Under Our Skin

Chapter 1- Chipped Paint

When I place my freshly manicured hand on my locker I instantly yawn. I politely cover my mouth, as I do. My mouth stretches long and wide, holding briefly as the desperately tired noise exits through my fingers, with my eyes closing. When the yawn is over I open my lids and roll my shoulders in a little stretch. It feels fantastic. Yet, still leaves me feeling how I felt earlier when I woke up.

Exhausted.

In a blurry haze I peel my eyes open wider to stare blankly at my locker. I drop my hand to my side while mentally trying to open my locker's lock. Unfortunately, the black circular dial would not turn and I only sigh.

I really didn't feel like exhausting any energy today. I blame my weekend escapades for my sorry state on this Monday. Had I not been so preoccupied with nonsense, over the past three days, would I not be in such a sorry state? In thinking about all the crazy things that went on I frown in memory. God, I didn't want to even think about my actions the past days. It certainly was one mistake after another and just kept getting worse as time passed.

If only I could take back just half of what occurred over this weekend.

If only.

I jolted when I felt a vibration run through my body. At first, the pulsation shocked me. It lasted for only a few seconds then stopped. Then it started up again. I immediately looked down at my bag; it snuggled between my right arm and the side of my body, and sighed.

It was just my cell phone.

I propped my huge bag up and dug around searching for the metal object. My small fingers touched the moving thing and I grip it into my palm. When I see the display of the number, shining brightly on my phone, I feel disgust at the caller name. It literally sent a shiver up my spine.

If only I could take back my weekend.

My phone stops vibrating before I can think to answer. I'm relieved. I didn't feel like beginning my day with hearing the sound of that voice so early. I close my hand tightly around my phone, clutching it in remembrance. I reopen my hand and watched the "missed call" flash across the screen as my mind wanders.

If only.

The sound of voices echoing down the halls snaps me back to the present. I look towards the voices and watch as students began to fill the hallway for the day. I check the time on my watch and determine that the buses must have just arrived. Classes would be starting soon.

So goes getting up early to get here before everyone else.

I roll my eyes and throw my phone into my bag. I shift on my heeled feet and go back to the task of opening my locker. I am grateful as I turn the dial to the right numbers so it poses no issue.

At least my mind was awake enough to remember the three numbers correctly.

When my locker opens, I pull out the books I need. History, biology, and math. Such boring classes with big books.

I stuff them into my bag reluctantly. My mother was always telling me that I should opt to get a book bag. On days like this it's the only advice I would ever take from her. But, fashion posed more an issue for me now more than comfort.

Speaking of.

I gaze at the door of my locker, where I had expertly stuck a mirror, to check my appearance. As I heard more people filling the hallway I wanted to make sure I was looking my best. I had absolutely no time to do my makeup perfectly as I was rushing to get to school early.

It seemed like such a pointless effort now.

I was actually surprised as I looked at my reflection. I didn't look bad at all. My brown eyes didn't have any baggies. That was good. I expected my face to show how tired I was feeling inside. Happy to know it didn't. My lipstick looked even and glossy. I rubbed them together to get rid of some of the shine though. The only thing I did regret about the makeup job was my eyeliner.

You can barely even see it.

There is one thing that I like a lot of in my makeup and that is heavy eyeliner. It always gives my eyes the pop they need when it's on thick and arched. What I have on now, just doesn't give my eyes justice.

I flutter my eyes trying to see if I should take the time to put on more or not. I turn my head here and there, for different angles, just to get a better look. The more I stare into the mirror the more I feel like I should take the time, so I look away. I was far too lazy at the moment to deal with a makeup emergency. Besides, I can slack off once in a blue moon.

I recheck inside my locker, and bag, to make sure I gathered everything I needed. I did not need lip from any of my teachers for not being ready. I've been reprimanded too much already for forgetting my books. With two months into my junior year I was hoping to follow some of the rules this year as I have since getting in high school. If I keep the teachers happy, it keeps my mom happy. If it keeps my mom happy, I'm free to do as I like with no fuss no matter what it is.

And I rather like that.

With one more check in my locker I nod and begin to close the door when I notice something.

The paint is chipping.

All the way in the back of my locker I see a white spot boldly drilled in the middle of all the darkness inside. I tilt my head and reach inside to glide my nail across it. I wince when something wedges between my nail and skin. I pull back my hand to find a paint chip stuck underneath my fingernail. I use my other hand to pull it gently out, inspecting the yellow fleck.

It was paint.

I shake my head while plucking the yellow chip down to the floor. I watch it float and land on the linoleum by my left foot. I step back almost afraid for it touching my brand new shoes. Of course I know I could always wipe it off if it did, but it just seemed like such a hassle.

When I move I bump into someone behind me. Glancing over my shoulder I catch the sight of some girl. Apparently, she's with some other girls. They stop when she does to take a glimpse at me. When she turns my way I see her mouth open and her brows furrow.

Here it comes.

"Excuse you," I say with a bite and an evil eye. I raise my right eyebrow while narrowing my eyes. I already know the drill to this. Always say something before they do.

Her mouth snaps shut. It doesn't shut because of what I said, but because she finally got really good gander at me. Her friends did, before she did, however. I could rightfully see their astounded faces the very instant they saw me. And now the main girls face matches her friends.

A look of dread.

I slightly turn, towards the group, eyes still slanted.

"I'm sorry were you going to say anything?" I ask staring at the girl. I'm amused when she looks away.

"Um, no. I didn't…I didn't mean to bump into you…" she mutters under her breath.

"That's how you apologize?" I scoff, flipping my hair. I crack a sinister smile. "You almost knock me down and that's how you are going to say you're sorry? Really?"

Intimidated, the girl slumps her shoulders. She gets the nerve and looks at me while clearing her throat.

"I didn't see you. I really didn't mean to bump into you, honestly!" she gets out rather clearly. I laugh at her and shake my head. I turn back towards my locker, to primp in my mirror.

"Well next time watch out where you're going idiot," I spit out. I watch for her reaction in the mirror. All she can do is tuck her tail between her legs and walk away silently. That group of hers trails behind her as she does.

I slyly look towards the group to watch them walk away. I chuckle quietly to myself.

Many knew the drill when it came down to me.

You never fuck with the queen bee.

"Oh no, did we miss something good?" I heard the chime of one of my two best friends, Dionne King, flow through my ears from behind. I eagerly smile and spin on my heels to catch her and my other bestie, Harper Holt, making their way towards me.

They are arm and arm with curious smiles on their lips. Dionne is brazenly wearing a rather tight leopard print dress that hugs her in all the right places. I rather envy her pear-shaped body. She was a little shorter than me but could rock anything she put on. She always had the curves on top and bottom. Her caramel skin was blemish free, with and without makeup, and she was well fit and toned.

Harper, on the other hand, was down in jeans and an oversized shirt that hung off her left shoulder. Her curly, blonde, long locks bobbed about playfully to match her wide smile. She was just a bit taller than me and slim with incredibly long legs. On her feet were matching heels, which made her even taller, completely towering poor Dionne. Harper always reminded me of a Barbie doll. Tanned and blonde. She, as well, was a complete man killer when she wanted to, even with her mellow personality.

When both the girls get closer I open my arms and excitedly jump about . We all come together in a big hug while giggling and giving each other air kisses of hello's.

"No, no, just some pests fluttering in my breeze is all." I say as we all part from one another. Both the girls look behind me, I guess to eye the pests. "No one important to worry about."

"Aw, and here I was hoping for some morning drama," Dionne laughs. She unlinks her arm with Harper and went next to me, on the right, to her locker. "I swear I'm fueled to start something today."

Harper follows in suit with Dionne and goes beside her to her locker as well.

"Oh no, Dionne. I thought we said you'd go for at least a week before you do some bitchy shit again," I say watching the two do their combinations. I look at my locker to close the door again. Before I do, I glance at the ugly white spot, in the back, and try not to snarl.

It just looked hideous.

"Ariana, you and I both knew that was unattainable when she drunkenly made that oath," Harper added teasingly. "She'd explode and turn to dust if she wasn't."

I nod while my locker closes. Dionne was never one to step back and bite her tongue, or try to bite someone else's either for that matter.

"Hey! I told you guys to stop saying that. It's like your cursing me. I'm never going to be a good girl now," Dionne chuckles. She's deep into her locker searching around for everything she needed for her day.

I lean against my locker letting my head rest against it.

"Do you even know the meaning of being a good girl?" I reply lewdly. Dionne emerges from her locker. She looks at me pursing her lips together and rolling her eyes.

"I believe it can enter into my vocabulary. I have to keep hope alive."

I laugh out loud at her and Harper does as well.

"And speaking of the good girl…" Harper begins as she shuts her locker. She gives me this look with her eyebrows raised. Dionne looks up at her and both snicker together. I cross my arms staring at them questioningly. They both say nothing as Dionne finishes getting her things together and closes her locker. Harper moves to her side and I turn around and begin walking. Dionne and Harper follow a little behind me.

"What's going on?" I ask when they both enter my peripheral view. We walk side-by-side down the hall on our way to class. We all had the same first class, so we were going in the same direction. As we turn the corner, I hear contained laughter. Harper nudges Dionne, who then looks at me coyly.

"Well we just find it laughable that you have anything to say about being a good girl. It's just hypocritical after what you did this weekend," Dionne stated.

Shit.

I stop and the two girls stop a few feet in front of me. They eye me suspiciously.

They didn't find out did they?

I clear my throat.

"What did I do this weekend?" I question. I didn't want to give anything away if they weren't talking about what I thought they were talking about. It was one of the reasons I wanted to take back my weekend. My heart began to race when they stepped closer and I gripped the strap of my bag in my hand.

"Oh don't act like you don't know," Harper whispers down to me when people are now around us. "I mean…everyone knows."

"Paul told everyone," Dionne said nonchalantly.

I feel a headache coming on.

I let out a scoff and being to walk again, trying to keep my composure.

"Okay, so what that makes me deemed never a good girl then?" I say trying to keep myself together. When I close my eyes it's almost in slow motion. When my lids close, and I see the brief darkness, one of the images from the weekend flashes in remembrance. I feel a heavy lump begin to form in my throat, the squeezing of my hands on my strap getting tighter.

I can't just lose it now.

I hear a loud yell behind me and Dionne is now to my right side and Harper on the other. They squish me between them both.

"I can't believe you didn't tell us! We both felt like outsiders when we're your best friends here," Harper exclaims.

"We had to hear from his fucking goonies, Ari. His goonies!" Dionne added.

"I was planning to tell you guys…" I began, lying through my teeth, while still trying to play this all off.

I blink again and another image flashed making me grimace.

"…just a bit later."

"Well whatever. It doesn't even matter now. What matters is you give us to juicy details," Dionne said sweetly.

I really don't want to.

"Like does he really have a big, you know?" Harper asked.

I really can't remember.

"It's cock, Harper. Cock. You're a big girl now."

"Oh shut it Dionne. I was being slick with it."

"That wasn't slick. That was just dumb. You can't even say cock now?"

"Look not everyone can say that so straightforwardly as you can. The only reason you can say it is because it's no stranger to that mouth of yours. It bounces around in there so much it just can roll off the tongue."

I listen as the two girls and try to keep a little smile on my face. I feel the pressure of having to speak about it coming very soon, but I really want to avoid this conversation. I am more than relieved when I see the classroom. I even quicken my walking just to get there faster. Both Dionne and Harper were completely unaware as they continue their squabble. It is only when I break free from between them that they do.

I put on a fake smile, letting my hands begin to let go of my bag strap, as I finally get to the door.

"You know what? I forgot I have to go turn something in to Ms. Wise," I interject with a cowardly lie. The two girls look at me and shrug as they walk into the classroom a little. Other people in the class stop to take a look at us. Dionne gives one of her best scowls to the bunch and they all go back to what they were doing before.

"Don't think you're getting out of telling us," Dionne states plainly.

I let out a soft laugh.

"I will tell you guys. I'm really sorry you had to find out like that. I do owe you some juicy details," I say and laugh. Dionne and Harper nod.

I have to get myself together mentally to lie about what really happened.

"I promise I will guys. I just have to rush and give this thing to Ms. Wise. You know how she is." Again both of them nod. This time I walk backwards to put distance between us. "Tell Mr. Mercury I might be late."

Before I am able to get a reply from them I hurriedly walk away. The bell rings as my eyes began to tear. Luckily, the remaining students were clearing the halls in a mad dash to get to their classrooms.

None noticing my watering eyes.

At the end of the hall was a stairway and eagerly wanting it closer. I want to run to it, but stop myself from becoming suspicious.

I very well couldn't be seen like this.

Not now.

Once I get to the stairwell I halt dead in my tracks at the people coming up the stairs.

Paul.

I wipe my eyes quickly and began to descend down the flight of stairs towards him and his friends.

I know I shouldn't, but I hesitated too long to think of another option.

Paul and his friends were flaunting their school football jerseys and laughing boisterously. I moved to the right-hand side and try to bow my head low enough to not be noticed. I safely pass the bulky guys and almost sigh with relief when none of them speak to me.

They had better things to do than pay attention to me.

I get pass the last guy when a hand wrapped itself around my left upper arm firmly. I gasp. I could feel the churn on my stomach already. Even before I could glance at the person-I knew who it was.

"Hey Ari," the deep baritone voice echoed in the stairwell. I acted surprised when I saw Paul.

"Oh! Paul! You scared the shit out of me." I laugh and smile up at him. I cast my eyes over to his friends and wave. Paul lets go of my arm and I cower against the stairwell wall looking at him.

Paul turns to his friends and says something to them, which I couldn't hear, making them all go on their way. He grins at me and comes down the stairs to my level. I nervously began to try moving closer to the wall behind me.

Paul was a large and tall guy. He painstakingly was taller than me by more than inches. His jersey had long sleeves, but he had rolled them up, showing off his muscled chocolate arms. I couldn't help but stare at them. I didn't want to really look at his face.

He came closer to me and I shut my eyes closed instinctively when those arms lifted to engulf my body in a hug. I had to stop myself from pushing him away from me as I lifted my arms and wedged them between the both of us.

He had to have noticed, however, because he just gave a quick hug before pulling back.

"What's with that attitude?" he asked.

I look around, to check if anyone was around before I spoke.

"You told people?" I ask softly. I didn't see anyone near us, but it was a stairwell. I didn't need any of this echoing.

Paul laughs.

"So?"

"So!"

"What? Come on. I just told some of my boys. I can't stop them from telling other people. I even tried calling you earlier to let you know," Paul said nonchalantly. He gave a wide toothy smile, licking his lips. He leans forward, towards me, extending his arms, pressing them on the wall on either side of my head. "It's not really a big deal. We've been going out for a while now. I'm pretty sure people thought we were fucking anyways."

I flinch when he said that last sentence. I stare at him as he stares back. I felt so sick just looking at him. And for him to go about saying it like that...

"Besides, we'll be doing more of it sometime," Paul whispers into my ear, pressing closer into me.

"Get away from me Paul," I seethe. I felt my body being to shake with disgust at the feel of his breath on me.

Paul doesn't listen and immediately places his hands on my ass bringing me closer to his tall frame. This time I push him with as much strength as I can. It didn't faze him. He just laughs and leans down to kiss me, but I turn my head quickly so we don't connect.

"Why you acting like a bitch?" Paul said angrily, grabbing my chin to maneuver my face in his direction. I push him again, but he just holds me tighter. I feel the pressure on my chin and close my eyes when it begins to feel painful.

It's just like what happened this weekend.

All at once the memories floods fully into my mind. I gasp out loud at the gross feeling that ran through my body. My eyes snap open and I wiggle in his grasp, trying to get free.

"Stop Paul!" I scream lifting my hand and smacking him across the cheek. I didn't even realize what I did until he falls down on the stairs holding his cheek-until the pain in my hand begins to burn and throb.

He looks up at me, confused. I was shocked myself. I was scared.

Instantly, when my senses kick in, I run. I run down the stairs, holding my bag with all my might as it heavily weighed down on my shoulder. My ankles could barely take the pressure of my new heels.

I don't look back, as I go down the flights of stairs, but I could hear Paul yelling. His voice got further and further with each floor I was able to make. When I finally get to the ground floor I push the door open and hide near a pillar to catch my breath. I did a quick check around, making sure Paul really didn't follow me, and make my way to a place I could be alone.

I wasn't going to skip school, but for now I just needed to take a breather to gather myself.

As I walk calmly through the school, I was more than happy to not spot anyone. It was a bit of a walk. I had to walk quietly past the main office, undetected, to make my way to the gymnasium. Through the gymnasium I go through the girl's locker room and outside. Once outside I make my way past the green house and a bit behind. There is was.

A quiet place.

It was a good distance from the school, but completely solitary. I found it not too long ago and thought it was not part of the school property. It was a small cleared area in the woods, behind the greenhouse. I believe that some stoners used it to get high there, at one point, with the old lawn chairs and couches strewn around in a circle. Not to mention the beer cans and cigarette butts that were everywhere. Overtop, to overlook, everything was a worn out old treehouse. I was much too terrified to climb the decaying steps to peep inside though.

I pant when I finally make it to the area and sigh with relief. My heart was thumping wildly in my chest as I suck the air through my lungs. I lift my fingers to wipe the sweat that began to form on my forehead. Looking down at the tips they clearly had my makeup across them, but I really didn't care.

I probably looked a mess. I ruined my heels. They were now caked with dirt. My outfit had twigs and leaves attached to it and my hair was all over my face. I move the black strands away from my view as I gasp for air.

I lean over, hands on knees, and try to breathe in and out slowly. I stare intensely at the ground focusing on breathing. My bag slides off my shoulder. I move my arm and let it drop to the ground, everything I had spewing across the ground. I look at them but my eyes get hazy.

I close and reopen my eyes. They became clear, but only for a moment.

That's when I notice the water glistening across my arm from the wiping. I look downwards and see the droplets falling. When they came in contact with the ground the dirt soaks each of them up.

I was crying?

I suddenly shake violently. The fear, the disgust, everything that was being held in was now coming out of me. I could only dig my hands into my knees. My mouth opens, but no sound comes out. I shake, squeezing my eyes shut as I cried.

Then this awful noise came from deep within me, causing me to take a deep breath and repeat the noise again and again. I couldn't control it. Then the image of Paul on top of me, pushing himself into me when I said no…

I vomit.

What a sight I was. A complete mess. I was a hunched over mess, throwing up from all the pain from the weekend.

When I stop, coming to a soft sob, I wipe my eyes.

I don't know for how long I was hunched over and crying, but I felt tired. More so than I did when I first got to school.

I stood up, staring at the sky. The sun felt warm, peeking through the trees. As I took a deep breath, out of nowhere, something struck me in my shoulder.

I look and see nothing.

Then something else flies and strikes me, this time I'm able to spot it as it rolls around the ground.

It was a pebble?

Another came at me. This time, I clearly see it zoom through the air towards me. I dodge it. As I looked up I saw more and just move out of the way.

It's coming from the treehouse.

I bravely move over to the big tree, looking up and watching the rain of pebbles fall.

I try to speak, but my voice was hoarse. I barely made an audible "hello".

The pebbles stop.

Someone's been up there all this time?

I feel incredibly embarrassed. I want to leave. When I turn heel to gather my things, I hear rumbling and a squeak from above.

I stop when a pebble falls beside me. A grumble soon follows.

I don't know what to do as I stand with my back to whoever was above me.

"Oh man, it's about time you shut that shit up. Do you know you not only woke me up, but kept me awake for the past 20 minutes?"

I turn around angrily, looking up into the tree. I gasp when I see a guy, piercings on his face, staring down at me. His hair was wavy, long, and dark brown. It was on one side of his head, while the other side was shaven down to a trim. He yawns loudly putting his arms underneath his head. Clearly he was lying down as he shifted his head side to side. He then turns and stares blankly at me. One of his eyes was staring down at me and the other closed. He groans and goes back into the treehouse.

"If you're done crying your eyes out then please leave," he says as more rumbling occurs. I stand, dumbfounded. My cheeks get hotter and I immediately hurry over to get my things off the ground and stuff them back in my bag. I have to leave, now!

This was so embarrassing. As I was about to get out of there I peak back at the tree and see him, once again, staring down at me but with both eyes open. He smiles and then sends me a wav. I make my exit as I hear him yell behind me.

"You look like shit by the way!"

Making my way through the forest the sound of his voice catches me off guard and I slip on the ground. I yelp and grab the nearest tree, to stop from falling. I looked at my nail and laugh exhaustingly.

The paint was chipped.