She’s following me.
I can just feel her breathing shadow pressed up against my back.Through the crowd of teenage kids, I make my way down the congested halls to the girls’ bathroom. The inside of the school smells like football jocks’ sweat and stale library books. I can’t wait to get out of here. No one sees me. I’m invisible to everyone. Everyone but her. I should have lost her in the crowd by now. Yet I can feel her near, feel her watching me. I wonder if I wedge myself into the crowd I’ll be able to lose her. God, Beth, where are you? I think to myself, as if thoughts of my best friend are going to help get me out of this torture. What does Amelia want with me now? Why can’t she just leave me alone? The clinking and clanking of the steel gray lockers just intensifies the moment, making my nerves vibrate that much more.
There’s a girl, maybe a freshman or sophomore, drinking from the water fountain near the bathrooms. She’s bending over, taking a sip, and a flag of red wavy hair drops down from her neck, covering her face. Immediately I think of Beth, but it isn’t her. She wouldn’t wear stylish skinny jeans and glamorous crop tops like that. Yet I focus on her anyway to keep my mind off what’s behind me. I can’t get cornered again. Not after what Amelia did to me before.
I get to the girls’ bathroom, trying not to knock down the girl near the fountain, push the door open, and take one quick look around. I peek in each stall and head to the last one, close the door shut and lock it—like that’s going to protect me from Amelia. Please don’t follow me in here, please don’t, I repeat in my mind. And just when I think it’s safe to come out, I hear her voice.
“Hey, you,” she says. Her words slither right through the stall door. I peek through the small opening, but I see no one. “Milly, I know you’re in there,” she whispers to me as if she’s right inside my ear.
“Come out, come out, wherever you are,” she says. “You can never hide from me.”
As I peek out again, I notice her in one of the mirrors on the other side of the wall.
Amelia then looks me straight in the face.“There you are,” she says. “Told you, you can never hide from me.”
# # #
After the incident at school with Amelia, I feel compelled to write in my journal. I want to get it out the best way I know how, the only way I can cope with this.
I race into the house and dart up the stairs and into my bedroom. I then plop my book bag down alongside my desk and take a seat. The cool breeze blowing from the open window feels good, but it won’t blow away my worries. I wish it was that easy. Once I situate myself, I slide out the top drawer and reach for my journal that’s buried under some books. Thumbing through it, I look for a blank page. It seems like I just about used them all up, yet I always find some kind of space to write. Finally I find an open spot of paper and begin to write.
I hate you, Amelia Norris.
All you do is trash-talk me. There isn’t a second that goes by that you don’t notice my mistakes. Dwelling on them constantly, you chant things like “you’re not good enough” and “you’re so stupid” when we’re in school together. Even when you’re not around, I still hear you. I can’t get you out of my mind. You need to go.
I don’t even know why I care about Amelia. She’s just a low-life loser, but one of the smartest seniors in school, if that even really matters. Yet she’s too dumb to figure out why she hates me so much.The only friend I have is Beth Jennings. But not even Beth knows that Amelia is constantly tormenting me. Lately, Amelia’s been saying things behind my back— making rumors that I’ve slept with a few guys already. Why? Just ’cause of Matt Barns? She wants to destroy me any way she knows how. I can care less who she likes and who she doesn’t. Why does she think I’m such a threat to her? She’s trying too hard to get all this attention—and from Matt, who she thinks
I’ll take away from her. They’re not even dating.
Matt’s the captain of the Coyotes hockey team and extremely attractive, with dark brown hair and hazel eyes. He’s tall and lean and built and beautiful to look at. Everyone at Harper Valley High has a crush on him. Everyone except me. Amelia can’t seem to get him out of her mind, though. Why does she think Matt likes me and not her anyway?
I scribble: Why do you bother me so much? What have I ever done to you?
I put the pen down and stretch out my back as I sit here, wondering why I spend so much time thinking about Amelia. At this point, I might as well be invisible. My days have become a blur, not remembering much of my past. Seems she always taunted me in one way or another as we were growing up.
What’s more miserable about my life is I really don’t have one. It’s Friday, yet I have nowhere to go. But I’m glad it’s March because it is a warm breezy day. I watch the leftover snow melt off the trees and form into muddy puddles on the sidewalks. Already the day seems lost in the abyss of my worries as I look outside, drowning my thoughts on her, like always. I can’t help but obsess over her.
As I sit here, writing in my journal, I try to figure out ways to end the problem.
You can’t stand it when I eat too much. You think I’ll gain weight. You hate my wavy long black hair.
You think it’s too thick and that I should straighten it every day. You laugh about my acne problem and yell at me for picking them sometimes. You even called me a “pathetic loser” once, right in my face. That really hurt, sank in. Am I really a loser? Maybe she’s right. Whatever the case, I am starting to lose it with her. I can’t stand it. I want to hurt her back and make her suffer. I wish you were dead, Amelia!
After staring at the last few words in my journal, I close the book and head downstairs. I can’t believe I wrote that. After thinking about it for so long, I finally put the words down on paper. For some odd reason, I start to feel better, even though it was a dreadful thing to say about a person. But it’s true, or it has become true in my mind. I’ve been wanting Amelia out of my life for as long as I can remember. I can’t think of any other way. I step inside the bathroom to wash up before dinner. My mind races to the possible ways I can off her. Push her off a cliff ? No, that wouldn’t work. We live in Chicago and there aren’t any cliffs around here. Maybe a bridge? God, I am condemned for even thinking this. Before I’m done, I take one hard look in the mirror and hear her again. The chanting has gotten worse. All the mean things she has said to me in the past have now piled up on me. I want to retaliate. I have tried to ignore her—told her to leave me alone—but she just digs in even deeper.
I head to the kitchen and take a seat at the table as my grandfather hands me a plate of spaghetti. I remind myself of what Amelia said last: “Don’t eat too much or you’re gonna get fat and then no one, not even me will want you.” So instead of gorging into the sinful taste of Italian, I pick at it and play with it, twirling it around my fork over and over again, until my grandfather snaps at me.
“Amelia, don’t play with your food!”
The very name burns within me like a lit cigarette. It almost hurts physically to the point I want to throw up. “Don’t call me that!” I bark out, and can’t believe that either. It was Amelia’s mean reaction, not mine. “Milly, it’s just Milly,” I say in a softer tone.
“You can have all the nicknames in the world; I still want you to eat your food, Amelia. And yes, that’s what I’m going to continue calling you, since that’s the name your mom and pop gave you,” Grandpa George barks back. Even though he’s seventy-five and shriveled up like a gray raisin, he remains strict and sometimes hurtful too. He sits there, hovering over the table with his question mark spine and his bony hand clinging to his cane.
“But they’re dead and gone.” Just listening to Amelia talk is sickening. I can feel her words bubble up inside my brain as if she were underwater, gasping for air. I hate everything about her, her voice included. And I hate the way she treats my Grandpa George too. But she can’t seem to help it. And I can’t seem to stop her, either. Amelia always has the first word—and the last.
“Amelia! You’re seventeen years old already! Don’t you be talkin’ to me like that. Your mom and pop’s probably rollin’ in their graves right about now. How can you be so disrespectful?” My heart drops like a descending elevator when I see the look on my grandfather’s saddened face. He looks at the ground as if he’s lost something—me. And it’s my fault too.
I can’t control her anymore.
“Look, I’m sorry I said that, Grandpa. But if you’re gonna try your hardest, just stick with calling me Milly.”
“Well, you’re gonna hafta earn your respect first, young lady. That’s how it works in this house.”
“Okay,Grandpa George.So,may I be excused?”I ask politely. “You know, I don’t get you youngsters these days. One day you’re all snippety snappity and the next you’re as sweet as cherry pie.” “So can I?”
“Okay, I suppose, but bring your plate with ya. Don’t want you starving to death, okay?”
I get up and excuse myself from the table, taking my plate with me. I get upstairs and run back into the bathroom, I flush it down the toilet. “See?” I look in the mirror, staring straight into Amelia’s blackened eyes.“God forbid I’d eat that…you’d kill me, wouldn’t you?”
I continue to stare her down, as if Amelia would jump out from the opposite side of the mirror and choke me. And the longer I stare, the darker her eyes become. She gets more and more upset till I can just see the anger rise up like a growing bonfire as if the very flickering flames ignite her.
More stares, yet nothing. Not a word is said between us. Everything is silent, until her lips begin to move. She then whispers out the words, the words I’ve been dreading.
“I dare you.” She gets in closer as our noses almost touch the mirror. “I dare you to kill me, Milly. Just try it and watch what happens.”