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Sketch: The Complete Part 2 (Rated PG for Major Thematic Elements, Religious Aspects, and Descriptions of Bullying)

Sketch: The Complete Part 2 (Rated PG for Major Thematic Elements, Religious Aspects, and Descriptions of Bullying)

Posted March 17th, 2017 by CaptainNerd777

by Caroline
in Florida

Sketch: The Complete Part 2 (Rated PG for Major Thematic Elements, Religious Aspects, and Descriptions of Bullying)

A/N: Thank you all for staying with me and this story for so long! I hope this is worth your wait! Have some muffins and tea with your reading peeps. -Captain Nerd777

Chapter 6: A Little Piece of Me

Life is a complex thing. One second you can be on top of the world and the next, you are back in the dump. This was life for me. Every wonderful second of it.

The second day of school was one I shall never forget, no matter how hard I try to end up like Dory from Finding Nemo. I had taken to plaid uniform, finding it rather attractive. It went well with my attitude of perception. I opted for fingerless gloves to protect my palms from rashes, but to add my own flair as well. A guy in a wheelchair could look good if he tried.

 Ingrid met me at the trees just outside the courtyard. I straightened her tie for her, trying to ignore how she was intensely “staring” at everyone else around us. I think it unnerved a lot of people, which is why they never said anything to her face.

 I slid my soft hand into hers and guided her to the arm rest of the chair. We ended up tye dying it so it wouldn’t be as boring, and the raised paint gave her a better grip. She might be able to kick serious tail at walking unattended, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t run into walls. We put on our brave faces and walked (and wheeled) towards the massive, intimidating double doors.

* * *

“Move, dude!”

“Just get out of the way, I have class!”

“Stop trying to draw attention to yourself and keep going!”

I bit my lip as I saw Ingrid suddenly turn and lash into a serious rant at the direction of the group of kids walking past us who had pushed us out of the way rather roughly. When no one turned, I realized how cold the world could really be. No one noticed our plight, or if they did, they didn’t want to save us at all. When the principal had said her students were so nice and behaved, I think she must have been blind.

 A blur was suddenly shot past me, into the lockers, disheveled hair and all. The tie I had worked to straighten had all but fallen off. Once again, I was glad I could hear nothing at all as Ingrid proceeded to shout insults (not strong language or anything) at the students nearby. She was so sweet, but form a Secret Service perimeter around the person who happened to tick her off.

 Carefully, I grabbed a shaking hand and pulled it towards the chair, attempting to remove focus from the soon-to-be-slaughtered targets and back to making it to second period.  I didn’t want the attention on the two disabled new kids who were already way too young to be considering anything other than the ABCs. I would unfortunately never get my wish, even as we made it to Mr. Linden’s class. Life was no longer an ally of mine.

* * *

 Classes progressed throughout the day. They were tough and challenging, but I enjoyed them. Learning about the basics of multiplying four digit numbers was thrilling and the complexity of science was something I could hardly get away from. Ingrid took a particular interest in history, proceeding to ask probing questions that even the professor dude they ended up video chatting with couldn’t answer. I think this was because she just liked to argue, but meh, all’s fair when nothing is established as fair.

 Since the school was public, there was no strictly enforced uniform codes or anything, but “more minds could be expressed openly.” If taunting new kids was “expressing your mind”, sign me up for the next private school semester. I couldn’t understand why simply accepting the fact I was different was hard. I mean, sure, you had to stand in front of me when you talked and I couldn’t go play touch football, but I could still cheer from the sidelines. I suffered through the rest of my day, relishing in my precious silence.

* * *

What was funny was on the third day, we got a talk from the Dean about how hurting others with our words and actions was wrong. Everyone put on a good act for the rest of the day, but problems resumed the second the grand slam of the auditorium early holding sounded with kids.

 I would often find myself in the almost-abandoned library, sitting there doing my homework that wasn’t due for another week with Ingrid while she sulkily attempted to brush through the Braille textbooks provided to her through the state funding that the School Council reluctantly asked for. The silence was even more deafening in there. I couldn’t hear it, but when Ingrid simply sits and stares at a despised form of reading material, anyone could feel it pressing down like one of those coffee grinders.

* * *

 Our routine continued.  Everything ran as smoothly as it could. Our parents suspected nothing and we intended to keep it that way. They had sacrificed so much for us as it was. We didn’t want to add this to their list of problems.

 Just as I was about to ask Ingrid if she knew the answer to a history question I had been mulling over, the table shook with such force, I jumped. Ingrid had slammed the Braille book into the table glaring at the page she couldn’t see, only feel. A wild anger possessed the sightless orbs. Her face was set into a thin line, creases never pressed firmer together.

 “No one cares.”

“I care.”

“Besides you.”

“Don’t I count?” I tried to fake humor to lighten the tense mood, but I think I only made the problem worse.

“Of course you count! That is why this is all so messed up! We’re drowning and the only person who notices is the person sinking next to me.” Pain laced every sentence. I couldn’t hear it, but her eyes were never as glassy as they were then.

“Do you want to tell someone?”

“NO!” I froze. “I mean, I want someone else to notice, to realize what hurts and what we feel. It’s no good if people don’t realize it for themselves. Anyone can say, ‘Stop teasing the new kid or else.’ That’s why I want them to notice. Not have the victim lay their hearts out to be slaughtered, but to realize the problem around them so they can make a change themselves.”

She had a valid point. Just telling people not to do stuff never works. It almost encourages them to keep doing it! They needed to recognize the problem on their own. Suffering it was. But it was suffering for a cause.

* * *

 If I had to watch the scramble for the door when the bell inevitably rang at the exact same time every day, I might die. Seriously. It’s nothing new. But no one cares about helping the kids who can’t hear the bell or see the door. Nope! Fend for yourself, newbies!

 The cafeteria is the safe-house. Sort of.  At least there it is so chaotic, no one notices the people who sit in the corners. The overwhelming sense of senseless noise overpowers any efforts to stop it. Pages of homework, both mandatory and extra crammed our time between bites of whatever food our parents decided to pack for us that day. The pencil shavings kept us sane while the mass discord of our hidden lives raged around us. I couldn’t help but think it was symbolic of everything anyone ever goes through. So I did what I do best; I drew it.

***

My art had become my escape. Whenever I felt a strong feeling towards anything, I would incorporate it into whatever piece came to mind. Surgio had become so developed; I had to take a break before my parents (who constantly peeked at my works) realized just what this alter ego had become. He was my soul on a tiny piece of paper, saying what I was scared to say myself.

 Pens were strewn across the tiny desk in my room as well as pencils. The clutter seemed to de-stress me. It was a relief. Mindless fun was one thing I would love to enjoy once again. My art reflected too much angst. I longed to be the kid in the children’s ward once again. Then, somehow, my plea was answered.

* * *

A trip out to the beach reminded me of everything I loved, and for once, I chose not to get all philosophical about it. I just had fun.

“Ingrid! Give it back!”

“Never! Come take it from me, you wheelchair brainiac!”

I pushed down the deck after her while she ran. Light skirt and tank top flowing in the breeze. A lot of people would put this down as a romantic scene. It wasn’t. It was two friends escaping reality.

We chased each other for a while. The poor pedestrians must have thought we were crazy. Our parents tried to clear the way and explained to a few questioning individuals. I didn’t mind for once.

“Hey, there are dolphins!”

“Cool, are they jumping?”

“No, but they keep coming up. And there they go.”

The wind in my face felt so wonderful. The blended colors of the bleached sand and teal water contrasted and yet blended. I couldn’t push myself well in the sand, so I opted for a spot on it near the water. It was glorious.

Never had I wanted this release to end.

Never had I felt so alive.

 

Chapter 7: Call on Me

 I spent most of my time in history relaying doodles in the margins of my paper which was already crammed with the day’s notes I had taken last night from Mr. Morrison’s blog. Love the man, but he took forever in getting through the lessons. Seriously, no third grader needs to know about the exact statistics of everything.

 I also hold no sympathy for some of the teachers, especially Ms. Amber. Public humiliation is one thing I refuse to stand for, disability or not I will find a way to stand. So when each child is called up when they’ve “misbehaved” to then read the next five pages of the textbook, I politely asked why before Ingrid could rip the teacher a fresh speech about how politically incorrect this was or something. Apparently asking the dreaded “Why” is disobeying.

 “Excuse me Mr……” Okay, I wasn’t that new.

“Brooks. Karith Brooks.”

“Yes, Mr. Brooks. Would you mind coming up here to read the next section?”

“Yes. He does mind.” Oh no, this is not good. I gripped Ingrid’s hand to tell her to just be quiet and let me read, but she was in full blown rant mode. And I may or may not have forgotten to mention I’ve been the only one to have “misbehaved”. Tiny detail.

“And why is that Ms….”

“Call me Ingrid and cut it with the worthless formalities. Why do you insist upon public humiliation? I get the whole, developing public speaking aspect, but this is cruel. I’ve seen plenty of other kids misbehave in class and yet Karith here seems to be the only one getting caught. Explain that to me because throwing paper airplanes isn’t that discrete. In the meantime, the class has proceeded to mock him for his inability to pronounce some words due to the fact he couldn’t even hear you if you corrected him. Where’s the punishment for that?” Ms. Amber looked like she was ready to reprimand Ingrid with the back of her hand, but a well practiced death glare cut her off. “And another thing, what is your creepy obsession with not remembering our names? You know everyone else’s and we are not that new. If anything, you should know our names because we’re the ones who stand out here! How hard is it to learn two new kid’s names? Figure me this, is this punishment or discrimination?”

 Ms. Amber’s face was a beet red. Dark eyes held steady with the sharp, clouded blue ones. I attempted to avoid the stares of my fellow classmates to no avail. Ingrid looked like a panther ready to pounce with her shoulders arched and both hands clenched in fists bracing her on the desk. The words that came next were words I wish I could erase more than those from the accident.

“Why don’t you read it then, Ingrid?” The name was spat with such intensity; I thought we were in a court battle for custody of a child.

 “With pleasure.” Crud, Ingrid, no. The books had no Braille (not that she studied it anyway.)!

Too late, the figure marched its way up to the podium of the small classroom. A hand slammed down into the book, feeling. Nothing happened. I think a fly threw up in a ventilator somewhere at how insanely quiet it got.

 “Well, we’re waiting.”

A thin glaze froze over the orbs of cerulean. Tears. Then, the face hardened as a single tear made its slow race down a face that had remained so strong for so long. I swallowed hard as the face turned towards the prosecutor.

 “I’m blind, your Highness.”

I was dimly aware of what happened next. A door slammed. The room became fuzzy. My gloved hands undid the breaks on my wheels as I pushed myself foreword and out. Out of torture. Out of the world. And I didn’t care if I ever came back.

* * *

 Aimlessly wandering the halls, I quieted my own raging soul. I prayed for someone to be at least a little sympathetic. I wanted comfort not just for me, but for my friend who now probably had PTSD from the whole ordeal. A sniff from the janitor’s closet woke me from my revere.

I pried the door open slowly. “Knock, knock.”

“Who’s there?” Came the half hearted reply.

“Me. Wanna talk?”

“Not really.”

“Okay.”

“Somewhat…”

“That’s progress.”

“Shut it.”

“’Kay”

“Can we just sit here for a while? We have 30 minutes until next class and I refuse to go back into the den of poisonous snakes.”

I didn’t respond. Just pulled my chair inside as best I could and closed the door.

* * *

30 minutes later, the bell rang, but an announcement rang over the intercom. “Will Karith Brooks and Ingird….hold on….Ingrid Desinn report to the principal’s office please? Thank you.” Life just likes to punch us in the face, doesn’t it?

* * *

Ingrid was suspended for two days for “unnecessarily rude conduct towards authority”. Which is one of the most pathetic things I’ve heard in my life, and that is saying something because I’ve come up with a lot of pathetic excuses for getting out of my hospital room.

I was in lunch detention for a day, but I found it to be a wonderful experience as no one bothered you. To me, it was a little slice of heaven.

* * *

My phone buzzed as I sat at my desk, working on the details for my newest art piece. I answered, knowing who it was. It was set to face time anyone calling so I could read their lips. Or for them to see how much ASL (sign language) I knew since I started taking classes. “Hey, feel like talking now?”

“Not really. But I’ve got to talk to somebody before I go insane.”

“Suspension getting to you?”

“I’ve listened to, like, every depressing song on the radio at least 20 times. And my parents still think it is honestly all my fault. I have a meeting with some anger management lady to talk to me about my hidden resentment of my sudden injury.”

“That’s a load of buckets.”

“No kidding.” We were both quiet after that. “Mind if I sing?”

“Not at all.”

I had no idea what the song was again, but apparently it was super emotional, because Ingrid started crying halfway through it and ended the call. Helplessness was a feeling I was used to, but never like watching my friend be publicly humiliated and then punished for standing up for herself. It was just yesterday we were running across a beach, me describing the antics of dolphins to her. Life was cruel and we were apparently a target for angst. I prayed that night, not for myself but for Ingrid and all the people like us who suffered. Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep that night.

 

Chapter 8: Please Show me Mercy

 Ingrid was back, but refused to talk to anyone but me. I wasn’t sure if that was good or bad. Good because at least she was talking to someone, but bad because it was only one person. She death glared any teacher who dared ask her to read and I backed her up all the way. Most of them got the message and just gave it up, some needed personal persuasion, which I was more than happy to provide.

We transferred out of Ms. Amber’s class, which was good because I thought she was evil long before the incident. We ended up with someone named Leona Harper. I could tell from the beginning she was a good lady. Not just good in the sense that she dressed like a normal human being, but in the sense she genuinely cared about each student and pushed us in our own areas rather than having a blanket lesson. Finally, someone who understood gifted in this school.

* * *

Happiness doesn’t last forever, though. And like a World War II dogfight, the cafeteria safe house was bombed and left in wreckage.

A tray had slammed into our table. “Come to remind us that we’re on the bottom of the food chain and you’re on top?” My sarcasm got me this far before the bullets began.

“Think you’re something? Standing up to No Pupils over there?” Ingrid tensed but said nothing, which made me think either she was trying to decide which side of Braden’s face to crack open or the anger management lady had broke her brain.

“I prefer to say that I stood up to everyone who’s ever been teacher bullied. And just FYI, her name’s Ingrid. If you don’t want to see my wrath, I suggest you start calling her by her legal name.” My eyes never left his. Oh, the adventures Surgio would go on tonight! IF I lived to make them.

“Oh, so the freaks have names now?” A sadistic smile crept over his face. I just flicked an eyebrow up.

“Who you calling a freak?” Ingrid growled. Her muscles were so taught, I thought they would burst clean out of the leaf green cardigan she was wearing.

“Awww, it’s okay sugar plum. Don’t want to strain your eyes now do we? Oh wait, you already have.” Jennifer. I could tell without even looking at her since Ingrid had successfully cracked a pencil in half just by gripping it. RIP pencil. Hopefully not RIP us.

“Listen, no one wants you here. Just lay low, or we’ll find you.”

“Oh yeah, laying low in a wheelchair. Super easy.”

“You’ll regret that.” I didn’t fight him, even when he took my lunch and stalked off to the other side of the room. In the game of chess, you must plan your moves carefully.

* * *

 I finally finished the pencil outline of my chaos art. A style personally developed by yours truly. Then I smelt muffins, fresh baked.

I pushed myself downstairs to find both of my parents sitting at the table, clearly waiting on me. I swallowed, debating going back upstairs, but muffins were my fatal weakness.

“Why did you bribe me into coming down here with muffins?”

“Because there was no other way to get you to come down. Now, is everything okay?” Real concern flickered across their faces. For once in my life, I considered breaking my sacred pact with Ingrid to not tell. I wanted someone to fix this so bad. I was tired of being outcast, not noticed, the bug splattered on a windshield of the social life known as school. I can handle hospitals and car wrecks but not this. Did that make me less of a person? I could easily adapt to not being able to run or walk or even hear my best friend sing a song, but I couldn’t take a few mean words. Was I really that pathetic? I mean, what were Jennifer and Braden compared to nearly losing your life in a car accident? I survived that on my own. I could survive this too. But you didn’t survive it alone.

It was true, I didn’t. I had my parents and Mr. Salmon and Ingrid and Dr. and Ingrid’s parents (even if they were crazy to think Ingrid was at fault for Ms. Amber). Most of all, God. He protected me during that car wreck. He had a plan for me and my life. I met everyone I knew for that reason. I was in nothing alone. I had my own personal team rooting for me. But that was what caused everything to become complicated.

I knew I had people there for me, but how would they react? It wasn’t like the bullying was physical or anything. I remember the health textbooks saying to go to a trusted adult, but who would believe a deaf and paralyzed kid? Ingrid was my ears and I was her eyes, and we made it this far, but how much farther could we go? It was some sort of matrix where everything seemed completely inescapable. If I told, Ingrid would most likely hate me for the rest of my life and honestly, she was the sole reason why I kept on trying to learn ASL and to keep developing my wheelchair skills. But if I didn’t tell, I subjected myself to a life of torture. But how long was that torture? Two more years and I would be out of that pit. I could make it two more years. I could stand for that long. But was I fooling myself? How long could I really stand? And what if it got worse later in life?

Middle school and high school are all portrayed to be much worse than elementary school. Could I survive a band of jocks and cheerleaders who would obviously not care who I was? Could I survive that level of work and stress? Could Ingrid and I still maintain a strong relationship? And relationships are prominent in those years. Would anyone ever love a freak? Sure, Ingrid was a girl and my friend, but we didn’t like each other that way. We had gone through too much together to be something like that. Could another girl look at me and find me to be something more?

Life seemed to stretch on for infinity, but just like in my chaos art, it was limited to the paper it was provided. And what seemed so long was so short and finite. What a paradox.

To my parents, I answered in five seconds. To myself, I answered after an eternity of living.

“Yeah, everything’s fine.”

* * *

 I held about ten muffins hostage at my desk while I continued to scribble out thumbnails for a new project. I was bored of doing the same old same old. I considered the wild possibility of painting, but backed out when I realized just how it would stain my desk.

The HB lead of my pencil was beginning to run low.

I wished I wasn’t so philosophical. I wished I wasn’t so observant. I wished I couldn’t see everything I did and understood all of the social aspects. For once, I wanted to be oblivious.

Little did I know I would get my wish.

Chapter 9: Let me Fly

 The art began to take form. Lines were no longer scattered haphazardly across the paper. The chaotic war had begun to take form.

 A spiral began to reveal itself. I don’t know if it was the heavy bass of my radio next to me shaking it, or my own subconscious, but something made the lines curve in such a way while remaining straight. The paradox was making itself known without its contemplator aware.

Stark, bold lines careened across the white space. Black ink suddenly replaced the pale gray pencil. Art began to fold across.

I was unaware of anything around me except the muffins. How could I forget those?

A feather etched its way into the work. Beautiful lines shaded it carefully through the practice of crosshatching. Lines crossed each other in impossibly small areas. Black never overpowered white, but balanced it.

 Another graced its way around the other, folding in slightly behind it. The end fluffed out a bit more than the previous one. Another line and in a few minutes another would be formed.

The cycle continued until a circle of soft down feathers greeted me.

I couldn’t stop now. It compelled me to continue. The clock on the wall ticked beside me, but I could hardly notice. Nothing in the world could break my concentration now. Like, the best movie ever could just give me free tickets to it and I couldn’t care less.

The layers of tight, under feathers were developed next. I felt like a bird taking flight myself. The air was thinner, but more breathable for some reason.

 Short, stiff lines engraved the edges of each feather carefully and yet recklessly. As if the pent up aggression and torment of being the observer was making itself known. Was this how birds felt as they flew? Seeing the world, looking down, and yet, not being able to fit as they glided above? Or was that how they fit?

My anger at suddenly turning this into another philosophical conversation with myself was released in the layer of free flowing, lengthy, curling feathers. Each stroke defined, careful. Each feather open, careless.

 I felt like those feathers then. Able to enjoy something. I never thought of this then, but now I realize it. I was suddenly under no stress, no fear, and no struggle. I was living like a kid should, enjoying an activity, not turning it into an opportunity to vent.

A bite of my muffin, the strike of a clock, the change of a song. Nothing fazed me as my pens flew across the desk while I changed sizes like a fashion star changes outfits at a pageant. Pencils lay forgotten on the floor. My parents had long gone to bed. I glanced at the clock briefly, discovering it to read 10:30 PM. I still had time. I had all the time in the world.

I had no bearing of sound, but I imagined what music might sound like and I incorporated it into the elaborate details of the third layer of feathers in the never-ending spiral. Beautiful, unprecedented, welcome.

Seconds passed, then minutes, then hours. I couldn’t care less. I couldn’t care less. The pens flew around. The whirlwind created a spiral I was proud of. I had never been more proud of an artwork. Anything to escape reality.

 My imagery created a vortex for my troubles. It was if I was flying on the circular wings I had created. One falling over the other while dipping slightly while the other rose. It was the yin yang of birds.

 Black on white, black on white, black on white, black on white.

The colors continued to stand out and yet blend at the same time. The level of detail on each of the wings continued to increase. My level of life perception continued to decrease.

For once I felt normal. Even if in the end it was just a lie.

It was now one in the morning. I had passed out against my desk, exhaustion taking over. I ignored the phone vibrating next to me. For the night I wasn’t Karith Brooks the genius kid, I was Karith Brooks the six year old who was finally acting “normal” for what he could be.

* * *

 I slept and then the next morning, Saturday, I woke up. I ate a muffin. I had a conversation with my parents about the TV show I had wanted to watch recently. I took a walk with my parents and didn’t turn it into a time to educate them about how life was a paradox.

 I joked around. I played with the other kids as best I could. They didn’t seem to mind and suddenly, I saw how I wanted to be treated. Like one of the guys.

 I turned out to win every race because I had gotten to wheel myself around on sidewalks well. Everyone congratulated me and we set off to build a leaf fort. My parents watched from a bench nearby.

 For once, I understood when everyone said I was too smart and analytical. It was overwhelming. Just being a kid was exhilarating.

* * *

When we got home later that day, I had dinner with my family and then proceeded to pull another late one on my art.

The ink in several of my pens had run out, but I took no notice of it. I would just hunt down another one in my endless art drawer. Muffins and pulsing bass drums kept me awake. But even if I didn’t have those things, I would have remained awake. It was too much of a wonderful thing, drawing. It was a release, an understanding, a method of coping. The madness at which I drew would have scared many, but was peaceful to me. The eye of the storm of my life and the wings gave me a sense of fullness. The ability to be normal thrilled me. It sent chills down my spine to realize there were some kids out there who actually didn’t care what I looked like. They just played, and the joy from that fueled every single lash of the pen to paper. If pen companies could sue someone for overusing pens, they would probably sue me. I soon found I had just a minor amount of white space surrounding my last layer of feathers. Not wanting to have such an abomination on my paper, I searched for something. The light glistened along the blades. The plastic, blue handle was cold beneath my touch. My fingers slid into the open holes with ease, grasping the utensil with upmost care. I gently spread my forefinger and thumb, opening the twin edges into a V-shape. The ends gently caressed the paper. Each cut was slow, deliberate, beautiful.

Cut.

White space removed.

Cut.

Beauty given and received.

Cut.

The ends of the feathers began to curl in the most delicate way.

Cut.

No simple mistakes, just clean, black ink left in the dust.

Cut. Cut.

My breath brushed the feathers as I inched along the edges.

Cut. Cut.

The glassy light from the silver orb of white gold in the sky graced the white paper, making it illuminate the room.

Cut. Cut. Cut.

Never had I been so engrossed in pure imaginative beauty.

Cut. Cut. Cut.

The scissors were gracefully dancing with the scribbles on the paper.

Cut. Cut. Cut. Cut.

My pace began to increase as adrenaline coursed through my veins.

Cut. Cut. Cut. Cut. Cut.

The release was too glorious.

Cut. Cut. Cut. Cut. Cut. Cut.

Slips of paper began to cover the ground, snowing to calm my burning passion.

Cut. Cut. Cut. Cut. Cut. Cut. Cut.

The pace was fast now, but at the same time slow, meticulous.

Cut. Cut. Cut. Cut. Cut. Cut. Cut. Cut.

All of my feelings pushed on to the final edge.

Cut.

I was finished.

 

Chapter 10: Shine a Light on Me

 Monday. The dreaded day of re-entering the pit of torment also known as school. As I sat up, I could no longer feel anything. I placed on my mask, and got ready for the dance.

 The drive never felt so endless. It was all too much. But no one ever saw that behind my schooled features. I had everyone playing my own little game, and it was a wonderful feeling. I felt like I could retain at least a little something to call my own.

 The sun never felt so threatening. And yet, it was somewhat exquisite. Funny how nice things could be when you took the time to notice. It was a compilation of a paradox that no one could ever figure out. My fingers drummed idly against the desk all day. Teachers called on me to answer because I was not so subtly acting like I wasn’t paying attention. I would give them the correct answer, with a lengthily explanation of why it was correct, and they wouldn’t bother me again. At least they maintained eye contact with me, so I could give them just a little taste of my raging emotion behind the mask. After all, there are eye holes in masks.

 * * *

 I stood in the hallway, desiring something, but not knowing quite what. The sheer heightened adrenaline of elementary students was enough to break the strongest willed parents.

How much more did they break the peers?

I kept my thoughts to myself now. Because I had found out a few things no one was going to like. But like what everyone says, what people don’t know can’t hurt them. So I kept my mouth under lock and key and continued to play off everything as usual. Faking stuff was hard.

* * *

I tolerated my lessons, and worked through the tough conversations with other students. My death stare had been perfected. Everyone at home was acting weird around me, though. Almost like they could see through my façade. I began to question if they really could.

 I turned off my phone before I began the homework. I didn’t need my friend bugging me today. I needed to focus on everything that needed to be focused on. The homework was not it. It was why the homework was always surprisingly easy. If I let anyone on to me, I would be dead. It was my job to make sure everyone held together. I was the glue. And I wasn’t going to let my job fail.

* * *

 They ask if I’m okay, I respond with why wouldn’t I be. It was an endless cycle I could never escape. The pressure of the secrecy was becoming too much and I began to doubt how long I could hold it in.

 I tossed and turned in my bed as best I could. Nothing I thought of seemed to alleviate my pain. All I could hear were the dreaded words pounding on my skull, begging to be said aloud. So I said them to the shadows who were always my willing audience.

 When I finished, they applauded me. And I applauded myself, because no one else had heard.

* * *

 School was the hardest. With people right by you, it is traumatizing to keep a secret in for so long. Especially when most of them already know it too. It’s a minefield out there and one wrong step could cost you everything you had fought for.

 I tiptoed around teachers’ watchful eye in class, faking boredom. They never cared if I was bored anyway because I would always give the correct answer without even knowing the question.

 Life was no longer good, and I had nothing to blame but my own Great Unknown. It was incredibly ironic if you thought about it hard enough. I was the one who controlled the puppet and yet the puppet seemed to control me. Its secret abilities were what caused me to pull the strings.

* * *

I met Mr. Salmon for coffee and muffins at the local shop on 14th street. The hustle and bustle of the crowd was somewhat overwhelming, but he took no notice of it. Or he did it on purpose. The barista’s voice could barely be heard over the orders of latte addicts. The noise only reminded me of the chaos crushing my mind. Salmon proceeded through the usual small talk. I blinked more often. For some reason, my adrenaline had decided to kick in. I was on heightened alert by a simple, casual conversation. Was this how secrets always felt? Was it always this much pressure? I had managed it for so long. Why was it so difficult now? Oh, and of course the radio had to outright turn against me as it began to play OneRepublic’s “Secrets.” Really? Really life? Can I get one break? Nope. Life does not work that way folks.

“Karith? You good? You seem a little on edge.” I began to panic just as the chorus kicked in.

“Karith?” Stop talking, please Mr. Salmon, stop talking.

“Karith?” A new voice, feminine. Crud.

“Karith?” Karith, Karith, Karith, Karith, Karith, Karith, Karith. Why does my name seem to repeat for eternity?

“You okay?” No, no please save me. But how could I say that with the reason I’m not standing behind me?

“Karith?” I broke. I snapped. I lost it. My resolve disappeared. I caved at a coffee table.

I shared my secrets. I spilled my guts, and two pairs of eyes bored into me.

 One with shock and concern, the other with pure, unprecedented betrayal.

(Hope y'all liked it! Part 3 coming up. Don't forget to comment! :))


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