You have no idea how terrified I am right now. I don't like posting ANYTHING without at least attempting to tweak it to perfection. But not today. This first chapter is totally raw and untouched.
TALES OF MORCAH, Ch. 1
Too many people in the world walked around trying to be different—unique—and none of them actually knew what it meant. As I stared at my reflection in the passenger side window, going down the last street to my first day of high school, my mom humming along with the song on the radio, I was all too aware of what it did mean.
I shook my head.
This year would be different. Middle school was over and all the stigma that went along with it. Right? Maybe not.
I pulled out my hot pink barrette and fluffed my hair around my face. The other classmates wouldn’t be as shocked if my eyes were partially hidden. But then as the wisps of snow white hair fell in my periphery vision, I decided to pull all the strands back again. There was no way to limit the shock.
I groaned and slumped down in my seat, letting the seat belt snag at my jaw-line. This was going to be a nightmare.
“Lilly, honey,” Samantha Grey—aka my mom—turned down the radio and started in on one of her many speeches. “This is new for everyone. I’m sure you’ll find your classmates have matured over the summer. They’ve got far better things to do than taunt you.”
Yeah, that’s what Mom had been saying for the last four years or so. So far, no one’s matured.
As we pulled into the school parking lot and I caught sight of Eric Greene fooling around right outside the doors with his stereotypically beautiful brunette and bubbly girlfriend, Sarah Hutchins, anxiety set in. These two had been the king and queen of the tormentor gang. Just seeing them made my heart pulse overtime, and I would have to walk past them to get into the building.
I had to remind myself over and over that it had been two years since I’d seen them—they were juniors now—and they likely didn’t even remember their sweet little name for me. So why did it feel like I’d seen them only yesterday? Why was my heart pounding in my ear drums?
I gripped the door handle, not even close to being ready to step out and face this, but eager to get away from the worried eyes of my mother boring holes into my head. She didn’t need to say a word for me to feel her own growing anxiety. She talked a big game, but I knew she was terrified for me. Ever since I’d been put on that suicide watch three years ago, her words had been overly sweet and optimistic, but her eyes and attitude belied her true feelings. If she could take me away from this, she would have already.
But sadly, the world wasn’t rife with people like me and anyone who was different was usually cast off from society. Maybe if we’d had some money, I could have bought my friends like Sarah Hutchins, but I suspected it would take a lot of money to make people ignore just how different I was.
I smoothed my hair behind me ears and got out of the car. My mom started to say goodbye, but I closed the door before she finished with the “I love yous.” I just wasn’t in the mood. My mom was really the only thing I had in this world and I hated that I had to spend most of my days without her. It was better to get it over with, rip through the goodbyes like a bandaid. I’d see her later. Much later.
The air was still warm, so I didn’t wear a jacket, but I pulled the sleeves of my shirt down for reasons other than the weather. There were a few hundred kids who’d never seen me before who I preferred not to shock immediately. It just made it easier on everyone if most of my body was covered. There were some things I couldn’t hide, though. I sighed.
Sarah and Eric were still too lost in their own make out world to notice me reaching for the front door. I was going to luck out. Maybe I’d have a chance to make a few friends before their name for me stuck.
Blood rushed up to my face as all hope fizzled away into a gory death. I slicked my hair behind my ear and turned to Eric. “Hi,” I squeaked.
He was leaning against the blood orange brick wall of the building, away from Sarah, and staring at me with a devilish grin. After roving his eyes all over my body for a very uncomfortable few seconds, his gaze finally rested on my eyes. He cringed and my face fell.
Up until two and a half months ago, I’d been wearing contacts to hide the pink tint to my eyes. Up until two and a half months ago, my mom had a job where she could afford to buy me a little relief from the world’s scorn. Now, though, everyone would see the full extent of what I was: an albino freak.
Sarah’s lip curled into a disgusted sneer. “Freak,” she mouthed.
Yeah, tell me about it. I turned away and walked into the front foyer of the school. A few groups of kids hovered around the walls, but I kept my head down and ignored them. No doubt, these would be the first wave to pick up my nickname the moment Eric and Sarah entered the building. From there, every kid in Bethlehem Central would know it and whisper it behind my back by the end of the day.
I pulled my schedule out of my pocket and pretended to be busy. Maybe if they thought I didn’t care about them, no one would bother me for the next four years. Homeroom was in the English wing with Ms. Summers. All the way on the other side of the building, past swarms of students. So much for ignoring everyone. I just hoped the buses hadn’t unloaded its cargo yet.
I adjusted the strap of my turquoise satchel and plowed through the halls without ever really looking to see what was around me. Mostly I saw a lot of shoes. Sneakers, black pumps, ballet flats. All of them new and shiny. I looked down at my old, ratty ballet flats and bit my lip. Skipping the annual August school clothes shopping was just one of the many sacrifices I’d had to make since my mom had to settle for a teacher’s aide position. Luckily, I’d held steady at a whopping 5’5” since fifth grade. Not so lucky? Ratty and fringing was not the new black.
Someone knocked into my hip, sending me into the wall. I brought my hand out to stop from falling and whipped my head around to see who it was.
My best friend—no, my only friend—Maggie Walters smiled back at me with a big, cheesy grin on her face. She put her hand in front of her mouth to hide her giggles. Maggie was beautiful, and not just in that we’ve-been-friends-forever-so-I-love-everything-about-her way. She was honestly beautiful with her long, wavy auburn hair and bright, green eyes. Her parents could afford the luxury items like five-hundred-dollar pumps and designer blouses. Her perfect complexion—granted, helped along by some makeup—made me more than a little jealous. Most days, I wished I looked normal and beautiful like her.
I laughed along, pretending I thought it was funny. Only losers got mad about stuff like that. Only losers took it personally. And I was determined to make sure everyone thought I was easy-going. Easy-going people weren’t as much fun to laugh at.
My eyes darted around the hall. Everyone was too busy talking it up with their friends and decorating their lockers to look at us. I breathed easy and let a genuine smile spread across my face.
“Isn’t this so exciting?” Maggie squealed and grabbed me by the arm. We wove in out of a few clusters of kids and stopped in front of a beige locker. It looked exactly like every other locker that lined the length of the hall, except for a pink, sparkly envelope taped to its front.
Everyone knew what that sparkly envelope meant. Everyone. Including me. If this was Maggie’s locker—and by the way she was jumping and giggling by my side, I’d have to say it was—then she had gotten her initial invitation to join the Barbies. At first the name had been a joke to make fun of the long line of ruling plastic princesses, but eventually, they took it on with pride and used it to their advantage. The group had been around since my mom went to school, and it had been going on long before her. The Barbies were royalty, akin to an ivy league top sorority. Maggie must have done something truly amazing to get on their radar.
She squealed and smacked me repeatedly on the shoulder. “Can you believe it?”
“No, I can’t.” My voice was barely above a whisper. To say I wasn’t as happy as Maggie would have been an understatement. This was absolutely the worst thing that could have happened. For her, this meant the world was going to open up to her. But to me, the world was crashing in around me. There was no way the Barbies were going to let her stay friends with me. Not to mention Sarah Hutchins—enemy extraordinaire—was one of them. But I couldn’t force her to lose this opportunity.
Nausea gripped my stomach, but I forced on my best smile anyway. I would be happy for her even if I knew I was about to lose the one person who kept me sane.
She smiled and hugged me. It was a deep hug, a real hug. It was the kind she always gave me when she thought things were finally going to work out. No doubt, she thought this was an opportunity for me too. I didn’t have the guts to break it to her.
“Now.” She pulled away and looked me over before tearing the envelope off her locker. “We have to go find your sparkly invitation.” She ripped my schedule out of my hand and dragged me through the hall before I could protest.
We had to shove through a growing number of kids and I knew the buses had let everyone out. The warning bell was just minutes from sounding. I wished it was seconds. I couldn’t bear to look at Maggie’s face and try to explain to her why I wouldn’t be up for the Barbies.
No one moved willingly out of our way. Everyone was catching up with old friends and making new ones. Cliques were being formed right in front of my eyes. Too bad there wasn’t an albino clique. I suspected I could probably join the freaks, but one look at their pierced bodies, black clothes, and chains and I knew I didn’t belong. I didn’t belong anywhere. I was a castoff.
Maggie didn’t seem to notice or care that she and I were on opposite polar ends of the cheeriness spectrum. Sunshine and rainbows with frolicking unicorns floated above her head, while a black cloud of death hovered above mine.
After making a few turns down into the Languages wing, she pulled me to a stop in front of a rusted, navy blue locker. No sparkly envelope decorated its exterior. I took a deep breath and peeked at her out of the corner of my eye. Confusion was the main emotion on her face, but I also thought I saw a little anger, too. No more sunshine or rainbows for her. For some reason, I felt really guilty. I wished I had made more of an effort to be Barbie material. Maybe if I’d worn high heels and designer clothes, or tried makeup even though it only made me look orange, I would have been able to spare her from this moment.
“Maggie, I’m really sorry.”
“I don’t understand.” Her face hardened. “I’m just going to have to talk to them.”
“It won’t help.”
She bit her lip and I suspected she had been hoping I’d say that.
I sighed. “Look, I’ve got to get to homeroom, but I’ll see you at lunch. Okay?”
“Yeah.” She waved her hand half-heartedly and I worked my way into the sea of bodies to find room 217. A dark shadow took hold of my heart and I knew that leaving her right then was the worst thing I could do, but I didn’t know what to say. Maggie was going to have to make up her own mind about me. I hoped seven years of friendship would be enough.
Yeah, so there you have it. There's sighing, there's head shaking, and a whole lot of other stuff my inner editor is chomping at the bit to fix, but this is how I went about writing my first draft. And by not going back to buff everything to a sparkly shine, I was able to finish writing it faster than I've ever written before.