I sat in the car, the small vents in the dashboard blowing cool air into my face. My hair gently blew backwards from the air pressure. I leaned over, turning down the cooling system before looking up at my mother. She smiled, nodding at the building in the window behind me. I turned to look again, and I watched as girls gathered out of their sporty cars and ran towards the building laughing. I watched guys leaning on the hoods of the cars, or sitting in the back of the occasional beat-up pick-up truck, laughing with their friends.
I watched, as it seemed, an endless amount of high schools unload the buses across the parking lot. And here I was, sitting in my mother's car, alone.
"Nikki, I'm late for work. You'll be fine," She encouraged, "Go."
I nodded, gripping the handle tightly. I hesitated before I pushed the door open. I swung my jean-covered legs out of the car, one at a time, my white flip flops flattening on the blacktop. I lifted myself up, my long hair cascading over my shoulders as I lifted my pink backpack from the floor mat in the car. I stood up straight, fixing my shirt before turning back towards my mother, and her open window.
"You'll do great, Sweetie. It's just the first day of school. I'll pick you up at three."
"Yeah," I ducked down so I could see my mom, "Thanks Mom."
I stood on the curb, watching her car pull past, another car instantly taking the opportunity to pull up and take her place. For a moment, I simply stood there, sadly watching my mom as she drove away off into the distance. Once she was out of sight, I turned quickly, my feet rushing me towards the large brick building that stood proud in front of me.
As I walked past a group of girls, known as the "Populars", their heads all turned, staring at me with disapproval in their eyes. "Slut," One mouthed, and the others giggled and flipped their hair around.
I couldn't help but remember the first time I'd talk to them. It was burned into the back of my mind, a constant reminder that I, Nikki Sullivan, would never be good enough for them, or anyone else, for that matter.
I ignored them, clutching my schedule tight in my hand as I walked through the school and towards Locker E364. I followed the signs on the wall, desperately trying to remember where that was from my previous experience last year in this very school.
I took careful steps down a hallway, positive that it was the right way. A group of guys, all football players, stood in front of me, blocking my way. I picked through my mind, trying to remember if there was another route that could lead me to where I wanted to go. I couldn't remember, and I figured if I left and came back later, it'd be even more trouble for me then. I'd have to face them now.
I kept my head low, staring at my schedule, reading the same words over and over again--Locker E364--to avoid eye-contact. I tried to walk around them, but one slid in the way. I looked up, giving them my best smile, before stepping around them. Another boy quickly filled the open space. I figured I'd leave, going to the office to ask if someone could escort me there since I couldn't find it. I turned, but two of the guys were standing behind me.
"Hello Nikki," One of their deep voices spoke to me, laughing, "Or should we say hello whore."
"Let me through." I tried to make my voice sound strong, but I lacked the confidence. I was terrified of these guys.
They all laughed, and one leaned into me, my small defenseless body slamming into the lockers beside me.
I ducked around them, walking down the hallway, refusing to look back at them as their voices echoed towards me, shooting like rockets through the emptiness of the space.