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It was Friday, finally, but for once I had nothing planned, nothing to do. I ran into the house, past my bewildered, concerned mother, towards my room at the end of the hall, desperately trying to hold back tears. I slammed my door, locked it, and flopped facedown on my already-made bed. As the tears began running down my face, all the anger, worry, sadness, frustration, and any other emotion you can think of that had been pent up inside me for the last five years, since sixth grade, finally surfaced and I wept. **********************************************************************

I suppose some background information is in order, so you can understand exactly why I was so upset. My name is Sarah and I was a junior in high school when it happened. I was always one of the more popular people in school, a prep you might call me, or at least, those were the kind of people that I used to hang out with. Yet, with all I had going for me, I still wasn't happy. Things never felt quite right. I fit in I suppose, but it was as if I was just wearing a mask, playing a part. And if I tried to voice my opinions, there were always one or two against me who turned everyone else against me too. **********************************************************************

Finally, after hours of crying and repeated interruptions be my rather concerned mother, I had no tears left. I had heard the phrase "All cried out" many times, but I didn't think it was actually possible to cry so much that you feel like you're going to collapse and where your eyes are comepletely dry. I pulled myself off my bed and stumbled over to my mirror. I gasped in shock, and perhaps horror too, at the face that stared back at me.

My make-up had all been rubbed off from the hours of being buried in the pillow and my eyes were red and puffy from all the crying. My hair was frizzing up and sticking out all over the place. Yet instead of picking up a brush, I just stared. Slowly but surely, I started to understand and appreciate myself for who I am-not what everyone else said I should be.

I looked down at my clothes. Completely wrinkled. The latest styles, naturally and I started to hate them. Not because of the wrinkles. They just seemed to force me to realize that I should do things for ME and not wear clothes that others say are "in."

I smiled, a genuine smile for once, something that almost never crossed my face, and I realized how much better I looked, red-eyed and all, with a true smile, rather than that plastered-on smile or the disdainful look that I normally gave people. I also realized that this was the beginning of a new me. But first, I had to make some changes.

That weekend was spent in the beginning of these changes. I wore no make-up and old, comfortable clothes. Every time I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror, I laughed with sheer joy at what the Others would say. I redecorated my room, ripping down those "trendy" things that almost everyone else had hanging on their walls too, and replaced them with pictures and posters of things that I previously, in public anyway, would have considered "uncool."

Then came a slightly harder step, though not near as painful as what was yet to come. I nervously picked up the phone and dialed the number that I still knew by heart-the one of my best friend from those elementary school days. I regretted having lost her, the one who had known me from the days when we were still in diapers. I knew she, if she would still speak to me that is, would be the one to help me change.

She had been left behind, snubbed by my new, older, "middle-school" friends, though I talked to her occasionally for that first year. My other friends thought she was too eccentric to fit in with the group. I know now that they were wrong. She was the perfect, shining example of what a friend should be.

We contrasted and complimented each other at the same time in almost every way. I had always loved reading (to the horror of the Others) and she was, is, a writer. She wrote countless stories and poems and I devoured them. She was, still is, very talented. She always got the good grades and excelled in the music area. I could sing, though I hadn't in a while, and play piano a bit (another horror!). She always had her dreams and the group she ran around with after me were the "artistically inclined" or, as they were know to everyone else, the freaks. The ones that usually end up being famous after high school.

She sounded shocked and slightly mad when she answered the phone. I wouldn't have blamed her if she had hung up on me. She had plenty of reasons to. I began to ask her forgiveness and she broke down into tears. As she began sobbing, so did I. We spent at least two hours on the phone crying, making amends, and catching up on the past six years. We promised that, no matter what, we would always stay friends.

When I explained all that I had been going through, all the pressures, she cried even harder. She told me that she thought that I had had the easier life, thoughin reality, hers was better, without all the stress and pressure to fit in, to be what others said. What she said rang true. In her words, I was "nothing more than a puppet, jumping when people pulled the right strings."

She invited me to come to her house and hang out with her friends. I was nervous, but I finally convinced myself to go. It made one of the biggest differences in my life. I just wore jeans and a sweater, very comfortable, not what I would normally wear, and just basic make-up.

There was no pressure at all. A few of them I recognized from class. They treated me like one of their group, not a stranger intruding on their scene. Only a few shied away at the very first, but soon we were talking like old friends. One in particular, Brad, made sure I felt like one of them. He was by my side the whole night and when they put in a video, he asked me to come to the porch to talk for a moment to talk.

"Sarah, I know our groups at school don't exactly mix, and I'm not sure exactly why your here, but that doesn't matter. I can't believe I'm about to say this... When I saw you tonight, I felt like my dreams were beginning to come true."

Confused and oblivious to the obvious, I looked at him."I don't understand, Brad. What do you mean, your dreams are coming true?"

"Ah, my poor, naive little Sarah. Have you really had your head buried in your social circle that much? We've had English together for the past three years, but you didn't even know my name before tonight. Whenever we wrote poems and read them aloud in class, mine were always for you. I always looked right at you when I read. I thought perhaps you might have picked up a little."

I felt myself starting to blush and I was glad it was dark enough he couldn't tell the shade of red I knew I was turning. "Why didn't you just tell me? I would have listened," I paused and wiped a tear from my eye, one of many threatening to forge their now familiar path down my face. "I always thought your poetry was beautiful. I never would have thought it was for ME."

"If I had told you how I felt, you would have laughed in my face. Don't lie. Look inside yourself. You know the truth. I knew it too well. But I can't hide it any more. I couldn't help it. I LOVE YOU! I know you just met me tonight, and I can't explain it myself, but over these years, somewhere along the way, I began to love you. And I don't know how or why, but I always had this strange notion that someday you might love me too."

I watched him for a moment, looked into his eyes, noting the sincerity in them. I realized he really was telling the truth. Throughout the years I have had many boyfriends, and most, at one time or another, had told me that they loved me, but I always felt that they were lying. Just a feeble attempt to get me to sleep with them. But it never worked. I never really felt loved. But now this stranger, this boy I barely knew, laying his heart on the line, said he loved me, and I knew he really did. And now, new feelings began to stir inside me, feelings I never thought I would feel.

"Brad, I want you to know that I'm not saying this because I need something to say back," I began, choosing my words carefully, deliberatly. "But I think, somehow, some way, I might be beginning to love you too. Something I had started to lose faith in has suddenly become so real to me in just these few brief hours. I thought love was fake, something that lasted a little while, then left. This is true, Brad. I feel free now, liberated. I-I..." Once again the tears rolled down my face, sobs choking me.

Brad took me firmly yet gently in his arms and I felt that he would never let go, and I hoped we could stay that way forever. He kept saying my name softly, over and over. I felt our hearts beating together, the rhythms the same, indistinguishable. He began kissing my forehead softly, moving down to my cheeks, kissing away all my tears until, finally, I stopped crying. Though the tears were gone, he continued his soft kisses all over my face until finally his lips found mine. Never before had I known such a sweet kiss. Never had I had one that actually took my breath away.

I'm not quite sure just how much time passes before the door opened and my newly reconciled best friend walked out to find us still in the midst of that kiss. She smiled as we realized that someone was watching and moved apart. That smile told me that she had known how Brad felt for me and she was obviously happy that we were together.

Brad drove me home that night. As I began to open the door of his car, he leaned over for one more kiss, then promised to always be there for me. Yeah, right, I thought. How many times have I heard THAT one before? But, there in that little corner of my mind, a tiny spark appeared and steadily grew stronger untill I KNEW. He really was telling the truth.

"Sarah, I know your friends wouldn't quite approve of this since I'm not a jock or prep that likes to sleep around with all the cheerleaders. I'm just the opposite, one who writes, not to mention, loves, music. They all say I have something wrong with my head. But I can show you a world that you might never see otherwise. Well, here goes... Do you think maybe you and I could, you know, be, um.., well, boyfriend/girlfriend?" He hurried that last part out and turned his sad puppy-dog eyes on me. I couldn't help but laugh.

"Of course, Brad. And, and I don't really care for those other people anymore. Tonight I've been shown a glimpse into your world, and personally, it's one I'd like to be a part of. In fact, if it's OK with you, on Monday, maybe we could be moved closer together in English? And maybe I can sit by you at lunch?"

Brad looked at me in disbelief. A light of amusement appeared in his eyes. "Miss Popular wants to sit with the freaks now?" he asked in a teasing voice. "Well," he added, seriously, "You'll have to find some avenue for the Others to ostrasize you. But then, being around me might be reason enough. Well, what form of the arts do you like? Writing, music, acting...?"

I thought awhile. What did I do? I had never really developed a talent. Well, one I had done a little before, but gave up though I was rather good at it. But maybe.... "Well, I sing. And act. That could be it! I've always had this dream on the back-burner of being on Broadway..."

"That's it, then! Start pursuing those and you've got pretty much a one-way ticket to Loserville. Well, according to Them anyway. And just wondering.. Who actually said they were the cool people? Maybe they're nerds too!"

"You're psycho!" I said with a laugh. "And thank-you." I got out of the car and walked towards my house. Singing and acting, huh? There was a musical tryout next week. I had a week to prepare.

On Monday, I talked to my new-found friends before school and in-between classes rather than the popular clique. I quickly became the recipient of many dirty looks from the Others. It got around school rather quickly about my Saturday with Brad. People I had never really talked to aside from asking them to pick up the pencil that had rolled off my desk, came up and told me how glad they were to see that Brad and I were finally together. For once, I was completly happy. I just knew that my life would be worthwhile from that point on.


I like to look back on those days after I became "depopularized", as Brad always liked to put it. High school, as well as college, are behind me now and I can't understand why people's opinions used to matter so much. Today I don't let them get to me. If they don't like me, it's their problem, not mine. I suppose you're wondering what became of my friends and of myself.

One of those that were there the night I met Brad is now a successful TV and big screen actor. Star. I won't say his name since no one would believe it anyway. My best friend and I are in touch all the time thanks to email. I also work on a web page for her, since she is inept at even finding sites online. Email is her limit. She is an author with several best-sellers to her credit.

As for me and Brad, well, things worked out very well. He proposed to me the night of our senior prom and, of course, I accepted. Love is something I believe only happens once. We were married shortly after graduation.

We live in an upscale New York City apartment and he owns a management firm for aspiring new actors/actresses. He tries to work personally with every client, encouraging them as he once did for a scared young girl who was seeking her identity so long ago. He also has published a few books of poetry.

Now for me, well, I was asked to write this for a magazine or newspaper or something. They weren't completely specific. I bacame a regular cast member on Broadway. After getting the lead of our school production of "Grease", I was totally hooked. But right now, I have to take time off from the stage because the doctor said it was too much stress for me right now and besides, they don't need a pregnant woman on Broadway. And during my leave, I am writing a play of my own. I don't know if it would make it too Broadway (probably not) but I love writing now. Well, I suppose I had better wrap this up. If there's one thing I've learned from this, it's that dreams really can come true and it doesn't matter what people think of you as long as you cling to your dream and never let it die.



(from the Disney movie, Mulan)

As sung by : Christina Aguilera

Look at me

You may think you see who I really am

But you'll never know me

Every day

It's as if I play a part

Now I see

If I wear a mask I can fool the world

But I cannot fool my heart

Who is that girl I see

Staring straight back at me

When will my reflection show

Who I am inside?

I am now

In a world where I have to hide my heart

And what I believe in

But somehow I will show the world

What's inside my heart

And be loved for who I am.

Who is that girl I see

Staring straight back at me?

Why is my reflection someone I don't know?

Must I pretend that I'm

Someone else for all time?

When will my reflection show

Who I am inside?

There's a heart that must be free to fly

That burns with the need to know the reason why

Why must we all conceal

What we think

How we feel?

Must there be a secret me

I'm forced to hide?

I won't pretend that I'm someone else for all time

When will my reflection show

Who I am inside?