I love the night time. It is those few hours that are always sandwiched between the long hours of daylight. It is darkness, the feel of the moonlight on your head, protecting you, guarding you. Night is dreams, smiles, memories. Night is warmth. Night is when thoughts come alive, dreams become reality and imagination takes over. It is when magic lives in the warm covers of our dreams. The best ideas are always born under the protective cover of darkness, and will forever belong to the night. It is the only time anyone can ever see those stars that are always there, watching over us. Night is the time when the rest of the world sleeps for an endless eternity, when I finally feel separate from the waking nightmares that surround my everyday life. There is no better time, I think, than night. I draw until the first rays of sun shine on the earth, a light purple colour, the most beautiful time of day. There is nothing more beautiful than the time that predawn brings a sort of peace to the land. I am so tired. I don’t even remember when I last had a good night’s sleep. But how can I sleep when the alluring call of night beckons? As I draw, my eyes get so tired, my pencil slips down my paper, ruining the drawing I am working on and I fall asleep, right here at my desk. I often fall asleep here. It is the place I spend my time most often. I feel a sort of presence behind me, and I know someone invisible is there. It is strange how often I get that feeling. I turn to face the window, the one that I always leave open, for no other reason than it is an urge. There is someone there. I can see him, but he is ever-so-slightly blurred. I catch a quick glance at his face, and it seems vaguely familiar, but I can’t seem to place where I possibly could have seen him before. He is wearing a cloak, which I think is a little odd. Who wears a cloak? Who is this boy, and why is he standing on my window-sill staring at me? I have the vaguest of ideas as my tired eyes try to make sense of the situation. He looks almost scared. He is as stiff as a new plastic doll, barely breathing and desperately trying not to make any noise. I am barely able to glimpse his face, as it is clouded by a scary sort of darkness. Then, just like that he disappears, and I turn back to my desk, and, moments after, before I can even fully comprehend what I’ve just seen, I fall asleep.
What feels like just moments later, I am being roughly shaken awake by my mother. No, it can’t have been only moments later. The time says it is seven-thirty. I groan inwardly as I hear her irritated voice. “Raina? Raina! Please don’t tell me you fell asleep at your desk again!” “No,” I say back to her, my voice full of sarcasm, “I just magically transported to my desk while I was sleeping.” My mother rolls her eyes, emitting a frustrated sigh. I think she’s getting a little sick of me. “Raina, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with you. If you keep falling asleep here and staying up late, you’re going to kill yourself!” My earlier sarcasm is gone, and I am left groggy and disorientated. I lay my head down on my desk as I think of the events of the night. “I… a boy… a dream… or was it? I don’t really know,” I murmur into the hard wood. I don’t tell her that I know it wasn’t a dream. That would only freak her out, and the last thing I need is a freaked-out mother to deal with. It would be a normal reaction, too. How would your mother react if she knew that her daughter had a strange boy stalking her? She still seems alarmed though, and when I close my eyes ready to have a nap, she shakes me awake again. “What do you mean? What boy? RAINA!” My eyes snap right open. “Okay, okay, I’m up,” I moan, trying to avoid her question. She stares at me for a long time, almost as if she is challenging me, and I stare right back at her, daring her to say the thing that is on both of our minds. She can see how hard I’m trying to not answer her question, and I can see how much she doesn’t want to let it go, but in the end, she’s the one who loses the staring contest. She sighs, then says, “I’m going to go get ready for work. Now get up. You have school.” “Wait mum, please?” I plead. She sighs again, and then looks back at me expectantly. “Last night, when I was drawing, I saw a boy about my age at the window. He was peering in, watching me. As soon as I saw him, he disappeared.” My mother looks at me as if I am crazy. “Maybe you were just hallucinating from lack of sleep,” she suggests, “it isn’t completely unheard of, you know.” “No, it wasn’t a dream, I’m sure of it. I saw him. He was there. He was just like my dark prince,” I insist, but my mother just looks like she is about to take me to the mental institute. “I swear he was real. He looked kinda like… this,” I say, producing a picture of my dark prince. The dark prince is tall and handsome, in a sinister kind of way. His hair is curly and black, looming over his eyes, which were as black as his soul. Everything about him is dark, even his shadow is darker than most. My mother gasps. I think she sometimes underestimates my skill. She swallows, trying to think of something to say. I am expecting her to say something like, “Wow, you’re such an amazing artist!” but instead she looks awkward as if not sure what to say. “Well, it’s time for you to get ready for school,” she says lamely, and promptly leaves the room. I sigh in frustration. Don’t get me wrong; I love my mum, but sometimes she just doesn’t know how to support me. Sometimes I think she is afraid for my mental health. She thinks it is unusual to spend so much time on my own, and when she sees some of my drawings, I can tell she is worried about me. But I don’t think it’s unusual to spend my time alone. I prefer to be alone. Then I don’t get hurt as much, and the pain isn’t as bad. I can cry when I am alone too. I never let others see me cry. I don’t want them to. It is easier to cry alone, to not burden others with the weight of my emotions, and yet harder at the same time. Sometimes, I feel like I am about to break, and there have been many instances in which I actually have, and inflicted minor physical pain on myself. For some reason, I find physical pain easier than emotional pain. It is easier to heal, and doesn’t hurt so much. I’m not sure if that’s normal. I don’t even think that I’m normal. I try to cease all thoughts about what’s to come, and I prepare myself for yet another ordinary day in my ordinary life, as just another ordinary person. Sometimes I wish that I can live in my fantasy world, leave my awful life here and live in another one that would probably be a lot more exciting than the real world. But wonderful dreams almost never come true. I had to learn that lesson the hard way. Whenever I dream, I always end up disappointed, no matter what. So I don’t dream anymore. I tell myself not to dream, and if I do, I often force those dreams out of my mind. It can be really hard living life when you’re not allowed to dream. Dreams are for the people who are fortunate enough to be able to make them come true. Certainly not for those who can’t even talk to someone for fear of being punished for it, and certainly not for me. There is no hope in dreaming, for me. I decided long ago that I would never dream so recklessly again. I will hide from my dreams, just like they hide from me. I sigh as I hang the dark prince on the wall, in the only empty space I can find (which is more difficult than you might think). As I stare at the walls I wonder what will happen when I run out of space, and who the boy at my window really was. My mother may not believe me and maybe it makes me crazy, but I know it is true. I know he was there. I’m sure of it. I’m not hallucinating. Something is happening to me. To everything. Something that is bigger than me. Something more important than anything else. I just know it. But who am I to dream of it? I realise that I am stalling, and I groan when I remember school. And the worst part is – it’s Monday. It is always more horrible on Mondays. Maybe it’s because people are more tired and it’s easier for them to snap. It is going to be a long day; but then again, it always is. It never gets better, but I suppose I have to at least try. If I want an education, that is. I can’t just close my eyes and hope that all the bad things will somehow disappear, because how likely is that? I’ll just have to brave it. I only have two more years anyway. How hard could they possibly be?
I regret mentally asking that when I get to school. I know that these two years can be almost impossible, from my own experience. On arriving at school, I automatically grab the latest book I have been reading and sit by myself, shoving my head into the book, and slump down low, pulling my hat down over my face like I always do. It is strange that if you do this, people won’t bother you or notice you, most of the time. Sometimes, it doesn’t work and people still do bother me, stealing my book and never returning it. I’ve got into a lot of trouble at the library because of it. The librarians are constantly scolding me for being so immature and irresponsible, but I think they have a bit of a soft spot for me. They would have to be the only people I have ever met other than my mother who care for me, at least a little bit. Maybe it’s because I always have my nose in a book, and spend every lunch time quietly studying at the library. I have no friends here, but that is fine with me. I’ve never exactly been a socialite anyway, and friendships are usually the way people get hurt. Being alone isn’t so bad anyway. It is the only time when I can really think, except sometimes, I don’t want to think. Sometimes the depth and hatred of my thoughts scare me. And when I say sometimes, I mean always. I’m always trying to escape from my thoughts. When I first came to this school, halfway through year nine, I had tried to make friends, but it ended up horribly wrong. They all just thought I was weird, and stared at me like I was talking in some different, alien language. Maybe I am weird, but whatever is wrong with me, I sure don’t care what they think of me. At least that’s what I tell myself. I never fully believe it though. People started hating me, because, who wants to be friends with the one person who has none? I have always been the underdog. Always. And that will never change. I’m always the one put at the bottom of every list, and it doesn’t matter what the subject of that list is. All people care about here are good looks and popularity, and if they befriend me, then they drop down in the ranks in both of those categories at this school. But they are not perfect, and they say they know that, but they don’t. They are all hypocrites who want to think that they are good people, want to believe it, and in the same sense they turn around and tell me that I’m not perfect, and that I never will be. How can they be perfect when they treat others like they are not? I all the time, I try to pretend that they do not hurt me, that they do not even touch me, but they really do. More than I could ever allow them to know. If they knew how much I suffered, how much I killed myself every single day, would they still bother me? Probably. They are much too shallow to care about my feelings. The thing that I really do care about is the way they would bully me. They treat me horribly, and it’s not just students, the teachers as well, so it isn’t as if I can go to them for help. They would just tell me to stop lying and being selfish because no one likes liars. I have never been more alone then at school. The bullying never gets better. I just have to grin and bear it. There are some days when I just want to stay at home, but I can’t, because then my mother would know of the pain I suffer. She probably would just ignore the issue and tell me to move on anyway. Sometimes they would steal my lunch, my money, throw my stuff in the bin, and in the worst cases they would beat me up. They swear a lot at me, and tell me that I might as well leave and go home because it’s obvious that no one likes me. I at least know that part of it is true. No one does like me. I avoid people as much as is humanly possible, and sometimes even skip class to escape from the endless torment. I avoid people like they are going to give me a deadly disease, because sometimes, that’s what it feels like they are. Their poison is potentially deadly to me, the kind that doesn’t have an antidote as of yet. I am an outcast – a misfit. I don’t belong here. At least that’s what I’m told. They tell me these things to try and get to me, but the thing that really gets to me, is that I’m beginning to believe that what they are saying is true. That’s why, when a girl approaches me this morning as I’m pretending to be reading my book, I flinch. The girl looks hurt, which instantly makes me feel bad. I look closer at her and realise that she doesn’t even look like one of them. She looked vulnerable and innocent, like an outcast would. Like I used to, before I learned how to act like everything was okay and nothing was bothering me. I would often use those acting skills to trick my mother, because I don’t want her to bear my pain. There were times when I thought of telling her, but she just looked so happy, and I do not want ruin her good mood. Then, the girl speaks, and I am startled out of the abyss of my thoughts, and finally remember that she is there. “Uhhh… hi. I’m… Marissa . I just… I just moved here from America and I don’t have an idea what to do.” She sounded so distant, so far away from the real world that it almost didn’t seem possible that she was a part of it. “Could you, uh, help me out?” I nod, closing my book. Looks like I’m not going to get time to read that one for a little while. “Just so you know, you’ve already dug your own grave by talking to me. I hope they aren’t too hard on you.” She frowns at me like I am the strangest person she has ever met. I probably am. I am pretty strange. I don’t think she quite grasps the simple fact that no one likes me. “I don’t mind,” she says quietly, in a way that makes me suspect that she does, indeed mind. I wonder how they treated her at her old school in America. Her voice breaks to a whisper, almost inaudible as she says, “Most of the girls here are horrible suck ups anyway. But not you.” She adds hastily. I nod again. I can’t help but agree with Marissa. After all, if everyone here hates me, why can’t I hate them too? “Isn’t it strange, how people are horrible to the person who is going to be most successful later in life?” Marissa says, smiling. Her words strike me, like small bolts to the heart. Look out, says a small voice in the back of my mind, this might be the makings of a good friendship. And I of all people know that friends, no matter how good, hurt you. I have learned that the hard way. But then, isn’t that the only way people learn? Doesn’t everyone learn from their stupid, careless mistakes? It is hard to be sure of myself, when I make the mistake of trusting everyone who pushes their way into my life. How can I be sure that this new person won’t just use me, then toss me aside like I am nothing more to her than yesterday’s stinking garbage? “I’m Raina. In case you haven’t already figured it out, everyone here hates me.” Marissa seems sad now. “It figures,” she murmurs, almost so quiet as to be talking to herself, “All those rumours are pretty vicious.” I am curious, but also a little afraid of just how vicious these rumours are. I gulp, forcing my nervousness as strong as bile down. “What sort of rumours?” I manage in a shaky voice, tainted by nervousness. Marissa leans forward, and in my ear she whispers a series of unprintable names, each one as awful as the last. Tears threaten the backs of my eyelids, more from anger than hurt, but I will not let them have the pleasure of seeing me cry. If I do, then I am giving my power to them, showing them that I am vulnerable and they can hurt me, and that will only make them hurt me more. If I cry now, I may never be able to stop. I may never be able to smile again. Or, at least that’s what it feels like. It is so unfair and sad, that out of the hundreds of students at this school, only one of them actually likes me, actually cares about me. Surely, with my drawing skill I am meant for something much more than this life of brutal teasing and abuse. It’s like there is nothing more to their lives than being beautiful and popular. No one here is really happy. They only think they are because they are gifted. They have everything, and so pick out the weak ones like me who have nothing, and pretend that they are happy, but I think, that in their secret heart of hearts, they know that in reality, they have nothing but a bunch of fake friends. “Can you show me around, maybe?” asks Marisa quietly. The sound of the ever-so-punctual school bell interrupts our conversation, and prevents me from answering. I have science class next, my worst class. It is the worst because I am the teacher’s pet, so I get even more torment from my classmates than usual. The one teacher that likes me makes me hate her, because by liking me, it has brought more hell upon me. I don’t know whether to skip or not, and Marissa is not in my Science class. In fact, I don’t think she is in any of my classes. I decide on skipping. I go to the library and work on one of my assignments instead. I sit with Marissa at lunch. I haven’t sat with anyone at lunch times for years. It feels so good to actually talk and laugh with someone, just to have a friend. The rest of the day flashes by, too fast to recount. I guess you can divide time too, when you have friends to share it with. And that’s the story of how – for the first time in three years, to be precise – I finally got a friend. After all these years, after doubting God, doubting myself, He finally gave me what I asked for. He gave me a friend and that is more than I can ever thank Him for.
I’m not good enough. That thought constantly hounds me, never leaving my side. I look in the mirror and stare for a long time at the face that stares back at me. My reflection looks unhappy. It always does, and always has. Even when I’m smiling, it just stares sadly back with that vacant look in its eyes. When I was little, I used to think it was because the girl there was trapped in the glass. I still sometimes think that now, that the girl is sad because she is trapped. Not by the glass, or the people inside it, but by her emotions, the ones that are dominated by hurt and pain. Sometimes, there is even a little anger. Anger at my mother, for ever deciding she wanted a child, at my father for not being here now. If my mother never had me, I wouldn’t have to suffer. There wouldn’t be me. The world would be better off. My father wouldn’t have left, and they’d be happy. I’m not beautiful. Heck, I’m not even pretty. I guess you can only really like yourself when others like you too. My black hair is cut short, but not too short, so it falls just above my shoulders, my fringe sticking out in weird directions, like usual. My once green eyes are a dull storm cloud grey from all that crying. They used to be so pretty, but now, they will be forever grey. I remember my mother’s friends used to comment about the beauty of my eyes, but not anymore. They can’t tell me how green my eyes are because they are no longer green. I ruined the only thing that has ever been beautiful about me. I have wrecked myself, and I hate myself because of it. I can’t brag about much in myself. I’m not pretty, or popular, or smart. I’m not even particularly funny. I’m just me. I don’t have much confidence in myself, but then, how can I? Confidence is gained by being surrounded by lots of good people who care about and love you. I don’t have any of that. I have one friend who I’ve only just made, a mother, a father who left before I could even remember his name, and an entire school that hates me. Doesn’t inspire much confidence, does it? My dull grey eyes drift down to the scars on my arm, left there by me. No one else knows about them; I wear long sleeved shirts to cover up just how much I silently suffer. I will never let them know about my secret pain. It would only make them tease me more, and would only make mum hurt. I couldn’t bear to see my mother sad. I try to spend as much time as possible in my bedroom. It is the only place where I can be the monster that I call me. My room is the only place where I can be myself, the only place I can show my true colours and cry until there are no more tears, only sadness. Over the last three years, it has become both my prison and my paradise. My only escape is drawing. Sometimes I think that drawing is the only thing that keeps me sane. It is my remedy – my release – my escape. Drawing is the only thing that can get me close to smiling, the only reason I’ve hung in there all these years of lonesome solitude. Time and time again, people would ask me if I was okay, and all I said was, “I’m fine.” But I’m not fine. I am everything but fine. I am dead inside, but I had to hide that. I’m not okay, even after all those millions of times of trying to convince myself that I am. There is something very dark inside of me, something sinister going around in my mind, and I think maybe that’s why some people avoid me. I think maybe they can sense it there, and avoid me on purpose, so they don’t catch whatever mental disease I have. I know I have a disease of some sort. It isn’t normal to think like this. Girls my age are supposed to think of flowers and boys and pretty things, not the unimaginable horrors I think up. The images of blood and death are irremovable. As hard as I try to push them out of my mind, I know I am only pushing them back, for them to re-emerge later. It is a disease. I cry because I know there is something wrong with me, and I am afraid of myself. If only mental disease was contagious. Then maybe they could suffer just as much as I do. They can feel my conflicting emotions for once, they can know how it feels to laugh even though I feel like curling up in a tiny corner and crying. I have to laugh, have to smile. I have to try and pretend I’m alright, if not for anyone else’s benefit than for my own. Laughing is supposed to be the best remedy, the medicine that heals everything right down to the soul – that’s what they say, right? Well, I’ve found that it is also the best disguise. For years, I’ve hidden all my pain beneath a mask of smiles, burying my emotions until I’m sure that I am completely and entirely alone. Then they all spill out in a cascade of silver tears, glistening in the moonlight as I secretly cry over all that I have lost. My pretension has become so real, so believable, that I almost believe it myself. Almost. As much as I bury them, my emotions are waiting deep inside of me, waiting for the right moment to attack and I know that this is an internal war, one that I am probably going to lose. The worst part of this is that no one ever discovers how dead I really feel inside. The only things I cannot escape when I draw are my feelings. I feel useless, angry, upset, sad, hateful, scared. But I cannot rid myself of them, and secretly, I don’t want to. They are the things that power my drawings, the things that make me good at what I do. So, in a way, they are the real reason I have stayed alive. They are the reason I wake up each and every morning, and go through the same tired ritual of going to school without even attending classes, because I am too scared to. I’m such a coward. I’m such a coward, and the really sad thing is, I don’t want to stop being one. That’s what makes me so cowardly – it’s what makes us all so cowardly. No one wants to be the brave one. I stare once more at the mirror and cry as I realise for the hundredth time that those tired, empty eyes are mine and the wretched girl staring back is me, and know without words that I will never be good enough for her.