Having to live with a woman who isn’t your mother is one thing, but having to live with a woman who isn’t your mother, but who firmly believes she can replace her, is just plain torture.
And when she tries to call you Claudia, the same way your mother did, you want to slap her across her face, hard enough that you are sure to leave a bright pink shadow of your hand on her cheek.
And although you think of doing this over and over again, to show people you won’t put up with her shit, you know you can’t, because nobody gets it.
Nobody understands what it’s like to lose your mother and have you father remarry so soon after that you haven’t even had time to get used to living without her, which you’re sure you never will.
So, you give up your friends, and studying, and doing well in school, and you take up smoking behind the gym instead.
And that’s where you meet him, behind the gym smoking a cheap cigarette.
At first you’re annoyed that someone has invaded your space, and he can see that, so he asks you, “Mind if I sit here?” You just shrug you’re shoulders and scoot a safe distance away.
“So, who’s class you cuttin’?”
You were hoping for silence, but you answer anyway.
You just nod.
“Yeah, I had her last year. She’s kind of a bitch.”
You nod again.
“You don’t talk much, do you?”
You let out a puff of smoke.
“Well, I’m cuttin’ Spanish. Kinda funny how we’re both cuttin’ a language class.”
He lets out a small chuckle.
You look over at him for the first time and you see that his jeans are ripped and he has a purple Mohawk.
“You’re Claudia Jean, right?”
You look down at your hands, resting in your lap, and answer.
He reaches his hand out to you.
“Nice to meet you.”
You take his hand and answer back, “You, too.”
And so everyday for the next coupe of months you meet behind the gym to smoke. Sometimes it’s during school, other times it’s after, but you make sure you get to see him. It’s what gets you from one day to the next.
You smoke and laugh and complain about your parents. And one day he tells you you’re beautiful, and you can feel the blush creep up your chest and flush your cheeks. You don’t know how to respond to that. No one’s ever thought of you as beautiful. You’re all length and bones, and gawky ackwardness. You’re not beautiful.
But then his hands frame your face and he kisses you. He kisses you so that you almost believe you are beautiful, so you kiss him back.