The Smile

I was only thirteen. Young, and foolish. I was in the eighth grade, and to me that one year seemed to stretch on into eternity. It didn't seem as if it would ever end while it was happening, but now, looking back, it was far to fast. I did not enjoy it enough. I couldn't enjoy it enough.

I was depressed. Thirteen, and I had been in a deep depression for the past year and a half. It started when I broke up with my best friend. I was so angry at her after it happened. Why couldn't she put up with me? Why did she have to hate me? But, in truth, it was my fault. I pushed her away. I hated her. No, she was not a horrible friend. Quite the opposite, in fact. She was perfect. Smart, funny, beautiful. I paled in comparison. She was athletic; I liked video games. She was an honors student; I was just scrapping up 70%. She felt comfortable giving her opinion and telling all that she was religious; I was shy, in the background. I didn't want to contradict anybody.

She was always there for me. Always. Whether I wanted help with my homework or I needed to have a good cry about my latest crush, I knew that I could always pick up the phone and call Rachel. That was her name. A perfect name. A regular name. It made me feel so odd by comparison. Rachel and Charity. It just lacked that certain ring that names seem to have between spouses or best friends.

She and I broke up in December of seventh grade. Just stopped talking to each other, calling each other. We no longer worked together on school projects. She, always the social butterfly, had a thousand groups that she could have fit into. I had none.

I watched her, achieving in sports, school, friends, and life. I was, however, failing school. I had no friends. I just didn't care. I drew into myself, building up a huge emotional block to shield me from the outside world. I just didn't care anymore. I sank into depression at twelve.

In June of the next year, eighth grade, I decided to do something about it. Finally. I decided to end it all. Stop the pain. Stop the suffering. But I wasn't sure how. I wasn't sure if I could.

One day, in early June, I decided that I would do it that night. I would take my own life and end it all. It sounded so simple to me. 'But what if I regret it?' I asked myself. But I reasoned that I could not regret death. I would be gone. So I decided to make a deal with myself. I decided that if one person smiled at me that day, just one, then I wouldn't do it. I'd wait it out at least for a little while, give life another chance.

For the remainder of that day, I walked with my head down, glaring at my feet. I didn't want anyone to look at me. About half way through the day, I decided that laughing didn't count, as I received jeers and laughter often. I was the school's joke. I stood out while remaining invisible. My looks were plain, but my odd name and silent ways marked me as an easy target for many jokes. Jokes for them. Pain for me.

It was as I was walking out of science, the last class of the day, that I was tripped. Not by accident, and not just someone sticking their foot beneath my feet. Someone roughly kicked my feet out from under me. I sighed and picked myself up, trying desperately to grab my science textbook and notebook out of the hands of the boys that were violently ripping them to shreds. That was the fifth textbook that year that would need to be replaced. My parents wouldn't pay the fine. They thought that I had lost the books, and it was my responsibility.

Giving up on the books, I tried to gather up my pens, which were quickly spreading down the hallway and being picked up, only to be thrown down the stairs. Laughter filled my burning ears as I scrambled around on the floor, trying to find all of my supplies. A blush spread across my cheeks and I bit back tears. Not one smile had I received that wasn't accompanied by mocking laughter.

"Oh look," on of the boys that had torn my textbook taunted, "the freak is crying!" It was true. Wet, hot tears ran down my cheeks.

Finally tired of their game, my classmates ran off, so as not to miss their busses. I didn't care if I missed mine. Only more laugher would meet my ears as I stepped onto the huge, stinking vehicle. I'd just walk home. Who cared if I lived on the other side of the city? Who cared If I ended up fainting from heat exhaustion, as I already had three times that week? Who cared? No one. Absolutely no one.

"Here," I was surprised at the voice. I glanced up, trying to wipe my tears from my cheeks. "Is this yours?" It was Rachel, the girl who had started my depression. "Those guys are really jerks." I nodded shyly, not wanting to look into her perfect, blue eyes. She smiled broadly, sympathetically at me. I answered with a weak smile of my own. "Hey," she said, "Aren't you going to miss your bus?" I looked at the deserted hallway, and then at my watch. It said five past three.

"It's already gone by now," I replied, scooping up my last few pens, and the mound of twisted papers that had once been my textbook and notepad. I dumped the latter into the trash.

"My mom can give you a ride home," she said, smiling.

"No," I said softly, "I'll walk."

"Charity," she said, still grinning that big, perfect, white-toothed grin, "I remember how sensitive you are to heart. We can even go for ice-cream. No, wait," she furrowed her brow as if trying to remember something from her past, "You like frozen yogurt better, don't you?" I blinked. How had she remembered that? Then, what was happening hit me. She had smiled! I would live! Then I realized that I didn't want to die. There was so much to live for, like frozen yogurt, for example. I knew that we could never be friends, but, perhaps I could find some new ones? Sure, there were hundreds of people in the school. At least one of them would accept me.

"Sure I said," giving out my first real smile for a year, "Why not?"