Breathe

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Woes of a Teenager

The breaks between classes were always chaotic. The corridors were full of students hurrying to get to their classrooms while having a quick snack or chatting with their friends.

Hectic.

Urgency.

The fear of missing out on something seemed to be shared by every young person at Sunpalm High.

Mina was on her way to social studies when a stinging sensation hit her right eye.

“Ouch,” she hissed, covering her eye with her hand. “Oh, not again.” Her contact lens had slipped under the eyelid, and the girl, half-blind, struggled to the nearest restroom while moaning a variety of expletives. She pushed open the swinging door and hurried to one of the sinks. With a loud exhale, she dropped her bag on the floor and turned on the tap.

Mina wet her hands with warm water and applied soap, lathering her palms by rubbing them together. She took care of the backs of her hands and the spots between her fingers before turning to her dislocated lens. A toilet flushed in one of the cabins behind her. The door opened, and Mina, busy fixing her eye, stopped short when she saw who stepped out of the cubicle.

It was Jessica Lee. Beautiful, always in a good mood, and everyone’s darling here at Sunpalm High.

“Hi there,” the older teenager greeted with a friendly face and stood next to Mina, who smiled back hesitantly. Mina didn’t dare say a word since Jessica Lee was a senior and thus, far out of a sophomore’s league. So, she picked up where she left off, with a finger pulling on her lower eyelid, hoping not to attract too much attention. Then, from the corner of her eye, she noticed Jessica leaning towards the mirror.

Don’t stare, Mina ordered herself, but sneaked a glance to the side nonetheless, watching Jessica apply lip gloss to her mannequin face. Then, without thinking, she began to eye the girl from top to bottom and noticed her fellow student’s clothes were brand new—a luxury only rich families could afford.

Jessica’s long, perfect legs appeared even longer in the skirt she wore. A casual white semi-sheer blouse accentuated her chest, while her curls fell beautifully over her shoulders.

“I love your style, by the way. Did you get some highlights done?”

Mina was startled out of her daze when she realized that Jessica was actually talking to her. “Oh, no...the sun brightens my hair,” she stammered, feeling the blush rise to her face at this ridiculous statement.

“That’s so cool. I like it,” Jessica said with a beaming smile and stuffed her beauty products back into a small toiletry bag with a golden emblem saying, Dior.

Instinctively, Mina’s eyes searched Jessica’s body, landing on a small item she couldn’t let go of. A small round, white pin with the symbol of a black triangle was attached to the strap of Jessica’s bookbag, which dangled from her shoulder.

Interesting, Mina thought, aware that everyone usually demonstrated the party badge proudly on the right side of their chests. However, she had almost missed the symbol on Jessica, wondering why Lee would place the pin so inconspicuously when a family’s connection to the party brought nothing but benefits.

For a brief moment, their gazes met, and Mina believed Jessica knew what she was thinking. The older teenager turned away quickly, placing her bag on the other shoulder, almost as if she was ashamed.

“See you around then,” the senior crooned, and with one last scrutinizing glance in the mirror, the girl made her way out of the restroom.

Mina’s eyes were glued to the door, flabbergasted at what had just happened. Could it be that Jessica fled from her? From a fifteen-year-old nobody here at school? The great, fabulous Jessica Lee?

After staring at the restroom’s exit for what felt like an eternity, the younger girl looked back at her reflection. She had her brown hair up in a ponytail and never wore any make-up. Ever since starting high school, her style had been simple blue jeans and her favorite green hoodie.

Yet, the fleeting feeling of having unsettled a popular senior was quickly forgotten. Instead, a strange longing flared up in Mina. Seeing Jessica in that blouse and skirt had awakened a desire in her. It was a kind of resentment towards her fellow student, even though she had never wronged her. The young girl looked at how her hoodie disguised her body, looked down at the old shoes she was wearing, suddenly annoyed, not only with Miss Perfect-Jessica Lee, but with herself.

Can’t I do better than that?

And for the very first time, Mina wished her family, too, was in favor of the party. She took a deep breath and, with a furrowed brow, finished fitting the contact lens over her green pupil. She snatched her rucksack from the floor, swung it over her shoulder, and pushed open the restroom’s door with a mighty bang!

With each step towards class, Mina’s mood transformed her mind into a sullen presence. Why did Jessica Lee, of all people, have to be in the same place at the same time?

She entered the class and slumped onto a chair in the far corner of the room with a sigh. Teenagers were sitting on their desks, talking to each other, laughing, enjoying their young lives. Mina, however, exhaled, and kneaded her fingers.

A whole hour of social studies with constant tributes to long-dead war heroes and the stupid ramblings of her classmates awaited her.

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