"Can you stop looking at me like that already?" I snapped, annoyed.
"Well, can you let go of my wrist already?" Audrey shot back, her eyes twinkling with amusement.
I dropped her wrist, exasperated. "It's not what you think, so stop." I continued to storm down the hallway.
"Looks like you really took the advice I gave you yesterday to heart and got yourself a man." She paused, and gave me a smile full of implications. "A hot one at that."
I decided to ignore her. Arguing would get me nowhere.
"Slow down, would you? We've still got some time before our next class! It's pretty surprising, you gotta admit."
I rolled my eyes, quickening my pace.
"I mean, what kind of guy would go for you? You think someone dared him? Let's see if you can get the biggest loser in school to fall for you type deal?"
I stopped in my steps and spun around to face her.
"Okay seriously, Audrey?" I burst out, unable to keep my emotions under control. "You think we're in a movie or something? That's like the biggest cliché in the book, and it's not like I have zero experience with guys. I think I have the right to say I know a thing or two about getting myself a man if I really wanted one." I took a step closer to her. "And it's easy for me."
Audrey burst out laughing. "There you are Kelsie Pulmero! I've missed you." She threw her arms around me, wrapping me into a big bear hug. I just stood there, stunned.
"Now that wannabe goth girl I've been hanging out with, I'd be surprised to find her attracting the attention of that beautiful man, but Kelsie Pulmero?" She slung an arm around me and led us towards the direction of our class, "I'm just surprised she couldn't find me a better looking one."
"Huh?" I asked, still confused.
"You know, that guy who tried to ask me out? I can't believe you got yourself such a good-looking one and left the ugly one for me!"
"He wasn't that ugly!" I protested, "And that is irrelevant, I did not encourage these guys in the least."
She laughed, "You know my standards for men. Also, you should know by now we don't need to do anything to encourage them. Our beauty naturally attracts them."
She brushed a hand through her hair and flipped it over her shoulder. I sighed at her, wiggling out from under her arm.
"Let's just go to class." I said, resigned.
Of course she just wanted to talk more as we sat down. I sort of zoned out for a bit as she chatted excitedly about me making a comeback. She was so animated and her eyes so hopeful, I could only nod along.
I had been so selfish.
The thought hit me hard. I had been holding her back. This was who she truly was, someone who was energetic and full of life. I had become a dark, dismal person, and because she loved me, she brought herself down to my level. She had never let go of the hope that I would return to who I used to be. I realized that now. As class started, I gave her an apologetic smile and withdrew myself. I pulled out my notebook and proceeded to stare out the window. Either I follow her expectations and return to whom I once was, or I let her go.
The first option seemed impossible, but the second was unbearable. I acted aloof towards her, but deep down inside, I loved her fiercely. I couldn't hold onto her in my current state. I lowered my head down on my desk, suddenly exhausted.
As class came to an end, I slipped a note over to Audrey and hit the road. I needed a shower and sleep. I got home and let my backpack drop to the floor as I walked in. I began stripping off my clothes as I walked in, making a path of strewn clothing to my bedroom. I turned the knob for the water and got in the shower, let the scalding water pour over my skin. It hurt, but I didn't bother adjusting the temperature. I lathered myself in soap and scrubbed harder than necessary. I just wanted all the dirt and grime of the world to be off of me. I finally made my way to the bedroom and crawled into bed. I curled myself in a ball and drew the blankets up to my nose. I left out a breath I felt that I had been holding in for the whole day and closed my eyes. My bed was the only place that felt remotely comfortable for me to be. Thoughts still raced through my head, problems and concerns demanding to be sorted through and dealt with. However I pushed them aside the best I could and eventually weariness took over me and I slipped into unconsciousness.
"Would you get your lazy butt out of bed?"
An annoyed voice pierced into my sleepy haze. I stirred, disorientated.
"Get over here, Kelsie. We need to talk."
I sat up and peered through the doorway to see Audrey on the sofa eating cold cuts. I groaned and plopped back into bed. I was not ready for this confrontation.
"Kelsie Marie Pulmero!" I closed my eyes, trying to drown out her voice. "I have already given you an extra hour of grace to get your rest, now if you do not get your lazy butt over here by-"
"Okay, okay," I lifted a hand up in surrender. I bustled up the blankets around me and forced myself to rise. I stumbled my way into the small living room, bundled in my blankets. Audrey glared at me from her spot. I plopped ungracefully to the ground across from her, leaning my back against the wall. I waited. She glared at me a moment longer before lifting up something dark from the ground. I squinted my eyes at it.
"Do you even remember what this looked like when you made me buy this for you?"
I sat in silence, sending a small look of desperation towards my bed.
"Stop sending help cries to a piece of furniture. Look at this, Kelsie. It's starting to look like a piece of road kill, and you put this on your head every day."
I looked at the ugly wig in her hand and swept a hand through my own golden blonde hair, reassuring myself. I was a fake goth chick, playing pretend. I couldn't actually bear to dye my own hair, partly out of vanity in all honesty but mostly due to nostalgia.
Audrey sighed and reached out to get a tangle out of my hair. "If you ever dyed this, I think I would kill you."
I looked at my own hair, bringing back memories of the past.
The ladies were gathered around in the living room for their annual Christmas party.
"Twinning with your daughter again, Eliza?"
Eliza Pulmero looked down at her six year old in surprise. "I didn't even notice, I guess we are both wearing red." She smiled down at the little girl warmly.
"I did it on purpose, Mama. I saw you putting on a red dress and copied you!"
The ladies laughed softly.
"It's not even just the dress, but that beautiful hair you both have," one of the ladies chipped.
"Yes," another one gushed, "I know it's natural but if someone could replicate it I would mine done in a heartbeat."
The little girl's head was constantly being stroked and gushed over.
"You're such a lovely angel, Kelsie! Just like your Mama."
Kelsie beamed with pride. That's all she wanted to be, just like her Mama.
"It is kind of ridiculous that you wear a wig to school just to maintain an image though, don't you think?" Audrey quipped.
"Well, you'd kill me if I dyed it, right? Guess the only other option for me is a wig," I replied.
"Or, you could let those gorgeous golden locks see some sun every once in a while. Let your beauty shine!" She chirped happily, letting my hair fly with the last statement by throwing it upwards.
I swept back my hair in annoyance, glaring at her. She knew I hated it when she talked like a Hallmark card.
She ignored my death stare and talked on. "Well, aren't you curious about how the rest of my day went after you completely abandoned me? Leaving me alone to fend for myself in a scary high school world?"
I snorted. "Yeah right, you've got the whole high school world in the palm of your hand."
She laughed in response, "You know me a little too well. You're right, it was the most popular I've been because I didn't have you to scare off the crowds. I received a lot of invitations, but only one really interested me."
She looked at me innocently, daring me to ask.
I racked my brain, trying to discern the meaning behind her words. A cold feeling of dread washed over me when I realized what she was referring to.
"They came to look for you at lunch, didn't they?"
"Yes they did," she said in a sing-song voice. "They were even kind enough to keep me company for the entirety of the lunch period. I made it clear that I wasn't interested in anything beyond friendship, but when it came to you, well."
She paused for dramatic effect. "Since you weren't there to speak for yourself, I made it known that you were quite available."
I scoffed, "No guy in their right mind cares about whether or not I'm single or not."
"Apparently Jordan McAndrews does!" She sang brightly, unhidden glee in her voice.
I sat in stunned silence.
"He's coming here to pick you by eight for a movie, and I'm not coming!" She announced proudly, dancing around the room.
She grabbed my face between her hands and looked at me seriously, "You know what this means, don't you Kelsie? This is a date. I got you a date."
I shook off her hold on me, finally finding my voice. "This is crazy. He has a girlfriend."
"Not anymore, they broke up."
"He's not my type."
She smirked at me, "He's exactly your type."
I threw my hands in the air, exasperated. "He barely knows me; this has got to be some kind of prank."
"And it most likely is, but I know that you will know exactly how to handle this situation! Come on; just go on this little date. It'll be fun!"
I rolled my eyes. She smiled knowing that I had run out of excuses.
"Now we have less than an hour," she remarked brightly, pulling me by the hand. "Let's get some food into you and prep you up for your date."
"Wait stop, what prep? I can't look pretty for this date. I'm the ugly goth chick. I haven't even said I would go on this date. You got me into this without my permission, I'm not even ready!"
She stopped and looked at me.
I stared back at her, disbelievingly.
She sighed. "Okay, sit down. Let's have this talk. I know we've been avoiding this topic, but you have to tell me what you're doing with your life. Where are you going with this?"
"You know exactly what I'm trying to do!"
"No, I don't. I've followed you blindly without reason to this place without asking why because I thought that was what you needed, but I can't do that anymore. Are we just going to be stuck here? Are you planning to live the rest of your life like this, stranded from the world?"
I turned to her, "I don't know, okay? I just want to take a step back from the world, from attention and just take a second to breathe, alright?"
"Yeah right, you love attention. You thrive on attention; you're just attracting a different kind of attention with that get-up of yours."
I took a step back, shocked by her words.
"Why would you choose a goth look? You think you're invisible, you're just being intimidating. You're not invisible to anybody, everybody in school is talking about us and there is some part of you that loves it."
She stepped closer to me, "black clothes, black lipstick, black eyeliner, and a black wig." She gestured at the ugly black item lying neglected on the floor. "You could even commit all the way to your image, getting a wig? Why didn't you just chop off that golden hair of yours and dye it black? Time to face reality, you said you want to leave your old identity all behind, but honestly you can't let go."
"Stop it!" I burst out at her, "stop it!"
Her eyes softened a bit, but her resolve was still resolute. "I know this hurts, Kelsie. I know, and I love you, but it's time to start moving on."
She reached out for me, but I stepped back. I had to get out of the apartment. I grabbed the black hoodie on the floor and made my way out the door, while shoving my black boots on.
"Wait, Kelsie. Don't walk out on me!"
I slammed the door shut behind me, cutting her shouts off and stormed off. I didn't have a destination in mind, but decided to just start walking. I found myself in front of the little diner we often went to. I patted my front pocket, relieved that I had left my wallet in there. I hesitated about heading into public, checking my appearance. I was wearing my pajamas underneath my hoodie, a worn Hello Kitty shirt and pink cotton shorts with white polka dots. I hadn't even bothered grabbing my wig or adorning my usual heavy dose of makeup. I considered turning back, but my stomach grumbled loudly. I let out a sigh and tied my hair back into a bun. I lifted up my hood and was satisfied that it covered my eyes when I looked at the ground. There, that was taken care of. I looked down at my shorts and groaned. I tried slouched a bit, that helped cover up the shorts somewhat. I gave up trying and headed in, hoping that I wouldn't run into any familiar faces.
The bell tinkled as I walked in, I quickly slid into the nearest booth. A waitress came by and took my order. As I waited I could hear loud laughter and hooting at the booth all the way at the back. I looked up and shot them a glance of annoyance, spotting a familiar face squinting back at me. Jordan McAndrews. I quickly glanced back down in surprise, anxiety flooding my mind. I hoped fervently that he hadn't recognized me. I waited, staring at my hands in front of me. I could hear footsteps approaching my booth.
I kept looking down. "You got the wrong girl." I spoke an octave lower, almost in a whisper in an attempt to make my voice indiscernible.
However instead of discouraging his suspicions I had cleared them up.
"It is you!" He sat down across from me despite my protests. "I was just about to head over to your place and get you! I was just finishing dinner with my boys over there…"
I could tell he was getting curious about why I hadn't looked at him all this time. I began to get nervous as he blabbered on, trying to think of a way to get out of this situation.
"So you haven't eaten yet? I told Audrey that I wanted to get dinner with you too, but she said that that was too much for you, but here you are! This is fate, you know. I even purposely arranged to eat near your place so that I could pick you up with no delay. My boys wanna meet you too, I told them to hold back, but they might come over-"
"Okay, just stop talking for a second." I exclaimed under my breath.
He stopped. I couldn't tell what he was doing because I wasn't looking at him though. I could see his arms in front of me as he leaned on his elbows though. He was watching me, I was sure of it.
"You know, I didn't agree to this movie night thing at all. Audrey had no right-"
"Why don't you look up at me? Trying to hide a hideous nose job or something?" he interrupted.
"Yeah, something like that. Look, just listen. There will be no date tonight, so if you could just walk back to your-"
As I was speaking I could feel something pulling my hood up, my hand shot up to stop his when I realized what he was doing. I managed to deter him, but found myself staring wide-eyed into his eyes. He stared back at me, shocked by my appearance.