SAVE MY LIFE
CHAPTER ONE- ANGEL
Standing in the front entry of my school, I know that my life’s going to change today. I feel my heart thudding against my chest as I rehearse my speech in my head. Someone else opens the door and a rush of cool late-September air chills my back, making me realize that I’m overheating. I shake out my hair and walk up the stairs to the second floor. Nervously, I check my reflection in the mirror on the inside of my locker door. I frown, and tug uncomfortably on my shirt which feels far too short, even though it’s long by most girl’s standards. That thought brings me back to what’s going to happen today, and I suddenly feel out of breath.
“Hey, Angela, are you okay?” Asks Gryffin, putting a hand on my shoulder. I swallow and nod yes. “I’m fine. I just have something to, um, tell you.” I slide my gaze down slightly from where they rested on his eyes.
“What is it?” He asks, brow furrowing as he undoubtedly runs through the worst possible options of what it could be. Sure enough, he gasps slightly. “Oh my god. Did you and your boyfriend ha-” I cut him off before he finishes that thought.
“Nope, absolutely not. Get that thought out of your head right now. Plus, I broke up with Braidon last week”
“Right, sorry. It’s just so hard to keep track of your boyfriends. You’re only thirteen. Why not have a long lasting relationship with someone you trust?”
“It’s not my fault! Marissa and Charlene are always playing matchmaker, and then that boyfriend tries to go further, and I break up with him!”
“Okay. Then what is it that you need to tell me so badly?”
“Just wait till the rest of the gang gets here. I want to tell you all at once.” I say, ending the conversation. We sit down against our lockers and wait in silence. Gryffin pulls out a book and begins to read. I stare into space and think, trying to remember my speech for drama and getting distracted by every movement. Finally, Charlene and Sabrina walk in together, laughing at some joke that I probably wouldn’t understand even if I heard it. I nervously glance at my watch. 8:57, a minute till class. I stand up and sling my backpack over both shoulders. Charlene and Sabrina have theirs draped over only one, but I can’t do that with my backpack. We quickly say hi, and Sabrina tells me a joke that I laugh at even though I don’t get it.
I walk to mathscience, our extra and first block, with them and sit down. We weren’t put close to each other’s desks, sadly. I take out my phone and scroll through tiktok and instagram, memorizing any crucial information to my short-term memory. Then I unzip my backpack and pull out my math booklet, scan through the first pages of questions, and robotically fill in the answers. Once I’m done, I take a few snaps and stuff it back into my backpack. I glance at my friends, who are taking selfies and putting on every filter they can to make them look better. They seem preoccupied, so I tug my sketchbook out of the very bottom of my backpack and begin to draw. On the page appears a perfect circle, and with a few more lines it becomes a basketball. I shade it and it appears to rise from the page. Slowly, I add a watch before pushing my sketchbook to the bottom of my bag. 1st block is almost ending. I quickly snap a few selfies of myself and filter them messily before I post them and heart a few of Marissa, Sabrina and Charlene’s pics. I stick my phone in my pocket and sit up as the bell goes. Mrs. Mcran rises from her chair and turns the smartboard on, talking about how to solve basic decimal equations. Sabrina and Charlene have their phones under their desks. Mine buzzes nonstop, so I assume that they’re texting the group text. I send them the answers to the work and pull my sketchbook again, continuing my drawing and adding a table beneath the objects, a cat beside them, and a chandelier hanging down into them. I frown slightly as I shade the cat. I’m not the best at drawing, but this fur is worse than I usually draw it. The cat takes the rest of class to finish, and repeatedly glance at my friends and at my watch.
At 10:49, I put my sketchbook away and wait for the end of class. The bell goes right at 10:52 and I hurry to the Junior Gym. I walk into the girls changing room for hopefully the last time and tug off my shirt, pulling a real full-length gym shirt on instead. Next, I change my leggings for shorts and run into the gym, eagerly doing seven laps instead of five and sitting down. Those of us that are already done wait as everyone else finishes. As the last person sits, Mr Fare begins to talk.
“So, uh, I’d just like to let you guys know that today is the last day of basketball unit.
“Tomorrow, you should come to the Senior Gym instead, where we will have the volleyball nets out. So, um, today we’re going to play some more games. Teams are on the whiteboard.” I’m on team blue, so I grab a penny from the pile in the middle and put it on. We’re playing four vs four, and it looks like only two of us on my team can actually play. The first game is Blue vs Red, and I face off for jump ball. I knock the ball back and Alex dribbles it across the line, maneuvering around our opponents. I run to get open, and he throws me the ball. I dribble and shoot, miss the shot, and take the rebound for a point for my team. We retreat across half and hi-five each other, before turning and playing defence. We switch back and forth, and three minutes later, our game ends and the score is 16 for blue and 9 red. We sit out the next round, and Red goes on to play Yellow. The rest of gym, we cycle out, and the ultimate champion of this tournament is Green, but we’re second, and that’s better than nothing. I change after gym and head to lunch, where I talk with my friends. I don’t want to change topics, and Marissa isn’t here right now, so I decide to tell them my secret tomorrow. Next period is Drama, so I walk up to the theater. My friends didn’t want me to pick drama, but I did anyway, and that’s why I don’t have my second or third period with them. They think that acting is pretending, and pretending is lying, and they say they don’t like liars, so they don’t like drama. However, acting isn’t pretending; it’s being, and they lie every time they add a filter to an image of themselves. In drama, I wait nervously for my turn to present my minute-long how-to speech. Mr. Blaiz numbers us off. I’m number six. My speech is on how to act. Afterwards, Mr. Blaiz calls us into his office for feedback. I sit down on a chair as he begins to talk.
“Angela, that was an excellent performance. It was a huge difference from your rough draft to your final. That performance seemed very from the heart. Did it have any extra meaning?”
“Yeah,” I say, “I act as someone I’m not quite a lot.” And I tell him my secret. He says he’s glad I told him, and I go to humanities feeling light. That doesn’t last long. I’m not sure how my friends will take the news. Sabrina and Charlene sit beside me in hum, so I laugh along with them as we-or should I say, I, work on our sheet. I’m not sure what’s such a big deal about the fur trade that we have to learn about it three years in a row, but that makes it easy, and that’s exactly what I need right now. After this class, It’s the end of school- 3:33, and I walk home immediately after school without stopping by the lockers. I have no after-school activities on Mondays, so I can just relax the rest of the night. When I get home, my parents are watching TV together. My mom turns the TV off when I shut the door.
“How was your day at school, Honey?”
I sigh. “Fine, Mom.” I spend the rest of the day reading.
The next morning, my Mom makes oatmeal for breakfast and the whole family sits down and eats breakfast together, something we usually don’t do.
“I, um, I have something to tell you” Oh god, here goes nothing.
“Yes?” My Dad asks.
“I um, I think I’m actually, uh, I’m not interested in guys. I’m into girls and other femme gender identities” My heart goes into my throat “and I’m not a girl. Or a boy. I’m in non-binary.”
“What? No, baby, who told you to say this?” Says my Mom, shocked.
I take a deep breath. “No one. I’ve been wanting to tell you for a while. I was just worried you wouldn’t react w-”
“That’s right!” Explodes my Dad, “We won’t. We’re not going to have a queer in this house. Get rid of this foolish idea at once!” His noes curls at the word ‘queer’ as if it tastes bad in his mouth.
I look at him sadly. “I am queer, Dad. And I’m not going to pretend I’m not.” His face flushes and my Mom taps his shoulder.
“We can talk about this later. Let our Angel go to school.”
CHAPTER TWO- ANGEL
As I walk to school, my mind is racing. I don’t know what my parents are going to do about this. All I know is that I’m not going to go back to being a normal CisHet girl. When I get to school, I don’t sit by the lockers like I usually do, and instead, head to the Senior Gym. Unsure of where to sit, I drop my backpack onto the floor and lean back against the wall. My phone starts vibrating. I pull it out and discover that Charlene, Marissa, and Sabrina have just noticed I’m not here. I type out that I’m running late, but immediately feel guilty of the lie, so I put my phone away. But then I keep thinking about my coming out and everything that could happen. I’m not an expert, but that didn’t seem very successful.
“Good morning, Angela. You’re here early, aren’t you?” Comments Mr. Fare
Grateful for the distraction from my own thoughts, I laugh. “No, I just came straight here”-I laugh at the word straight, as I came rather gay here- “instead of meeting my friends at their lockers.”
“Ah, I see” Replies Mr. Fare, nodding his head. Which part? I wonder. He unlocks the door and I sit down in a corner and finish my assignment for hum. When I finish writing about Samuel de Champlain, it’s the end of the extra period. The volleyball nets are up, and the cart with the balls is rolled into the middle of the gym. Mr. Fare pairs us up to practice bumping the ball. I’m stuck with a kid I don’t know. I mean, you can’t expect me to know everyone’s name yet- it’s only October. School started less than a month ago!
“Hi!” Says my partner, “I’m Tiger”
“Okay,” I say. It’s not like I’m going to remember their name. No one matters but my friends. “I’m Angela”
“Nice to meet you, Angel!”
I glare at them. “Only my friends get to call me Angel.” I snarl the word friends “So, it’s Angela to you.” When Tiger looks down sadly, I feel guilty. ‘I’ll apologize tomorrow,’ I think. We start passing, and their aim is so good, and every time the ball hits my arms, it hurts, and eventually everything fades around me. Tiger’s short brown hair has awesome looking orange stripes in their bangs, I notice, as we move into setting the ball. I miss it almost every time they serve it. Thankfully, I serve it to them decently most of the time. At the end of volleyball, I feel somewhat decent.
Then reality crashes back over me and I almost stumble with the weight of it. An involuntary sigh escapes me and I collapse into my chair in smath, making Charlene and Sabrina widen their eyes. They’re going to make some comment to Marissa at lunch about this. I vow to pull it together. I have no classes with Marissa this year, and I have to make sure she knows I’m still the same person I was when we became friends six years ago. I do my math and send pictures to the group chat again. Then I open snapchat and take half a billion selfies when Mrs. Mcran isn’t looking. I filter the decent ones and post them to the group chat. I heart all of their images and look through all the celebrity feed. By the time I can relax, it’s two minutes to the bell-12:14. I pull on my backpack and join the cluster by the door. The bell goes and I head to the lockers. Charlene, Marissa, and Sabrina are already there. I don’t know how they always get here faster than me. Marissa’s showing them pictures of dresses on her phone, each one sexier than the last. Charlene and Sabrina ooh and aah. Marissa looks at me
“What are you going to wear, Angel?”
“What do I need a dress for?” I’m confused. Charlene and Sabrina giggle.
“The dance, of course! What else? Who are you going to take?”
Oh jeez. How do I tell them I don’t want to wear a dress, and I don’t want to take a boy? “Why didn’t I hear about this?” There- a safe topic.
“Oh, Leadership is organizing it. '' She glares at me to remind me that I took drama instead of leadership. Then she looks away and keeps scrolling. At some point, the bell goes and we head to hum, listening to the sound of ‘London Calling’ by The Clash playing on the bad school speakers. Hum goes by in a flash as I nervously await the end of the day, and before I know it, it’s drama. I walk into the class and sit down where I usually do. As people sit down, we form our circle. Tiger’s in this class too. Finally, Mr Blaiz walks in.
“Sorry I’m late, guys. Some of my Senior High students needed to talk to me. So, today we start our next project. You’re going to pair off, and I have a script. It’s about nothing. You have to make it about something. Okay, pair off”
I sit where I am. I have no friends in this class. Tiger looks at me and I groan. They don’t appear to hear it and walk over to me.
“Hey, Angela. Want to be partners?” They ask. Angela feels wrong coming from them. I wish they’d call me Angel.
“Sure,” I say. “How can a script be about nothing?” Tiger has a copy. “Let’s see.,” they say. “It goes like this. What’s up?”
I read over their shoulder. “The sky.”
“Really?” They ask, leaning into me slightly.
“No.” I say. Tiger smells like the ocean.
“I know that. Seriously, what’s going on?” They say it with so much sass.
“Why are you wondering?” I question, breathing in their scent.
Tiger lightly sighs. “Why wouldn’t I be wondering?”
“What’s up, anyway?” I reply.
“You tell me” Tiger moves forward and turns so that we can read the script side by side.
“If I knew the answer, I wouldn’t ask you” I rest my head on their shoulder
“But I asked you first!” Says Tiger, moving away from me slightly.
“Why are you so serious these days?” I take the hint and stop leaning.
Tiger bites their lip slightly. “Don’t do that to me”
“Don’t do what to you?” My eyes rest on their eyes.
“You know the answer to that question” Tiger’s eyes fall away from the script and meet mine.
I sigh. “Do I?”
“Stop it” Tiger says automatically, but something about their voice tells me they wish that line was different.
I look back at the script. “Stop what?”
That’s the whole script. Tiger looks back at my eyes.
“I don’t know, but don’t stop this.” Tiger smirks slightly. I can’t breathe. I realize that Mr. Blaiz is watching us, but when I turn to look, he quickly busies himself. Tiger and I talk through ideas of what to do for our play. We have to make it about something. But the question is, what? We end up lying on the floor, shoulders touching, as we think of ideas.
CHAPTER THREE- TIGER
Angel-ANGELA, I remind myself, Angela and I are working on our weird drama project. It’s hard to focus when we’re making physical contact. She smells like wind on the prairie. I don’t know what I should do. Here I am, falling in love with a girl who is most likely straight. Talk about hopeless love- we’re not even on the same social level. She’s with the POPULAR girls and I’m just someone who talks with everyone but doesn’t have any real friends. At least I’ll have something to share with the Community. No one at school knows my presence as one of the most active users on Doorway To Hope, or DTH, my mental health community. Tigerfrost21, my username, feels like a part of me. At some point I should just change my middle name to Frost. Wait a moment. Wow! I can’t believe I just spent that much time NOT thinking about the person currently leaning into me, setting my arms on fire. I try to focus on our assignment, but it’s so hard to do. I’d rather be kissing the person beside me. I’ve had crushes before, but nothing compares to this. The bell goes, and I don’t know whether to be grateful for the distraction from the person who I love but will never love me back, or angry for not being able to be around her. But the bell’s a bell, and Angela sighs and stands up. I slowly clamber to my feet and grab my backpack. The way I walk out of the door looks like a hybrid of a skip and a swagger. My mom must have been able to tell from my expression that I was elated, because the first thing she said was,
“You had a good day?”
“Yep!” I exclaim. “I met someone!” She laughs.
“Who is it?” She asks. I gave her a look. “Right, no talking about romance. Sorry!” She puts her hands in the air as if to surrender. I roll my eyes and go to my room, pull my phone out, and drop onto my bed. I open Doorway to Hope and start a new topic.
TOPIC CATEGORY: Sexuality and Dating
TOPIC TITLE: I met someone…
‘So, guess what? I met someone. It’s just a bit of a dilemma. I’m not exactly the most popular, but this girl is on the top in terms of popularity. Also- She’s probably straight. But we’re in gym and drama together, and she seems to really like doing that. Or maybe she just really likes school in general? We’re working on a project in drama together, and it feels like something romantic happened, but I’m honestly confused. Advice?’
I click ‘POST TOPIC’ and plug my phone into the charger. Then I go downstairs and eat dinner. I can’t help but wonder what Angela’s doing. Maybe she’s eating at some fancy sushi restaurant with her rich parents while I eat my average burger. I mean I don’t know for sure if she’s rich, but she acts rich, so whatever. Maybe she’s laughing with her friends about how she fooled some non-binary freak. I mean, it’s not too unlikely. I realize that I’m only going to make myself upset thinking about this, so I play games on the computer before I collapse into bed.
In the morning, I make two omelets and my Mom and I eat together before we get ready for work and school, respectively. I throw together a basic sandwich and check the time. I have to get to school. I throw my backpack on and walk out the back door. But it’s cold, so I go back inside, remove my backpack and put a jacket on. Then I walk out the door again. I unlock the garage and put my helmet on before I open the garage. I pedal out on my bike as the garage folds up. I hit the gravel alley hard and ride to the river pathway. Biking alongside the Bow River is the fastest way to get to school, as the only time you have to deal with roads is when you go underneath them on underpasses. I race to school, feeling my pulse heighten and I wake up from the cold air in my face. I lock my bike to the fence and walk the steps to drama, the extra period for Wednesday. When I walk into the theater, I immediately look for Angela. She’s crying in the corner. I don’t mean light ‘this is a sad book’ crying. I mean ‘I’m suffocating, I can’t even try to pull myself together’ crying. My heart drops. Mr. Blaiz walks in behind me and I numbly walk forward and let him pass me. He follows my gaze and groans softly. I stand still. Mr. Blaiz walks over to Angela. I sit down. I may be overreacting. It’s probably just rich-girl crying. I pull out my phone and open DTH. I’ve gotten a reply from Thunderstorm.
Hey there, It’s awesome that you met someone! I’m wondering, what happened that felt romantic?
I begin to type out a reply.
Thanks, Thunderstorm. We were looking at a script and saying our lines. And then we made physical contact. I leaned into her, and she put her head on my shoulder. I pulled away slightly, but then we leaned back into each other. Although- She’s crying in the corner right now. I don’t know what happened, but I don’t want to bother her right now if that makes it worse.
I click the post button and put my phone away. I watch Angela until the end of class.
She doesn’t stop crying at all. I don’t know if I should go over and talk to her. I mean, I spend a lot of time helping others on DTH. Well, not right now, because I don’t adopt other people’s problems when I’m dealing with my own. The bell goes, and I head to mathscience. But I can’t focus on multiplying my decimals, and think non-stop about Angela. It takes me way too long to figure out where to move the decimal place, and I get almost no work done in class. Finally, the bell goes.
We get started on volleyball in gym, and Angela and I pair up again. She looks so dead, but every time the ball hits her arms, she looks like she’s momentarily alive again. It takes me a minute, but I realize what’s happening and I don’t pass the ball and instead walk over to her.
“What’s up?” I ask. Angela jerks upright,
“Why are you wondering?” Angela blinks rapidly. “Wait, no, that’s not right. Uh…The sky? Sorry, I thought it was gym. Oops.” She laughs. Something is seriously wrong.
“No, Angel, it is gym. And I’m not asking the script, I’m asking you. Are you okay?”
“Isn’t it obvious?”
I sigh. “Yeah, it is. What happened?”
Angela starts crying again. I wait patiently for the rest of gym. Mr. Fare asks me what’s going on, and I say that we’re just taking a break. He probably doesn’t believe me, but he lets it go and leaves us alone for the rest of gym. When the bell goes, I head to the cafeteria to get some root beer. I’m surprised to see Angela with her friends. They’re talking, and it isn’t hard to hear what they’re saying. “We’re your friends! You’re supposed to tell us stuff!” Exclaims Girl #1. “Yeah,” shouts girl #2 “Don’t be like that to us! We’re your friends! Don’t be useless!” Continues girl #2. Angela is crying. Girl #3 adds on. “Angel, stop being such a devil.” And girl #1 shoves Angel. Finally Angel spits out,
“Fine. I’ll tell you what it is. I came out to my parents as Non-binary, and I’m not attracted to boys. And I got kicked out.” She glares defensively at her friends, and I feel like I just got stampeded over by horses. My crush isn’t straight, and her coming out as I feared mine would be. (spoiler alert-my parents got a cake and threw a party. I guess we’re both at extremes on coming out) Her friends look at her, then start shouting. “You like girls? Oh my god, that’s so gross!” “You’re QUEER? Ew, that’s, like, so gross” “What the hell? We share a locker room with a HOMOSEXUAL? You’ve seen us half naked? That’s so gross!” They shove her around, like they want to keep her -no, them- as far away as possible. Finaly I’ve had enough.
“Leave them alone!” I yell angrily, then I take Angel by the arm and pull them outside, where we walk around to the side of the school, which has several alcoves. They start crying again, and I put my hands on their shoulders.
“Are you going to be okay?” I ask
“I-I don’t know,” they sniffle. Fair enough.
“Are you going to do anything drastic?”
“Probably” They cry
“Do you have a place to spend the night?”
“No,” they respond, and seem to give up on standing. They curl into a ball. I stop talking and pull my phone out to DTH. I ignore any comments anyone else has written and start a new one.
I don’t know what to do. Turns out, they were crying because they came out to their parents as non-binary and bisexual, (to the effect of not being interested in boys)and their parents kicked them out. I’m going to see if they can live in my house. I asked them if they were going to do anything drastic, and they said they might. WHAT DO I DO?
I click post and look back at Angel, who is still curled up on the ground. I lie down beside them and put one hand on the arm of my Angel.