“Hey, you, the one with the hair over your face, yeah, you.”
Quivering from his voice, she forced her head upwards, hardly pushing the long black hair that draped her head like a curtain, not wanting to look at his eyes. Inhaling a sharp breath, her own mouse-grey eyes locked with another pair of eyes, a cold, icy blue.
“Your drawings are stupid. I thought you were a good artist.”
His friends chuckled, roughly patting him on the back, a few stepping closer to her. Just like that, she was now the center of attention. The kids were no longer counting the stars on the shiny, squeaky whiteboard, building Lego towers, or reading their picture books. Their eyes were all on fixed on her, waiting to see what the Cool Kid was going to do.
‘No, please, no, just NO more looking at me. I hate it… I hate it… I HATE IT.’ She inhaled a little quicker than normal, copying the drumbeat inside of her chest that was beating harder, faster, louder.
“Aw, the little baby is gonna cry… what are you drawing, crybaby? Some dumb smiley faces? Itty-bitty flowers… look at this they’re SINGING!”
The class roaring with laughter this time, laughing as the Cool Kid laughed, knowing that pleasing him put them on the “safe side.” And everyone wanted to be on the “safe side.”
‘They’re… looking at me… watching me… I hate it.’
The Cool Kid turned around, narrowing his eyes at her.
“What did you say?”
Blinking rapidly, she said it again, this time whispering them softer, so soft the words barely escaping from her lips.
In one swift movement, he snatched the paper from her desk, grasping it firmly, a deadly smirk plastered on his face. And in another movement, just as swift as the first one, he tore the paper in half. Sniggering, he held up one fraction in one hand and the other fraction in his other. Out of nowhere, he began crumpling the papers, then squishing both pieces under his muddy shoe.
“NO! P-please… no…no…”
“P-puh-lease… nooo! What a stupid crybaby, sobbing over a piece of paper. Get over it.”
The school bell was indeed a pitiful thing, much unlike the ding-a-ling sound she was so accustomed to from Sunshine Elementary. Junior High brought all sorts of new, loud, and confusing elements, with all the identical, chipped, pale yellow buildings lining each court, along with many obstacles(most consisting of human shoving matches) to avoid. The only thing Nova’s scattered thoughts found comfort in was that Erik, the “Cool Kid,” as he was known back in elementary school, would not be attending Valerion Middle School. Still, she swore she could see his smirking face in the halls now and then.
This day happened to be a very uneventful one, just as all her previous first days of school usually were. Everyone talked about the after-school clubs, the only thing most people heard about all day. After school clubs happened to be something that Sunshine Elementary possessed very few of, and nothing caught her interest back then. But this year, the clubs came in dozens, taking up a whole bulletin board.
‘The after-school art club… Huh. I might join,’ Nova thought, slowly taking in a breath. Art was something that enriched life, making it more worth living. It never failed to make her happy, unlike everything else in her life. Art would never leave her, belittle her, and never judge her for who she was. Shivering, Nova blinked away the image of Erik’s cackling face.
The next day, she found her feet instinctively take her to the bulletin board which presented all the after-school clubs and activities broadly. Nova weighed the options in her mind the whole night before, but couldn’t come to a final decision. So, before she could change her mind, Nova grabbed the pen. Tentatively, she forced her hands to reach towards the sign-up sheet, trying to control her shaky, pale hands-just long enough to sign her full name.
As Nova looked up to see who could be talking to her, of all people, she found herself grasping on the pen again as it attempted to slip through her fingers. When she looked up, there stood a boy with messy chocolate-brown hair and the greenest eyes Nova had ever beheld.
“Uh, h-hi, I’m Logan. May I borrow the pen when you’re done using it?”
“O-oh, yeah, I’m done, I’m sure. I mean, of course, you can,” Nova answered, feeling her cheeks warm at the klutzy statement.
Passing the pen to him, she noticed that he began filling the signature box for the art club, just like her.
“Do you like art?”
Nova regretted saying those words as soon as it slipped from her mouth. Of course he would like art if he signed up for an art club.
“Um, yeah, I believe art is something which makes us whole as humans. Something that can… I don’t know, paint the world in vibrant color?”
Blinking, she inhaled her breath a little quicker than normal, and for the first time in a long time, smiled.
“It wasn’t… cheesy or anything right?” Logan asked, scratching the back of his head. Nova noticed he suddenly found the floor very interesting to look at.
“Not at all. I found it rather captivating.” Nova dropped her voice on the last word with a small smile, just loud enough for him to hear.
From that day on, Nova found herself seeing Logan more and more. Although their conversations were mostly about silly little things, like about little nervous habits they did and preferences in art styles, it was the most exciting thing she had done in years. Nova had not felt this way in years, the last time being before her best friend, Shelby, moved away.
One day, on a day that Nova had come extra early to talk to Logan, she did not see him in their normal meeting place. Thinking perhaps he walked to homeroom, she decided to take a shortcut through the eighth-grade court to surprise him.
“Give that sketchbook to me… and I promise not to break it.”
Shivering, Nova froze, feeling the all-too-familiar thumping in her chest. That voice… although it wasn’t Erik, the tone was the one that Erik often used.
“N-no… I won’t. It’s mine, not yours. Plus, I didn’t even bring it today,” a voice responded.
Feeling her heart squeeze, she decided to steal a glance to what was happening behind that corner. Her heart squeezed as she recognized Logan’s face, his face drained of color, but steady. His fear still showed, proof being in his hands, which violently shook. It reminded her of what she faced throughout elementary school Nova remembered how she hated it-hated being bullied and hated not being strong enough to stand up for herself.
“I know you have it, you nerd. I saw you stuffed it in your backpack today. So man up and give it to me.”
Seeing Logan’s face caused her to feel what she felt not so long ago being, being taunted and pushed around like something that didn’t matter. Seeing it made her blood boil, hotter than she had ever felt in her life.
“Hey, you! S-stop that!”
Whirling his head around, the boy growled.
“What did you say?”
Gulping, her feet dragged her closer to the tall, rough man that stood before her. No, not a man, just a boy. Just a boy.
“You say he should man up but aren’t you the one who needs to do that? If you’re a man, then you wouldn’t bully him. A real man would talk it out, then why are you threatening to ruin his work? You don’t know how hard he worked on it. I bet you have never known what it feels like to do something like that!”
The words tumbled out of her mouth faster than she could think, her lips moving on their own. But this time, she didn’t feel like it happened to be a mistake. Maybe her sentences didn’t flow well and the words came out messy. But for the first time in her life, she said what she wanted to without feeling trapped, without feeling like she any less of a being than him.
Staring at his eyes, she saw the man-turned-boy flinch but still maintaining his gaze at. No, she would not give in this time. Not this time, nor any time after that.
Jerking his eyes away from Nova, he slowly trudged away from them, muttering, “This time you win, you nerds. You better be ready for next time.”
Thank you for those who are reading this! This is a story follows most of the stages of the “Hero’s Journey” template, which involves a hero who goes on an adventure, and in a decisive crisis wins a victory, and then comes home changed or transformed. The hero can be anyone from a normal person facing everyday obstacles to a superhero fighting off the gods! (Here’s a site that I think explains the Hero’s journey well; https://blog.reedsy.com/heros-journey/)
It would be greatly appreciated if you send your feedback! 😀