Eight weeks into my new routine, it was all too much.
I found myself collapsed on the rugby pavilion long after everyone had left athletics practice. I was sweat-drenched and cradling my head in my hands as I cried. It wasn't the soft, breathy type of sobs but the kind that shakes your whole body and makes breathing a near-impossible task.
"Why are you crying?" a voice sounded from below me.
The question brought my crying to a choked halt. I looked up at the person, recognising the voice annoyingly fast. The slender girl stood below me on the track in all of her condescending glory. Her eyes held more concern than I usually recognised in them. I watched her stand comfortably in the silence. I was not a fan of silence. So, I broke it.
"Why do you care?" I tried to act tough, but my lack of energy was easily conveyed in my tone.
"I didn't say I care, I just asked why you were crying?" She replied easily. Her voice held no malice or sarcasm as she spoke. She was merely curious, that much was obvious. There was also a presence of boredom drizzled in her demeanour; like she knew the answer to her question and wanted me to confirm her theory.
"I have no one. Is that what you want to hear? I'm crying because I feel lonely and lost and I needed a minute to deal with it. Happy?!" Although her entrance into my life was the catalyst for the chaos in my life, my anger still felt misplaced. All she did was show up – I was the one who used that as an excuse to lose everything I cared about.
I didn't know where the courage to be so honest came from, but I welcomed it. It felt good to bare my soul to her. I knew she didn't care and was utterly unaffected by my current state. Strangely, that made me feel safe to be this vulnerable in front of her. She didn't care enough about me to use it as ammunition against me later on; she'd not need to. She already won. She was already more than I could ever hope to be. She won the war without ever having to step onto the battlefield. There was no need for fighting or arguing or even making the pretence of a battle between us. There was no need for walls or barriers or phoney demonstrations of strength. She and I both knew the truth about my place in life. I was nothing more than an unimportant extra in the background of everybody else's blockbusters. I wasn't important - just filling up space. So, my vulnerability was safe to exist because it posed no difference or danger to the main plot of her story or anyone else's. It was merely the untold backstory of the 'girl crying on the pavilion".
"Where are your friends?" How dare she ask me that!
I couldn't help but laugh at her. She, who was the reason for my loneliness, was looking me in the eyes and asking me where my friends were. Where are your friends? All of my theories were proved correct with her ignorance. She robbed me blind of all of my friends; all without ever seeing me. She has everything I could ever dream of wanting. She had perfectly loyal friends, a loving girlfriend, a star spot on every sports team she joined and a report card that outshines even the likes of me. She did all of that without spraining a muscle or selling her soul. All the while allowing her success to feed of my failure. She was a succubus, maintain herself on my life force without any regard for my well-being.
She scaled the steps of the pavilion and took a seat beside me and let out a deep sigh. At first, I was too shocked to move. Her hand on my shoulder didn't help in the slightest.
"You deserve better, you know?"
I looked at her with all the hatred I could muster but all I came up with was a flooded-eyed stare of confusion.
"Your friends are ... As I said, you deserve better."
"Why are you telling me this?" I wanted to know what her angle was in telling me this.
"I can help you" This earned a snort from me and a reassuring chuckle for her. At least she could sense my distrust of her.
"Why would you do that? What's in it for you?"
The questions were ricocheting inside my skull like bullets without a clear target; each struck harder than the other. What was her angle? Was this a prank? How does pranking an invisible girl increase the size of her red-star spotlight? Based on everything I knew about her and the laws of social logic, she had nothing to gain from helping me. The beaten-down part of me was inclined to accept the offer- accept any crumb sized simply of human compassion at this point.
"To be honest, you remind me of someone. Someone I didn't have the chance to help." This was the first hint of vulnerability I'd ever detected in the girl since she walked into my life. Perhaps she had a heart inside her chest after all.
"Plus, I'm bored and helping you might be the distraction from the reality that I have needed for a while." I take it back. She was still a snake.
Again, I was dumbstruck. She was bored. How? Then it hit me. She had everything already. Every accolade or badge of prestige that a high schooler could aspire for was already dangling from the lapels of her blazer. She also possessed the hearts and eyes of every person worth knowing at our ever-shrinking school. She had already reached the top of the world and was getting bored with the view. Maybe she figured that with someone standing beside her, the view would somehow change. At this point, I had very little to lose and an enormous amount to gain.
I walked through the double doors; the entrance hall of Lara's house was immaculate. I was admiring the wooden sculpture near the foot of the staircase. It was a beautiful carving of intertwined hands. I traced my finger along with the vanished fingers. Someone cleared their throat behind me and its startled me. I fumbled and almost knocked the sculpture over. Luckily Lara caught the other side of the hand and helped me stabilise it.