This is the part where I explain more about myself. I’d always been the girl striving to be perfect. To be the prettiest and smartest and most loved by everyone around her. I lived with my mom and her husband, and even though I hated it, when all was said and done, I missed it quite awfully.
But there were secrets I was harboring behind my bright green eyes, beneath the surface of my alabaster skin. There were secrets I was keeping from everyone around me because they would have torn them all to shreds. And I was breaking down, slowly, painfully, holding back the clandestine lies.
It’s difficult now, to remember it all. Every conversation and gesture and laugh that passed through my chapped lips. Fall was a season of changes, and even as I clutched to the routine I’d fallen into, it was slipping so easily from my grasp. Decayed leaves falling from branches of trees.
“That practice was intense,” Astrid said. The words were slurred through a mouthful of peanut butter, straight from the jar, clinging to the spoon she held. After Cheerleading we always hung out at my house, because in a town like ours there was simply nothing else to do. The irony was that we’d just spent two hours working out, sprinting and stunting and shouting out meaningless cheers, and now we were shoveling in calories by the spoonful.
I was biting at the insides of my cheeks, thinking of telling her everything I’d been hiding, because she was my best friend and the secrecy just had to stop. But I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. So I said instead, “Yeah. It’ll pay off at Homecoming.” Because it was what she wanted to hear. I was always trying to please everyone else.
Astrid set down the spoon with a delicate sort of sigh. “I hope I get a date.” There was a wistful undertone in her words, like she was quite certain no one would ask her. Even though she was Astrid Hanley, and everyone in the world loved her. How could they not? With her bright smile and air of innocence, she was the light to the universe of moths.
I rolled my eyes at her, gave her a playful shove on the shoulder. She giggled, and I giggled, and that was that. We went on talking and teasing and making plans bigger than we could have ever imagined, and I kept my secrets, and everything went on.
“We’re going to begin this year withA Tale of Two Cities.”
A cumulative groan arose from the general populous of my first hour Advanced English. Beside me, Astrid was scribbling little hearts into her notebook. Across the room, a few football players were muttering about their big game that Friday. The outcasts sulked in the back, mostly unaware of the social spectrum that had deemed them unworthy to begin with.
Only I was smiling, because in spite of myself I had a deep appreciation for classic literature. I didn’t expect my classmates to understand. All they knew was hairspray and designers and the latest news from the rumor mill. At the front of the room, the teacher was writing ‘Dickens’ on the chalkboard. Everyone fumbled for their notebooks, though no one would bother taking notes.
“Who here knows what this story is about?” Mrs. Wells asked, turning to face the class. She was met with about two dozen blank stares.
“Well,” one of the jocks spoke up, “I’m going to guess it’s a tale…about two cities.” His not-so-amusing response received a few snickers from the boys clustered around him, as well as a glare from the teacher. And, I’ll admit, myself. There are some things you just don’t mock, and classic lit is one of them.
With my patented eye roll, my hand shot into the air. “Yes, Scarlett?” Relief filled Mrs. Well’s face and voice. I guess my track record with academics had followed me from the middle school. I thought I saw Astrid sneer just a little, like maybe she was upset that I outdid her in something. Or maybe not. Maybe I was just overthinking, as usual.
“It’s about a family torn apart by the French Revolution,” I said with the utmost confidence. There wasn’t too much I was sure of in life, but I knew that school was the one place I excelled. “And how love is the ultimate sacrifice.” Had I read the book? No. But there were some things I just knew. It was kind of just how I was.
“Very good,” Mrs. Wells replied, and then she shot off into this tirade about the novel itself. I tuned out then, glanced over at Astrid, but she was busy examining her face in a Covergirl compact. As if she wasn’t already flawless. I let myself fall into those twisted tendrils of thoughts that consumed my mind, wondering if I would ever find the courage to tell Astrid the truth about the lie I’d worked so hard to hide.