Part One- Mask of Tears
The morning came much too soon, as always. Broken from his eccentric dreams, Michael groaned as he rolled over in his bed. That infuriating electronic buzzer seemed to pierce through his skull. "Fuck you," he slurred as he rolled over again, this time running out of bed. With a loud thump, he hit the floor.
Age sixteen, Michael Vandiver wasn't quite as normal as some. Sure, he enjoyed generally being obnoxious, listening to loud music, pissing off authorities, hanging out with friends, and of course, the opposite sex, though they may not have liked him. He played saxophone in the school band. He got desirable grades and he was in a band of his own with some close friends as the guitarist and lead vocalist. He pierced his lip off to the right and wore eyeliner. He had short black hair that often fell in his face and in his dark brown eyes. He wore black nail polish. Yes, Michael was quite used to being called a freak, and it didn't bother him a bit. He could easily ignore it.
Fingers drumming irritated on the seat in front of his, Michael waited patiently on the cursed oversized yellow transportation hellhole. Obviously, he detested riding the bus. It could be worse- he could have had to share his seat. Good thing the driver was too scared of him cursing him with some sort of death omen to do something that foolish. It was fun having an god-fearing old fogy for a driver. Now he had a place to put his backpack without risk of it getting sucked under the seat by a freaky little middle-schooler.
After almost running over a few reckless kids on their way to the Intermediate School, bus 52 pulled into the parking lot of Maryville High School, and the students quickly piled out of the parting doors. Michael took his time in approaching the front entrance. Soon enough, he decided to get out of the chilly autumn breeze.
A crash and shattering would have alarmed someone, if it were not intentional. It wasn't as if anyone in the house cared that she'd broken another mirror. Naomi huddled on the bathroom floor and stared at the shards on the floor, breathing heavily. She stared with teary light blue eyes as she bit her bottom lip as not to cry again. The water dripped from her lids down her cheeks. She dabbed at her face with the wet washcloth in her hand repeatedly, and then it soon turned to scrubbing at the already red skin of her face. She did that only to stop herself from reaching for one of the shards.
Ever since early childhood, Naomi Welch had skin problems. But, not until the eighth grade was her unique eczema a problem. It was bad enough that she still had acne, but to have extremely dry skin at the same time confused even her dermatologist. "You'll just have to grow out of it," he had told her. By then it had already gotten to the early stages of emotional distress. Over the years of being shunned by her alcoholic parents and her shallow peers, it was then enough to lead her to become a 'cutter.'
At school, no one would really suspect it. She focused all her attention on her schoolwork, almost never speaking unless answering a rare question asked by the teachers. When spoken to, she would just smile a shallow smile and nod. She rarely met anyone's gaze. No one ever would ever get a good look at her face, she would make a point to stare at the ground and let her thick auburn hair hang in front of her face.
She watched the hands of her clock change minute after minute, waiting for the alarm to urge her from her bed. Naomi sometimes wondered why she set it. It wasn't as if she would be missed at school. But then she was reminded. She let her eyes close as her mind wandered. It was painful to see his face, yet never meet his gaze. Yet, it was a good thing. It was best that he never saw her.
Loud and sudden ringing reminded her that she had to get up first, so she pulled herself up to shut it off. She regretfully headed to the bathroom, almost slicing her foot open on broken glass before remembering the incident from the night before. She carefully stepped around it to the sink to wet her face and hopefully remove as many dead skin cells as possible with a washcloth.
Down the hall again and she found the last remaining thing to find a reflection- her computer's monitor. Naomi grabbed a pale bottle and twisted the cap, spilling a bit of the liquid on her fingertips, then spreading it thickly over her face. Even though it was the 'dermatologist's recommendation' according to the moisturizer's label, it probably would only last until third period. At least, it had every other day she had used it. She allowed it to soak in before applying a layer of cover-up for her acne.
After changing from her nightclothes into a pair of loose gray jeans and a long sleeved dark blue shirt, she put the same two bottles in her pocket and headed downstairs to wake her parents. Hopefully they hadn't had too much to drink the night before. Again, there was that nagging sense of being unwanted that sometimes she wanted to pour the vodka down their throats herself to literally go out with a bang.
"So what's the plan?" Josh asked him as he placed a hand on Michael's shoulder. Josh had dark brown hair to his shoulders and blue eyes, thick black glasses and a bit of a beard. He had a scar on his eyebrow where he tried to pierce it himself in algebra one year and had 10 gauge earrings. He was a bit taller than Michael, and more muscled. Michael shrugged as usual. "You really need better social skills, man," he joked, cracking his knuckles loudly to see the looks on the faces of random passersby. "I take my own time to contemplate my thoughts before I voice them," he responded in his normal quiet voice. Josh scratched his head in confusion, "Damn you and your three syllable words."
"Idiot is a three syllable word," Michael teased as he dropped his backpack and sax case on the ground in front of his locker. "Yeah, fuck you too," he shot back joking as he continued down the hall to his own locker.
Michael raised his hand slowly, seeing as almost everyone else in the class were dumbasses. He could see another girl raise her hand at almost the exact moment in the opposite corner of the Language Arts room. She was slouching in her seat and staring at her desk, her reddish brown hair in her face. Mrs. Barrett was surprised to see both their hands raised, and immediately cancelled out Michael. "Tell us who wrote War and Peace, please," she said kindly. Naomi's voice was barely audible, delicate and seemingly unused, "Leo Tolstoy wrote War and Peace in 1865-1869, which took place in early 19th Century Russia in the war against Napoleon."
Some people scoffed, not liking to be outsmarted by someone they looked down upon. "Wow, she speaks," one of the Barbie clan of girls at the front announced in a mocking tone. "That's enough Alexis," the teacher scolded only mildly, "That's exactly right, Naomi." Michael was impressed. He'd always known the girl to be so quiet and detached since middle school. That was the only way he could remember her acting at first thought. It made him wonder though, about why she distanced herself from everyone. All those rumors and harsh words from the hierarchy of their peers, saying terrible things about her skin? Could they have been more than just that, or was she just extremely sensitive to mockery? He realized he was staring once she glanced over at him. He quickly turned back to his notebook on his desk, feeling like a fool. Don't stare at her, that's probably the last thing she wants, he told himself, knowing a bit what she felt like.
Naomi. That was her name. It was definitely familiar, as he had been at the school since he could remember. Plus, it was an uncommon name. If he remembered correctly, then her last name was Welch.
She was once the girl who you could pay fifty cents to go into the boy's bathroom. He found himself laughing aloud a bit. It made him again wonder what had happened.
She always waited quite some time before she would answer, and that was rare in almost all of her classes. But, this time it was just calling for someone to respond. So she raised her hand without looking up for the moment while she answered the question. She tried to ignore the girl up front, but every time anyone said anything, it hurt inside. She didn't ever draw attention to herself outside of class. In fact, she was sure that people didn't know she existed when she wasn't telling answers or when they weren't copying off her answers. And when she tries to help the class, she gets criticized for speaking.
Naomi turned to look at him, and to her surprise and shock, she saw his brown eyes through his black hair. She was too stunned to do anything more, and he quickly looked away. She looked back at her desk, but beamed to herself. He was the only one who could bring her to truly smile. He didn't know it, and he probably never would. It may have seemed crazy, but it was what she needed. It stung a bit on the inside knowing that he would probably never speak to her if he saw her for himself, but it would numb in time.
The bell rang, and she was the only one in the classroom still, as far as she could see. But, she heard movement in a familiar part of the room, and she knew he was still there. She gathered her things and planned on leaving after him. She didn't hear him move anymore though. So, of course, Naomi looked up.
"Excuse me," she heard a voice, then saw the face. Her eyes widened, not expecting to see Michael not three feet from her, let alone speaking to her. What else could she do? She gasped, and having her things in her arms already, quickly left the room. She headed to the bathroom, as was a custom after third period. A flood of emotions came, and she tried to think about other things to hold it all in. She couldn't help it. As soon as she glanced at the huge wall of mirrors she couldn't stand it. She clenched her fists and faced in the other direction and moving directly into the corner. The bell to be in class had rang a while ago, but she could care less. She put a hand to her face and could fell the disgusting texture of her skin peeling off in flakes despite all the past medications and remedies. "What did I do for this?" she asked in fury, the tears coming back.