Joanie | Teen Ink


April 15, 2022
By cocopoupar, Kula, Hawaii
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cocopoupar, Kula, Hawaii
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Author's note:

I really wanted to write about something original, about something people don´t talk much about. It was a challenge to write it as if i was in that period, but i really enjoyed it.

“Mother, I am very sorry. I didn’t want to bother you with my problems, you already have your own with father…”

February 26, 1993

It was a Tuesday, I had already done all my work of the day. Yes, I was a homeschooler. My parents say that it is because the schools did not have any places left but I know that it is because they want to protect me from bullying. Why? Well people do not like different things. And, how you could guess, I am very different. I am not only an african-american girl but I am also an albino girl. Yes, I have blond curly hair, a color skin almost white and blue eyes. Difficult to believe for an african-american girl right? Well imagine what I hear everytime I walk on the streets. 

I have to admit that my life is not always that horrible, only when I go outside. I live in the building that my family owns, with my parents and grandparents. They love me and I love them. At least I am lucky with that. Imagine how my life would be if they did not… I do not want to think about that right now, let's move on. 

So, Tuesday we were out, taking a break, when we heard a big noise. There were screamings, crying, whispers, and people were very scared. My parents’ eyes showed concern, but they also were very scared. They were trying to figure out what happened, I was just frozen. I watched how my parents were moving all around impatient for knowledge, eyes popped out of their orbit. I wanted so hard to reassure them but I could not move one finger. I have already heard that sound in movies, it was a bomb sound. Though I knew perfectly that that was it, I did not want to believe it. 

When I finally believed it, I started sweating, my heart pumping very hard, my hand trembling; I finally realized where this had been: the World trade center. Okay, maybe you do not understand why it is so bad for me. Well, the building that my family owns, or owned, was there. They also worked there. My parents were with me, yes but my lovely grandma and my caring grandpa, unfortunately, were in the building that day.


“Grandpa and grandma… did not survive.” I could not believe it, or rather than that, I did not want to. When I heard those words go out from my mom’s mouth, I froze. But just for a little bit, then I started denying it, increasing the sound of my voice every time I said, “No.” I did not hear anything else, but I knew I was still denying it, I knew I was still screaming. I felt something warm running like water in my cheek. I realized that I was crying. 

Every day I looked at the window with my eyes red , a blanket and pajamas on. I do not know exactly why, maybe I had the hope that I would see my mami (that is how I used to call my grandma) in the reflection or even outside waving her hand at me. Obviously, it never happened but I still had hope for it. 

After the bomb exploded, we lost the building, I do not know exactly why. So we were living at my aunt’s house, in California. One day (at the end of the month), my parents entered my room. When they sat, they were very still but I saw that their eyes were full of worrying and nervousness. I never found out how they did that. I was suddenly scared. They usually did not have anything hard to say. To me, at least.

“My lovely daughter,” started my mom, “the month is coming to an end, and as you know, we are having economic issues.” she dropped her voice on the last two words and hesitated, “So, well,..” she started slowly, “we cannot pay you for online school anymore.” There was a pause but then I laughed. I did not believe it a small bit. My parents looked at each other, wondering why I was laughing. I answered, before they had asked, “Mother, it is impossible that you leave me without school, you are the one that worries most about that, you would not, even if you could, take school from me. It is not possibl-,” I stopped, frozen. I knew what they were thinking, why it was so difficult for them to tell me. I was not going to not have school, I was going to school. 

I was not really scared or something, I was just… surprised, I think.

The next few days were… weird. We did not talk much, I was too concentrated on imagining what it would be like and my parents seemed to understand because they did not bother me. I was thinking about movies. Yes, I thought that my high school life would be like the perfect high school life with many friends and all. Or maybe, I thought to myself, I would have a dramatic kind of life, that is also a movie-like thing. I wondered every day of the week that I had to process, if movie things were real. 

Well, they are not. 

I had one week to worry about school, one whole week. I wish that I would not have been so impatient, I wish that the last day never had come.

But it did. 

The day before school my heart was starting to thump loudly again; I was anxious. I did not sleep very well that night. I was, again, wondering over and over again. But this time I was wondering about something different. After I thought of that, I started remembering the face of my father when it was his turn to teach me and I was learning human reproduction. His face turned red when he read what mother had left for him. I said that he could just let it go, that mother would teach me. But he did not. He insisted on teaching it to me even with his red face, he wanted to do it. I think that he thought that mother was going to laugh at him if he did not. It ended up being like any other lesson; after a few minutes his face was back to its normal color, he was teaching with the same enthusiasm as always and he even seemed a little proud. We laughed with grandma when I, obviously, told her. 

So yes, at first I was wondering about a boyfriend, would I ever have one? But then wondering if I was going to be the only one with her intact virginity (even lips virginity) left in school.


And the moment came. The moment we all waited for. 

My first day of school. 

My Monday schedule was great. I was having two hours of English, one of science and the last one that I remember was one of u.s. History. I felt very lucky. My three favorite subjects on the same day! I felt like it was going to be an awesome day. 

When I arrived home, I was kind of disappointed but not too much. I knew that people do not make friends on the first day. And my classes were fun. Or at least that was what I wanted to make myself believe in. And what I told my parents. But the truth is that no one had even talked to me. Not even a teacher. Though no one talked to me, I heard them talk about me. I felt them eyeing me. Judging. 

The second day some boys did talk to me, “What are you?!?” one said, “I have never seen anything so weird.” some other guy said and I saw him eyeing me from foot to head. And those kinds of sentences lasted a little bit, every member of that group had a sentence to say. All very… original.

Obviously, I kept my parents out of that. I did not want them to worry more. Also, they were starting to have…discussions. So I told them, “Some guys talked to me today.” 

“That is wonderful darling” said mother.

“See, all is gonna go better, in less than two weeks, you will have a great amount of friends” stated my father. But his expression said that he did not believe it much.

And his incertinity was right, unfortunately.

Days passed and all stayed the same. Maybe I even have more phrases now. My parents believed that I was great, and they looked very surprised about it. They exhaled in relaxation every time I told them about my school day. 

I did not sleep very well. I cried at night. I needed someone who… was not here at this moment. I missed her. So much!

But this one day, this one day, I was not gonna let my past bother my night again. I let my present do it. No, I did not cry about all the mean things that I received every day, but I did have enough. I wanted it to change. So I made the worst decision of my life until now: I decided to be more like them so that I could be accepted. That night, I made some arrangements to my perfectly clean white clothes, I tried to watch more recent shows so that I had the “normal” vocabulary for a teenager and I thought a lot about my behavior in class. 

I, again, was gonna make all of this without my parents noticing it. I was gonna wear a big jacket until I arrived at school, not talk much to them and try to make sure that my behavior would not be so bad that teachers would have to contact my parents. That was going to be difficult. Teachers did not like me that much. Is it weird that I probably know why but I did not want to see it? 

Once at school, I arranged my jacket and waited until the bell rang (yes, I had the greatest idea, arrived late to class) when it did, I could not help but rush a little. I was shaking when I arrived at the door of the classroom. I think that I was red too, my face was burning. I knocked, which was not necessary because the door was open, and entered before anyone answered. 

“Hey miss Byers, I do not remember telling you to come in!” remarked the English teacher.

“You are a little old, grandpas don’t remember everything, maybe that’s why.” I responded. I probably turned pale after it.

The others chuckled.

“Go to your seat, Miss Byers, and you’ll write 50 sentences!” he answered.

I did not argue any further, but I guess that it was enough to get others interested in me. The first ones who approached me were a group that was in that class. I did not miss the opportunity.

“Hey, do you want to have lunch with us today?” one guy seated next to me asked.

“Ye-,” I paused. I had to not seem desperate, “I am probably free but I still have to check.”

“Okay. Well, I hope I’ll see you there!”

I had lunch with them. They were so nice! Why didn’t I stay with them? Oh right, they were not exactly friends.

A few days had passed already and everything was great. Except for the one little thing. I had gained more confidence so I did not care if I arrived late or I got punished. But I started to get my grades lower too. And that is what parents look at. Yes, one day, when I was opening my aunt’s house door, my parents were waiting in the small living room, with a kind of letter. 

“Joanie, could you come here for a small amount of time please?” asked my mother. 

“Yeah, just a sec’.” Even though I wanted them to not know what was going on, it was hard to keep my normal language at home after a long day of school.

I arrived, sat on an armchair that smelled like my great grandpas, and did not look up until my father said, “Joanie! We received a letter with your grades on!” almost screaming to get my attention.

I looked up really fast and I could see their expressions, my mother was disappointed. My father was angry and my aunt was embarrassed but I also saw some concern in her face.

“Can…can I see them?” I asked even though I did not want to.

My father handed me the paper. Everyone was watching me. I tooked the letter and looked at it. First of allI was impressed. I thought that I would have worse than a B, but then I erased any evidence of it, to not seem suspicious, to place disappointment and worry. 

“I’m so sorry dad I-”

My father cut me, “How did you just call me? Dad? What is going on with you? You did not talk or dress (yes you think I did not notice it? Well I did) that way. What happened to you? You were not used to hiding things from us.”

At that moment I did not know what to do. So I took the no-parents-involved option.

“You should let me live my life! It’s not fair that you kept me all my life from school and that now you don’t let me live it! Those are just some Bs, it’s not that horrible! And my clothes? You never let me express my personality on them, always choosing them for me! And so what if I talk like this now? You thought you would never have to face this? To face all the tiredness that I have been accumulating of you being so restricted and threatening me like a baby!” I really did mean 95% of it but I still was uncomfortable of screaming like that to my parents

This time my mom talked, “Joanie, you could have talked to us, we would have understood, you can keep those clothes and that language but-”

I cut her off, “ I can keep those things?! Oh thank you moma I thought you would not have let me!” I said sarcastically, moving my hands up and down, “Don’t you realize that I DON’T NEED YOUR ACCEPTANCE!?!” I think that was too much, plus, this time, I did not mean it.

My mother changed to red tomato and her eyes looked like if I got arrested, “Look young lady we are your parents and we do have authority on you until you are 21 so you are going to listen to me, you are going t-”

I cut her off, again “I don’t want to hear any more conditions in my life.” I went straight to my room, but I heard my mom say that I was punished very badly, and closed the door so loud that it broke a little.

So I was punished. 

I was starting to remember mami (my grandma) when suddenly I heard a noise outside my window. Guess who it was? The group of boys that had bullied me since my second day of school.

“What are you doing here?!” I asked, trying to make my voice sound like I was not about to cry.

“‘You want to hang out?” asked one of them. The leader I guessed.

I was going to say no, get out! But then I thought about it and, unfortunately, accepted.

I thought that I was going to feel better, or at least think about something else.

“Where’re we going?” I asked.

“To a boutique.” The taller one responded.

I followed them while I wondered which boutique would be open that late at night. 

“Why did we stop?” I asked, intrigued.

“We arrived” said a boy that looked very mean in the shadows of the night.

“I guess we have to go back, it’s all closed.” I started walking but stopped when I saw that they weren’t following me, “Why aren’t you walking?”

“We didn’t expect that this would be open…” the scary one responded, “we want you to do something. To see if you’re brave enough to join us.” That was weird, I did not remember that I asked them that. “We want you to steal this.” He pointed to an extremely detailed vase, super shiny that even at night it was marvelous. Then I froze. I was not going to do that. I was not like that. Then, I realized what I had done. I was with a bunch of boys that bullied me since they knew that I existed, strangers. I did not know what they were capable of. 

“Are you crazy??? No, I won’t do that!” I half-screamed.

They all looked at me with reproching eyes. They then laughed. And after that, I felt burning everywhere in my body.

I remember all the pain. But I do not want to make you suffer for what I did. It would be so cruel… They really did a good job… 

They let me on the streets, thinking I was dead. I thought I was. And I was scared, because if this was the after-life, I did not want to die. It was so painful, you can’t imagine. After what I believe was 20 minutes though it felt like 20 hours, I got up, tooked all my strength to make it home.

I made it. Next morning I opened my eyes, still feeling the pain but not as hard. I got up to take a shower… and I remembered. I had school. I was thinking how I could escape it, when I saw myself in the mirror. It was the most horrifying thing I had ever seen. My parents would notice it. So I hurried up, left a note and left without even having breakfast. I know what you are thinking, but no, I did not leave. I got out of the house earlier so that they could not see me and I went straight to school. Obviously, I did not go to assist at it, I just wanted help. I asked my “friends”, no one helped me, that is why I did not stay with them. I realized that I had no one. I ran (well, kind of walking fast, I could not run with the pain) to the forest, it was near there.

It was nice, I remembered my mami, cryed, and I was alone. 

One day, I was going to talk to my mother but there was a big argument between her and father so I just went straight to my room.

I did that several days, maybe weeks. Until that one day… 

My mom found out about it.

I was in my room already back from “school” when I heard a knock on my door.

“Come in!!!” I said.

“Hi honey, how are you? We have not spoken for a while and I was wondering if we could talk.”

“Sure” I said and then she sat on my bed.

“How is school?”


“Are you sure?”

“Mom, I wanted to tell you something…”

“I am listening.”

“I am very sorry, I really did not mean the last sentence that I said really, could you forgive me?”

“Do not worry about that honey… You know, it was our fault too, you were right, you had too many restrictions… But, you know, you can talk to me…”

“Yes I know, thanks mom.”

“Honey I discovered that you are skipping school.” I froze. That was the last thing that I wanted her to know, it would increase the fights that she had with father. “What is going on baby?”

I thought about that a while, but then decided to tell her the truth.

“But honey!!! Why did you not tell me?!?” I did not give her so many details of the night I escaped, she would be already calling the police and sending the boys to jail. Also I did not want her to feel guilty and make her feel any pain.

“Mother, I am very sorry. I didn’t want to bother you with my problems, you already have your own with dad…”

“Oh,” I think she realized at that moment that I heard every single arguing that they had.

“Mother please tell me not that you are not happy.”

“I am very happy, really, but sometimes couples have their…differences. You know I love your dad…”

“Yes, of course.”

We went silent for a bit.

“Mother? Can I ask you something?”

“Yes, I am all ears.” 

“Am i going to go back to that school?”

“Do you want to?” She suddenly opened her eyes widely with surprise.

“No, please,” I said a little fast, “can I change schools?”

“Love… did you not think that I was going to do that? Come here!” She said while she opened her arms. I felt great. Her arms around me made me feel secure again.

My first week at this school was… normal. I did not have any friends. I dressed how I wanted (and it was definitely not like in the other school) . I had excellent grades and I did not want to rush things again. I did not want to make the same mistakes. So I am waiting. I know that someday, I will find someone that would like me.

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