“Come on. This is Sunnydale. How bad an evil can there be here?” The words ring in my ears as I say them. I sound convincing, incredulous even. I want to believe them, but really I don’t—not any more than he does. Katharine Hepburn, eat your heart out.
I slip past him and march down the emptying hallway. I can’t believe he had the nerve to pin me like that. I still feel his arm in my face blocking my path, the heat of his breath billowing over my skin. I’ve heard that spiel before. The Watchers Council must be like a finishing school where they take arrogant, priggish, prickly boys and turn them into stodgy, haughty, insufferable old men.
Students scuttle into classrooms as I pass. I envy them their boring lives. All they have to worry about is the algebra test on Tuesday, homework, home life, did they make the team, will that special someone notice them, blah, blah, blah…
My life used to be like that. I miss it. Imagine, there was a time when I loved being chosen, being singled out, being seen as something special. Now I just want to be left alone.
Obnoxious. I can’t believe skipped ‘obnoxious.’ Giles is definitely that. Who here isn’t?
I consider my answer. Xander and his tiny fence, Giles and his great big book, Principal Flutie and his clean slate, Jesse and his leering, and then there’s Cordelia.
It’s fair. So, how do I belong here?
That’s crazy. I don’t—
The bell rings. A fresh wave of searing tension tangles with my spine. My pace doubles. I’m not even sure I’m headed the right way. I don’t have my books. I was going to my locker when Commander McBragg waylaid me with handy, helpful tips and tidbits on how to ruin my life; fail school; become a social pariah; suffer repeated, horrible, painful injuries; and eventually—all too quickly—come to a tragic, lonely, sticky, violent end.
And they can’t understand why I wouldn’t want that. I laugh the laugh of someone who’s had enough fun for one day. I wanna go home, wherever that is.
They don’t care. All that matters to them is—
Someone keys the P.A., producing a crackly screech that goes on for somewhere between forever and ten seconds. Clueless which, but we may be looking at punitive damages. When the cacophony ends, a stuffy sounding older woman says, “Students, may I have your attention?”
My head pounds a rhythm with the echo of her voice.
“Attention. Your attention, please.”
I spot a familiar sign and almost pass it by. Hiding in the bathroom, yeah, that’s mature.
I duck inside. The door bangs against its stop.
Atten – ten – tension.
It almost hits me. I turn out of its path…ten, ten…pirouetting as it slams closed.
Ten, nine, eight, seven, six…
I snap. The first thing I lay eyes on gets it. The towel dispenser cracks. I hit it again. The faceplate breaks in two.
Tension. Attention. Your attention, please.
The part not held by the latch hangs precariously. Slowly, it shifts, tilts and swings.
Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four…
The piece finally falls, taking a bunch of paper towels with it. It clangs into the trashcan lid, bounces and clatters to the floor. Paper towels go everywhere.
What a mess.
I should leave. Someone might’ve heard that.
No. I shouldn’t. I can’t. Not like this. I need to cool off.
I go to the sink and turn it on. Water swirls down the drain.
My knuckles are skinned. I flex my forearm. Blood drips from my hand, leaving a streak on the shiny white porcelain.
I look up. A smudged, tearstained wreck greets me in the mirror. I’m hopeless. I’m not even sure how I got here. One minute, I was in my therapist’s office; the next, the greatest hits of ‘my worst nightmare’ were looping around in my head. She asked me if there was anything I wished was different. That’s all.
Another blood drop falls. It drizzles down the bowl to be swept away by the water.
All I did was tell her I wished there was someplace where I belonged. Her face turned gross and I woke up. I thought I’d imagined it. Then I opened my eyes. I was in a strange room with boxes all around. I must’ve missed leaving the hospital. I missed a lot. No clue when we moved, but the stuff in the boxes was mine, so…
I was afraid to say anything because—
Well, because anything beats being locked up. Even this.
Mom was calling my name. ‘Don’t wanna be late for your first day.’
I played along. ‘No, wouldn’t want that.’
How do I belong here?