I’ve never got on well at college, not for one second, same story at school, at home wherever I go In life. It’s like I have outcast tattooed on my forehead. Who wants to speak to a freak like James Lichen anyway, then again who’s to say I want to speak to you? You see all these school officials are so used to kids getting bullied or picked on it seems entirely alien to them for someone to actually be alone by choice. I’m not saying I don’t want friends, not at all, I can like a persons company as much as the next, I just don’t see any point in going out of my way to be friends with someone who without my input wouldn’t give me the time of day. I’m not normal. I accept that and I’m not going to change that just for the sake of a few friends.
My college form tutor, Mr.Mackleston has always been a half decent guy, but he never understood my lack of effort making friends, he’d always say things to me like “You still finding it hard to fit in James?”, or “Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll make friends soon James!” without so much as a word from me, it was nice really that he was so concerned, but the issue was that these concerns were completely unfounded, I was perfectly content, just me and my sketchpad in the corner. My mum always used to worry about me not having many friends when I was younger, she thought I might be different or be getting bullied, she dragged me along to a doctor to sort out my problems and at just 9 years old I was diagnosed with clinical depression. Funny really when I think back, I just wasn’t interested in a thing, I wasn’t willing to apply myself, and if a teacher had a go at me over it I didn’t even have the energy to argue, I’d just sit there silently staring into space, with me being in my young years at the time, the school became heavily concerned and urged my mother to increase my visits to the shrink. I still didn’t say very much to her and eventually after several months of attending I was put on a course of antidepressants. I don’t really remember it too well but after a while I guess I just sort of perked up, I stopped feeling quite so empty, I’m not sure whether it was my low medication dosage or whether I just naturally grew through it, but even now, I still am difficult to call normal.
I guess I must have been an easy teenager, I did everything I was supposed to, I was polite to my parents, I never went out and I just kept myself to myself, but my mother could still never quite manage to hide the look of disappointment in her eyes. I know she wanted me to be normal and I tried, I tried for her, in the evenings when I’d rather be alone I used to come downstairs and watch telly with her, I’d eat dinner with her and do all I could to keep her happy, as long as I could keep up the illusion of a normal kid it was alright, I loved my mother and I wasn’t prepared to hurt her.
My mum went on a lot to Mr.Mackleston a lot before I started college, she kept telling him that I have trouble fitting in, and although I know she meant well I can’t help but wish she hadn’t, I didn’t want anyone to keep a special eye on me, I just wanted to get in, do some a levels and get out. In my mind that's all I was there for, but apparently that's not normal. I don’t even know what normal is anymore to be perfectly honest. I get on with the majority of my classmates, I take art and English literature so the people on my courses seem pretty decent, I wouldn’t go so far as to say we are friends, but I made sure to be friendly and approachable, I chat with people on a regular basis. I don’t understand the problem. I have an ok balance, I am not isolated I just prefer my own company.
In February a new girl started at the college, she said she had just transferred from Scotland after her dad had moved jobs. Her name was Plum, she was very pretty, beautiful even, she didn’t have the same level of slap on her face as half the other girls around, she just had a lovely little smile and these deep brown eyes, her pale face was crowned with long purple hair halfway down her back, she was certainly different, to the point where even I, outcast James Lichen was staring at her in awe along with the other 25 in the class. To say I was intrigued would be an understatement, but even in this state I knew I wasn’t the sort to do anything about it, so I tucked my head back behind my battered copy of ‘To kill a mockingbird’ and did my best to zone back out of the real world, that was of course until Mackleston called my name out loudly causing me to peer over the top of my book.
“How about it James you could do with getting a little more involved here, how about being Plums guide for a few days until she finds her feet? How about it son?” I blinked, there she was this beautiful girl standing at the front of the class smiling at me, my teacher was looking at me encouragingly and the entire class was staring at me with a green envy glare, and I was tongue-tied. For the first time in my life I didn’t know a single word to say, I wanted to say “Yes, of course sir!” I also wanted to say “No sir sorry, I prefer to keep alone” but I couldn’t say anything.
“Come on, I’m not that bad am i?” Plum asked smiling cheekily, I snapped out of my smitten daze quickly, I was beginning to look rude.
“No! Oh god no, I mean yes, I mean… I’ll be you’re guide If you want!”
“Thank you James, finally a response then. You can go sit down at the back next to him then Plum, I’ll bring you a book over in a moment.” Sir said to her, and just like that she strides confidently towards me and takes a seat directly next to mine, she sticks out her hand.
“Nice to meet you. James is it?”
“Yep, James is the name, nice to meet you too.” She smiled at me again, she had a very warm and friendly attitude, the sort people don’t often air around me and it was so nice. I’ve spent so much of my life avoiding people I never considered how much I could end up liking them.
After the lesson I waited for her outside the classroom, I’d already mentally prepared myself to give her a tour, but when she came outside she said she just wanted to hang out.
“Do you mind, if we skip the tour, I have a mini map, I can usually work things out anyway, I just kinda wanna chill, get to know people, is there anyone cool about?” I’ve never cared much about reputation before, but I never considered how embarrassing it could be explaining to the coolest girl you’ve ever met that you have literally zero friends.
“Umm… well I’m afraid I don’t actually know many people…”
“Well I’ll just have to have a nice time with you then!” She beamed as she said it, I’ve never had any ever truly smile at me without a hint of patronisation behind it, but hers was so genuine like she truly wanted to spend time with me, just plain old boring me. We ended up mooching around over the 20 minute break period, we chatted and got on instantly, she was really funny and talked to me about her old friends, she seemed like such a nice person I just could not comprehend how something so nice could be happening to me, I was so happy it was unbelievable. Before the end of the break period I walked her to her lesson and arranged to meet her outside at lunch.
I spent my next few lessons daydreaming about the prospect of a truly nice genuine friend, someone who wasn’t all about appearances and made friends with who they liked, not who would get them to the top of the social ladder. I really liked that. She was interesting and funny and a great talker but at the same time, she was the only person who had ever genuinely wanted to know how I felt about things, what was going on in my mind, it felt like someone actually cared for once. It was magical.
I’m not a normal kid, most people in my year, when they turned 17 it was a massive piss up, or night out, for me it was receiving some new art stuff from mum and using them. I have been drunk, a few times, but never with friends, like I said I’ve never really had any, the idea of friends is weirdly exciting if I’m honest, in a way I never thought it could be. She just seemed… different. I didn’t know anyone like her, and I guess I really wanted too.
I got let out a bit late that day, sir was setting extra English homework whilst receiving piteous moans from half the class which needless to say delayed it all a bit, so when I got out I ended up running down to see Plum on the other side of the school, we had an hour for lunch so there was plenty of time, but I didn’t want to keep her waiting. When I got there she wasn’t alone, I half expected others round her, she had one of those attractive personalities people are just drawn too, but I wasn’t really prepared to see Daniel and his gang hanging round her, I figured they were a bit short on brain cells to enjoy even the most basic of conversation.
Danny had her cornered by the lockers, one arm outstretched subtly blocking her path, he was talking and to my surprise she was laughing, a really floaty sort of breezy laugh, although it sounded somewhat forced.
“So what brings you round this way then?”
“Oh, I’ve just got out my first class, I’m waiting for this kid who’s showing me around, he’s a bit late though.” She replied, I felt somewhat guilty for my lateness, but I couldn’t exactly just walk out.
“Oh, well Isn’t this a coincidence, I’m not doing anything this lunch, I could give you a once over.”
“That's really sweet, thank you, but I’m sure he’ll be along in a second, oh wait! There he is now!” She waved at me, I smiled and walked over, but Daniel's arm stayed blocking her path, he swivelled round to stand directly in front of me, leaning down to Plum’s height.
“You don’t wanna be hanging round with him darling, that James he’s um… how should I put this? Not our sort. Don’t worry, I’m sure he’ll understand, he’s used to rejection anyway.” He sneered, I couldn’t bring myself to say anything, I was just getting angrier and angrier, but not so much at his insults more about who they were said too.
“I think I can make up my mind for myself. He might not be your sort, got a few many brain cells for you lot maybe, but I think I’ll be off now.” He took a step closer, standing toe to toe with Plum. He turned round to his mates grinning at the prospect of a challenge, then looked directly at me.
“Oh yeah lover boy, you know it’s true, she don’t want your sort polluting the gene pool, so you gonna shove off now?”
“Oi. Don’t talk to him like that, and get out of my way, I don’t know who you think you are, but I don’t waste my time with dickheads like you. Move.”
“Oooh! Look boys, Plum-tits thinks we’re dickheads! Isn’t that sweet. Look babes, hard to get is a little fun, but to be honest it’s getting a little old now, so how about you just come with us.”
“She said she doesn’t want to.” I chimed in, I tried my hardest to keep my voice even, I was angry, but I couldn’t let that show, I would be calm I told myself.
“Alright then. Off you go then babe.” He said to Plum innocently, he moved his arm, as she walked through he replaced it and she stumbled over him, she glared up with disgust at him. “Watch out lads, she’s practically falling into my arms!”
“Move you lousy son of a bitch. I don’t know how you treat most girls, but you wont get away treating me like that. You’re really starting to piss me off.” She said, her voice raised in temper, Daniel's expression changed from one of amusement, to one of anger.
“Ok babes, you really wanna play it like that? Perhaps if you didn’t walk around showing it all off like some rough slapper than maybe guys like us wouldn’t get the wrong idea, so how about showing us some respect you little tart?” He hissed at her, as he spoke my angry silence grew greater, I just looked at him with an expression of utter hatred. He was cruel and disgusting, treating her like she was a slab of meat. Treating me like I was nothing.
You are not nothing. You will never be nothing again.
“She said move!” I screamed at him, a red heat escaped through my mouth as I yelled, I stared at him with an expression of intense hatred and all I could think was that I needed to destroy him, it felt like it was all I could do, my one burning desire was for the end of him. I couldn’t think properly, all I could see was red. I grabbed his arms and an intense fiery heat shot through my palms into his skin, he screamed out in pain, but I kept my grip, my fingers locked in place and all I can could think was how much I hated him, I looked up from his arm to see an expression of utter fear on his face, he was just staring at me like he could not believe me, and then all too soon I felt like I was being swept back into reality. The same reality where I just burnt a boys skin off with my bare hands. I let go off him hurriedly as steam began to rise off the surface of his skin, I stared down at my hands as embers of flame sparkled on my fingertips, they danced and flickered as if they were calling to me. Daniel and his crew had run, and Plum was just left staring at me, I just couldn’t look up from my hands, more fire just crackled on the surface.
No one will ever call you nothing again. No one.
The voice passed from my head as quickly as it had come and at the same time the flames all disappeared, there were no burns on my hands, they felt cool and normal. I didn’t know what happened, one second I was fine, I was normal and then. I don’t know.
“James…” Plum murmured, I looked up at her, still in a state of shock. I looked back down at my hands, they were normal. It was like nothing had happened, except the look on plum’s face told me all I needed to know. Who was I? Or more importantly- What was I?
“I-I have to go!” I stammered at her, I grabbed my bags off the floor and sprinted frantically down the corridor all the way home.
This is who you are now James.
© Copyright 2017 Rannon Belcher. All rights reserved.
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