"Shit, he actually said that?" Aliyah shrieked, "And you decided to tell me at lunch, and not when you picked me up?"

"See, this is exactly why I waited to tell you. If I told you right after, then he would have been dead meat before second period. He had good intentions, okay? He doesn't understand how much it affects me," I argued.

"Geez, no need to defend him. If only everyone didn't know how much you guys hate each other," she teased, emphasizing the word hate with air quotation marks, "I would have thought you still liked him."

"No!" I furiously denied, "That's in the past. A mistake I'll never make again. How old were we? 13? I'm pretty sure I was taller than him then. How would I like him now, especially since he obviously doesn't know how I…"

My mind instantly flew to a dreaded memory of mine…

Just last year. Meeting him during chemistry class.

The irony. Everyone had told me about the great chemistry we had…

Everything that happened came flooding back into me-

I was in the wrong bathroom - the boy's bathrooms - but I didn't know that. I had rushed out of Chemistry so quickly that I only took time to make sure that there was no one in the stalls before locking the door to the bathroom.

If only I had made sure that the end stall was actually empty before starting my never ending trail of tears in the adjacent stall.

"Hey, you alright?" A male, unfamiliar voice sounded from the stall next to me.

"-Jayleen? Jayleen! No, no, no. Don't go back there again. Stop overthinking, Jayleen. I was joking. I know I shouldn't have made it, that was insensitive of me." Aliyah pleaded, tears quickly forming in her eyes.

Suddenly, I realized that I was on the floor, breathing hard. People had started to turn to see what the problem was, but once they noticed it was me, they had quickly turned back around, pretending nothing was wrong. It seemed like everyone was aware of my situation; trying to adapt so that I felt welcome. I still felt like I didn't fit in.

"Oh, no no no no. Leen! You okay? Don't you dare go back there again. You're stronger than that," Aliyah blubbered, "Okay, you know what, we're going to Jayden. As much as I want to help you, the more you stress, the more I'm going to stress."

She turned towards me, ready to help me stand up, as she realized she probably shouldn't touch me. The last time someone had done that, I had tried to punch them. Luckily, it was Jayden who I tried to punch, so he quickly used his soccer goalie skills to catch my fist before it collided with his chest. Not that it would have hurt him badly; my punches, especially ones I throw around unintentionally, aren't that strong.

"Hey, Leen. I'm going to pick you up, okay?" Aliyah asked softly.

I mutely nodded.

Thank the heavens that Aliyah had gone to cheer camp over the summer and now had superb upper body strength. With her supporting most of my weight, we walked to where Jayden, Tyler, and Cameron usually sit, only to find Tyler alone, sitting there, filling in forms - transfer forms. The thought of Tyler in my physics class, my chosen science class for the year, only threw me into my own little world in my head even more.

That's where you met him.

Unaware of my inner turmoil, Tyler had stood up to help Aliyah ease me onto the bench.

"What happened?" He asked Aliyah.

You're stronger than that. That was last year. This year is different.

"I don't know. It's not good. Something I said must have triggered something. I don't know!" Distressed, Aliyah paced in front of the bench.

How different? The room still looks exactly the same.

Even through the haze that had been placed before my eyes, the movement hypnotized me.

Left, right. Left, right. Left, right…

It's a physics classroom now, not a chemistry classroom.

"Alright. Aliyah, you're obviously too uptight right now to be of any help. Just go and buy Jayleen's favorite drink, okay?"

Aliyah stopped her pacing and raced out of the courtyard, not even stopping to say bye to Tyler.

That's not that big of a difference. What if you sit in the same spot?

Kneeling down, Tyler turned his focus on the girl in front of him. Me.

"Hey, Leen. You aren't there anymore. There's no need to focus on the past. C'mon. Deep breaths," he whispers.

You're stronger than that.

I took an exaggerated breath, puffing my chest out like a pufferfish, then slowly deflated.

No you're not.

"That's it," he encourages, "Look, we're not in a building anymore. Can you tell me where we are right now?"

The thought of a building just made me want to throw up right now.

Yes you are.

"Oh shit, sorry Leen. You know I'm bad with words. I didn't mean it that way. Just look at all the trees and plants around us."

The courtyard was that one patch of greenery, surrounded with tall, gray buildings. The people who funded the build of this academy had insisted on it. "A patch of paradise for them to escape to", they had called it.

To everyone else, this large courtyard served as their paradise during school; that was expected. The courtyard was magnificent, for sure. There was a pavilion that served as an outdoor cafeteria. Moveable picnic tables were scattered around the plaza, seemingly getting moved around every time. There were trees everywhere, providing shade as well as a pop of color everywhere. It was perfect… it was a perfect illusion.

To me, it was a perfect way for God to show me what my life was. A perfect illusion. I try to be the perfect student, the perfect daughter, the perfect friend, when in reality, I'm this person trying to be the perfect person in a world where everything is gray and boring.

No, you're not. I would know. After all, I am you.

There's no use.

Fake it till you make it. I am strong.


word count: 1,035

^oooh yes we're back to longer[er] chapters

oops, this chapter doesn't really connect to track, but don't worry, you'll see how they link together soon ;)

xoxo, lyssa

ps. this week is track captain's 1 year anniversary on fictionpress! :))