"People come into our lives for a reason." - Unknown.
| I hadn’t always been quiet. In fact, I used to be popular. Pretty hard to believe, huh? Well I was. Cheerleading captain, straight A student, brown-eyed bombshell. Oh yeah, and I had the perfect boyfriend. So I guess the better word to describe the old me is perfect. Now? Not so much. Flash forward about a year to a fuzzy image of an insecure, lonely girl sitting by herself. That was me just a few days after a tragic incident. It’s surprising how everything can change in such a short time.
It was the second semester of my senior year at Hazelwood Central High in eastern Missouri and I was picking up my best friend for school.
“How was it?” Jessica asked excitedly as she got in the passenger seat of my mustard yellow car.
“Fine.” I answered a little more sharply than I meant to. So I gave her the look, letting her know I wanted the subject to change even though she had just gotten in the car a minute ago.
“But, I thought you wanted to wait a long time until you lost your virginity. What made you decide to lose it last night? And with Josh?”
“I don’t want to talk about it, Jess!” I half yelled.
In return, I got a glare, which I ignored. Jessica didn’t seem to notice or care.
“So, did you bring your camera for art?”
“Shit!” I slapped the steering wheel. We were doing photography in Advanced Art and I had promised Mr. Janky about a month ago that I’d bring my vintage Polaroid.
“Haha, you would forget it,” Jess teased me.
“Thanks Jess.” I turned into the school parking lot. “Whatever, I’ll have dad drop it off later.” My phone vibrated as I opened my car door. Hey sexy, the screen read.
“Aww,” Jess said as she read it over my shoulder. I snapped the phone shut without even bothering to reply. The text was from Josh, my boyfriend, and he was standing like fifteen feet away. After receiving that same text every morning, I was beginning to wish he’d send something a little more original. But as I looked at him, I pushed the thought out of my head, put on a smile, and walked over.
“You didn’t answer my text,” Josh said as he put his arm around me.
“Because you’re right here, I can talk out loud.” I don’t know why I was being bitchy, but it shut him up. Thankfully, I was saved from awkward silence by first bell so I walked away. I avoided Josh and Jess until third period when I called my dad to bring the camera. He said he would be glad to bring it. Little did I know that that one phone call would change my life forever. Just before lunch, I was called down to the office, where my horrible mother was sitting in a crusty red chair. When I was told what happened, I fell to the floor.
I had always known that my mother didn’t like me very much. We were never close, and sometimes I was fine with that. My dad and I, on the other hand, were super close. He was the one I went to when I skinned my knee, when I got picked on in fourth grade, and when I needed money. He was my hero and now he was gone. Lately I couldn’t help but notice that my mother seems to blame me for his death. We had a closed funeral and didn’t really tell people. I was overwhelmed by depression, anger, and confusion. It all happened so fast. I changed overnight. I lost my friends. I stopped talking. I got kicked off the cheerleading team. And I began to fail in school. But none of that seemed to even matter to me. I didn’t care about anything anymore. I felt so alone. I built a wall to block everyone out. My best friend told me to fuck off because I was “being a bitch.” Josh dumped me the first chance he got. I heard rumors going about that he dumped me because I was suicidal and wouldn’t let him touch me. But I didn’t care. I started spending every day at the library in Florissant. My mom was gone most of the time, with men, I noticed. When I asked her about it, she told me to mind my own god-damned business. That was the first night I found an escape from the pain. Upstairs in the bathroom with one of my dad’s unused razor blades. At first, I thought it was just out of anger. But as the blade sliced my arm, and the blood seeped out, I felt not pain, but relief. After that, I was addicted. It was my great escape. I carried a pair of scissors that worked really well, along with Band-Aids and tissues in a bag everywhere I went. Life began to get a little better. I got a job at the library, and I enjoyed it, with the books and scissors.
One Friday night, I was the only one working, and I was sitting at the front desk reading a Stephen King novel. I was so engrossed in it that I didn’t hear the bell of the door when a boy walked in. Nor did I hear him walk right up to me until he cleared his throat. The sound startled me and I was embarrassed when I saw him staring at me with a smile.
“Uh, hi?” it came out sounding more like a question than a greeting.
“Hi,” he answered coolly. He was really cute. Not in the Hollister model way, but in the shy, nice boy way. He was wearing old black Chuck Taylors with worn out, faded jeans and a wrinkled black t-shirt. When I realized that I was staring at him, I quickly looked away.
“Do you like, need help or something?”
“Actually, yeah,” he answered. He ran his fingers through his shaggy brown hair and said, “I need some books for British Lit.” That’s what we were doing in English at school, and it was the only class I ever showed up to. Well, that and Art, of course.
“Upstairs on the left, fifth row.” I said, going back to my book.
“Thank you very much, ma’am,” he said as he tapped the desk before heading up the stairs. About 30 minutes later, the school sluts showed up. Along with Jessica. Great. I could tell they were being loud on purpose because their volume went up as soon as they saw me. They kept laughing and whispering until they finally went upstairs. I never saw the British Lit guy come downstairs, so he was probably still up there. Then it hit me: he must go to my school. We had a project in English, and everyone always went to the library for that. The library was always the hang-out spot whenever we had a big project to do. But I’ve never seen him before. Before I could ponder the mysterious boy some more, he came walking down the stairs shaking his head.
“Those girls are bitches,” was all he said. Then he was outside and gone. He didn’t even say goodbye. Not that he was required to or anything. But still. Whatever. Not even ten minutes later, the “bitches” and my ex-best friend came down the stairs. Still laughing obnoxiously, of course. I hear stupid words like, “loser” and “freak” as they left. They made me so mad. Especially Jessica, because she used to hate those girls. I fought back tears as I grabbed my bag and went to the bathroom. Soon, I was beautifully relieved by the blade of my scissors.
When I got home later that night, my mom and a guy were loudly making out in the kitchen. I noticed beer cans on the table, so I knew they were drunk. Grossed out and completely annoyed, I went upstairs without making my presence known. It was only nine o’clock, so I decided to look through my Polaroid pictures. There were several nature shots, one of Dakota, a dog at the local humane society, and some of my ex-friends. One caught my attention. It was a picture of me, an “after picture” as Jessica had called it. She had taken it the night after I lost my virginity to Josh. I had lied to her about that night, describing a scene from a book I had once read. I never told her the truth. I never told anyone the truth. The truth of why I became depressed. She thought it was because my dad died, which she found out from the newspapers. And I guess I had let her think that. She had sent me an “I’m sorry for your loss” card, but never actually said it out loud. Not that I cared. I felt something on my arm and was snapped back into reality. I looked down and realized I was crying, which made me angry. I hate crying. Immediately, I found my blade and cut my arm. I couldn’t see very well through my tears and sliced a little deeper than usual. Great, I thought. I went to the bathroom to get tissue and some disinfectant. When I was in the hallway I heard the front door close. After fixing my arm, I went down to the kitchen to make a sandwich. The kitchen was empty and clean except for the damn beer bottles on the table. So I picked them up and threw them away before going back upstairs to draw. I woke up Saturday morning on my floor. My light was still on, and the picture I was drawing the night before wasn’t completely finished. It was the boy from the library and I hadn’t finished his eyes or lips yet. I hadn’t been close enough to really see the details. I didn’t even notice the color of his eyes. Annoyed at my unfinished drawing, I tossed it on my desk and took a shower. The day before replayed in my head as the hot water stung my really sore arm. I kept thinking about the boy and wondering what his name was. When I was done, I dried off and threw on sweatpants and a t-shirt. No point in covering my arms, I wasn’t going to see anyone I knew. I spent about twenty minutes looking for my old yearbooks. When I finally found them, I looked through each one for the boy. After looking through all of them three times, I gave up. So he must be a new guy. That explained the library incident. I suddenly became overwhelmed with sadness. I felt so alone, because I didn’t have a single friend in the world. Then I thought of Dakota and got an idea. I counted all my change and money, which added up to almost $300. I threw on a sweatshirt and left. When I got to the humane society, I told Mrs. Kale that I wanted to adopt Dakota. She told me that it was about time, and wouldn’t let me pay for him.
“Seriously, Anna, you two are like peanut butter and jelly. Besides, you need that money for food.” Before I could answer, she handed me a piece of paper, which I signed. I thanked her a hundred times before she kicked me and Dakota out. He was really excited to see me, and to get out of the building. Dakota explored the house as soon as I opened the front door. I went to the kitchen to get a water dish and found a note with a coffee stain on it. It said, be back tomorrow. Nothing like a thoughtful, informative note from my loving mother. Sighing, I put a leash on Dakota so we could go to the park. I figured she’d like that. I brought my bag and my Polaroid camera. I sat on the bench while I let her run around. There was another dog she played nicely with, so I took pictures. She looked so happy. All of a sudden, someone slid onto the bench next to me, knocking my elbow into the arm of the bench. I almost dropped the camera. I would have been really pissed.
“What the fuck?” I said, rubbing my arm. It was the guy from the library! He looked even more gorgeous than the day before. He was wearing those damn sneakers again, but with a red t-shirt and khaki cargo shorts. When I realized he wasn’t looking at my face, I panicked, grabbed my sweatshirt and put it on while I called Dakota. She came over wagging her tail. I was about to put her leash on her and get the hell out of there, when the boy spoke.
“Sorry if I hurt your elbow. Did you hit your funny bone?” He looked concerned and that annoyed me.
“Yeah,” I glared at him, “but it wasn’t funny.” I put Dakota’s leash on and went to grab my bag, but the boy grabbed my arm. Of course he had to grab where the newest and deepest cut was, and I winced.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” he asked still holding my arm. I pulled away, wincing again at the pain.
“Get off me, asshole.” He let go, his face looked like I just stabbed him.
“I’m sorry,” he stammered. I didn’t even respond. I just picked up my bag. Dakota and I walked home, my eyes burning with tears the whole way.