The alarm clock beeps and I slam down the snooze button. I hate how every time I wake up, karma is always ready to slap me in the face. I turn away from my nightstand and melt my face into my pillow. I'm already having the perfect start to a new day.
I hear Mom call from the kitchen, but I don't respond. My eyes are too bummed out to open. Maybe I'll just lie here until my life ends. At least I won't have to worry about overdue schoolwork.
Mom screams my name again. This time, I hear the crashing of freshly cleaned silverware hit the kitchen counter. If I don't get up now, she's going to freak out. Mom is prone to getting panic attacks.
I finally manage to get out of bed and immediately open my closet. It's filled with shelves of shoes and fashionable attire. The best part of my closet is that it's the walk in type. This morning, I'm in the mood to wear something stylishly colorful. I slip into a pair of dark skinny jeans and throw on a loose-fitting rainbow neon crop top.
Now it's makeup time! I apply double cat-eye eyeliner and some savvy lip gloss to compliment my face. For a brief moment, I glance at myself. I'm slender, thin, tall, and fairly pale. I look almost like a porcelain doll. At least my hair isn't course and thick.
I take out my adorable summery sandals from a shoe box. I can't help but smile since I can finally wear them again because the weather is getting warmer. Every time I wear them, I remind myself that it's one day closer to summer vacation.
Then I go downstairs.
"What took you so long?" Mom asked.
I shrugged. "Well I guess I had a little trouble picking an outfit today."
Mom gives me a devious smirk behind my back. She knows for a fact my excuse is a flat out lie. I don't argue though. I have too many things on my mind.
I snatch a box of fruity cheerios and grab a jug of milk from the fridge. As I sit on a stool beside the kitchen island, I munch miserably. I hate Mondays. Why does it just have to be the day after I'm still recovering from the weekend? Teachers just don't get it. That's why they give kids like me a lot tests and quizzes. They think we have nothing better to do with our lives than study.
It's only 6:20 a.m. and I can already predict how this week will go.
My Papillion, Mimi, barks cheerfully. Her butterfly reddish brown and black splotched ears gaze attentively at me. Mom shoos her away. She doesn’t want Mimi to eat my cereal.
The life of a dog must be easy. I’d just sleep, eat, drink, and play outside for about eleven years and go to animal heaven. That’s if that place really exists.
After completing the rest of my daily morning routine, I make a cute bun on the side of my head. I let out a lengthy sigh. I'm officially set for the day.
I pull my phone out from my pocket and take a quick selfie.
"The bus is coming!" Mom shouts.
I run straight to the doorway and kiss Mom goodbye on the cheek. My canvas backpack dangles from a hanger. I almost forget it, but Mom hands it to me at the last minute.
"Have a great day at school and don't get into any trouble!"
Her voice fades away as I step closer toward the edges of the asphalt. Me? In trouble? Yeah right. I could be my school's hallway monitor if I wanted to. My friend, Michelle, teases me all the time for being such a, 'goody two-shoes.' Mom has literally nothing to worry about.
The bus arrives quickly. The floating yellow color contrasts with the morning mist. I don't want to go to school, but I have no other choice. If I skip school frequently, I’ll end up being an absolute loser. Those are the people in this world I'll never fully understand and highly despise.
A creaky door opens wide. I walk up into the bus. Boys are throwing paper airplanes and girls are still gossiping about yesterday's news. My eyes bounce off the walls, searching for an empty seat. There has to be one somewhere. Then at the corner of my iris, a perfectly silent seat poises next to the windowsill.
Finally, I can breathe.
After a ride of numerous jolts and outbursts of laughter, it's time to leave. My lips curve into a smile and then flip in the opposite direction by themselves. Everyone rushes out in single file, like a pack of fire ants escaping from a lava pit. It's utter chaos.
I step off the vehicle. I am no longer a part of the primrose aura. I head toward my school. The enormous sign says, Millsberry, High School. I usually see it every day, but something is different about it today. I hesitate before I react. The m on my school's logo is missing. It looks more like Illsberry High School now. I feel pretty pleased with my findings.
My conscience gladly responds to me inside my head by saying, "Yeah, this school definitely gives me sickly headaches."
Millsberry High isn’t anything like the typical high school. It’s a bit shabby on the outside and needs serious repairing. The school council has been ignoring the exterior conditions for months; saying that they’d rather spend the school budget elsewhere. Maybe more kids would apply here if people fixed it up a bit. Then the council would have enough money to keep the school in shape, but I know it’s never going to happen.
I nearly trip over my own two shoes at the fast pace of my feet. I don't glance back. Not even once. It's not really worth it if there's nothing to look back to.
My life is becoming a living nightmare and I'm walking directly into the abyss of it. As I strain myself to move through the narrow hallways, I'm disappearing inside a sea of familiar faces. By the time I reach my locker, there's only about five minutes left until the bell. I quickly go to my locker and take some notebooks, extra gel pens, and a pack of peppermint gum.
My math class is on the other side of the school so I have to brisk walk. I bump into many kids along my way. I can't help it. I don't like being late.
A ringing sound echoes through the halls. I’m so relieved I’m not late. My teacher, Ms. Lockwood, is distributing a tedious packet. My scattered thoughts instantly collapse. I literally forgot I have an Algebra test today. I’m totally going to flunk this. I guess I spent too much time editing and filtering my Instagram photos yesterday.
Ms. Lockwood eyes me insolently as she hands out my math test to me. I think she doubts I’m capable of passing. I respond with an arrogant glare and a smirk while she turns around and sits back down at her desk. My brain’s flipping out. Now I have to pass this test no matter what to prove her wrong.
Parent teacher conferences are tonight too. She usually manages to grade her classes’ math tests in less than a day so she’ll definitely add my test score to my average for the quarter by conference time. If Mom sees my grade plummeting downward, she’s destined to ground me again. Goodbye cellphone!
When I begin my Algebra test, I’m already struggling with the first equation. I compromise with myself by doodling numbers on the side of the first page. If I can get my life figured out, maybe math wouldn’t be hard at all. Gratefully, a spark eventually ignites inside my head. It gets my neuron engines running and I remember everything. I might not get an eighty but at least I won’t get a sixty-five.
My pencil breaks during the middle of the test. I have to get up to sharpen it. Then I see a spare on the floor someone must have dropped from the previous class. I silently pick it up and finish up the numeric equations and word problems.
I watch Ms. Lockwood reading when I’m finished. She’s sitting at her desk and holding the latest weekly newspaper up to her face. She’s so focused that she doesn’t even notice me staring directly at her. Sometimes I think she’s in another world.
Ms. Lockwood always reminisces about her childhood days living in the city. Any student of hers knows that’s the reason why she dresses like a businesswoman from Wall Street every day. Her dark brunette hair is also kept in a tight ponytail behind her head, revealing her mysterious chocolate eyes. I’m certain she’s in her late twenties.
I don’t understand why she came to Millsberry. Millsberry barely surpasses as a suburb. She must have an insanely good reason why she’s still living here.
I move my gaze upward. The clock tick tocks like a startling heartbeat. The red hand quivers as it stretches forward, letting the seconds pass. A lot my classmates are still working on their tests.
I have to admit those equations were pretty hard.
I don’t like when there’s too many numbers involved in equations. My messy mind screws up easily and gets confused. I open my test again and check over my answers a third time. The period never seems to end.
Finally the bell rings. I pack up my books and go to lunch. It’s my favorite class of the day. There’s no homework and no teachers bossing me around. Although others might arguably say the lunch monitors can be really harsh but as long as I don’t have a reserved appointment at the principal’s office, I have nothing to worry about.
I rush into the lunchroom, holding a paper bag. Supposedly, it’s my lunch for today.
My friend, Michelle is smiling gleefully while I come over. Her radiating natural highlights are flaunting within the daylight. She’s definitely one of the most delightful people I know.
“Hey Ali! What’s up?”
I slam my textbooks down and sit across from her on a bench.
“Nothing much. I had a math test earlier. I’m pretty sure I didn’t do too well.”
“O-kay then. I guess that means you had a cruddy day so far. You know life’s only going to get worse for us from now on.” She slurs her words as she eats her delicious chicken and lettuce wrap.
“Why are you eating so healthy today?” I ask.
“I have to lay off the carbs. My muffin top is starting to show. Of course it’s easy for you to eat anything you want, you always stay skinny.”
Michelle has been hinting out jealous signals of my body type since grade school. She even replaced my lunch for a week with junk food and I didn’t even gain a pound. She keeps on thinking I’m hiding a dieting secret, but in reality no matter what I do, I just don’t get really heavy. Weight has never been a serious issue for me.
I try to compliment her everyday about how beautiful she is but Mich thinks I’m lying. Michelle, herself, is a bit curvy and almost slender. She does have lovely eyes and pearly white teeth though, but she looks straight past her perfections and sees only flaws.
I decide to switch the conversation. Once we start chatting about our weights and diets it never ends good.
“How has your day been, Mich?”
“It’s been good. I’m going to the Harmony Coffee later. Do you want to go with me after school?”
“Sure. It’s not like I have homework due or anything.” I say the last part sarcastically.
“It seems like your day isn’t too bad after all, besides your failing Algebra test grade.”
“Yeah, I know. Every college is going to love my sophomore final average in high school.”
“I wonder what college will actually accept a Millsberry girl.”
We both continue to joke around. I love my lunch life.
Michelle and I take a leisurely stroll outside. I prefer a fresh, outdoor area better than a secluded, stuffy, lunchroom with a bunch of crazy kids any time. Besides, I’m claustrophobic anyway.
We both buy an ice cream cone from the machine and lick our chilled treats until the crunchy cone remains.
“By the way, is your arm getting better?” I ask.
Mich sprained her arm last week at a soccer game. She can’t play until next season and she's extremely devastated about it
A lunch monitor walks over toward us. Mitch drops her empty cone. Her lips curve unevenly. The lunch monitor never comes near us. Oh my gosh! If I get in trouble, Mom will kill me!
“You’re Miss Mae. Right?”
“Someone from the office says there’s a phone call waiting for you. Better go answer it.”
I nod nervously again. Mich’s jaw falls off when she leaves.
“What was that all about?” Mich whispers loudly.
“I have no clue.”
“I guess there’s only one way to find out then.”
Michelle and I begin heading back inside. The air smells like salty perfume and dirty sweat. School smells disgusting. When we arrive at the lunchroom, Mich stops me by the doorway.
“Do you think I should go with you?”
“Nah, it’s not worth it. My Mom probably has to remind me of something.”
“Alright. See you around, Ali.”
My legs are shaking while I approach Millsberry High’s main office. Negative thoughts invade my head. What if my Mom has terrible news to share with me? I guess like Mich said earlier, there’s only one way to find out.
I open the wooden door and cowardly walk inside. I thought my mind was messy but apparently the school’s office is even worse. There’s office papers stacked in piles everywhere. Boxes are sticking out onto of cabinets and there are unwashed soda stains on the carpet. Millsberry must be really broke. They don’t have any money to maintain a sanitary environment here.
There’s a lady sitting behind a desk. She’s looks embarrassed when she catches my eye. It definitely can’t be her fault the place looks like this if she feels the same way I do.
“I believe I have a call waiting for me,” I say.
“Ahh. You must be Aaliyah! Wait right here!” the receptionist replies.
She turns around in her leather swivel desk chair and then gives me a clunky cordless phone. The screen glass is a little cracked, but it’s functional.
“Hello Mom. What happened?”
Someone laughs on the other end of the phone line. It sounds like a man. Whoever the person is, it can’t be my Mom for sure.
“Hey Ali. It’s Brandon. Remember me?”
“Brandon? You mean you’re Brandon Lyonhart?!” I say.
“Yeah, silly. Sorry to call you in the middle of your class but Kaelyn’s so excited about the news that she wants me to tell everybody as soon as possible,” Brandon says.
“Tell everybody what?”
“Yesterday I proposed to Kaelyn. We’re engaged now.”
“No way! That’s awesome! Congratulations!”
Brandon and Kaelyn have been together for quite a while. As a matter of fact, they’re high school sweethearts. That’s how they met. The two didn’t fall in love right away though. I’m responsible for setting up their blind date. It was a bit of trial and error.
“I know right? We’re hoping to get married really soon since Kaelyn doesn’t want to wait another year. We don’t plan to be engaged for long.”
“When do you the two of you want to get married?”
“Well we both know making wedding preparations might take a few months, but Kaelyn and I already have some pretty good ideas of how our dream wedding will look like. We’re y going to start preparing in the upcoming weeks.”
Now I can finally go to a wedding with an actual couple I know! I have to opportunity to ask for a role too. I should ask if I can be a bridesmaid. Then I can get a snazzy dress. No, maybe it’s better if I’m the maid of honor. It’s a much more important task. I’m extremely excited!
I’ll be thrilled to be your maid of honor!” I shout, presumably.
“Yeah…. About that…”
My smile begins fading away.
‘”Kaelyn wants her sister to be the maid of honor since she’s immediate family.”
“Then can I be a bridesmaid?”
“Actually I want to ask you about another role.”
“Okay. Ask away?
“I want you to be my, ‘best man.’”
My teeth hang loosely. I think they’re about to climb out of my mouth.
“What? Isn’t a guy supposed to hold that position though?”
I’m pleading in my head for him to change his mind.
“I want you to pretend to be a boy. Can you do that for me please?”
I groan silently. I doubt he hears me.
“Why can’t I be a bridesmaid?”
“My mother is going to be my wedding planner and she thinks I should have six bridesmaids, six groomsmen, a maid of honor, multiple flower girls et cetera. Kaelyn and I have all the positions females typically enroll in at a wedding filled up, but I still want you to be part of my wedding so you’ll portray a guy’s role.”
“Well what exactly are you saying?”
“This is going to sound weird, Ali but you’re going to have to get a makeup transformation to be a boy. My Aunt Becca will give you a makeover since she’d experienced with cosmetology.”
I can’t believe what I’m hearing. Brandon wants me to literally become a boy. He’s strongly wants me to be his best man in his stupid picture-perfect wedding because he doesn’t have anything else available.
“I don’t know, Brandon… For a fact, I’m one of the girliest people in this world you know. How can I possibly pretend to be a boy?”
“As long as don’t speak you should be fine. Trust me. Nobody will ever suspect of who you truly are as long if you don’t say a word.”
If only being silent was that easy.
My sympathetic side kicks in. I’ve been friends with Brandon since fifth grade and now he’s finally an adult and getting married. That’s a lot of years down memory lane to absorb in. I think Kaelyn’s a perfect match for him too. Why do I feel so jealous then?
“I’ll do it.”
“Thanks so much, Ali! You won’t regret it.”
Oh boy I hope I will.
I hang up the phone and forget what sympathy means. I wish I could throw the phone on the ground and shove it in the trash can Out of all the countless positions in a wedding, the only available one he could find me, is a ‘best man.’ I don’t even what those guys do.
Perhaps, I can reconsider going to his wedding. He won’t miss me if I’m not there anyway.
I know family comes first, but I’m the one who shipped Kaelyn and him together in the first place. I feel as if my little cupid heart has just shattered into a million pieces.
When I arrive home after visiting to Harmony Coffee with Michelle, Mom leaves a note on the table. It says:
I’m might be late coming home. I’ll be back by 7:30 p.m.
If there’s an emergency you know who to call and don’t do anything dangerous!
I wish I could tell her it’s too late now. Trouble has become my main priority.
I drag my backpack upstairs and bring my homework to my bed. I can only read one word before I toss it across the room. I can’t stop thinking about the wedding and Brandon. I still remember when he was a senior last year. Those were the good’ol days. He never even had a slight thought about marriage.
What if it doesn’t work out in the future and they get divorced? Neither of them has even completed college yet. It’s bound to happen. I just know it.
Brandon may think he’s got it all under control but sooner or later he’s going to snap. I’m sure of it. I’m certain Kaelyn doesn’t know that side of him yet either. Brandon’s going to miss a ton of opportunities too. He can’t go to clubs or drink (Kaelyn’s a party pooper). He won’t be able date anymore girls and he’ll have to buy a house.
I have a feeling of how his life is going to be in the future.
He’ll probably move out of Millsberry and travel to California and I’ll never see him again.
Wait a minute. What if I really don’t see him ever again after High School? I don’t know what I’ll do them.
Two years later, Kaelyn’s most likely going to be pregnant, but I don’t even want to think about that par yet.
I stuff my face into my zebra striped pillow and scream. It sounds more like a thunderous roar. I don’t think anyone can hear me anyways. My neighbors are usually never home either. Nobody’s going to call the police on me. Thank goodness.
More than ever I want to go back to yesterday and every other day before. I don’t want to live today any longer. It’s making my insides hurt horrendously.
I suck in air into my lungs. Tears flow in zig zags down my cheeks. I can’t believe Brandon is growing up. It makes me sick to think about. Illsberry High really does make me sick.
My homework sits on the floor for hours because I don’t have the strength or urge to complete it.
I look at the time. It’s seven o’clock. My bedroom’s darkening as the sun slithers down.
Mom must still be at Parent Teacher conferences. Ms. Lockwood is going to love her. After all, my Mom was raised in the city. This is going to be a tiresome night.
I shove my face deeper into the pillow until all I see is darkness. That’s how I feel and where I am now; someplace blank and hollowed out cold.
My neck dries up terribly. I’ve swallowed every drop of saliva inside my throat. Dehydration is dominating me.
I hear a garage door open outside. I race to my window. There’s a Toyota Camry rolling onto pavement near the curb.
Mom’s home! I go downstairs and wait for her. She comes out of the basement door which connects to the kitchen. I hear her keys jangling inside her hands.
“Hey Ali. How was school?”
She looks at my dreadful face.
She comes over to hug me and I give in. I can really use a hug right now.
“Is everything okay?”
I shake my head. “Not really, Mom. Brandon and Kaelyn are getting married.”
“Wow. That’s shocking. They're so young though…”
“That’s exactly what I was thinking!”
I love when Mom and I are on the same page.
“You can tell me all about it while we eat dinner. By the way, sorry I’m late. I got take out. Maybe Chinese food will make you feel better.”
Unless I was a bulimic child, it’s going to take a lot more than food to make me feel better.
I smell the aromas of lo mein noodles and yummy dumplings. My stomach growls at the sight of the take out boxes.
“Now slow down and explain why Brandon and Kaelyn’s marriage isn't a good thing.” Mom says.
“First of all, Brandon wants me to be his best man at his wedding.”
“Shouldn’t a male be the main groomsman though?”
“I think so but he still insists I take opportunity to hold the position.”
“Well that’s not half bad. At least you’re not a flower girl. Flowers girls are typically young adolescents.”
“Honey, I’m sure it will all work out somehow. You’re lucky to part of a wedding especially at your age. It’s a wonderful experience. You know I went to my first wedding in my twenties.”
“Yeah I guess. Thanks for your help anyways, Mom.”
We eat in silence for temporarily. I think she has enough faith in me to think I can handle my dilemma on my own. I’m glad to have the type of mom who understands their child. There are parents in this world today who don’t even have the time to listen to their kid.
I slurp down my lo mein noodles with my swollen lips. I’m trying to suck most of the flavor from each curly strand. The soy sauce tarnishes my mouth. I thought I didn’t have much of an appetite but I realize I’m a lot hungrier than I thought I was.
I take an empty take out box and a pair of plastic chopsticks to the counter. Mom gets up and snatches the box away from me and says,” Why don’t you get some rest? You look really tired, Aaliyah.
“What about the dishes?”
“I’ll wash the dishes tonight. Go on and get to bed.”
I’m lenient to her words. As I head to my bedroom, Mimi is sitting on my bed. She wants to cuddle with me under the covers.
After I put on my pajamas, I hop into bed and turn off the lights. Moonlight rays spread evenly across my room.
The crystal stars start to shine. I like to believe satellites are shooting stars. The truth is I can’t tell the difference between the stars and satellites during the nighttime. In any case, every night I make a wish. Sometimes my wishes are for the most random things.
Tonight I close my eyes tightly, clasp my hands together, and wish upon a star that everything will be okay.