“Present!” sang Athena from the front of the room.
“Here,” I said. Athena snickered and her friends followed suit.
I sat right behind Athena in my senior English class, and I had pretty much had it with her. We were friends in elementary school, but ever since she had gained popularity in 6th grade, she had been treating me like shit. Nowadays she surrounded herself with friends and was hailed as “the best and the brightest” at Lydian High. To me, she had just become a rich, privileged little bitch – the “Queen Bee.”
Athena tossed her hair and turned around to look at me.
“So, that short story contest is coming up,” she said pointedly. “Are you gonna enter?”
“What’s it to you?” I snapped.
“Well, it’s just that I clearly have more talent, and so I thought you might want a… warning, you could say.”
“You know you’re no match for me, so I don’t know why you would even bother trying. Just give up now; save yourself the heartache.” She smiled wickedly and turned back around.
I felt my face growing red and hot tears of anger welled in my eyes. I clenched my fists until I could feel my nails digging into the palms of my hands. I was sooo done. I was just as good as her and this was my chance to prove it.
* * *
When it came time to read our stories aloud in our English class, Athena was, of course, the first to volunteer. I sat in my seat, focused and unmoving, barely listening to her self-congratulatory garbage. All I could think about was how she would react when she heard my story.
She finished and her friends applauded enthusiastically. I volunteered to go next. Athena pushed past me as I made my way to the front of the room. She sat down victoriously, sneering at me. I ignored her and began to read.
The words poured out of me like acid as I revealed to the class every mean trick Athena had ever played on me. Her expression became hateful and her face flushed red. I just kept going. She was going to get what she deserved.
When I finished, the room was silent and Athena was shaking with anger, her eyes shooting daggers at me. She stood up angrily and stormed out of the room, her posse hurrying after her. I remained completely still, every muscle in my body engaged. I felt powerful. I had defeated the “Great Athena.”
* * *
For the rest of the day, I felt on top of the world. That is until I checked my Facebook that night:
“Arachne is a stuck-up, talentless bitch who doesn’t know when to give up. No one fucking cares about you and your dumbass stories. You’re just a poor, stupid little nobody. Why do you even bother? Just fucking kill yourself. The world would be a better place without your ugly face in it.”
My body turned to ice. I shook violently with sadness and hurt and anger. Tears streamed down my face, but I made no effort to dry them. Her words echoed in my head. “Why bother? Just fucking kill yourself.” My head was spinning. I felt myself stand and walk to my closet. “Just fucking kill yourself.” I grabbed a belt, my hands trembling. I was in a daze. “Just fucking kill yourself.” I looped the belt around my neck and tightened it. “No one cares about you. Just fucking kill yourself.” I collapsed by my closet door and shoved the belt between it and the doorframe. I closed the door and let my entire body go loose. “Just fucking kill yourself.”
* * *
Beep, beep, beep, beep… The noise was ringing through my ears. Suddenly I felt warmth spreading through my body. There was a beating in my chest. My eyes darted back and forth beneath my eyelids and then shot open.
I was assaulted by blinding fluorescent lights and white walls that seemed to be closing in on me. I started thrashing around and tried yelling out, but my voice was hoarse and weak. A nurse heard the commotion and came in.
“Whoa, whoa, calm down. Everything’s okay. You’re alive. You’re safe.”
“Where am I?” I croaked.
“The Lydian State Hospital.”
“You were admitted late last night, by your parents.”
“You tried to hang yourself. Your parents thought it would be best for your safety.” I put my hand to my throat.
“Hang myself –?” Everything that happened yesterday suddenly rushed into my head: The competition, Athena’s hateful glare – and her Facebook post. “Oh my god…” My eyes welled with tears and I began to sob.
“What has happened is terrible, but we will do everything we can to help you recover. It just may take some time.”
I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t comprehend what was happening. I had tried to kill myself… I was… institutionalized… What had I done – ?
“Can I get you anything?” the nurse asked.
“My journal… get me my journal… I want to write.”