I stepped outside of the small apartment complex that I called home, the crisp chill of the winter air biting at my face and my breath freezing before spiralling and fading away into nothing.
I had never been that bothered by the cold, so I just roughly tugged my beanie further onto my head, and pulled my coat closer to my body as I started to walk to the bus that would take me to the local bookstore I worked at, which provided me with just enough money to live off of. With no degree and very few qualifications from school - and a rather negative record and reputation - I was lucky to have any job so I wasn't complaining.
Slipping the worn earphones I'd had for the past year into my ears, I switched on my cheap iPod nano that I had got second-hand from an old friend. The screen had a crack running through the centre and the headphone jack was a bit dodgy sometimes, but as a three year old freebie from someone I used to be close with, it wasn't half bad.
Walking along - keeping my steps in time with the glorious grunge sound that is Nirvana, which was somehow enhanced by the slight static, courtesy of the worn cable - I began to lose myself in the music and before I knew it I was but a street away from the bus stop, the endless melodies having made the journey seem far shorter than the reality.
My morning had been pretty terrible. Having woken up late due to the fact my alarm had failed to go off, again, I had jumped out of bed and gone straight into the freezing cold shower. Now usually that shower would be at least lukewarm, considering I'd be able to get up and turn the hot water on in advance, but thanks to the faulty alarm clock I had found at a car boot sale I was forced into water that a polar bear might consider a tad chilly.
After what I like to refer to as 'The Antarctic Experience', my blow dryer finally crapped out on me. I had been expecting it for the past week or so, but it was the worst possible day for it to happen, meaning I had to leave the house with wet hair. Wet hair when it was minus three? Yeah, not so brilliant. Not to mention as I was leaving the apartment complex - in attire that wasn't the warmest - I had slipped on ice and spilt my coffee, which happened to be my breakfast thanks to the fact I'd not been able to go grocery shopping yet.
Suffice it to say my morning from hell had put me in a bad mood.
I continued walking, my breath fogging in the cold January air and mind clearing slowly thanks to the music I was able to think bit clearer, the red haze of anger fading away with each step.
As I approached the small bus shelter, I cringed, seeing as it was full of people.
People were never my forte. Even more so now than ever before.
I had always been one to keep myself to myself. I enjoyed solitude and even when I had friends and people didn't cross to the other side of the path to avoid being associated with the "loner freak" I was always the odd one out. My so-called friends had a tendency to comment that I was often away in my own world. Socialising was not something I found easy. Small talk not something that came naturally. However, it is not until you find yourself forced into the dark corner of something you previously cringed from that you realised how much you relied upon it.
Being pushed out and forgotten creates loneliness. That was something I figured out far too late.
Resigning myself to having to share a confined space with a large group of people, something that would have previously been uncomfortable prior to my outcast status, was downright terrifying. I mean, the vast majority of the town did hate me and that tended to put a damper on small talk. Instead of attempting to engage in pointless discussions about the abysmal weather that would inevitably end in some spiteful insult thrown my way, I just sighed and turned up my music.
What you must know about the village I lived in, is that it is incredibly small and incredibly tight-knit. Word travels fast and grudges were shared. I was the one who happened to be the town freak, the one ridiculed and distrusted and sometimes even hated.
It was a status I tried not to dwell upon, because thinking about it meant memories, and memories meant nightmares.
When the bus finally arrived -ten minutes late and smelling like the driver had taken a detour through a public bathroom - everyone clambered aboard, me behind the rest.
After the usual debate with the bus driver, who always tried hard to keep my off the bus in order to keep the rest of his passengers happy, I climbed aboard and stood as near to the exit as possible, gingerly holding on to one of the rails. As much as I wanted to stay upright, I'd also rather not contract the flu, something that had previously happened to me courtesy of public transport. Thanks to that epidemic, I always carried hand sanitizer.
I kept my eyes fixed on the road ahead, acting as though I was incredibly intrigued in the country scenery I saw on a day to day basis when in reality my interest was more to avoid eye contact with the rest of the people I was trapped with for the next fifteen minutes.
I could feel their eyes burning in to my back, each and every one of them. There was Mr Ashfield who lived in the same apartment complex as me, though on the floor below. He was about seventy years old and smelt of cigar smoke, whiskey and dog. On more than one occasion he had knocked me over in passing or 'accidentally' taken my mail - most of which consisted of bills meaning my gas and electricity had been turned off on more than one occasion before I had figured out what had been going on. He hated me for no other reason than the fact that others did. Like I said, it was a small town.
A group of two or three girls, who I recognised from my school days, were sprawled across the backseat, whispering to each other with the occasional glance in my direction. I couldn't hear them but I was sure they were talking about me. About how much of a freak I was and most likely talking about the incident that got me kicked out of school, despite the fact it was old news.
You'd think in two years something more noteworthy would have happened but, yet, there I was, still the person on the receiving end of all the hatred those people kept bottled up to maintain their perfect image.
I didn't know everyone on that bus, some people I dealt with on a day to day basis, some were relics of my past and some were faces I didn't recognise at all, but they all had hate in their eyes and unkind words on their tongue.
When the bus finally arrived in the city, I was first out, relishing in the polluted air and busy atmosphere. Here people pushed past me because of necessity not hatred. I was a nobody here and I much preferred that to being the circus attraction I was back home. If I could even call it home.
The red haze was back though.
Checking my watch, I swore internally.
Of course you're late, Carter, an annoying voice inside my head chastised, the bus wasn't on time, now was it. A late bus equals a late you.
"She's going to murder me." I said in hushed tones to no-one in particular, before rushing into the town centre, hoping that fifteen minutes of missed time would be more forgivable than the twenty five it would have been had I walked at a normal pace.
Muttering hollow apologies to those I pushed aside as I tried making my way through the crowd, I picked up the pace slightly, my brisk walk becoming a gentle jog, in some attempt to plough through the mass of people more easily.
The next thing I knew, I was on my back, a young man's face looming over me, asking me if I was okay.
"Shit, I'm so sorry. Here, let me help," he said, offering a hand to pull me up, at which I just stared.
"It's just a hand. It doesn't bite you know?" he said grinning slightly. I could tell he thought I was a bit slow, and the smile that was plastered across his face was not a cheery disposition, but amusement at my current predicament. In all honesty, I would have probably had the same reaction had I knocked down some random girl, but at that moment in time I was nothing but annoyed. The bus journey always pissed me off a little, and I would have cycled had my old beat-up bike not been run over last month (I still suspected Mr Ashfield - his liscence had been taken away from him just last week because of an incident involving rubbish bins).
"I'm do realise that, asshat. Though for all I know you could be some genetic freak who just happens to have a hand with teeth." I snapped, losing my patience, and taking my frustration for the day so far on this, somewhat, innocent bystander. "What you don't seem to realise is that I am perfectly okay with getting up by myself."
"Woah. Sorry, I wasn't trying to insult you or anything. Just trying to help you out is all."
"Yeah, well I don't need your help. I can handle my own business, just like you should be... Oh, for fuck's sake!" I cried, having picked up my things from the ground and shoving them in my ancient messenger bag.
"What have I said now?" he asked, incredulous.
"It's not what you've said, stupid, it's what you've done - or haven't done in this case, considering you forgot to use your eyes and knocked me down."
"Do you care to elaborate, because right now I'm a little lost." he replied to me, his voice taking on an agitated tone. I had to hand in to the kid, if I was dealing with someone like me, I would've either given up a long time ago or punched them in the face. The dude had patience.
I knew I shouldn't have been so angry at him; it was just a simple mistake. Anyone could've made it. But I had so much pent up frustration and aggression, and verbally ripping in to this stranger was helping. To me the guy was representative of every single fake-ass, 'perfect' person in my town; I wasn't going to stop until he was as pissed off as I was.
"Look! Look at what you did, you twat!" I cried holding up my bag, displaying the damage.
"What? Oh for god's sake, it's just the strap! You can easily fix that. Hell, just replace it. That thing looks like it's about to fall apart any second now anyway, why on earth are you getting so worked up about it!"
There it was. There was the moment I'd been pushing for; the crack in his perfect facade.
"Just replace it? It's not that simple, okay? Not that you'd know about anything remotely difficult, with your cushy lifestyle and don't-give-a-damn attitude."
"Who pissed in your cornflakes this morning? I was only trying to give you hand seeing as I knocked you down. And in all fairness, it was kind of your fault too." he retorted, fully showing his annoyance at me.
"Oh really? Why don't you enlighten me then, because I fail to see how this is my fault, because I sure as hell didn't knock myself to the ground and break my bag."
"You don't see how-? Are you kidding me? You weren't exactly taking it slow were you? What you have a hot date you're late for?" he practically yelled.
"Actually, I have a job, dumbass. You probably don't know what that is, considering Daddy pays all your bills, but some of us actually have to work for a living." I told him, taking in the designer clothes and the latest phone that was clutched in his hand and sneered..
"You know, I try to never hit girls as a general rule, but I'm getting pretty to close to making an exception for you." he said, pinching the bridge of his nose in frustration.
"So now you're a misogynist as well as an asshole. Wow, didn't see that one coming. By the way, I could totally take you. I have a black belt."
Yeah, somewhere at the back of that rubbish heap you call a wardrobe, my thoughts said and I resisted the urge to laugh
"You know, what. I don't care anymore. I am so over this." he sighed, holding up his hands in resignation.
"So you're leaving me alone? Oh, finally, you got the message that I don't want your help or your company. That's a relief - I thought I was going to have to tattoo it on your forehead."
"Oh, go to hell, you ungrateful bitch."
"Been there, done that, screwed Satan. It was rather dull if I'm honest." I called back at him, walking away, before taking off at speed to get to my job.
I could say that I felt bad for how I'd treated him, but to be honest I already knew I was a shitty person. The only thing that the conflict had given me was a feeling of calm and the red haze was gone. My craptastic morning had got a little better.