I Look Too Different From My Family (Part 2)

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Soon, the whole class was gossiping about how weird Cheryl was. Someone even started a rumor that she was a robot. Then one day, I entered the classroom and saw Jenny’s minions had pinned Cheryl to a wall and Jenny was tickling her. 

– (Jenny) Why can’t you laugh? Are you really a robot? 

– (Arya) Stop it. Leave her alone. 

– (Jenny) I will. When she smiles. 

– (Arya) I’m sure Cheryl doesn’t want to waste her smile on a moron like you.   

Just then, our teacher entered and everyone went back to their seats.

After that incident, Cheryl and I grew super close. She told me that she had a rare condition called Moebius Syndrome that made it impossible for her to have any facial expressions.

– (Cheryl) The kids at my previous school kept bullying me so I begged Mom to shift me to a new one. But I guess I’ll always be a weirdo.

– (Arya) Cheryl, you’re perfect just the way you are. I’m gonna make sure no one makes you feel otherwise.

I asked our teacher if Cheryl and I could organize workshops to educate kids about Moebius Syndrome, and she gladly agreed. Our workshops were a great success. Every kid who attended told Cheryl how grave she was for talking about her condition, including our school’s most popular jock, Chris.   

– (Chris) You’re awesome, Cheryl, just the way you are.   

– (Cheryl) OMG. Did Chris just call me awesome? Pinch me, Arya, so I know it’s not a dream. 

Even our principal praised us and told me it was heartwarming to see the efforts I put in to help Cheryl. A few days later, we had a debate competition in which both Cheryl and I participated. When the results were announced, I stood first and Cheryl stood second. We both hugged each other. But just then, Cheryl’s Mom marched up on stage and started yelling at her.  

– (Cheryl’s Mom) You always stood first in your previous school. What happened to you? Why have you suddenly turned stupid?

– (Arya) But she came in second, and that’s pretty awesome too. You should be happy for her.  

– (Cheryl’s Mom) Of course you’d say that since you bagged the top spot. Cheryl, this girl’s your competition. You need to stay careful.

Whatever did that mean? After that day, Cheryl and I participated in a few more competitions. All of which I won while she stood second or third. She didn’t seem to mind. But I knew her Mom was giving her a tough time for it.    

– (Cheryl) She thinks I was better off in my previous school.  

– (Arya) But doesn’t she care about all the bullying you faced?      

– (Cheryl) She says because of my condition, it’s something I have to learn to live with.  

And here I thought my stepmom was a witch. 

Months passed, and soon it was time for prom night. Cheryl had a massive crush on Chris since our workshops days. And she felt he liked her too.

– (Cheryl) I think he’s gonna ask me out for prom. I’m so excited. I’ve already decided what I’m gonna wear. 

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Just then I saw Chris heading towards us. But instead of asking Cheryl, he asked me out. I felt awful. And obviously I politely turned him down. 

– (Cheryl) Why did you do that? The way he was looking at you, I think he really likes you. You’re so lucky, Arya. Everyone likes you. 

– (Arya) Oh, I have my share of haters too. Besides, how can I go out with a boy my best friend has a crush on? Remember, sisters before misters? 

Later that day, our science teacher had asked us to prepare a project and told us the best one would get a scholarship opportunity at a prestigious university in New York. 

– (Arya) I need to win this one. I’m pretty sure my stepmom wouldn’t spend a single penny on my college education. 

– (Cheryl) And if I win this competition, Mom would finally stop breathing down my neck. 

– (Arya) No matter which of us wins, a pizza party with lots of ice cream is guaranteed. 

For the next few days, Cheryl and I got busy with our projects. When we brought to school on the submission day, I was surprised to see how amazing her project was. 

– (Arya) This looks so incredible. I’m sure you’re winning this time. 

– (Cheryl) You really think so? I spent the last three nights working on it. 

Just then, it was announced that we had to keep our projects in the auditorium for the teachers to review. After placing my project next to Cheryl’s, I was about to leave when a hand roughly turned me around. 

– (Jenny) How dare you agree to go out with Chris? I asked him out for prom night, but he told me he was taking you! What the fudge? First, Cheryl, and now Jenny. Did their entire school have a crush on that guy?

– (Arya) I have no idea why he said that. He did ask me out, but I refused. 

– (Jenny) You lying witch. 

Suddenly Jenny pushed me hard and I landed straight on Cheryl’s project. 

– (Arya) Oh, God, Jenny, what did you do? 

I frantically tried saving Cheryl’s project, but just then I saw her walk in. 

– (Cheryl) What’s taking you so long, Arya? Ah! My project! 

– (Arya) I-I’m sorry, Cheryl. It was an accident. 

– (Jenny) Stop lying, Arya. I just saw you ruin this project. I tried to stop her, Cheryl. But she said she had to win this competition at all costs. 

I was shocked at how evil Jenny could be. I was about to slap her, but Cheryl caught my hand midair, and my heart broke to see the distress in her eyes. 

– (Cheryl) I can’t believe you’d stoop so low to win a competition. I should’ve believed my Mom. All you ever cared about was winning. Our friendship never meant anything to you. 

– (Arya) That’s not true. 

I tried to stop Cheryl, but she ran away with tears in her eyes as Jenny smirked at me. I was summoned to the principal’s office, but given my spotless track record, I was let off after a stern lecture. After that day, Cheryl refused to talk to me and started hanging out with Jenny instead. Watching those two together made my blood boil, and I couldn’t concentrate on my studies. For the first time, I got a C in science, my favorite subject. My home life was already a mess, and whatever little happiness I found in school was being destroyed by Jenny. On prom night, I was in my bed watching my favorite MSA videos when Jenny barged into my room dressed like a wannabe model. 

– (Jenny) How does it feel to be a loser, Arya? Sitting all alone on prom night in your tacky clothes. 

– (Arya) Why did you hate me so much? What have I ever done to you? 

– (Jenny) Remember Mom’s wedding day? I was the flower girl, yet everyone kept talking about how pretty you looked. And then, I bagged that play, but you got chosen for a movie! You’ve always tried to one-up me. “Arya’s so pretty. Arya’s a genius. Arya! Arya! Arya!” 

– (Arya) I didn’t do it intentionally. And is it really my fault that I’m good at what I do? 

– (Jenny) No, but do you have any idea how that makes me feel?

– (Arya) So, technically, I should’ve stopped my growth just because you weren’t growing at the same pace? You know what, Jenny? I am not responsible for your insecurities. And I am so done with you. 

The moment she left, I called Chris and told him I was ready to go to prom with him if he was still interested. He gladly agreed. And when I arrived at the party on Chris’s arm, I could see Jenny’s jaw drop to the floor. And then, she looked angrier than a raging bull and came charging at me. But before she could reach me, someone stepped in between us. 

– (Cheryl) Don’t you dare mess with my best friend. 

– (Jenny) Cheryl? Y-You said you wouldn’t be attending the prom. 

– (Cheryl) Well, guess what? I changed my mind and I am so glad that I did. How else would I have gotten the chance to hear you bragging to your friends about how you lied to ruin things between me and Arya? 

Jenny looked stunned for a moment. Then, she tried to attack Cheryl, but before she could, a crowd of angry girls picked her up and threw her out. Cheryl apologized to me a lot, and I decided to give her another chance. Later that night when Chris dropped me home, I opened the main door, but right then, a bag came flying at me. Thankfully, I dodged it just in time. 

– (Mom) How dare you think I’ll let you into this house after what you did to Jenny! Stealing the boy she likes, humiliating her at prom! Take your bag and get lost. Go scrub someone else’s toilets now! 

– (Dad) No one talks to my daughter like that! 

It was Dad! I was thrilled to see him and ran straight into his arms. He’d listened to every word of what Mom said and he was furious. Dad asked me if this is how I’d been treated in his absence, and he immediately sent Mom and Jenny packing. Dad then told me he’d been captured by the enemy and held hostage for two years. But then, the government struck a deal with them and they released him. 

– (Arya) I missed you so much, Dad. 

– (Dad) I missed you more, sweetheart. 

As Dad pulled me in for a hug, I knew my life would be perfect again.            

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