Another late September day, another nightmare. Listening to Bullet For My Valentine on full blast through my headphones, squishing through the hallways packed with sweaty, hormonal teenagers all scrambling to get to class on time. Girls with long flowing hair, shining eyes and confident posture. Boys with shaggy haircuts, zits, and muscles. And then there was me...Plain, hair chopped short and jagged, dyed black and blue, thin black sweater hanging off me, covering my arms and wrists from prying eyes, ripped jeans, and headphones plugged into my ears to shield me from reality. People bumped and shoved me out of the way, not apologizing, not even realizing I existed. That's mostly because in their eyes I didn't. I was a nobody, a ghost, a shadow that attended classes and never spoke, never made friends, never laughed or smiled. If anyone ever came up to them and asked 'Who is Ranielle Bailey?' they would reply 'Who?'
I walked into my English class and trudged to my back corner. The students whose desks where normally around me had hovered away over time, almost afraid to be near me. That left me with the only free desk in the class sitting right beside me, which I used for my backpack and books. We started the lesson with a class reading of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet", which I didn't participate in considering I had read the play multiple times already and didn't need the teacher to translate every word for me. Five minutes in there was a knock on the door. The teacher stopped short of her line and stood from her perch, straightening her skirt and going to open the door. There was a boy, carrying his bag on one black clad shoulder. His black hair hung over one side of his face, and his arms were covered by a tight long sleeve shirt that showed off his muscles. "Can I help you young man?" My English teacher -what was her name?- was never one to fool around.
The boy searched the back pocket of his skinny jeans and pulled out a piece of white paper. "I'm a new student, sorry I'm late, I got a little lost."
She took the note from him, read it, and nodded, "Yes well tardiness is not acceptable in this class. I will excuse you this once but don't let it happen again. Why don't you find yourself a seat." She handed him a copy of the book and sent him on his way, and his path led him straight to me. I kept my head stuck in Ellen Hopkins 'Burned' while moving my things from the desk beside me, discretely pushing it a few inches away. He sat in the seat and looked around for a moment. He looked sort of like me, but different, more...confident. He scooted his desk closer and leaned over, "Hi, I'm Adrian." I looked up and nodded solemnly, returning to my book. He cleared his throat briefly, "Um, do you know what page we're on?" I rolled my eyes and grabbed his book, opening it to the right page and pointing to the line they had just finished. He smiled at me, "Thanks, uh...What was your name?"
I was about to answer when the teacher shouted, "Ranielle! Where is your book? Why are you two talking?" I looked down and closed my book, snatching up my copy of 'Romeo and Juliet' and turning to the page. She straightened her glasses and said with a huff, "Since you two are so keen on speaking why don't you read the next scene?" There were whispers around us, all the students chirping with curiosity to hear the outcast Ranielle actually speak.
Adrian looked over, "If you say so Miss." He cleared his throat. "He jests at scars that never felt a wound.
But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That thou her maid art far more fair than she:
Be not her maid, since she is envious;
Her vestal livery is but sick and green
And none but fools do wear it; cast it off.
It is my lady, O, it is my love!
O, that she knew she were!
She speaks yet she says nothing: what of that?
Her eye discourses; I will answer it.
I am too bold, 'tis not to me she speaks:
Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.
What if her eyes were there, they in her head?
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars,
As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.
See, how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
O, that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that cheek!"
I cleared my throat and read aloud, "Ay me!"
The corners of his lips pulled up in a smile, "She speaks:
O, speak again, bright angel! for thou art
As glorious to this night, being o'er my head
As is a winged messenger of heaven
Unto the white-upturned wondering eyes
Of mortals that fall back to gaze on him
When he bestrides the lazy-pacing clouds
And sails upon the bosom of the air."
I took a breath, getting ready to say more than I have said in a long time, not having to say more than 'fine' or 'thanks',
"O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I'll no longer be a Capulet."
Adrian looked straight into my eyes, "Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?"
"'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself."
"I take thee at thy word:
Call me but love, and I'll be new baptized;Henceforth I never will be Romeo."
By this time we were both looking into each other's eyes, all the other students focused on us.
I could feel his gaze seeping through me, pulsing through my shield in a way that I wasn't sure I felt comfortable with, but didn't want to stop. I felt uneasy and looked down at my page and in a quiet voice said, "I...uh...lost my place."
The teacher stood and nodded to us signaling that we had finished. Through the rest of class I pretended to follow along and avoided looking at Adrian. When the bell finally rang I rushed out of the room, but not fast enough. "Hey!" Adrian called out from behind me and I slowed, defeated. He came to walk beside me and smiled, "So...Ranielle...Pretty name." I rolled my eyes and didn't respond. He sighed, "Look I'm just trying to make conversation. You seem like a pretty cool girl, better than all the losers around here." That made me stop in my tracks. It shocked me to think that someone wanted to be with me more than someone else. I was the outcast, the nobody, no one likes a nobody. "I was hoping maybe we could have lunch together, maybe get to know each other better?"
I turned to him and looked in his eyes, seeing nothing but truth. I bit my lip and thought a moment before nodding and seeing a smile light up his face. "Great, I'll see you at lunch" He turned to walk away and then turned back, "Um, where's room 207?" I cracked a small, almost unnoticeable smile, which I'm almost certain he noticed, and pointed him in the right direction before heading off to my own class.
At lunch we talked, well...he talked, I listened. Sometimes he would ask me questions and I would find a way to answer without using my voice. We hung out at lunch everyday for the next month. He told me about his parents being divorced and his brother dying, his father taking custody and moving him out here. He didn't mind so much, it wasn't so much moving away, it was changing, losing familiarity. He said he thought that it was going to be hard here, and then he walked into class and met me and everything was suddenly not so frightening. For some reason, that made me blush. After a while I still hadn't said anything else, not after reading out loud to the entire class. He asked me one day if he could come over to my house to study. I normally would have shook my head no but from some reason, maybe it was the look in his eye, I said yes. He followed me home like a puppy, it was only a twenty minute walk in the crisp October air. Once there we plopped our bags on the floor and sat on the couch. He scooted closer and took my hand, "Ranielle would you...Do you...Will you be my girlfriend? I feel like I know you, like we've connected, and I really like you." I stared, shocked, and blinked. He cleared his throat and pulled his hand away, "I'm sorry, forget I asked." I grabbed his hand and pulled it back. He looked at me and smiled, "Is that a yes?" I nodded. He caressed my cheek and I leaned into his touch, "Why don't you talk? I've only ever heard you speak once." I shrugged and turned away. He wrapped his arms around me and for a moment I flinched away, but then relaxed into his arms, "Would you talk to me? If I asked?" I shrugged in response. His hold tightened slightly, not enough to hurt me, just make me feel more secure as he whispered in my ear, "Please?"
I sighed and closed my eyes, "I...I guess. If it's just us..."
He smiled and kissed my cheek, "Thank you. Now there's only one more thing I ask."
I pulled out of his embrace and turned to face him, looking up questioningly. When he didn't respond to my body language I asked, "What's that?"
He grinned and ran his thumb over my lips gently, "Smile." I pulled away and shook my head, but when he met my eyes he could tell I was smiling on the inside. "No? Well I know a way to make you smile no matter what." I raised my eyebrow, and shook my head. "You don't believe me? Okay, I guess I'll have to show you." He suddenly pounced on me, fingers finding my sides and tickling them furiously. I screamed and fell backwards on the couch as he continued his assault, laughing the whole time.
"Adrian! Stop!" Was all I could say, I hadn't smiled this much for as long as I could remember, and I hadn't laughed for even longer than that. Finally he stopped and I caught my breath.
He grinned, "Told you."
I glared and folded my arms over my chest, pouting. His response was to lean down and kiss me. Right then. Right there. For no reason at all. I didn't know what to do, I just sat still. He pulled away, "Ranielle? Are you okay? What's wrong?"
I shook my head, "I'm okay..."
He frowned, "I'm sorry, it was too sudden, that was my fault."
I shook my head furiously, "No! No that's not it, it's just..." He waited for me to continue, "It's just that no ones ever ki-kissed me before...I didn't know how to react..."
He smiled and gently kissed the top of my head, "You'll get the hang of it." He pulled me into his arms and we just sat there. I breathed in his scent, sweet and familiar. "Do you want to take off your sweater? It's kinda hot in here." I shook my head and buried it in his chest. "Okay." The tone of his voice made me feel like he knew something, but I let it go. We reviewed our English notes and talked about the different views on the play until it was dark.
He noted how well I knew the book and I shrugged, "I read this a lot when I was little."
He nodded, "I can see that. I don't read much though."
I smirked, "Clearly." He pretended to be offended and attacked my sides again. I laughed and fell sideways onto the couch, curling up into a ball to protect myself. He stopped after a moment and propped himself up on his elbow, leaving one arm wrapped around me as I laid flat on my back.
He traced my lips and smiled softly, "It's beautiful, you should do that more often."
I looked at him confused, "Do what?"
He grinned, "Smile." I blushed and turned away. Just then there was a slam as the front door was shoved open and smacked against the wall. I jumped up and grabbed my books, pulling Adrian up with me. We opened our notes and sat back just in time for my dad to walk in, beer in hand, and see us.
He glared at Adrian, "Who are you?"
I cleared my throat, "Dad this is-"
"I didn't ask you! What did I say about talking when I'm around?" He snapped, spit dribbling out from the corner of his mouth. I looked down and nodded. Dad turned back to Adrian, "Now, who are you and what are you doing in my house?"
Adrian cleared his throat, "I'm a friend of Ranielle's, we're studying for an English test."
"A friend?" Dad exclaimed, "Since when did Ranielle have friends?" He turned to me, "Did you drag him here against his will? That's the only way I see someone hanging out with you."
I looked down. Adrian spoke up, "She didn't drag me here sir, I asked if I could come over and study with her."
My dad looked dumbstruck, "Well why in the hell would you do that? I sure there are smarter, prettier girls in that class, I doubt Ranielle is the only girl there."
"None of the other students know the material anywhere near as much as your daughter sir."
"Yeah well you can just get up on outta my house kid. Ranielle I'm going upstairs and when I come back down he better be gone and you better be sleeping." I nodded and watched as he walked up the stairs, tripping and catching himself drunkenly. I picked up Adrian's books and shoved them in his bag, dragging him to the door. He gave me a quick kiss goodnight before leaving. I sprinted to my room and locked the door, starting to cry silently. Why did my dad have to come home that early? Why did Adrian have to see that? He wont want to be with me anymore. I took the blade out of my bag and took off my sweater, staring down at my ugly wrists. He wouldn't want to be with me anyways, once he saw them...so what was the point?
I walked to school the next morning, head down, music blasting. The moment I looked up I saw Adrian walking towards me. I wanted to walk to him, ask him if he still wanted to be with me, but before I could a girl intercepted. She was tall, curvy, with long flowing blonde hair.
She walked up to him and smiled flirtingly, "Hi there!"
Adrian barely glanced at her and smiled politely, "Oh, hi. Sorry I'm kind of in a hurry."
He tried to walk off but she grabbed his arm, "Couldn't you just spare a minute for a girl like me? I'm Sharon Evansin, you've probably heard my name circulating around school."
He shrugged, "Sorry, no."
She huffed and turned on her charm, "Look, there's a dance on Friday. It's a school dance so it's going to be lame, but it's ladies choice so I was thinking maybe I could take you."
Adrian blinked and for a moment I thought he was going to say yes, but then her answered sweetly, "Sorry...what was it? Sharon? But I'm already taken." And with that he walked off in my direction Sharon watched him go, watched him go to me, put his arm around my waist, and kiss the top of my head. I could almost see the steam coming out of her ears as she stomped off. I took out one of my headphones and smiled shyly. Adrian chuckled, "Good morning." I gave a little wave and looked down. He frowned, "Are you okay?" I nodded in response. He took me off to the side and leaned my back against a wall, "Tell me the truth. Somethings bothering you."
I shook my head and whispered, "I'm fine."
He frowned, "Is it about last night?" I shook my head but he caught my chin and made me look into his eyes. I sighed and nodded, giving in. "Is he always like that?"
I shook my head, "No, not always. I didn't want you to see that, he's normally out later." I looked down again.
He nodded knowingly and took my hand, "And now you think I wont to get involved with you." It wasn't a question but I nodded anyway. He lifted my chin and placed a gentle kiss on my lips. "I don't care about what your dad is like, I only care about you." I blushed as the bell rang. He pulled me out and towards the class, ignoring the fact that every student still left in the hallway was staring at us.
At lunch I waited for Adrian to get out of class. It normally took him longer to get there since his second period class was on the opposite side of the school as his locker and the same side as the lunchroom. Before I knew it Sharon was walking straight in my general direction, straight for me. "Hey you!" She stood right in front of me, "What was your name again? Ran-something? Whatever. So I hear you're dating that Adrian kid." I nodded, trying not to look like a deer caught in the headlights. "Yeah well that's gonna have to stop." I raised my eyebrows and stared at her dumbfounded. "See it's not like it's gonna last anyway. Once your big secret is out no one is gonna want to date you. Adrian is like all other boys on the inside, he doesn't really want a girl like you." I rolled my eyes and focused on the lunchroom door, hoping that Adrian would walk in soon. "I mean, who wants to date a self mutilating girl like you. Cutting yourself for attention is just sick." My eyes snapped to her face and I felt my stomach drop like a stone. "What?" Sharon laughed, "You think we didn't know? Everyone can see it. You're doing this for attention, the look, the way you never talk, and now you're using it to manipulate that poor boy into pitying you." I sighed and shook my head, getting up to go look for him. As I rounded the table he grabbed my arm, "Where are you going? Off to the washroom to cut your wrists open again?" I tried pulling my arm away but she yanked me back. "What's wrong? Can't handle hearing the truth? Why don't you show us? We already know what we'll find." She tugged at my sleeve and I pulled away, trying to force my way through the crowd that had assembled all around me, only to be pushed back. She grabbed my sweater and tore at it, "Come on Ranielle! Show what we all want to see!"
Seeing her grip my sweater, trying to reveal my secret in front of everyone, made me snap, "Stop being such a bitch!" I jerked my arm away and was rewarded with the sound of ripping fabric as my arm exposed itself to prying eyes. Everything stopped and all I saw was Adrian, standing in the doorway, staring at my arm. I felt my whole world come crashing down as I pulled my arm away and raced out of the lunchroom. Adrian ran after me only stopping when he hit the door of the girls washroom.
"Ranielle?" He called through the door, "Ranielle, answer me please?" I ignored him, sitting in the far corner with my knees pulled up to my chest. He ran a hand through his hair, "Look is anyone in there with you?" He waited a moment and after no answer shook his head, "What the hell." He opened the door and ran in after me, locking it on his way in. He found me in the corner crying and crouched in front of me, "Hey, shhhh it's okay I'm here."
He tried pulling me into him but I kicked him away, "Get of me! Go away!"
Adrian ignored my screams and attempts to throw him off until I finally stopped struggling and just cried. He ran his fingers through my hair, rubbed my back and tried to calm me down. "I'ts okay, I'm here. They can't hurt you anymore."
I only cried harder, "I don't care about them!"
He sat back against the wall and pulled me into his lap, "I know. Ranielle you know no matter what I love you. I don't care what other people think and I'm not going to blow you off over this." I just shook my head and buried my face in my hands. He sighed, "I'm gonna show you something, but you can't tell anyone okay?" I nodded and looked up. I watched as he pulled up his sleeve and held out his wrist. At first I saw nothing and thought he was making fun of me but then I saw the faint scars and gasped. He nodded, "Yeah, I used to cut too." He took my hand and traced the ugly lines around my wrist, "We're not that different, you and I. I think that's why we connected so well. If you can live with me and my past problems, I'm sure I can help you get past yours." He brought his lips to my wrist and kissed them scars and suddenly all the pain went away. "I love you Ranielle."
I looked into his eyes and spoke, clear as day, "I love you Adrian." I reached out and kissed him. It was different than before, I felt more confident, more in control, and I knew that though my secret was out it wasn't the end of my world.