Perfect.

The number one word in my vocabulary.

I got home from school uneasy. My hands are sweaty and I cannot even undress myself without tripping over my skirt. The buttons on my blouse seem too difficult to undo. The atmosphere is threatening. There are no choices, not that I'm allowed to choose, anyway.

My problem? I got nineteen out of twenty-five in my Math homework.

Perfect scores ensure rewards, but having more than five mistakes for homeworks is unacceptable; more than three at tests and quizzes, punishable.

That meant a leather-belt lashing/beating is waiting for me—and that's the slightest punishment. There are more terrifying ones, like being stuck into a sack.

A few hours later, my mother arrived. She demanded a report, and immediately right after I told her the results for my Math homework, her face darkened and her lips crumpled.

I braced myself. She yanked my hair.

One would normally think of running away, but that is unthinkable for me—not because I know that a seven-year-old runaway would have no future, but because my imagination is not creative enough to come up with the strategy.

All I'm taught was how to be the best at Math, English, Science—everything. I simply cannot think of running away because it was flat out bad. No, I don't mean the running away; I mean the thinking is bad, no that running away isn't.

Even my thinking is restricted to purely perfect thoughts. I simply am honed to be perfect: ninety-percent of my waking hours spent for studying (both at school and at home), the other ten percent spent for things necessary for living (like eating and bathing). I only play when I wait for my father to come pick me up from school or when I wait for the afternoon bell to ring, signalling the end of lunch and the start of afternoon classes.

On Saturdays, if there aren't any upcoming tests, I play too, but there really isn't much you can do at home aside from watching weekend TV shows and they're awfully boring—just stars prancing on the stage singing and dancing. (Seriously, how is watching them fun?)

If tests are coming however, I study.

Hard.

I don't even get to watch TV. In fact, on weekdays, turning on the TV is practically a criminal offense. I don't get out of the house. I don't get to walk with friends—not that I have much, and the few that I have were more like acquaintances. Children my age generally shun away from me. You can consider me an untouchable.

Maybe they think I'm a model student, or I'm just too out of their league, or that I'm an insufferable snob, but that doesn't change the fact that people around me don't spend time with me. People I usually don't recognize call out my name from across the street, saying 'Hi!' and waving. I just wave back, and attempt an unsure smile.

So I'm popular, but I cannot really know these people who look up to me, because I'm always at my house, and I only go out to go to school or to go to Church on Sundays with my family, and the saddest thing of all, when people talk to me, they rarely see me.

I don't know if people think I'm kind or not. All they tell me is that I'm beautiful and intelligent.

The Best.

Perfect.

Whatever.

They see my grades (all more than ninety, averaging more than ninety-five), my face, and my hair.

There are others more intelligent than me, others prettier than me, but I've got my hair—the hair that earned me lots of nicknames. Where I live, my hair color is uncommon: brown, deep gold and amber mixed together, strand by strand. All natural, not artificial, and most importantly noticeable—very noticeable.

My unusual hair plus my pale fair skin: I look like a foreigner. Add to that my grades.

But that's only part of me. People don't really see my personality, they don't see the hard part. The cramming of textbooks into each and every one of my brain cell. The belt beating/lashing. The tears my hair has wiped off from my face everytime the belt strikes me.


This is who I am:

I'm always clueless when it comes to people. Indeed, I have a vast stock of knowledge that I'm practically a walking textbook, but aside from the pain of punishment, it cost me real-life interaction with real-life people. When a friend cries in front of me, I don't know what to do.

I'm a cold person. I'm sarcastic, but due to my lack of interaction with people, I easily become anxious especially in crowds, because I don't know what people are saying.

I can never comprehend the situations of other people, unless if it comes eerily similar to some of mine. I can give a person advice, but I'm well aware that I don't know what I'm talking about.

I'm obsessive and compulsive. Due to my childhood, I've developed a perfectionist attitude, fueled by a stubbornness to bend.

I'm persistent, in more ways than one. I want things to go the way I want it to, and if they don't, I want the next thing to happen to be the way I want it to. I lose a face towel, I'd trace everywhere I've gone just to find it, and if I don't want to study, I do not want to study.

I do have quite a violent mother, but she's not really a dragon mother who doesn't listen. It's a child's responsibility to share thoughts with the parent, and I'm glad I realized this. I had quite a childhood back then, but that's the past, and I'm quite thankful for it, because it made me who I am. What matters to me now is how I deal with everything my way.

I'm not that much of an achiever anymore, nor am I as pretty as I was before, but people still praise me for my brains and my looks because I still endure. No longer for my parents alone, but also for myself, I still do my best.

I still have my hair.