It was early November when I started at my new school. We lived in a large city so there were many different schools that I could've gone to. I had chosen this one on a whim when my dad had sat a stack of papers in front of me.
The school that I chose didn't really matter because my education was going to be different no matter what. Very few teachers in the district new sign language and even they didn't have the time to work one on one with me. A good education would cost my father thousands and we just didn't have that kind of money. My medical bills were already ruining us, to think of adding to that was suicide.
On my first day at the new school my dad drove me and walked me to the office to make sure I got there ok. We filled out a few forms and then the secretary gave me my schedule and a map.
There wasn't anyone to show me around, which was a slight disappointment to my dad seeing as I was famous, but I was okay with it. He offered to stick around and help me decipher my schedule but we both know that he needed to go to work.
I was already late to first period so I didn't rush on my way there, instead I looked around at the school. There weren't any distinguishing features, mostly just white walls with some student work hanging up every once in a while.
At least at my old school there had been paint. Someone always came in late at night and did a little decorating and the janitors had just stopped trying to keep up. What was the point in cleaning it up if it just got redone again?
Besides the white walls there were old, ugly green lockers lining most of the major hallways. A couple of them had dents or scratches, giving the appearance that they had seen a few high school fights. Mostly though, they looked as if they could be fairly new, still working fairly well.
I stopped by my locker and spent a good five minutes trying to get it open. Just as I was about to give up someone came flying down the hall and gave it a good shove. The door then proceeded to pop open and reveal all of my books.
When I finally made it to class the teacher was in the middle of a lecture but she stopped talking when she spotted me. She smiled warmly before gesturing for me to come in.
"You must be Carly Sanders," she guessed. When I nodded she turned to the class and I realized that everyone was staring at me. "Would you like to tell us something about yourself?" she asked. I sighed inwardly and pulled out the sheet of paper that my therapist had prepared in case this happened. After unfolding it I handed it to her and her face paled as she read it. "Oh my gosh. I'm so sorry I forgot! They told me but it totally slipped my mind. Go ahead and take an open seat."
When she returned the paper to me I turned around and found the whole class still staring at me. I moved towards the back of the room and found the only open seat in the back row. My teacher started lecturing again and most of the students turned back around and paid attention. There were a couple of kids who continued to stare at me though and I found it very unnerving.
To avoid similar situations I made it to my next two classes before anyone else and showed the teachers the note. There was one male teacher and one female teacher and they were both very kind about it. Nobody commented on whether or not they recognized me from the news or magazines.
My recently dyed locks hung low across my face, acting as a barrier to separate me from the rest of the class. The dark makeup I wore seemed to cover the bruises for the most part and I was sure that nobody had recognized me.
Even if they had, what would they say. 'You're that girl that was attacked!'
I sat in the back in all of my classes very aware of the attention that I was drawing to myself. Apparently nobody willingly sat in the back anymore. Maybe it was like the school bus, where everybody thought it meant something if you sat back there.
At my old school it had always been the Goths and Emos that sat in the back. They had claimed it as their space and no one dare upset them.
On my way to fourth period I got lost and ended up being five minutes late. When I walked into class everyone was staring at me once again but I tried to focus on the balding grey-haired teacher that was standing in front of me. He didn't look pleased with the fact that I wasn't explaining myself so I handed over the paper for the fourth time that day.
He read the first two sentences before he looked up at me. "What in god's name is Mutism?"
I was about to go jump off a bridge because not only was my teacher an idiot but he had just told the whole class why I don't talk. A voice interrupted my plans before I could escape. "It means she can't talk."
My head snapped in the direction the voice had come from and my eyes locked on a boy who had been in all of my previous classes. He had dark brown hair kept in surfer style haircut and light green eyes. Thank you. He nodded his head curtly before I turned back around to face the teacher.
"Well I don't know how they expect you to keep up in this class if you can't talk but I guess we'll see what we can do. Take a seat."
I let out a heavy breath and made my way to the back of the class slumping down into a seat. Mr. Morris began to lecture for fifteen minutes about an experiment they must have performed a few days ago. When he was finished lecturing he let everyone work quietly and asked me to come up to his desk.
"We're having a test tomorrow on some of the material we've been studying since last week. These are the notes that you'll need to study before you take it. You don't have to take the test tomorrow if you're not ready. I can give you extra time if you need it."
I heard the familiar voice from behind me translating what I was saying. "She said 'Okay. Thank you.'"
"Mr. Cross you speak sign language?"
"When do you think you will be ready to take the test?" Mr. Morris asked me.
I'll be ready tomorrow.
"She'll be ready tomorrow" he translated just as the bell rang.
As I turned to walk away I heard him mutter, "She does understand English doesn't she?"
I turned around faster than I even knew I could and threw a pencil at him. Fuck you. The boy just laughed when he was asked to translate. Nobody said anything for a moment.
I walked to the back of the room and gathered my stuff as everyone left the room, except for that boy. He was watching me and I uneasily made my way to the front of the room with him following me. When I realized he wasn't going to stop walking with me I stood still and turned to face him.
Leave me alone.
He chuckled quietly to himself for a moment. "Alright I'll leave you alone" he said. "I just wanted to tell you that not everyone in this school is a jerk. No matter what you've been through to make you the way you are. You don't just have to separate yourself from everyone. There are actually some pretty great people at this school and they aren't going to judge you because you don't talk."
I titled my head to the side curiously. What did he mean separate myself from everyone? I didn't talk. Wasn't that separation enough?
"You sit in the back of every class. You wont even look me in the eye when I'm talking to you. Right now I'm pretty sure you aren't headed to the cafeteria for lunch. I saw the way you clammed up when everyone was staring at you. If you want that to go away you really aren't helping the problem."
My shoulders dropped in defeat knowing that he was right. "I'll leave you alone," he said. "Really though, give people a chance. There are some really nice people here. My name is Matt, by the way. I'm the only one in this school who speaks sign language. If you need anything just ask."
When he left in the opposite direction I turned and walked until I found an empty hallway and sat down on the staircase. I ate lunch there, quietly contemplating what he had said. Was it possible that I was my own worst enemy?
What if I did open up to someone and all they did was hurt me? How would I ever live down another round of humiliation?
I headed off to the gym where I had to receive my gym uniform from the P.E. teacher. She was very kind about my condition and showed me where my locker would be. I finished changing just as the other kids began to come in from lunch.
A girl with long blonde hair and hazel eyes opened the locker beside mine and began to change. When she noticed me sitting there she looked me over. "Tall, long brown hair, blue eyes.. Oh you must be the new girl Carly!" she exclaimed. "I'm Cassie. I know you don't talk and all but I still think that we can be friends!" She held out her hand to me. When I didn't take her hand her eyes widened. "Oh my god! Do you not like touching people either?"
I nodded my head to confirm her question and she pulled her hand back. "I'm sorry. Well it's time to go out to the gym. Let's go." I got up and followed her to the door that I presumed led out to the gym. When I scanned the crowd gathered on the floor I knew I shouldn't have been surprised to see Matt since he had been in my first four classes. "Come on sit down."
That was how I made my first friend on my first day at my new school. She didn't care that I couldn't talk, she had her own ideas about how we could communicate. We had sixth period together and we sat together and passed a journal back and forth between the two of us. The teacher didn't seem to care because she knew it was the only way I could talk and she wanted me to have friends.
If you don't mind me asking, why exactly don't you talk?
There was something that happened to me that was really bad. Afterwards I stopped talking and a couple of months ago I was diagnosed with mutism.
Wait, so you mean you could talk if you wanted to but you choose not to?
I nodded my head and tossed the journal back onto her desk just as she blurted out "Why?" Her eyes widened in horror as she realized that she had said it out loud and the entire class had turned to look at us. She pointed to the overhead "I don't understand the problem."
Nobody really believed her but at least she tried to cover. I raised my hand and when Mrs. White called on me I made the sign for bathroom. She looked over to Matt for translation because once again he was in my class.
"She wants to know if she can go to the bathroom."
"Oh. Of course," she said.
I leaped up from my seat and hurriedly exited the classroom. It was only a short distance to the nearest bathroom and I locked myself in a stall. Sitting down on the toilet I pulled my knees up to my chest and tried to control my breathing. Lately my anxiety had been an issue and when put in situations where I'm the center of attention I freak out.
The feeling of having someone's eyes on me was terrifying. What if they could see right through me and know how scared I really was? What if they judged me?
Cassie seemed like a really nice person and I liked her personality. There was nothing wrong with being curious about why I was the way I was. I didn't blame her for accidently shouting out because I knew it was an accident but I couldn't go back and face the class at the time. I just sat on the toilet seat, knees pulled up to my ches until I heard the bell ring and then I decided to go back to the class and get my things.
When I opened the door I jumped back in surprise and felt the wall at my back. Cassie and Matt were standing in front of the bathroom door staring at me. Matt had my backpack in his hands and Cassie was holding the bathroom door open. I clutched at my heart as I leaned back against the wall trying to calm myself down all over again.
"Oh god! I didn't mean to scare you," Cassie apologized. "I'm really sorry about before, too. I shouldn't have shouted that out in class. I probably shouldn't have asked at all."
I looked to Matt for help and he nodded his head as if he knew what I was asking. I know it was an accident. I'm not mad. It's okay to ask me questions. I just don't talk about what happened. I DON'T.
"She said 'I know it was an accident. I'm not mad. It's okay to ask me questions. I just don't talk about what happened. I don't,'" he said, adding the emphasis on I don't that I had used in my signing.
He continued to translate as I signed. "I left my old school because everyone there knew about it. They either gave me sympathetic looks or basically told me I got what I deserved. I wasn't left alone about it. I moved here to get away from it all. I know you wouldn't tell anyone but that isn't my point. I really don't talk about it. One person at my old school found out and by the time I came back everyone knew. After it happened I stopped talking completely. I wont ever talk again, no matter what you say or do to try to get me to. If you really want to know what happened then you're going to have to find out for yourself. If you do find out then you better damn well not look at me with sympathy."
Cassie was frowning as Matt spoke what I was signing and she looked at me instead of him. "I don't need you to talk to me to be your friend Carly. I'm not going to go digging into your past either. If I ever do find out what happened I want to hear it from you. I know you never talk about it so I guess I'll never know. I just don't understand why you would let whatever happened do this to you. I've only known you for a few days and I've seen the way you act. You're antisocial, jumpy, timid, and you don't trust people."
I am this way because in one night I lost the only thing that I ever really thought was mine. I picked up my backpack from the floor and walked away from them as Matt translated what I had said. Neither of them chased after me, probably sensing that I had reached my limit of sharing for the time being.
When I climbed into the passenger side of the car and my dad asked how my day was I think he sensed that something was wrong. I didn't tell him what had happened though, instead just giving him a few details of my classes to keep him happy. By the time we got home he left me alone and I went up to my room and opened my window.
Sitting out on my roof was one of the few escapes that I had still available to me and it was what I did whenever I was upset. I laid out and watched the sun set while a cold breeze blew by and I watched the kids across the street. It wasn't that long ago that I remembered being down there playing with my own friends. Those were the old days, though, and now I was alone with my thoughts.
A/N: Well I'm reposting this. This site has gotten the most feedback with it.
I'm thankful for those of you who read it the first time. I've done a little bit of editing, but not too much.
Please leave a review and tell me what you think : )