The day I got the journal was the best day of my life. It was also the worst. It was kind of like a china doll, placed on top of a house of cards, just waiting to be knocked down by some slight wind. In this case, I was the slight wind, the journal was the doll, and everybody that was mentioned in the journal was the cards.
The day I found the journal I was not in a good mood. It was just one of those days. I was walking home in mud stained pants, although by now the mud had dried. I was really, really irritated because these were my favorite pants. I’m talking like absolutely, positively, worship level pants. I loved those.
Enough about the pants. I was walking home, away from the hell that was known as H.B. Carter’s Middle School. H.B Carter was our principal’s great, great Uncle, named Henry Benjamin Carter. This is what they told you the first day of middle school. This was common knowledge. But back to the walking home part.
I was walking home, and honestly, my thoughts were on my mud-stained pants. I was pretty upset about it. So upset, about it, in fact, that I didn’t realize The Journal on the ground in front of me until I literally fell over it.
I picked it up. The cover was stained, but the pages inside looked pretty fine to me. I was still on school premises, so I knew that I would have to turn it into the lost and found. I didn’t want to. I was mad and so done with school and everybody there, and pretty much everybody that even knew of the name H.B. Carter. So I kept it. Later that night, when I was bored and couldn’t fall asleep, I opened it.
This part I remember vividly. I opened the cover, skimmed through a few pages, but then came back to the front. Charlotte Ashley Edison, it read. It was in a curly font, with a gel pen. I dropped it, right then and there. I hid it under my bed. Even though I knew that Charlote wouldn’t be coming over to my house anytime soon, it scared me to think that I had a possession of the most popular girl in the grade. A girl that could make or break you, just based off what you were wearing for one day. Apparently, she and her friends, Brittany, Claire, and Jemma, didn’t like my pants that day.
That first night I didn’t really think it was real. I woke up in the morning, thinking that it was all a dream. But then, I saw The Journal right there, and I knew it was true. I picked it up, with shaky hands, like it was an item belonging to Beyoncé herself. Opening the cover, I saw that it was a little damaged, but the inside was fine.
I remember almost laughing. The first words on the inside were: Dear Diary… I had always thought that that was more of a second grade thing, but I really couldn’t say anything, because I was guilty of sleeping in Dora pajamas.
The rest of the entry went on to say the usual: what she ate that day, what was going on with her family and her Aunt Bertha, and even who she liked. (Sean Smith, by the way).
Sean Smith was one of the most popular guys in the school. He was your stereotypical jock: star of the track team, and also played soccer on the side. He had blonde hair, which he loved flipping in front of girls that he found worthy. (I had never had his hair flipped in front of me). He also had sparkling brown eyes, with flecks of yellow inside, like a tree that just got peed on. Legend had it that his dad was a Brazilian surfer that met his super-model mother through a photoshoot. It’s embarrassing to say that I believed it.
When I read that first entry, I couldn’t stop. I binge-read half the book until three in the morning, when I fell asleep. The amount of hot, juicy, secrets I found were almost limitless. For example, Charlotte’s famous, blue-gray eyes were really contacts. Her perfect body was actually a result of liposuction. She also got lip implants in December, almost as soon as school let out for winter break.
Then there was the whole issue of her family. Her mother was a work fanatic that was almost never in town, except for the third week in the month for four days. Those days were the days that Charlotte got super spoiled, in her mom’s effort to relate to her daughter. Hence the lip injections, the lipo, and so on and so forth.
Her dad was another issue. He was a CEO of a company that sold chap stick. He was always in the house, on his smartphone and laptop. He was one of those parents that was oblivious to everything Charlotte did. From the journal, “Today, Dad let me go to Sarah’s house, but really I just snuck off to the movies to go with Jemma, Claire, and Brittany. We met Sean and his friends there.”
All of this was from the journal, only half way through. I started looking at her at school, and I saw it: the way she acted when around Sean. The way she flipped her hair at random moments and chewed her gum loudly. The way she got when it was that third week in the month. She practically glowed the days she spent with her mom.
As for me, I was just smiling on the sidelines, knowing that I knew all of this. I felt powerful. In a few months, I started to take advantage of that power.
The last many entries, the ones on that last half of the book, were the ones that contained the most dirt. According to the journal, Charlotte had a big fight with her friends. After that, she didn’t see them the same way anymore. She noticed that Jemma’s makeup was always clumpy. Her face ‘always looked kind of cakey.’ She couldn’t help but notice that Brittany had awkward fat bulges in weird places, 'only noticeable if you really looked.' As for Claire, she was ‘just plain out ugly.' She was 'less popular because of her.’ There was more, of course, but some things were so mean that they don't even need repeating. This was true for everybody. She talked so much smack that I didn’t understand how she could live with herself. I found a page about myself, sure, but what was even more shocking was the last entry.
It was about Sean. Apparently he was talking to Jemma, and flipped his hair in front of her. Charlotte, seeing this, got entirely jealous and ‘knew she had to react.’ What happened next was terrible. I don't even want to repeat it. Long story short, she completely ruined Jemma’s parents’ relationship and her entire home life. Then she talked about Sean and said all of this bad stuff. I didn’t even think this stuff could be done, that it was something for the movies, but it was there. Right there in my hands.
I didn’t want to be silent about something like that. It was one of those things that you wished you didn’t know, but then you do know and feel responsible. Kind of like finding out that your neighbor slays innocent children in his backyard. Not that that usually happens.
What I did next was controversial. In my eyes, it needed to be done. In some people’s eyes, though, the delivery was a little bit… mean.
After school one day, I casually slipped the journal into Jemma’s locker. Charlotte wrote the most about her, so I knew the reaction would be huge. I sticked a note on the top, saying, “Pages 76-104,” the pages that contained the most dirt.
I can’t even begin to explain Jemma’s reaction. She, based off what happened the next day, had called all of her friends to show them what it said about them and herself. She also showed them pretty much the whole book.
How do I know this? Well, the next day, it happened at lunch. I was enjoying my usual, boring peanut butter sandwich when I heard the yelling. Looking up, I realized that Jemma was in the middle of an argument, directed at Charlotte. It escalated, and pretty soon both Charlotte and Jemma were standing up, waving their hands in the air wildly. Getting closer, I heard that it was, in fact, about the journal. By the time I got over there, Brittany and Claire were there, backing up Jemma.
“I’m telling you, I swear to God, that wasn’t me! You know-”
“I know what, Charlotte?” Jemma yelled, not even realizing that a crowd was forming. “That you said all this stuff about me, and don’t even like me? You called Brittany fat, Claire ugly, and you ruined my parents relationship! I can’t even believe you!” By this time, the school newspaper was here, jotting down notes about what was probably the biggest fight of the year.
Charlotte started to say something, but Jemma cut her off, screaming, “It’s right here!! RIGHT HERE!” She waved the journal around in front of Charlotte’s face. “DO YOU SEE IT? Your name is right on top, Charlotte Ashley Edison! It’s your handwriting! And you said all of this stuff about everybody in it!!” Jemma scanned the crowd, her eyes landing on Sean. “You see him, the one you love so much, the one that you want to marry and have SIX CHILDREN WITH? I guess you don’t like him so much, based off what you said!” She roughly opened the journal, ripped out a page and threw it into the crowd. “Read it!” She screamed, over and over again. Another page, ripped out. And another.
Meanwhile, I was watching from the sidelines. The news crew was going crazy. Jemma had already gone crazy, and Charlotte was crying. She said one last word to Jemma, and stormed off.
I went back to eating my peanut butter sandwich, watching everything unfold. In reality, this was all her fault, it was inevitable. It was her fault that she said those nasty words to almost everybody in the school. This would have happened anyways, whether I found that journal or someone else did.
Looking back on those middle school years, I wouldn’t have done anything differently. The chaotic day where people found out about the journal was one of the most interesting days of my life. The principal didn’t actually have to get involved, because it went down during lunch. The whole school was up in arms about it at the time, but after that everybody silently seethed. Nobody would talk to Charlotte. She went from being the most popular girl to most hated. Friend groups fell apart, and new ones came together. It was like the zombie apocalypse happened in our school, and you grabbed the people closest to you and left with them.
See, that’s the thing. After that day, everything was back to the usually school stuff. But looking back, I realize that things did change. So many things were learned, on my behalf and pretty much the whole school’s behalf. For one, I learned that you could pretty much be friends with anybody when something big happens. I also learned about other people. What could be not a big deal to you could be a very big deal to somebody else, especially with words. Because in reality, you are responsible for your words, and words are a very powerful thing.