“Ava! God dammit, retard! I’m going to miss the bus if you don’t wake up!” Thomas’s screams end my peaceful slumber. Groaning, I open my eyes and sit up. I rub sleep away from my eyes and glare at my 19 year-old half-brother. “Okay, okay.” I grunt, trying to wake myself up. He rolls his eyes, and is about to leave my room but then I add, “Could you please get my wheelchair?” I am curious as to why it is on the other side of the room, but don’t question this mystery.
“No! I need to finish getting ready. I’m not your slave.” Thomas barks without turning around. He flips his shaggy brown hair out of his eyes and adjusts his pajamas. Sending me a glare, he storms out of the room, the door slamming behind him. I flinch at the harsh noise; my hearing has always been sensitive. A major plus I receive living with Neurofibromatosis Type 2.
Sighing, I roll to the edge of my bed and swing my single leg over the edge of it. Gritting my teeth and gathering strength, I push myself off the twin-size bed and fall to the raggedy gray carpet that lies beneath it. Wincing, I stagger to my foot and hobble over to my wheelchair. It sits there lonely as ever, the pink shade it is painted with a terror to my eyes. Despite it’s color, though, I push it against the wall for balance.
I check my alarm clock--the actual alarm was broken years ago by Thomas throwing it at me--and am informed that it is a 5:45. I crouch down at the lowest drawer of my dresser and tug it open. I pull out a pair of black sweats designed specifically for one leg. I quickly change, leaning against the dresser for support. For my top, it is an extra-large Bullet for My Valentine shirt, and I complete my outfit with my black jacket and single black converse.
I wobble over to my mirror and grab my purple brush. I run it through my long and thick hair. My hair is the one thing I like about myself. It’s long wavy, resting at a perfect cut-off mid-back. I love the color even more: a blend of dark brown and black. I look at myself and for just a moment admire my hair. ‘Ugly bitch!’ A voice teases, breaking my one moment of self-like. “Dammit, go away.” I hiss under my breath. Now annoyed, I fall back into my wheelchair.
I roll out of my small room out into the hall and to the top of the staircase. Next to the stairs is an elevator we need, and barely afford. We installed the elevator three months ago. Beforehand, I somehow managed to get downstairs using just the railing. However, the wheelchair was always left on the second floor. My step-mom usually carried it down, but then she was late for work. The two of them finally installed the elevator, and no one has been late since.
Once downstairs, I wheel into the kitchen. Thomas is hurriedly wolfing down a bowl of Captain Crunch. My step-mom, Christin is running around, preparing to leave for work. Along with her there are my siblings scurrying about collecting what they need for school.
“Don’t just sit there, Ava; move!” Christin barks. I silently nod, holding back an angry retort that threatens to escape. I grab a banana and slowly peel the coat off. I nibble the tip off and a fresh taste enters my mouth. I chew it slowly, savoring the bite and repeating the process.
“Thomas, wake up Carrie and Rayma!” Christin orders. Rayma and Carrie are my triplet sisters. Although Carrie is identical in looks, neither shares my personality.
Thomas groans and charges up the stairs. I can hear his shouts and their faint replies. The three of them come down within two minutes. Both sisters look beautiful, as usual. Carrie struts down in black skinny jeans and a blue top. She rubs her red eyes that reflect the exhaustion of little sleep, and shifts the weight of her giant purse that holds who knows what, onto her bony shoulder. Carrie pushes back a strand of dark hair that didn’t make it into her ponytail, and sets down her purse. The only items I envy are her skinny jeans. I can never wear jeans. Ever.
Rayma is even more attractive than Carrie. She comes down in a slim purple tank and a cool black skirt, black purse slung over her shoulder. Her blonde hair is pulled back into a bun and brings out the beautiful golden brown in her eyes. I feel jealousy crawl down my body.
At that, I hang my head because the last thing I want is jealousy showing.
My sisters are so…beautiful. Why can’t I be beautiful too?
“Come on!” Thomas screams at us for the hundredth time. I toss my banana peel in the trash and watch as Carrie and Rayma each grab two granola bars. Rayma gobbles down her first one and starts opening her second; Carrie, however, nibbles at the top. She’s on a diet, something our parents are actually doing. She’s growing skinnier by the day, and it’s scaring me. Shaking my thoughts away, I watch as my eight siblings scramble out of our house and follow them, last in line. I wheel onto the front porch and take a sharp left turn, coasting freely down a concrete ramp that we also only bought because it was needed.
As I glide down our driveway, a yellow school bus pulls up. Zemson, and Blaize climb aboard. The elementary school kids stare at me with wide, innocent eyes. As Blaize, last in the line, climbs aboard, the silence melts upon my skin. Which is worse: pure silence as I’m stared at, or being made fun of and hearing insults? They’re both hurtful, honestly. Even so, I simply stare at the children, glaring into their little eyes.
The next bus screeches to a stop five minutes later. Middle school. These kids aren’t as innocent; they don’t care for me. Nearly all of them make fun of my condition. I have learned lashing back insults doesn’t work, so I become emotionless, even though their yells and laughter hurts. As Axel climbs on, he stops and looks at me. I narrow my eyebrows as I take in his expression: pity. I don’t allow this look, however. He has been worse than the kids who bully me: he does absolutely nothing as it goes on. So why would he suddenly start caring?
One of my favorite songs, Hero by Superchick, starts playing in my head and I softly sing along, changing the lyrics slightly.
“No one talks to her, she feels so alone. She‘s in too much pain to survive on her own. The hurt she can’t handle overflows to a knife; she writes on her arm wants to give up her life.” I stop singing because the lyrics are too painful for me to sing without having to take a big breath every few seconds to stop myself from crying, and because the high school bus has arrived, distracting me.
Oh, how I long to ride this bus like a normal teenager, where I’d fit in and not be made fun of. Where I would have more than just one friend. But then again...a bunch of assholes ride this. For one, the kids on this bus aren’t close to innocent. They point, laugh, and shout. Without letting it show, I consume their insults as well. What I really hate is how they not only make fun of the condition I’m in,nuy of my clothes which show my taste in music. Is it sad I am used to their insults washing over me, stabbing my skin, my soul? Is it bad that they are the reason I have no self-esteem anymore? Well, even if it is, nothing is going to change. I only death glare each student, refusing to flinch. Evne as their insults grow loud enough for me to hear clearly.
“Hey, there’s retard!”
“Thomas, it’s your dumb sister!”
“Oh guys I’m so sorry you have to be seen with her! It must be humiliating!” The last comment hurts the most but I again don’t dare to show any hurt in my eyes, in my expression, in my body posture. I am a statue; the only movement is the occasional blink. I am not a weakling like they think I am.
Thomas, Carrie and Rayma are taking their time climbing aboard the bus. I find this weird because usually they rush on, not wanting to be seen with their retarded sister.
My answer, though, comes at once.
A girl sticks her head out of one of the windows. She has light brown hair that whips around her face. Her eyes are slit, kind of like a cat’s. At first I don’t recognize her, but then I spot the mole on her left cheek and immediately know who it is.
“Hi. My. Name. Is. Jessica. Do. You. Understand?” She calls out, laughing when she finishes. Cheers and high-fives reply to her statement.
My best friend in elementary school; that is, up until fifth grade. Fifth grade was when I started having a lot of surgeries. Fifth grade was the year my leg was amputated; the year I received a wheelchair because I could no longer walk. Fifth grade was the year my life changed—forever.
What happened to the Jessica I know? What happened to Jessica; the one who always stood by my side and defended me when kids began questioning my constant absence. Where’s the girl who used to wear glasses and help anyone, no matter who they were? The one who would never, in her life, tease someone about this kind of thing?
What happened to Jessie, my best friend?
The bus leaves, with her still laughing and everyone still pointing. With me sitting here, on the driveway, alone.
My thoughts trail from Hero to Jessica. I think about how she has hurt me so much, and how she continues to do it. How it’s not only her, but everyone who is constantly hurting me.
I pull my hood over me and keep it there until my bus finally reaches my stop. It’s slightly bigger than the others, and bears the number 123. Which, of course, doesn’t help my situation at all.
The bus halts and as thick smoke rises out of the engine, a door opens toward the back and a heavy metal ramp clanks to the asphalt.
“Hey sweetie, how are you doing?” The bus driver, Amy, asks as she steps down the ramp. Amy is black with thick and curly dark hair and really pretty brown eyes. She’s one of the nicest people I know.
“Okay, thanks for asking. You?” I answer, forcing a smile. Amy grins and says, “Fabulous Thanks.” Her eyes are too happy, her smile too real. Unlike me, where I have eyes full of hatred, eyes painted with misery, and a fake smile. Somehow she is oblivious to it all.
I don’t mind, though.
Amy helps me up the ramp and into the bus. Although it’s not as long on the outside, the bus is wide on the inside. It was built to hold large things such as wheelchairs. I slide into a green leather seat and help secure my wheelchair underneath. With a nod, Amy heads up to the driver’s seat and I buckle myself. She looks back, checking that I’m secure, and starts the bus. With a huff, the vehicle starts and we’re off.
I turn to my right, facing the seat beside me. My friend Jerry is occupying the seat. He is a really hot junior; a bonus to me knowing him.
Jerry is in the Special Needs class for a few reasons. The first is because of his autism, which has mostly gone away, but is apparently still bad enough to keep him here. The main reason now though, is because of a car wreck he was in a couple of years ago. He lost his younger step-sister and older birth sister, and as for Jerry, he received temporary amnesia, lost sight partially in one eye, and suffers from brain damage. Chances are he might be out for his senior year if he keeps up the therapy. The damage done to his brain was mild, but he had medical attention right away, which has helped majorly.
Not only that, but when he was ten, Jerry lost his birth father. He lived with his step-mom, and younger twin siblings Carla and Brian, for a while before the police found out the two were abused. After a long trial, their aunt took them in. However, his brother was suicidal; only months after they were taken in, did Jerry and his aunt find Zack lying in a pool of blood, throat sliced open and knife in hand.
Jerry’s life hasn’t been fun, and he suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I really feel for the poor kid, too. The students don’t even know what he’s been through and yet they judge him because he’s in this class.
“Hey Jerry,” I greet. Jerry looks up from the book he’s reading and his expression lights up. At that, joy soars through my heart. He’s happy to see me! I smile softly as my best friend flips back messy black skater hair and sends a friendly smile in my direction.
“Hey what’s up, Ava?” He replies. His speech is slightly slurred; a side effect of brain damage. He closes the book and tilts his head sideways. Just a bit.
“Oh, you know. The usge,” I shrug. Jerry nods, understanding what the “usge” actually is and shifts in his seat. That’s when a spasm starts. He holds his head as his body shakes and I watch the book plummet to the bus floor. I bite my lip, making the decision to help position Jerry. I unbuckle and pull myself up. However, when the bus flies over a speed bump, I find myself in Jerry’s lap. Embarrassed, I scramble to the empty space beside him and adjust his position. Two minutes pass by, and then Jerry sinks back into reality.
“Thanks, Ava.” He mutters. He looks slightly embarrassed, and I understand. Spasms are something he is unable to control, and he hates not being in control. I smile and hug him.
“No prob.” I meet his eyes and for a moment, it feels like time has paused. Jerry’s eyes won’t look away, and for a second, it looks like he is about to kiss me. My eyes widen as he leans in, but then the moment shatters when Amy shouts that we are at school.
Probably blushing, I turn away. And you thought he would kiss you! Ha, you are such a naïve fool Ava. Jerry doesn’t like you like that. You aren’t good enough for him—or anyone for that matter. A voice sneers and then I hear multiple voices laughing. I want to curl up because it is such torture to listen to them. However, the laughter fades away when the bus screeches to a stop.
The bus parks in the usual spot-close enough to the school so Jerry, I and all the other kids can get out easier. After a few minutes, the other buses arrive and let the high schoolers off. Once those buses leave, my bus releases us. Jerry helps into my wheelchair and I roll down the ramp.
“Have a good day, sweetie!” Amy says as she climbs back onto the bus to assist the other riders off. I wave goodbye to her-also a thank you gesture-and begin my way toward the large building.
Weston Florida High School, or WFS as everyone calls it, is eight-story brick building.
See the school board, which was also the one that confirmed I should be in the Special-Needs class, decided to combine Elementary, Middle, and High into one school. Most of the kids in my medium-sized town go here, and more attend each year as the town continues to grow. A smaller town nearby also uses this as their school.
These brainless decisions result in far too many kids. It is insanely crowded and apart from elementary, there are about 30 kids in every main class. There are also two or three kids per seat on each bus, as my siblings claim. It is so bad that we need three separate buses to take each level to the same school. The guy who came up with this idea really deserves a punch in the face.
What’s worse is both the towns are growing bigger and bigger as the years pass on, and the school board is still refusing to connect a new building. The reason they won’t is because our school is extremely poor, and does nothing to earn more money.
There are 5,997 kids that come to this school. Out of all the students there are only ten kids, including Jerry and I that “qualify” to be in the Special-Ed class. What is sad is the fact that basically no one likes anyone in the class. Their minds have been raped of what is ‘cool’, and they don’t even want to get to know us.
Lost in thought, I coast along the sidewalk. Out of nowhere there is a crash of thunder and cold raindrops begin splattering on my head. I allow them though because they are clean, fresh, welcoming.
Heavy footsteps sound from behind and I twist around to see who it was. My eyes set upon Jerry…holding my backpack. Whoops.
“Oopsies, must’ve forgotten that. Sorry.” I give an embarrassed smile and a nod of thanks.
“It’s fine, Ava. We’re going to the same place anyways.” My friend assures me. I was about to reply when he adds in a worried, voice “Watch it!” I am jerked to a stop and then released, spinning wildly and then landing in a patch of grass.
“What the hell was that-“ I stop short as I realize Jerry had saved me from crashing into the brick wall. Mortified at my outburst, I sneak a peek at my black-haired friend. He is looking down, failure clear in his dark eyes.
Nice going. You know he’s extra sensitive given his mom abused him. And yet…you still screw up.
“Sorry ‘bout that…you s-saved me Jerry. Thanks.” I mumble. I roll to the door and grab it, swinging it open. Still uncomfortable, I enter and desperately hope that I will lose him.
I cast away, trying to melt myself in with the busy hallways of teenagers trying to move about. Unfortunately, Jerry has to be 6’2 and has a clear view of me. He is shouting my name, trying to give my bag. Normally, I would turn around and let him do so. However, I’m still humiliated, so I pretend I’m deaf. Finally, I reach my destination—the elevator. I push the dark button and it lights up. Just like my elevator at home, there’s a ‘ding’ as the silver doors slide open. I go in and the doors shut. This elevator is nothing special. There’s a dirty hardwood floor, and shiny but filthy gray walls. There’s all the buttons a regular elevator would have, including the emergency one.
I press on the button labeled ‘5’ and its silent for a second, and then the elevator jerks upward. As I sit in silence, the lead singer’s voice of Superchick floats back into my ears. Once again, the lyrics are from Hero and probably my least favorite line because they fit so well. I sing softly, barely noticing the elevator stall, as it always does on my way up.
“It’s not like you hate her, or want her to die. But maybe she goes home and thinks suicide….” Again, I am too choked up to continue singing. Instead, I roll up the left sleeve of my black, ripped up guy’s jacket and press one of my fingers against my wrist. Very faint bumps line up along my wrist and forearm. I can make out ugly, reddish slashes, slashes from my most recent “session”. Thin white scars are visible from past cuts that happened months, even a years ago. I think about the switchblade I stole from Thomas’s room and how it has helped me release my emotions for the past four years. Cutting has been an escape for me, and I fear it always will be. The worst part is no one knows. Jerry may be my best friend, but even he doesn’t know my secret. He knows I’m depressed but he lacks knowledge in the area that I’m suicidal and a self-injurer. I honestly hope to keep it that way. No one needs to worry about me.
No one truly cares or even understands what is really going on. Not a single soul knows or seems to suspect what exactly I might do alone in my room. Jerry is the closest friend I’ve ever had and I constantly feel like I’m going to lose him. Jessica was never a true friend—she ended our friendship the second day of sixth grade. I want, more than anything, more than the ability to run, to have a true girl friend, one who will never leave me. I long for a best friend who I can stay up late at night with talking about anything and everything. Every girl deserves a friend who isn’t afraid to talk to her in public, who loves her because of who she is, not for how much money she has, or what clothes she owns. Jerry understands my want; after all, the same goes for every guy deserving a best guy friend. Jerry and I will always be best friends, but we do have our desires.
After all, we are human beings too. We want to be treated like one, not freaks!
I narrow my eyes, focusing more intensely at my wrist. There are a multiple slashes on my wrist, but along my forearm is a different story. Instead of jagged, crooked lines they’re words.
The words are uneven and overlap one another. Despite their rough script, though, I don’t have trouble detecting each letter, forming the words. The elevator stops and I come back into reality. I quickly cover the markings up as the doors slide open, and I am met with a sea of teenagers. The bell rings and they scurry to class. I wheel out in the middle of the chaos, and go the side. Within a minute, the hallways are empty. I head for my locker, wishing this day was already over.
“Jesus Ava. You need your bag!” I instantly recognize Jerry’s voice. I turn my wheelchair around and my heart stops for a second. I struggle to catch my breath, but what I’m looking at is so breath-taking it’s impossible to do so.
Jerry’s jet-black hair is slicked back, damp with sweat, which is dripping down his face. His jacket is off, revealing the plain black short-sleeved shirt he’s wearing which is stuck to his chest, also moist with sweat. His arm and chest muscles ripple with masculinity. I get the feeling he had run up the stairs just for me. Any girl seeing him would agree that he is, in this moment, just plain sexy.
I slowly reach out and barely pay attention as I’m handed my backpack.
“Th-thanks,” I splutter, not taking my eyes off of him.
Jerry smiles sexily and nods his head. He starts heading for the stairs, where he will go two floors up, with other juniors. He has two classes and then we spend the rest of the day together.
“Whoa. Why the hell did you just talk to re-ah-tard, Jerry?” Someone snaps, her loud voice projecting throughout the hall. That someone is known as Ugh, AKA Bella Priston. She is a prissy, annoying freshman who happens to hate both of us intensely. Why she bothers talking to us I’ll never understand. After all, she has made it clear she loathes us both.
Bella stomps up to me, her four-inch blue high heels clacking as she does. She has long, thick, hazelnut brown hair and brilliant green eyes, complete with a slender figure. Today, the Queen of Prissy Girls is wearing a stomach-showing blue sweater, an annoyingly long matching blue skirt, and a blue arm glove. Someone wanted to be Princess Blue today.
“Fuck off priss!” I snap. My voice is only loud enough for her and Jerry to hear.
“Shut it retard. Go to your stupid class already.” Bella replies calmly. She is unaffected by my anger.
“Why don’t you just get the hell away from me? I’m not in the fucking mood to talk to a slut like you. If you hate us so much, don’t waste our time talking to us.” My voice is laced with venom, and my hands are clenched in fists.
Bella then skitters across the hall to where I am sitting. She attempts to slap my face but I shove her away before she can.
“I don’t want to fight. But I will.” I tell her through clenched teeth. She raises her eyebrows; the disbelief is clear in her expression as well as a challenge to fight. I smirk, accepting her offer.
Gaining strength, I stand up. Ugh is standing only a foot away from me so I have no trouble striking her across the cheek. Bella yelps and staggers backward, crashing into a line of lockers. She has her hand up to her face, a fuming glint in her eyes. “
Oh yeah? Well…I can hit you!” Bella informs me. Her voice is pathetically tough; I had heard she was in karate but as of right now, I refuse to believe such a rumor.
I snort. “Okay, it’s on. Hit me. But this time, actually meet your target.” I lean against a locker for support and cross my arms.
“Ava…”Jerry trails off, unsure of my decision. I know he’s worried about my safety but I will live. After all, I have fallen before.
I send my friend an, “I’ll be fine. She can’t beat me.” look and turn back to Bella.
The Queen of Annoyance is unproductively looking tough as she first backs up a few yards, then charges toward me. I brace myself in case I lose balance and fall. When she’s within arm length, I strike a blow to her chest. The brown-haired girl stumbles back but quickly gains balance and scuttles back toward me. Her arm lashes out and brushes my face. I instinctively snatch it and resisting every urge to just snap her arm in half, pull it toward me and twist it behind her back. She lurches forward, her face next to mine. Shaking in anger, I whisper in her ear, “I may be in a wheelchair, bitch, but I can fight. I have to deal with you ever singly day and for the next four years, so be lucky if by time we graduate you aren’t dead or in several casts. Now do us all a favor and leave. Neither Jerry or I like you, and nothing will ever change that. Got that?”
I glare into Bella’s eyes, searching for her reaction, and find it easily: Fear.
“Answer me already, or I’ll snap your arm.” I threaten, tightening my grip on her arm.
“O-okay. Let me go or I can’t leave.” Bella whimpers. I roll my eyes, let go, and shove her away. She falls onto the floor, glances up at me one last time, and dashes away.
“Ava, that was brilliant.” I glance behind me. Jerry’s looking at me with a smile that could light up a whole room. Then, without warning, he walks forward and pulls me into a bear hug. Jerry’s not a fat guy, but he has the body of a football player and that is just fine with me. I lay my head against his chest as his arms wrap around my torso. Breathing in my ear, he rests his head on my shoulder. Again, I feel the excitement between us. I think he senses it, too, because he keeps moving, as though he wants to do something.
After a couple of minutes, we break apart. I hobble to my wheelchair, give Jerry a weak nod and wheel to my locker. Jerry heads off, a grim smile plastered onto his face. Even though I’m smiling on the outside, I’m frowning on the inside because something feels wrong. If he wants to kiss me, why won’t he? I shake my head, pushing the thought away. Maybe a couple hours apart is just what we need to break the uncomfortable tension that had settled upon us. Despite that, I look forward to each class with him: Physical Therapy, Algebra 2, and AP Chemistry, a mainstream class
I am the youngest student in the whole school that’s in AP Chemistry. The teacher, Mrs. Abbot, along with a few others, have tried to place me in an even higher science class that seniors would be taking. Even I know I should make it in-I’m gifted in general in the science area, and Chemistry really seems to be my strong spot. The problem is, though, every time we try, the people glance at my wheelchair. For whatever reason, I’m then immediately judged and turned down without even the test.
I really hate people for this reason. Society is so messed up that they judge on the outside without looking on the inside. It really bugs me because I could be much further then where I am…I guess that’ll never happen, though. I’ve learned to accept this because it really is useless to have them accept me for who I really am. They never have, never will. Society is too damn stupid to do that.