Once upon a time was screwed by someone named ‘Happy Ever After’ whose implications were never true. Nevertheless life went on, starting a whole series of new stories. Such is the life and times of a particular Amelia Stine…
… Who happened to fall flat on her face on the first day of junior college.
“Oh my God! I hope nobody saw that!” she said to herself, as she normally did. For it was very like her to speak to no one but herself. She had gotten used to getting no replies, and sometimes was even ignored by her own conscious brain. It could also be because she didn’t have one. But, don’t tell her that.
She pulled herself from the ground, and even though the first quad was brimming with kids – her age and older – no one, even in the slightest distraction, had turned to look at her. While she sighed, waving off her embarrassment, she felt something else too. But she dumped it knee deep so it wouldn’t dampen her spirits.
She looked around for… what’s that word again? Oh, yeah, friends. For people whom she could call her own. But if you want to know the real deal you should talk to the girl in the picture itself. Over to Amelia:
Welcome to St. Xavier’s, one of the best schools in the city.
A year ago, when I left my old St. Jude’s and traded my last two years of school to be here, I thought I’d have the time of my life. You see, St. Xavier’s is actually a university, a college. But, about two decades ago, it decided to run courses for years 11 and 12. One of the reasons I joined is to ensure myself a spot in the university next year. People who do their junior college here (11th and 12th) and earn good scores might get into St. Xavier’s senior college more easily than those who decided to continue with their original schools. These two years of your life were supposed to prep you somehow into understanding how you ought to live your life as a senior Xavierite, if you won the opportunity to.
In the past few months, and over summer, I’ve learnt quite a few things. Mostly, that this place is not what I thought it’d be. It’s not a utopian bliss of success and it does not contain casualties of fun over here. Especially if you’re me. If you’re a person who looks average, with no figure size, and no well-connected parents who can up your grades and buy you a spot in your desired classes, you might as well not come here.
But since I worked my ass off, I’ll take a shot at my second year.
Welcome to Year 12, Second Year Junior College, Amelia.
And then I fall.
I should have checked my shoe lace before entering college. But I know, as I look around, through the scores of people standing there, that not a twit here cares about me. So, even if I embarrass myself… I’m alright. But that’s the problem. No matter how much I convince myself that no one’s looking, I actually am very conscious about the least of things. I tug at my hair as I look through to see someone I can say hi to. The crowd is overwhelming and so is the feeling that again, like all my previous months here, I have become a ‘Nobody.’
And then I see this bunch of girls who are in my class. They look at me and smile, and before I can even respond with one of my own greetings, they wave out to me and beckon me to join them. Okay, okay, I cannot contain my happiness. They’re not exactly the popular crowd, but who cares. All I want is not to be alone. I walk towards them, waving, smiling hysterically, and thinking: “hey finally I have friends and it’ll be good to hang out with new people”… when I realize they aren’t looking at me.
I glance over my shoulder to see another girl, with the same color of happiness across her face running towards this bunch. I let my hand slope down, hoping not even God saw what just happened. I don’t know when my attention droops, but when I continue walking, I stop noticing whom I pass and just try to make it to the girls’ washroom where I can lock myself in peace.
Maybe I should have looked.
My head bangs into someone’s chest and I curse myself, not for the first time, for being only 5ft 2. I’m about to murmur a dozen of sorry, when I see who it is and freeze. I thought the first time we touch it would have be electrical. But all I feel is sweat and smell of heat and then… there’s him. Zeke Mathews stands in front of me. But the way I have to crane my head to look at him, he might as well be living on the clouds. He’s beautiful, with his dark hair over his forehead and thin sexy lips that I dream about every night.
“Hey Zeke!” I say. I don’t know how.
He gives me a smile, and I even think he might talk to me. But he’s carried away by his group of friends. He shoots another smile, this time apologetic, and turns his back.
Maybe I could give this place another try after this.
“Do you know her?”
“Bit weird her guts to say hey, Zeke.”
“She’s probably some first year kid who knows of me.”
Another try? That goes in the dustbin.
I should explain why my cheeks are burning right now, as the little courage I had dies. I’ve been into Zeke from February. I had tests and books and an entire summer holiday to get over him, but if I haven’t yet… then this feeling has to be real right? I still remember the first time I spoke to him. I went over to introduce myself and said, “Hi, I’m Amelia.” And he replied back saying, “I know…” rather oddly. I was curious about how he knew my name, but when his friends – which I may add include a vast majority of girls – started giggling, I ran away from there the fastest I could. And we never spoke after that.
But- But he smiles at me, and if I’m lucky, he even waves. I’m sure that’s not a figment of my imagination.
The first bell rings for class and without wanting to, with the force of the crowd, I’m pushed into my classroom. I vaguely remember hugging Chi, my best friend, and sitting in one of the last rows for the lecture. I’m not at all interested in listening to the teacher really, I’m already bored. I count down the minutes to our break at 1 o’clock and even though there’s three hours left, I’m glad to be back at school. There’s something about reading a book under the desk and sneaking food into the multi media room that is fascinating. Not to forget the mini restaurant we get to dine at for break.
Psychology whizzes past after 50 minutes and I see Chi reading the first book of Harry Potter, pretending to be taking down notes at the same time. Me? I’ve been doodling an eye and the word ‘Erudite’ all over the page. “You haven’t read the book?” I whisper.
She rolls her eyes.
Haha, this is Chi for you. The super cool, witty grammar Nazi, who knew about Harry Potter but hadn’t read it until this moment. “Calm down, midget. Just one thing you’ve done before me,” she replies. And she continues reading like I never interrupted her.
Even habit knows that I like to disturb her so I nudge her, asking, “How long do you think before Mrs. Harlan gets here?” Chi looks at me in disbelief, she doesn’t like when people talk to her while reading. “I need to go to the washroom,” I plaster an uneven smile.
She sighs, “Ten minutes if she hasn’t taken the elevator… Okay, don’t give me those puppy dog eyes; just go before you pee your pants- ugh.” And I’ve already started running down the stairs. Going to the bathroom was just an excuse to stretch my legs. I decide to walk past the MMR – the multi media room, because that would be the quickest way.
What I had not anticipated was screaming. Yet I find my mouth flowing with streams of shrill sounds that could alarm the central police station a mile away.
“Hush up!” the girl in front of me says. She has crazy wavy hair. But for once instead of awkwardly staring at that, I look at the floor. Hardly containing myself, I see a body, limp, the mild breeze dancing with the hair. A boy.
“Wha- What- is- how?” I stutter.
“Shush,” The girl approaches me, a step. “I found him fallen here,” she says softly. “He’s…” she licks her lips. I don’t need to be told further on. Hope is something I carry in abundance. So I don’t doubt the fact that I will push her to check his pulse. But she shakes her head. “No, I’m not touching his body. Finger prints, DNA, you don’t want yours to get imprinted on his.”
I look down at the boy. And I know who he is. And that makes me want to howl louder. He’s Neal, Zeke’s best friend… how did this come to happen? Letting go of the girl’s warning I dive for the body, because this happens only on TV and maybe he’s alright and just hit himself hard on his head. But a pair of arms pushes me aside.
“Are you out of your mind?” She hisses, angrily.
Before I can reply, someone else does. “What? Neal?” That’s Zeke.
He rushes down, gets on his knees and rotates his face from Neal’s to the girl. “What happened to him? Tell me!” He looks concerned but doesn’t touch the body either. The girl grabs him. It all happens in less than a few seconds and they cast fugitive glances towards me. Me? I’m rooted at the spot. And with the feeling that I’ve turned into stone, I watch the girl tell Zeke to get out of here. She tells me to do the same. She tells me to get back to class and forget about all of it, this never happened, I saw nothing. When I make no attempts of stepping back, she gives up and runs with Zeke.
Neal’s body is hard built, worn muscles jagging out. I know he was training as a boxer. I see bruises too. And even in this unconscious fit I see the arrogance that usually plays on his face. Like in the next moment he’d wake up and ask me why I’m staring at him. But the next moment passes and I realize he’s not going to wake up. And even though I don’t know him, I feel sad.
Not as much as I feel scared. It kicks in, slow at first, but dreading realization is always like that. He’s dead. He’s a corpse. I’m standing next to it. I shouldn’t be. The girl was right. RUN.
Adrenaline does only so much… because next I bump into a stone wall. Or that’s what dashing into my principal feels like. Father Mario’s stern face greets my guilty one and I whimper as he leads me to his office without a word or command. There’s no doubt why this college is ranked first. Under his guidance rebels are seldom forgiven. Yet you see a cross in the line, a smoke taken in a secret corner, a kiss snuggled between the shelves in the library. Those are the little things that guarantee your ass being kicked out from school. I don’t want to imagine what standing next to a dead body will do to me.
All being said, I was not having a great first day.
With a nod, Father Mario got into his office and I knew I had to wait outside. The father rarely spoke and when he did, the heavens opened and holy fire would char you to death. I sat, scratching the dirt off my nails and pulling a story together. A good story where I’m innocent. I mean, I am innocent. I’m not schizophrenic. Wow, schizo- what? Someone was paying attention in class.
“It’s no good.”
“You again!” I exclaim to the girl. The girl.
“I was standing there. You think I was actually going to escape God’s divine eyes?” she smiles. I don’t know how she can; I’ve gone all cold, hands clasped together, praying for survival. “I’m Mira. You are?”
“Not the popular crowd.”
I’ve not heard about Mira, but if she hangs out with Zeke, I’m sure I’m below her standard approval of friends. It’s better not to cling to meager hope. “Okay, ‘not the popular crowd.’ Phew! Big name! Chill. His office is not all that scary. Zeke is in right now…”
She nudges me, “Tell me.”
“My name’s Amelia L.A. Stine.”
“Hallow. Mira Hallow,” she says. “Nice to make an acquaintance. Now how do we handle this? Girls on one side and blame it on Zeke? We both can make quite a convincing story… Imagination runs wild in the place,” she points to her head.
“Why can’t we use the truth?” I say. It takes me a minute to figure out.
“Because no one believes it.”
“No,” I rebound indignantly. “It’s because you’ll get framed. You were the one near the body.”
But I can’t get into this mess. And I tell her. I tell her how I was almost suspended last year and one more stain would definitely get me out. I would never be able to get back, not for this year, not ever. And I think I see a glimmer of pity in her eyes, something that says she understands me, but I stop when I have to, and end with the notion that I’m going to confess what I saw.
“What exactly happened last year?” Mira asks.
“I don’t trust you to know.”
“Maybe that’s why you haven’t become anybody.”
At once I twist my head to look at her, sharply. How does she know?
“It’s simple. The way you look at me or Zeke. It shows you don’t want to be stuck with being not the popular crowd. You have to start talking to the right people. And you’re in luck because I’m one of them!”
But she doesn’t understand! The mere fact that I’m sitting here can mean I won’t come to school tomorrow. I can’t pay my way through this. There’s no donation my mother can make that will erase me walking through that hallway.
“Okay, no pressure,” she pats my hand. “I’ll say I did it-”
“Did what?” a voice echoes.
Oh Lord, it’s judgment day.
Mira stands up, if it’s out of respect I don’t know, but I do too. I’m at least two feet shorter than Father Mario. “I grabbed Neal by the collar and banged him across the wall and he fell and he died,” Mira says without flinching. Behind her, Zeke looks at me, and without thinking I immediately leave his stare and look at the ground.
“Great, we should just arrest you then without questioning.”
“Sir, I- she didn’t-” I begin to say.
“Now, are you going to tell me you did it?” Not only does he doubt my words, but also my ability. Yes, me, Amelia Laura-Allen Stine, took down a boy who’s been training to brutally hurt someone all his life. Very legit. “First of all, Neal bears no external injuries. You kids these days, I don’t know where your minds are.” He then points to a lady in a medical jacket.
“Suicide,” she sums it in a single word.
Zeke asks her how and she explains they won’t be fully sure of the cause until the autopsy is conducted, but from the looks of it, the only answer is drug abuse. I see the principal’s brows furrow at that word. I’m sure a new law will be passed tomorrow with regard to this. Checking of bags while entering school or something like that. As if those watchmen were any nicer before.
“Not so fast,” Mira holds my hand. I’ve lost tract of Zeke and I couldn’t care less because I’m so happy, so relieved, everything’s okay and I won’t be expelled. “You’re gonna be my friend, Amelia L.A. Stine and I’m gonna show you a brave new world.”
I accept this! I nod to her and we make a run to the foyer. I’ve never been this hungry or happy or sweaty in my life before, and I hear Mira Hallow chatting away, telling me about the different people in our college. She puts names to the people I only knew by face and she tells me their stories. I ask her, “You know them?” and she replies, saying, “I know of them.” Which is good enough.
She points to this guy, gorgeous, not too tall with a killer beard and lion like eyes and says, “He’s mine. Samuel. Pity that it’s his last year here. Ahhh…” she sighs. I wonder if that’s her boyfriend. But she shakes her head as if answering me. “He’s the king of my crushes.” I was going to acknowledge that she shared such a personal detail with me, because uh ha crushes are sacred to me, but she doesn’t let me and goes on to point to another guy.
“Yohaan, in his last year too, but he’s lovely for you.” I look at the tall boy, amazing body, pimply cheeks and adorable FRECKLED face. Someone I would have chosen too. And I would have completely indulged in savoring his face if I hadn’t seen Zeke standing right behind him. Zeke doesn’t even notice me now.
“Yohaan’s a hottie, right?” Mira asks me.
I nod, but I’m not looking at him.