You stare into the mirror, inspecting every flaw you can see. There’s a new pimple on your right cheek. It needs to go away. You pound it relentlessly with makeup, hoping no one will notice it later, but you know they will. You give up on the makeup and begin to brush your hair. Each stroke of the brush slows gradually as you realize that your efforts are in vain. You know deep down that you will look the same no matter what you do. You think of Jack, your friend and crush from English class. You conclude that he will never find you attractive, and your dissatisfaction intensifies over the tragedy that is your face. It isn’t fair. But even though he may never find interest in you, you still feel drawn to him. You think of the scars and the bruises that he tries so hard to hide. You feel conflicted, unsure if you should talk to him about it or make an anonymous report of abuse.The sound of your phone’s alarm rings from atop the bedroom dresser. You grab your backpack and rush out the door to your first class of the day—English.
You made it in time. As you take your seat, you examine the room to search for Jack. You don’t see him anywhere, so you focus on getting your supplies out to take notes. The lecture begins and you halfheartedly write down the professor’s main points. It’s beyond boring. 30 minutes pass, and the door to the class opens. You see Jack enter with a big smile on his face as he claims a seat close to the door. You can’t help but wonder the reason he came to class late this time. There are only 20 minutes left, and you now find it impossible to continue taking notes. You’re happy he came, but you resolve that by the end of class you will decide on what to do. You pretend to take notes as you run scenarios through your mind. Sadness consumes you as you imagine Jack getting angry at you for asking him about his home life. Your mind then detours to your favorite fantasy world. In this world, Jack is happy that you're so concerned for him. Here you are the reason for Jack’s smile. You picture him stealing glances at you in class and throughout the college campus. You imagine a future where he asks you to be his girlfriend, and you happily accept. The fantasy world continues to intoxicate you until you hear the professor loudly wish everyone a happy weekend. Reality resumes, and you watch as the other students begin to leave. You notice that Jack has already left, and you mentally scold yourself for even thinking that he could like you. It’s impossible. You remind yourself that you’re ugly, unwanted, and unworthy of love. You are just a friend, and that’s all you will ever be. Your attention is grabbed by the professor who asks if everything is okay. You say you’re fine and exit the classroom.
You walk a few steps before seeing Jack standing a few feet away with his back turned. Unsure of what to do still, you decide to make a gamble with yourself. If Jack stops you from walking away, you'll confront him about the abuse. If he doesn't, you will make an anonymous phone call to the authorities. You tell yourself it’s okay, he won’t notice you. But you know he will. You hear Jack's voice calling out to you, but you ignore it. Filled with anxiety, you regret your personal gamble and continue walking. His voice doesn’t fade away. You stop walking, and you turn around to see Jack staring back at you. It’s uncomfortable. Your hand begins to comb through your hair. You didn’t comb it enough. Your pimple feels like it has doubled in size, and you wonder if your makeup evaporated somehow. You try your best to look him in the eyes, but you fail to do so consistently. You have a sudden desire to disappear. You know you're acting strange, but you can't help it. The boy you like is standing in front of you, and you're about to ask him about his situation at home. You take a deep breath and attempt to express your concern.
Your alarm continues to beep. You reach for the snooze button but realize that it’s already time for class. Quickly, you brush your teeth and get dressed. Your arms and ribs are still bruised from last night so you make sure to cover the marks. You put on your plain long-sleeved shirt and blue jeans. After adding a hat to hide your messy hair, you inspect yourself in the mirror one last time. It’s important to practice your smile, so you fake a laugh a few times to prepare yourself for social interaction. You wonder how Ellen would react if she knew about the abuse. The idea of talking about it with her makes you cringe. You can't even imagine how you would tell her about your broken family home, or how your older brother beats you up every week, and how your mother doesn't care. Ellen is the last person you want to get involved with your family drama. You push the thought of discussing it aside as you grab what you need for school and leave your house.
You didn’t make it in time. As you enter the classroom, everyone glances at you, and you reply with your widest smile. Trying your best to lose the spotlight, you sit quickly in the chair closest to the door. You look over towards Ellen and see her carefully taking notes. Seeing her so focused makes you smile, and you soon begin to think about your relationship with her. You once again think of what her reaction would be if you told her about your life at home. You convince yourself that she would be concerned, and that she would try and get help. The mere idea of her being worried for you creates a small grin which you hide by looking down. 20 minutes pass and you feel anxious now that class is over. You decide to wait for Ellen outside of the classroom and entertain the idea of walking her to class. Patiently you wait, curious as to why everyone except Ellen has come out already. You pace back and forth and eventually stand facing in the opposite direction of the classroom. As you continue looking forward you see a girl walking quickly past you. It’s Ellen. You call after her but you get no response. Worried that something might have happened to her, you follow her and continually ask her to wait. You come to a full stop when she finally turns around to face you. You feel caught off guard by the sudden halt, and try to find something to say. You regret that you didn’t comb your hair, and you hope to God that you don’t smell bad. You wait for Ellen to look you in the eyes, even if only for half a second. You hear Ellen mumbling some words but you can't understand her. Impatient, you cut her off. You begin to speak out of impulse and you speak straight from your heart. Your words flow smoothly, and you ask her to be your girlfriend.