Slowly walking to class, Azura Celestine looked down to watch as she put one foot in front of the other in order to avoid eye contact with others as forced her legs to take each and every heavy approaching step. How she dreaded school. How she wished she were any place but here. How she loathed herself.

Azura was a quiet fourteen-year-old, standing at five feet and five inches and having a curvy body type. She had shoulder length inferno red hair that she usually kept tucked behind her ears and beautiful sky blue eyes. Her common choice in clothing was a black skirt, a white shirt, and a black sweater vest over the shirt. She wore a lot of black, Azura knew, but it was the color she liked most; she would even paint her nails black whenever she felt like doing something to her hands.

Azura also had a small interest pool as well. Books were her only friends, and her friends were her most precious treasure. She loved it when characters in the books she read started off as nobodies, but by the end of the story they had become somebodies who were loved by everyone. It was a life she envied, but she was, after all, not a character from a fictional story.

Azura also had a love for anime and manga. Ever since she was a little girl, Azura had a fascination with the art style and the stories. She had a small collection of manga hidden under her bed, and whenever she had no homework or chores to do she would sometimes go online and watch anime. She tried to be secretive about this little love of hers, but one day a classmate found a copy of Codename Sailor V in her backpack, showed it to the whole class, and made fun of her as he proceeded to rip out the pages. Oh how Azura wished she were brave enough to defend herself, but all she did was cower and take all that he threw at her.

Azura continued her trek to class, climbing up the stairs and turning the usual sharp corner. "Hey, Ariel!" a voice shouted. Azura quickened her pace to the classroom, not wanting to meet the ones who had called her. She did not want to go through everything again like she did every school day.

Because of her hair, which was almost too red to be natural, kids at school would make fun of her hair by asking her what dye she used or, most commonly, calling her Ariel after the character from The Little Mermaid. If Azura's parents would have let her then Azura would have dyed her hair brown long before now, but her parents didn't even take into consideration that this would help with the teasing she received in school. It was already bad enough they gave her such a stupid name, anyway.

Azura hated her name with a burning passion, and sadly no nickname she could think of would both sound natural and be a play off of Azura. Why couldn't her parents have been the kind of cruel people who gave their daughter the same first name as her last? Celestine was a given girl's name, and a beautiful one at that. Azura even came up with some nicknames that both came from Celestine and sounded really cute. But no, her parents decided to name her Azura for reasons only God knows.

Azura had almost reached classroom when the collar of her shirt was grabbed from behind and she was yanked away from the safety of the classroom. "Wheredaya think you're going?" a voice asked with a sneer. Not giving Azura time to answer, the boy pulled Azura away and brought her to his group of friends so that they could do their daily torment on her. Usually there was name calling and picking on her, but sometimes the group would go as far as to physically hurt Azura.

"Estupida perra," a Hispanic student said before she slapped Azura across the face. "Hey, look," the girl laughed with sick amusement, "now the side of your face is as red as your hair."

A blond cheerleader yanked Azura's hair from behind. "There ain't no way that freak hair's natural." she said. "Tell me, Ariel," she asked, "what kind of dye do you use? Cherry Kool-Aid?"

"And why does she stuff so much toilet paper in her bra?" the male student who dragged Azura over asked.

Azura pushed her books to her chest as her face turned even redder than her hair. It was one thing to be bustier than some of the girls at school, but being made fun of for it made no sense. She was in no way the bustiest, not by a long shot, but those girls were usually the center of boys' attention and almost always had dates. Well, it must help that these girls had not have been bullied since grade school like Azura has been.

The other boy, who had really dark skin, knocked the books out of Azura's hands. "Whatcha hiding for?" he asked with a smirk. Azura quickly crossed her arms. "Aw, a shy one, isn't she?"

"We'd better get to class," the cheerleader said. "If Ms. H. gives me detention again than my dad's gonna take away my cell phone."

"Again?" the first boy, the cheerleader's boyfriend, said as he began leading her away.

Not wanting to waste a second, Azura got on her knees so that she could pick up her books. She was unaware that the Hispanic girl was still there watching Azura's every move. "Piece of garbage," she said before kicking Azura in the stomach.

After arriving home from school that day, Azura locked herself in her room and threw herself on her bed. There was no sense in locking her door, as neither of her parents would be home from work until later that night, but locking her door gave Azura the sense of privacy she needed. She curled up tightly as she clutched her stomach, willing the pain to go away. At least tomorrow was Saturday so she could just stay home and not have to go anywhere nor see anyone. Maybe she could just sleep that whole day away and act as if she didn't exist. Truth was, Azura didn't want to exist.

Azura stood up, walked to her window, viewed the city from the twenty story floor on which her family's apartment was on. On many occasions Azura had just wanted to walk onto the balcony and throw herself off, but at the same time she never opened to window to the balcony because she was afraid of falling to her death. How conflicting her emotions were. She wanted to die more than anything, but at the same time she was petrified of dying. Maybe one day she will get lucky and accidentally get hit by a bus or something. Yeah, that would be best.

Turning away from her window, Azura dug out a clean pair of clothes and took a shower. After she had finished she put on her midnight blue sweatpants and a clean gray T-shirt. With her red hair dripping wet, Azura went into the kitchen to make dinner for her parents so that they could just warm it up when they got home. Sighing, Azura realized that tomorrow would have a change of plans; they were almost out of food so she needed to go grocery shopping.

Azura grilled three chicken breasts and cooked a pot full of wild rice. She then steamed green beans and made a fresh salad. After all the food was made Azura split the salad into three bowls and dived the rest of the food onto three plates. Azura put her parents' food in the fridge then took her own food and sat down at the dinner table.

She bowed her head to say grace before she started eating the food in silence. Her stomach still hurt so eating was difficult, but she tried to get the food down anyway because she knew it would be unhealthy to skip a meal. Azura had turned on the TV in order to ease the quietness while she ate, but it didn't help the intense loneliness she felt. To solve this, Azura tended to read during meals, and this did make her feel a little bit better. After she had finished eating, Azura washed the dishes and sat on the couch to watch Friday night television. When all the shows she had wanted to watch were over, Azura brushed her teeth, washed her face, and went to bed. That night, the same as every night, she silently cried herself to sleep.

Azura woke up when the sunlight shone through her window and onto her sleeping face. Squinting, Azura sat up and scratched her head as she looked at the time. Nine in the morning. She crawled out of bed and walked into the kitchen, and when she looked at the fridge she saw a note.

Have a big meeting outside of town today. Won't be home until midnight. Take care of yourself.

Mom and Dad

Azura ripped the note off of the fridge and threw it away. It's not that she was mad that her parents were out of town, it's just that Azura was only mad that they had forgotten what today was.

Deciding to not think about it, Azura poured a bowl of cereal and, turning on the morning news, sat on the couch as she ate. Her stomach didn't hurt much anymore, but Azura was a little scared to see how it looked. She rubbed her hand across her abdominal, wincing at slight pain. She was bruised, no doubt about it.

When she had finished breakfast Azura washed the dish and took some money out of the Looney Tunes cookie jar. Because Azura had proven herself trustworthy with money, her parents would occasionally put some money in the jar for Azura to take out whenever groceries were needed. Deciding against changing, Azura put the money in her sweats' pocket and slipped on a pair of sneakers before heading out. When she walked outside she felt the cold air piercing her bare skin, but instead of going back inside for a jacket like she should have done she instead continued on in the chilly weather.

Gathering groceries was in no way a difficult task for Azura, but she dreaded going to the check out lane and having to interact with the cashiers. She especially hated having talkative cashiers. Azura never liked socializing or interacting with people, and she would be perfectly fine never having to talk to anyone. Maybe it helped that she was the social outcast. Nobody ever cared to talk to Azura, and when they did it was always to insult her. Azura knew the bitter truth that she had no friends, but as much as it pained her to be so lonely she knew she could never have friends anyway so she shouldn't let it bother her.

After she arrived home Azura put away the groceries and went to her room and curled up in her bed. She knew better than to think about it, but whenever she remembered how lonely she was she couldn't help but curl up tight and cry for hours.

Azura had cried herself to sleep and woke up hours later. She rubbed her puffy eyes and decided to clean herself up. After washing Azura changed into gray sweats and a white T-shirt. When she was putting on her shirt she saw the huge bruise that had formed on her stomach. It was slightly to her right side and just below the floating ribs. Azura knew she was lucky that the kick landed where it did, because if it were higher she might have had her ribs cracked, and if it was more to the left then she might have been kicked in her organs.

Azura dug into the refrigerator and pulled out ingredients to make cake batter. When the ingredients were mixed and the batter in the oven, Azura, not thinking it would matter whether or not she made dinner for her parents, boiled a package of Ramen and ate that for her dinner. When the cake was done she pulled it out of the oven and, after it spent half an hour cooling, applied frosting on the top. It was a really small cake she had made, so after cutting it into fours she had no need to cut it further. Azura then placed a candle in the cake slice and lit it before setting it on the table.

Azura sat in a chair and leaned forward in order to rest her chin on her crossed arms. The whole time all Azura did was watch the flame flicker on the candle. When it finally seemed that the wax was beginning to melt onto the cake Azura sighed, sat up, and blew out the candle. "Happy Fifteenth Birthday, Azura," she said to herself.

It would be an understatement to say that Azura was not looking forward to school that Monday. Deciding to dress warmer that day, Azura put on black sweatpants and a black T-shirt accompanied by a black jacket. As always, her shoulder length red hair was pushed behind her ears while she silently wished her hair was brown like her parents'.

School seemed to go like it normally did, until on her way to her history class when the group of bullies deciding to pick on her like they normally did. "Hey, Ariel." Azura kept walking, trying to ignore them but knowing it would never work. "Don't think we're gonna let you get away," the boy said as he grabbed her by the shoulder and twirled her around to face him.

To everyone's surprise, and most certainly to Azura's, Azura gave a confident "Leave me alone."

"Whoa!" one of the boys exaggerated. "It's not mute after all. It can talk."

Instead of avoiding eye contact like she normally did, Azura glared at the boy. After she realized what she was doing did Azura broke her gaze. "What am I doing?!" she mentally yelled at herself. She had never acted this way before, so what was she doing now?

You're standing up for yourself. . . . a voice that sounded like Azura's, but was NOT Azura's, answered.

"Hey," the cheerleader said when Azura tried to retreat, "we're done with you yet. Clove, why don't you show our little friend here your newest punch technique."

Fight back the voice from before told Azura.

"No!" Azura screamed. She meant to answer the voice in her head, but the group around her didn't know that.

"Don't worry," the Hispanic girl, Clove, said as she cracked her knuckles, "it will only hurt for a second."

What happened next, Azura couldn't explain, but she broke free from the cheerleader's grip and dodged just in time for Clove to punch the wrong girl. "You idiot!" the cheerleader roared as she clutched her side, now throbbing in pain thanks to Clove's punch.

"Hey!" one of the boys said. "Nobody hurts my girlfriend and gets away with it!" He then proceeded to punch Azura, but she caught his fist and twisted his arm so that it was behind him. "What the fu-" he started but didn't get to finish for Azura pushed him way from herself and into the trash can.

The other boy looked as if he was about to move, but Azura's glare frightened him into running off instead. "Coward!" Clove shouted at the retreating boy. "I'll get you, you stupid perra."

Azura merely dodged the punch, and, to her amazement, delivered her own. It was after her fist connected with Clove's jaw did Azura really process what had happened. Azura actually fought back. She knew she should have been happy, but instead she was filled with so much fear that she picked up her backpack and immediately ran to class, hoping to leave everything behind her.

You should be proud the voice inside her head said. You finally stood up for yourself.

That was only the start of it. For the next couple of months Azura continued to stand up for herself and fight back. It wasn't that she was trying to, it was just that she couldn't help herself. Azura felt that whatever had talked to her that day was somehow taking over Azura's actions whenever she was bullied. It had continued on to the point that everyone was too scared to bully her anymore, as she proved to be a really good fighter and someone not to be messed with. All the students had just ignored her entirely, but Azura didn't mind. She had been the social outcast all her life so being ignored wasn't exactly a new thing for her, and being ignored was so much better than being bullied. It did bother her that no one messed with her because they were scared of her, but she quickly decided it was better than nothing.

Her family life didn't change at all though. Her parents did seem regretful that they forgot their only daughter's birthday, but they in no way tried to make up for it. They were at work a lot, so Azura was home alone a lot. Maybe her school life had a drastic change, but home life was left untouched. At least some things never change.

It was late one wintery night when Azura left the library. She went to the library to study for a science test because, even though Internet was the common method for studying, she had wanted to get out of her house and perhaps learn some new things about matter and motion while she was at it. Even though the weather was cold, Azura wore her trademark skirt, shirt, and sweater vest; she wasn't a big fan of the cold, but she didn't mind her fingers getting numb to the point she was sure they were going to fall off. Maybe she will freeze to death during her walk home.

Azura was halfway home when she sensed she was being followed. She tried to find a busy place to lose whatever was behind her, but in her panic state of mind she got mixed up and ended up in a place with not another living soul for who knows how far. Azura mentally cursed herself before she heard a man talk from behind her.

"Look boys, fresh meat." It didn't take much intelligence to tell that the man was drunk, and Azura was certain his buddies were as well.

"Pretty one, ain't she?" one man slurred.

"She's cute," another said, "but I've seen way prettier."

"At least she has a chest," the first man said.

Azura backed herself into the wall, knowing what these men intended to do to her. She was finally going to die, she realized, but somehow death didn't seem as exciting when it was actually staring at you in your face. Azura wanted the one thing she never thought she would ever want: to live.

Fight. . . . the voice said. Azura hadn't heard it since that first day, but she knew it had truly never left her.

No Azura mentally told the voice. There's three of them and only one of me. How can I win that fight?

Because you have the power within you.

What the hell does that mean?! Azura almost shouted out loud.

"Don't worry," the first guy said, "we'll be very gentle with you." With that he placed a hand on her cheek.

Azura slapped the guy's hand off her face and sternly said, "Leave me alone or suffer the consequences." Azura froze. She didn't do that. She didn't say that. It was the voice inside her head. The voice . . . used Azura to do and say that.

"I think she needs to learn a lesson," the third guy said.

"You said it," the second said.

"Good thing she's wearing a skirt," the first smirked. "It makes things so much easier."

"Leave me alone," the voice sternly spoke through Azura, "or you will regret it."

Stop talking through me! Azura mentally commanded the voice.

Well if you won't protect you then I will! the voice yelled at Azura.

The men were crowding Azura, and Azura believed that this would be the end of her life. Suddenly, a blinding light blocked Azura's vision. The light soon faded, yet the look of surprise stayed on the groups' faces.

It was as if Azura wasn't in control of her body, not in control of herself; but she could feel herself doing it, she felt every little motion that was done. First her right arm rose above her head, and the left soon followed after in the same manner. She felt as her hands came together and her fingers locking. It was weird, but she felt as if some enormous power was building in her hands, and that the power was waiting to escape. Quickly but fluently, Azura's fist slammed into the ground beneath her, creating a massive wave to emit from the contact and threw the men away from her.

The men flew into the walls and landed as slumps. Whether they were dead or unconscious, Azura didn't know; all she knew that whatever she did caused it. No, not her. The voice inside her head.

No the voice said, you. I am you, and you are me. We both did that.

I had no control over any of that! Azura yelled before fleeing the scene. She kept running until she made it into a crowd of people, many of whom stopped to stare at the strange girl. Azura kept running, but when her reflection caught her eye she stopped in her tracks and walked back. It was a mirror shop, but Azura did not recognize the girl staring back at her.

This girl was tall, at least five feet and eight inches, and even though she wasn't busty she was still thin. She wore a plaid blue skirt, a white shirt, a brown sweater vest, brown boots, and a red neck tie. She had hip length blond hair that fell softly to her sides. Azura couldn't make out the face, as it was hidden behind a red mask, but she finally figured out that the girl looking back at her was Azura herself.

"Wh-what happened to me?!" she shouted, attracting the attention of those around her. "No, no, no, no, no," she chanted before running off. "This is a dream. That's it! I'm dreaming. I will wake up and this will all be over."

This is no dream the voice said. That is your true form.

"I don't have blonde hair!" Azura shouted before finally arriving at the apartment building. Knowing that the door keeper will not let her in since he wouldn't recognize her, Azura walked towards the alley and found the fire escape that lead to her room. It wasn't easy to try sneaking into her room, but she managed to get to her balcony and open up her bedroom window. Good thing I left that unlocked she thought.

After locking her window she ran to her mirror to look at herself. Just as she expected, the blond hair and red mask still made out her face. The clothes did look weird, but Azura had to admit they felt very comfortable. But what am I going to do when my parents get home? she worried. I don't even look like myself.

She gripped the dresser as she hung her head to cry. She had never felt so frustrated in her life, and there didn't seem to be anything she could do to make it better. Looking at her unfamiliar reflection she yelled, "CHANGE ME BACK!" As if her command were answered, another blinding light surrounded Azura, and when it subsided she was back looking like her normal self again.

Filled with relief, Azura placed her hand on her pounding heart. She felt as if part of her soul was ripped out when the transformation wore off, but at least she looked like herself again.

"What . . ." Azura panted. "What was that about?"

The voice calmly answered, Wouldn't you like to know.