A tormented shadow, a broken soul

Noise engulfed the young girl as she stepped onto the busy streets of the city. Cars honked, birds chirped and bells rang. The teenager quickly hailed a cab and got in.

She hurried to school on that busy Monday morning. The little who knew her greeted her while passersby noiselessly bumped into her. Josie Sanchez was nobody in her school and no one would want her in their group. She was an outcast, a loner, a mere shadow in the corridors. She didn't even have real friends, just acquaintances, people who pitied her.

In fact, Josie even pitied herself. No matter what she did or how hard she tried, she could never get people to like her, really like her and not just faking it like everyone usually did. She herself thought that she was ugly, what with her orange copper colored hair and dark moss green eyes. She really wished she were different from what she was now, that she looked better than she did and maybe, just maybe, she would finally be accepted by her classmates and not be ridiculed endlessly. But her wishes were in vain and her hopes futile for nothing could ever change the will of fate.

Josie Sanchez was invisible. Teachers whose classes she's been in for years don't even remember her. She was just another face in the crowd. But she wanted to be somebody. She wanted to stand out.

When Josie opened her locker at school, pictures of the guy she had a major crush on flew out and settled in a heap at her feet. Everybody looked at her and laughed, especially the meanest girl in school.

"Ew, Josie, what are my boyfriend's pictures doing in your locker?" Paullina asked loudly, stressing the word 'boyfriend' for all who were listening to hear.

As usual, her cronies Valerie and Cameron flanked her. The three of them were the prettiest, richest and, obviously, the most popular girls on campus. Nearly everyone adored them and they practically had every cute boy in school wrapped around their fingers.

"Do you have a crush on him or something?" Valerie asked as she blew a bubble gum in her favorite pink cherry flavor.

"How low! Stalker much?" Cameron said harshly as she rolled her eyes, not even giving Josie a chance to explain herself.

Hot tears immediately sprang to Josie's eyes. She could never handle the trio's super harsh words, especially not now.

"H-how c-could you possibly know that?" Josie asked, her nervousness making her stutter ever so slightly. She was embarrassed and surprised that the three of them knew that she had a crush on that guy, and not just any guy, that guy was Paullina's boyfriend, as she had practically yelled it for the whole school to hear.

"Aw, Josie, you poor, pathetic thing…some of your so called 'friends' saw you sneaking behind the men's comfort room, trying, and failing as always, to find him." Paullina said.

"Definite stalker." Cameron said mockingly as she inspected her newly manicured fingernails while Valerie just laughed at Josie.

"Oh, and you should definitely be careful next time. You wouldn't want anything to happen, now, would you?" Paullina said with a threatening edge to her voice.

Josie didn't know what she meant about that but she wasn't going to stick around to find out. She made a mad dash towards her homeroom class where she hoped she wouldn't be too embarrassed. But when she opened the door, a bucket of dead frogs dropped down her head. The frogs were used for their science experiment and were obviously there to serve as a trap for her, a trap that she had just walked into.

"Aaah!' she screamed as the slime oozed down her entire body and seeped through her clothes. "Eeeeew…"

The other students who had been waiting for her inside the room laughed hysterically. At the first sound of laughter, she quickly buried her face in her hands and rushed to the bathroom, which had become her sanctuary ever since fifth grade. Once there, she locked herself in a cubicle and let the tears come freely.

"Dude, there's, like, someone crying in here." a voice spoke.

"Whoa, there's a girl in the men's room! Radical, dude." another one said.

Josie overheard this and when she went outside, there were many boys staring at her. She felt the heat rush to her cheeks as the boys surveyed her frog slime soaked shirt and pants. Her heart began to beat loudly and her palms were sweaty. Then, everything went black.

"Josie, Josie." someone said. "Josie, wake up."

"Uh…" Josie groaned. "Wh-where am I?"

"Honey, you're in the clinic. You fainted a while ago in the men's room." The school nurse explained as Josie regained consciousness. "Oh, I almost forgot, someone told me to give you this."

Josie took a small piece of paper from her and read the short note. It said:

GO TO THE SCHOOL GARDEN DURING LUNCH

Pocketing the piece of paper, she proceeded to her locker where she always kept a spare set of jeans and a shirt in case of emergencies. She hurriedly changed in the girl's bathroom and went to her second period math class since she had already missed her first period chemistry while she was busily unconscious in the clinic. During the whole period, the many students kept whispering to each other behind her back but after what seemed like an eternity to Josie, the lunch bell finally rung and Josie was glad to drop her books by her locker.

"Hey, Josie, I heard about this morning." Matt, Josie's one and only friend ever since first grade, said as he suddenly appeared at her locker.

"You and the whole school, in fact..." Josie replied as she pretended to be busily arranging her notebooks.

"You know, you really shouldn't let those girls get to you, Jo. You already know how low they go, they'll destroy anything they get their hands on." He said.

"What can you possibly expect them to do anyway?" she replied angrily. "They're nothing but dirty cheats, every single one of them."

"Jo, nearly everybody knows that." He told her.

"Yeah but that still didn't stop them from laughing at me when Paullina and her clones framed me. Neither did that fact stop everyone from ridiculing me when that bucket of frogs was practically dumped on my head!" Josie said, slamming her locker door shut.

"Hey, Jo, I know you're mad but that doesn't give you the right to get mad at me, okay?" He said defensively.

"Oh, so that gives you the right to just go ahead and kick me when I'm down?" Josie argued.

"What are you talking about? I didn't do anything to you!" Matt replied, frowning at her.

"Like you didn't play a part in their scheme!" Josie retorted, pointing an accusing finger at him.

"I haven't done anything at all." Matt said firmly.

"Yeah, right..." Josie said, disbelievingly.

"Look, just because those people made your life miserable doesn't mean you can go biting people's heads off just 'cause you're angry. The whole universe doesn't revolve around you, Jo, so stop acting like it is and face the facts!" Matt said as he turned on his heel and marched away angrily.

"Fine…" Josie replied, her expression slowly changing from furious to regretful as she realized she had just driven away her best friend, the only one who stood by her side while she was being taunted and teased relentlessly.

'What did I just do?' Josie asked herself solemnly as she watched Matt's retreating figure walk down the hall.

Saddened by the turn of events, she went to the garden, not noticing the stars that her schoolmates sent her way. Once there, she saw many people standing and looking at some posted pictures. When she saw the pictures, she froze in shock.

She found herself looking at the time when the dead frogs dropped on her with slime oozing down her front and the time she mistakenly went to the men's room. There were lots of them! Just when she thought that the day couldn't get any worse, this kind of thing had to happen.

Fresh tears clouded her vision as she did the only thing that came to her mind, she ran. She hurriedly ran away from the garden, away from the school, from the students, and from the humiliation she went through nearly every single day of every week in every month of every year ever since fourth grade. She quickly ran to the safety of her house where she could find solace in her room. Running as fast as she could to her house where she could get out of her slime covered clothes and stop the embarrassment she felt, she found the house covered with tissue paper and egg yolks when she got home.

Humiliation ignited anger within her as she sliced through the sticky tissue paper and egg yolk to get at the doorknob. She grabbed it and twisted it but it didn't click open as it usually did. She was too enraged and upset about what had happened to her at school that she forgot about the door being locked.

She kept on turning it but nothing happened. She started banging on the door when it finally hit her that the door was locked. Her parents were out together and would come home late so they left her a copy of the house key.

"The key…" she whispered to herself while diving for her bag but she screamed the moment she zipped it open.

Big cockroaches, huge grasshoppers and a few humungous spiders came out of her bag. She instinctively kicked it away as a few other creepy crawlies were making their way out of it. She shook with fear, rage and embarrassment as she thought to herself that this day was going to be a long one.

She waited for her parents all afternoon because she found that someone had stolen her key. When her parents finally arrived home, they were very shocked and unbelievably furious at what happened to the house. They scolded her for her irresponsibility and grounded her for the rest of the week.

Silent tears were already flowing down her cheeks and the moment the door was unlocked, she ran upstairs to the bathroom and cried until she thought she had no tears left. Just as she was about to leave and go on with her failure of a life, she saw a small bottle of Valium by the medicine cabinet.

"This day started out bad and it only became worse. Nearly every single day of my life has been awful but never as bad as today. It's best if I end it now…for everyone." she said as she drank an overdose of the anti-depressant.

Slowly, it began to take effect; numbing her from all the emotions she had felt. She calmly released the now empty bottle and gracefully fell on the bathroom floor with her eyes half closed. She then slept for all time never to awaken again.

A moment later, Josie's mom knocked softly on the bathroom door where she knew her daughter was in.

"Josie, honey, come out now. You've been there for quite a while. Listen, don't mind your father, hun, he's just a bit unstable because of what happened earlier today. Come on, Josie, talk to me." She said, pressing her ear to the door.

When she heard nothing, she began to panic. Calling her daughter's name, she frantically banged on the door as she willed it to open.

"Josie? Josie. Josie! Open the door, Josie. Honey, open the door. Josie!" she kept yelling at the same time fumbling for the spare keys to the bathroom door.

At last, she got the door open but the sight that laid before her made her wish she hadn't opened it. There, lying on the carpeted bathroom floor was her beloved daughter with her half-opened eyes staring straight into nothingness. She wanted to scream but her voice was caught in her throat.

The traumatized mother just kept staring at her daughter's now lifeless form, unable to move away from the doorframe. Her lips moved soundlessly as she uttered her daughter's name before breaking down completely.

"Josie!" came the anguished cry from Josie's grieving mom as she crawled to her daughter and cradled the dead girl as before when she was just a small child.

At that precise moment, Josie's father, attracted by his wife's screams, entered the bathroom.

"Jane, what are you…" He froze in mid sentence, paralyzed at the scene that lay before him: his wife, cradling their daughter as she cried helplessly and Josie, his dearest daughter, lying unmoving on the floor with an empty bottle of Valium inches away from her open palm.

"No…." he muttered, more to himself than to anyone else. "No!"

"Oh, Josie!" his wife wailed pitifully, clutching her daughter's body close to her.

"This…this can't be happening." He said as he knelt on the floor next to his wife. "This isn't real."

"Josie, Josie." His wife sobbed as she rocked slowly back and forth.

"No!" the grief stricken father yelled at the top of his lungs as he too lovingly caressed his daughter. "Josie, come on, baby, open your eyes. Come on, wake up, honey."

"It's no use, Frank, she's gone." came his wife's sad voice. "Our baby's gone!"

"No! No, it's not over. Josie, wake up! Come on, honey, open your eyes now. Josie!" he yelled in vain.

"She's dead!" Josie's mother shouted at her husband. "She's dead…."

"No. No, Jane, she's not dead. She…she can't…she can't be dead." Frank said over and over again to convince himself from the obvious reality.

"She is! She's gone. There's nothing we can do about it…." Jane said solemnly, hanging her head low.

"You're right." Josie's father said after taking a few deep, calming breaths. "We might as well just call an ambulance or paramedics."

"You call them. I think I'll tell mom and dad what happened…" Jane said, standing up from her crouching position over her daughter.

"Alright." Frank replied monotonously as he too left his daughter's side.

Barely an hour after the incident, the news spread faster than a wild forest fire of the teenage girl who killed herself. The students could be seen in tight groups huddled together discussing the latest news of the suicide.

"I can't believe she'd do that to herself." A student would be heard saying to another often in between classes.

"Yeah, and to think I thought I had it bad at school." Someone would reply.

"All the same, she should have gone for help and not end her life like that." A critic would frequently say.

"Come on, like you could handle the pressure without cracking too." another student would say.

Everyone had their own versions of the story but in the end it was all the same, the girl just had enough and the trauma of high school was too much for her. The whole school was taken by surprise at the turn of events but one trio managed to retain their icy attitude and live up to their reputation as ice queens.

"She couldn't have handled college anyway so it was good that she killed herself." Paullina would always be heard saying.

"Besides, who would miss a nobody like her?" Valerie would ask in reply.

"True enough, we all knew she was weak and couldn't handle any more pressure than was given to her." Cameron usually said.

"How can the three of you say such things? You always picked on her and pulled dozens of pranks on her. I'd say that it was your fault that Josie died." Matt would be heard saying as he reprimanded the trio sternly, blaming them for the death of his best friend. Even after her death, Matt defended his friend from anyone who would insult her memory.

A week later, the funeral of Josie Sanchez was held. After a year, Josie Sanchez was just a memory and the story of the sophomore who killed herself was now a mere myth. And life went on, oblivious to the death of a girl who has suffered and died at the cruel hands of fate.

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