The tiny wooden cage was a great find. It took a while for Stella to decide how to use it, but once inspiration struck, it was gold. Brunette Barbie had been taunting her from her shelf amongst the other retired toys for far too long. After blacking out her eyes, Barbie’s disembodied head became the perfect occupant for the little cage.
Such cleverness had to be shared with the world. Using a giant safety pin, Stella attached her new treasure to her heavily doodled upon backpack.
Of course, no one noticed. Mom barely even acknowledged her when she left for the day. No one at school commented either. Not that she really craved the attention, but hell, she was proud of her little doll head cage. It pushed boundaries just enough to make her smile every time she looked at it.
At lunch, Stella sat with the same group she always did. And as usual, they ignored and excluded her. She knew she should take the hint and move on. But old habits die hard. They used to have fun together, at least until those boys had thrown nachos in Kara’s hair. Since then, Kara and Melissa treated Stella like a barely tolerated tagalong.
Sure, the food fight had gotten out of hand. Sure, she’d gotten in the face of that boy who was now spreading rumors about her. At the time, though, it had been worth it. She’d thought Kara would appreciate having someone stand up for her. Instead, it seemed that Stella was now seen as volatile and ready to explode into fits of fury at any moment. Instant outcast status.
High school dynamics were stupidly complex. Scratch that. They were just plain stupid.
There was nothing left to do but escape. She pulled out her notepad and started writing. Stella had long since given up on reality. Books, graphic novels, and stories of her own creation, those held much more appeal. It was just enough to get her through the day.
"Purple corduroys again, Stella? Shouldn't you take them off to wash them sometime?" Melissa was your stereotypical retro Goth. Black was her thing. Black lipstick, clothes, eyeliner and skulls. Lots of skulls. It was obnoxious.
Chewing on the end of her pen, Stella did her best to hide a smile. She’s just jealous she doesn’t know how to coordinate her wardrobe with anything besides black and more black. It was best not to respond, pretend she didn't hear.
Stella and Kara had gotten along great until Melissa. Now, though, she knew her friendship with Kara was all but over. It was a familiar dance, she knew the moves. Friends never stuck with her long.
She got through lunch and the rest of the day, clinging to the secret hope that someone would ask her about her new backpack decoration. The doll head caused an unexpected, though not unfavorable, reaction. People avoided her even more than usual.
Blissfully alone, Stella made her way to the park across the street. It was a sanctuary of sorts, filled with gnarled old oaks, one last vestige of nature nestled in the network of asphalt and cement. Settling into her favorite spot, she pulled out her notepad and began to write. Consumed by the fantasies and adventures of her other world, she didn't even notice the clouds rolling in. Only the spatter of a rain drop on her paper finally brought her around.
It was time to head home. She smiled at the doll head, her little empty-eyed, silent companion.
"You make a good friend, you know. You scare off the morons and you're so quiet."
She climbed to her feet, pulling on her jacket against the rain.
She froze. She knew that voice, she loathed that voice. Damn. “Ah, hi," she stuttered, her oh so lackluster social skills holding her hostage. “Um. It’s raining. I’ve got to go home.”
“It is? I couldn't tell," Melissa sneered.
“Yeah.” Stella looked to Kara. "Hey Kara."
Kara, of course said nothing. No surprise there. Stella had befriended the shy Kara, not the other way around. The girl had no spine.
“Well, I’ll catch you guys later," Stella said, and turned to leave.
“Hey, nice... uh, doll head,” Melissa spat.
Stella smiled despite herself. Finally, someone noticed the grim little addition to her backpack. "You like her? She reminds me of you. I think I’ll call her Voodoo.”
Melissa's brow furrowed slightly before her face twisted up in a scowl. For once, the nasty brunette was speechless. Stella smiled and walked away, giving Melissa another look at the little hollow-eyed doll head in the cage--black lips, black eyes and hair remarkably like Melissa’s.
Stella's smile widened as inspiration struck again. Tonight she would stitch the doll head’s mouth shut.
* * *
This piece was published by This Zine Will Change Your Life on February 16, 2013. Please check out this awesome little zine by following the link on the right, under 'external link'. The music included on with this story was selected by the zine to accompany this story, along with a photo by Adam Lawrence.
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bit·ter·sweet: being at once bitter and sweet; especially: pleasant but including or marked by elements of suffering or regret. A collection of short stories I've written since joining Wattpad for various contests, challenges and publications. The...