The school bell rang, piercing into my daydream and bringing me back to awareness. I had been enjoying, I’m sure, a Technicolor fantasy, filled with unicorns shooting rainbows out their butts. But wherever my dreams had led me, I was back to reality and had no immediate recollection as to what I had been fantasizing about. The shrieking bell indicated the scintillating world of Calculus had come to an end.
“Remember…you will have a pop quiz tomorrow on Chapter Seven,” I heard Miss Smellie yell over the chattering of students.
Go ahead and laugh, but I swear…that’s her name. Miss Lisa Smellie. And yes, all the kids snickered the first two weeks of school, but then it got old. Seriously, teenagers have a more sophisticated humor than adults give us credit for. Now, she was just good ol’ Miss Smellie. Who gave not so surprising pop quizzes.
I never understood how it could be a pop quiz when we were told about it ahead of time. It seemed to take all the fun out of the surprise. It’s like adults really don’t trust us to do the studying, so they try to trick us with the terror of a pop quiz, only to not be a trick at all. It was reverse psychology at its worst. I pondered this theory as I picked up my books and loaded them in my backpack. Not only was Calculus at an end, but so was the school day and I was glad.
As I walked by Miss Smellie’s desk, she shot me a smile. “See you tomorrow, Charlotte.”
“Charlie,” I reminded her. For what felt like the hundredth time.
“Right…sorry.” She gave me a lovely showing of sparkling white teeth. “Charlie.”
I returned her smile and started to turn toward the door when I caught a subtle movement on her face. I focused my gaze on her and watched as her countenance seemed to melt away. Except, it didn’t actually melt away completely, but morphed into something else. Within seconds, her face had completely transformed. Gone was her light brown hair, slightly round but tanned face and blue eyes. In its place was pale skin that shimmered like crushed diamonds. Her liquid silver eyes were large and slanted. Her hair was now platinum blond, falling long over her shoulders. She was very beautiful in an ethereal way and still smiling at me.
“Is something wrong, Charlie?”
I vaguely heard her speaking to me but I was transfixed by her dazzling guise. I kept up my smile, hoping that I wasn’t giving away any physical reaction to her sudden change in appearance. “Nothing wrong. Have a great night, Miss Smellie.”
“You too. Don’t forget the pop quiz.” With that, her angelically pale skin morphed again, and the normal, average looking Miss Smellie was back.
Shooting her a wave with my hand, I turned around and walked out of the classroom. I mentally shrugged my shoulders. It was not uncommon for me to see people’s faces morph into something else. Sometimes it was hauntingly beautiful, like it had been just now with Miss Smellie. Sometimes a face would percolate into a vestige of pure evil and scare the living daylights out of me. I had no idea why I could see it and I was pretty sure no one else could. But the truth of the matter was I had been seeing transitional faces since I witnessed my parents being killed over four years ago.
Stepping out into the hallway, I looked around at all of my classmates as they prepared to go home for the day. Happy, shiny faces. Just like me. We smile on the outside, but the inside is often a different story. I’ve heard before, courtesy of my state mandated therapy, that we often get so wrapped up in our own misery, we fail to notice it in others. I think that’s true and I’d take it one step further. People try to wrap themselves up in so much external fantasy, they don’t realize the depths of their own misery. They simply ignore it.
Regardless of how others view me, I am well versed in my own suffering. I lost my parents when I was thirteen years old. Tragic, I know.
They were murdered during a home invasion. Shocking, you say? I couldn’t agree more.
Turned away by my only living relatives, I was forced to become a ward of the State of New York. Can it get any sadder? Probably not.
That is, unless you consider the fact that not one single foster family in the entire metropolitan area of New York City wanted me either. I was labeled “a lost cause”. My therapist said the seven months I refused to speak after my parents’ murders caused prospective foster families to be a little “gun shy” around me. Poor choice of words if you ask me…considering my parents were killed by a gun.
I know it’s hard to believe but I have always been a “glass half full” kinda girl. It’s just my nature. Yay me! And so, after seven months of silence, I decided to open up and become part of the real world again. And by real word, I mean I left the comforts of the Presbyterian Hospital psychiatric unit and became a member of St. Christopher’s Resident Treatment Facility. Though my psychiatric issues were diagnosed as nothing more than a deep, situational depression following my parents’ brutal murders, it made me damaged goods and unadoptable.
I stopped at my locker to pick up a few more books I would need for homework that night. Hopefully, I would be able to use the group home’s community laptop as I needed to do some research for a history paper. What kids did before Wikipedia, I’ll never know.
I gave a passing glance at the inside of my locker. It was pristine. Nothing but school books neatly stacked in a row. No pictures of me and my BFF’s. No love notes from the high school quarterback. There was nothing that would identify me as a typical senior in high school. It said a lot about my life.
Not that that my life was significantly lacking. I’m sure I could have my posse of BFF’s and a cute boy to date if I wanted. I just didn’t want to put my energy there. Instead, I put all of my energy into two things. Studying to get good grades, which would be my ticket to college. And trying to stay out of fights.
Weird, right? I was a brainiac. Top of my class smart. But I had a dark side. I loved to fight. And not just girlie hair pulling fights because Samantha looked at Josie’s boyfriend with unfettered lust in her eyes. I’m talking about hard core, knuckle brawling fights that had meaning and depth. It was my calling…to beat the hell out of those that deserved it.
So, it would be no surprise to my therapist, or the school principal, Dr. Tinesdale, that I naturally heard the sounds of a scuffle in progress as I was walking down the almost empty school hall. I believe Dr. Tinesdale once said to me, “Trouble always seems to find you, Charlie.” I appreciated the fact he didn’t say that I was the one courting trouble but rather it came looking for me.
Just as I approached the men’s bathroom, I heard a small whimper come from within, along with feet shuffling back and forth. Oh, boy. Here goes.
I opened the bathroom door and immediately scanned the interior. I quickly took in the situation. A young girl, probably no more than fourteen years old was being held by two boys, one on each arm. The girl was Hispanic and her dark, brown eyes swam with tears. Blood trickled from one of her nostrils. She was clearly terrified.
I noted the two boys holding her were roughly her age and were Hispanic too. They had been yelling at her when I walked in, but I couldn’t say what. I then noticed a third boy, maybe a bit older, definitely a lot larger, standing by the sinks. He was taller than my five foot, seven inch frame. He was also Hispanic and wore a t-shirt that show-cased well-muscled and tattooed arms.
The larger boy surveyed me briefly then turned his back on me. “This isn’t your problem, Gringa. Get lost.”
I was not easily swayed.
“Afraid to pick on someone more your own size? I can’t imagine what a little girl did to cause you to bloody her nose.”
He turned at me with a sneer on his face, baring his teeth. “Little girl was trying to hookup outside of her own people. Decided she wanted her a white boy. She knows different now…ain’t that right Carma?”
The two boys holding her jerked at her arms and the young girl mewled like a puppy that had been kicked.
Then it happened…again. I saw the older boy’s face melt away and morph into something that was definitely not in the “hauntingly beautiful” category like Miss Smellie. His skin turned leathery brown, and his eyes shrank into beady, black circles. His nose expanded and tilted upwards. Two cracked and yellowed tusks poked out of the corners of his mouth. Wow, that was nasty!
“Now get out of here or else she won’t be the only one wearing her own blood.”
He then turned his back on me to focus on the girl. He clearly didn’t think I presented a danger. Big mistake.
Upon entering the bathroom, I had also noticed the janitor had left a mop and scrub bucket against the wall near the door. I didn’t once consider going to get help. I didn’t even pause to consider the repercussions. I picked up the mop and swung it hard against the larger boy’s back. It hit with a satisfying crack against his shoulder blades and actually split in half. He went down to his knees. The end with the mop head went flying, leaving me with a two foot wooden weapon. Hey, that worked out nicely!
The other two boys stared at me with open mouths for all of about two seconds then they leapt toward me, releasing the girl.
“RUN,” I screamed at her. She only hesitated for a second then she went flying out the door.
I swung the mop handle wildly back and forth, trying to keep the two boys from reaching me. I had no plan, and I was not versed in hand-to-hand combat or weapons. I always took action with no plan and usually lucked my way out of situations. My therapist said I liked to “court danger”. I’m glad Dr. Tinesdale didn’t know about that comment.
Swinging the stick in front of me, I hoped to catch one of the boys up side his head with a lucky hit. I briefly glanced down and saw the larger boy start to stand up. He put his hand out on the sink for balance, but then straightened himself up, glaring razor blades at me with those little piggy eyes. Oh crap. What to do?
My mind was blank. I had no idea how to defend myself against three enraged boys–one sporting a boar’s face–with only a mop handle. But before I could even consider a potential plan, the larger boy jumped at me, grabbing the handle with his hands. I refused to give it up, but realized too late that he wasn’t trying to pull it from me. Rather, he used his momentum and my reaction to jerk back, and pushed me up against the wall with the handle up against my throat. He leaned in and put all of his weight against the wooden stick, pressing it against my windpipe.
All of my oxygen was completely cut off and within seconds, I started to panic. I kicked out my legs, not in any grand scheme to knock my opponent down, but because my air starved brain was reacting on instinct. I watched in slow motion as the larger boy angled his face toward mine. With his lips and tusks close to my ear, he whispered, “You gonna die, bitch.”
I only pondered my imminent death for two, maybe three seconds, and was about to start bargaining with a higher being for my life, when the boy was ripped away from my body. I started sucking in huge lungfuls of oxygen. I slumped to the floor, holding onto my sore throat, and watched as two teachers were grabbing the boys and yelling at them. I looked over to the doorway, and the young girl was standing there with a worried look on her face. It appeared she had gone and got help. So much for me saving her. Still, I was very grateful for her fast thinking.
Then someone was kneeling down in front of me. I turned my head and looked into the sad, disappointed eyes of my principal, Dr. Tinesdale, who just happened to be one of my favorite people in the world. He was mid-50’s as best I could tell and almost completely bald. He wore horn rimmed glasses but attempted to be very hip in all other ways. He usually wore jeans to school each day, along with a t-shirt sporting the name of some retro heavy metal band. Today’s shirt was brought to you by the bitchin’ head bangers of some group named Black Sabbath. I’m sure they were good in their day.
“Are you okay, Charlie?” He pulled my hands away from my throat to survey the damage.
“Sure,” I tried to say but it came out as a horse whisper. Ouch, that hurt.
Hurt almost as much as seeing the disappointment in his eyes. I absolutely hated myself that I had let him down, once again.
Release Date: Saturday, February 2, 2013