Provisional Outline of The Sin of Being Beautiful First draft by Justin J. Won on December 31, 2014
I woke up with my crappy alarm clock shouting loudly. I punched it in the head so that it shuts up immediately with loud “bang.” It is another lousy morning in which I had to make my own breakfast and walk myself on my feet to my school. School is 30 minutes away, so I wake up at 6:00, even if the school starts at 7:55 a.m. I dress myself with a pair of old jeans and white shirt which used to be my mom’s. I run down the staircase and find my disoriented father—or I would’ve prefer to call him Mrs. Valentin, if I’m so used to calling him my dad, to avoid being addressed as his daughter—who was knocked down by a bottle of liquor in his hand last night. I hardly ever see him awake, because he is always drunk and try to avoid being conscious to forget my dead mom. I finish my self-served breakfast and rush out of my house hurriedly. I hate that gloomy and massy house filled with alcoholic smell and beverages. I’ve never liked to walk to school, but I’ve never really had a choice. As soon as I step outside, I see gray concrete walls of intersections with faded graffiti arts on them. The air is cool and dry, and I like it. It is another nice day, so I will be able to stay outside of my alcoholic house as long as I want. As I go by the school sign which reads: Temeculla High School, I see my fellow sophomores going into their classes, all talking loudly with their friends. I don’t have any friend, so I just walk alone to my first period class which is Algebra 2 Honors. It is my favorite class, because I neither have to act as if I’m not a loner nor suffer from bullies, due to the quiet mood that exists in all of math classes in the world. It is unfortunate that I have it for my first period. I need it to be my period 3 or 4, because then, it can serve as my break from those vehemently staring eyes in other classes. Girls stare at me, because they envy me and are jealous of me. I am not the one who’s responsible for my beauty, though. It is my parents who are responsible. One dead, one drunk. I have bright, almost white, blond hair and blue eyes just like my mother had—I know my mother’s appearance, because I’ve seen her in my parents’ wedding picture—and according to the whispers which were meant to be secrets to me, my face is noticeable. Not only noticeable, but pretty. I suppose that the only reason they stare at me is my beauty, not my personality or something like that. Who would enjoy these relentless stares? I want to be a normal girl who can freely be ignored and left alone. Most boys also stare at me, with reason that is quite different from the girls. They, too, stare at me because I’m hot, but they aren’t jealous. They like me—or not me, but my pretty face and my hot body. I often feel some stares that are directed not at my face but my body—especially my butt—which make me feel uneasy and annoyed by. Boys often ask me some stupid, meaningless questions like “can I carry your bag for you?” or “hey, do you have some free time this afternoon?” or for the worst, “can you do the thing with me?” What’s doing the thing anyway? I don’t want them to know about me so I always answer with all my effort to be indifferent, “No, thanks.” But, in most cases, boys just whisper among their peer group, “That girl is hot. Who wants to go ask her for a date?” and go pass me laughing as if they had just said something that is the funniest thing in the world. I’ve seen many girls say that they are so miserable that they are not pretty. I am so miserable that I am so pretty. So pretty. Why am I so pretty? What good is there to be pretty? Am I that pretty that nobody can pass me without saying about my beauty? I shove through the crowd that always forms between the periods in which every students have to move to their next classes. A boy who is names William pass me and says to me with a smile, “How are you today? Miss Temeculla?” This is a daily routine, but I still get annoyed and indignant. Something is wrong. I am ridiculed every moment, because I am pretty. I walk fast trying to win out my burgeoning anger. The bell that warns students that there’s only one minute left to get to classes rings as I enter the chemistry class. Right when I take a seat, Mr. Stewart says that we have a lab today. Ahh, I hate lab. I hate being with my lab partner. I never have hard time getting a partner, because every boys are so eager to get me as their partner. As soon as Mr. Stewart finishes his instructions, I see several boys rushing toward me. I sigh and let myself up. 6 boys today, I think. I guess they even started to take turns to get me as a partner. A boy with muddy hair comes to me and says, “Would you be my partner today?” “Sure, why not.” He carries all my papers and moves to the lab area and sits down on a table. I follow him and take a seat next to him. The boy seems as if he has just earned everything in the world. How lucky I am, I can make a boy feel an emotion that great just by being his lab partner. The lab is about distinguishing chemicals by their flame colors, and we have to write down the information on the papers that are located on each of the tables each of which has different chemicals on it. It is fairly easy to figure out which one is which, because the colors of the flames are so unique. But my lab partner is having a hard time figuring that out, because who—knows-why. I finish mine up and help him figure his out. He looks startled when I help him, I think, because he’s not used to seeing me helping other people. I want to tell him I am willing to help others and I’m not selfish, but I don’t think he’ll get what I say, because he’s so breathless with my breath-taking beauty. I hate being in here with this boy who sold his soul to love—love that is directed to me—and can’t wait to get out of this class. After what seems like a day, Mr. Stewart finally order us to finish up the lab, and since I’m already done, I clean up quickly and head to my seat. Finally, I am free from that stupid boy whose name I don’t know. As I walk down the hallway that leads me out of the science buildings, I hear I voice calling me from my back. It’s Leah Guzman, who I consider an acquaintance. Like I said, I don’t really have a friend. “Ashley! How was your AP Euro test?” “It was not bad. I think I only missed few,” said I apathetically. “Wow, you’re so smart, Ashley. I think I failed the test!” She says words with such a high-tone that it my ears hurt. “You know, you’ll pass, Leah,” I said with the best hopeful voice that I can manage. “No, I won’t,” she said with small, pitiful voice, but I don’t feel like encouraging someone right now. I need someone to encourage me, not someone to encourage. I just sigh, because Leah doesn’t seem to hate me, at least. Most girls literally hate me because of my beauty. I somehow manage to say something hopeful, “Well, you’ll get better score on the next test. Don’t be so depressed by just one test score.” “Thank you. You’re my only true friend!” She glimpses at her watch and says, “Oh, I think I should go now. See you, Ashley!” “See you, Leah.” She disappears into the crowd. I am happy to be alone again, not having to act as if I’m happy while I get stared at. I run to the room 401 where my AP Euro teacher awaits. “Hello, Ashley, how are you today?” I hear Mr. Weinberger greeting me with a smile. His paper-white hair and warmly smiling mouth relieve me. The warm air that exists in his classroom year-round does the same thing to me. “I’m doing great, Mr. Weinberger,” I answer back with my very best hopeful tone. “Good,” mumbles Mr. Weinberger. I like him, because he seems to judge with what’s inside of me not what I appear to be. AP Euro is full of honors-level students, who are so apparently either hate me or like my look. These people who belong to mostly-white population judge people with their appearance as other people in other groups, but they do it more severely and completely, that I don’t know why I chose to be in this class. Oh, Mr. Weinberger. But even he being here cannot kill all the stares and hatreds and unpleasant admiration. Plus, this class involves a lot of student participation, which means that I have to face other class mates in this class often. A sigh pass through my lips automatically as Mr. Weinberger declares the discussion about the cause of the First World War. Conversations start immediately and I try to appear as talkative as possible, because Mr. Weinberger is watching. Or I just try to appear doing something with effort. I write some meaningless words on a paper and doodle around my worksheet. As soon as I finish drawing my dying rose, a boy named Liam taps my right shoulder lightly. “Hey Ashley, what have got so far for the topic?” His brown eyes seem so attractive. It was a little hard to look directly at his eyes, due to some reason that I don’t know. “Umm, I haven’t been working on that, actually. As you can see.” I dragged my paper to his side, so that he can see my dying roses. “Wow, did you draw that?” I answered with a nod. “That looks like a real roses! You’re really good at painting! I like painting, too.” “Oh, yeah?” I said, trying to be as indifferent as possible. “Yeah, do you want to see some of my paintings after school?” At that moment, I notice a few boys and girls glancing at us talking. It is that jealousy thing for both genders now, since a boy is getting my attention. “Hmm, yeah. What time?” I accept his request, because I am actually interested in seeing a painting of his, since I really like painting. “Hmm, right after school, is that ok?” “Yeah, I’m free all day today, see you at the front gate.” “Yeah, at the front gate after school.” Liam seems to be a fine boy with warm bronze hair and brown eyes. I just know his name from his numerous participation in Mr. Weinberger’s third period class, but hardly noticed his attractive eyes before. I’ve never really been attracted to someone in my life. Maybe it’s because he seemed not to care about my appearance. He’s the first one to ask me about what I like to do, not how I look or how beautiful I am. “Miss Valentin?” a blurry voice wakes me from the daydreaming. “Yeah?” I answer with a voice that’s too loud, and that rouses some smirks from the boys around me. Allan, a mean-looking guy who sits next to me, looks as if he’s thinking, “she’s beautiful even when she is caught day-dreaming.” “What did countries in WWI give to allied countries that meant unconditional support?” Oh, I really don’t remember that. A union-ship? Is that even a word? A word that seems likely to be the answer comes to my mind. “Umm, friendship?” The whole class starts a huge laughter that it takes long to be suppressed by Mr. Weinberger. I blush. I feel so embarrassed that I want to vanish from this place like magic. Apparently, friendship wasn’t the answer. Mr. Weinberger calls for a volunteer, “Anyone know the answer?” Liam raises his hand and say, “it’s called the blank-check.” “Yeah, blank-check.” Mr. Weinberger appreciates Liam and goes over today’s lecture. Liam is smart. I knew that because of his frequent participation, but it comes to me just now. He is smart and he understands me. And I’ll be with him after school!
I stand at the school front gate where Liam and I agreed to meet after school to go see his paintings. I don’t know anything about him, including what his 6th period is, so I just wait patiently, since I don’t have anything to do after school except accepting the truth of being a loner. A group of smirking guys who pass near me whispers to his friend loudly as if he intends to let me know what he’s about to say, “You see that hot girl over there? She’ll be my lab partner in my next lab in chem.” Oh, he’s in my chem class. That’s something to talk about, really, “a lab partner.” I hear his friend saying, “Oh my god, you are so lucky, man. You get to talk to her for a whole period?” Again. Do they not know that I can so clearly hear their almost shouted whispers? There’s a lot of annoyance today especially. Many girls who go past me stares at me as if I were a dog poop threatening their shoes with its dirtiness. On the same grounds. Well, at least they know that their whispers are heard. The smaller the sound is the more people listens to it. Why is Liam not here yet? Did he forget the appointment? Just as I turn to go to my usual place where I kill time, I hear someone calling me. “Hey, Ashley!” It’s not Liam, but it’s Leah. I don’t know why but I feel a little disappointed. Do I already care about that boy I barely know of? Don’t let people you don’t know hurt you, Ashley, I say to myself. I turn to face Leah and say, “Hey Leah, what’s up?” “Nothing’s up, I just wanted to say hello,” she said with some apologizing tone, “why are you standing here?” Her awkward ending of the sentence suggest that she was going to add the word “alone” to the end of her remark but was successful at suppressing it. “Oh, I’m just, you know, don’t want to go home too early, because of my father and all.” “Oh, I see. See you tomorrow then, Ashley.” Leah starts off to get to her car, I think. She’s pretty rich, though no one seems to notice. “See you, Leah, thanks for saying hello to me.” “No problem!” she instead heads to her group of friends. They were all staring at me the whole time, of course, jealous. Not jealous because Leah gets to know me, but jealous because I am just so freaking pretty. Ahh, god. Why? Are looks everything? Really? I want to take some break from my looks now, so I half-run, half-jog to my place under a tree where I draw the passing traffics and the clouds in the sky. Things don’t feel jealousy. So they are my friends. Better friends than my human friends for sure. The place is far enough from school that no one stops by me to irritate me, usually. I spend most of my gloomy days there, drawing. But I don’t know why I feel like I should be expecting someone. Oh is that because of that forgetful boy in Euro class? I hope not. Today I don’t draw a particular thing, I just draw some abstract lines. Thousands of lines somehow resembles a boy. This is not good. Why should it look like a boy. My hand draws without my brain’s command the boy’s brush. The boy gets his hair which turns out to be brown. I blame my meager number of color pencils for that. I only have like 12 colors! I suddenly realize that it’s Liam whom I’m drawing. I force myself to reject the fact, but well it’s a fact. I stop as soon as I realize it. I tear the paper off so that I don’t have to see it. I throw it away into the trash with whitened top from the ages of strong sunlight, wearing it off. Why doesn’t sunlight wears me off like the trash? I think I’ve stood here long enough to be like the trash can. Me, worn off, will be an admirable figure. Not jealousy-inducing as I am now. If you’re ugly it’s a problem. If your looks are okay, it’s a problem. If you’re just so pretty? It’s a grave problem. Why do you bother thinking about this boy who forgets our promise and never even shows up? I hate myself for even remembering him and try to convey his image to the paper I have in my hand. I hate myself. I hate him. I hate everyone and everything. I hate life. I decide to go home early today, because I gotta get some sleep. I’m so tired of hating and I want to forget everything and escape into my dream world in which I can fly around all I want. I get to be as plain a girl as possible, too. I learned to fly around in my dream from a book How Dream Works. It explained how a person can notice that she is in her dream when she’s dreaming and alter her dream so that she can do whatever she wants in her dream. So I tried for a week to perceive in my dream that I’m in my dream. It took exactly 7 days to do that. Then, on the 7th day, I could not only know that I was dreaming, but also I was able to fly around as the book told me. It is the funniest and best thing I can do in my life. And one of few things that makes me happy; only drawing and flying around in my dreams make me happy. I go to my bed right after passing my father who is completely out by his drinking. First floor is fraught with alcoholic smell that I can’t stand a minute in it. Second floor is slightly better, because I clean it and it’s little far from my father. I shut the door of my room and lock it. I lock it because my father often tries to get into my room, drunk. For once, I forgot to lock it and I almost got raped by my father. I don’t even want to recall that experience. It’s just so terrible. How can I call that thing my father? Why does that thing have right to serve as a parent to me? I would’ve gone into a shelter for teens, if this house didn’t exist. This house, since it exists, allows me to meet Mrs. Anderson, the only one who cares about me like a parent. I appreciate her for being such a nice neighbor. I’ve been wanting to call her mom for years, but I couldn’t because I thought it might offend her or it wasn’t right. I look out the aged window in my creepy room. The houses that are across from mine are so closely-packed that they look like an apartment complex—though they must be really old one, ghettoized. Grass that lay in front of them are not green because nobody takes care of it. And nobody cares, really. The neighborhood I live in is not so safe because the downtown is so close to it. Some people even installed barbed wire fences around their homes. Take my word: who wants to break in breaks in anyhow, no matter the presence of barbed wire. If I go 30 minutes by foot, then I’ll reach downtown of LA, the very heart of it, with bustling gang population armed with guns that can kill you before you blink. So, at night, I hear glasses shuttering, guns firing, and people screaming. Gangs are near us, fortunately not with us. Gangs are why there are so many graffiti arts around us. The arts are really arts. A spectacle, almost. Colorful. Vibrant. They have a negative connotation on most people, but it’s pretty on the outside. I thought that’s all people care about. I guess adults care about subtle meanings and beauties inside, too, unlike teenagers. I’ve been doing my homework for AP Euro for an hour, when my father slams the door. “Get out you naughty girl!” When have I ever been naughty? This is not fair at all. Stinking smell of alcohol is dad’s mighty company, apparently. “Go away! Why are you here? You belong to downstairs.” “I don’t belong to anywhere, honey. I am your father so I’m here.” I just ignore him after that. I can hardly study, but I can at least not hear what he says. Selective hearing I suppose. A godsend for a person like me. When I am done with my homework, I dive in to bed immediately. My father’s still slamming the door or near it so I don’t have the luxury to go take shower. I should probably do it in the morning.
As always, the morning comes with the loud alarm clock noise. I swiftly straighten myself and jump out of my cozy bed. It is always hard leave such a sweet, warm place behind and step into the chilly morning, barely lighted by the sun. I have to be quick to get to that bathroom, before my father—lying on the hard floor, knocked out by drinking—notices me. I quickly push open my door and find my father lying in the hallway. Phew. He’s as good as dead now. I take shower quickly and skip my breakfast. I don’t feel like eating today. School goes as always—people whispering about me, envying me—until I get to my AP Euro. I was sitting at my usual seat when Liam came to sit next to me. I feel something hot growing in my heart and was about to say something despicable about him when he said, “I’m sorry, Ashley. I’m really sorry. I had to go to hospital, because my father passed out yesterday.” Oh, if it were an excuse, I would kill him right here. I feel a little sorry for being so hostile without hearing anything about the matter. So I whispered, “Oh. I thought you simply forgot about it. It’s totally fine. Is your father alright?” “Yeah, he’s doing fine, fortunately. I tried to find a way to contact you, but nobody… I mean I didn’t have your number.” He apparently refrained from saying “nobody had my number.” Well, that’s the truth. I don’t think that matter much, having no one in school know my number. Who cares? God, I guess everyone cares if their numbers are as obscure as the 13th king of Tudor Dynasty? I don’t know. I am dumb when it comes to friends, leadership, and sociability. You know that nobody can thrive in everything. I am no exception. Back to the world of numbers. Yeah, it’s true that nobody can contact me at school. Only person in the world who knows my number is Mrs. Anderson, who has been saving my life ever since she was my neighbor—a few years ago. Back then, I was totally depressed. Everyone has their heydays and mine was in early elementary school years. I was popular, though popular in elementary school isn’t much of a distinction. I had good friends, or thought I had good friends. Then something changed. I was one of the earliest girls in the school to get into puberty. That was it. Different in looks from my peers, I isolated myself, cooperating with others’ efforts to block me out. I grew taller. Reached then-unfathomable height of 5’10’’. I am tall, even now after 3 years since I stopped growing. Not only my height but all of my body and mind transformed. A tempest of puberty wrecked me like a hapless little fishing boat sinking on a vast, unyielding ocean. I sank. No friends that I know of from that time period. Well, that time period never really ended. Since then I was walking in a sunless world, totally devoid of any light except seldom lighting strikes, a result of sudden friendship turning out to be just to buy me for popularity, etc. Having me as a girlfriend—always a nominal one—is a great popularity boost for any boy. Social reasons are one of the reasons that I’m so detested by girls universally. Oh, I’ve been drifting away from my hope, a possible lightning that might shock my poor self in the dark world. Thinking of an adequate answer to Liam’s news, I found no solution. So I just nod, and Mr. Weinberger starts the class. The class goes as bad as always, Liam helping me to figure out what Schleiffen plan was and still is. You know, my English teacher—Mr. Gunderson—would say that the plan is still there, so you need to use present tense or whatever. He’ll add: “Is everyone here with his or her textbooks? Oh, none is here.” Well, I am kind of a grammar nerd myself, but if you be that pedantic, then you can’t last long in this world. I guess Mr. Gunderson managed life by being such a stress-free person, although being a pedant. Gunderson’s class is second best class I have I think. Mr. Gunderson and Mr. Weinberger are the only teachers that are not seemingly bothered my presence. God, I know it sounds like boasting but you don’t boast about something you hate to be, so bear with me here. Other teachers, though try they do, fails to ignore my looks. They see me only externally, never penetrating my “godly” beauty. After school, Liam and I meet at the front gate as we planned yesterday to see his paintings. He already drives even if he’s a sophomore. How does he do so much stuff with his time? I am a sophomore and I seem be doing absolutely nothing. I ask as I get into the passenger seat, “Do you play any sport?” “Yeah, I play baseball. I’m a batter.” “A batter. That explains your muscular build,” I say, making him chuckle a little. “Varsity?” “Yeah, I’ve been in varsity since my freshman year,” he says, his lips making a happy smile. So he like to talk about himself. Got it. “Wow you must be really good then. Varsity baseball as a freshman.” “Well, it’s nothing really, ‘cause I’ve been playing baseball for a long time with my dad.” He asks, “Do you play any?” “’course not. Do I look like a person who plays sport.” It felt a little too mean to cut it off with such intensity. Well I could play sport. I was like a star basketball player in my junior high. It’s just that I didn’t want to meet many people and figured I would see a lot of people if I were join any sport. “Yeah you actually do. You look like a tennis player.” A tennis player. I might’ve enjoyed tennis if I had chance to try tennis. “I don’t have that luxury to play tennis. Do you play tennis, too?” “Yeah, a little. I’m also in tennis team.” “Wow, you are the beast of the school, aren’t you? All that knowledge about WWI and 2 sports?” That makes him laugh. I laugh, too. How long has it been since I laughed? I don’t even remember the last time I laughed. I thought I forgot how to laugh. “You look a lot more gorgeous when you smile,” Liam said with so sincerely that even if I don’t like being called gorgeous, I don’t get offended by it. “Thank you,” I said weakly. We are almost to his house. His is on the better neighborhood where grass is mowed and trashes are picked up. He says that his parents are out working so he has learned to drive. His house is clean and doesn’t smell like alcohol. When I step inside his room, I was so impressed by the pictures in his room. They are so beautiful and gorgeous. Most of them are drawings of a girl. “Who is the girl?” I ask, curious. “Doesn’t she look familiar?” She does look familiar to me. Who is she? “Hmm. She does, but I don’t really know.” He answers shyly, “she’s … you.” The answer he gave me didn’t quite make sense at first. Then the word’s meaning comes to my mind suddenly. “It’s me?” I say to myself, quietly. I knew I was beautiful and boys like me, but this is a little different. Boys just stared at me and wanted to be with me. Liam’s paintings show his sincere feelings about me. He does like me. And I think I like him, too. “Do you like the pictures?” Liam asks me, still with a tone with a hint of embarrassment. It takes a while to formulate an answer to the question. “Yes, I like it a lot. I didn’t know that you knew me until yesterday,” I said with an unintentionally low voice. He probably think that I’m lying, because of my tone, so I say quickly before he say anything, “Do you like me?” It just came out of my mouth, suddenly: “Do you like me?” Why did I say that? Without hesitation, unlike he’s shy remarks that were said moments ago, he said, “Yes I do like you, Ashley.” What did I expect? Did I expect him to not like me with all these painting of me in his room? Why am I so surprised by his answer? I feel my cheeks blush. I want to run out of his house due to some reason I don’t know. As I just stand there like a statue, he adds, “I not only like you, Ashley, but I love you.” The second impact was much stronger than the first one to my mind. I’m having trouble trying to sort things out in my mind. Perhaps I stood there for an hour, when Liam called, “Ashley, are you okay? Do you feel sick?” I said, still trying to figure out what I feel about Liam loving me, “I am a little … like … confused.” I exhaled and continued, “I, I didn’t expect someone to love me, really. I’m like a complete odd one out.” “Do you know why I love you, Ashley?” I’ve started to feel like it’s because of my pretty face that makes him love me. “’cause I’m hot?” “No, that’s not why I love you. I love you ‘cause I’m like you. I’m an odd one out, like you.” “No, you are not an odd one out, Liam. You have your friends. And I …” Liam snapped, “They aren’t my friends. I don’t really feel like I’m with them at all. I truly feel like I am myself only when I think about you, drawing you on the canvas.” I simply said, “I need some time to think, Liam. I love your paintings, I appreciate that you bring me here.” He looked a little disappointed in my expression, but he didn’t object. He drove me to my home and dropped me off at home. “See you at school,” I say as he drives off. “See you, Ashley,” he says with wary tone for he has seen the neighborhood in which I live. My mind is still chaotic with Liam’s declaration of love. He loves me. Liam Williams loves me. Does he? I still can’t believe it. I can’t believe it at all. But I’ve witnessed it myself so that it’s the truth inevitably. I’m not sure what to feel about it. Do I have to be happy that someone loves me? Am I being too sensitive to a minimal issue? Does he really like me at all in the first place? Do I love him? I’m in a chaos where nothing’s clear, everything seems so unstable. With my apocalyptic mind, I climb the stairs and find my father lying there with the same position as the one he was in in the morning. I kick him gently with my toe to check if he’s alive. He moves a little which means he’s alive and well, so I head straight to my room and slam the door. I do my homework taking my time, because I know that I won’t be able to sleep with this chaotic stuff in my head. I finish my homework really late in the night and spend the rest of the night thinking about Liam and his paintings. I find Liam waiting for me in front of my locker in the next morning. “Good morning, Ashley.” He’s not demanding answers, that’s a relief. “Good morning, Liam.” There a group of boys who look at us interestingly. I am still not sure about how I feel about Liam so I just say, “I … I’m not sure yet, Liam.” As soon as I finish the sentence, the group who hang out with Liam comes and takes him. He just says, “See you later, Ashley!” as he goes. “See you,” said I, not sure if he has heard me or not. Then I realize that I want to be near Liam. I don’t like to be without him, alone. I want him to be with me. I like him. I love him. First the first time in my life, I love someone. I can’t wait to meet him again in AP Euro and propose that I love him, hopefully not in front of the whole class. I will just whisper. Those classes that precede AP Euro feel like forever and I hardly manage to stay in seat. Why isn’t he in this class? Because he’s in Pre-calc. When I get to Chemistry, which is right before AP Euro, I am almost shanking, so eager to see Liam and tell him that I love him just as he loves me. We have a lab again today. The boy who gets to be my lab partner today is the dude from yesterday who was talking with his friend about me. I don’t even know his name and I don’t care about him now that I am thinking only about Liam. He is eager to help me as my lab partner. He almost does all the lab by himself so I can think of Liam. “What are you thinking about?” the lab partner asks. I really was so vulnerable when he asked that question so I struggle to answer. “I, I … I was thinking about … “ He cuts me off and says, “about Liam?” I am so shocked to hear Liam’s name coming out of his mouth. I’m so startled that I can’t help asking him. “How do you know?” “Because people are talking about you and Liam everywhere.” Everywhere? People talk about me and Liam everywhere? “Really? People talk about me?” “And Liam,” he added. “Why?” “Because you guys are popular. You, you’ll know why you are popular. I don’t know if you know but Liam is one of the most popular guys in school.” I do know that Liam’s a little popular. So people are talking about me and Liam today. Why so? Just because we exchanged greeting in the morning? Isn’t that a little overreaction? Maybe not, I’m not really sure. “So, do you like him?” Wow, he is bold. He doesn’t seem to care about my feeling at all. Maybe he doesn’t know that those kind of questions irritate me. “That’s none of your business,” I say a little too harshly. “Oh, you like him, don’t you?” “Think whatever you’d like …” “It’s Brian,” he said as he notices me struggling to figure out what his name is. “Brian.” “You know what?” He says with renewed tone of voice. “What?” “You look so hot and gorgeous.” I try to smash him in the stomach, but he blocks my blow with his thick arm. “Don’t you hit me? Don’t you know who I am?” “Aren’t you Brian?” “Yeah, I am Brian, Brian Lee.” I think of that name and try to recall something in my head. One thought suddenly comes up in my head. He is a gang member! Probably the leader of the gang. I feel so chill that I shiver a little. “Oh… I’m sorry, Brian,” I said timidly. “Be careful next time,” he breathed and went to his seat. Even a gang member tries to make me love him, I think. That is scary because I don’t know how harsh or transgressive those gangs are and I don’t want to be involved in those kind of businesses. I have enough as of now. I don’t need more problems. I was sprinting to my AP Euro class when I find Liam running with me. “Why are you so hurrying to the class? We still have 3 minutes,” asked Liam. “I just like to run,” I lied, because I don’t want him to know my deepest feelings about him. “So did you sort things out?” “Yeah, I did.” “So what do you say?” “I,” I hesitated, “I think that I … like you,” I said shyly. He grabbed my shoulders, stopping me, and then he hugged me with his arms around me. It is in the middle of the school, so people around us glanced at us and whispered something among themselves. Those whispers must be about me and Liam hugging each other. Liam’s chest and arms were so warm and cozy that I couldn’t think of anything else. I loved it. We stood there until the warning bell rang to warn us that there’s only one minute left until the real bell. Not wanting to separate, I barely managed to get out of Liam’s warm hugging arms. It was the best experience I’ve ever had in my life. I love Liam, a lot. From the day of the hug, Liam started to give me a ride to school in the morning and in afternoon, and I visited his house almost every day. Liam and I shared many proximities which made us really close and love each other. I started to hold his hand at school and we “officially” became a couple. According to my lab partners, people called us the “popular couple”, since people talked about us all the time. I didn’t particularly dislike it, because I’ve started to like to be popular, with Liam. One day, in his care, Liam told me that his father passed away the day before. Even though my mother died, I’ve never really felt the dying myself, because I was too young when she died. Liam’s father’s death put him down for several days, but he got over it after that. His thoughtful and benevolent brown eyes filled with joy and happiness once again. I don’t why there’re so many labs, but there are. Today’s lab is making models for chemical compounds with compound kits. A little Hispanic boy, who is also in the gang, is my lab partner today. As always my lab partner, Joel is his name, picks up the kit and carries all my stuff to the laboratory. He glances at Brian and sees that he’s not watching us and whispers, “Hey, I think you need to know about this.” “What’s up? Is there anything wrong?” I am frightened to hear something like that. “Yeah, there is. Brian is mad, because Liam and you are doing so well.” “What part of it is Brian’s business?” I said indignantly. “I know it’s not his business, but he likes you, actually.” “Is that why you guys never let other boys to be with me? To get to know me for Brian?” “Umm, yes, that’s why.” Ah, I hate the way I look. It draw people I don’t want into my life. I wish if I were a little uglier that I don’t have to worry about this kind of matter. “Why should I care if he likes me?” “Don’t you see? He’s the leader of my gang.” “So what?” “The gang is not like what you think it is, Ashley. The gang is much more bigger than you think. Think carefully.” “So you want me to quit liking Liam and start liking Brian instead?” “Exactly.” “Are you crazy? Are you mad? I can’t do it.” “It’s for you, Ashley. It’s better for you that you like Brian instead of him.” “I don’t believe you. Brian can’t do anything about me.” “Oh, okay, Ashley.” We just focused on our lab until the period ended. I don’t believe what he said. How even if it’s a gang can it make me love Brian instead of Liam? I do not know. The happiest days of my life passed as Liam and I date each other. One day, when we just arrived at my house, he called me with serious tone in his voice, “Ashley Valentin.” “Yes, Mr. Wiliams?” “Do you love me?” “Yes I do love you,” I said with confidence. His brown eyes pierced through my mind and I am fascinated by his sudden seriousness. He is watching straight at my eyes. His fingers find my jaw. He gently pulls my face to his. I can feel his warm breath against my lips. His warmth dominates my feelings. His lips are inches away from mine and I can’t wait to embrace his lips, so I go for them. An electric current passes through as soon as my lips meet his. His scent is so sweet that I can’t pull off from it. I, instead, go deeper inside of him. Soon, his tongue finds mine and we are one, we are connected and became one. We kissed for minutes and hours, I don’t know. He was first to pull off to get to his house before he gets himself into a trouble from his mother who works for him. “Good night, Ashley, I love you forever.” “I love you more than anyone, Liam,” I say as I see him leaving. It can’t feel lonelier than I am now. I am drunk on the kiss with Liam, like my dad did on his liquor. I lie down on my bed and slips into the world in which I can fly around and kiss Liam as long as I want. The next day, I go to school as usual, looking forward to kissing Liam in the afternoon. I barely listen to the teachers and step into the somewhat empty chem class. Why is this class so empty? Then I realize that all the gang members are absent. Is it really the gang members who are absent? Why so? I don’t know, but I don’t really care. I just want to kiss Liam. When I walked into AP Euro, I found that Liam is absent, just like the gang members. How can they all be absent in one day? I’ve never seen Liam absent before. I starts to panic. Where’s Liam? Oh my God, did Brian did something to Liam? I call Liam’s mom as soon as arrive home. I wait a minute for her to answer the phone, but she doesn’t. Oh, she’s out working, that’s why. I try to calm myself down. Then, I see him. In the TV, on the local news. His picture is on the news. The headline reads: A boy who is missing in Temeculla near downtown LA. That’s it. Brian did something to Liam. Because of me. Liam, oh my Liam. What should I do? How can I get him back? Do I know Brian’s number? That’s when the phone rings. I get it immediately. “Hello?” My voice cracked with panic. “This is Brian, Brian Lee. Is this Ashley am I speaking to?” “Yes, yes, this is Ashley. Please don’t hurt Liam, please Brian.” “That depends on your response, Ashley.” “What … what should I do then?” What are police officers doing? Why Liam, not me? Just kidnap me and make me love you not Liam. “Come to the garbage collection site right now where Riverside St. and Nelson Ave. cross. I’ll see you there or I’ll make sure Liam’s dead by tomorrow, you understand?” “Yes, yes, I’ll … be there. Please let Liam go. Please Brian,” the call ended before I say the word “please”. I quickly grab my hood and start to the site. He will let Liam go and take me instead, I hope. That’s the very best I can hope for. I see several silhouette as I get to the garbage collection site. No car passes since this area is abandoned long ago. I just know this place, because I used to hang around with my dad to find some liquor he wants. “Here comes the beauty,” voices Brian who smirks an evil smile. “Didn’t I warn you, girl. I told you to like Brian instead of Liam. I said we are a gang,” hisses Joel. I just say, defiantly, “Let Liam go, and take me instead.” “That’s what we are about to do,” says Brian, “Liam will live in desperation, because of the guild that he made you to give yourself up to us.” I just want him to be safe. I also want him to be happy, but this, giving myself up, is the best thing I can do for him. Brian makes a call and says, “Let Liam go, she’s here.” Joel and a boy whose name I do not know take both of my arms and drag me to their hideout in the garbage collection site. There’s a TV there and shows the picture of Liam. In a few minutes, the anchor tells us that Liam is free. And I know it’s my turn to suffer. “Are you ready? Ashley, my girl?” Brian says as if he’s about to eat a delicious piece of meat. I don’t answer. He slaps my cheek with his palm so strong that I hear ringing sound in my ears. Tears run down my face. “Liam, I love you,” I said desperately. “Come on, little girl, don’t you think you have to succumb to the situation you are in?” “No, I don’t like you. I hate you, Brian. Don’t you think it’s unfair? Don’t think you need to earn my love by your traits, not menacing me?” “Shut up,” Brian shouted at me. I shut up. I don’t want to talk anymore. I close my eyes. I feel a rope tightening my wrists. I feel them making me unable to move, making me their slave. They carry me and put me in a car’s back seat and make me unable to talk as well. I don’t resist. I know I can’t get out of their hands. “You are such a stubborn little girl. You need to learn how to yield.” As soon as I arrive at a building and put into a room, Brian undresses my clothes until I have only my underwear on me. I didn’t expect Brian to be so evil and totally distorted to be a criminal like that. He is trying to rape me. “No, please, Brian, I’m still a virgin. You can’t do this to me,” I said pleadingly. “Sure, I can. You are my slave and you agreed that you’ll do whatever I want to save Liam, didn’t you?” I did. I did agree. I have no choice. Strong and furious fingers touch my breasts. It’s not touching but it’s hitting. They hit my breast so hard and I can’t help screaming and moaning. I hear someone saying that he’s doing too much, but Brian ignores and keeps raping me. He has already removed my brassiere from me. Now the only thing I have on is my panties. I plead finally, “Brian, are you sure you want to do this to me, the one you like? You’ll have to live in prison once you rape me. Think, Brian, please.” “Of course, I want to do this, Ashley. I’ve always dreamed of raping you.” So there’s no hope now then. He didn’t like me. He liked my body. He only like my body. Now that he has my body, he is achieving his goal. I feel fingers of Brian between my legs. My stupid monkey body gets turned on by the touch of this criminal. I start to wince, because I’ve never felt feeling that is so strong and embarrassing. “Please stop, Brian, I can do whatever you want other than this, please.” He just ignores me now, and he keeps touching and trying to turn me on sexually. I feel me getting wet. He removes the final piece of cloth that shrouded me and penetrates my wet part with his fingers. It hurts so bad that I scream. His fingers are moving violently inside of my body. I am so disgusted and deeply hurt. His fingers are so long that it reaches my vulnerable hymen. Only with his fingers, he harshly ruins my virginity. Losing hymen hurts so bad that I scream on top of my lungs. Then, I suddenly hear his fellow gang members shouting, “Cops are here!” and Brian’s fingers quickly escaped my body. “God dammit. Why now! I almost had her,” he shouts and, judging by the sounds of footsteps, he runs out of the room. I am left alone, naked, bleeding, and deeply hurt in the mind. I hear sirens from the police cars that are chasing Brian’s gang. I hear a person who’s walking toward me. He says when he finds me, “I’ve got the girl. She’s naked and bleeding in her vagina.” I lose the grip on my consciousness just then.
I open my heavy eyes to see Liam’s comforting eyes. “How are you feeling, Ashley?” I’m so happy to hear Liam talking to me again. “I’m great. Is any part of me hurt?” He says that I’m not hurt at all, just psychological clinic was needed. I am so happy. I’m so grateful. I like to be sick near Liam. I notice Liam’s arm around mine. Warm and relieving, his arms comfort me. “How long have I been sleeping?” I ask curiously. “Hmm, about a day?” “He didn’t … rape me?” “No, they say he was about to rape you when they captured him.” “It was almost …. It was so close, Liam,” I said my voice, cracked between the words. “It’s okay, everything’s good, Ashley,” he said softly. “I know. I was … I was just afraid of him.” “He’s gone. He won’t be able to do that to anyone ever again,” he said encouragingly. “That’s good,” as soon as I finish speaking, my eyes close automatically. I hear his sweet voice whisper, “Sleep tight, Ashley. You are safe with me. I’ll be here holding you just like this when you …” I fall back to sleep again. I’m back in my crappy house again. I open my eyes, wet because of my sweat. I attempt to wake up, but I can’t. I look at my body and find my body tied to my bed. I panic. I shout, “Let me go! Somebody, help!” I hear someone entering my room. It’s my dad. “Hello, dad, can you …?” “I have the right to take advantage of you.” “What? What … did you say?” I didn’t expect him to say something like that. “I said that you are mine.” “No, I’m not yours. Being a daughter doesn’t mean I’m yours.” “Yes, it does. Now, come on my girl,” he says spreading his arms so he can take advantage of me. I scream. I shout for help. “Ashley! Ashley, it’s okay. It’s me,” says Liam. “Is it you, Liam?” “Yes, it’s me. You’re safe. It’s just a dream.” It was just a dream. A nightmare. That makes sense. I remind myself: My name is Ashley Valentin. I am 16 years old. I am well. I didn’t get raped. I am with Liam Williams. I am safe now. I am okay. I reach for Liam’s jaw. I want to kiss him. I want to check if he’s really there. I want to check if he’s illusion created by my weakened mind. He’s there, and I can touch him. And I can kiss him. Kisses are always so sweet and comforting. While we are kissing, I see a nurse coming to us, so I pull me back. “Oh, sorry, I interrupted,” says the nurse apologetically. “It’s okay. We were about to finish kissing,” Liam says playfully. I punch his forearm lightly and smile. “Yeah, we were almost done kissing.” “Okay, I’ll go get Dr. Oscar. Wait a minute,” says the nurse. I look into Liam’s eyes. They seem to invite me into a fantastic world in which we can be happy. No, his eyes basically turn the world into the fantasy world. And that means I am happy in this world with Liam. “I love you, Liam, forever,” I say. “I love you, Ashley.” The doctor said that I’ll be fine except the fact that I’m not a virgin anymore. I don’t really care about it. I’m good with Liam near me. I get into Liam’s car in hospital’s parking lot. Liam gets into his seat after closing the door for me. He leads us to his house where I’ll be staying outside of my dad’s reach. This is my new shelter, instead of the shadow under the tree in the intersection. It is warm, safe, and it has Liam in it. Liam is all I need. Liam starts to say, “Why did you sacrifice you …” “Because of you. I wanted you to be happy,” I snap quickly. “Did you think that I’ll be happy ever after without you?” “No, I didn’t think that …” “Then why …” I hold my finger up to stop his raids of questions. “I just couldn’t stand it. I am so selfish that I can’t stand when other person is in pain for me.” There’s a lull. It takes almost 5 minutes until we continue the conversation. “You know, you butt is so hot,” he whispers, teasing. “Come on, Liam, you don’t tease a psychopathic patient,” I almost hiss. “Okay, Miss Valentin. Let me feed you, too.” “Ahh,” I groan, but don’t say anything about it. I want be fed by him. I know it’s ludicrous, but I don’t care. We both go to school together by his care the next morning. I really like that I don’t have to wake up at 6. I have so much spare time in the morning, so I spend them kissing Liam. Kissing is never boring to me, and perhaps Liam, because he never refuses my request. Of course boys like kissing a girl. Even if we’ve been officially dating even before the incident, guys still look at Liam with jealousy, and girls still look at me with envy at school. It’s so heart-breaking that I have to spend most of my class time without Liam. We say good-bye to each other in front of my locker and I head to my math. I take a seat in the front row, because I can’t really concentrate on the class. I daydream about Liam most of the time. People seem to be surprised to see me so early after the incident. The boy who always serves as the mouthpiece of boys in this class says to me, “How are you Ashley? I saw you in the local news few days ago.” “I’m doing okay, Jake. Nothing physical was done to me, so I’m fine” except for my hymen, I say to myself. “That’s good to hear, beauty!” He laughed aloud with most of the class. “I like it that I can be in my usual life,” I whisper so nobody other than me can hear it.
I walk straight to my chem class and seat down as if nothing has ever happened. The class is not full, because of the missing gang members. I wonder how can 3 out of 7 gang members are—or were—in this class. Maybe be threatened the guidance officers. I try not to think about them, because thinking it over cause me to shiver noticeably. So since there is no gang members, who’ll be my partner today? As I expected, Mr. Stewart announced another lab for today. How many labs are we doing in a school year? Two-hundred and six? That can be possible, because there are 206 days of school days in a school year. Boys, who were previously thwarted by the gang, are 7 in total. That’s a lot. I feel like I’m betraying Liam, because there are 7 boys in this class only to buy a product that is already sold-out. I’m not sure what to feel about it, so I just don’t think. “I think you guys need to figure out some game or something to take turn to get me as a partner,” I say. They all nod and do the simplest game possible in this world. Rock, Paper, Scissor. In a minute, there’s a winner who’ll get to embrace me as his lab partner for today. I think he is unable to withdraw the huge smile from his face, so I just let him smile for a while. I don’t get the lab at all, so ask him, “Do you know what are we supposed to be doing, Tim?” “Umm, huh? What did you say?” he comes back to real world because of my question. “I asked what are we doing in this lab?” “Oh, sorry. It’s ‘cause you’re just so strikingly …” I cut him off and say, “hot, I know. We’d better focus, though. So do you know?” “I think we’re basically figuring out densities of these chemicals.” “Okay, let’s do it then, Tim,” I say as I put a beaker to measure its mass. He jumps every time I call him with his name. He’s probably shocked by my sexy voice or something. It is really hard to do a lab without any help from partner. I technically have a partner who’s name’s Tim, but struggle to not to look at me to stay conscious. Mr. Stewart declares that there’s only one minute until the time we have to clean up, but we are barely done measuring the masses of the chemicals. “Do you think we can finish lab in one minute?” Tim answers, “Perhaps not.” “Ahh,” I feel something hot filling my body, “You should’ve focused on the lab, Tim! I’m not here to entertain your sneaky eyes! I just happened to be your partner, that’s all.” “I’m sorry, Ashley. You’re just so …” “beautiful, I know,” I finished his sentence by hissing and cleaned my stuff up and moved myself to my seat in the classroom area. Is it fair to get a low grade for being hot? I don’t think so. Liam is the only one who treats fairly.
I wake up in the morning screaming on top of my lungs. I think I was trying to escape from a man who was trying to take advantage of me. I’m so quick to forget those terrible nightmares, so I’m good. I came back to my own house after a week or so in Liam’s house. I moved, because I didn’t want to depend on Liam’s parents. This house is all my own, except for a corpse-like creature that inhabits the first floor. I grab my only skirt which is so short even to cover my thighs and a white blouse. I’ve never felt like this before in my life; I want to appear as pretty as I can to Liam. I’d like to learn how to put a make up on my face, but I’m busy kissing Liam all afternoon. I notice people’s staring getting stronger and stronger as my bare skin starts to dominate my body. Boys now don’t care about my feelings at all and that look straight at my body without hesitation. My bare thighs feel chilly, but enjoy Liam’s reaction to my hot-pants and all that. It is possible for Liam to feel a little uncomfortable about those stares fired by guys, but he doesn’t seem to care. But I ask him at lunch just to make sure. “Don’t you feel a little uncomfortable because of those guys staring at me so zealously?” I can’t help asking him that. “I did feel a little uncomfortable at first, but what can I do to change that?” “Right,” I see his patience that is so strong and enduring. “Hey, do you want to go shopping today? I don’t seem to have a great variety of clothes.” “Sure, only that I don’t have …” He quickly says, “I got you. I’ve saved my money from my work in IN-N-Out.” “You work? When?” “I work right after I ride you home. 6 to 8.” So he works for me, for my clothes. How he notices my needs and feelings is so amazing that I—the girl—cannot follow his super ability of noticing people’s feelings. I’ve always been amazed by other girls’ ability to notice a slight change in someone’s appearance such as one’s hairpins or color of one’s shoelaces. Liam’s as good as the girls who make me astonished. Nowadays, when I get to my home at the end of the ride—with a lot of kissing, I’m so exhausted that I lie down on my bed as soon as finish my homework. Going around school all day, with most of my skin bare to chilly air almost kills me. Today, I’ll have to make to the mall with Liam, too. “You cold?” Liam asks with worried expression on his face. “A little,” I shiver as I say. “I think you’d better wear something long instead.” “I just wanted to appear attractive to you, actually,” I say shyly. “I would love you even if you are really ugly and not beautiful at all.” “Really?” I ask doubtfully. “Really,” he says so genuinely so I believe him. “I just like you blushing,” he adds suddenly. Perhaps I blushed because of his remarks. “I hate blushing. I seem so weak if I blush.” “No, actually it makes you more beautiful.” “Didn’t you say you don’t care about my appearance?” “I didn’t say that. I said I would still love you even if you are not beautiful. They are not the same,” his words make sense to me; he does care about my appearance, after all. “So you urging me to wear this stupidly short pants.” “Wear whatever you want, Miss Valentin.” “Don’t call me that. I feel like I’m my father when I’m called that.” “Okay, Okay, Ashley Marie.” His knowledge of my middle name shocks me. “How do you know my middle name?” “I know it ‘cause I was with you in that hospital room.” “What does that have to do with you knowing my middle name?” “Don’t you know that they put full names of patients at hospital to distinguish them?” Oh, that’s how he knows my middle name. “Oh, that’s why. It feels special that you know my middle name. You are one of the three people who know my middle name in this world, as long as I know.” “Who’s the other one? Other than your father.” His eyes become bigger as his curiosity grows. “Mrs. Anderson. She lives next door. She’s like my mom. She helped me sort things out when you weren’t around me.” “That’s nice of her.” One brilliant—not so brilliant, because it is weird that I haven’t come up with this idea earlier—idea comes up in my mind. “Oh, yeah. Mrs. Anderson,” I say. “What’s up with Mrs. Anderson?” “Nothing.” He just looks at me curiously, but I don’t give him the answer. The idea is that I can learn how to make up from Mrs. Anderson. Is it too trivial? Well, it’s a pretty important matter to me, anyway. We arrive at the mall after 20 minutes of driving. Liam’s so good at driving that he can drive ever so smoothly with me talking to him non-stop. Unlike other teen girls of my age, I’m not use to a place called a mall, because I didn’t have many chance to be in a mall with all the economic thing in my family. My dad’s liquor costs so much that it eats all money we get from the government. We jog straight to some shops that sell girly clothes. The store is full of people, because it’s Friday afternoon. It is so crowded that I can hardly pass through people. I hold Liam’s hand tightly trying not to lose his grip in this crowd. We finally get into a store that sells trending girl clothes through the thick crowd in the halls. Tall rows of clothes blocks most of my view, because I’m only 5’4’’. Liam and I look for some hot-pants made of jean materials, and we finally find them. I, for the first time since I came to the mall, let Liam’s hand go to try the pants I like on. While I’m going to the fitting room, outside of Liam’s view, I encounter a tall man with bold hair and all black clothes. He seemed to be choosing his shirt to buy, but as soon as I am near him, he suddenly fall toward me. I can’t just let him fall backward on his back, so grab his shirt to prevent him from falling. He hardly regain his balance when he say, “Thank you, miss.” His voice is somewhat gross and harsh. He continues with his husky voice, “I appreciate that. What’s your name? I want to pay my debt for saving me from falling.” “My name’s Ashley, and I don’t want anything, really,” I say neutrally. I don’t want to talk to this man. He seems a little, sort of, like a criminal or something. “Oh, don’t be so shy. I want to see you with some gaudy clothes,” he says with half-smile on his face. It look so disgusting. I acquiesce to the impulse to run from him. “Wait, Ashley! I don’t mean any harm!” he calls me, chasing. I’m not a good runner. Not a runner at all. The man catches up with me fairly quickly so that Liam doesn’t know I am chased by this man. He grabs my shoulders with his arms and turns me to him, and say, “May I give a pair of pants that I chose for you?” “No, I said I didn’t want it.” “Attractive this little blond,” he says to himself. “Let me go!” I shout. People starts to look at me and the man. He starts to drag me to outside of the mall. “Don’t be ridiculous, Ashley! I’m your father! Even if you’re a little delinquent, I’m still your parent,” he says it so naturally that people seem to be believing him now. “What? I’m not your daughter! Let me go!” People look at me as if I’ve just said something reprehensible. Where’s Liam? Where is he? Right then, I catch a glimpse of Liam heading to the other direction, toward the fitting room I was heading to before I encountered this man. The man who calls himself as my father is so strong and muscular that I can’t resist. People perceive me as a teenager who’s trying to get out of her father’s authority. Nobody seems to notice me, either. The man says to me once we are inside his car, “Call me John.” “I won’t call you,” I say defiantly. “Look, I don’t mean any harm. I just want to have you kiss me,” John says it so casually that I have hard time processing what he just said. I say after a moment, “What … what did you just say?” “I want you to kiss me.” “I don’t want to.” “I’ll let you go if you kiss me.” How do I get out of here? I check if I have my phone with me, but I don’t have it now. I left it in Liam’s car. Dammit Ashley, bring it around. Why do you let go of Liam’s hands? Why did I do it? I thought it was safe to go 50 yards to try on the pants. It was not. “Ashley, I’ll let you go,” he says with urgency. “If … I kiss you?” “Yeah, of course. Why won’t I?” I hate people. I hate everyone except Liam and Mrs. Anderson. Everybody demands my body, my kiss, and my virginity. “Why does everyone want to kiss me? What did do wrong to them?” I scream. “’cause you’re so hot, little girl. Nobody can get pass you without staring at you.” “Then just stare at me. It’s okay. Why do I have to kiss you?” His face crooked by his expression which is a mixture of anger and sympathy. And then, his both hands grab my neck brutally. I cannot breathe. I struggle to breathe and keep myself from drowning. His rigid and cold lips crush against mine as his face and mine collide. As soon as my lips meet his, I smell smoke from a cigarette and alcohol. Fatigue comes to me, but I manage to not throw up. After a few seconds, his tongue demands my tongue as its mate. I try to deny his tongue by closing my mouth, but his tongue is like a bullet that pierces everything—even a person’s torso—and his tongue invades my mouth and tongue. Smells of smoke and alcohol dominates my olfactory sense and I close my eyes, denying his image in my sight. It feels like forever until the impulsive kissing by a stranger ends. It does end at the end. I’ve kissed him, a stranger whom I first met today just an hour ago. I feel as if I’ve just smoked a cigarette and I’ve drunk like my dad. Headache strikes my head like a spear. I feel guilty, because I’ve let somebody other than Liam kiss me so passionately. I shouldn’t have let go of his hand, I once again tell myself. “Thank you, I’ve never expected to kiss a gorgeous blonde teen in my life.” I have no word to say to it. I don’t want to admit that I kissed other guy than Liam. I want to deny the fact that this old man kissed me for a solid hour. I storm out of the car and march toward the mall where Liam is waiting—or may be waiting. I don’t want to tell anyone about this. Especially not Liam. So I just decide to pretend that I’ve been using restroom for an hour. Where are the restrooms? I found them before Liam find me in front of girls’ restroom. “You’ve been using restroom for an hour without telling me?” Liam seems so angry, but I can’t tell him the truth. “I’m sorry I had to run, because I had a serious stomachache.” “How did you get here without me noticing you? I was right in front of the fitting room.” “I just didn’t get to the fitting room. I ran straight to restroom.” He seems to believe me, but I’m not so sure. His brown eyes still have a hint of doubt. So I say, “I think I should go home. I’m not feeling well. I have a headache, too.” He agrees, “Okay, let’s go.” On the way back, neither of us say anything. I want to come up with something to talk about, but nothing comes up on my mind, so I just stay quiet. As he turn right into my neighborhood, he says, “I love you, Ashley.” His tone is somewhat accusing. It feels like he’s asking me if I hung out with some other guy during the hour. Technically, yes, I did hang out with some other guy, involuntarily. It’s not my fault. But I kissed other guy than Liam. Was I able to avoid that? Did I now kiss him? Didn’t his tongue meet my tongue? Did I do it, because I wanted? Two hostile sides are formed in my head. I want to tell him, yet I don’t want to. I open my mouth anyway. “Liam …” Liam looks at me out of curiosity. “Something happened to you, isn’t it?” his worrying eyes look straight at me. “Yes, something happened,” I sigh. “What happened?” he says gently. “There was this man … John was his name … he fell on me when I was on my way to the fitting room?” “What do you mean by ‘fell on you’?” “He literally fell on me, I think it was intentional,” I exhale and continue, “He told me that he wanted to give me for the incident, but I rejected, ‘cause it was nothing.” He doesn’t say anything, so I continue, “He asked again, and I refuse again and I started to run from him to you. But I couldn’t find you anywhere and the man chased me down.” “I was heading to the fitting room where I thought you would be, because I heard some noise,” so that’s why Liam was heading to the fitting room when I got caught. “I’m a slow runner, so he caught me up and dragged me to his car.” “What? How?” his eyes become circular due to his surprise. “He said loudly that he’s my dad and made people believe that I was a teenager trying to get out of her dad’s hands.” “What happened then?” I hesitate, and Liam is impatient now. “What happened?” he repeats. “He said that he wouldn’t let me go unless I kiss him. I refused, but he grabbed my jaw and forced me to kiss him.” He looks relieved somehow. I’m confused. How can he be relieved by the fact that I kissed a guy other than him? “That’s it?” he asks. “That’s it. I’m confused. What did you expect, Liam?” “I thought you were raped, Ashley,” he says, “why didn’t you tell me at the mall?” “’cause I was so embarrassed. I didn’t want to tell you that.” “It’s not your fault, Ashley, you know that, right?” “I know, but still …” Liam interrupts me, “Did you want to kiss him?” “No,” I say immediately. “Then that’s it,” he says as he puts both arms around me, hugging. “Do you want to call the police so that we can catch the man?” he whispers. “No, I don’t want to,” I say as I hug him back. “It’s okay, Ashley, it’s okay,” he pats head and it relieves me so much, so I close my eyes. “I love you, Liam. I will never let go of your hand.” “You’d better,” whispers Liam, my favorite smile of his on his face.
I drive Ashely to her house and drop her off. “Wear some warm clothes, or you’ll freeze!” I say to Ashley playfully. Her breath-taking smile appears on her pretty face. “Okay, Liam. See you tomorrow at school!” She doesn’t even know today’s Friday. “If tomorrow’s Monday. But it isn’t,” I smile as her face is filled with the bliss of epiphany. “Oh, yeah! Today’s Friday.” “Oh, actually, I go to a camp for my baseball team, so I won’t be here to tease you, Ashley.” “Really? How come you didn’t tell me this till now?” she looks genuinely heartbroken. “I’m sorry. My coach is a little impetuous.” “That’s not your fault, Liam,” she redoes my facial emotion when I said that to her. “Take care, Ashley. Don’t go around so naked. You’d better cover your face, too!” “Don’t be ludicrous, Liam.” “Oh, well,” and I leave her behind. “No good-bye to me?” I hear her shouting. “I thought I always said one,” I’m too far from her to hear her, but I see her smiling with joy. My mom shouts at me when I get home. “Why are you so late? You should’ve got here earlier and prepared for the camp!” I say flatly, “Mom, I got enough time.” Is there anything else to say? I finish packing up for the camp in an hour, which is by 6. Mom and I are too disincline to eat, still by my father’s death. It’s been a week from his funeral and nobody recovered any appetite yet. I get up early the next morning—at 5:30. I take shower and drive myself to school where my team will congregate for the camp. I don’t know why I have a “baseball camp” because it is just so unconventional—which means no other school other than mine does the camp. I have to go anyway. “Hello, Liam,” Jackson, a boy with gray hair—at the age of seventeen—who’s our best pitcher says. “Hey, Jackson,” I greet him, feeling that his jovial face is an omen. “How’s your blonde beauty? Is she well?” “Like I said, Jackson, her name’s not ‘blonde beauty’, but Ashley.” “That’s the same thing, don’t you see?” Coach Crouch orders us to move into the bus. I say as I climb the stairs on the bus up, “She’s fine. She’s just feeling a little cold, because of her effort to appear attractive.” “Really?” he says, not believing. “Not to appear attractive to you guys, but for me.” “Whoa, sir, I don’t think so. She doesn’t care about how she appears, or at least she hadn’t till a day ago, hadn’t she?” “I don’t know. I’m not her.” “Who knows? I’ve never seen her with make up on her face, but she still drain all my air out of my lungs every time I see her.” “Does she really like you, Liam?” Trevor, who’ve taken the seat right across the passage, joins the conversation. “Yes, she does,” Jackson answered my question for me. “Lucky you,” Trevor says with envy in his gray eyes which lack hue. I don’t say anything, because there’s nothing to be said. “So … have you got a chance to see her … boobs yet?” naughty Jackson asks with bravery. Ahh this Jackson. These testosterone dominated teen boys. “Come one, Jackson. Don’t you know that we aren’t supposed to do that at our age?” I sigh. “Don’t you know that we aren’t supposed to have a ‘baseball camp’?” Trevor retorts. “Okay, I’ll tell you. I didn’t have a chance to do that.” “That’s so sad. She looks so perfect with all that big eyes, blonde hair, delicate nose, and that hot body.” I deny to be in this conversation in which boys gossip about my girlfriend. I just exit out of them talking, and attempt to sleep in this shaky squeaky old school bus filled with almost a hundred boys. “Hey, hey, Lucky boy, get up! We’ve made it!” I hear Trevor waking me, and manage to open my burdened eyes. Where am I? Oh, yeah. I’m at the baseball camp thing. “Get up, guys, the bus doors close in 10 seconds!” Coach Crouch declares cheerfully. Boys start to rush out of the bus and I get up with help of Jackson and Trevor. “Do you know where we are?” I ask Jackson on the way out. “I don’t know. Maybe some random mountain near Big Bear?” It certainly seems like some random mountain near Big Bear, because everything is covered with white, clean snow—and there’s a mountain standing reclusively in front of us. Snow reflects the light too much that it turns even the dark uniforms of my teammates into white-ish color. As my eyes adjust, I see a really long and gray building standing just like the mountain behind it, alone and lonely. What’s this place? “This place is called the Small Bear Youthhostel,” says the coach. SO THERE ARE HOTELS JUST FOR TEENS. How astonishing is that. How do they get enough guests to fill that long building? “The reason why we’re here is that there was an agreement among other schools in our districts that we work out together here for our next season’s glory—our glories.” What a stupid thing is to train us all in this snow-covered, acrimoniously-chilly hotel for youths? Do we clean the snow up ourselves? We eat our lunch and earn the rest of the day as free time, due to the heavy snowing. I found out that there are girls who play softball are here too. This won’t do any good, why did they bring us to the same hotel, anyway? I get to my room and fall asleep as soon as my back touches the bed, though it’s only 7. I must’ve been exhausted by skipping all those meals.
I recover from oblivion, because my legs are out in the chilly air. Did I take my pants off? I don’t remember that part. I am hardly out of unconsciousness, so I don’t really feel my body yet. Ahh, I hate to get up, I think it’s still late at night. I muster all my force to open my eyes. My senses follow my visionary sense one by one. My tactile comes back to me lastly. Wait, I feel something. I feel something moving on me. I jerk my head up so I can see the thing that’s on me. I can’t believe my eyes at first. I see a figure moving on me. It’s a girl that’s on me. It’s a human being. “What are you doing here?” I whisper, because I’m too shocked to speak. The girl seems to be of my age. I can’t see any more than that in this complete darkness. “I said why you are here? Who are you? What are you doing here?” “I’m Kristen, and I don’t mean any harm,” she says weakly. “How did you get here? Aren’t all girls sleeping in rooms far from here?” “Yeah, I just came here for you.” What? You know me? You know me enough to find me sleeping in this condition? Now I notice that my lower body is naked, and I cover my legs with my blanket. “What did you do to me?” “I did nothing to you. You did something to me.” “What? What did I do to you?” “Don’t you notice by your naked legs?” What this girl saying doesn’t make any sense to me. Does she want me to feel cold air by undressing me? Undress me? Oh my God. She means … “You … Kristen, you are saying that …” Her face seems to be smiling as she says, “Yes, I fucked you.” I lie back down my bed due the shocking thing she just told me. “You … you fucked me? How? Why? What am I to you? A sex machine?” “Your thingy grew well enough while you were sleeping. I did it, ‘cause I love you.” “I don’t even know you.” “I’ve known you for a while.” “For a while?” “Like 2 years,” her eyes make me believe that she is saying the truth. “2 years … What school do you go to?” “I go to Tremson Hills. I first saw you when you hit the grand slam against my school.” I don’t really remember being in that school and hitting a grand slam. Anyway, I don’t really … I don’t know. “Wait, you really do mean that you put my ‘thingy’ in your ‘thingy’ and that you did it all?” “Yes, I do, Liam Williams. I will bear your child.” “God dammit. Don’t you think it is a crime? It’s a crime. It’s a rape! You just raped me! What are you going to do?” “Boys can’t be raped, you know,” she whispers. “The thing you did to me is certainly an act of raping!”
I’ve decided to stay home as long as I can until Liam gets back from the back. He’s there for a week, and I’ll be at home for a week. I wake up on the morning of Saturday and find out that I have nothing to do except lying on my bed. There should be something I can do. I think. I brainstorm. And I cannot figure anything to do so I just lie down on my bed and try to go back to sleep. Bam! Door of my room snaps with a loud noise. It’s dad’s time again. “What do you want, dad? Except for doing something to my body,” I say apathetically. “Let me in, you little slut!” Slut. That’s the word. Unless I try really hard to stay away from those swarming boys at school, I’m likely to be a slut. “Drink some more and get back to sleep, Mr. Valentin,” I say. The door continues to snap for 5 minutes, but it eventually stops. My father has gone back to sleep, finally. I’d better get out of this house before he wakes up again. I take shower and get dressed. I wear those long-sleeved blue blouse and the first hot pants I encounter—which happens to be a red one with word “pink” on it. Right after I finish dressing myself, I have a moment of epiphany. I can come over to Mrs. Anderson and learn how to put up a make-up. That’s the one. I rush down the stairs and launch myself outside. It’s pretty decent day with moderate temperature and refreshing wind. It’s nice day to wear my hot pants, I’ve worn them. I walk a few steps to Mrs. Anderson’s house and ring the bell. “How’s there?” Mrs. Anderson’s here, as I expected. “It’s me, Ashley.” “Oh, Ashley, come on in,” she says letting me inside. She is such a nice lady, who shouldn’t live in this bad neighborhood. Her brown hair and brown eyes always comforts me, a lot. “How are you today, Ashley? How’s Liam?” “I’m good today. Liam’s at his baseball camp,” I say as I see her eyes widen at my words ‘baseball camp’. “Baseball camp? During this time? How do they make up for all the work they miss?” “I’m not really sure,” I smile. “Maybe you can help him. Do you want any drink?” she offers. “I’m fine, thank you,” I say politely, “Actually, I’m here to learn something from you.” “What do you want to learn from me?” “I want to learn how to make up myself.” “I’ve been wondering why you didn’t ask me to teach earlier. A boyfriend was needed then,” she laughs a little. I laugh along with her. She explains how to do the basic make-ups and fundamental skills such as making my nose look bigger or more conspicuous—which is a skill I don’t really with my moderate-sized nose. Mrs. Anderson says while she’s making me up, “I barely find a reason to make up your face, actually. Your features are just so perfect as they are.” “Then what should do? Do I not do make-ups at all?” “Hmm, I think you can just add some eye-line and adjust your skin tone a little,” she smiles as she says, “You know, nobody has innate eye-lines.” “That’s a good one, Mrs. Anderson,” I laugh loudly. After finishing up my make-up, I look into a mirror to see my reflection. There stands a girl a lot prettier than I am. Liam will pass out when he sees my face. It’s nice of her that she teaches me things on her leisure time. “Thank you, Mrs. Anderson! I really appreciate it!” “Anytime, Ashley, anytime.” Mrs. Anderson serves me a little lunch with meatball pasta. She knows what I like the best. I eat so fast that I can’t even taste the delicious taste of the pasta. I must’ve been really hungry. I thank her for half an hour before I head outside. When I’m on the sidewalk that leads to my house, I see a truck passing me. A boy in the car waves toward me, but I don’t recognize him. I wave to him anyway—he must be a boy in one of my classes, I guess. “Wow, you’ve got a make-up, Ashley, didn’t you?” “Yeah, I did,” I smile a little. “I almost gasp just looking at you.” “Thank you,” I say a little awkwardly. I wanted to add his name after ‘thank you’ but I can’t come up with his name. “See you at school, Ashley. Tim was happy to see you here!” He says. “See you, Tim!” I say as he pulls out the road. Tim waves with his kind smile. I pause before I open the door to my house. Do I really want to stay home and get annoyed by my dad? I don’t think so. So I start walking down the sidewalk to the small mall near my house. I’ve decided to go to Target for some cheap cosmetics. It’s during daytime, and I don’t worry about stalking or something like that because there are a lot of people around here. I’m safe, I say to myself. There really are people everywhere; it’s a Saturday. Unlike other Saturdays in December, it’s warm and nice even. When I make to the mall, I see a few dozens of boys staring at me. I should’ve removed my first make-up ever. It’s attracting too many people. I safely make to the Target and find those cheap cosmetics and buy it with my little cash I found in my pocket yesterday. Oh, maybe it’s Liam who put it there. I’m so dumb and stupid. How caring Liam is! I didn’t even notice till now. I wish that I had a cellphone and could call him. My dad, obviously, cannot afford such a luxury. At least, I didn’t have to work with money from the government. Cashier at Target extols me about my beauty which is a mundane thing to me. I feel my legs getting heavier and heavier, although I’ve only walked like 20 minutes total. Such weak legs they are. Can’t even walk 20 minutes without this discomfit. I sit down in Starbucks for my leg’s sake. I can’t afford a tea or coffee, really, so I just sit there staring at ceiling. I’ve been staring at the ceiling for well over 20 minutes, and I hear a boy calling me, so I look over to the direction of the voice. “Hey, what’s your name?” The boy looks like a freshman. A freshman boy not knowing me; he must be from different high school I don’t know. “Isn’t it rude to ask for my name before you telling me yours?” The boy looks a little regretful, so I say, “I’m Ashley, what’s your name?” The boy stare at me as if I’m an alien who just fell from the sky just now for a minute and finally say, “I … I’m Ed. Which school do you go to?” “I go to Temeculla High, you?” “That’s unfortunate. I go to Tremson Hills,” he does seem so miserable. So I say cheerfully, “Well, you get to hang out with me in this Starbucks at least, don’t you?” He smiles. “Yeah, right. Do you want any tea?” Umm, I guess I need. “Yes, umm, I guess I’ll get green tea Frappuccino, please. Thank you.” “No problem, Ashley,” he says with a smile and goes to get my drink. Well, being pretty isn’t as bad as I’ve thought so far. I get to get a drink, for free. Ed’s kind eyes are so child-like that it made me believe that he’s a freshman. I didn’t ask him that yet, I guess I’ll when he come back with my green tea Frappuccino. “Hey, Ashley, here you go,” he says, handing the tea over to me. “Thanks, Ed. Oh, by the way, are you a freshman?” “Well, I do look like a freshman, don’t I?” “Yeah, actually you do. So you aren’t a freshman?” “I’m a sophomore this year. You know what?” his thick brown eyes brows go up with his teasing facial expression. “What?” I wonder what he’s coming up with. “Do you know that the word ‘sophomoric’ means childish?” “Oh, yeah?” “Yeah, it actually does. Isn’t that a little hilarious?” I laugh with him. So freshmen and sophomores are basically the same people. Well, at least it doesn’t sound like it. “So what are you, Ashley?” “I’m a sophomore, too.” “Nice,” he raises hand for a high-five and I clap his hand with mine. “So why are you alone?” “Well, I don’t have too many friends,” I say, a little uncomfortable with my meager number of friends. “Girls envy you, don’t they?” “Yeah, but that’s not their fault. Actually, it’s nobody fault,” perhaps it’s my father fault to marry too beautiful mother as a too handsome guy—with terrible alcoholic addiction. “Well, don’t the boys try to get along with you?” “Just like you?” I say. “Yeah, kind of like me,” his wide smile shows up as he says. “Yeah, they do but they don’t really like me; they like my face and things that belong to me.” “That’s not fair, you know, you deserve some true friends,” he says with cheer. Well, if somebody can endure my beauty and just be my friend. “Oh well, I’ve almost forgotten that you’d bought me a drink,” I say as I take a gulp of the Frappuccino. “So you focus on one thing; that’s good. I’m like that, too.” “I’m terrible at multi-tasking. It just doesn’t work on me.” “It doesn’t work on me, either,” he agrees, “I can’t really test and do my homework at the same time, so I always fail to do my homework.” Oh, you text. I don’t have anything to text with. “Actually, I only have my home phone. My parents—or my parent—can’t afford a phone just for me yet.” “Oh, I’m sorry. So you just call with your home telephone?” “Yeah, I do.” Only when I’ve got urgent thing to do which is not so often. “Can you give me your number?” He is bold; he asks for my phone number right at our first encounter. “It’s nine-four-nine, nine-one-six, one-five-six-six,” I say it slowly so he can type it on his phone. “Thanks. Mine’s …” he just grab a pen from the table we are sitting under and write his number down for me. “Thanks, Ed. I guess I’ll call you some time,” I take the last sip out of my Frappuccino as I get the paper from Ed. “It was nice to meet you, Ashley. I’ll see you soon!” He walks out from next to me, so he wouldn’t block my way out. “Oh, thanks for the drink.” I say to Ed. “No problem.” I walk out and get a glimpse of Ed moving back to his group of friends—who are obviously all boys. I’m pretty sure he’ll talk about me with those boys. Well, that’s what every boy do when they get the chance to talk to me. What’s bizarre about Ed is that he doesn’t seem to be overwhelmed by my appearance. He’s kind of like Liam, which made me talk to him for a while. Well, ‘for a while.’ It has become colder than the morning in the afternoon—it’s only 2, according to my childish infantile watch. Frosty air cuts through my bare skin right around where my hot pants ends—which is around where my legs divides into two to become legs. My legs will freeze when I get back to my house. Global warming is making the winter colder; what an irony is that? I should’ve worn something warm, because there is no Liam to see me around here. He’s still at that camp, leaving me alone. I don’t want to be alone, but I’m alone again anyway. I make home just when my thighs start to feel numb. They are so numb that I feel like I’ve become paralyzed from my waist. I do my best to sprint up the stairs and take a hot shower, but it takes forever for my legs to make it. Once I accomplish my goal, it feels like I’m in heaven or something like that. So this is why people hurt themselves: to feel the relief from exoneration. I feel my legs coming back to life by the conjuration of holy hot hydrogen dioxide—which is a polar molecule, according to Mr. Stewart. I dry my hair with my tower—we couldn’t afford a hair dryer as we couldn’t afford a cell phone—and hear the telephone ringing downstairs. I’d better move it to upstairs so I can call someone without confronting my dad. I hurry to get the call and is successful to get the phone in time, “Hello, this is Ashley.” “Hello, Ashley! This is Ed from the Starbucks! How are you?” Well, it’s been only 30 minutes since the confrontation with him. I feel like saying my feeling honestly, “Honestly, Ed, don’t you think it’s too short a period we’ve had to ask something like ‘how are you’?” “Oh, yeah. I’m just calling you to check if this is a valid number.” So you mean that you thought I’d given you a wrong number intentionally. “’course, it’s valid, Ed,” my eyes become narrow, but Ed can’t see it himself. “So what are you doing, Ashley?” What am I doing now? “Nothing, really. How about you?” “Same. Where do you live?” I live in a trashy neighborhood where everything’s covered with graffiti art which covers even the skin of people. “My house is at the intersection of Alicia and Nelson.” “Oh, that’s not too far. I can walk there, actually. I live on the Nelson Avenue.” “Wonderful,” I say it as cheerfully as I can. “Do you want to hang out with me? Actually us?” “So there’s plural number of you?” “Yeah, there are.” “Umm, okay. Where do you guys go hang out?” “We usually go for skateboarding, but we’ll go for a movie to the 2-dollar-theater at Tremson Hills.” “That sounds good. Do you guys have a ride?” “Yeah, my brother can drive, so we’re all set.” “Are you coming over to pick me up or …” “Yeah we’ll pick you up at … umm, is 4 okay?” “Yeah, I’m free all day today.” “See you then, then. Don’t worry about the tickets, the boys have already eagerly got it for you.” “Say my thanks to whoever bought the ticket for me, see you!” “See you,” he says and he hangs up. It’s funny how he says ‘see you then, then.’ It makes sense actually. I fix my make-up as Mrs. Anderson taught me and change my clothes. I wear jeans and white sweater to keep me from freezing. My body seems to have no other significance other than aesthetic beauty, unfortunately. I get out of my house at 3:57, and the red 2010 model Chevy comes to pick me up. “Hey, Ashley!” Ed calls out from the passenger seat. “Hey, Ed,” I say with a smile. There are at least 2 guys in the back seats. Ed moves to the back seat for me, I appreciate his care for me. The guys are all optimistic when I get into the car. Ed’s brother looks like a college student. He must be older than me. “Hi, I’m Ashley. I heard that you’re Ed’s brother,” I say, exceptionally kindly to my standard. “Hi, I’m John. It’s nice to meet you,” he offers a hand shake as he says. I shake his hand. “Nice to meet you, too.” Ed starts to introduce other guys in the back seat. “This is John and this is Tristan, Ashley. And this is Ashely, as you know.” We exchange shakes before we pull out to go to the movie. It’s kind of awkward when you are the only female in a group with 5 people, but they are all kind to me so I don’t feel alienated. We choose a movie that’ll work out for all of us, so we end up with a movie adaptation of the Beauty and the Beast. Does this movie work for me? I’m not really sure. We go straight into the theater and see the movie. I end up between Ed and John, the two brothers. Tristan and Sean look like they have something to say, but they just acquiesce to the situation. Not wanting to be between the boys because of my own uneasiness, I say quietly to Ed, “Would you like to sit between me and John, Ed?” He replies, “I’m fine, thank you.” Oh my god, this Ed can’t even catch my tone. Oh well. I’ll just sit wherever you guys want me to sit down. The lights go off as soon as I sit down between Ed and John, signaling the beginning of the movie. The movies seem to star actors and actresses who are far less beautiful than me, which makes the movie really low-quality. “The beauty looks like a trash compared to your extraterrestrial beauty,” Ed whispers to me as if he’s just heard my thought. I have nothing to say about that, so I just stay silent. About half into the movie, I notice hands of both Ed and John lying on either side of my hand rests. Their hands look as if they are waiting for a hand to grasp them. I think: How are they keeping that position for almost 50 minutes? Are they really waiting for me to grab their hands or hand? I have a boyfriend. I have a boyfriend. So, I tell them. I whisper to Ed, “I don’t think that I’ve told you, Ed.” “What?” He gasps, expecting the worst. “I have a boyfriend,” I say it indifferently. He seems to be struggling to come up with a word to say; he comes up with none. I turn to John to inform him, too. “John?” “Yeah, Ashley?” He glances over to his brother. “I have a boyfriend. I think I didn’t tell you that yet.” “Oh,” is what all he manages to say. I go back to the movie The Beauty and the Beast. After few minutes, the hands that were waiting for my hand vanishes from my hand rests. Good. I’ve got all the hand rests for me alone. The sun of Saturday is setting when we get out of the theater. I’m perfectly exhaust due to abnormal—abnormal to me—journey of today. I haven’t hung out with any friends since I was an elementary school student which is 4 to 5 years ago. I’m getting old so fast, I think. “Ashley,” calls John from my back as we head to his car. “Huh?” “How are you doing with your boyfriend?” John asks this question so neutrally that I believe he’s just being curious. “She has a boyfriend?” Sean and Tristan call out with harmony, disappointed. “Yes, she does. She told us during the movie,” Ed’s expression darkens. “I miss him so much even though he’s gone for a day now,” I answer him with the truth, ignoring disbelieving eyes of Sean and Tristan. “Where has he gone? Did he die?” All the guys laugh; obviously I don’t laugh at joke regarding my love’s death. “Of course not. He is at baseball camp now.” “Interesting,” says Ed. “When does he come back?” Sean asks. “That’s is none of your business,” I hiss, because I don’t want them to know about Liam. I’m pretty sure they’ll want to harm him for being my boyfriend, and I don’t want him to be hurt because of me. “Oh, come on. Why are you hanging out with us, if you were going to be taciturn?” Ed says. “’cause you wanted me to? I decide what I say and do, okay?” I feel my purse increasing, my cheeks hot. “Okay, okay, Ashley. Let us drop you off at your house,” John says calmly. I appreciate John for being grown-up. One chooses what one’s wants to do; these boys excluding John are so immature that they don’t let me do what I want to do. The rest of the “hanging out” goes really quietly, with me not wanting to talk to them again. Why are people so eager to have me? Own me? I’m not a thing. Do I look like a thing? I don’t really know. I wave toward John’s car as he pulls off the driveway of my house. The sun has set. Darkness has ascended and is pervading the night. I decide to spend the rest of the weekend in my room, studying and reading the few books I have in my room—which are so worn that they look like a collection of garbage. I wake up on Monday, so exhausted by the weekend’s fervor. It has been so boring that I’ve finished all my AP Euro Homework for this week already. I miss Liam. He comes back on this Friday, which means I have to wait for him for 5 more days—technically 4 and a half days, but whatever. I arm myself with superfluously indifferent eyes on my way to school as usual. It’s been a long time since the last time I walked to school. Liam’s absence is too obvious and conspicuous not to be noticed by anyone. I meet Leah on my way to locker. “Hey, Ashley! You still look brilliant today!” Leah praises me as usual. “Thank you, Leah. Long time no see, I guess,” I say. “Yeah, it’s been almost 2 weeks since we last met. Those schedules are killing out friendship, aren’t they?” “Yeah, how come we don’t have a single period together, even though we virtually have the same classes,” I truly doubt the truth, because all of our classes are the same except for their periods. “Anyway, it was good to see you, Ashley,” she says to me as she starts to her chem class. “See you!” I turn immediately to the math building, because there’s only 2 minutes left to the bell. Urgh. Why am I so slow? I don’t have Liam to chat. I’d better get someone to Liam’s camp site, or else I’ll die of depression. I find Tim in my PE class. How I don’t remember boys at all is so hilarious. All I know about boys who waves at me outside of school is whether they have class with me or not. I’d better remember Tim, because he has eyes that are so welcoming and kind, reminding me of Liam’s eyes. “How are you today, Ashley?” Tim asks when we are doing the one-mile run. “Not the best, ‘cause we are doing this mile run again,” I answer him, gasping for air although I’ve only run for a minute now. “Do you want to walk with me?” He suggests. “That’s a good idea,” I say as I slow down to a jogging, then walking. “You’re so weak. You’d better run some more.” Tim teases. “I’m not up for teasing today, Tim,” I say, smiling a little. “Hey, do you want to pass the 9-minute for the 16-year-old girls standards?” “If I can, …” I start to say, but he jerks my whole body up on his arms, frightening me. “What are you doing, Tim?” I say, astonished by his bold acts. “I’m gonna make the 9 minute for you,” he says, running with me on his arms. “Umm, well, I think I don’t care about the 9 minute record. You can put me down, Tim. I’m fine,” I say nonchalantly. “It’s okay, Ashley. You’re not heavy at all. I hardly feel your weight.” Hardly feel my weight? Are you kidding? I’m almost 100 lbs. heavy. I don’t want a boy other than Liam to carry me around in front of people. I look for an escape plan. I can’t think of anything so I just try to get away from him. “Put me down, Tim,” I say as harshly as I can, but it still sounds so weak. “It’s okay, really,” he says, almost pleading to carry me for the record. “I’m not okay, actually,” I say a little loudly, because I don’t want this crowd to think that I’m having a good time with Tim. Tim doesn’t put me down, and instead he picks up the pace and run steadily around the track. Fortunately, my PE teacher isn’t watching. “Okay then. If you are not letting me go, then I’ll do it myself,” I say as I kick my leg free from Tim’s arms. He groans as my worn walking shoes scratches the skin of his arms. I say as my feet contact with the ground, “I told you to put me down, didn’t I?” I run away from him, running as fast as I can, because slowing down won’t put Tim away from me. Tim soon catches up with me. “What’s the matter with you? Do you want me to call the police?” I demand. “What for?” Tim asks, pretending to be innocent. I’m going to ignore him then. I run silently, not meeting his eyes. Tim slows down his face pace to match my slow pace and follow me until we make one mile. He is trying to be my shadow or else he is my shadow. I go to get my water and escapes into girls’ restroom. At least he can’t come in here. I enjoy my moment of being alone in girls’ restroom for a while before Mrs. Lord, my PE teacher calls us to check in. My record is 12:47. Tim’s 12:48. Tim has become the last one to make the mile run after all; he was the first one last time. We obviously didn’t make the California something standard record, which means that we’ll have to run again soon. I ask Tim, “Is it really worth to follow me around and run again than to go as your pace and not to have to run again?” He starts to say, “Of course. I feel like you are rejuvenating me. I will keep doing that if I can …” But I cut him off by holding up my index finger. “That is stalking. You don’t have the right to stalk me.” “Actually, I do. I share the field with you, which means I get to run with you.” I groan but don’t say anything. I can’t reason with this boy. It is an implicit rule that everybody follows. Just like avoiding staring at random people, because it’s rude to do that. Boys are blinded by my appearance and lost their reasons as well.
The week without Liam goes as miserable as that weekend I had with Tim, Ed, and Ed’s friends. Liam and I talked on the phone few times, but he was way too busy to talk to me about anything at all. He sounded a little disturbed by something, but it’s probably the training he was doing over there. The Friday with finality comes gracefully, with winter sun rising brightly heating the cool air of Los Angeles. After AP Euro, during the snack, I finally see the yellow school buses coming. I run to hug Liam, whom I’ve missed so much during the week. I permeate through the cool air and finally find him departing from the bus. I sprint toward him.
As soon as I see Ashley running to me with full-speed, I feel a little uneasy and happy at the same time. That Kristen who raped me dominates my mind, preventing me from thinking of Ashley. Boys around me looks at me with eyes full of jealousy and hatred. I spread my arms wide to embrace Ashley’s delicate, perfect body. Fortunately, Kristen goes to Tremson Hills High, so I’m safe here with Ashley. I feel my mouth smiling, my body relaxing, and my mind fluttering as we hug each other passionately. I think everyone around are watching, but I don’t really care about others. I care only about Ashley. Without a word, our lips meet. We share our breaths as our lips are met. We are one once again after a long, lonely week. It is really miserable to pull back, but I have things to say to her. “How did you do, this week, Ashley?” “I missed you so much, Liam,” she says weakly. I think she might cry. “I missed you, too. We are together now!” “Yeah, I have you now, Liam,” she whispers, her eyes full with happiness. “Did anything happen while I was gone?” Her eyes falter a little, but she says to me, meeting my eyes, “No, nothing special happened.” “Me, neither,” I say trying to appear as genuine as possible, “The camp went well.” “I’m happy to hear that.” After our short reunion, we diverge to our language classes that we have for our 4th period classes. “Have a good Spanish, Ashley,” I wave at her direction. She just waves back toward me, her voice lost in her bliss. French class is one of my easiest classes, because it requires only little concentration in class. I fall to my conscious world as French teacher explains how to say “it’s cold” in French. What do I do with Kristen? Do I go to police station and tell police that I got raped by a girl? I’m not really sure about that. What if she didn’t bother to take the pill? What happens if she’s pregnant? What part of the event should I tell Ashley? Why don’t you tell her all? What if she thinks I’m making up excuses? Why wouldn’t she believe me? Will she believe my story which is the truth? Thoughts come up ceaselessly and persistently, and I cannot stop thinking about them. Madam Nelson happens to call on me, and I didn’t even catch a word of the question she just asked. “I’m sorry. I’m having some concentration issues today,” I say, apologizing. “Is something’s wrong, Liam? Is everything good?” She says, truly concerned about me. “I’m okay. I just got back from the camp so I’m just a little tired.” “Don’t rush it, Liam,” she says as she pulls out another card that has a name of another student, “Jennifer …” I return to my trail of thoughts. My mind is misty due to my exhaustion, but I can still comprehend my thoughts and process it. I decide not to tell her. I will act as if it didn’t happen in the first place. All the other classes pass swiftly. I couldn’t really focus on in any of the classes today. I say as I drive Ashley home, “I think I’d better go home and take some rest. I’m a little tired today to hang out with you. I’m sorry.” “Don’t be sorry, Liam. Of course you need the rest. Sleep tight today,” she answers as she jumps out of my car. I smile at her as I pull back and head home. I don’t think I got any homework today. Good. I’ve got a full day to sleep and think.
I wave at Liam’s Toyota Camry as he drives away from me. He must be really exhausted by the camp; he’s never abandoned me when he has some spare time like today. I should let him take some rest or he’ll get sick or something. I’m glad that he’s come back and with me—well near me, not so far as that Big Bear or some place like that. My house is filled with drinking smell as usual, so I quickly shut the door close and hurry up the staircase to my room. I have nothing to do, so I’ll just think and dream of Liam in my sleep, I guess. The next time I open my eyes, I immediately realize that it is another Saturday morning. I get up and brush my teeth. I’m too worn out by sleeping to take shower. My muscles are sore from the mile run yesterday with Tim. Hopefully others won’t tell Liam about it. Even though I didn’t intend to be grabbed by Tim, I don’t want Liam to know about it. My life is full of secrets and sad things. I am determined to hang out with Liam today. I’m starving. I need Liam with me. I wait till 9 o’clock to call Liam, not wanting to awake him early. I can’t help calling him at 8:55 though; I woke up too early. Liam answers within 4 ringing, “Hello, Ashley.” “I’m so happy to hear your voice, Liam,” my mouth forms a smile automatically. “Me, too.” “How’s your rest going?” “It went well. Actually it was still happening when you called me.” Oh, so I did wake him up. I start to say, “I’m sorry Liam. I didn’t mean to …” “Just kiddin’, Ashley,” I hear smile from his voice. “Oh, Liam.” How playful he is. “Oh, well. I guess I need a little more sleep,” he says, yawning. “Okay,” I say cheerfully, “Good morning, Liam.” Liam laughs. “Good morning.” I hang up. He’s definitely and totally exhausted. So do I. I’m tired of waiting for Liam. I read the Mockingjay—the third book of the Hunger Games series—in front of the phone, waiting for Liam to recover. I have no idea where my drunk father lies. Perhaps in his bedroom or in the living room. I don’t understand how we own this house. We don’t even have a mortgage which is good and bad; We can’t move easily to a better house due to my father state of mind. Maybe he was once a man who’s not drunk. I don’t know. It’s been a few hours when I hear the door bell ringing. It’s Mrs. Anderson for sure, I think. I open the door without hesitation. Instead of the sight of Mrs. Anderson, I see a boy—Tim, again. “Hello, Ashley. How are …” I cut him off mid-sentence. “I’m not feeling like talking to you,” I say as I start to close the door. Tim grab the knob and stops me. “I don’t mean to annoy you, Ashley,” he says. “Your very presence annoys me, so go away,” I spit the word out. “Wait!” “Ahh,” I groan as I attempt to shove the door shut, but Tim’s too strong. “I’m here to apologize.” “You are here to apologize?” I stop pulling the door knob. “Yes, I am. I apologize you for my stupid behavior yesterday at PE. I was selfish and didn’t think of you as an individual. I’m really sorry.” He’s apologizing with candor. Mrs. Anderson had said that if someone apologizes with candor, then you must accept it. “I forgive you,” I say. It is the first time for me to ever forgive someone—because I’ve never got an apology. “Thank you. See you at school,” he says and turns away toward his car, still rumbling. “Wait, Tim,” I call him. He jerks to a stop. “Huh?” He astonishes as he turns to me, his eyes full of surprise. “Umm,” I don’t know why I wanted him to wait. I just ask him anyway, “Do you, I mean, are you free now?” He doesn’t seem to believe what he just heard. I see his brain processing. He says finally, “Yes, I’m free all day today.” “Good. Would you mind if I … well, hang out with you?” “Of course, I don’t mind,” he says, his voice bright with a moment of bliss. Maybe I’m eager to be with a person in general. I’m so lonely. “Okay, let me dress up,” I close the door and dress myself up with my only dress—which is white and has blue ribbons all around it. “Wow, you almost knock me out of breath—as always. Nice dress, I’ve never seen you in it before.” “Yeah, I don’t wear it often enough to see people see it on me,” I’m excited because of some reason I don’t know. I get into his car, Tim closes the door for me and sits next me—obviously, he gotta drive. “So, where do you want to go?” “I don’t really mind.” I don’t really have any place in my mind, partly because I don’t really hang out with people. “Well, have you eaten your lunch yet?” My stomach groans right at that moment, causing both of us to laugh. “As you can see, I haven’t,” I say, still recovering from the laughter. “Let’s go eat, then. What kind of food do you prefer?” “Well, I eat everything well, really.” “That’s different than what I expected,” he teases. “What did you expect?” “I thought you’d eat only vegetables for your perfect body.” Ahh, again. Didn’t he just apologize for that kind of behavior? Was that apology just for not letting me go? I say finally, “I don’t care about my appearance at all. All is for Liam.” “Your make-up does knock people out of their breaths. It’s better if you don’t put on make-up for humanity’s sake.” “Yeah, it is better for humanity’s sake.” Whatever.