looked filthy, even the three people.
I picked up one of the letters that I had previously read. I connect the dots, but I found it incredibly hard to accept them. A whole lot of questions started to form in my head. I put aside what I had originally been looking for, evidence of Summer’s and Harry’s relationship, because what I found exceeded everything. It exceeded her betrayal (which was brutal), it was more important than the whole mystery that Harry was and all the questions that, over the last two years, we had been debating in dark corners.
The discovery I had just made was unimaginable. I didn’t know how to react: I felt disgust towards that girl, for all the lies she had told us, but I also felt completely perplexed and in awe at her brilliance in fooling us all.
Who cared if they were together?! Summer Daniels was poor! She was not just poor, she was as poor as a beggar. I always knew she was not like us, but that? That was an atomic bomb, and I had the trigger in my hand and I could blow it up any second.
It all started to make sense! The only way those two fell in love was because she was like him, a homeless, unloved outcast who never had a chance of being like us.
Suddenly, the door jerked open and I spun my head towards the door as I inhaled sharply at the suddenness. Anna stood in the doorway, her gaze directed at me as she took long strides to reach my side.
“What are you doing?” She asked immediately as she noticed I was with Summer’s belongings in my hands.
More noise was coming from outside and I noticed the students were coming in from break time. I hadn’t even noticed those twenty minutes going by so quickly, and it was apparently time for the next lesson.
“Oh my dear Anna, you have no idea what I just found,” I taunted her. Her eyes scanned the two objects in my hands, and her expression was unreadable. She didn’t seem to be angry or anxious at my discovery, and it only meant one thing: she didn’t know it either. She had no idea what Summer was hiding.
“What is that?” Anna insisted, her hands in fists by her side. I found Amanda and Bud entering the room, and I knew my time to tell them the truth had come.
“This,” I started, raising my right and capturing everyone’s attention to the back of the room “Is a photograph I found in Summer’s bag. And this, this is a letter she wrote to her parents, and you just can’t believe what this girl has been hiding.”
The room felt silent as I felt pride rush through me. Amanda, with her eyes like hawks and a venomous tongue, approached me and snatched both the letter and photograph from my hands. I didn’t even flinch, because for the first time, I had the upper hand, I was the winner.
She scanned the letter and the photograph in seconds “I can’t believe it! This is really her!”
Then, Anna rushed to her side and took a look at the picture. Her face went white, while Amanda’s was as red as a tomato from excitement.
“Summer Daniels is not like us!” I announced as the chattering and the gossiping came to a stop “We have known that for a long time, but what I just found out exceeds all that we have ever thought about her. Forget that monster, Harry, forget about your betrayed friendships with her, she did something unforgivable that no one has ever even put in question.”
“Shut up Anthony, she was your friend, this doesn’t change anything,” Anna interrupted me, but I didn’t listen.
“Summer is poor!” Amanda shouted in a high-pitched voice, her tone laced with disdain and disgust “Look, everyone, here is proof!”
She rose the picture above her head in triumph and passed it around. The look on everyone’s faces was what I had envisioned: the shock, the confusion, the contempt. I relished on their reaction, knowing that after that moment nothing would ever be the same again.
“I am going to tell Mr Hansen right away! The minute he knows who she really is he will expel her. People like her don’t belong in this school,” Amanda said coldly, but with fire in her eyes.
“Don’t you dare Amanda,” I told her “If it wasn’t for me no one would have ever known she was as poor as a beggar! I am going to tell Mr Hansen myself!”
That was when Summer walked through the door.
“... She is as poor as a beggar!...” was the first thing that I heard once I arrived at my Maths lesson. All faces were on me that same instant.
Anthony, Amanda and Anna were in the middle of a circle that had formed around them. Anna’s face was white as snow, but in her eyes I noticed something else. Hope, hope that what she had heard was a lie. Amanda, on the other hand, had the devil’s expression on her face, as if the devil himself had possessed her. She held a picture in her hand. I recognised it immediately as the picture Harry once discovered inside my wallet.
My blood froze in my veins, my heart fell to the floor. My whole world shattered into a million pieces and I knew, I knew very well what was going on.
“Hey Summer, don’t you want to tell everyone who you really are?” Anthony’s voice sounded across the room “I bet that’s the reason Harry loves you: because nobody else could!”
No, I whispered to myself. This wasn’t happening.
“You liar!” Someone in the crowd yelled.
What followed was abominable. I didn’t believe until that day that school kids were capable of such cruelty, but I was wrong.
“You are nothing but a beggar! A filthy rat from the streets!”
“How is it possible that you are even in this school? Your parents must be robbers!”
“To think I ever gave you a chance, you dirty liar!”
“You are no better than a mongrel dog!”
The tears started streaming down my face completely out of my control. In front of me, I didn’t have seventeen-year-old kids, I had lions, snakes, monsters. My whole body started to shake, my mind went blank as I tried to say something, anything in my defence, but there was nothing. My mind was screaming at me “They found out you are poor”.
“You are not worthy of this school!”
“You should go back to your land of homeless people!”
“I bet your parents are working as slaves in Switzerland!”
The things they yelled at me were inhuman. They made me feel less than an insect. The humiliation was too great. It sucked all the courage out of my body. Every word was a dagger to my heart, and I was sure being put down like that, having your worse deed being thrown at you with relentless force, that was the definition of hell.
A lie could never hurt as much as the truth, and this, this was not just the truth, this was my death. I felt like their words were killing me, tortuously, slowly, painfully killing me.
I couldn’t see anything with a number of scalding tears pouring out of my eyes. It seemed to amuse them, my state of complete desperation. Amanda was laughing with her hands on her belly like a fat king. I had never before in my life wished to kill anyone, to hit them so hard I would take the life out of their body, but in that moment, I did, and it wasn’t a good feeling at all.
I looked at Anna, her hands covering her mouth as she watched that scene in front of her eyes. She was crying, I could tell, but I was not sure if it was because she pitied me or because she had to watch the tenebrous, morbid side of humanity come to life.
I didn’t know how I did it, but somehow I managed to get my photograph, my letter, and my bag and ran out of that classroom.
I bumped into our Maths teacher as I ran desperately, making her trip and fall on the floor. She yelled me to come back, but I kept running. I ran as fast as I could out of that building.
There was no fixing this. I could never go back to that place. I could never see those people that I once called friends again. They knew my secret, which meant that I had to leave that living hell.
I didn’t care what my parents would say, or what Mr Hansen would say. I didn’t care if I was not thinking straight and if I was taking an impulsive decision. The truth was out, and I didn’t see a better reason to leave than that one.
I mounted on my bicycle and sped towards Hall B. I had absolutely nothing to lose at that moment so I entered through the front door of the building.
The building was identical to Hall A, so it wasn’t hard to figure out where the dorm rooms were located. Around me, male students which had yet to find out my secret were perplexed as they saw a girl storming into Hall B, a restricted area only for male students.
I ran up the stairs, to the top floor. More boys were on that floor and their reaction was the same. I couldn’t care less, not even when a male teacher yelled at me to leave immediately or I would be expelled that same second.
I ran down the long corridor and arrived at Harry’s door. I tried to open it but it was locked. I banged my fist against the door instead.
“Harry, open the door!”
At the sound of my voice, I heard the springs of his bed shift as he got up. He unlocked the door and before I noticed it, the door was wide open.
“Summer?! What happened, why are you here?!”
“You haven’t given Mr Hansen the boat tickets yet right?” I asked, my voice coming out in sobs. Harry’s eyes were wide open, as if he was in shock at the sight of me.
“No,” He simply answered, worry and shock laced in his voice.
“Great, because we are leaving right now. Both of us,” I told him.
From the back of the corridor, the teacher continued shouting and more boys seemed to have gathered to watch what was happening. They were no more than thirty since most of the students were having lessons.
“What happened?” Harry insisted, but I had no time to explain. We had to leave as fast as possible.
“Pack your bags quickly. We’ll meet at the gate in twenty minutes. Don’t forget to bring maps Harry. We are going to Germany.”
This was the right thing to do. It felt like fate wanted us to go to Germany. For days on end, I had debated whether I should go with Harry to Germany and end his misery. I had the means, I knew I would be safe with him, even though I would be travelling to a different, foreign country. The logical part of me told me more than once that if I left, my parents would kill me. They didn’t even know of Harry’s existence, so I couldn’t imagine their reaction when they found out that I had run away with this boy that they had never heard of.
I had no idea if what I was going to do would be beneficial for my future in any way. Would I go back to school? Where would I live? What would happen to Harry and I? There were so many questions, but I knew that over-thinking wouldn’t answer them.
I ran down the stairs of Hall B and was out of there in a flash. I cycled as fast as I could in the direction of Hall A and went to the attic which was where my empty suitcase was stored. I brought it to my dorm room and angrily started filling it with all my belongings. Tears were still running down my face and my body was shaking, but I had to get that job done.
Once I was finished, I headed towards the door. I glanced one last time at the dorm room that had once been my little refuge for half a year and the only thing I felt was disgust. I knew I wouldn’t miss that place, much less the people.
I glanced at Anna’s bed. I remembered her reaction to my secret. Although she said hurtful things to me, nothing could compare to what my classmates screamed to my face. She would be the only one I would miss, and I promised myself that I would write to her once I had my head straight. She deserved to know what was going on, an explanation.
I closed the door with a loud bang and left the building. It had started to drizzle outside. In the distance, I had noticed Harry was running towards the gate with a suitcase in hand, and once he spotted me, he changed his course and ran towards me.
“It started to rain,” He stated the obvious.
“Yeah, how’s that for pathetic fallacy?” I said, my breathing erratic. That was when I had an idea. A very stupid, impulsive idea, but I wouldn’t have forgiven myself if I hadn’t gone through with it.
“I forgot something!” I told him, giving him my heavy suitcase to carry.
“Don’t tell me it’s the bicycle because we can’t take it with us,” He said in a rush.
“Oh no!” I hadn’t even realised I would leave it behind, and a sudden wave of sadness rushed through me “But it’s not that. I am going to the main building. Head towards the gate and wait for me there.”
He nodded and we parted our ways, Harry carrying both our suitcases. I sprinted through the open field of Hudson and entered the building. I saw Anna at the top of the staircase, her face covered in tears. I had no idea what she was doing there, but judging by the look on her face, she was not okay. Once she found me, she didn’t move or make a sound, but her eyes lit up.
I walked towards a room I knew very well, ignoring everyone in my path. I had come to hate that room with all my being, and what I was about to do was the most extreme, impulsive thing I had ever done in my life.
I was taking The Book of Judgement with me.
I picked up the colossal book and placed it under my arm and left as quickly as I had entered. It was so heavy it was difficult to carry. Anna was still at the top of the stairs, and this time she spoke loudly.
“What are you doing?”
I wasn’t sure if she was asking that regarding me stealing The Book or me running away, so I gave her an answer that could be applied to both.
“What should have been done a long time ago.”
With that, I sprinted as fast as my legs could, running one last time through the fields of Hudson that I somehow still thought were beautiful. With Harry at the gate, I could see the finish line, Harry waiting for me with two suitcases.
I wondered if all that lying was worth it. All of my sufferings were caused by all the lies I told, from hiding, from being afraid and ashamed of who I truly was. Would things have been different if I had simply told them the truth, if I hadn’t been scared of what they thought of me? Maybe, but it didn’t matter. I knew who I was and where I belonged, and most importantly, where I didn’t.