Tuesday, January 13, 2009

[Chapters 1-3] Looking Through Me

This was originally posted here. Because of this, I implore you to ingore the markup tags.
It is loosely based on the manga, Seventh Period Is A Secret. I feel the third chapter nay, the entire piece, needs MAJOR work. I find it lagging and Sueish. Enjoy and as always, click the ads (yes, you) .

Keep the tie loose…

Un-tuck the shirt…Idiot!

Jodie scolded herself for not being able to remember her mental notes. She’d done this for two months now; she wished it would become automatic already. Perhaps it was her nature: to be clean and neat, opposite of all the other girls, wearing their clothes the epitome of untidiness. Couldn’t they realize that they looked like trash? Jodie’s conscience wrinkled its nose at the thought of her classmates. How did they think boys would like them if they dressed like trash? Her eyes dimmed and she sighed. Boys. To Jodie, that was completely foreign territory. At sixteen, she was still shy of kissing a boy, let alone bestowing one the title of “boyfriend”. She wasn’t exactly sure why, but then again she didn’t even understand why the girls didn’t like her. She guessed it had something to do with her look. Not her face or body, she assumed that with an average height and brown hair with matching eyes, she would be pretty enough. It was just her overall…self.

She’d never fitted in. She stood out with her dress sense, or as she called it “dress sensibility”. Wearing the school blazer wasn’t required, but she found it necessary to keep warm during winter. Unfortunately, no one at her old school, not a soul, concurred with her on that fact. They all stereotyped her and, even though she hated to admit it, she fit all the labels she was given. They called her “nerd” and she did wear glasses and study religiously. What could she say? She had big dreams. The thing that she hated most is when they called her “gay”. She wasn’t sure what to think of this. No boy had ever been attracted to her, and that could be a sign, couldn’t it? She didn’t find many boys that good-looking, but the same was true for her feelings on females. Jodie knew that sometimes she over thought, but as she got older, more often that not she didn’t know what to think. She was a social outcast, with no reason to be. It’s not like she tried to fit in, but nobody else did, did they?

Her eyes darted from the reflection of her carefully planned outfit to the clock on her mantle. She gasped. A quarter past seven already?! She needed to run! Hastily snatching her backpack, Jodie bolted for the front door, being intercepted by her waking mother. “Have fun at school, honey.” yawned her parent.

“I will.”

“Are you enjoying it?”

“Oh yeah” Jodie replied, beaming.

“That’s good.”

A quick kiss and Jodie was out the door. Her mother walked down the hall and put the kettle on, at ease with her daughter’s mood. The move seemed to have done her good. The girls at this school weren’t bullying Jodie at all. To the contrary, he seemed to be quite popular. Though she still spent all night in her bedroom, the door was constantly being opened and shut with the sporadic return of the phone to its cradle. Mrs. Barry sat down to her steaming cup of coffee with a feeling of relief. She’d heard that kids were doing crazy things these days with drugs and such, but she knew that Jodie was smarter than that. Jodie had been on both sides of the social tracks and Evelyn hoped that those experiences would give her enough common sense not to be pushed into anything. Apparently the average age for losing one’s virginity was around sixteen, and it was this thought that chilled Mrs. Barry to the core. Love is such a new thing for young people, she lamented, we race to explore every avenue of it before it’s too late. We think first loves last forever. The forty-seven year-old smirked at the memory of her first boyfriend. He was as immature as she was; they thought they were made for each other. And then they broke up because…because… she couldn’t even recall.

Jodie just managed to catch the seven twenty-five bus; her legs ached from running, so she was in the lap of luxury when she slumped in the back seat. She thanked god nobody from school caught this bus; it gave her time to prepare, to put on her mask. She loved this part of the morning the most because she her thoughts of school reminded her of how perfectly yesterday had been. She didn’t lie to her mother like she used to. When she said that she liked this school she meant it. The other girls accepted her quickly, just as she’d wanted, she was even called the “class personality” by some, and this made her laugh. It was ironic, girls used to hate her because she studied and now that very same act granted her a wealth of new friends. She’d spent all of that summer and the whole of the week that she was given as “get to know the area time” studying. She’d bought all the most popular girl’s and women’s magazines and poured over them night after night. She’d seen trends, speech patterns and social habits in her readings and imitated them to the best of her ability. Not only imitated, because that would cause her to be called “copycat”; she evolved it. She gave every bit of fashion her own twist. It wasn’t really from the heart, which would have caused rejection, but born of formulas she’d developed. Sometimes she wanted to giggle at the fact that she’d turned popularity into a quantifiable science, but she knew that laughing at mere thoughts went against the results of her research.

After a forty-five minute bus ride, Jodie got off the bus with a smile on her face. Right now, every day was wrought with tension over choosing the right option over her nature, but she found solace in the knowledge that her responses would soon become automatic. The walk took about ten minutes and school started in five, but Jodie only found more happiness in her knowledge of the term “fashionably late”. She quickened her pace, but she didn’t dare speed up t the pace of a run, a jog or even a brisk walk. She went through the seven periods of that day in her head. First, she thought, was English, then maths followed by science, my favourites. “The nerdy subjects” the voice of a former classmate stirred the slightest twitch in her delicately measured visage.

Jodie was surprised that her classmates didn’t her sprinting up the hallway, only turning when she burst through the door of her homeroom with all the entrance of Cosmo Kramer. “If my name is called yet, I’m not late” one of her signature jokes sent the class into a laugh riot. Jodie responded with only a weak smile. She knew that she had to “play it cool”. She also knew that she was not late, for constant tardiness would alert her parents, and the last thing she wanted was to get her mother and father worried. As soon as she sat down, she was assaulted by a myriad speech.

“Do did you know Kylie’s dating that Jack Stevens, guy?” questioned Laura.

“Did you do the English report? Can I copy, please?” begged Josie.

“Why didn’t you log into Myspace last night? I commented you!” yelled a disgruntled Kylie.

“Unblock me from MSN!” screeched a voice from Jodie’s rear.

All Jodie could do was smile and say yes at certain intervals, not to anyone in particular, she just knew that a positive response made friends whereas negative ones lost friends. She was in no position to choose.

The first few classes passed quickly, she handed in her homework and chattered constantly. It was about nothing, as always. In her solitude, Jodie sometimes pitied these girls, they looked like they had everything but they obsessed over the most meaningless things in the world. She didn’t feel any contempt for them; she just couldn’t understand why they would waste their time. To an outsider, it looked as though Jodie was in her element, but inside, she felt even lonelier than she was at her old school. At least back there she didn’t have to worry about hurting anyone’s feelings with her opinions; they just rejected her by default. Here, a stray word could destroy everything she’d worked so hard to create. Still, she drew strength from the fact that in a few months, she will become automatic. That she won’t work to hide her true self, that she can be free behind her illusion. Just a few more months. That had become Jodie’s mantra; she’d been repeating it over and over in her head for quite a while now, from the third week of her project, in fact.

Jodie was becoming more and more used to the idea of herself being one of the most popular girls in the class. She hoped that it may even garner a boyfriend in near future. She was proud that, despite what she imagined of everyone seeing her insecurities, the facts showed one thing: her disguise was flawless. Even the teachers were beginning to like her. The teachers at her old school claimed to have liked her, which they may well have, but it wasn’t like this. Teachers here praised her high test scores and social influence, they greeted her with a cheerful expression. This is opposed to her former instructors who looked at her with a caring smile and knowing, slightly sad, eyes. They knew she was good, but they didn’t respect her, they only pitied her. Sometimes Jodie wondered which was worse: to be hated or pitied.

The bell to signify the start of the third period rang as the bevy of girls, which included Jodie herself, walked in the doorway. They each quickly found themselves a desk and placed their textbooks upon it. As the noise settled down and the majority of the class had focused their attention to the front of the room, the science teacher, Mr. Kowalski rose from his desk and opened his mouth. When the first syllable left his throat, and as if on cue; the clicked door opened. Everyone’s eyes shifted five meters to the right, to see the visitor. Dressed in a pin-striped shirt and expensive looking trousers, a man of his early twenties greeted the class with a smile and a wave. They knew what he was as soon as he’d opened the door. He was a student teacher. The university teaching course required them to observe and teach classes in their subject at the school. They’d been appearing in classes for about three months now, or so Jodie had heard. They left in about three weeks, usually only teaching one class; that being reason enough for the class to blame their failure on the university student. Jodie realized that there were grains of truth in this though. She’d not once had a student teacher instruct a class as well as the regular. This could only be expected, however, as they were less seasoned. The former of those two sentences Jodie happily voiced to her classmates, but she knew when to bide her tongue.

Almost immediately, Jodie witnessed her classmates enact their usual ritual. They leant over to each other, as though the teacher did not have full view of them. They stole glances at the new student teacher, Mr. Lewis, who was giving it his all to introduce himself. The girls would giggle as they broke from conversation with one another, moving to their opposite neighbor, all the while peeping at the man writing his name on the board. Jodie knew what they were doing. Mr. Kowalski knew what they were doing. The only one in the classroom in ignorance was Mr. Lewis. That was the way it had to be, Jodie giggled at her own private joke of a teacher being a subject, which was another thing she could never share. She found it slightly immature what they were doing, but she participated anyway. She gave him a seven. They were rating him. It was simple really, any male that happened to drift past the girls got a rating from one to ten (ten being “Brad” and one being “Danny”). From what Jodie heard, the reviews were fairly positive. Even she had to admit, the new teacher was pretty handsome. He was slim, with some slight muscularity. His hair was a deep brown and it flowed down to his shoulders. On many other men, the girls would have said that this look was too effeminate, but apparently an unknowing Mr. Lewis “pulled it off”.

“Class,” Mr. Kowalski announced is his heavy eastern bloc accent, “Mr. Lewis will be acting as an observer in the class for a few weeks. He is also going to take the class during the athletics period this afternoon.” The last comment was met with excited whispers from a fair few of the girls, seemingly those who had given him a ten.

“Now please open your books to page one hundred ninety six and take out your electrovalence table. We will continue on with our study of balancing equations.”

As Mr. Kolwalski began to read the first paragraph on the page, an auburn haired girl, whom Jodie knew as Sophie, leaned over and said, “Don’t you find the new teacher completely hot?”

“I don’t know, maybe.” Jodie whispered back, taking her eyes away from the book.

“What did you rate him?”

“I gave him a seven.”

“Seven? You need to get a boyfriend, maybe then you’ll learn how rare a guy that hot is.”

Jodie did all she could to suppress the blush she could feel coming on. She found it uncomfortable discussing boys with others, but that wasn’t part of her new identity, so she had to be cool with it. Out of the corner of her eye she could see Mr. Lewis step closer to her desk. She could tell by her tone that Sophie wished to pursue the issue of boys, but as soon as Jodie opened her mouth, the young student teacher interrupted. “Jodie Barry!” he whispered commandingly, “Eyes on your textbook!”

She looked up at him and he flashed a quick smile. The old Jodie would have returned the favor but, keeping with her new identity, she gave him only a blank, almost cold stare in response. As she turned back to her books, she saw him adapt a slightly smug grin, but she didn’t let it worry her. She always got told off for speaking in class; the one drawback was that she had to do the majority of her study at home. But, she mused, she would’ve probably done that anyway.

Science being her favourite subject, Jodie found the remaining four periods a tad too slow for her liking. She still got straight A’s, she just didn’t find them as interesting as science. Following recess she had a drama class, followed by Italian and art. The last period of the day would have been devoted to the second art class, but, seeing as the athletics carnival was coming up; all girls were required to try out. Jodie wasn’t too good at most of the events, though she had an uncanny talent for triple jump. She didn’t know why, she just understood the motion. Though the event was compulsory, only about eighty percent of her class participated. Some chose to constantly relinquish their place in the line, keeping always to the back. Others complained of everything from cramps to a mild case of gastro. Then there was the minority of girls who decided to sneak away and either meet a boy or go behind the school and smoke.

Jodie was panting and covered in sweat by the time she’d finished her eight required events and she was more than happy to sprawl herself on the grass with some other girls she knew. Linda, who was described as a “hot blonde” by some, snorted to break the silence, causing everyone to rise from their positions of relaxation and follow her gaze. “Look over there.” Linda demanded, motioning to the track.

“I can see it.” chirped a girl.

“So can I.” buzzed another.

Jodie could see what they were looking at and felt her stomach drop. She hated times like this.

“Yeah, the dyke’s running.” Linda said forcefully.

“What a dyke!” Jodie heard some girls behind her exclaim.

The subject of their ridicule was a girl named Rebecca Stevens. She was relatively small, with her hair flowing down past her shoulder blades. She played lots of sports and was attentive in every class. In many respects, she reminded Jodie of her former self. Jodie wanted to stop the girls’ torment of her, but she knew that to do that she would void herself of any friends.

“Hey Jodie,” Laura called, interrupting Jodie’s train of thought, “you’d better watch out for Rebecca. You’re pretty hot, and Rebecca might try and get with you.”

Laughter from everyone ensued. Jodie hesitated for a moment, and then proceeded to join in, despite hating herself for it completely.

“If you don’t find something funny, you shouldn’t laugh” said a voice from behind Jodie. Looking up, she saw Mr. Lewis looming over her.

“What?” she asked blankly.

“You didn’t find that funny. You shouldn’t laugh at what you don’t think is funny.”

How did he know that? Jodie thought with fear, my disguise is perfect, isn’t it? “Of course I found it funny, it’s a funny joke!” Jodie tried not to show her fear, yelling angrily at the man above her.

“Come with me, Miss Barry” Mr. Lewis calmly stated as he turned around. This was followed by a chorus of “oooo”s from her peers, making light of her trouble.

“Jodie” Mr. Lewis sighed as they walked behind the bleachers, “you should express your opinion. People will like you better for it.”

“I am. That was my opinion” she stated flatly, trying to hide her insecurity.

“No it wasn’t – look me in the eye!” he said, lifting her chin with a gentle hand until their eyes met.

His eyes, he’s looking right through me.

“Jodie, your life would be easier if you just tried to be the best of yourself. You wouldn’t have to worry about your clothes-“

“But-” she tried in vain to interject.

“- or how every reaction is accepted.

How does he know this, and why is he telling me?

“You can be happy” Mr Lewis finished his speech.

“But…but…I’m trying so hard” her distraught grew in her voice.

“I know” he whispered as he patted her on the shoulder.

“I’m trying…so…so HARD!” she screamed as a sob escaped her throat.

I’m crying, she realized, I can’t cry, they’ll hate me.

“Hey,” he squeezed her hand, “its okay. Don’t cry. We can be friends; you can be yourself around me. Do you want to be friends?”

“Y-y-yes…” Jodie sputtered as she wiped her tears.

She smiled, really meaning it this time, and he returned the gesture. Then he turned and walked away.

Hearing her sobs, girls quickly flanked Jodie, wrapping their arms around her and creating a rabble of comforting tones. One of the girls saw Mr. Lewis strolling away from the scene and yelled, “Some teacher you are, making a student cry like that!”

“Hey,” Mr. Lewis twisted his neck and raised his hands defensively, “I didn’t do anything. She did that herself; I just told her to relax.”

“You’re a real bastard, you know that?” Laura joined the fray.

“Yeah!” another girl joined the angry mob.

Sniffling, Jodie thoughts became clearer. [I]They’re not teasing me…[/I] she thought with a jolt, [I]They’re rally around me…defending me...protecting me…[/I] She looked up at the scene around her and automatically started taking notes. Almost immediately, she noticed the similarities between this event and their previous ridicule of the girl they labeled “dyke”. The tone of their voices, the sharpness in their eyes, the use small, aggressive words, even the positioning of each speaker was similar. [I] They’re like birds[/I], Jodie thought, [I]flying in a V[/I]. From then on she realized, [I]they’re just animals. People are just animals, and a school yard is the proving grounds.[/I] Her understanding of her classmate’s minds made Jodie smile, genuinely smile. That was the second time in only three minutes that Mr. Lewis had made her smile. Wiping her nose, her eyes still blurred with tears, she pushed to the head of the pack and began to hurl abuse at the adult in the distance, despite the fact that she knew all to well he couldn’t hear her.

She left school that day with mixed feelings. She ran to catch the early bus, just so she could let all of her emotions show. Panting, she smiled, bemused at the way the day had turned out. She started by running for the bus, she finished by running for the bus. She started with a love for the start of the day; she’d ended with a new appreciation for the mandatory athletics period. She’d smiled, been happy at least twice that day; a rare experience. [I]But what made me smile?[/I] she racked her brains, even though she already knew the answer: [I]him[/ I]. Mr. Lewis saw through her fraud and somewhere, deep inside herself, Jodie realized that was what she needed; someone to confide in. “Someone to be yourself around” Mr. Lewis’ words echoed in her mind. She’d only just met him, but he seemed to know her, the [I]real[/I] her. What’s more, he seemed to want to know her. The thought of someone actually wanting to learn about who she really was made her smile again, when Jodie left the bus she was as radiant as the model advertising on the vehicle’s side.

Jodie’s school shoes made a sharp clack on the hardwood as she ran down the hallway. Passing the stairs, she ran to the combined kitchen lounge and dining rooms, in the last of which her father sat reading the newspaper. “How was school, sweetheart?” he asked nonchalantly.

“Great!” Jodie replied with such fullness to her voice that her father jumped from his seat. He’d noticed a steady elevation in his daughter’s mood over the last few months, but such an answer was unexpected. He furrowed his brow, thinking something was amiss. “Are you sure?”

Jodie could feel the pressure in her father’s voice. “Of course, Dad; why wouldn’t it be?”

“It was just a little unexpected, your ‘great’ness.”

Jodie stifled a laugh at the lame joke. “I have every reason to be happy. I’m smart, popular, the world is my oyster.” A smile crept across both of the Barrys’ faces as they were both comforted by Jodie’s wholesomeness. Jodie leaned down and pecked her father on the quick, before dashing up the stairs to her room. “Don’t run in those shoes,” he called after her, “you’ll scuff the floor!”

The thing Jodie loved most about her room was its cool. With two windows in exactly the right place, in summer, it caught maximum sunlight and drafts, with minimum heat held in by the hot pink walls. The temperature system was a double edged sword, reportedly. Though Jodie had not yet experienced it, the former owners said that that room was colder than an “Alaskan well digger’s ass in thaw”, Jodie laughed at that expression, partly in honor of the hilarity of the joke, and partly in mockery. [I]Even if it get’s cold, we’ll have ducted heating. I’ll even drag a portable heater up here if I have to.[/I] Another contributor to the cold was the fact that it was in darkness for most of the day. Jodie always only cracks the door open and expertly slipped inside, carful not to let out too much of the precious cold air. Without breaking her stride, she slipped off her back pack and fell onto the large bed that occupied about one third of the bedroom. Lying there staring up, into the perfect darkness, Jodie let the worries of the day run off her. In her old house, Jodie would lie in the afternoon sun for hours, letting tears dab her sheets and sobs choke her throat. Her father used to hear this, he used to comfort her, but then he saw that it was fruitless.

Nowadays, with her newfound popularity, Jodie will lie for upwards of an hour, shedding her school persona. Her father sometimes creeps up the stairs and puts his ear to the door, paranoid that he’s going deaf. After a while, Jodie will get up and change in the darkness. She didn’t usually like to look at her body in the mirror. She couldn’t explain why, she put it down to mere insecurity. It’s not that she was really [I]bad[/I] looking, she just knew that she wasn’t the most beautiful girl in the world. This day, however, she felt a need to face herself, all of herself. Pulling her second sock off, she pivoted on her rear and flicked the light switch. Immediately the world became full of colour. Jodie blinked, her eyes taking a few seconds to adjust. When she regained her bearings, she slinked over to the full length mirror on the barren side of her room.

Taking a deep breath to summon her greatest courage, she stepped in front of the mirror with her chest puffed out. She slackened when she saw that the being reflected was a normal human. Slowly, she unbuttoned her shirt, flinging the white cotton garment onto her bed. Not daring to look up, she pulled her skirt down with one tug, stepped out of it and threw it in the pile. Scared to look at herself, Jodie straightened up with her eyes squeezed shut. Eventually, she opened one eye, seeing the blurry reflection of a brunette sixteen-year-old shiver. Gaining confidence, she opened up her eyes and examined herself. Jodie paused, all of a sudden, she began to wonder how stupid this all was, [I]examining yourself![/I] she thought with a dry inner-laugh, [I]I can do that in the shower. I know my body, why do I have to see it?[/I] At that moment, she turned on her heel and stepped out of the mirror’s view. As she raised her foot again, her conscience spoke up. No. I have to see this. There’s nothing wrong with my body and I know it, but I need to prove it to myself.

Jodie stepped once again into the mirror’s view. The reflection looked her in the eye. It was dressed in only its underwear. It blushed and giggled. Jodie looked at her reflection. She knew she wasn’t too well endowed, but personally she found herself highly attractive. She certainly wasn’t ugly or lacking in anything. Slowly, her hands reached around to her shoulder blades… [I]Wait, what am I doing!? I wanted to see myself, but do I really need to see this much?[/I] she furrowed her brow, deep in deliberation. [I]Yes I do. I have to. Anything less and this whole exercise means nothing.[/I] With a sigh, partly of relief and partly of defeat, Jodie’s fingers pushed at the hooks, releasing the pressure she felt at her chest. Letting the bra drop to the ground, she closed her eyes and stepped out of her underpants. Once again, Jodie was scared of opening her eyes. Eventually, Jodie raised an eyelid to see the reflection standing there, naked, winking at her. She smiled as she opened her other eye, she was proud of herself for facing up to her fears. On top of that, she liked what she saw. Jodie let her posture slump and pranced about in from of the glass. Despite what she’d told herself, it’d been a while since she’d paid her body any attention. There was so much…hair. She was glad to see that she hadn’t gained any weight. Placing her hand on her hip and allowing her derriere to slide out, Jodie assumed what she knew to be a “sassy” pose. The naked brunette in the mirror winked at her and wet her lips. “Lookin’ good!” Jodie said with a giggle. She turned away and put on fresh clothes. She felt accomplished, she could now confidently call herself “hot” even, dare she say it, “sexy”.

[I]So why don’t guys like me? [/I]

The question struck her mind quickly, and all the happiness of the day was wiped away. She was a clean slate of depression.

Jodie lolled on her bed for about half an hour, feeling terrible. All of her spark was gone. In an instant, she lost almost all of her livelihood. With a groan, she got up and sat at her computer. She always sat at her computer. She didn’t always use it per se; it was just the best chair in the room. With the tower at her feet and the monitor a good twenty centimeters away from her, Jodie had more than enough room to adorn the desk with at least ten books and an assortment of other things. When the computer booted up, Jodie procrastinated on internet sites, speaking her mind in forums, while adapting her alternate self on social sites. With the thoughts of two almost different people displayed in front of her, Jodie’s thoughts began to wander. [I]Should I really fake everything, just so they like me?[/I] A frown crossed her face, condemning her actions. Then, the voice of a younger self spoke to her, [I]Of course! Not only so they’ll like you, also to stop them tormenting you.[/I] A vivid memory of a girl shoving her, making her drop her books and holding her up by the hair assaulted Jodie’s mind. Subconsciously, a tear ran down her cheek. She blinked, back to reality. [I]No. I’ll never go back. It’s better that way. Besides, I’ll always have Mr. Lewis.[/I] The sudden thought of the friendly teacher scared Jodie, [I]Oh no! What if he doesn’t want to be friends! He saw me joining in with the others! He’ll hate me![/I]

Just then, her mother called her for dinner. Taking a deep breath, Jodie tried to calm her nerves, to little avail. She ran down the stairs with her lips slightly downturned and her eyes dim. At the dinner table, which was usually abuzz with small talk at the very least, she spoke little. Her parents noticed her gloomy demeanor, but they refrained from pressing her on the issue, all too familiar with it now. Having something warm in her stomach only seemed to perpetuate Jodie’s sadness. She spent the rest of the night barely looking over her work, just engrossed in her most recent literary purchase. Adamant not to let her mind stray from the story to a sadder realm, she stayed up until one AM finishing the seven-hundred word tome. Raising her eyes from the book’s final page, she saw the time with weary alarm and dropped her head to the pillow.

The morning light streamed in through the window, waking Jodie from her light sleep. She rubbed her eyes, her mind slowly getting into gear. [I]Sunlight? [/I] she was puzzled, [I]I’m usually up before the sun. Is it daylight savings already? [/I] After rummage around her bedside table for her glasses, her eyes descended on the clock opposite. She gasped, [I]Quarter past seven already! I’m going to be late for school! [/I] With her mind racing, Jodie leapt from the bed, grabbed her clothing, and bolted to the downstairs bathroom. Pulling her skirt up upside down and fumbling with her buttons, Jodie began to stress. She heard her mother shuffle past the bathroom door, “Mum! Why didn’t you wake me up?!”

“Jodie,” the senior woman yawned, “I haven’t done that since you turned fourteen, you’re a big girl now.”

“And a lot of good that did!” snapped Jodie.

Her mother recoiled; she was quite shocked at the anger in her daughter’s tone. Before she could reply, a fully dressed Jodie bounded out of the bathroom and noisily sprinted for the door. “See ya!” she said as she closed door.

“Good...bye…” an anguished Evelyn Barry said to the daughter that had already flown the coop.

Jodie didn’t bother running for the bus, she’d already missed it and she’d easily catch the next one. She was surprised at how fast it moved: the bus ride totaled only thirty-nine minutes, a good six minutes off the norm. Unfortunately, it didn’t change the fact that Jodie was ten minute late as it was. She dawdled up to school with her bag lazily slung over one shoulder. Later, she’d laugh at how easily she’d mirrored the girls she admired. With her head kept low, she tried in vain to sidle her way into class with the stealth of professional cat burglar, but her maths and klutzy habits betrayed her. With a misplaced step, she stumbled and dropped the hefty text, turning every head in the class to face her. “Hi” she said with a twirl of her fingers.

“Very funny, Miss Barry” the substitute homeroom teacher said dryly, reaching for the roll.

Jodie sat down in the back, next to Rebecca “dyke” Stevens. “You lucked out,” she said motioning the teacher, “We’ve got the old bitch.”

“Yeah” Jodie was surprised that Rebecca would even talk to her after the way she was treated, “She’s so old the last time she did it…” Jodie suck at jokes like these, she just wasn’t dark enough.

Rebecca cackled, “You’re funny for a new kid.”

Jodie didn’t know what to say, for one, Rebecca’s laugh was truly wicked, also she couldn’t figure out whether the backhanded comment was meant to offend or impress. She leaned over to Rebecca again and whispered, “So why don’t Linda and her friends like you?”

Rebecca was silent for a moment, and then her expression hardened. “She calls me gay, but I’m not really. Truth is, her old boyfriend broke up with her for me. Funny really, I didn’t even like the guy. Personally, I think he just wanted to get with me because he’d heard I put out. Which, before you ask, I did.”

Jodie’s eyes widened, she couldn’t hide her shock. Rebecca laughed at her reaction. Jodie was amazed, she’d heard about girls “giving it up” at sixteen, but she’d never before known anyone who did. Then the nonchalant way in which Rebecca had described her deeds, to a relative stranger no less. Jodie was left in contemplative silence until recess, when she finally met with her “friends” at the lockers. “Jodie!” Allison exclaimed, hugging her friend.

“Hi” stammered an unfamiliar Jodie, who even after months of study, was unable to reason as to why the girls were so affectionate. She couldn’t understand why these girls, who call each other “slut” on an almost daily basis, would be hugging and kissing each other at every meeting.

“Saw you sat next to the dyke for first three.” Linda’s voice oozed dominance.


“I bet she tried to kiss you. She might not show it, but don’t trust her, she’s into you.”

Jodie just nodded, secretly laughing at her inside knowledge.

“What about that bastard teacher that made you cry? Are you over it?” Linda queried.

Jodie suppressed her gasp this time. “Yeah…” she trailed off, breaking from the circle of girls, “excuse me… I’ve got to go do something…”

She briskly walked to her locker and checked her school schedule. Her face dropped, she didn’t have science until Friday, and that was three days away! She spent the rest of the day searching for Mr. Lewis, in vain. What if he hates me? she asked herself, He may not want to be my friend. On the other hand, what if his offer still stands? Though Jodie would never admit it, she was excited by the prospect of having an adult for a friend. She considered herself mature, but no one had ever really noticed until now. She appreciated his gesture, and hoped beyond hope that it still existed. She thought about him again, she’d only met him briefly, but he seemed to be ok. He was smart, his occupation as a science teacher showed this, he seemed to be fair and moral, so that was another plus. In Jodie’s mind, he was shaping up to be a good friend. There was something else about him that stuck in her mind: his eyes. They were a deep brown, when she looked at them; it seemed that they were the perfect brown. She could get lost in them. When he looked at her, she felt he was judging her very mettle, her heart, her soul. Though Jodie knew it sounded ridiculous, but even though she only exchanged a few words with him, she felt she could trust him. There was just something about his look that told Jodie he was a good person.

Unfortunately, after using up all of her free time, Jodie set home without finding her would-be friend. To top it all off, it had started raining. Jodie ran through the rain with disappointment in her heart. She thought that being popular may have thickened her hide, as she felt no compulsion to cry, despite her building woes. She heard thunder from behind her and shivered. [I]Why didn’t I bring an umbrella?[/I] she cursed herself for her lack of preparation. As she climbed to the top of the hill what she saw made her gasp. There he was, like a knight in shining armor: Mr. Lewis with an umbrella cast over his shoulder. “Mr. Lewis!” Jodie yelled as she ran under the safety of his umbrella

“J-Jodie!” said the teacher, flashing the girl a quick smile and repositioning his umbrella to accommodate.

“I’ve been looking for you all day!”

“Really? Why?”

Jodie eyes dropped to her shoes, “You said you wanted to be friends, but I wasn’t sure if you still do…”

“Of course I do. Plus you already answered me, didn’t you?”

Jodie’s face brightened “I did! So do you want to be my friend?”

“I’d love to” said Mr. Lewis as he outstretched his hand and looked at her with eyes that watched her soul.

Jodie took his hand in hers and shook it, officially making his offer of friendship valid. She couldn’t help it; she smiled broadly, showing her eye teeth. For some reason, she just felt great being in Mr. Lewis’ presence made her giddy beyond compare. She tried to contain her emotion; the last thing she wanted was to look immature in Mr. Lewis’ eyes. As the bus pulled up he turned to her, their eyes met, only for an instant. To Jodie’s dismay, he turned away and spoke listlessly, “Don’t hide your feelings. Just…be yourself.”

Shamed, Jodie hung her head and murmured in response. The two boarded the bus and took seats adjacent to one another. Jodie always felt nervous sitting next to people on the bus. School busses were fine, but public busses had so little proximity. In reality, she had plenty of space; but if Jodie didn’t know any better, she would have sworn she was claustrophobic. It was as though the other person’s “aura” unnerved her. Her spine was rigid as her arm brushed Mr. Lewis’ sleeve. She retracted, glancing up at the adult to see if he had noticed her queer movements. His brown eyes stared into the distance. As if on cue, he turned to face her. Jodie couldn’t explain it, but Mr. Lewis looked as if he was moving in slow motion, his every hair landing softly on his shoulder, one by one. Suddenly, the world readjusted and Jodie found herself in everybody else’s relative speed zone, with Mr. Lewis looking straight at her. She blushed. [I]He saw me staring [/I] she thought with a curse.

“So…” Mr. Lewis said comically, “What are you like?”

“What am I like? Don’t you mean what [I]do[/I] I like?”

“No. What are you like, how would you describe yourself? If we’re going to be friends, I’ve got to learn more about you. Personally, I find the best way to do that is see how you see yourself. To gain your perspective, you know?”

Jodie was surprised by question and stammered an answer, “um…I’m sixteen and…nice? I like to read and I’m…uhh…[I]attractive[/I].” the last statement made her body convulse with laughter.

Mr. Lewis chuckled, “that you are” he said with a sly grin.

“Why thank you” Jodie said with a ladylike curtsey and a sweet smile.

There was a silence between them. Jodie kept glancing out of the corner of her eye at her substitute science teacher, who was just staring off into the distance. Eventually, she summoned her courage and blurted out “So what about you?”

“Excuse me?” he raised his eyebrows.

“You. Go on, describe yourself.”

“Well…” he tucked at the hair on his crown, Jodie was humbled to see that he was as stumped with the question as she was. “Well…” he began again, “I’m twenty one…Pretty young, I graduated high school at your age. I’m smart, I guess. I like…science and… reading.”

“You and me both.”

“I guess so. What do you read?”


“Yeah, genre.”

“Fantasy, lame teen horror and a nice, cheesy, romance.”

“Lame teen horror?”

“It’s a genre that… I can’t really describe it. E tu?”

He chuckled at her impromptu French, a deep sound from the inside of his throat, “Fantasy, noir and even a bit of romance. I know, how gay of me.”

Jodie didn’t know what to feel, she was shocked. [I] Is he telling me he’s gay? Should I ask? Does it matter?[/I]. “Are you g-”

“No.” a bemused smirk appeared on his face, “Not that it matters.”

“Of course.” Jodie replied quickly. Later, she would laugh at how they, and most people, spend half a conversation struggling with being PC.

“Are you?” Mr. Lewis asked.

The question caught Jodie off-guard. For a second, the memory of the girls at her old school sniggering and maliciously accusing her of “getting off” to them flashed in Jodie’s mind’s eye. She cringed for a second, “I don’t know…maybe. I’ve never really liked a girl like that.”

“But you’ve liked boys?”

“Yes…” then she thought for a second, “…no. Not really, I know if a guy’s cute or not but I’ve never really had a crush on any of them”. This was only a half truth. She’d had feelings for boys she’d known, but she wasn’t exactly sure what they were; it could have been love, but the last thing Jodie wanted to be seen as was unsure of herself. She wanted him to see her as the mature person she saw herself to be. She watched Mr. Lewis’ face for a sign of rejection, but his face remained unchanged, his eyes staring off into the distance.

“Don’t worry,” he said softly, noticing her discomfort, “take it easy. Try and, you know, slacken.” He dropped his shoulders.

Jodie mimicked him the best she could, but her composure wouldn’t falter. The two each stifled a laugh at her meager attempt.

“You shouldn’t worry about how people see you. As long as you’re happy…” the adult began.

Jodie felt agitation build up inside of her, sighing with annoyance. She’d had this conversation with herself a million times before: whether or not to adopt a “Sesame Street” view of the world. A world wherein people could be happy no matter how they lived and where a gigantic yellow bird can have a fluent conversation with a maroon wat-cha-ma-call-it; it was a childish view of life that Jodie wrinkled her nose at. She couldn’t believe that Mr. Lewis, the man she thought understood her the most, was questioning her actions, “I am happy!” she retorted sharply.

“Are you? Really?”

“Of course, I’m happy when surrounded by people! That’s what this new me offers! I like my new personality!” Jodie exhaled slowly, feeling her face grow hot.

“Just because you like it doesn’t mean you’re at peace with it.”

She flinched. [I]He’s right.[/I] she thought as Mr. Lewis’ words resonated through her, [I]I’m not a peace with myself. I may like my new personality, but I can’t condone my actions. I treat other people terribly, just so a few girls like me .[/I]

“What good is your new life if you can’t respect yourself” Mr. Lewis spoke with a firm voice as his eyes saw right into Jodie’s head.

She could do nothing but keep her eyes at her knees and grunt in agreement. Her knuckles were white, as much as she loathed it; the cliché he was showing her was true. She was being, her new friends would say, “a bitch”. She glanced at Mr. Lewis, who sat still, his eyes forward; taking no notice of her obvious attrition. Anger flashed through her mind. No, not anger, hate. She hated that he wasn’t looking at her, she hated that she immaturely wanted his attention and she hated the way he was right. Mostly she hated herself for the fact that she, only seconds ago, had scolded him when now he seemed to know more about her than she did. Her clenched fists, along with her eyes, squeezed tighter. She was upset that he was treating her like a child, moreover, she deserved it.

“Hey,” he said as he cupped his hand under her chin and pulled her face to meet his, “How can you respect yourself if you don’t hold your head high?”

Jodie was transfixed by his eyes, she couldn’t look away; she was hypnotized. [I]It’s like the first time he spoke to me. He’s hypnotizing me, looking into my life, showing my weakness.[/I] All of a sudden, Jodie felt distraught, tearing her eyes away from her teacher’s she was relieved to see the bus nearing her stop. Feeling her eyes begin to sting, Jodie cast her head away from Mr. Lewis and clutched for her backpack. Feeling her fingers wrap around it, she sidled past him and uttered a quiet goodbye, awkwardly standing in the doorway before the bus driver opened the doors. As the hydraulics whirred into life, she began to leave without pulling her head up.

“Wait!” Mr. Lewis called to the distraught teen, “Just think about Rebecca, won’t you? She doesn’t need another bully.”

Jodie got off the bus and gasped for air. “Why did he do that?” she whispered to herself as she began to walk home. It was a Wednesday, so her parents would be home late. They met in the city every Wednesday and ate out for dinner, leaving Jodie to her own affairs. Sometimes, they brought her home some leftovers, which she would eat over the last few pages of the book she’d start that night. As she opened the door, the house greeting her with a colder air than what she experience outside. Jodie dropped her schoolbag and walk through the cold, dark house. In the dim light, she grabbed the remote and pressed the on button. The faux fireplace exploded into life. When the Barrys first moved into the house, Jodie found the fake logs tacky, but she had to admit, it warmed the house up. Switching the lights on, she fished the toaster out of the drawer at began to cook what she would call dinner. Her mother would’ve used the grill to make toast, but Jodie was scared that she’d screw it up. As the toast cooked, she set up the honey and turned on the TV. At five o’clock in the middle of the week, there was nothing worth watching on. She never really paid attention to television anyway. She usually just read or went on the internet.

Holding her plate of toast in one hand, Jodie let her left index finger stroke the spines of the books on the shelf. Though she’d never let it slip to her school mates, she’d read every book on the shelf, some multiple times. It was easy to see which ones her favourites were. She knew of people who cracked their book’s spines, leaving a favourite, in Jodie’s opinion, ugly. While her well read books were a tad shabby, Jodie took pride in her collection’s strong spines. After caressing a certain spine for a few seconds, she pulled it from its resting place. An old romance, a really fluffy one with an Adonis hero and a deprived lead female. Jodie could not for the life of her recall how the story ended, though she guessed it was with tragedy. [I] But it’s okay, because he opened her eyes, and her heart, to all of life’s possibilities.[/I] her conscience reminded her in a sarcasm laden voice. Jodie also thought she remembered a scene where the hero decided to open the heroine’s legs. She moved the book under her arm with a smirk, taking her meal to the foot of the stairs. At the last moment, she turned around, deciding not to risk leaving crumbs in her bed sheets. She sat on the couch and placed her feet and novel on the coffee table, eating her toast as her attention to the news faded in and out. She saw a story about a boy half her age admitting to murder. She quickly changed the channels, surfing for a bit before giving up and turning the set off. Jodie then began to eat her toast as she stared into the fireplace, sporadically letting her mind wander from the orange flames to other things, mostly her school life. She was beginning to feel a lack of indifference between herself the other girls. She still felt out of place most of the time, and she didn’t understand why they were so happy all the time, but she was finding it easier to mesh. She could almost feel herself on the verge of becoming automatic. [I] Then it won’t be a charade,[/I] she thought with a smile,[I] it’ll be just another thing I have to do every day, like eating. [/I]

Rising from seat, Jodie moved to put her plate in the dishwasher, when her mind stumbled onto a subject that had, more than once, stopped her in her tracks: [I]boys[/I]. She didn’t understand it. All the girls in her class seemed so…comfortable. Jodie couldn’t even stand being in their presence. Even with the meekest of boys she felt flushed, she felt as though they were always looking at her, judging, disapproving. That was only when she met with them, an event which was rare in itself. Mentally, Jodie went through a list of all the males she knew. That was another facet of the problem; she went to a girl’s school, so how was it that all of her peers in seemingly endless contact with the opposite sex? [I] Just how am I supposed to meet boys!?[/I] Her conscience fretted. She theorized that everyone met parties, but how was one to hold such parties without boys to invite? Finally she rested on the advent of the older brother, even though she knew in her heart that only about six girls in her class had big brothers. Pushing those thoughts to the back of her mind, washed her plate, grabbed her book, and made for bed.

A few hours and about three hundred pages later, Jodie’s focus on the novel was broken when she heard a noise from downstairs. The click of a latch and the jingle of keys signified to Jodie that her parents were home. Looking at her bedside clock, she dashed to the bathroom and hurriedly brushed her teeth. She had already dived back under her covers and placed her head on her pillow before she heard the sound of her mother’s gait pass her door. She had no bedtime; she just found it easier for her parents to believe her sleeping. After a night of solitude, she felt it bothersome to make idle small talk for an hour before retiring to her dreams. The noises of her father shaving in the bathroom were still filtering through the walls when Jodie drifted off to sleep.

For Jodie, it was a dreamless night. The warmth of the day’s sunlight woke her, as usual. She rolled a lazy eye to the clock at her side and sat up with a start. [I]I’m late![/I] she forgot to set her alarm and the sun was rising later and later. Luckily, the haste with which she had act made her “messy” look all the more natural. With her tie almost looped around her shoulders, Jodie set out without eating breakfast. She knew it would affect her academic performance, but she also knew that there were no tests today so it wouldn’t have too much of an impact. She was sure that her one hundred metre time would have improved over the last few months, with all of her frantic running for the bus. Today she caught a late bus, she’d miss homeroom, which meant she’d have one more strike against her name – one away from having to spend an afternoon in the detention room. Luckily, the bus was almost deserted. She sat in silence. Jodie glanced at the woman sitting a few rows ahead, her nose in a book. She was never able to read in a vehicle, it gave her motion sickness. Numerous people had offered her remedies, most involving keeping one eye on the motion but, try as she might, she couldn’t get it.

She loped to school, nevertheless, she arrived the latest she ever had. Usual practice among students was to see the class teacher before heading to the office, a detour that signified to the class that she had arrived fashionably late and was thus cool. Jodie really didn’t see the point in this, and she figured she already had a strong enough following so she made a bee-line to Jess, the office receptionist.

“Barry, Jodie, 10B.” she rattled off her details in the order needed for the fastest results.

“Are you aware that you only have one strike left?”

“No- I can’t count to three.” Jodie replied flatly, with the dryness of her tone and her quickness to sarcasm, she could recognize her school persona seeping into her guise. For a second, she was saddened, in the next instant she could’ve jumped for joy. [I]It’s working, it’s becoming automatic![/I] she thought with delight. All of her work was starting to pay off, she was changing. [I]But is it for the better?[/I] a harrowing thought flashed across her mind.

“No,” she whispered to herself, “of course it’s for the better. Nobody likes the real me, and people like this version of me. Being accepted is fundamental to life, right?”

It took her a few seconds to laugh at the fact that she was asking herself a question.