Stupid (Part 3)
She had been looking forward to Saturday all week. Not just because it was one less day she had to pretend she fit in with her classmates, but because she was spending it with her cousins. The whole family was going out of town for the day to a beach-side carnival. She couldn’t help but smile to herself as she put her headphones in and turned up the volume, settling in for the long car ride ahead.
What felt like a hundred rest stops later, they finally pulled into a large, somewhat crowded parking lot. She could see her aunt and uncle getting out of their car and waved emphatically as they drove past. The car was barely stopped before she was clamoring out and running over to greet them. Her uncle hugged her so tightly that her feet lifted off the ground a little and her aunt kissed her on the top of her head. She gave equally as enthusiastic hugs to her cousins and she could feel the excitement bubbling inside her.
Everything started off so well. The day was filled with jokes and stories, arcades and food. They made up a pretty big group of people, each loud in their own right, so she was having a bit of a hard time getting a sentence in without being interrupted, but at first she didn’t really mind. She was enjoying their positive energy and the sights and sounds around her, wrestling for her attention. The sound of their laughter was making her feel like maybe she was floating.
All it took was one moment. She asked one stupid question.
She wasn’t trying to be funny. She was honestly asking. But the answer was apparently obvious to everyone else. At least, that’s what it seemed like to her when they all started laughing. She had always been a precocious child, mature for her age. They either assumed she was making a joke or that she could handle the mocking.
They were wrong.
She felt hot tears start to form behind her eyes as the same laughter that just five minutes ago had warmed her heart, makes her face burn with embarrassment. Her chest tightened and she felt like she forgot how to breathe. The conversation moved on and the laughter died down, but she could feel it stinging her skin. She clenched her jaw tightly and slowed her pace a little, but her family didn’t seem to notice as she started to fall behind.
She kept her eyes down and her pace steady for a little while. She looked up and realized that the distance between her and her family had grown a little. She suddenly felt so…invisible. So unimportant.
She wondered if they even realized she wasn’t walking with them anymore. If she even mattered to them at all.
She stopped walking for a second and watched as her family slowly got smaller. She stepped to her left and into an arcade, standing near the doorway, pressing her back up against a Claw Game machine. She closed her eyes and strained her ears, just waiting for someone…anyone…to notice she wasn’t with the group anymore.
She stood and she waited, the pressure building up behind her eyelids with every passing second. She waited. A few moments too long. Finally, she heard her name being called down the Boardwalk. She took a deep breath and wiped away the tear that had escaped onto her cheek. She waited until she heard her name again before strolling out of the arcade as though she had just popped in to get a better look at something.
She didn’t acknowledge the “You can’t just disappear like that” comment thrown her way and kept walking in stony silence. No one seemed to notice or care that her mood had changed, or if they did, they had no idea what had caused it. She spend the rest of the day just going through the motions, trying to ignore the ringing in her ears and the lump in her throat.
When she got back into the car, she turned her music up as loud as it could go and closed her eyes, pretending to be asleep the entire ride home. This Saturday didn’t end up going as she’d hoped.