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Grade
8

Today I am starting my senior year. On the first day of school people usually get up super early to do their makeup or whatever. Heck, I usually do that, but not this year. I want to be more like myself. I want to do new things. I want to experience life. While I’m running down the stairs, mom asks me why I’m not ready yet. All I could think to say was, “I am.” I know how mom is and how she wants me to be this “perfect daughter.” One time when I was thirteen, my mom was putting so much pressure on me to maintain my good grades and still juggle everything else that any normal thirteen-year-old would have to do, I almost had a mental breakdown.  I was already struggling with problems like self-love, fitting in, and worrying about what everyone in this small town said or thought of me.

After telling my mother that I was ready, she said, “Sweetie, you can not go looking like that, especially on your first day of senior year.” This upset me, but I didn’t--couldn’t--let it bother me very much.

I replied saying, “Mom, I am not trying to impress anyone. And I am most certainly not trying to impress you.” I grabbed a granola bar and my stuff for school and I drove. Since my town is so small, I don’t live far from the school, but it felt like I was driving for at least an hour.

I got to school and I noticed someone that I hadn’t seen before. His skin looked as if he had been in the sun for the three years that he wasn’t at our school. His eyes and his hair were nearly the same color, dark brown, almost black.

“Hey, Nicole. Who is the new kid?”

“I think his name is Julian. He and his family just moved here from Texas. Why?”

“Oh, I was just wondering.”

“Oh, my gosh, Ramsay. You like him.”

I just laughed and said, “No, my mom would kill me.” But then I remembered what I said, “I want to try new things.”

“Yeah, you’re right. She along with everyone else in this stupid town would kill you. But I think you should go for it if you are interested.”

I got to first period, science, and there Julian was. He was sitting alone. I decided to “go for it,” because maybe I was a little interested. I tried to push away the thought in the back of my mind of what everyone would think, but mainly what my mom would think. I said to myself, “Screw it, Ramsay. Go talk to the kid.” And that is what I did, or tried to do at least, I took my seat beside Julian. When I sat beside him, I almost felt like I was frozen. I lost all possible conversation starters that I had managed to come up with in my head in an instant. I thought we were going to sit in silence until he said something.

He said, “Hey, I’m Julian. I’m sure you already know, but I’m new here.”

I was caught off guard by how smooth and deep his voice was. It took me a minute to process what he said, but then I replied, “Yeah, I’m Ramsay. If you need help finding anything, not that it’s a big school or anything, but I’m here. And I’m also here if you need a friend.”

He gave me this smile. This smile that lit up his whole face. He said, “I will definitely take you up on that friend offer.”  

I tried to give him my best smile in return. I don’t know if it worked.

Mr. Jones, our chemistry teacher, started going over the classroom rules. Of course, no one was listening. Julian and I were at the back of the room, so we easily got away with talking.

Even though I already knew the answer, I asked, “So, where did you move from?”

“We moved from San Antonio, Texas. I really loved it there. I had my family and my friends. I had everything I needed. All until my Dad lost his job. It all went downhill from there.”

“I’m sorry you had to move to this crappy town. There isn’t really anything here. Just a bunch of judgy people. And if one person knows something, so does everyone else.”

“Well, at least I can say that I already have a friend here.” He said this in such an optimistic tone, I considered the fact that he may have been sarcastic.

“Are you being sarcastic?”

“No, Ramsay. I’m glad you’re willing to be my friend.”

“Well, in that case, I’m glad you’re letting me be your friend.”

We decided that we should listen to what Mr. Jones was saying towards the last ten minutes of class. He didn’t say anything of much importance.

I went to all my classes after first block, hoping that I would have another class with Julian. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any classes together. So I decided that I would make the best out of first period.

School was over and I was casually walking to my car when of course, I saw Julian.

“Hey, Julian. Do you need a ride home or something?” I didn’t think he would accept the offer.

“Yeah, I actually think I do, if you don’t mind.”

“No, I don’t mind.”

I lead the way to my 1982 red,  Beetle Volkswagen.

The fact that my car didn’t have air conditioning never bothered me until this moment. I was already nervous and being in a car without AC in 100-degree weather didn’t help very much. You can just imagine all the sweat. This time I started the conversation. I said, “How was your first day?”

“First block was by far my favorite, but it wasn’t too bad.”

“That’s funny because first block was my favorite too.”

“Ramsay, I want to get to know you better.”

“Well, what do you want to know?”

“What your childhood was like, what your family is like, I want to hear it all.”

“Trust me, you don’t really want to know what my family is like.”

“Just tell me.”

“It’s just me and my mom. She and I are pretty opposite.”

“What do you mean?”

“Just how we think of people. What people look like doesn’t matter to me and I wish I could say the same for my mom. This sounds terrible but it’s the truth, she would probably be disappointed, and maybe even embarrassed, that I was hanging out with you.”

“Because I’m Mexican?”

“I know, it’s terrible and I almost hate her for it.”

“Does that mean that we can’t be friends?”

“Of course not, Julian. My mom is stupid and her opinion doesn’t really matter to me.”

We finally arrived at Julian’s house after a twenty-minute drive. His house looks very old, like a house from the early 1900’s. He waited a second before he got out of the car. It took him a minute to get it out but then he asked for my number “just in case he needed help in chemistry.” I knew that was a lie, but I went along with it anyway and gave him my number.

I got home about fifty-minutes later than usual. Mother asked where I had been and I just flat out told her. I didn’t see the point in lying. I should have known better. I had never seen my mom this angry at me for something so silly.

“Ramsay! Have you lost your everloving mind? What were you thinking? You know better than to hang out with people like that!”

“Mom, he is just a friend. And what do you even mean ‘people like that?’ Just because Julian isn’t white, I suddenly can’t be his friend? If it were any other boy in this town, you would be proud of me. I don’t know what you would be proud of, everyone here is the same. Julian is different. I just hope you can respect whatever happens with him and I can get over the color of his freaking skin.”

I didn’t even want to hear what she would have said next so I ran to my room and locked the door.

It’s been two months since mine and my mom’s disagreement. Julian and I have gotten closer despite what my mom says or tries to convince me of. I don’t mean closer in a friend way either. When we walk down the halls together, you can feel the silent judgment from nearly everyone.  But I’m happy, we’re happy, and that is all that matters.

Okay, maybe we aren’t as happy here as I thought. I texted Julian: let’s run away, together. to where ever you want to go.

Julian: San Antonio?

Me: if that’s what you want, then let’s go.

Julian: But when?

Me: right now, tomorrow, it doesn’t matter to me. i just want us to be happy.

Julian: Tomorrow then. And I really do think we could be happier there. I love you, Ramsay.

Me: i love you too. i’ll see you tomorrow.

Since it was the weekend, I had to tell mom where I was “going.” I told her that I was going shopping for some clothes and I wasn’t sure when I’d be back. This was partially true because I had no idea if Julian and I will ever even come back.

I drove to Julian’s old, little house to pick him up. He was already outside waiting for me when I pulled up into his driveway. He jumped in the car like we were on the run from the police in a stolen vehicle. Just like the day we met, we sat in silence for a minute. I started to realize what we were actually doing and I couldn’t think of what to talk about.

“Julian, did you bring any money?”

He laughed and said, “I’m not stupid.”

“I know. I know. I was just making sure.”

“Wow. We are seriously doing this. We are going to San Antonio. Together!”

“It’s crazy, right?”

“How long is it going to take us?”

“About 5 or 6 hours.”

“I think I’m going to take a nap unless you want to talk about something.”

“No, you can sleep, Julian.”

My eyes were beginning to get heavy. I’d never driven for more than 2 hours straight before. I was already on the fourth hour. “Only two more to go,” I told myself. Julian was sleeping so peacefully and I didn’t want to wake him. My eyes were shut fully when I realized that I had actually fallen asleep for a split second. There was nothing I could do to stop the transfer truck from hitting us. There was no way he could slow down. All you could hear was glass shattering. All I could feel was overwhelming pain everywhere in my body.  I tried to wake Julian up, but suddenly everything was black.

State
AL
Zip Code
36262