"You're such a good friend, Marinette!"
"Thank you for everything!"
"You're so perfect!"
"You're such a genius!"
The words seem like compliments — maybe they are, but eventually, they feel like overly romanticized phrases and fawning responses to Marinette. When people start thinking a person is dependable, amazing, fantastic, or really any other good quality out there, they eventually stop supporting said person because they don't think the person 'needs' it. They assume that since the person is so reliable and dependable — they wouldn't need help or support. Sure, maybe it's unintentional, but it's absolutely a thing.
The person learns to never ask for help. They learn that they don't ever need help anymore. That they shouldn't ever need help because of how perfect, palatable, reliable, dependable, and amazing they are. They gradually learn to get by without asking for support when they need it. Or when they deserve it.
Failure doesn't feel like an option anymore. People stop seeing them as someone who can fail — someone who's human.
It's become a bit of a problem for Marinette — one she's been ignoring, but she decided to speak up about it with her boyfriend, Adrien.
"You're strong, Marinette. If it really was a big problem, I'm sure someone would have noticed," he said. Maybe he was right, she thinks. Maybe she was just being overdramatic and maybe she's just supposed to be perfect.
"It's really nothing, I'm sure." He's probably right, she thinks. Just let it go.
Maybe everyone will leave if she fails. Maybe everyone will leave if she slips up.
Yeah, she can't fail.
It's another hazy night filled with empty silences in her mind. The noises of the party resound through the house — whose house is this again? — but it's completely quiet in Marinette's head. The overwhelming feelings of pressure and regret fill Marinette up again to the brim. Like an overflowing amount of liquid that can't be stopped.
She knows she's being irrational. She knows she needs to stop. She needs to stop because perfect people don't cry. Perfect people don't cry, they don't have issues, nor do they ever feel bad about people seeing them as perfect. It's simple. It's like clockwork.
Through her tears, Marinette looks around to ensure that nobody saw her. Seeing that nobody had seen her, she grabbed a bottle of water, and subtly covered part of her eyes with her bangs to make sure that nobody would know she was crying at all. Besides, she was being irrational thinking so hard about 'being perfect' and all. Surely it was not the big deal she was making it out to be in her head.
And through misty bluebell eyes and clouded dark night skies, she eventually looks up to see Alix, sniffling, and on the verge of tears. 'I can't be the only one who hears you..'
She looks around and sees that nobody even noticed the sad noises the pink-haired girl was making. She pulls Alix aside to a corner where no one's looking. "Are you okay? You don't need to tell me anything, but if I can help.."
She feels like throwing up. It's dizzying, to be on the verge of tears but never allowing yourself to release. It takes your breath away from you, it makes it harder to breathe — it's harder to feel, harder to observe. So she cries, despite how much she doesn't want to. She breathes in deeply, heavily, and marches out of the room as if nothing had gone wrong at all. She's overreacting, anyway.
Animatedly rubbing her eyes to remove any trace of her own tears, she notices a glossy and glazed look in Myléne's eyes. She pulls the girl aside. "Are you okay?" she asks carefully.
The girl sniffles as she retells the heavy baggage that'd been weighing on her for years. Marinette listens carefully, gifting her with advice every now and then. It was the right thing to do.
She chokes on the feeling of bitterness, instantly opting to push it away. She knows that people appreciate her presents, people love the gifts, and she understands that they don't love her, they love the things that come with her. They love that everything from her is free because Marinette is generous and sweet and kind and amazing. And she's okay with that. She should be, after all, because she's perfect.
"Hey Alya, I made you this." She smiles brightly as she hands her best friend a newly made dress made from painful late nights and viridian fabric. "Oh, thank you!" Alya says, her eyes gleaming a fiery glow at the sight of the clothing.
She smiles at her. "You're such a good friend, Mari. I don't know how you do it!" The bluenette giggles at the compliment, choosing to ignore the bile that had built in the back of her throat.
"Marinette!" Alix calls out, in tears. Marinette's eyes widen at the sight of the girl crying again.
She pulls the pink-haired skater into a hug. "What's wrong, Alix?" She says with a gentle tone.
Marinette quickly became the person that everyone ran to when they were upset. She also became the person everyone ran to for free clothes, for free pastries — whatever she could give. She can't exactly find it in her to complain, because since she's perfect, she shouldn't find an issue with it. And, if she stops, what if that makes them stop caring about her? Nobody ever loved her in the first place, so who's to say what will happen if everyone stops caring about her and what she has to give?
They keep dumping and dumping all of their problems onto her, and she doesn't know how much longer she can take it. She's perfect, she can't feel anything, she doesn't need help, and that's fine since she can't even ask for help. She doesn't need anything because she's a good friend. She needs to be able to help them at all times, because she's supposed to be a good friend.
They'll be disappointed, she thinks. Who am I, if not perfect, she thinks. She can't break, she can't fall, she can't..
She broke quickly after her short mantra of specifically not breaking this morning. Her eyes had finally succumbed to the forming tears and her voice only wavered with every second that passed. She knew her problems were miniscule and irregular — that they weren't that big of a deal, so she tried at least making the problems that she spoke about be regular problems. Like her job as MDC.
"I'm so stressed." She cries into Alya's arms after her rant about commissions. The girl just stands there, awkwardly patting her best friend's back. "I'm sorry." is all Alya says. She doesn't know how to help, and that's okay because she shouldn't have to be helping Marinette. You're being a burden, her mind reminds.
Marinette freezes, realizing that she started crying on someone unprompted. "I'm sorry for going on that rant and then just crying.. I'm just being dramatic." Alya laughs at her. "It's okay girl, we're all a little dramatic sometimes!" she says.
It didn't help her feel better at all. Crying on someone didn't really help her. She feels like a burden, she feels irrational, and she feels as if she had just wasted someone's time. Maybe she's beyond help. Maybe being upset is irrational and pointless. Maybe there's no point in asking for help.
"You should talk to someone, Marinette. Ask for help — it's okay to ask for help." Tikki says, but Marinette shakes her head.
"I've gotten by without asking for help, so why should I now? I've never shown any signs of weakness or failure, so why now? Why should I go and disappoint everyone now when I don't have to?" She responded. Tikki's frown only grew more pronounced.
Marinette's issues had gotten worse, but surely they weren't that bad if nobody actually noticed. If she had disappeared right now, no one would notice, and if they did, they would never know why, because well, her issues clearly weren't bad enough.
"Oh, Lila! You're such an amazing person!" She can't help but feel as if those compliments were familiar. She grimaces, wincing at the thought of just how quickly her classmates had thrown her out for the new girl. But it was fine. It needed to be.
Alya scowls at Marinette. "You're terrible. I can't believe you're so jealous of Lila to the point where you'd bully her. I can't believe we were ever friends. You were so fake to us all."
She's right, Marinette thinks. She was fake. She wasn't authentic at all, but she had to be. She had to be perfect, obviously, but she wasn't, and so she had to be fake in order to seem perfect. I don't know what to do.
Lila's lies were stressing her out to extreme extents, and she honestly didn't know what to do. She tried calling them out, but Adrien had stopped her and pulled her aside for a short talk.
"Take the high road," is what her boyfriend said, and so of course, she listened. She had to.
"Marinette has this dumb spiraling mindset she always steps into. It's kind of annoying, but she gets over it quick if you shut her up." Alya's voice rings through the locker room. Marinette winces. So her suspicions were correct. She was annoying everyone with that.
It's why she doesn't genuinely talk about any of her issues. If they haven't exploded on her yet, if no one's noticed yet, then how could they be actual problems?
"She never really cared about any of us, did she?" Alix questions, and Marinette sees Lila shakily nod. That isn't true..
"Well, that's fine. None of us ever cared about her." A voice says, and she doesn't know who it was because their voice was muffled by all the ringing in her ears and the deafening silence that overwhelmed Marinette.
She's drowning — she feels like she's suffocating. Again, she was right. They never really cared about her. She's desperately clinging on for something to grasp, but there's nothing, it's just a bunch of murky ocean water, she's falling and drowning. Her voice will never be heard over the ripples of the sea. Maybe it'd be better like that.
She stares at the ruined sketchbook before her. Lila had claimed that she'd copied her designs. Lila isn't a designer.
But it's not a big deal. It shouldn't be. Marinette's being irrational, she can't be feeling upset over this. It's life. Things happen. It's not a big deal.
"Marinette..?" Tikki calls out. Marinette looks at her and plasters on a neutral face. The kwami frowns at her. "You don't have to pretend to be okay." She says, and Marinette shrugs with a feigned nonchalance.
"That's not what I'm doing. It's just irrational for me to be sad over this." She says, and the kwami's frown only grows even more pronounced.
Tikki sighs. "Marinette, you're human. It's incredibly understandable for you to be upset over this. You worked hard on those designs." Marinette only shrugs again.
"This is just life, Tikki. Don't worry about it. These things happen."
Losing them hurt. It tugged and pulled on her heart strings, and she didn't know how to feel about the loss. It was subtle and shifty — just a whole lot of lies. Lila had even pulled Adrien over to her side. He didn't believe her, but his silence let her do whatever she wanted and thus, she was able to just cling to his arm and claim that he was her boyfriend now and everything. It hurt.
What hurt more was the instant belief. Everyone believed her. No one even thought idly of how Marinette and Adrien were dating. It didn't matter. And Marinette couldn't speak up and explain, because she knew Adrien wouldn't. And who is she to disappoint Adrien? She made a promise.
Besides, she'd be seen as a jealous mess. And she isn't that, she knows that at least.
She's careful, she makes sure not to slip. She gracefully slides across the ice rink that is her mind, she makes sure never to slip up, regardless of how much pressure is placed on her. She'll balance everything on her shoulders, and she'll do it with a huge smile.
It doesn't matter that they never really cared about her — it's okay. She knows that nobody ever really did. It's fine; she knew what she was signing up for when she got friends. It was a tough pill to swallow, but she understands, because really, who is she to judge? She can't even love herself, so how could others be obligated to loving her? They're entitled to whatever they think of her.
She stills helps them. She knows they hate her, but she continues to help them. She helps Alix with her life issues, she hears Myléne out on her family problems, she hears and answers to Rose's woes, she helps with Juleka's self-esteem issues, she gives Alya free things, she'd do anything not to disappoint everyone anymore than she already has because failure is not an option. She helps them because she's the only one who sees them — so it has to be her. They don't know how to help her, and that's fine.
She knows that Lila's lying, and she can't do anything about it because who's going to listen to another liar talking about a liar? What will they think once they find out that Marinette Dupain-Cheng isn't perfect? At least they knew Lila wasn't.
"You're an awful person." Maybe she is.
"Lila's a much better friend than you." What can she do? What can she do to be better than her? Nothing. It turns out despite the fact Marinette does her best to be the pristine image of perfection and selflessness, it's never going to be enough — gifts, compliments, being there for people, never asking for help? It's never going to be enough.
When will I be enough?
It's lonely. She feels lonely, isolated, ostracized, and any other synonyms of feeling left out. It didn't matter how much she did, she'd always be left alone in the end because nobody ever cared. Nobody.
Outside the window, she could hear the sounds of her friends laughing. She distantly wonders if they're happier without her. Maybe they are, maybe they aren't. She thinks about how much she cared, how much love she had to offer for them. She thinks about how she never got anything back. She's okay with it. Well, she has to be okay with it, doesn't she?
A forlorn shadow named Marinette Dupain-Cheng rests behind the window, watching Lila's friends bitterly—
It's all she can get. She can't get anything better. It's fine, because she'll never be enough; she'll never live up to everyone's expectations of her. Maybe she should give up.
No one noticed she was upset, no one was there to listen to her, no one would care if she was crying on them, no one would know to help her because she's beyond help. She has no one.
Maybe she should give up.
"I'm disappointed in you." Sabine says, and oh, Marinette doesn't know how to feel. She's disappointed because of what Lila said, but Marinette can't help but feel as if disappointment were to be inevitable. She was going to fail, she was going to slip up, and then everyone would leave her. Everyone's leaving her now, and she didn't even fail yet. What will happen when she does?
Sabine prattles on and on about the things Lila had said Marinette had done to her, then she mentioned Marinette's absences, causing the girl to wince. She thinks about her partner distantly. What would Paris think if they found out Ladybug was actually just a screwup?
Tom speaks up. "You're grounded."
It's to be expected, of course. She doesn't say anything, she just takes it. She needs to be a good child, responsible, redeemable, perfect, perfect, perfect. She starts tearing up, and Tikki looks at her chosen in a concerned way. Marinette waves her hand dismissively, wiping the tears off.
Maybe it'd just be better if..
She spoke to Adrien about it on the phone. "I'm sure it's not that bad! You're strong, Marinette. You're amazing, I'm sure you'll be alright." He says over and over again, sounding like a broken record. It starts seeming like a mantra to Marinette — maybe it is, maybe it isn't. She really shouldn't be complaining. He's complimenting her, so why are the words breaking her more and more?
Wouldn't it be easier for everyone if she wasn't here? She distantly wonders, eyeing her already packed bags and looking at the funds in her wallet. She knows she can last a few months with her MDC money.
"Right! Yeah. Goodbye Adrien, I loved you." She smiles bitterly. She didn't want their last goodbye to be on the phone, but she didn't need anyone chasing after her once they realized she'd be gone.
"What..? I love you too." He says, clearly confused. She just smiles more before hanging up.
Time to go. She transforms and heads off, giving her house one last glance.