It was a beautiful, sunny, September day. A few fall breezes making their first appearances here and there. The sky was clear, not a cloud for miles, just a brilliant baby blue color painted across the horizon. The familiar sounds of dogs barking and birds singing danced through my mind as I strolled down the sidewalk without a care in the world.
My long blonde hair was gracefully flowing behind me as another brief bit of air passed through the park. I spotted the blue bench where I always sat after school and began to walk towards it. Once I reached the bench I sat down and dug through my backpack in search of my planner.
I flipped though the pages casually and decided what I needed to get done today. A gentle wind pushed the vacant swings across from me and I smiled at the subtle squeak. I grew up playing princesses and knights on this playground. The swings, of course, had been our chariots. I could still hear the pretend battle cries that echoed all over town.
My nostalgic reminiscing was rudely interrupted by a group of obnoxious teenagers. Each one of them was decked out head to toe in black embellished with spikes and chains galore. I knew them.
They went to my high school, though I'd never spoken more than ten words to them. Most kids called them the ‘gothic squad’.
I, however called them trouble.
I quickly shifted my view back to my books, hoping they wouldn't notice me. Most days they simply hollered a few insults across the playground at me. Typical things like, nerd, book -worm, lame girl, or loser, but to my surprise they had refrained from even acknowledging me that day.
But then, they did. First it was subtle, the girl with purple streaks in her hair pointed at me and whispered to the rest of them. Then it was bluntly obvious, they all pointed and stared and clearly were talking about me. I started to get anxious. I shifted nervously on the bench fixing my pink, floral, shorts.
Suddenly my heart stopped and I forgot to breathe. They were headed straight towards me. I looked around desperately for a way out. I couldn't just get up and leave, they'd run after me and no doubt catch me. All I could do was stay put and pray they only wanted the answers to our last homework assignment.
"What's your name?" Purple hair asked me as if we hadn’t only been talking for two seconds. They all stared at me waiting for me to respond, I had to remind myself how to put a sentence together.
‘My name is Jasmine’, I practiced in my head.
"Jasmine my name is." I blurted out unintentionally.
"Who are you? Yoda?" Asked a guy with stern brown eyes. The rest of them laughed like it was simply the funniest thing they'd ever heard. The guy smirked, clearly happy he'd succeeded in bringing comedy to the situation.
"Okay, Jasmine," Purple hair continued, "My name's Jenny and we'd like to offer you a deal."
Purple hair had a name. Shocking.
"What kind of deal?” I squeaked.
"We want to give you a high school experience that you’ll remember forever.” Jenny smiled.
I don’t know why I agreed to it. Maybe it was the rebellious part of me taking over, or the loneliness inside yearning for any kind of friendships, or maybe it was just purely peer pressure. Whatever it was it literally changed my life…for the worst.
It started innocently, by most standards. Not wearing a seat belt, walking through people’s yards, or intentionally tracking mud through the entire school. But then one day I was faced with my most pivotal decision yet.
We were harmlessly window-shopping at the mall one day when suddenly Purple hair (Jenny) had a brilliant idea.
“Hey guys, look!” she said pointing at a poster in the window of a Claire’s store, with an obviously inaccurate representation of Gothic style. “Its time to go shopping.” She smirked. The rest of the group’s mischievous smiles spread across their faces as a sinking feeling overwhelmed me.
“Jenny you get a choker necklace and the sorry excuse for a studded bracelet.” Katelyn began, “Randy get the black eye shadow palette,” everyone laughed, “David you and Jasmine get as many skull t-shirts as possible, Courtney and I will cause a distraction.” David, aka the guy that referred to me as ‘Yoda’, glanced at me and then back at Katelyn.
“Don't you think this is getting kinda old?” he asked hoping someone would agree. I could hear the concern in his voice as he looked over his shoulder at me again.
“Is this about Jasmine?” Jenny rolled her eyes. I looked up extremely aware of everyone staring at me. “What, you don’t think she can do it do you?”
She looked at me intently. Studying the completely black outfit the girls had picked out for me. The dark makeup they had caked on my face. My heart rate sped up. I had a very sickly hypothesis that this was a routine plan to shoplift that they had executed countless times before.
“Well can you?” She asked me.
“I-…” I ventured.
“This is so stupid. You guys don’t even like the stuff what’s the point of stealing it.” David cut me off.
“It’s symbolic okay,” Jenny replied then looked back at me, “Well?” My heart pounded so intensely I swore they could hear it clear as day. David looked at me with pity.
Courtney and Katelyn looked at me as if they expected me to chicken out. My adrenaline rose. My pride took over. And before I knew it, I successfully shoplifted three black t-shirts with the ugliest skulls imaginable blazing on the front.
A few months passed. My style had done a complete 180° turn. My parents tried to talk to me many times, my boyfriend and I got into tons of arguments, and all my old friends were ashamed to be around me.
But I didn’t care. There was something about the rush of adrenaline you get as you’re racing away from the cops after successfully vandalizing the side of Walmart. Although there was something inside me that seemed to be saying, “This is wrong. This is so wrong.”
There were times that I felt empty, like I was missing something that I desperately needed, but that scared me stiff, so I ignored it as best as I could. Until one chilly December -day.
We were all walking around the park, like we normally do, searching for some dweeb to pick on. That’s when a beautiful girl with long brown hair and a permanent smile came waltzing up to us.
“Do you guys have a minute to talk?” She asked with confidence. Seeing her as an easy target to tease, we agreed to converse with the bubbly girl.
“I want to ask you a few questions.” She began, “You don’t have to answer out loud just think about them.”
“Get to the point.” Jenny glared at her.
“Okay, I will get straight to the point.”
Do you ever feel unsatisfied with your life?” as she began my palms started to sweat, “Like you’re missing something important?
Maybe you feel like there’s no meaning to your life, but you wish there was.”
Her words seemed to be directed towards me.
‘Yes’ I answered each question silently.
“I'm here to tell you that there is purpose and satisfaction when you surrender your life to God and let him be in contr-“
“Okay that’s enough!” Jenny cut her off. The rest of the group followed her lead, shouting at the girl to ‘quit shoving her religion down their throats’.
My heart was racing, I wanted to hear what the girl had to say, but I couldn’t now. I can’t explain it, but something inside me was telling me to talk to that girl.
My group began to walk away from ‘gospel girl’, leaving a trail of insults behind them.
Once the girl was out of sight I started panicking.
“Wait!” I half-heartedly cried. Everyone turned and stared at me.
My knees weakened as I opened my mouth and said, “I forgot something. I’ll catch up to you guys later.”
“Um, okay!!??” Jenny replied skeptically.
I sprinted in the direction that I’d last seen the girl. I didn't care about the judgmental looks burning holes through my skull. I kept running. After, what seemed like an eternity, I was about to give up when suddenly I saw her.
I raced towards her like an Olympian racing towards the finish line. “Wait!” I shouted at her. She faced my direction immediately as I finally caught up with her.
“I-I want to know, “ I said gasping for air, “about your God.”
She smiled and began taking me through, what I would learn to be, ‘the gospel’. She told me I could know God for myself and that I could be saved that very day. I eagerly accepted Christ into my heart with an unexplainable joy. Then she gave me a Bible and devotional book.
“Thank you, for everything,” I beamed.
“Of cor-“ she began when suddenly my former group of friends, came hurtling around the corner, screaming at me. They had startled me enough that my feet became cemented to the side walk as I stood there, dumbfounded.
“Traitor!” Jenny yelled as the entire Goth Squad surrounded me. Stars, I remember seeing stars, followed by utter darkness as I blacked out. I woke up in a hospital room with multiple needles and bags of various colored fluids floating above me.
Masked women and men in light blue scrubs hovered over me as well. “She’s awake!” someone yelled.
My head was pounding. I lifted my arms only to find inch deep gashes polka-dotted all over. It seemed there was more visible blood covering me than skin. My chest was surging out the most intense pain I ever experienced.
Beep beep….beep beep…
I concentrated on the constant sound to consul me.
Beep beep…The pain amplified.
Beep beep... It became unbearable.
Beep beep… I could feel myself slipping away.
Beep beep… I let go.
“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.
What is your life?
You are a mist that appears for a little while
and then vanishes.”