Masquerade
As Amber Nelson glided into her brand new SUV, she quickly dabbed some last minute blush onto the apples of her cheeks, as if she believed that an extra dose of makeup was an extra dose of perfection. After one last lip- gloss check and ideal, white-stripped smile into the mirror, Amber finally pulled out of her driveway.
I look like a total clown, she thought to herself. Look at me.
Angrily, she thrust the makeup mirror into her backseat, and watched it fall open, its miniature brush bouncing to the floor of the car. If Amber had any choice about it, she wouldn't even wear makeup. In fact, the only reason she did was because as soon as she hit sixth grade, her former friends had been into nothing but fashion and boys. They had become the "beautiful," people, the type of girls that her mother had always wanted her to be. And, pleasing her mother wasn't the only reason she needed that image.
Much to Amber's dissatisfaction, in order to keep those friends she had to be flawless. Amber was one of those stereotypical high school idols, who always looked perfect on the outside. She was one of the beautiful girls who would sit in class with a brush and a makeup mirror lying on her desk, as she luxuriously combed through her unblemished golden hair with a set of beautifully frosted fingernails. As one of the most popular girls in the prep crowd, everyone either loved her, or despised her. It wasn't an easy image to have, but Amber never wanted to lose that edge. Right now, it was all she had.
As the lunch bell clamored through the school, books and backpacks were shuffled as the mob of hungry students eagerly raced each other out the door.
Amber, however, had to appear graceful in her every move. Sliding her small collection of books and dainty, pink, leather handbag purse under her arm, she waltzed out of her desk as she made her way toward the door.
As usual, she didn't just walk to lunch. It almost seemed as if she floated, on the light feet of a girl who had taken dance team with her friends every year since seventh grade. However, as she strolled toward her usual seat at lunch, she noticed that something was definitely wrong.
Why didn't they save me a spot? She wondered to herself. With a few clicks and clops of her high-heeled sandals, Amber made her way to the table to correct this injustice.
"Um.excuse me," Amber huffed in annoyance at the girl who had taken her spot.
Amber's backpack tugged at her shoulders, and the books in her arms began to feel like bricks. She desperately needed someplace to set down her books, and now was definitely not the time for someone to try to take her seat.
The girl looked up for a split second, before returning to her low- calorie salad.
"It's her," another girl said. Whatever that meant, the other girls at the table obviously found this comment funny. As if they had rehearsed this in advance, three girls began to snicker in unison.
Trying to regain confidence, Amber gave her silky hair a quick flip, and tried again to get the girl to move. "Perhaps you didn't hear me," she repeated, a bit more forcefully, as she slammed her purse down on the table. "You're in my seat."
"Yeah, well, I think it's going to stay my seat for a while too. Unless you want everyone to know about your.ahem.weirdness," the girl sneered.
"Wow," the girl across the table gasped. "That was harsh, Katy."
Amber gasped in confusion. Desperately, she tried to think back to all the things she possibly could have done to make this girl mad. Maybe Katy was a friend of her boyfriend's ex or something.
"What weirdness?" Amber demanded, as her palms began to sweat under her load of books.

Oh, God. I hope it's not.

"Oh, come on, Amber. You know what I'm talking about," Katy scoffed. "I mean, think about it. What could possibly be weird about you?"
"Katy, you don't have to pick on her about it," Katherine, Amber's best friend, warned. "It's not that big a deal."
At that moment, Amber's entire mouth went dry. "You.you told them? Katherine! Why would you do that to me? When I told you, you promised to keep it a secret!"
As fast as her fancy heels, left over from last year's Homecoming dance would carry her, Amber ran from the cafeteria and didn't stop running until she was safely behind a locked bathroom door. She brought the sleeve of her new, denim jacket up to her sky blue eyes and let the emotion she had managed to keep bottled up for so long flow from her tear ducts, across her carefully darkened eyelashes, and down her blushed cheeks, leaving streaks of black free to mix with her once prominent blush.
They can't know about me, she thought miserably, dropping her books to the floor. They just can't.
The final seventh block bell indicated that she was late, and Amber let out another chorus of tears. If she left this bathroom, she would have to not only face a tardy slip and a detention, but a whole wall of faces, belonging to students who probably knew everything she had used her preppy image to hide.
I have to get out of here.
Sighing, she pulled out her cell phone and ran to her car.
"Hey, Gary," she said, as she started her car. "I really need to talk, okay? I know it's last minute, but can I come over for a bit?"
Gary was her oldest friend and total confident. He had been her friend ever since he moved down the street in first grade, and he was one of the few people who knew her for who she truly was. Since he wasn't exactly a star student, which meant that he missed a lot of school, Amber assumed that she could find him here. He always stayed home until the office called home to inquire of his whereabouts, and then he usually wouldn't do much of anything. It was strange that a girl like her could call him a friend, but for some reason she felt as if he understood her better than any one of her "good" friends.
"You're a wreck," Gary stated honestly, as he led the crying girl into his house.
"Thank you, I know," Amber said sarcastically, her voice faltering slightly from the tears.
"So, are you going to tell me what's up or do I have to give you pizza before you'll do that?" Gary asked routinely, as they walked into his large kitchen-area complete with a counter sink.
"They know, Gary," she said bluntly.
"They.they.they know what?" Gary said, cringing with sympathy. His face took on a more serious expression at that moment. "That you're.bi? Unbelievable, how did they find out? Are they picking on you?" he demanded.
It was definitely a typical Gary response. Since he was almost like an older brother to her, he never liked to hear that someone was hurting her.
Amber nodded. "To put it simply, if I stop sitting at my old lunch table and let this nasty girl steal all my friends, I get to stay in the closet for at least another week. Or, until she can find something else to blackmail me with."
Gary was incredulous. "Amber, maybe it is time you come out with it. I mean, all these superficial friendships are just going to make it harder when you actually do come out, whether by choice or otherwise. Eventually, you're just going to have to deal with the facts. Believe me, I've known plenty of people like you, and you just can't hide it forever."
Amber nodded. "I know. But, life is just so much easier when you hide."