And maybe it was, when you compared it to the alternative.

Pulling my gaze away again, I glanced out of the car window, to the students that swarmed around us. Nervous freshman, hoisting backpacks almost too big for them to carry on their shoulders. Overexcited sophomores and juniors, barely stopping to take a breath as they enthusiastically gushed stories from their summer vacations. I couldn't hear them, but I'd been in the midst of this scene enough times to know what they were saying.

"You went where?"

"Did you hear about that party?"

"Is he single now?"

"She hooked up with who?

Then there were the seniors. The newly appointed rulers of the school, easy to pick out in the crowd as they drifted by with an air of confidence, bordering on arrogance.

That should have been me, I thought, with a bitter pang in my chest. It almost was. A month and a half ago I couldn't wait for the parties, the senior pranks, the countdown to freedom. But that was before.

"Emilia..." My mom spoke again, with a contrasting mix of annoyance and pity in her voice.

"I'm going!" I snapped, before grabbing my bag and folder from my feet and exiting the car, slamming the door behind me without a hint of a goodbye.

As I walked away, I knew I should have felt bad. This wasn't my mom's fault, none of it was and I knew I shouldn't be taking it out on her. Unfortunately, being aware of the emotions I was supposed to be feeling, didn't make me any more capable of conjuring them up. I knew I should have felt bad, but I felt nothing.

With my head hung low, I swiftly made my way down the path, towards the entrance of the school. As I walked, I tried my hardest to pretend that if I couldn't see the people around me, then they simply couldn't see me either. Not that my childish plan worked for long.

"Ayyyy, it's Emilia." Hollered Mike Patterson, from where he sat on the steps.

"Girl, where have you been all summer?" I heard one of the Vincent twins call over to me.

"Hey Em, good break?" A voice I didn't recognise chimed in.

I kept my eyes fixed to the ground ignoring them all, taking deep breaths and counting my steps as I went. In that moment, it seemed like the only way I could continue to put one foot in front of the other.

These people didn't know that I was different now and I wanted it to stay that way for as long as possible. Right now, they still treated me as though I was the same girl they had last seen in June, as I left the school down this very same path. These people didn't know that I now had to use every ounce of my concentration and energy just to hold a semi-normal conversation. They didn't know that the majority of the time I felt as though I was watching the world go by from outside my body rather than inside my head. They didn't know that I had multiple anxiety attacks a day, triggered by seemingly nothing. They didn't know that the only time I'd left my house this past month was to see a doctor or a therapist.

They didn't know anything. yet inevitably, it was only a matter of time. Eventually, they'd see it in my eyes, or in my missing smile. Or perhaps they'd hear it in my voice, or in the fake laugh I'd been trying to perfect. However they found out, it wouldn't be long until everyone realised I wasn't the same person I was before. The bubbly, energetic and mischievous Emilia Rowan, full of life and always ready to crack a joke. I couldn't be her anymore, I didn't know how.

Suddenly realising I'd let my mind drift, I quickly pulled myself back and began to count again.

One step, breathe in.

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