"Sissy, what in the NINE HELLS possessed you to do THIS? This is the fourth call your father and I have gotten about you acting up." Her mother scolded as she turned out and straightened her seventeen-year old's collar until it was stiff and pretty.
'I'm not three!' Sissy thought, resentfully. 'And it itches when it's up. I hate itchy collars.'
"Honestly, it's your Junior year and haven't made a single friend. I know it's high school, and some kids are immature, but why can't you at least find one girl to talk to?" Her mother continued as she checked Sissy's book bag for homework.
'And I brought it all home. I don't need you checking on me.'
"Sissy, are you listening to me?"
'I wish I wasn't.'
Sissy's mother gave her a credulous glance before she pulled out a pocket-sized make-up kit from her purse. Sissy cringed but didn't resist or push away when her mother pressed the compact into her hand.
"I know that your dad doesn't want you wasting your money, but you could always just borrow my stuff instead of using the cheap crap they sell at Walgreens. At least then, you could be sure it was quality, and it would last so much longer. Your make-up's run completely off." She fussed, subtly prompting Sissy to 'touch up' her face.
'That's because I didn't put any on this morning.' Sissy kept in, 'Wearing make-up makes my face feel like a piece of marinaded steak rubbed with cooking oil, and the stuff comes off under my fingernails when I scratch it. It's gross.'
Her face was actually the very reason her mother had been called in for Sissy's 'Acting up'. After showering that morning, Sissy had parted her hair from the back towards the front instead of putting it back into a ponytail and letting it dry like she normally did. The end result had been something akin to Sadako from the Ring.
Sissy rather liked it. Her mother was aghast, which made Sissy like it all the more.
The incident in school occurred when, to complement her haunting 'do, Sissy had tucked her shirt collar inside her shirt and turned her sweatshirt around, backwards. It didn't look a thing like Sadako's costume, but it was sufficiently bizarre enough to make Sissy look rather like a walking corpse. In response, her classmates had taken a very melodramatic reaction to the costume, most of them resorting to some particularly nasty name-calling.
As she was much used to it and the names had been unoriginal, at best, Sissy might not have gotten in much trouble if she hadn't gotten too into character. The principal had pulled her from fifth hour when Sissy went into an elaborate dance and proceeded to 'place a curse' on Kalie Jets.
'How did it go, again? Rash-havana, mas-karima, keh peth randopu... it was a good one – I'll have to write it down, later. Maybe SHE could do it and actually PUT a curse on her evil classmates.'
"Sissy? Aren't you going to touch-up?" Her mother asked. Sissy hadn't touched the powder puff, instead staring at her reflection.
'I'll touch YOU up.'
"It just seemed like kinda a waste, mom..." Sissy muttered, "...Like, because the day's pretty much over."
Sissy's mother sighed and led her daughter out to the car – a perfectly average, gray, four-seated, three person family, station wagon. A mark of any well off suburban family, just like the house with a garden, yard, and dog.
Sissy hated it.
For one, her mother had bought it for all the wrong reasons. It was the same car that Mrs. Steinroth, Mrs. Ackeroth, and Mrs. Manroth had, from the dull paint jobs to the tacky wood paneling to the sunburst hubcaps. They mixed their cars up all the time. Her mother would climb into the car and adjust the mirror and seat and only realize she was in the wrong car when her keys wouldn't fit into the ignition. Then, the other owner would show up, they'd all laugh and a five-minute trip to a seven-eleven for bread would turn into an hour of 'Catching up'.
For another, her mother hadn't needed this car. Sissy's father had a car – a smooth, spotless, white Jaguar, for Crissake – that had only ever driven ten-thousand miles since Sissy had been born. Five-thousand of those had been on three trips out of the state. It was still perfectly good and a much nicer car. In fact, it was better, both faster and more efficient.
Sissy didn't like that car, either, but she didn't hate it like she did the station wagon.
Sissy's mother got in on the driver's side, taking her daughter's backpack with her. Inwardly, Sissy groaned – that meant her mother wanted her to ride. The first time Sissy had opted to walk home when her mother came to pick her up, she hadn't been able to find her backpack, and, subsequently, didn't get any of her homework done.
Inside her mother's car, Sissy stared out the window and into the rearview mirror. Sure, her reflection wasn't much to look at, but Sissy liked to watch herself in the mirror, anyway – something about people's faces and how they moved and looked as they did so fascinated her, but her own face was the only one she could watch without being stared at by another person.
It was an appearance Sissy was proud of – not because she was a great beauty, but quite the reverse. Even on a day when she bothered to comb her hair after she got out of the shower, Sissy's black hair was unkempt and uneven, hanging down in a half-straight, half-curly mess. Given that Sissy was her own barber, her hair was actually much more impressive. Then, between the locks, Sissy's face was long, narrow, pale, and pointed with a straight, pointed nose, a balled up chin, and eyebrows that were thick and prickly with a spot on the bridge of her nose that almost made them into a unibrow. The only way to tell it apart from day to day was the location and exact amount of the copious acne that blossomed all over Sissy's face like the hills of fire ants.
As Sissy watched her reflection in the mirror, she lifted a hand to pick at one of the pus-filled bulges on her chin until it popped and started to ooze.
"Sissy, don't pick – you'll get scars that way." Her mother scolded as she lifted a hand to swat Sissy's hand away from her face. Sissy waited for a moment, then, the moment her mother was looking in the opposite direction, she started picking again, "How's that new cream I got for you working out?"
'It hasn't – I haven't touched that shit since you got it.' Sissy thought. The moment her mother came home from the pharmacy with the acne fighting cream, she'd stood over Sissy's shoulder and watched, just to be sure her daughter followed all the instructions.
"Okay, I guess." Was what she said. Okay was anything but what it had been – the next morning, her skin had been red, dry, and irritated, only to turn greasy as a bacon pan after a few hours.
After that, she wasn't about to use it again.
Her mother sighed.
"Maybe we could get you some of those exfoliating cleansing cloths. Neutro has a new product that come individually wrapped so you can keep them in your backpack or locker..."
Sissy didn't listen to her mother ramble. She was used to ignoring her mother when she got like this. It was always the same in her unending war against her daughter's unattractiveness.
"Sissy, come on – you could be so pretty if you just TRIED. I should take you to a salon, get you a nice, decent haircut, teach you how to curl your hair, do your make-up, match your shoes to your clothes... If you could just put a little effort into it, you'd be a completely different person."
"It's okay, mom." Sissy mumbled.
'No, it's not. I don't WANT to be pretty, or funny, or popular. I don't want to be a different person. I'm HAPPY being ugly, boring, lonely old me.'
Her mother sighed, but dropped the subject, for now. Sissy knew it wouldn't last. It hadn't lasted the first time, and it was unlikely to last, now. The only thing she had to be really grateful for was that her mother had never recruited her father in trying to force Sissy into being a different person.
That didn't mean Sissy didn't have to worry about him. Her father was waiting for them on the porch as Sissy's mother pulled into their house's driveway. His arms were folded across his chest, tie and suit shirt still neatly in place and his stringy hair still swept over the balding patch on his crown. He hadn't even changed out of his office shoes, yet.
"Cecilia Marie Carson." And that was all he said. Sissy didn't need to hear any more – her father's disappointment was more than enough, if only because he was the only one she could turn to for support against her mother's campaign to forge the perfect daughter.
"Hi, Dad." She mumbled, the cloth of her shirt and sweatshirt and jeans and bra and panties suddenly feeling as rough as burlap. They were cotton and spandex and nylon, and all soft from proper care in the wash, but her skin itched so badly that she might as well have been wearing rusty wire.
These were clothes her father had bought for her. Had her mother had her way, Sissy would have had lacy panties and an underwire bra, a shirt that constricted around her waist and ribs and a tight miniskirt with some kind of leggings or patterned stockings to conform to the school district's dress code.
Sissy hated that kind of clothing. Her father had hated the price tags and declared he wouldn't have his daughter looking like a tramp.
Sissy asked for jeans and t-shirts. She asked for sports bras and the plainest, most comfortable granny panties anybody could find. Most important of all, she asked for clothes without the poking threads from embroidery or tags or skintight seams. Her father bought them in abundance – 'And all for under twenty bucks. That's a budgeting skill you can use later in life' – and let her leave the house with no accessories but chapstick and her keychain.
'And after I worked my fingers to the bone all day, I'm not going to stand for you treating me or your mother with this kind of disrespect. We put clothes on your back and food on your plate and I expect some gratitude.' Sissy had the speech memorized, 'If you ask me, I'd call it gratitude that I'm siding with you and not Mom about the whole stupid make-up and girly crap. If I was ungrateful, I'd WANT name-brands that cost four times the amount of generics per square inch of cloth and I'd WANT to go to salons and get makeovers and I'd WANT to have a car and... all that stuff.'
"The school called me at work."
"The principal pulled you out of class for your behavior."
"I also got a call from Mister Jets. About what you said to his daughter."
"Dammit, Sissy! Say something other that that you're sorry! We both know you're not!" Her mother finally snapped. Sissy didn't know if her mother was angry with her dispassionate responses or with the fact that they were talking about this on the front porch, where the whole world could see her humiliation by offspring.
"Caroline, I don't want to hear Sissy say anything like she won't do it again or that she'll start trying harder to get along from now on. You said it yourself – we both know she wouldn't mean it." Sissy's father said. He always knew what Sissy meant and didn't mean. She loved him for that.
At the same time, she kind of hated him for it, too.
Sissy let her parents argue over her head, then turn their argument into a lecture at her. Something about better judgement and putting more effort into it and no cellphone or telephone or television and why couldn't she at least brush her hair a bit more.
Sissy let it all splatter over her. Her parents could have bombarded her with eggs or water balloons or even a whole bucket of giblets. Sissy was used to letting them talk at her and washing it off, later. It was nothing she couldn't just shrug at and let it slide off of her, like shampoo suds out of her hair.
'Nothing's possessed me to do this. That's the scary thing – it's all me, Mom.' Sissy couldn't help but think. And, as always, she thought it with a fierce triumph.
Sissy's room was quiet and dark. She always made sure it was dark – her eyes had enough of light during the day, and she wanted nothing more than to retreat to her lair and let the darkness lull her back into sanity. It was a room on the smaller side, but Sissy made space by putting drapes around the edge of her lofted bed. It was a fortress completely for herself, in which all of her worldly belongings fit and could be kept.
'Maybe I should have a coffin to curl up in. That'd be weird.' Sissy thought. It was the closest she could come to being a vampire – she'd tried drinking nothing but blood, once. She told her mother she'd been sick and didn't want dinner, and in it's place, she siphoned off the blood that ran from the beef.
It hadn't ended very well. Sissy had spent the night in front of the toilet, not puking it up, but with horrible stomach cramps that had made her feel like she was going to hurl. In a way, it had been worse than actually spewing her guts.
But the idea still intrigued Sissy. She still wished so dearly that she could turn out to be something else. That there was something different about her – be it powers like the X-Men had, or be cursed to transform into a monster at the full moon every month, or that she was a reincarnate of some great figure in history, be they Cleopatra or Anne Boylen, she was even willing to settle for Genghis Khan or Adolf Hitler.
But, alas, no matter how many books she read, she never could be something special. She was ordinary, plain, and normal. There were no great supernatural occurrences or phantasms in her house, no bizarre happenings when she got mad at her parents, there wasn't even anything unusual about her family, as it stood. No skeletons in the closets, no strange and fascinating ancestors that Sissy could look back to and say with pride that she was related to them. She wasn't even adopted or born at an unusual time.
Sissy flipped her computer on and let the blue screen illuminate her entire face. This was yet another gift from her father. It had been this or a television for her room. Sissy's mother had wanted the television, mostly because Sissy didn't really watch much and that was already a barrier between her and all the other kids at school.
Her father had wanted the computer because Sissy could watch all the popular shows online with the proper internet connection and have a useful tool at her disposal for other activities. Like homework.
'Thank you, Dad.' And Sissy wasn't sarcastic about it. She was more than willing to do homework if her parents let her use it as an excuse to stay locked up in her room. Her grades were good. She had always been good with homework and school. The teachers loved her for it.
Besides, the computer had given her the greatest gift of all. It had appeared as an innocuous, simple, blank word processing spreadsheet. Then, Sissy had started to type.
Sissy clicked on the file and brought it up. On the first page, she'd typed, in bold, all-caps 'Dripping Gothic' letters the name Carrie.
She liked it.
For one thing, it was named after Carrie Fisher and there was no actress in the world that Sissy admired as much as the woman who had portrayed Princess Leia in the Star Wars trilogy. For another, it was kind of an homage to Stephen King. Reading his stories had made her wish that she could be like the characters.
But, telekinesis aside, Sissy scrolled to the bottom of the document and started to type:
I never meant to make Mama and Papa angry. But this time, it had been too much. I never thought they could be so mad at me just for dressing up. All of the other girls did it. I just wanted to be pretty for once. I'm sick of being their 'Good little girl'. Why can't they see how much they're hurting me when they do this?
"Look at you! I can't believe you went out in public like that, half-naked, where everyone could see you!" Papa shouted. I wanted to cringe and cover my face with my hands, but that would have let him know that I was scared. I wasn't going to let him win.
"Papa, I'm not half naked. You can't even see my knees or collarbone." But he wouldn't listen. He never listened. And Mama never helped me, either. She was too scared of Papa, and besides, she thought he was right.
"You wanted to shave your LEGS!"
Sissy had to pause there. She wasn't quite sure where to go with that one. She'd shaved her legs a few times before. And, to be honest, she still did. Her father hadn't been terribly pleased at first, but her mother had been so excited, she went out and got what appeared to be every hair removal product under the sun. Wax, creams, lotions, spray-on tan. Everything. All Sissy had ever used was the razor and enough cream to stop herself from cutting herself.
Wait! That was it. Exactly what her father had said when she first started.
"You're only seventeen, you don't need smooth legs, because no one's going to be touching them!" Papa roared, his face going purple. I felt everything inside me quiver like the berries in Mama's thanksgiving cranberry jello.
"I'm going to be touching my legs." I mumbled.
Again, Sissy paused. The way it was turning out, it was kind of working in the usual formula of 'Kid does something to anger parent, parent beats kid, everyone's miserable'. She hadn't minded using that formula plenty with Carrie so far, but her character was well developed by now. Now, Sissy wanted something interesting to happen. She wanted Carrie to strike back, to somehow resist, to start up a real plot.
'Maybe I could make Carrie into a witch and she really CAN curse her father...' Sissy mused as she licked her teeth. She could feel the gaps between them and the slimy, bumpy residue from her lunch that hadn't been washed off by saliva during the course of the day.
Sissy lifted a finger to scrape off the disgusting gunk with a fingernail.
'Nah... I coulda sworn that's been done before.' Her front two incisors were clean and smooth. Sissy used her lower eyeteeth to scrape the residue out from under her fingernails, 'And so's the whole telekinetic thing. Maybe she could be telePATHIC... somehow control her father's mind...'
Sissy bit off a peeling sliver of her nail. It'd be a hangnail if she didn't, but she didn't have nail clippers anywhere, and she didn't want to get stuck with another sore finger like she had last month.
Sissy started to nibble at the sharp corners of her nails, wearing them down into round, even edges.
'She could be a monster of some sort... like a demon in human form, or the reincarnation of a legendary spirit.'
That was one fingernail chewed to a round shape. Sissy distractedly nibbled at the other.
'But if I did that, I'd have to go back and change a bunch of shit. There would have been signs earlier on... her parents would have noticed SOMEthing, I don't care how stupid they are.'
Onto her ring finger.
'Ooh, I could make her into a vampire. Or a werewolf.'
Sissy almost cut her tongue on the sliver of fingernail that came off between her teeth.
'No... that's just lame.' She started chewing on her callouses, 'Oh, WAIT!'
Not caring that her fingertips were still wet with spit, Sissy's hands flew over the keyboard:
Papa reached out and grabbed my arm. On instinct, I opened my mouth to scream, except nothing came out. Instead, I heard Papa yell. And it wasn't an angry yell, either – it really sounded like he was in pain. I opened my eyes enough to see Papa pulling his arm away.
It was covered in boils! Steam was issuing from his skin and his flesh was withering down until his arm looked like it was all bone, simply covered with a skin-colored glove.
"Oh my GOD!" Mama cried. I couldn't say anything.
I was just relieved.
'Yes!' Sissy cheered. This was pure gold. Make Carrie able to call on spirits to grant her wishes. In this case, they answered and granted her wish to not be beaten, burning her father's arm when he tried, 'This is pure genius. Good for you, Carrie – show 'em who's REALLY boss around there.'
Turning away from her computer, Sissy pulled out her pad of paper, and made a few quick notes. She'd forget the basic idea if she didn't copy it down. Of course, she wasn't quite sure what else to do with the scene, but she'd be able to take it somewhere.
Not like that mattered. All of her actual imagination was sapped. Now, Sissy needed some real comfort.
Sissy hit the enter key a few times until she'd started a new page, entirely. There, she started typing all over again.
'Hi, Carrie.' She thought. She hit the enter key again and added the words.
How was school today?
Oh. That sounds horrible. You wanna talk about it?
Not really, but I'm still pissed at them.
Anything I can do?
No, not really. I really wish that I could do it.
Don't be. I actually kinda wish I could be like you, sometimes.
That's an idea. We should swap places, like, for a day or something. It'd be just like the Prince and the Pauper.
Heh. I'll bet my parents would love you. Everyone in my world would.
And if you were in my place, everyone would treat you better.
I get the feeling that you could make them.
Sissy stopped typing for a moment. She'd lost all her momentum. The anger and unease that she'd felt with her parents had burned off completely, as though there had been no argument with her mother at all.
'Stupid mom and her stupid make-up.' Sissy thought, sourly, 'I just don't want to be pretty. It's not important.'
Sissy pushed away from her computer and pulled out her math book. She just wasn't able to write anything more.
When Sissy came down for breakfast the next morning, her mother had water boiling for over-easy eggs. Her father was at the table, sipping on his coffee and reading the Journal. His tie was still undone, his sleeves rolled up in the warm May weather. Neither of his arms was even blemished.
Not that Sissy had been expecting anything, but she had been kind of hoping that something would happen. It would have been pretty cool if something had happened. Like he'd bruise his arm or cut himself shaving.
Maybe it was all for the best. If anything happened to her father, he'd risk his job. In that sense, Sissy had never really wished her parents any harm.
'But I'm still pretty good at taking care of myself.' Sissy pondered as she picked an orange out of the fridge and started to slice it up for juicing.
"It's supposed to get into the seventies, today, Sissy." Her mother mentioned, starting to plop eggs into the boiling water as an English muffin popped out of the toaster.
Sissy didn't say anything as she finished juicing her orange and started to eat the pulpy mess that was left.
"Maybe you could wear that sleeveless number your dad got for you at the last sale – I bet you'd look so cute in it." Her mother continued, setting up her blender. Sissy wordlessly went back to the fridge for a peach yogurt for herself and the lemon juice for her mother. If there were English muffins and over-easy eggs for breakfast, chances were that her mother was making Eggs Benedict.
"Just be sure to take a jacket with you." Her father called.
"Joey." Her mother hissed. Sissy gulped down her orange juice and opened her yogurt, staying as far away from the table as she could.
"The clouds out there don't look very seventies weather to me. And even if it is warm, it could start raining." Her father refuted, turning the paper over to the back page to read an ad.
"Thanks, Dad." Sissy mumbled.
Her mother didn't pursue the subject. She also didn't mention anything about what Sissy was eating – Sissy had never been made to eat the same thing for breakfast as her parents, because her mother insisted that Sissy watch her figure and follow an acne diet. Her father wanted her to have at least something because 'Breakfast is the most important meal of the day'.
If Sissy could have had her way, she would have eaten the greasy, fattening food to spite her mother, then no breakfast at all to spite her father.
As Sissy was not generally fond of going hungry, a small meal of juice and yogurt was the best she could manage. Both of her parents let her go with it, and either way, Sissy was excused from sitting down and actually having a meal with her parents. If only she could be so lucky for dinner.
"You should put it together with some jeans. Wish you let me get you some skinny jeans or leggings, but the ones you've got could work if you just cuffed them up to capris. Ooh, you could borrow my jean jacket – it'd be a complete set, that way." Her mother continued.
Sissy concentrated on scraping the last bit of yogurt from the bottom of the carton. Her mother would know what was good looking and fashionable – according to her, she'd been a trendsetting fashion advisor before she'd met Sissy's father. According to Sissy's father, her mother had been a sale floor clerk at Macy's. Every article of clothing in her mother's closet was from the high-priced retailer, and each one either a vivid, solid color with a patterned scarf or vest or bag or jewelry to match it, or a somber black or gray. As if to match her own wardrobe, Sissy's mother had skin that was bronze tanned and bright, golden curls.
'In other words, she's the typical dumb blonde.' Sissy observed as she counted the number of spots on her mother's scalp that were showing their burned sienna brown roots. The parts of her hair that were still fully bleached were so brightly blonde that they looked like neon yellow lights and made her fake tan look like spray-on orange body paint rather than a natural skin tone.
'Only thing missing is the triple D tits that levitate in complete defiance of gravity WITHOUT a bra.' But Sissy knew that, under the bright pink blouse, her mother only had modest C-cups that were kept from sagging around her waistline by a silk and lace, expensive, and undoubtedly painful underwire.
It made Sissy almost proud that, in contrast to her mother, she had AB-cups and a flat butt.
"And put your hair up – you'll need your visibility if it gets misty out there." Her father agreed. It didn't take a genius to realize her father was where Sissy had gotten her looks – his short, thin hair was pitch black with a mind of it's own and his thin, straight mustache overshadowed pale skin with red spots from old, teenage acne scars.
Sissy didn't mind looking like her father, except for the fact that it made for undeniable proof that he was, indeed, her father. From the moment she'd learned about how babies were made, Sissy had found herself wishing that she was the illegitimate, bastard child of her mother and some mysterious lover that would have scandalized the small suburb village.
When that plan failed, Sissy had made it her personal mission to be the scandal her conception could not have been.
Sissy pitched the rinds of her orange and the carton from the yogurt. The clock read quarter after six, but Sissy wanted to get out of the house as soon as possible. So she'd wait on the school steps for an hour or so before her first class, big deal. If it got her out of the house just that much quicker, Sissy was more than willing to leave. She turned out of the kitchen for the stairs when her father called after her.
"Sissy." Sissy stopped on the stairs, "No cell."
Oh yeah. Punishment for acting up in class.
"I'll bring it back down when I'm dressed." Sissy called, starting to climb again. She didn't hear either of her parents call after her, this time.
As she got dressed, Sissy took great delight in picking out her blackest sports bra and her whitest T-shirt. Her mother would faint when she saw the combination and insist that Sissy change. For that, Sissy had a plaid button-up with holes in it. Indeed, as her father asked, Sissy put her hair up in a ponytail, before she unearthed her full backpack and unclipped her cellphone from it's charging station.
It was a chunky, silver flip open device. No real special features – no camera, no text function, no games or downloadable ringtone or anything. It would have been cool in an anti-nonconformist sort of way, except Sissy had never wanted a cellphone in the first place.
On her sixteenth birthday, her parents had snuck it into her coat pocket as they had dinner and cake. Halfway through the meal, Sissy heard an unfamiliar ringing coming from her coat and when she dug the phone out, she's almost dropped it from shock. What neither of her parents had considered was that, eventually, Sissy would have to start paying for this unnecessary piece of crap on her own.
For that express purpose, Sissy hadn't gotten too attached to it. The only numbers in her contacts were her mother's cell, her father's cell, and their house's landline. She'd never dialed them once. Hopefully, if she didn't come to the mindset that she needed it, she could just discard it when she became old enough to pay for it.
"Here, Dad." Sissy mumbled as she left the phone by her father's elbow, downstairs. Then, she turned and fled for the front door.
"Have a good day, sweetie." She heard her father call. She didn't answer.
Outside, on the front steps of their house, Sissy pulled her hair out of the ponytail holder and shook her head to loosen it. Now that she was out of her father's eyesight, what did she care?
Simply writing about Carrie wasn't nearly enough to bring her to life. During the moments that Sissy had to be away from her computer, but still needed to have an understanding ear to listen to her troubles about school and parents, she kept doodling paper handy.
In both her mind's eye and on paper, Sissy rather imagined Carrie to look very much like herself. The only differences lay in how Carrie made herself look. Instead of Sissy's untreated, ratty hair or abused, neglected skin, Carrie had luscious curls of silky ebony and soft, smooth cheeks. Instead of peering eerily out through strands of hair like bars on a prison cell, Carrie gazed up and out like a model from the page, her eyes soft and sweet, and her lips faintly curved in an inviting smile.
It wasn't so much that Sissy wished she could be exactly like Carrie – it was more that, in creating a character that was perfect, but still had the same problems as Sissy had, it gave her some comfort. It wasn't because Sissy was doing anything wrong – it was all because she was surrounded by shallow, thoughtless, self-centered people. After all, that was why Carrie had quite so many problems as she did.
The only class she could really do these sketches in was her study hall. Why not? She didn't see anyone else 'studying'. And her grades were good enough.
There was no teacher in the study hall room: None of the teachers figured it worth their time to sit and watch a roomful of teenagers not study, so the supervision of the group fell to an old retiree from the PE classes. She was usually able to keep the study hall session from turning into a complete recess, but she had no authority to make any of the students do their work.
Sissy liked her. She was a tough, grisly old woman. There could be a sudden uprising of serial killings in the classroom and she wouldn't have died, even if the monster caught her with a chainsaw.
The other teachers would have just let her classmates wander and talk and play. Nobody dared stray more than five desks from their own with this woman.
Behind her, Sissy could hear three girls, each with a half-pound of make-up and three hair colors apiece. All three of them were whispering and tittering, giggling and simpering behind their hands. It wasn't any different from other girls in Sissy's class, but she was angry at these three in particular because they were the ones who were sitting directly behind her.
It was even more frustrating that these were likely three of the main girls who probably had spread most of the rumors about her in middle school. Sissy wasn't sure, but she never would be. Nobody would ever tell her who those girls were, so she had no choice but to make educated guesses. These three were certainly vapid, gossipy, and backstabbing enough.
Her mood ruined, Sissy reached back into her bag and pulled out her idea notebook. She'd written plenty in this notebook before, but lately, she really preferred to type on her computer, at home.
Still, it was nice to reread over old ideas and edit them.
Those girls had done it, again. I don't know why they did it – I never did anything to them. I just asked if I could be in their group at lunch. Those pretty girls. I wanted to be one of them. Not one of their friends, but one of the people they KNEW.
Their pretty, curly hair blonde hair. Their round, rosy faces. Their glittering, laughing eyes. Their collared shirts and pleated skirts. I wish I could be like that.
They took one look and laughed at me. Then, it was back to 'Who has the cutest butt'. Like I wasn't even there.
Why? Because I was wearing pants and a sweater? Because I couldn't fix my hair? Because I wasn't in any of their classes, or clubs, or groups?
Or was it just because it was me? Even if I was pretty and funny and popular, because it was the same old Carrie: The Carrie who'd been Cootie Carrie in first grade, who'd talked to herself and read books on the playground at recess, who'd rather be at school than on vacation.
Was it all MY fault? And if it was, WHY?
Oh, yeah. Sissy'd forgotten that most of her old stuff was more autobiographical than her newer stuff. When Sissy had started creating Carrie in middle school, Carrie had been a middle schooler that all the other kids ignored, laughed at, teased, and generally alienated.
It was when freshman year hit that Sissy invented stories about Carrie's classmates actually bullying her: Throwing her bag into toilets, pranking her locker, sabotaging homework...
Real, true bullies would do that, anyway. These girls were much nastier. Bullies could be caught. When children in school turned up with bruises, bloody noses, black eyes, missing teeth, and roughed clothes, administrators had to do something. Bullying left marks. There was always evidence.
Whispered rumors, gossip, deliberately 'not hearing someone speak', and all that wasn't bullying. Teachers and counselors didn't care about that. And even if they did, what were they supposed to do? Call the police for 'Abusive ignoring'? It was a crime without punishment, and Sissy hated the girls in her class for doing it to her.
Carrie didn't have that problem. Her classmates really did do terrible things to her. She looked the part of an abused classmate. She could prove it, at least, and there was something in place to help her.
'Stupid, selfless Carrie.' Sissy thought. It was her own damn fault nobody was helping her. She didn't have to play the victim all the time.
'Maybe I should have her report it.' Sissy wondered, idly running her pen over a particularly sloppy 'T' and it's cross. 'Or I could have one of the teachers finally pull their head out of their ass and try to help her.'
But thinking about that made Sissy mad. Nobody had helped her. Not once, in all eleven years of school, from the first 'Cootie-shot' day of kindergarten to the 'Let's vote against the freak girl's work in the art contest just because we can' stint of last year.
Teachers hadn't stuck up for her, the student counselors had all said 'Well, it's school and kids can be kind of stupid, sometimes', her mother had said 'You should try to meet them halfway' and her father had just said 'Kids are fickle'. No help. No support. Not even a 'Oh, what a bummer'.
Why should Carrie get any of that? Just because Sissy had the pen in her hand? Who was holding the pen for Sissy's story?
Sissy kept running her eyes over the various paragraphs of Carrie's torment. Each one almost perfectly echoed the things her classmates had done to her in middle school; cliques, clubs she couldn't be in, rules about being popular and cool, and name-calling.
She couldn't believe she'd used to write like this – it was just so... tacky.
We read a new book in our English class, today. In it, the main characters call themselves 'Greasers' or 'Hoods'. Their rivals are called 'Socs' – as in 'Social'... but shortened.
I remember when Papa told me about Greasers. He called them 'The scum of the city' and said they should all be lined up and shot. I didn't question him at the time, but when I started reading, it was like they were really my people. They weren't bad – they were misunderstood. It wasn't because they were evil that they did the things they did – it was because other people treated them horribly.
Papa would be a 'Soc'. He fits perfectly – better money, better job, better clothes, better house, better everything. According to him, that means his life is better and therefore, he is a better person. It doesn't matter what he acts like – he's got the social standing. Social class. That's what makes you a good person or not, according to him.
I think I'm a 'Greaser'. Not because I'm in a gang or because I have street-smarts, but because I only want good things in life, for everyone. These 'Greaser' characters... they might fight and swear and steal, but their hearts are pure gold. I'd like to think of myself like that.
The other kids don't quite seem to think like that, though. We were in computers the other day. One of the boys called me a 'Soc' to my face. All the other boys started saying it, too. Then the girls. They even said my name first, then deliberately said 'I mean...' as though it had become my new name for them.
I didn't stay in that class. I never even saw the teacher come in.
It was almost word for word the way Sissy's moment had been. Seventh grade. She didn't remember what the book had been, but she did remember the author – S.E. Hinton. She remembered that because he also wrote That Was Then, This Is Now. And she had, indeed, thought of herself as a complete greaser.
Respectively, that meant the other kids were all 'Socs'. Not just because they were her arch-rivals in every aspect of life, but because that's what they were: Self-righteous, self-absorbed, snob-appealed little bastards. Anyone who wasn't in the same social class as them was a second-class citizen. She'd despised their mentality, and made sure all of them knew it with the newfound name for them.
When one of the boys – Marcus Baleman – had turned around and started calling her a 'Soc', Sissy had almost started crying. For one thing, it was essentially calling her everything that she wasn't. For another, it was almost like he'd been saying she was one of THEM. She WASN'T one of them! She would NEVER be one of them!
It was the one insult that had struck deeper than any other, and lasted longer. Sissy had vowed that she would never become one of the popular girls.
Even if it cost her her life.