Twelve months to go…
Jessica sat gazing at Mr. Roberson who was droning on about some fine aspect of American History. Behind her, Brittney’s whispers kept ringing in her ear. She tried to ignore it at first, as she always did. Yet, she still found herself gritting her teeth as she swallowed hard.
“Hey, Jessica. I know you can hear me. You might be a cow, but you’re not deaf.” Her snide voice drifted upon the draft.
“Shut up Brittney.” She finally hissed under her breath. Though without turning to look her in the face, that might prove to be too much.
“There ya go, good girl.” Jessica could almost see the snide look on her porcelain-white face. The light splatter of freckles dancing across her nose as that hideous mouth worked. She gritted her teeth further, not wanting to give the freak the satisfaction of seeing the leak that was starting to squeeze out of the corners of her eyes.
She tried to take the focus off by stealing a glance at Trevor who sat a few rows to the right of her. He had golden brown locks that danced across his scalp like brilliant waves crashing against a shore. His blue eyes sparkled like stars from across the room. His mouth hung open slightly as he stared blankly at Mr. Robinson. Somehow, even the slack-jawed look fit him well and he wore it like a champion.
“I know who you like…” Brittney sang from behind her. The sound pulled her out of her daydream quite rudely.
“No, you don’t. Now please, shut up,” Jessica whispered over her shoulder.
“No? Well, maybe Trevor would like a better view.” Before she could do anything, she felt Brittney’s slender fingers reach up to her back. The touch of which made her skin crawl. Suddenly, the hand found the back of her bra strap. With a graceful twisting motion, she suddenly felt the back unclasp.
She felt ice crawl through her as Brittney suddenly yelled, “Hey everyone, look who’s showing off her taters!” Two dozen heads turned to look at her. Almost immediately a sea of giggling welled up as if a conductor had raised his baton for the orchestra.
Jessica didn’t wait to see what more would come. With all subtly thrown to the wind she clutched the front of her chest and ran out of the room. Though not before she got a glance at Trevor’s face, whose nose was scrunched up like he just ate a roach. With that image burned in her mind, she fled the room and left her tormentor in her wake.
Ten months to go…
Jessica sat in one of the stalls, though she didn’t use it for its intended purpose. Instead, she sat there as tears rained down her cheeks. They gave them a soft glisten that sparkled in the fluorescent lighting.
All class she had sat there listening to Brittney whisper the cruelest things to her. The words “cow,” “morbidly,” “butter-nothing,” and many others had assaulted her ears for the last hour. Now she sat in one of the few places they couldn’t get to her, and one which she often came to when she needed to unload for a moment.
As she sobbed, she couldn’t help but think of her eighteenth birthday which was quickly approaching. Ten more months, just ten more, she thought. It was true, as hard as it was to remind herself. It was her senior year, and in ten months she’d be an adult. Then she could leave Brittney and all the others behind like a nightmare lost to the conscious mind. As she thought this, she heard the door open and froze as a familiar voice called out.
“Sea cow, where are you? I know you like to hide in here as you blubber.” Jessica pulled her feet up, trying to hide them. It was too late, as a brilliant blue eye suddenly appeared in the crack of the stall.
“Hi, there!” Brittney sang out, a pandering tone encasing her words.
“Go away, Brittney!” She shrieked. She half hoped maybe someone outside would hear, but it seemed her luck wasn’t nearly that good. For suddenly a head appeared from under the door. She had a sudden urge to stomp on it but instead held her legs to her chest in defense.
“Aww, if I didn’t know better, I’d think you didn’t want to chat. You know, I don’t blame you. You’re even uglier from this angle.” With that, she squirmed in through the gap under the door and soon was towering over Jessica with a mischievous glint in her sapphire eyes.
“Brittney, I’ll scream for help.” She whimpered.
“No, no I don’t think you will.” With that, she reached out one elegant arm and clamped her hand tight around Jessica’s mouth. She tried to scream, but all that sounded with a slightly muffled sound. Though there was a look in her eyes like that of a mouse who had just been caught by a cat. She tried to struggle free but felt all of Brittney’s weight suddenly plop down onto her.
“You know, your breath stinks. Let’s scrub out that filthy mouth of yours.” With Jessica still struggling under her weight, Brittney reached over and grabbed a fist full of toilet paper. With sudden wide eyes, her struggles intensified as Brittney suddenly brought the wad of toilet paper to her face. Showing a surprising strength, she ripped open her mouth and stuffed the awful material inside. It caused Jessica to start gagging immediately.
The only good thing was this seemed to be enough as Brittney hopped off and allowed Jessica to remove the wad, rivers being cut in her cheeks in the process.
“Ooooh, nice backpack. Mind if I peek?” With that, Brittney reached down and grabbed Jessica’s pack which had been resting against the wall of the stall. Before she could do much in protest, her tormentor had unzipped it and allowed all the contents to cascade down onto the dirty floor. Wherein she gave a good few stomps, the sound of wood and plastic snapping filled the air, just for good measure. Jessica opened her mouth to protest, but all that came out was a choking sound.
“I think that’s enough play for today. Now I know you live here, I might just have to visit more often. Toodles!” With that Britney turned on her heels and walked out, leaving Jessica still sitting on the toilet, wet toilet paper littered the ground in front of her.
Ten months, just ten months, she repeated to herself. Though the thought was little encouragement.
Eight months to go…
Jessica sat in math class, not paying attention. Though from the light chatter that occasionally rippled through the classroom, she wasn’t the only one. So, there she sat daydreaming about her upcoming birthday and escape. This had been her main driving force for so long, she couldn’t help but wonder what she’d focus on once she was eighteen. Suddenly, a sharp pain shot through her stomach, which made her wince slightly. She tried to ignore the sharp look she was getting from Brittney. She’d felt moody all day and didn’t feel like dealing with her at that moment. So, she ignored the pain, both internally and externally, and tried to focus on that day’s lesson.
Before she could take more than a few lines of notes, a familiar voice yelled out through the class. “Ew, Jessica got her period!” For a moment she was confused, but then she froze as she felt a wetness creeping from her bottom. With horror, she looked turned around and saw the back of the chair was streaked with crimson. She jumped up, but not before all the boys around her suddenly shot away like they were running from a nuclear blast.
“Now class, settle down.” Mr. Cartman tried to calm them down. However, with the sniggering from the girls and the commotion of the boys who were all scooted far away, he had his work cut out for him.
Four months to go…
“Ya, ten points!” Brittney called out as a piece of sticky bread lodged itself in the back of her head.
Jessica tried to ignore her and focus on her sandwich. She sat alone in the cafeteria, where the loud din of hundreds of students pounded upon her ears. She couldn’t help but look on with a wistful expression as she saw groups of people together chatting. Of course, she also stole the occasional glance at Trevor who was chatting with his group. Completely unaware of the admirer seated a few tables away.
“Bam!” She heard Brittney gloat once more as she felt another sticky wad find refuge in her hair. She finally risked it and reached behind her to figure out at least what she was dealing with. To her horror, she pulled out a piece of bread covered in thick, sticky peanut butter. She frantically started pulling more peanut butter sandwich from the back of her head, though failing to get most of the gooey mixture out.
She whirled around, a slightly wild look in her eyes as she stared into the mocking ones seated behind her. A sudden fire erupted deep within her, a fire that had never burned so brightly before. Maybe it was the years of ridicule and mocking, maybe it was the fact that it had been a particularly long day. Without warning, Jessica gave out a loud shriek and dove at her tormentor who suddenly looked rather alarmed.
Crimson shot out of her nose, as over and over again Jessica brought a fist up and back down on her face. She was still roaring her battle cry when the teacher on duty grabbed her and practically dragged her away from Brittney, whose loud cries could be heard echoing in the distance.
That night she sat in a chair, properly grounded for being suspended. As she sat there was the occasional snipping sound as her mother set to work on her hair. Lock by lock, her beautiful black curls fell away.
When it was finally over, and all the peanut butter removed, she walked to the bathroom and shrieked aloud as she saw a rather uneven pixy cut slapped upon her head. There she stood and whimpered, unable to imagine how things could get worse.
Two months to go…
It seemed the impossible had happened, Brittney seemed to have been subdued. She now stayed silent, and the eternal whispers in the classroom had ceased their endless torment. Instead, Brittney had taken to just glaring at the back of her head. Jessica found she could handle this. For the first time since she had started middle school, she found she could go to school without dread gripping her stomach like the claws of a fiend.
What’s more, one quiet night her phone dinged with a message from a random guy. At first, she had been stand-offish. However, she had to admit Brandon was surprisingly determined to make small talk with her. So, slowly yet surely the two of them began to talk. She found that this mysterious fellow had a lot of the same interests as her and went to the other high school on the opposite side of town. He sent her a picture once, and she had to admit he gave Trevor a run for his money. He had deep black hair that was messy, but not in a just-woke-out-of-bed way, but in a cool laid-back fashion. When she had sent her selfie in response, she had to admit she never felt so nervous.
To her utter shock, he didn’t vanish at the sight of her. Rather his messages increased their intensity. By the time two weeks had passed, they were messaging most of the mornings and evenings. Their conversation had stopped its awkward nature and now they chatted like old friends.
There was one awkward moment where Brandon asked for a topless photo, but it smoothed out when he took her rejection in stride. She felt slightly ashamed, but she actually considered sending it. The fluttering of her heart momentarily overpowered her sanity. Yet, it was just too quick and soon. So, he let it drop and they continued their digital courtship. Jessica had to admit, never in her life had she felt happy. It was a new emotion she found she greatly liked.
1 month to go…
Jessica found herself waiting at the small coffee shop, her heart beating harder than it had in a long while. She felt like at any moment her heart might burst. Any moment now she’d meet Brandon in person. Finally, she’d get to see if this incredible spark survived the first encounters and turned into the flame of passion. Though, she did admit she felt nervous for a very different reason.
The night before she had been lying on her bed, thinking about Brittney and the fact she seemed to finally be free of the horrible creature. Suddenly, her phone dinged, and she practically flew to it. She saw it was from Brandon, and as usual, they started a long conversation as if it were as easy as breathing.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, he asked if they could see each other. She of course agreed to this hurriedly, but she hesitated at the follow-up message. Once more she stared at a message requesting a tasteful topless photo. She was about to reject him again when, suddenly, she felt a light tingling sensation that overpowered her mind and joined the butterflies in her stomach. Before she could talk herself out of it, she raised her shirt, the cool night air shocking against her bare skin, and quickly snapped a photo.
As soon as she hit send sanity prevailed and she stared in horror at what she had done. It’s okay, he obviously likes you and knows what you look like. It’s fine, she tried to reassure herself. However, for reasons that should have been obvious, she found she was still worried even there at the coffee shop days later.
The minutes turned into hours as she sat there, the throngs of people coming and going. She went to order another coffee, a stone in her stomach.
The barista looked at her with a kind smile and said, “It’s on the house, don’t sweat that guy. He’s a jerk.”
“Ya…” She muttered, fighting back tears.
So, much for that, she thought to herself bitterly. Though at the very least her much-awaited birthday would be soon, and graduation was just around the corner. So, with that familiar thought in her head, she took her coffee and tried to ignore the weight in her heart.
Seven days to go…
Jessica sat in the auditorium, listening to the valedictorian drone on and on about them climbing a mountain. All around her were similarly dressed students, all in their bright blue gowns, but with blank eyes and drooped mouths.
While she listened, she tried to ignore the weight that still clung to her since Brandon stood her up. Not only had he done such, but she had yet to hear from him again. Guess you are just that ugly, she thought to herself darkly.
She was pulled from her thoughts by the sudden rising of the first row of students. As each name was called up a person would walk to the stage, a baby photo played behind them, and they would shake a few hands, grab their diploma, and smile for the camera. They would then sit down and go back to looks of boredom, their three minutes of fame over.
Finally, she heard her name called. She stood up and started to walk to the stage but stopped when she heard a mixture of gasps. Suddenly, laughter erupted and filled her ears. At first, she was confused, and couldn’t figure out what was the cause of the disturbance. Then, with ice shooting through her stomach and the weight of it plummeting to the floor, she saw the photo that had been displayed. There, in front of the entire school and their families, was the topless photo she had sent to Brandon.
She stood transfixed, unable to move or think. Just staring in numb horror. Then out of the corner of her eye, she saw a single student stand out amongst the sea. There Brittney sat, smugly looking at her with the glint of evil in her eyes. She raised her hand and gave Jessica the finger. Suddenly, everything that happened with Brandon made sense. Now with a fresh dose of horror at her stupidity added to the humiliation she felt, she turned and ran from the auditorium, hands trying to cover her face and shame.
Thirty minutes to go…
It was 11:30 PM, an hour and a half from her eighteenth birthday. However, she barely registered this fact. Instead, she was sitting on her bed, staring at the floor, her eyes empty and no hint of her former self remained. She felt numb inside, empty of anything, falling deeper and deeper into an abyss from which she knew she would never return.
She had made her decision, she had made her choice, and she didn’t care anymore. Any single hesitation she ever had was torn away the moment the nude was displayed. She had finally, and she was surprised that it took her so long to figure out something so obvious, realized that it didn’t matter if she turned eighteen, or even left. It was obvious that this was her life. That there was no point hoping for a better anything.
Even if by some miracle things did get better when she left, she was done waiting. She had always waited. She was done waiting, in her eyes, the half an hour that remained might as well have been a lifetime. She was going to be free now. She was not going to deal with this type of agony for another moment. She didn’t know what she did to make the universe so mad, but she hoped against hope that whatever it was worth showing her mercy now.
She knew it was an easy way out, she knew it completely, but at least it was her choice. She was finally going to take control of her life. It may be an end, but in her eyes standing up to the universe with her own choice was also a beginning.
Most people spend their entire lives terrified that they will be alone when they face their end. She supposed that was the only thing that her seventeen-year ordeal had gifted upon her. She was able to leave alone without any fear or regret of the fact. How can one be afraid of something they have always known would be at the end?
She didn’t even consider leaving a note, for what was the point? What was the point in doing anything, but which needed to be done? Instead, she picked up the safety razor that she had brought from the bathroom. She broke it and forced out the sharp razor that was inside. She looked at it, almost fondly like one would a lover. This is not necessarily surprising as in her eyes it was her savior, her knight in shining armor waiting to whisk her away from her terrible life.
She looked around the room, taking in reality one last time before she said goodbye and explored whatever was to come. She brought the razor down along her arm. She expected it to hurt. Yet, she only felt a deep calm at knowing that this horror story was finally going to end. She did the same to her other arm, lay in bed, and clutched her favorite stuffed animal. She wanted to have at least some company during her final moments.
It didn’t take long for the tiredness to seep in. It was subtle at first, which surprised her a little. Like someone was coaxing her with a lullaby. This quickly increased in nature as she realized she could no longer keep her eyes open. She stared into the darkness behind her eyelids, realizing that deep within them was a force that slowly pulled her into its embrace.
It was only a few seconds after that she was fully led away. In those final moments, before she walked across the threshold, she couldn’t help but wonder at a potential world without girls like Brittney.
Ryan Nightingale currently writes under his pseudonym. He has had four short stories published in both online and print literary journals. He’s also had three digital paintings published. In Ryan’s spare time, he enjoys painting and other creative works.