Sunglasses

Her Mercedes pulls past the elaborate wrought iron gates and towering stone walls that surrounded her house. Steph wears huge sunglasses and displays a mask of makeup. It's all there: foundation, concealer, and blush, with lip gloss applied masterfully to her naturally full lips. Her bright blue eyes are hidden beneath her bug-eyed Gucci sunglasses. Not one inch of her real skin is visible. Her dyed-blonde hair is stick-straight, and every hair is in place. The latest rap song blares form her car's stereo, its genuine leather seats cradling her tanned, model-perfect body. Steph is wearing five hundred dollar jeans and a designer t-shirt, and she carries a Prada purse, stuffed with her iPod, cell phone, and other necessities.

She drives the Mercedes up the mile-long driveway into the 6-car garage and heads into the kitchen, dropping her keys on the counter. The key chain slams into the granite surface, making a racket that fills her ears, echoing through the empty rooms of her house. Steph walks, perfectly poised, up to her bathroom and closes the door.

She begins to wash off the cluttering makeup. She tosses her sunglasses and purse to the floor and changes out of her five hundred dollar jeans. After pulling on her favorite sweats from Target, her tensed body slowly begins to relax. She puts on her music, and begins to unconsciously dance to her favorite song, "She Will Be Loved", a Maroon 5 classic. She tries to blot out her day as a senior in high school.

She and her popular friends had ruined someone else's life today, she thought grimly. After school, the three of them had walked into the girls' locker rooms to prepare for cheerleading practice. As soon as her friend Julie had opened the door, they had heard a girl singing. She had been singing "She Will Be Loved" in the most beautiful, carefree voice Steph had ever heard in her life.

"What a loser," Steph's best friend Courtney had whispered to her spitefully. "That song is so last year."

"Yeah," she had murmured back. "I know.

When they had walked closer, Steph recognized her as the girl who always followed her clique around, hoping to be a part of their circle. Steph thought her name was Rose Johnson. When Rose had spotted them, she had turned, embarrassed and fled from the locker rooms, leaving her locker wide open. Courtney and Julie had both looked at Steph, silently asking for her permission. She hadn't said anything.

The two of them had begun to shove gum into their mouths, chewing wordlessly. They had taken all of Rose's clothes out of her locker and thrown them into the mold-covered showers. Then, with an evil grin, Courtney had turned on the water.

After two minutes of vigorous chewing, Courtney and Julie had pulled the now sticky gum out of their mouths and begun to spread it around Rose's locker. The pink gum was a stark contrast to the deathly gray of the metal locker walls. Steph remembered the she had not actually done anything to Rose's clothes or to her locker, but just witnessing her two best friends vandalizing the poor girl's things was making her guilty.

All of that, Steph thinks, just to make her leave us alone. Just because she wasn't "cool enough" for us. I can't even believe that I just stood there and let it happen. No, she reminds herself. The girl I am at school is not me. I just put on that façade to keep my parents and "friends" happy. That is Stephanie Meyers, head cheerleader, beauty queen, mean rich girl who doesn't care about anyone except herself. That is not me, she tries to convince herself. That is not me. Here, in the comfort and safety of my room, I can be myself. That is not me.

Look for the girl with the broken smile…

The lyrics ran through her head, and a tear rolled down her cheek. I didn't do anything, Steph repeats in her mind, nothing at all. A second tear joined the first.

And she will be loved…