Chapter 17

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Tiana POV

Frantic. I feel frantic.

We're all at the cafe and Tyson and his friends are laughing at a joke Xavier had said. But I don't know what the joke was. But I don't know why they're laughing. I don't know why their eyes lit up.

Because I'm frantic.

Because I see all these people wearing the same type of clothes and saying the same sort of things and they all look the same to me. All of them so desperate to follow the trend. To follow the crowd. To gain the approval of those that they don't know. All of them looking the same, like sheeps in a herd. They all merge together to form the same people.

It's scary how much our need for validation leads us in our lives.

It's scary how I'm a part of them.

"Hey, I need to go to the bathroom," I say, running off to the bathroom without waiting for a response. I hear a few sounds of protest behind me but I pay them no heed.

Once I'm inside, I splash water on my face, wiping my face thoroughly. I grip the edges of the sink and look at the mirror and I can't help but be disgusted by my reflection. Who is this creature that's so desperate for comfort she actually allowed herself the comfort of someone else's house? So desperate for someone's care that she settled for fake love? So desperate for validation? For belonging? For hope?

"Hey," a voice behind me says and I spin around, gripping the edge of my hoodie to ground myself.

Nina stands at the doorway, looking away from me guiltily, her long blond hair covering her face.

"Glad to see you're still alive," she says awkwardly, looking up at me.

"He forced me alive," I tell her, my voice strained.

"I'm sorry for being rude to you that day," she tells me.

"I didn't mind," I tell her.

"I just... when I was a kid I never got my parents attention. They never gave me the time of day. Just bought me whatever I wanted and left me alone. That... spiralled into a deep need for attention from those around me, at least that's what my therapist said, and when I saw his attention focused on you... I didn't like it. So I'm really really sorry. I really am. Please forgive me," she says, looking at me pleadingly.

Desperate for approval.

"It's not my approval that you need. It's yours. You're worth it if you feel you're worth it. Everyone else is just a distraction," I tell her, trying to quiet down the voice that screams at me about being a hypocrite.

"Easy to say, hard to do," she says, looking defeated.

"If life were easy then it wouldn't be life," I tell her.

"I suppose so," she says, a small smile one her face.

She's like them. With her pretty hair and face full of make up, she's trying to look like them. But if you look closer, there's a lot more there. A lot more than pretty hair and a pretty face. Maybe she's hiding it from the world, but who wouldn't? Who wouldn't when the world is so cruel to anyone who breathes the wrong way? When the world wreaks havoc on those who sees things differently than them. Who wouldn't when all we're allowed to be is all that everyone else wants us to be?

"Thank you," I say.

"For what?" she asks, surprised.

"Just... thank you," I say. Her eyes softens and she nods.

I walk out the door. She stops me.

"How are you?" she asks when I glance back at her.

"I thought I was getting better but.." I trail of, my quivering fingernails digging into the skin of my arms. "It's getting worse now."

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