This story is not perfect. It is an unedited mess written a few years ago. It has a lot of flaws that many more rewrites could iron out, but I am no longer the person I was when I wrote this story. If I were to attempt another edit now, it would become a very different book, with a lot less innocence. I owe it to the girl I was to leave this story as it is. She worked hard to write the best book she could for the people she cared about.
This is why I have chosen to upload this book as it is. It is rough and raw, in no way my best writing, but it is a story that deserves to be told. I owe myself that much.
Trigger warning. Contains issues some may find distressing.
Information and help can be found at:
Lifeline 13 11 14
The classroom door is open. I walk towards it as slowly as I can. There’s no going back once I'm inside. I’ll be back to being that girl I was before.
You know that girl, the one who’s there but no one really sees her, actually you probably don’t notice her at all. People don’t. She’s not that pretty. Or that smart. She’s quiet. She sucks at small talk. And she doesn’t really have a lot of friends. She blends in. No one expects her to be funny or do anything other than nod along and smile sweetly. That girl is me. Except I had one thing that made all of that invisibility stuff feel ok; Dani.
I still remember the moment we met. It was our first day of primary school. She had this huge, white ribbon tied around her ponytail and was standing at the top of the stairs looking down over all the girls who would become our classmates. She smiled widely when our gaze met, before running down the stairs toward me. She jumped the last two, showing off even at six years old.
She took my plaits and pulled them forward over my shoulders and said “You are going to be my best friend. My name is Daniella but you have to call me Dani”
“Mine’s Olivia” I replied, trying hard to be as confident as she was. I had cried from the moment my Mum left me, but for some reason she chose me over everyone else. We had been best friends ever since.
But that was before.
Have you ever been plucked from oblivion? One moment no one really notices you and then suddenly all sixty eyes of your adolescent peers are on you. I can feel all of them as though they’re drilling holes into my body just from looking my way. Scrutinising everything, from my messy blonde hair to my cheap knock-off shoes.
“It’s nice to have you back with us, Miss Moss” Mr. Phillips says, even though he looks more than a little annoyed I’m standing in the doorway disrupting his class.
I nod my head quickly. Message received; take a seat Olivia.
I look around the room telling myself to act like I don’t notice everyone staring at me. Everyone except one person. Her porcelain skin, ruby lips and immaculately straight, long, dark hair are exactly how I remember them. Up close she has a cluster of freckles on her nose. They’re invisible from this distance, and trying to hid inside her notebook as though she hasn’t seen me.
I take a seat at the closest desk, looking back at Dani only once to see who’s replaced me. She sits beside Dave McMiller. The Dave McMiller. Perpetual jerk who put chewing gum in my hair in grade eight that was so perfectly planted I had to have my hair cut to my ears to remove it. The haircut did not suit me at all. That made my well-founded distain for the sandy-haired football hero increase to actual hatred.
The Dani I knew would never have wasted any time on him. She hated him as much as I did. I feel empty where moments before I walked into the classroom a trace of hope had been. Hope that we were still friends... even though she forgot to call on my 18th birthday.
Big deal, right? You only turn 18 once in your life, who really wants their best friend to acknowledge the day you become an adult? Not me that’s for sure. After everything, I probably would have hung up on her anyway.
I fidget as a constant sense of unease pulses through my body. I don’t take in a word Mr. Phillips says about algebraic manipulation, even though I’m terrible at Math. I watch the clock for the entire lesson. Around me, others are gossiping in low voices and I can’t help but think they’re talking about me. Olivia Moss; the loser who disappeared for five months and has no friends. Their voices make my hair stand on end.
I doubt any of them know where I’ve been. I didn’t want it broadcast that I was with my Mum and Nanna caring for my terminally ill Grandpa. I stopped using social media after a while. It was hard seeing everyone’s lives go on while I was 300 kilometres away either at my grandparent’s farm or the hospital. I hated feeling so stuck in limbo waiting for the inevitable while everyone else’s lives when on normally. Especially when it was Dani’s life, which has clearly changed a lot without me.
When the bell rings, I head straight for the bathroom, praying I make it there without anyone trying to talk to me. I lock the stall door and sit down trying to calm my racing heart. If school is going to feel like this now, I don’t know how I’ll survive it.
“Liv, are you in here?” Dani’s voice sings out as the bathroom door slams closed making me jumpy all over again.
I hadn’t expected her to come looking for me. I’m not sure I wanted her to. I thought so many times about what it would be like to come back to school. None of them included her completely ignoring me, even after what happened between us.
“I can see your bag on the floor” her ballet flats stop outside the door of my stall.
I could ignore her completely and stay in here. She probably wouldn’t talk to me again though. This could be my one chance to fix our friendship. I want that, don’t I? Isn’t that what I was hoping for when I walked into that classroom this morning? To get my friend back.
Or, was I just hoping that being back here would make me feel less alone?
I flush the toilet even though I didn’t use it. I don’t want it to look like I was hiding. I was, but Dani doesn’t need to know that.
I walk straight toward the sink refusing to make eye contact with her. I might want to be her friend again but that doesn’t mean I’m not still mad. I can feel her eyes on me as I walk past. The mirror is dented and makes my face a strange shape. Even if it was flat, I know I’d have a hard time recognising myself with make-up on. It had been a long time since I wore any at all. The dark liner around my eyes makes my pupils even darker. Foundation covers the freckles and smattering of acne I had grown used to seeing every time I saw my reflection. “You rushed out of class before I had a chance to say hello” she says. In the mirror I can see her standing behind me, one hand on her curvaceous hip while the other flips her long hair over her shoulder.
“I didn’t think you wanted to talk to me” I stare at my hands rubbing the soap between them rather than looking at her.
“Does it have to be like this, Liv? I didn’t know you were coming back today. You surprised me that’s all”
I pull a sheet of paper towel to dry my hands and dozens more fall out after it onto the tiled floor. I crouch down and pick them up, grateful for the distraction. I’d had a whole speech planned for when I saw Dani again but now that she’s standing in front of me, I don't know what to say. “You would have known if you had ever called me back”
She steps closer, for a moment I think she’s going to help clean up but she doesn’t. She’s standing over me so that when I stand back up I have no choice but to look her in the eye. “I meant to, honestly I did. Life’s just been so busy...”
“So busy you forgot my birthday?” I cut her off. It’s not what I’m mad about. I’m mad she ignored me for weeks. She got to live her life while mine was falling apart. I’m mad she wasn’t there when I needed her to be. I can’t help it. The more she stares at me with those familiar eyes I needed so much when things were hard, the more tears that pool in my own and the harder it becomes to hold them back.
“I’m sorry” I’ve never heard her say those words in the twelve years we’ve been friends. My heart feels like it’s crumbling in my chest. She puts her arms around me and I don’t resist.
I let her hold me until the tears stop falling.
She pulls back and examines my face. I’m reminded of her doing the same thing on the first day we met. She smiles like she remembers too, like that moment means as much to her as it does to me. “Shall we get to class?”
The thought of leaving the safety of the bathroom makes my heart thud against my chest. It wouldn’t have made me nervous before, but now the thought of walking down hallways lined with people makes my skin crawl. I spent so long feeling so isolated and far from the rest of the world. I longed to be back, but it feels so different now.
Maybe, because I’m different now.
Dave McMiller is waiting for us outside the bathroom. He smiles this big toothy grin, that might make other girls swoon but looks ridiculous to me. It must work on Dani, who reaches out and takes his hand.
“Are you guys an item now?” I look at their linked hands and ease they have with one another. I wonder when it happened. Was it before Dani and I stopped talking? Why wouldn’t she have told me she had a boyfriend? Even if she knew I’d disapprove, Dani had always loved two things; bragging and boys.
Dave runs his hand through his sandy hair, nodding. “I’m pretty lucky” he says. “How was your holiday?”
Dani told him I was on holiday?
He smiles oblivious, waiting for me to continue. Dani puts her free hand on his arm. “She wasn’t on holiday...” she looks like she’s not sure how to word it without upsetting me again. Like I’m a broken doll that could shatter at any moment.
“My grandpa died so it wasn’t much of a holiday, although that hospital could be an amusement park some days” I meant it as a joke. Trying to lighten the mood. I guess I don’t know how to talk to people like Dave McMiller because he doesn’t take it that way.
His mouth gapes. “Oh sh- sorry... I thought you were travelling”
I shake my head. I knew these kind of awkward conversations would happen today. That’s one of the reasons I didn’t want to come back yet. I wasn’t ready to explain. To be met with awkward silence when I announced the truth. I certainly didn’t expect to have this conversation with the most popular guy in school.
Dave’s eyes focus on something past me and he frees himself from Dani’s grip without a word, strutting towards whatever caught his attention.
“Oh, no” Dani mumbles and follows him.
I turn in time to see Dave push another boy against the line of lockers, holding him by the collar of his shirt. The boy is a little taller than Dave. He looks surprised at first but a smile quickly crosses his face.
“Get away from my locker, Collins” Dave growls like a caveman.
“Oh, is this your locker?” The boy looks at him amused despite the muscular arm holding him dangerously close to his throat.
Dani’s hand is on Dave’s arm and she whispers something into his ear. I don’t know how she can get so close to him. Even from this distance, his red face and pulsing veins fill me with fear. I doubt it’s the first time she’s seen Dave like this. He has a reputation that today he seems determined to live up to.
The boy, still pushed against the lockers, isn’t looking at Dave. His eyes are looking over his shoulder straight at me. I know him. He was a student here before I left. I think he missed a lot of school, and I don’t remember sharing many classes with him, but I definitely remember his face. He smiles at me with one of those annoyingly predictable half-smiles.
His lack of attention on the situation he’s in only aggravates Dave more, who shoulders him into the lockers before letting Dani drag him away.
“Easy there Davey-boy, there are ladies present” the boy smirks.
Dave almost turns back but Dani keeps dragging him away. I don’t know what she sees in someone with a temper like that.
I step forward to follow them. Not knowing what else to do. My next class is in the same direction anyway. But, my path is blocked by the same boy Dave just shoulder barged, who is walking slowly toward me.
He stops, standing in front of me without saying a word. His hands tucked in the pockets of his pants. I look up at his face, his dark eyes stare back at me lit up by the devil-may-care smile he wears. He looks older than I remember. His cheekbones are more defined, his dark hair pushed back off his face. In my memory he is a smaller with a mop of badly straightened hair, nothing like the put together boy in front of me now. Tyler Collins is all grown up.
“I’m glad your back Olivia Moss” he says like we are old friends.
I don’t know what to say. I’ve never spoken to Ty before in my life. Thankfully he doesn’t give me a chance to response. His arm brushes mine as he passes, heading in the opposite direction to Dave and Dani and my next class.
I’m vaguely conscious of the bell ringing as I watch him go. He turns back only when he gets to the end of the hall and catches my eye.
It’s as if he knows me even though all I know about him is his name. He has that mysterious thing going on, and I’m not sure whether to be intrigued by it or avoid him at all costs. I know how this goes in the books I read but I’m not those girls and I doubt he’s any kind of romantic hero, this is real life not fantasy.
If it was fantasy, I would have felt a rush at his touch, his warmth would have lingered, but none of that happened. He brushed my shoulder and knew my name but the world is still spinning and I’m still the same sceptical girl who wishes she could believe in all that.
The sceptical girl who is going to be late for class for the second time in one day.