I was at a rather impressionable age; that awkward, gawky stage between child and woman. A friendless creature despised and disparaged by those who owed me nothing as well as she who gave me life and little else. Every day I desperately prayed for that promised metamorphosis from ugly duckling, scorned and shunned, to beautiful swan, respected and adored. From cowering to towering. From fearful to feared.
Yes, most definitely that: Feared.
I was in the bathroom, trying to wash away mud, blood, snot and tears along with the invisible but ever present feelings of loneliness, anger, self-loathing...and a healthy dose of hatred aimed at those who made my life a veritable nightmare. After I wiped my face with industrial paper towel, I looked in the mirror and there she was.
“Don’t let them get to you,” she said.
I snorted. Easy for her to say. She didn’t have to deal with the abhorrent wildlings that were my classmates. Or my mother.
“Seriously,” she replied to my wordless response, “You are a diamond. They are not even coal. They are dust beneath your feet.”
“Who are you?”
“Alyssa. And you are Melissa.”
Eveyone knew the social reject. I sighed. “I haven’t seen you around, Alyssa. Are you a transfer?”
She smiled. “No. I’ve seen you. I’ve been watching you.”
“Okaaaay....that’s not weird. Why?”
“Between school and home, your life, in a word, sucks. After that fiasco in the school yard today, I thought you could use a friend.”
Truer words were never spoken.
We became inseparable. I rarely saw her during the day except in the rest room or when she made faces at me from the door of my classroom. But after school, she was always waiting for me ouside the school to walk home with me. To talk. To listen.
I never invited her inside my house. I wasn’t allowed to have friends over. It had never mattered because I had never had any. It still didn’t. I preferred that not even my best friend see my mother come after me. Or strung out on the couch. Or, worse, hear the screams from her room - lust- or pain-filled, depending on who was with her and how much they paid. Or didn’t.
But Alyssa didn’t let even me stop her. Many times, she would climb through my bedroom window. Usually, just when I needed her most.
One night, after a particularly bad altercation -- verbally and physically -- with my mother, she was in my room when I ran in crying. She held me as I wept and whispered, “Let go, my sweet girl. I’m not going anywhere ”
The next morning, my mother was found with a needle still in her arm.
The death certificate would say accidental overdose.
I called 911. Police, medics and a social worker arrived very soon thereafter.
“What’s your name, little lady?”
“Alyssa,” I replied.