"Hello." I said, giving her a small smile. Today was to be no different. She was back, yet again. I met her when I was six or seven, starting either kindergarten or first grade. I forget which, but I know that it was one of the two. She couldn't speak, for some reason. Back then, I didn't know why. Everyone seemed to ignore her, like she didn't exists or something. But, unlike others, I saw that she was there.
It took me a while to find out what she really looked like, because I would only get a glance at her before she vanished from my sight. Over time, during second and third grade, I started to see her for longer lengths of time. I started to finally see her. She has thick, black hair that falls down her back in waves. Sometimes it's pulled back in a ponytail or a braid, and sometimes it's left down. She looks like she's just been to the beach, her skin tanned and reminding me of honey. Her eyes look exotic; though they are dark, dark brown, I can see hints of amber. I've read Percy Jackson's Greek Gods, and remember how Hera was described.
"She had long, licorice- black hair. Her face was regal and unapproachably beautiful, like the face of a supermodel on a fashion runway. The Greeks described her eyes as "oxlike." Believe it or not, that was a compliment. It meant that she had large, soft brown eyes that you could get lost in. I guess the Greeks spent a lot if time staring at oxen." (pg. 95)
This is what the girl looks like. She isn't a goddess, but simply a girl. A girl that is overshadowed by others because no one bothers to look for the diamond in the rough. I saw her, though. I saw that she was completing math problems as fast as the children categorized as gifted, and then helping the others who wanted her to explain how she found the answer so quickly. I saw that she, sitting that the back of the room, was writing stories with beautifully crafted sentences and vivid imagery that only someone a few grades above her could understand and comprehend. She was truly someone with natural talent, though no one could see it yet.
"Lea," I would always say. "Do you have anything new that I can read?"
And she would smile, flipping to a page in her blue, spiral- bound notebook, and hand it to me. Sometimes, I would meet heroes and villains, clashing for dominance in battle, soon finding out that someone had betrayed them from within. Other times, the story was of a person like her, striving to be heard in an ocean of voices.
I never knew why she wasn't recognized for her work. Her singing, songwriting, and art was as good, if not better, than her stories. I knew others that were in the gifted program at school, but weren't half as good as her. So, why wasn't she known? The people that didn't qualify were, in my opinion, not given as much attention as the "gifted" students.
Honestly, all of these labels that they give someone have no meaning. They simply become a ghost, following you for the rest of your time, marking you as a failure or as someone who couldn't live up to other's expectations.
I asked myself questions sometimes. Questions like "why aren't I good enough?" People, especially adults, say things like "Oh, you are! Don't say things like that to yourself." But, it really doesn't help.
Every day since third grade where the "gifted" kids were singled out and given work that suited their level of need, I always stayed quiet, though I knew that the worksheets I was getting were far too easy for me.
Once, in fifth grade, when my friend wanted help with a math problem that I had already solved a few pages back, I quickly showed her the answer. She seemed shocked that I could have gotten it so quickly, and so was another girl- Emrys- who was gifted, yet hadn't solved it as quickly or as easily as me. For the next five or ten minutes, I was showing a group of my classmates how to figure out those few problems that no one- except the "gifted" students and I- seemed to understand. My math teacher looked at me with a slight smile and gave me the subtlest of nods.
When I came home from school that day, I told my mother and father what had happened, and they were happy for me, just as any parent would have been. They didn't understand how thankful I was that someone had finally noticed that I wasn't ordinary." I was simply glad that finally, for once, I had a sliver of everyone's attention.
I look up at the certificate of achievement on the wall behind my teacher's desk. It's for a short story contest that I had entered.
No, the award wasn't for me.
It was for Emrys, as usual. She probably had stacks of these papers at home, collecting dust in some fancy, glass trophy case with a drawer on the bottom especially for her certificates.
My teacher looks up from the test that she's grading and finds me staring at the piece of paper held up on the magnet board. I turn away, not wanting her to see the tears forming in my eyes.
"You're that good, Lea." says a soft voice as I exit the classroom. I halt for a moment, walking out of the classroom and to my locker a second later.
She didn't say "You can do it" or "I'm sure you're that good" or even "You'll get there" like some teachers might. She said that I was that good.
That makes me feel happy, just like that day in fifth grade. Not happy- acknowledged. It's like the tiny voice inside my head is saying that I ma good enough, for once.
I glance sideways and see a girl with long, brown hair and dark eyes give me a small smile, following me out of the classroom. We walk in sync, always knowing the next move that the other will take as we dodge other students rushing to get to their lockers and then their next class.
I know that tomorrow, I will still remember every single time that Emrys, Lillian, Nova, Ryan, or Parker were given a special assignment or came out on top when I was second. I am always haunted by my past, always befriended by Lea.
"You're always friends with yourself." people say.
That isn't always the case. Especially when you've hated things that you've had no control over.
But, this time, I know that remembering my past self can be a reminder that you've gotten better- that you are good enough, no matter what anyone else says. Because, despite remembering everything tragic that's happened, I'll also remember the small acts of kindness in the ocean filled of memories.
So, whenever I look over at Lea, at myself, I know that I am worthy.
I know that I am good enough.