January 25, 2014
Going back to school after breaks is always hard. My Christmas break was interesting…not terrible but not great. Now school has returned and with it, a strong rainstorm. I walk to school anyways, not even wearing a hood. I don’t really care what my hair looks like, or if I’m soaked.
Outside the school building a group of my classmates are huddled under the shelter of the roof, chomping down breakfast before they head inside. They are quiet as I begin to approach then someone says, “Can’t even put on a jacket by herself? She’s gotta have a man for that too?” The group all snickers and the tears barely even threaten to come while I go inside.
“Leah? Can I talk to you for a minute?” One of my teachers, Ms. Mersey, catches me in the hallway.
I don’t say anything but walk with her into the empty classroom.
“How was your Holiday break?”
An flash of images enters my mind, the haunting ghosts that overtook my life more than usual over break. “It was okay,” I lie.
“I got something for you. For Christmas. I didn’t get a chance to give it to you before since I had to take a sick day just before break. My oldest daughter had her baby so I went to Seattle.”
“Oh, um, you didn’t have to do that.” I hate when people randomly give me gifts; it’s not like they care about me.
“I wanted to. Here, open it. I think you’ll like it.”
I take the present she’s holding out and hesitate a moment before neatly unwrapping the paper. Inside is a beautiful journal with the Quileute insignia in the middle surrounded by words and quotes of varying fonts and sizes. I open it and let the pages fan out as I drop them back down. Each page is an off-white with faded black lines and quotes interrupting them every few pages.
“Wow,” I say, surprised by how much I love the book. “Thank you.”
She smiles at my genuine interest. I put the journal in my messenger backpack and head to class.
My homeroom class is the first and last of the day and it’s the only one in which my teacher forces me to sit in the front of the room. Mrs. Warner is one of the few teachers not originally from La Push but she married a native a few years ago. A couple months later, he passed away and she got a job teaching at the school to pay the bills. Usually I sneak to the back of the classroom anyway, in hopes she won’t notice me there, but today, since I stopped to talk with Ms. Mersey, most of the class has already filed in and sat down. Those that haven’t had their seats claimed with their things. The seat I usually end up sitting in is vacant so I sit down with my bag atop the desk and rest my head on it.
“Jesse, Leah, heads up please,” Mrs. Warner insists after calling the class to order. I lift my head for a second and as soon as she begins speaking again, put it back down, ignoring the class that goes on around me. For the most part, they ignore me too.
“Leah,” someone whispers, nudging me. I raise my head a bit and open my eyes to see the girl who sits next to me with her hand on my arm. “We’re supposed to be finding a partner for the assignment. Do you want to work together?”
I shake my head. “I, uh, don’t—” I stop speaking when I see the look on her face. She looks…friendly. I look around the classroom and see that everyone else is already working. “Okay. You’re…Brianna, right?”
“Yes,” she says, studying me curiously. “You really don’t pay attention much, do you?”
“Why should I?” I automatically snap and instantly regret it. “Sorry, I just…I really have no reason to.”
She nods. “So we’re, um, supposed to choose a famous mathematician and do a report on them with a poster to explain what they taught and their theory and stuff.” I don’t say anything so she continues. “So I guess we should see if we can use a computer?”
She gets up and asks approval to use one of the ancient computers our school has only a few of and returns with a permission slip. We go to the computer room and sit together around the monitor. It takes several minutes for the old machine to begin to hum and come to life. While we wait, Brianna tries to make conversation, but I’m severely out of practice.
“So, what do you like to do, Leah?”
She has to repeat the question a few times before I comprehend.
“Do? Uh, I don’t know. I don’t do anything.”
“Do you like books? Movies? Sports?”
“No. I can’t…focus.”
“Oh.” Brianna gives up and turns her attention to the computer, typing in the school’s log in and opening up the slower-than-molasses-Internet. I never use the computers here. Mom and Dad have one at home that they use for work sometimes. Seth occasionally plays games on it but I’ve never really had an interest in using it. What would I do? Solitaire my life away? Talk to the friends I don’t have?
Brianna does most of the work, telling me what to write in a notebook after she finds information on the computer, occasionally drawing a quick sketch and then returning the pencil to me.
“What’s that?” she asks, taking me from a daydream I’d drifted into.
I look up at her and down at the paper where she appears to be looking. I’ve been doodling, I guess, and nearly the entire second page is covered with dark pencil lines. In the bottom right corner is a picture of a cage, a prison with me inside. The bars of the cage are actually made of feathers and beads that go up to form a dream catcher just under our few sentences of notes. I’m not in the web of the dream catcher like I was in the prison, but someone else is; It’s Sam and he’s not really caught, more like relaxing in the web. In the left hand corner, is the part I was last working on it appears since it’s not fully finished. It’s Emily, tossing a key behind her into a wolf’s mouth. I have no idea how I came up with any of it—it was all a subconcious effort. The truth in the picture is so strong it hurts—except the wolf. What is the wolf there for?
Brianna takes the paper and looks at each part of the drawing closer. “Wow. You’re really good. I didn’t know you could draw.”
I shrug. “I didn’t either really.”
“Who are they?”
I look at the picture once more and then look away. “I don’t know,” I lie.
The bell rings and Brianna hesitates with her hand on the notebook. “Do you mind if I keep this? It has our notes,” she says.
I shake my head and swing my bag over my shoulder. “It’s yours anyways.”
Then we head our seperate ways to the next class. Nothing out of the ordinary happens until lunch; just same old boring classes and people grumbling about having to come to school after break. At lunch when I walk into the cafeteria that holds kinderten through twelfth grade for lunch, I notice something off in the high school section. Hardly anyone is at the tables; instead they are huddled in groups and there’s a buzz in the air. I slide to a halt in the doorway but the principal pushes his way past me with the secratary and lunch duty following close behind.
“What’s going on?” Mr. Steadfoot, the principal, demands in a loud voice.
A few of the groups loosen but no one says anything.
“Now!” he continues. Someone pushes a freshman girl from their group towards him. She shuffles forward slowly with a paper in hand, gives it to him, and retreats to the lunch line—not that it does any good, because everyone has stopped moving to watch. He examines the paper with his group gathered around. “Who drew this?”
Again, no one answers. Finally someone lifts their finger to point. Other hands slowly raise to join them in pointing at…me?
Mr. Steadfoot turns toward me in complete and utter confusion. “Her?” He raises an eyebrow. “No offense to you, Miss Clearwater, but you’re not one to draw attention to yourself let alone pick up a pencil. Is this yours?”
I don’t move. I don’t speak. What has happened? After a few seconds he walks to me with the paper lifted up by a corner as if it is contaminated. It is my drawing. The one I gave Brianna earlier but since then it’s been altered inappropriately. It was obviously made to hurt me though, not anyone else. Why would someone do this? My eyes flicker around the room until I find Brianna. She’s stitting down in the middle of the floor, her eyes cast downward.
Mr. Steadfoot still has his eyebrow drawn and is waiting for my answer but I continue to watch the group. A few girls, the more popular ones, stand around Brianna. One of them—Kelsey—speaks to Brianna with her hands on her hips. “Get up. It’s not like you were her friend anyways. It’s better this way. You wouldn’t want her to come between us, would you? I mean, all she cares about is that dumb guy.”
“Miss Clearwater? Leah?” the principal says, bringing my attention back to him. “Is this yours?”
“I’ve never seen that before,” I lie. I turn on my heel and walk down the hall to my next class even though it’s not time. Mom won’t be happy if I miss any more classes for ‘no reason,’ as she puts it.
Behind me, I try not to listen to the commotion. It’s too loud though. I can hear the tapping of Kelsey’s heels as she crosses the linoleum and says, “Mr. Steadfoot! It is hers. Brianna watched her draw it in 3rd hour.”
Then his deep voice, “Brianna, is this true?”
I don’t hear an answer but from the way the noise resumes in the cafeteria, it seems as though Brianna has answered. In my next class, the bell has already rang and the teacher started class when I realize that Brianna should be in this class. She comes in late and takes the only empty seat in the room, which happens to be in front of mine. When the teacher has handed out old papers and gave us an assignment later, Brianna turns around in her seat.
“I’m really sorry, Leah. It was sticking out of my bag and Cory grabbed it. I didn’t even realize he and Kelsey had it until they’d drawn all over it and made like ten copies.”
I ignore her and pretend to do my worksheet.
“Leah? I’m really, really sorry.”
“I don’t even care.”
“Please? I do want to be your friend, Lee.”
I look up at her. “Kelsey doesn’t want you to be my friend very much. Aren’t you her puppet anyway? Never stray from the pack, right?”
The look on her face says I’m right; she’d never betray her best friend, and befriending me would be doing that. I ignore her for the rest of the class despite her attempts to apologize. The instant the bell rings, I dash towards the hallway with my bag slung over my shoulder. I’m going so fast the strap of my messenger back catches on the doorknob, slinging me into the wall like a rubberband. Instead of getting up, I sink to the floor as the tears begin to roll down my face.
“Leah?” a deep voice asks, holding a tissue in front of my face. I snatch the tissue away but don’t use it. I don’t look at the owner of the voice either who seems to have the intention of staying beside me. After a moment, he sinks to the floor beside me, our backs against the wall and legs extended. Our classmates have to play hopscotch to get through the maze of us and our things.
“Can I do anything for you, Leah?” The voice asks.
Finally looking up, I find myself drawn into a pair of beautiful hazel eyes. I frown because I can’t remember the helpful man’s name. He must notice this somehow because he holds out his hand and says, “Tony.”
I begin to shake my head in reply to his question, not shaking his reaching hand, but his hand quickly raises and catches my cheek, forcing me to look at him.
“I saw your drawing before they ruined it. You really have a talent. It was beautiful, just like you.”
I don’t plan to answer but a whispered “thank you” escapes my lips.
“Do you think maybe I could take you out sometime?”
The question catches me off guard and before something else slips out, I stand up, leaving my bag behind, and sprint out of the classroom. Where is there to go though? It seems as though no matter where I am, the nightmares are there too. Finally, I decide to go home, not caring that I’ll surely get into trouble for skipping more classes.
Mom is in the living room, chatting away with her company—Old Quil and his daughter, Mishawn, who is a good friend of Mom’s—as she irons clothes.
“What are you doing home from school?” she asks with an exasperated sigh. I shrug. “Oh Leah! You have to stop this! You can’t just come and go from school and work as you please! You do need more credits if you want to graduate with honors.”
“Maybe I don’t.”
“Well perhaps I expect it from you.”
“Perhaps I don’t care.”
“Leah Anne Clearwater! Go to your room! Now! I expect you back at school in the morning with all of your work done.”
I roll my eyes and go upstairs. What could she possibly punish me with? Deprive me of sleep? Not like the nightmares don’t already do that. Not let me see anyone? Not likely anyways. Why do I even bother living?
An hour or so later, the front door opens and closes a few times so I assume mom’s company has left. Then someone walking up the stairs—probably Mom coming to give me another lecture about missing school.
There isn’t a knock on my door before she enters. No, not she, but my father.
“Hey,” he says, sitting on the bed across from mine.
I don’t answer.
“What’s going on?”
“Did Mom send you to lecture me?”
“No. She’s in a bad mood though so I guessed you’d come home early. Wanna tell me what’s going on?”
“Not really. I don’t want to seem weak just because I come home when I get tired of being treated like crap,” I say.
“Leah, you’re the strongest person I know. You’ve been through so much more, and even before that, you were more mature than any of the kids at school. Your soul is a thousand years old. Nothing you say could make you seem weak,” Dad says gently.
I suck in a deep breath and then tell him everything. “They all hate me and think I’m weak. None of them know me. We had to work in partners today and while I was taking notes, I started to doodle without thinking about it. The notebook wasn’t mine and someone else got ahold of it. They changed the picture to something bad, and then told the principal I’d drawn it. I just can’t stand to be laughed at day after day for things that have hurt me, things I can’t control. They think I can’t do anything without Sam.”
Dad sighs and takes a moment to gather his thoughts. “They don’t know you. They don’t understand what you’ve been through. I doubt that any one of them has evern had a love like yours and Sam’s. Next time something happens, fight back harder. Explain what happened. Don’t let them push you around. You have it in you to fight and be strong. It’s in your blood, Leah.”
“You know I don’t believe all that tribe stuff anymore.”
“It doesn’t matter. It’s in your blood anyway. Did I ever tell you about what happened with me in high school?”
“I don’t think so,” I answer, trying to recall all the stories he’s told me.
“I’ll be right back,” he says, going out into the hallway and leaving the door open. He opens the hallway closet that holds extra linens and digs through a box at the bottom. Dad returns a minute later with a photo album, which he opens and sits by me, pointing to a picture of a younger version of my Dad and someone else. “This was my best friend in high school. He died the week before our senior year. It was so hard on me. I didn’t want to do anything—eat, sleep, go to school, be at home, nothing. So many people made fun of me, telling me to get over it and move on. He’d been my best friend for years, so that was not easy. In about the middle of the year, they started wondering if his accident wasn’t so accidental after all. Rumors started to fly about suicide and homicide. At school, speculations were made about me being involved. It was awful. I mean, he was my best friend. Anyone that was kind to me, the others would tell them that they were next.”
“I had no idea,” I say. Dad’s story is so similar to my own, so painful also. “Dad, how did you make it through the rest of school? And what happened?”
Dad exhales slowly. “I barely made it through passing. It wasn’t easy and I still think about the things they said to me. Whether friends or foes, you’ve got to become friends with everyone because everyone is really fighting the real enemy; yourself, and others can help you win that fight.”
I nod but don’t reply; I’m too busy thinking about everything he’s said.
Dad leaves me and keeps Mom from bothering me for the rest of the day. He wakes me up in the morning, telling me to ‘go fight and don’t let them get to you. Friends may come and go, but foes do too.’
Thank you for reading! Let me know what you think of this entry at Leah’s Diary on Facebook! We have a Fan of the Month and you could be next just for asking questions & letting me know what you think of my writing XOXO Annee