chapter 5 - she's an evil b****

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After thanking the staff and changing back into my school uniform, I search for my dad to tell him I'm off to school. I find him still talking to Mr. Daniels, and their conversation seems to be going well based on the cordial smile on my dad's face.

"I didn't know there was a different side of you." My dad comments when he sees me walking up.

"Yeah," I respond, knowing that at some point I'll have to tell him what my true passion is.

"I'll keep you guys updated when I get the final print," Mr. Daniels says. "Good job today, Elle."

I thank Mr. Daniels for the opportunity and say my goodbyes before heading off to school. The thrill of this new experience is sending my mood soaring. I turn up the radio, belting out the lyrics and tapping along to the beat on the steering wheel.

Soon, I pull into the parking lot and make my way into the school for the rest of the day. I walk through the hall with positive energy that shows on my face and the confident steps I take. Whispers are loud, and I refuse to listen to any of them because I don't want anyone ruining my good mood.

"Wow." Someone expresses themselves clearly as I walk past.

I'll take that.

The gentle melody of the bell goes off to indicate the start of the next class. Entering the classroom, I find my seat and sense the gaze of everyone as they trickle in. Surprisingly, I overhear compliments about my makeup and hair instead of negative comments.

Someone leans in conspiratorially towards their friend, lowering their voice to a hush. "I think Cassie is just jealous of her," she whispers with a knowing nod. The other friend's eyes widen in understanding, and they quickly reply, "Beauty and brains."

What are they talking about?

A couple of hours go by. Time seems to hang still as I stand at the bathroom sink, and the door suddenly slams against the wall with a deafening thud. The familiar voices and raucous laughter of my bullies echo through the room, chilling my blood as I wash my hands. In an instant, I glance up at the mirror and see the four girls who relentlessly torment me, their sneering faces reflecting in the glass. My jaw clenches in with nerves of unease as I turn to face them, but before I can leave, one of them forcefully shoves me at my shoulder, her hand jabbing into my shoulder like a warning shot.

"Where are you going? Hang out with us for a little bit." She shoves me again with another relentless force, each push driving me further and further backwards until my back hits the wall.

"She looks like a fucking giraffe with makeup on." Isadora takes the first shot, making the girls burst into laughter, their voices blending into a mocking chorus.

The air thickens with the stench of cruelty as their words hit me like a punch to the gut. I'm trying to hold on to my good mood, but it's slipping through my fingers like sand, and by the looks of things, they weren't willing to play nice. My heart starts racing as Cassie takes a lock of my hair and twirls it around her finger as if I'm some toy for her entertainment.

"Do you think just because you put on makeup and do your hair, people are going to like you?" Cassie's tone is heartless.

Her words are like the claw end of a hammer, chipping and pounding through whatever confidence I have left. I don't even get a full step in as Cassie grabs a fistful of hair. I cry out in pain as my hands instinctively reach up to where her fist is. She drags me down, sending me kneeling to the ground in front of her. Tears blur my vision, and another wave of white-hot shock pierces through my scalp when she grips even tighter. My tears fall and trace wet paths on my thighs, while some hit the floor.

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