Chapter 4: Appearance vs Reality


Friday, 15th May

2nd entry

Dear journal,

I've thought about it. I finally see who my friends really are.


Thank goodness nobody reads this except me.


I dried my tears and pulled myself up with shaky hands to look at the mirror.

There I was – a heck of a crying mess. My eyes were puffy and wet, my nose red and sniffling. My whole face just spelt: I CRIED MY LIFE OUT.

I stared down at the squeaky white sink, trying to calm my nerves.

What just happened just now? It was like I was swept away in a whirlwind of emotions, veering blindly down one direction and then the next.

I took a deep breath and slid to the ground, holding my face in my hands. What is wrong with me today? I wasn't usually this emotionally unstable. You need to get a grip, girl!

But all those thoughts – things I was hearing today, things I thought people were thinking about, which seemed so real but obviously they couldn't be real...because how could they be real? How could I hear them if they were real? It just didn't make sense.

I thought of what Mariette said to me.

"I can't stand her."

"She's so weak and manipulative."

This was making me sick. I couldn't stop her voice in my head. It was as if she was a tape recorder, playing over and over again…


I looked down at my watch, taking deep breaths. Yes, that's the way, Hannah. Deep breath, come on, deep breath. I sucked in some air, trying to fill my diaphragm the way yoga instructors say on television. I was absent from class for at least twenty minutes.

I shook my head, trying desperately to clear it. I got up and splashed some cool water on my face. I glanced up at the mirror again. My eyes were less swollen this time, but still red around the edges. Drops of water coated my skin and eye lashes.

Why was I hearing things people weren't saying aloud? Was I going mad?

No, I'm not mad.

Just delusional.

My reflection frowned back at me.

You've become so concerned about what people think about you that now you're finally hearing them in your head.

No. No that isn't true!

I glared back at the glass. Then I blinked. I realised that I was unconsciously leaning towards the mirror, eyebrows furrowed and brown eyes red and venomous; my mouth contorted into a sneer.

It was the scariest version I had ever seen of myself. I couldn't even recognise the Hannah I knew. I laughed nervously, breaking that stranger in the mirror. All tension leaked away from my reflection and she resumed that quiet stance, eyes sad and forlorn.

Darn it, was this how I usually looked like? This pitiful, this pathetic? No wonder Mariette called me weak, no wonder Samuel called me nothing…

I felt my nose sour, and a new backlash of tears was threatening to be released at the sides of my eyes. I sniffed and threw my head back, blinking away those unwanted tears. Come on Hannah! Be strong! Why do you keep caring about those worthless good-for-nothing goons…

I gave a chuckle. My alter ego could really be encouraging in times like this. I rolled out some toilet paper from the stalls, blowing my nose into it vehemently, and then dabbed my face dry with the leftovers. The idea of using toilet paper to dry my face wasn't as revolting as it was. I had no choice anyway. I was reduced to such a piteous state.

I dumped the toilet paper in the step-on rubbish bin and took a good look at myself. My nose had more or less returned back to their original colour from the red before, but it was my eyes who could give me away. Never mind the matter. As long as I kept my head low, nobody would ever know Hannah Coleman bawled her eyes out.

With that, I smoothed my dark brown hair and straightened out my tank top. Holding my head high, I sailed out of the toilet, determined not to be destroyed by Samuel, by Mariette, by anyone else.


I walked towards the classroom, passing others whose lessons were being conducted as usual behind closed doors. I felt more and more rickety-rackety like a fragile wooden doll. I could already hear Mr. Graham's voice booming away from the classroom,

"Yes Mr. Connors, thank you. Does anyone else have an answer?"

I arrived at the door and took a deep breath. The moment I knocked, a curious silence seemed to descend on the class. All faces instantly whipped around to face me in one sweep.

My cheeks flamed up. I could hear all of them, gossiping and buzzing away. Every single word reached my ears. It was like they couldn't even let me go after what they did to me, it was like they couldn't even spare the time to think about my feelings.

"It's Hannah…"

"Wow, is she late."

"So the loser finally came back..."

"Yes, Miss Coleman? Do you intend to stay outside the class forever?"

Mr. Graham's voice suddenly jolted me out of my self misery.

"I…uh…" I kept my head bent down; making sure my hair covered my wet eyes. I took a few steps towards Mr. Graham.

"Sorry I'm late Mr. Graham." I was trying all my might to control my traitorous, quivering voice. "I…had to go to the toilet."

"And for…" He flicked his watch upwards, "A full half an hour?"


"I think I deserve more than a 'yes' for an answer, Miss Coleman." He said in an acid tone. I almost broke down. I had always known Mr. Graham to be a strict, but fair teacher. But even now, he was against me!

"I expected more from you, Hannah."

When he said that, I felt as if I had been given a slap.

I felt the dreaded tears coming on again, "I'm sorry Mr. Graham."

"Look at me when you're talking to me, Miss Coleman. I want a reason, not an apology." He tapped his leather flats.

I averted my gaze from the floor, up to his kind, old blue eyes, sheltered behind a pair of spectacles.

He immediately took in my dishevelled appearance and swollen red eyes. "Poor child." He looked taken-aback. I glanced at his lips. But he wasn't talking at all. What was happening again? "She must have been crying…"

He cleared his throat, "I'll see you after this, Hannah. Please take your seat and we'll resume lesson as quickly as possible."

With that dismissal, I gratefully nodded and walked towards my desk, which was still thankfully unoccupied due to my bag having been left there before I made my ungainly exit.

Instantly as I was in my chair, the chatter about me erupted again. The girl sitting beside me was casting curious looks,

"Is she crying?"

I tilted my head away from her, making sure my hair fell over my face as I did that. I kept my gaze rigidly on Mr. Graham.

"She's so weird…"

"She must have been bawling her eyes out after what they did to her."

How could so much chatter go on without Mr. Graham's notice? It was usually a pin-drop silence during AP calculus…

"Samuel doesn't even look remorseful."

"I wonder if Hannah's alright…"

I recognised that voice. Risking exposing cover, I turned around, almost expecting everyone to be huddled in little groups, whispering. But to my absolute bewilderment, my classmates were in fact sitting upright, pens in hand, all eyes focused on Mr. Graham.

It was an exemplary sight of excellent student behaviour.

I blinked.

I turned back to the front, thoughts jumbled in all directions. I could hear everyone's thoughts. But what exactly was happening?


After a period of incessant chatter, AP calculus was over. I could barely concentrate on Mr. Graham, without eavesdropping on my classmates' small talk. I overheard fantasies, secret crushes, day dreams, problems and the most bewildering thoughts ever.

Hearing people spill their inner most thoughts was beginning to develop into a most occupying past-time of mine.

The one thing I was grateful for was that they eventually kept their conversation off the topic of me. Not to mention distracting me from my thoughts of Mariette and Samuel.

"She always has to stay behind with Claudia, or else she has nobody else…" Mariette echoed in my mind again.

Tears sprang to my eyes again. Go away, Mariette. I thought fiercely.

Quickly, I blinked them away as I packed my bag, preparing to leave.

I slung my school bag over my shoulder as I approached Mr. Graham. The class was already almost emptied out.

Mr. Graham was arranging some of his books and files. He saw me waiting for him, and immediately darted his head up to look at me.

"Oh, Hannah."

"Oh yes, I wanted to see you."

"Yes Mr. Graham," I said, looking down. "You wanted to see me."

"Um Hannah," He said slowly, blue eyes not leaving my face. Mr. Graham was already greying and wrinkles were appearing like smooth lines over his face.

"Are you facing any problems you need help with? Any problems that…" He made a self gesture with his hands, as if trying to search for the right expression. "Made you cry this morning…"

"You mean why I was late this morning, Mr. Graham?" I said quietly, meeting his gaze.

"Yes Hannah." He let out a big whoosh of relief through his smile. "Thank goodness she said it."

"I had a stomach ache." I said in reply.

"Oh." His face fell. I felt guilt worm its way into me. But what could Mr. Graham do anyway? Punish Samuel? Punish Mariette?

"Are you sure, Hannah?" He looked at me carefully again, assessing with his blue eyes. "Is it divorce, pot…"

"You are one of our top students." He added. "It is our responsibility to take care of you. Not to fall into depression."

"Nothing much I can't take care of, Mr. Graham." I tried to squeeze out a smile, but I knew I looked terrible. Because I heard Mr. Graham say,

"The poor kid looks like she's gonna have a break down anytime."

"I have…got to go." I said, "Thanks."

Mr. Graham gave me a worried nod but I was already running down the corridor.

I couldn't take the pity fest anymore. One more pat on the back, a rub on the shoulder, I knew I would start blubbering in tears.

I was that weak. Bah!


The next lesson was AP English. The next lesson was where I would meet Mariette, Claudia, and Samuel.

The next lesson would be basically hell.

We settled in our normal sitting places. This meant that Claudia was sitting beside me, with Mariette sitting beside her.

I refused to even look at Mariette.

While waiting for Mrs. Cunningham to arrive, Claudia leaned towards me, "Hey Hannah where did you go this morning?"

I looked up to meet Claudia's pretty blue eyes. It was where I really thought I saw concern. My heart melted and I immediately wanted to hug her, and cry my lungs out to tell her what a horrible day today was.

"I had to go for class." I said, barely concealing my tears as I relived the turmoil of emotions earlier on.

Claudia's eyes widened. "Are you okay…"

But what I really heard was, "Are you crying again?"

Then I realised Mariette was spying on us.

I stiffened.

"Hannah! Are you alright?" Mariette called out from behind Claudia.

If I hadn't known earlier, I would have taken the concern behind her voice for real. But now, all I could see was her careful concealed spite behind her large, beautiful green eyes which I had always admired.

I really couldn't deal with this now.

"No, I'm okay, thanks." I gave her a weak smile.

"You sure!?" She said, leaning forwards.

But "Oh my God, she looks like a crying wreck." Was like what I more heard.

I felt anger surge up my throat.

"Claud, is she alright?" She nudged Claudia.

Claudia turned her blond head to her left to face Mariette, deliberately blocking my view out.

They started talking in low whispers. But to me, strangely enough, it was as clear as crystal.

"No I don't think so. You know she's crying again." Said Claudia.

"Sheesh, again? What a cry baby." Said Mariette.

"I know. I'm kind of sick of it."

Instantly, I felt like I was being suckered in my gut. I was so shocked, I couldn't breathe. I turned my head away, trying to close off their hurtful conversation from my ears. But they just kept on going –

"I've got to be honest with you Claud – sometimes, just sometimes, I really can't stand Hannah."

"Oh. Really?"


"Oh. She can be a bit weak, but you know, overall, she's okay."

"Oh. But then…"

I couldn't stop the tears from coming down now. I bent my head down, and bit my lip. I was trying desperately to stop. But all the pent-up feelings inside me seemed to be having a heyday.

Their words cut me like a knife. I felt like I was choking in blood, like all my past wounds were being painfully reopened. So that was what they had always thought of me.

Why didn't they tell me? Why didn't I see it before? Why was I so stupid? So stupid to think that they were my actual friends, people I could confide in, people I knew I could trust, whom I knew would never betray me.

I didn't even cry that often. When had I ever cried in front of them? Oh yeah. Twice. When Samuel and friends slammed me in front of everyone during class.

I clenched my fist angrily. Claudia and Mariette stopped discussing and were about to say something to me when Mrs. Cunningham walked in.

"Good morning class."

"Good morning Mrs. Cunningham." We stood up, droning.

"You may sit, thank you."

We settled into our chairs.

Mrs. Cunningham was a short, portly lady who had her brown tresses in a bun. She had her reading glasses around her neck and was wearing a knee-length brown dress with an auburn scarf around her neck.

"Today, we are going to have a poetry writing practice. Each of you will have to make use of the following literary devices to spice up your work." She turned to the board and started scraping some words with the chalk.

"Metaphors, similes, personification, alliteration, the list goes on." She turned around and smiled, a twinkle reaching her brown eyes. "I know this overlaps with your literature class, but isn't literature the life of English?"

I tuned out from Mrs. Cunningham's inspiring speech about the English language as I stowed a packet of tissue paper from my bag and started wiping my tears with it. I was determined to not let Claudia and Mariette see me cry again.

"And so, I want each and every one of you to write a poem by this lesson. At the end of the lesson, I will call on a few to share their works of art with us." Mrs. Cunningham continued. The class groaned.

"This assignment will be graded." Mrs. Cunningham said, a tad forcefully over the class's grievances, "So get started now!"

A flurry of paper and pencils were heard as every one took out a sheet each, including myself.

Mrs. Cunningham threaded her way through class, nodding and gasping delightfully occasionally at a person's work.

As she reached the back of the class she exclaimed, "Mr. Samuel Harrington! What do I see here? A virginal white piece of paper?"

To that, Samuel retorted back lazily, "Oh, Mrs. Cunningham, I wouldn't dare to do it with this."

The whole class laughed.

Everyone loved Samuel. The school's resident jerk.

I sighed and rolled my eyes.

"Well," Said Mrs. Cunningham, clearly affronted, "While I am clearly impressed by your personification of your notepad, I would hate to give you a nice, red, 'F', Samuel." And she strolled on to the next pupil.

Samuel, obviously culled, grumbled and got to work.

Score one for Mrs. Cunningham, zero for Samuel! I simpered.

All around me, people were absorbed in their work, tossing random ideas here and there.

I put my hands to my ears. Their thoughts were submerging me, I couldn't stop it...

"The lute lingered, its song of enchantment drove lovers in a wild, passionate dance…"

"The little girl…no, not little, another word…peevish? Adorable?"

I darted my eyes around, finding the sources of noise. But to my bewilderment again, there was none. Everyone was silently thinking in their desks, some with pencils in their mouth, others with a faraway expression on their faces.

But I could hear every single one of them.

I shook my head, trying to clear those thoughts.

I was going crazy. Was I?

I looked down on my piece of paper, which in Mrs. Cunningham's terms, would be described as 'virginal white'.

I thought about everything that happened to me this morning. Mariette – Samuel – the gossip – Claudia – Mariette – Samuel –

The same old feelings of hurt and betrayal doused me over like a wet bucket. Tears were collecting by my eyes again, but I strongly held them back. No more tears now Hannah, no more tears!

And suddenly, vengefully, I knew what I wanted to write.

"Life is a garden full of shit…"


Towards the last fifteen minutes, I was done.

As I admired my work, I could not believe my eyes. It was the first time I had written something so daring, so outrageous for English class.

I smiled ruefully. I could accept a 'C' here and there, I suppose. I slumped down my shoulders and put down my pen.

In actual fact, I had vented everything I felt into this poem. It was what I had always thought, but it had to come down to this day for me to realise it.

Mrs. Cunningham spoke, "Okay everyone, put down your pens and pencils. Before I get the chance to gasp and swoon over your master pieces, I would like to get a glimpse of what you have written."

"Hmm, now who shall we have? Any volunteers?"

Cathy Campbell raised her hand up excitedly. Cathy was the class's literature fanatic. She volunteered to do every reading, every poem, every essay. And in my opinion, she was actually good.

However, the class rolled their eyes and sighed.

One thing about Cathy was that she only wrote about one topic:


"Oh er…" Apparently, Mrs. Cunningham got the same idea. "Not Cathy again…that girl has talent but I would really like to hear someone else's who doesn't stand out much…but has the potential…"

I kept my head down.


"Hannah Coleman? How about you?"

My heart constricted. No, please Mrs. Cunningham, not me. Not now…I can't! "Um…I…"

I could already feel everyone's heated gazes on me. I could already feel the jeers and sneers coming on.

No, Mrs. Cunningham, I can't. Not with Samuel here, not with every body here!

I looked up and caught Mrs. Cunningham eye, silently pleading desperately with her to let me off this time. I would do it any other day, I just couldn't deal with one more break down today, one more unkind remark.

"Come on, Hannah. There's no need to be scared. We're all waiting." Mrs. Cunningham smiled encouragingly.

"Yeah, don't waste our time." I heard Mariette yawn.

"Hurry up, go on." I heard another say.

Slowly, and rather painfully, I got up from my chair and shuffled to the front, my eyes cast down all the time.

As I took the walk to the plank, I could distinctly hear everyone's cursed remarks about me again. Why? Why was everyone being so mean?

"Stop hunching. It makes you look bad."

I couldn't stop the tears this time. I had never felt so devastated, destroyed all at once.

I reached the front and raised my head, blinking my tears away rapidly. I hated them all. Don't cry now Hannah, don't cry! Just hold on a bit longer!

"Okay, Hannah, you can start now." Mrs. Cunningham announced, sitting at the teacher's desk.

I gave a small nod, keeping my eyes on the single sheet of paper.

I sucked in a deep breath.

"My poem is titled 'What is Life?'" I started out, in a clear, quivering voice. "I hope you like it."

No! Bash that! Why do I even care whether they like it or not? They would probably just laugh and throw it in a bin –

"What is Life? By Hannah Coleman." I continued in a shaky voice, ignoring my inner ego.

"Life is a garden full of shit."

The class seemed to stir.

"That was surprising."

I barrelled on.

"Sometimes you get so sick of it.
The stench fills your nose so thick
You can't help but retch inside deep.

Someone ripped away your bed of roses.
Others shot down your birds of happiness
If only you could hunt them down
And crush their every worthless pound."

I paused. The silence was unnerving. I took another breath. My poem undoubtedly sounded like some crazy murder plan.

"But you find that you are trapped,
Buried in this Mountain of Crap.
You struggle to get out
But no one cares about your shout.

So you're left with two choices
Get a spade to dispose the faeces
Or drown in this shit hole
And arise the next life as a vengeful soul.

I chose the latter
Some think the other's better
But revenge's so much sweeter
Than wretched life, disgustingly, bitter.

You may think your life sucks
And it's so (beep) up
But mine's full of shit
No doubt about it."

I finished and looked up.

The whole class was gaping at me with open fish mouths.

So much for my uber-cool confession in front of 38 people...

Then suddenly, out of nowhere...

"What the fuck? That was awesome!"I heard a guy exclaim somewhere.

"Language please, Mr. Anderson!" Mrs. Cunningham stressed from behind.

"I totally go for that poem."A girl thought aloud.

Before I knew it, some people in the class were clapping and whooping for me. I couldn't believe my ears. They were rooting for me? They liked me? My heart beat wildly in my chest. I couldn't believe it!

My eyes accidentally trailed to Mariette and Claudia.

Claudia was clapping blithely, eyes set on me. She gave a little, forced smile as I met her blue eyes. "Why is everyone liking her poem?"

Mariette just sat there, arms folded. Her bright, green eyes were frowning. "What's so good about her poem? Why is everyone clapping for her?"

I broke into a large grin.

"Interesting Coleman, very interesting." This time, it was Samuel who spoke up.

I met his startling blue eyes from across the class. He looked startled for a bit, as if he was surprised I had heard him. But of course I had…

He gave me a sort of half-smirk, doing a wondrous job to his handsome face. If Samuel hadn't been such a pig, if he hadn't treated me like this, I would have easily had a crush on him just like any other girl. But I didn't. I hated him. And that was all that mattered.

I found myself glaring at him, all the old hate coming back again like nausea.

"Okay Hannah, very interesting. I must say I wouldn't have expected that to come out of you any time soon." Mrs. Cunningham walked forwards to take centre stage. The clapping ceased.

"Thank you, Mrs. Cunningham." I looked down, passing her my paper.

"Are you planning to pass that up?" She asked. "As good in its message it was, you wouldn't get a very high grade for it…"

I still nodded.

I wouldn't trade that poem nor this moment for any thing else in the world.

For how much shit life gave me, it still had its sweetest moments.


A/n: Oh my God I did 14 pages! A whole whopping 14 pages for one chapter! Are you proud of me? Haha. Alright, I know the last bit of the story is a bit surreal, but you know, we should all just give Hannah a break. (Not a kit kat) LOL. Take it as a reprieve before the storm…

Another thing, I will not be updating much with my exams on the line. I absolutely love this story and will not let it go. I want to thank those who have reviewed me for the previous chapter, thank you so much for helping me go on with this story.

If you've any comments to improve this story or my writing, please let me know. : )

Saxgoddess: Ha ha thanks! As usual, I appreciate your encouragement very much.

Etharizen: lol lol, alright! Rock on girlfriend! LOL! And put glue on that locker too! But punishment's not due yet…at least not for now. :) Thanks!