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Authors: LaurenVDW

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BOOK: The Perfection Paradox
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That had been
the worst time. He’d had no way to defend himself and no one there
to defend him. He shuddered as he shook himself out of his
daydream, the smell of fire sending shivers down his spine and
causing his hand to shake involuntarily.

Matt wished
he could say there had been no other times, that outside school
hours he was safe at home or at his friends, that during school
teachers watched and protected him, but even at school the faculty
often turned a blind eye when Hunter had him pinned up against the
wall or pushed him to the ground.

Hunter was
the sports star of Rosewell. He was a Campbell, a family who had
attended the school for generations and contributed so much. And
who was Matt? No one really. Not someone worth upsetting one of
Rosewell’s most prominent families, that much was
definite.

He lay in bed
that night, sobbing into his pillow. He didn’t want his mother to
hear. He didn’t want her to worry.

Lying in the
darkness, he suddenly realized how alone he was. How much of
a
freak
he
was.

He wondered
more than anything why everyone else got to have friends, have fun,
enjoy life. He wondered why he wasn’t capable of it, what he was
doing wrong that meant he was so absolutely alone, so absolutely
hated by everyone.

It was a
horrific feeling, the feeling that if you died no one would care,
that you matter to no one. Most days he could fight these thoughts,
but in this dark lonesome place, with the fresh bruises throbbing
painfully on his face and body, the terrible truths of Matt’s
reality gained momentum and stifled him with sorrow.

 

11.

Rosewell
stadium buzzed with anticipation as the crowds chanted and the sea
of red and green did the Mexican wave. It was packed to the brim
for the first game of the season.

Students,
teachers and parents who had failed to find a chair had even taken
to watching excitedly from the steps running through the blocks of
plastic seats, hot dogs in their hands, shaking their red Rosewell
High School scarves above their heads.

Emily’s
friends had decided to arrive at the stadium several hours before
kick-off, and Emily, eager to have a good view of Hunter, had
wholeheartedly agreed.

That was how
they had come to be in the seats several rows from the front, able
to count the hairs on Coach’s head.

Emily felt
like a celebrity enjoying front row seats at some highly
anticipated sold out sports event. She pulled her pink sunglasses
down over her eyes and glanced around, pouting.

She flung the
ratty strands of hair out of her face and over her shoulder
dramatically. She felt her shoulders graze something solid and
heard a confused yelp behind her.

Emily turned
at the exact instant the man shimmying along the row behind her
finally lost his balance and dropped his cheesy nachos. They
lurched down the front of Emily’s purple and gold sequin shirt.
Emily let out a high-pitched scream and flailed her arms in the air
theatrically. “Get it off me, get it off me!” She was shouting,
bouncing up and down in her seat in a bid to remove the nachos
gravitationally.

Amanda and
Sarah were howling with laughter, and all of a sudden she hated
them. Finally Sarah pulled a napkin out of her handbag and handed
it to Emily, who started throwing the remnants of nachos from her
chest extravagantly. 


I can’t
believe this,” she whispered under her breath, trying to wipe the
nacho sauce out of her hair. It clotted together like the fur of a
dirty dog.


It’s not
that big of a deal Em,” Sarah said warmly, offering her another
napkin.


Not a big
deal?” Emily demanded, turning to her friend mid-wipe, the napkin
in her hand stiffening with a coagulation of nacho cheese and
hair.


This shirt
is ruined!” She whispered furiously.


You can wash
it all out Em, it’ll be fine” Sarah reassured, patting Emily on the
back, trying to calm her down.


Excuse me?”
a voice exclaimed from above before Emily could retort to Sarah’s
absolute ignorance. Emily rolled her eyes and turned back up to the
man who had dropped his nachos.

He was still
standing there, waiting for them to finish bickering.


Yes?” Emily
snapped.


You knocked
me over when you were flicking your hair all over the place. You
hit my legs with your shoulders. You owe me new nachos.”


What?” Emily
spat back at him, narrowing her eyes in disgust, “maybe you
shouldn’t be so clumsy!” she started to turn back but he kept
talking, this time he was talking louder, drawing the attention of
the people seated around them, who were getting irritated by all
the commotion.


Maybe you
shouldn’t be shaking your head all over the place. You
owe
me
nachos!”

Emily felt
eyes settle on her, felt people whispering to each other giddily,
or murmuring annoyed under their breath.

A group of
girls in Rosewell High sweatshirts were staring over at her,
sneering. Three boys Emily recognized from the JV football team
were shaking their heads at her disapprovingly. They were all
waiting for her answer.


Fine,
” She declared, pulling her
wallet out of her handbag and handing him five dollars. He snatched
it out of her hands and continued down the row to his friends,
shaking his head.

She felt
shaken up inside, all those eyes watching her, judging her, why did
those kinds of things always happen to her.

She tried to
distract herself but the nacho cheese patch on her shirt had cooled
and now felt uncomfortably cold pressed against her, like cold
sweat. The overwhelming odour of cheese also wafted its way up her
nostrils and made her feel nauseous.

Emily glanced
around, trying to pick out faces she recognized from the crowd but
at that moment music boomed from the massive speakers, and the
crowd, who had been distracting themselves with chitchat and
picture taking, all focused on the field.

Emerging from
the pit, about a dozen girls in red and white cheerleading uniforms
strode out, oozing absolute confidence, shaking their extravagant
pompoms triumphantly at the crowd. Of course they were all skinny,
big haired clones of the girl who led them.

And there she
was, Rosewell’s golden girl, Kennedy, her iconic flaxen hair pulled
back into a high ponytail, an immaculate “R” printed on her cheek
in red paint. Kennedy’s name seemed to pass through the stadium
like the cool October breeze that rustled Emily’s mousy
hair.

Around her,
teenage boys were glancing at each other knowingly, wide smirks on
their faces. Emily looked over her shoulder and saw Nacho boy raise
his eyebrows and wink sleazily at one of his friends.
He wouldn’t have made Kennedy pay for those
nachos
. Emily knew that much. Girls cupped
their hands to whisper excitedly into their companion’s
ears.
Kennedy Blakewood was
here
.

Emily wanted
to be talked about in that way, every time she passed by, every
time her back was turned, voices full of awe and wonderment,
adoration and idolization, trying to solve the mystery, she wanted
that so badly.

Emily
searched longingly for Hunter. He stood down at the benches with
his teammates, watching
her
proudly, his chest stuck out, enjoying the
sight.

The
cheerleaders got into position and began their routine to the
blaring pop song. Kennedy moved effortlessly, and while there were
flashes of unsteadiness in the expressions of some of the girls,
Kennedy was always in time, always smiling, like the perfect little
puppet she was, her blonde hair bouncing, her blue eyes gleaming
and her long toned legs moving with ease to the beat that thumped
out through the stadium.

There were
rarely opportunities to observe her so intensely, Emily had grown
accustomed to secret glances or rushed observation. The longer
Emily watched her, the more the seed of hopelessness rooted in her
heart began to grow wildly out of control, because Kennedy was
beautiful, and Emily was, well,
Emily
.

The more
desperately she searched for a flaw, a misstep, a blemish, a bead
of sweat, the more agonized she felt. It hurt to look at her, and
the more Emily did, the more unreal she seemed. It didn’t seem
possible that such people could exist. She was an airbrushed,
enhanced, glowing reality, and when you looked at her you couldn’t
imagine a face more perfect.

No greasy
hair, no fat stains on her shirt from lunch, no festering
whiteheads or chapped lips, no hairy legs or dirty fingernails. She
was immaculate.

This was a
girl who had never felt self-conscious, who had never struggled to
button up a pair of jeans, who had never had to change out of an
outfit because she felt she looked fat.

As the
performance finished and the applause and exuberant howls of the
crowd filled the stadium, Emily watched Hunter stride out to greet
Kennedy. She smiled back at him and said something, causing his
face to crease with laughter.

Emily
wondered what she’d said to make him laugh like that, he never
laughed like that at her jokes.

She watched
Hunter watch Kennedy. He was fixated on her, barely managing to
blink. His eyes were wide, like he was binging, taking in as much
of her as he could. A faint smile was spread across his face, but
it wasn’t an arrogant smirk or mischievous grin. Emily recognized
that smile. It was how she smiled at Hunter.

He didn’t
even realize he was doing it. It was the smile of watching the
curvatures of the most beautiful person in your world twist into
expressions and gestures. The wonderment of just staring at someone
and not being able to comprehend their utter perfection in your
eyes or your absolute love for them. Emily had looked at Hunter
that way, always a split second away from just losing control and
holding his face in her hands and kissing him until the day she
died, and now Hunter was looking at Kennedy in that same way, like
there was no one in the world but the two of them. His eyes flitted
from her blue eyes lined with thick dark lashes to her luscious
pink lips, to the hand that tucked a stray lock of golden hair
behind her ear.

He put his
hand on her forearm and muttered something before Kennedy pulled
away to join her squad on the side-lines.

A diamond
ring sparkled on her engagement finger. The ring had been the
subject of endless rumours for months when Kennedy had first
started wearing it.

First she’d
become secretly engaged to a European prince, then a globally
adored movie star had bestowed it upon her. Before long it
signified her intention to never marry and join a convent as soon
as she graduated.

Apparently
none of these were the truth though. The ring was a promise ring.
At first Emily had revelled in this, enjoying labelling Kennedy as
an overly religious prude, but no one was really listening to
her.

The boys
chased her even more, driven crazy by the idea of pure untouched
Kennedy Blakewood.

Many girls
copied her, especially as a conversation overheard between Kennedy
and Brooke started circulating the school, a conversation in which
Kennedy had declared that the ring had nothing to do with religion,
but was simply a reminder to herself to wait for the right
person.

This romantic
notion created nearly as much of frenzy amongst the girls as it did
amongst the boys. Girls yearned to be wooed like Kennedy, they
wanted to be seen as beyond reach, like she was.

One
sixteen-year-old girl slipping a ring on to her finger had
single-handedly managed to douse any desire for spontaneous
intercourse amongst the hundreds of girls at Rosewell High
School.

 

12.

As the first
weeks of school flew by in a myriad of classes, sports try-outs and
house parties, the hot summer air cooled to a brisk autumn
breeze.

Cable-knit
sweaters and chunky woollen scarves replaced the denim shorts and
linen sundresses of summer.

Leaves dried
and hung limply from the branches they’d grown from, before
withering and dropping to the ground, patching a carpet of yellow,
orange and red that crunched under Hannah’s boots.

The smell of
freshly cut grass and sunscreen floundered, and now a sweet spiced
hint of cinnamon filled the air, the nostalgic scent of bonfires,
and the oaky smoke that wafted from the brick chimneys of the
houses she passed on her way home from school.

That Monday
morning Principal Andrews stood on the raised podium at the front
of the auditorium, shuffling through the papers on the wooden stand
in front of him. His suit was an arctic grey shade that contrasted
beautifully with his ebony skin. He coughed meaningfully into the
microphone as the last of the seniors dropped into the plush red
velveteen seats, commanding silence. The auditorium had been built
to seat up to two thousand people and the senior class filled a
quarter of it easily.

BOOK: The Perfection Paradox
3.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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