- C H A R L I E -
One school morning:
Thirteen year old Charlie was quite a remarkable child. Talented, and intelligent, he made his way to the top at his middle school without breaking out in a sweat. (Which wouldn't be attractive at all, if you get his gist.) He could speak in several different languages, and could do difficult tenth grade math. In fact, he would be in the tenth grade right now, if it weren't for his own insistence. He didn't want to be the only thirteen year old in high school, and sought out as a freak with a big brain there. But because he had argued against his parents that he should stay in the seventh grade, he was allowed to stay, but on one condition: he would have to take eighth grade accelerated classes. (Which he excelled in anyway, so there wasn't really any point.)
But being smart had it's disadvantages. Every time he would walk down the halls of his school, students, teachers, and adults alike would stop and stare as he walked past. You'd think they would get tired of this chore, stopping and staring whenever he passed by, but they didn't. Often, the very same people would stop and stare five times a day without being aware of it.
Now, any other seventh grade student at this school would love to be in Charlie's shoes. Being given special treatment by Teachers and Adults alike, being stared at, and being worshipped by the older eighth graders. Sure, they admired Charlie a lot, but some couldn't help but think of him as a "stuck up rich boy."
But they shouldn't think that way about him, because Charlie was the complete opposite of what they thought he would be. He did not like being given special treatment, nor did he like being worshipped. (All of that merely pained Charlie.) But, the one thing Charlie especially didn't like, was all the staring. He absolutely did not like being stared at. Why, "did not" didn't even match his total dislike for it. It was more like "utterly despised."
There was never a time when he wouldn't be stared at. In the classrooms, both students and teacher would sneak him looks. Lunch wasn't a different matter, although here, they spoke freely of him seemingly without a care in the world.
"What's the diff?" Charlie had heard one eighth grader say one day. "He doesn't look any different then us, so why's he such a genius? There's no need to stare at him when you've got handsome me over here."
Valid point! Charlie had thought with finality. So why would folks stare at him so much? He didn't look any different then anyone else did he? With sandy hair, and blue eyes, Charlie could hardly think his looks weren't average. He looked absolutely normal.
But he was still stared at. Even in the bathroom. Which is to say, was quite uncomfortable. One likes their privacy, correct?
But no one else seemed to have that point of reasoning. Every time someone would stop to stare, Charlie would have a sudden violent urge to walk over to them, poke their eyes viciously with his fingers until they popped out of their sockets, and demand for them to look the other way or else he would have their eyes for breakfast. (Not that he ate eyes, that thought merely revolted him. But if it was to get the other kid to avert his eyes, then so be it.) But Charlie with held from the addicting urge every day. (To poke their eyes, not eat their eyeballs.) Afterall, he had made his parents so proud of him in the course of this entire year alone. He had done this to make his parents happy. Always, he had thought, if his parents were happy, he would be. But was he really?
He would have to be, he had decided. No matter what. Charlie would have to deal with it. Sure, it probably won't make him happy of his life, but his parents' would be proud. He was doing this for them, and he will have to continue it.
Walking down the hallway one Wednesday morning, (and without a doubt being stared at), Charlie sighed. This is for my parents, he thought decisively. I will have to get used to it.
Whether he liked it or not.
Tyson, black haired, and one of his closest friends, trotted up to his side, grinning from ear to ear. "Hey Charl!" he whispered loudly in his ear. "Guess what? You're being stared at again!"
"Yeah." agreed Zack his other friend, trotting up to Charlie's other free side. Out of nowhere, he pulls out a notepad and flipped it open with a flourish. "I've kept a perfect tally of how many folks were starin' at ya today Charl"-He points with a finger-"Would you like to see the tallies?"
"Near three thousand if you could believe that," added Zack, nodding very seriously. "No wait Tyson, we're forgetting the seventy five from lunch and the fourty from the bathroom remember? We need to keep this accurate for future reference."
"'Accurate'?" Charlie repeated between gritted teeth as out of the corner of one eye, more people started to stare. Out of the corner of his other eye, he spotted Tyson tallying down more tallies with a pen. "How is forty people in the bathroom 'accurate', may I ask?"
Both Tyson and Zack knew fairly well that Charlie didn't like the attention. They understood completely, and had agreed with him that they would feel upset too.
"Which is why you should do what we do," Zack had suggested, one day. "Shove your toesies up their behind with enough force; then they'll leave ya alone."
"Yep," Tyson had nodded. "Works every time."
"Like magic," Zack added, grinning widely.
But even though they agreed with him, (and gave him highly useless advice), they still seemed to enjoy teasing him about it. Although, both Tyson and Zack teased almost about everything and everyone. In the good and friendly way.
"You tell me, genius," Zack replied, blowing a strand of blond hair away from his face. "For starters, you don't see how much folks would crowd into the bathroom just to stare at ya. Me an' Tyson here nearly died being blown over by a crowd that other day while exiting the bathroom; remember Tyson?"
"Yep," Tyson answered, as Zack quickly jotted down more tallies as a group of girls passed, watching. "Nearly died. Folks these days be thinking wherever we are"-he motioned to both himself and Zack-"You are probably there with us, Charl. We have no problem with that though, so don't worry!" he added the last part hurriedly, as Charlie stared at him with a hurt expression. "I'm just thinking that other peoples' heads think funny."
"Like yours?" Charlie asked with raised eyebrows. He couldn't help but feel a little bit amused at this.
"Of course not," replied Tyson, winking.
The warning bell for first period rang. Tyson and Zack grinned at each other, and at precisely the same time, announced, "First period, here we go!"
"Hear hear!" chorused everyone in the hallway. Laughter.
"Yippee," muttered Charlie, his voice devoid of any emotion. Like any day, he'd be expected to be stared at, again. He sighed once more. Couldn't things get any better?
- L I H U A -
Later on, after school was out:
Lihua wasn't exactly having a fantastic time, here in America. She definitely prefered China better, her birthplace since the moment she was born. Back in China, she had grown accustomed to listening to random people on the streets talk in the language she grew up knowing (not that Lihua was an eavesdropper, but she had extremely sharp ears.) Now everyone here in the U.S all seem to speak in a completely different language. (Or 'languages'.) Thankfully, she grew up studying some English, so living in America when it comes to languages was alright for her. But, unlike her old home, she was less happier here.
It was the second night of her stay in the small apartment, and she wanted to get out and get some fresh air. She didn't feel like having to pull up her bedroom window and sticking her head out. She felt like actually stepping out of the apartment for a while, and walking around the small yard for a bit.
She stepped out of the apartment that she shared with her parents and little brother, Cheng, and into the long hallway when she started her search for the exit. She strictly remembered the exit being downstairs somewhere, and so, went downstairs. But before she knew it, she found herself in a cold and dark room; a room called the "basement."
Confused and anxious, she went back up the stairs in search for the small lobby (marked in her mind as "the room with thick red carpeting.") Everywhere she went, she had no such luck. She peered into as much rooms as she could, and unfortunately, found that many of the rooms she looked into, had been rooms she had looked into before. Even more unfortunate, every room she passed started looking the same. She couldn't even find her own apartment anymore.
"I want to go back home," Lihua muttered to herself in English thirty minutes later, settling down on the topmost stair of a stairwell. Home.... it was such a long ways away. She couldn't hope to swim through the many oceans dividing America from China, and live. First things first; she would drown. She had no idea how to swim. Her only specialty was reading; and Martial Arts.
Her father had owned a Martial Arts dojo, back in the day. Now that was to be no more, she thought sadly in her head. They had moved to America for a new life, after her crazy but loving Grandmother had died.
"Stay strong Lihua!" her Grandmother had always loved to say. "Stay strong and eat your greens! You'll never know when someone will attempt to whisk you off this planet!" Thus, Lihua would ask, "Who would want to whisk me away from this wonderful place Grandma?" Her Grandmother hadn't ever answered her correctly. Using basic maneuver delaying tricks, her Grandmother would then stall. One of her Grandmother's most common excuse was pulling up her sleeve (and if her sleeves were short, she would pretend to have long ones), taking a look at her wrist (especially when there wasn't anything there) and go, "Oh! Will you look at the time! I have to go... prepare the cookies!" Then, off she had hopped, leaving Lihua in an utter state of confusement.
Then, she had passed away. Lihua had never been able to pry the answer out of her. But she had loved her Grandmother very much (her Grandmother's craziness will surely be missed), and had grieved for many nights and days. And then, the news:
"We're leaving, Lihua. Staying here in China would only bring back painful memories," her father had explained one day. "And besides, having a new life wouldn't be so bad, would it?"
It was bad. Well, to Lihua anyway. Her parents and little brother did fit in well here. Already, her parents had tons of friends, and her brother had a lot more success with school then she did. At her middle school, Lihua was an outsider; no one truly saw her. To them, she was just a spirit.
She wished for the old ways to come back. She wished for practicing Martial Arts with her father, since her father was too busy to do anything anymore. She wished her friends back, she wished her Grandmother back.... she wished everything back.
"I wish nothing had changed," Lihua whispered, sadly. And now she was lost. She didn't know which direction to go back to her apartment, nor did she know how to find the exit to go outside. Well, she supposed that she could get out of the apartment through the first floor windows, but that would be a bit tricky. It would certainly be painful, since Lihua isn't exactly a small girl with short legs.
"Hey-excuse me-but are you lost?" asked a voice.
Startled, Lihua looked up, and found the gray-haired custodian staring down at her. It was only then did she notice that she was sitting in the middle of nowhere, on the stairs, talking and thinking to herself.
"No... er-wait... yes," Lihua stumbled. "Uh... do you know where the exit is?"
The custodian stood there for a moment, confused. "What? You want a plunger?"
How in the world would the words "Do you know where the exit is" seem to sound like "I would like a plunger" in english? Lihua wondered. Was her fluency in English that bad? She sincerely thought not. Personally, she thought her English wasn't that bad. Was it? She wasn't sure, but what she was sure about, was that plungers were tools involving toilets. In reply to the Custodian, she shook her head. "No, not plunger. Exit. Could you show me where the exit is?"
The Custodian frowned thoughtfully, taking in her words. For atleast ten slow seconds, Lihua stood there, patiently waiting. Finally, the Custodian raised an eyebrow. "Really?" he asked. "Are you sure 'bout that?"
Lihua blinked. 'Sure about' being shown the exit and stepping out of the apartment for a while? What did that mean? There wasn't a man-eating lion out there, was there? If so, that would surely be a problem for tomorrow. She would have to go to school afterall, and being eaten on the way there isn't exactly a wonderful start to anyone's day.
The Custodian turned and beckoned to her. "OK then. Are you coming?"
Lihua smiled and nodded. Finally! She was going outside! How she was going to find her way back was quite easy; she'll memorize the route the Custodian will take.
So down the hall they went. Lihua was always good at memorizing, since she could memorize Martial Arts moves. Martial Arts was second nature to her. Her father had claimed that she had been able to perform Martial Arts before she could even walk and stand. (Which wasn't possible, Lihua had reasoned. One would need to learn how to walk and stand first before Martial Arts, no? Then, whoever didn't know how to walk would be falling all over the place, which would be a more amusing sight then a tragic one.)
They turned a corner, and kept walking. Lihua blinked. She had never been to this part of the apartment before. So maybe the Custodian was taking her the right way.
But before she could mentally dance off her happiness, the Custodian stopped in front of a normal-looking door. So normal-looking, it couldn't have possibly been an exit. Lihua stared at it, then up the the Custodian. "This is the-?"
"You said you wanted to help me clean out the closet right?" he asked, smiling thankfully. "Thank you for asking and offerin', these bones of mine aren't gettin' any younger, sad to say."
How the Custodian was able to translate the words, "Could you show me where the exit is?" to helping him clean out the closet was beyond Lihua. But, her parents had always said that helping out an elder was always a good way to go. Besides, how was she to say 'no'? Thing was, she couldn't. She wasn't at all good with saying 'no' to anyone, not even a baby. (Which was how she lost her wonderful bag of lollipops the other day. Of course, her parents had a good laugh about it after they found out about that.)
Well, Lihua thought to herself. She smiled at the Custodian and nodded, taking hold of the feather duster the Custodian had handed her. Might as well get this over with. She loved this place: it was foreign, full of curiousity. She would love to call this place her new home. But, she couldn't help but wonder: When will there ever be a day that she'll actually enjoy America for a change?
A/N: OK, my first SUPER SHORT novel! Yep, this 'novel' is going to atleast have 'bout three or four chaps... I meant for this story to be a short story, but it's gonna be quite long. :D :D Uh... sorry 'bout that folks! I couldn't contain myself! XD Anywho~ hope ya'll enjoyed! Thanks mates! Stay tuned for the next chapter!