Better Than Diamonds | Teen Ink

Better Than Diamonds

May 6, 2015
By Angie Tabares, Saratoga Springs, Utah
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Angie Tabares, Saratoga Springs, Utah
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Another sharp bell toll meant that another seventy five minutes of class would take place. The English room of 201C sat and chatted while the teacher was absent from the classroom, they shared their plans for the weekend and all the latest gossip that was making its way across the school. Soon the teacher entered the room and everyone took their seat, she was a woman of medium height with a very tired disposition to her. It seems that five days of almost nothing but teenagers had begun to taken its toll on her.

“Class,” she began as a the last of the students took their seats and removed their notebooks and pens from their backpacks, “I’m sure you’re all very aware that there is just about one month of school left.” The students all cheered and the teacher put her hand up to silence them, “This means that if you don’t already have one you will have a final assignment in more than one class. My class is no exception, your instructions are on the board, please read them. If you can’t, then I have failed you as an English teacher and you are free to leave my class right now.”

One of the boys in the back believed that it would funny if he began to stand up and walk towards the door. The teacher then glared at him and he walked back to his seat with his head held high, high-fiving his friends as he headed back to his seat. Soon sixty-four eyes were all looking at the white board and reading what was written in large black letters.

“Your final assignment will be a poem. The minimum length it can be is one page or three stanzas. It must be typed, standard MLB formatting. Yes, you may work in groups or in partnerships, but everyone must have their own unique poem. This assignment is due April 30th.”

Room 201C then erupted in noise of chairs and desks moving to one another and students talking about their poems—but most were just continuing their conversations on previous topics. It seemed like everyone was working with someone, everyone was talking and the occasional burst of laughter from one group or another. Everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time. Right?

No one seemed to notice that in the very front left desk of the classroom sat a girl all by herself. There wasn’t anything remarkable about this girl, she didn’t have stunning beauty but had a very good fashion sense. She had fluffy dark brown hair and the usual brown eyes to match. Everyone knew that

her name was Opal Ramirez, but only a handful of the class had ever actually heard her speak in more than a whisper. The rumor was that she had made an agreement with the teacher to never call on her in class because her anxiety was making it so difficult to speak in front of this many people. No one in the class could remember if Opal had ever been any different than what she was at that moment. It might have been that before this year none of them had ever had a class with Opal before, for her this was an advanced English class, she was an entire grade below them. Opal was only fifteen.

She was working on her poem quietly, smiling to herself as she would write. Very few people in the room noticed that she was doing this, but one stood out beyond all others. Sitting in a cluster of a few other people sat a girl with long blond hair and vibrant green eyes. Her name was Devin, and she was Opal’s girlfriend. It wasn’t uncommon that Devin would go and have a quiet chat with Opal during the allotted time for working in groups, and it always seemed to make Opal look extremely uncomfortable. Seeing as today Opal was being left alone, she looked somewhat happier than usual. It was as if she was more at peace with herself. Even if no one really bothered to notice.

What Opal didn’t realize was that someone did notice, someone sitting on the other side of the room. James was surrounded by his friends, the one speaking was telling them about his plans for the weekend with his girlfriend. Apparently, he was going to take her on a drive through the scenic routes of the highway and take her for a picnic for their three month anniversary. Those things didn’t interest James all that much, his mind was over ridden with the worry of his upcoming jazz band performance. He had a trumpet solo and he wasn’t nearly as prepared as he should be. His unfocused eyes went across the room and refocused on the small huddles mass of fluffy dark brown hair and a very small smile. He had never really noticed Opal sitting there, most of the time he had forgotten that she was even in the class. This was the first time that James had ever seen her smile, and he thought that she looked happier than usual.

“Hey, James,” one boy, Thomas, shook his shoulder and James looked up at him, “Do you know her? Isn’t her name Olivia or something?”

“No way, man, she’s just the quiet girl. I think her name might be Opal? I’ve never actually talked to her before, I’ve never felt the need to I guess.”

Thomas nodded and everyone turned their attention back to the boy describing the spot he

would take his girlfriend. James decided to cut his losses and listen up, one boring story wouldn’t kill him.

Opal was writing, and looked over what she had written so far.

“A bird in a cage, cramped and weary

Longs to leave the one responsible for her abduction

She should be able to fly away, in theory

But her wings are broken beyond reconstruction.

The bird wants to sing as she used to do

But her once lovely voice has been silenced

Only good for her owners to use

A voice to be silent in a time of great sorrow and violence.”

She hadn’t even noticed the looming figure over her, casting a shadow over her and her paper. “Opal,” a voice said from above her and looking up she saw that it was Devin. It appeared that her blissful solitude wasn’t going to last forever. “Opal, are you going to give up this stupid act and talk to me already? Remember that if I don’t talk to you, baby, no none will.”

Opals brown eyes grew wide and she swallowed down the anxiety attack that threatened to surface. “Devin I would really appreciate it if you left me alone.” Her voice was barely above a whisper and it shook with the breath she drew and released. The motion that should be coming to her so naturally seemed to be having trouble functioning properly. Air was getting harder to get for Opal, and it was because of that green eyed cloud polluting her atmosphere.

Devin wrapped her arm around Opal and placed her head on top of her smaller girlfriend, “Come on Opal, cut me some slack, and don’t be like this. You know that I just want to see you happy, obviously being with me makes you happy. I know that I’m happy when I’m with you. Don’t you want to make me happy baby?” Opals lower lip quivered as the air around her got thinner and she could smell the sickeningly floral perfume that Opal had given Devin for her most recent birthday. She

knew that it wasn’t meant to be used in that great of an amount. Devin obviously didn’t know the rule that the smaller the vial the stronger the smell. Now leaving small kisses scattered over the top of Opal’s head, Devin leaned down and whispered in her ear, “You know I won’t let you break up with me. Now we can do this my way and stay together or we can do this your way. I promise that your way is going to be a lot harder than what it ought to be if we do this your way, Opal.”

Opal looked around the room, hoping that someone with curious eyes would notice that she was uncomfortable. Maybe if somebody, one of Devin’s pals maybe, were to look over and call Devin she would be in the clear for now. Looking around the room she hoped that somebody would hear her silent plea, although when you have a five foot seven Amazonian goddess resting her head on yours, your visual options are very limited. The people who sat next to her were in some other part of the room, and that was to be expected from them, but there in the second row in the far right seat sat a boy who appeared to be looking in her direction. In a desperate attempt to make sure that he was looking at her; Opal batted her pen off of her desk and to her relief his eyes followed it onto the ground and found their way back up to her.


Although his friends were talking and laughing around him, this boy’s attention was directed towards her. Opal was trying desperately to get her message across even if her current situation rendered her mute for the moment. His confused look gave her a moment of flashing courage, “Devin, please just leave me alone.” She turned her head away from Devin and away from the boy. “Please Devin, I just want to write my poem.”

Devin released herself from her embrace with Opal and narrowed her eyes, “You want me to leave you alone that badly—fine, I’ll leave you alone. Just remember that you’re coming home with me today after school, and I won’t give up so easily with that. You don’t really have a choice.” With a slight push on Opal’s head, Devin headed back to her friends.

It was a bitter sweet relief to have Devin leave her be. On one hand she was free to write her poem and after this class period she would be rid of Devin for the rest of the school day. Then on the other was the impending menace of her girlfriend’s warning, “You don’t really have a choice.” The air seemed to be thicker now and easier on Opal’s lungs, but the floral smell still stayed in her nose. No

matter what she tried some and how many times Devin agreed to ‘leave her alone’ some part of her still remained when she was gone. Oh well, fifty five more minutes until she could leave this hellish room, Opal might as well get her pen and keep writing. Yet considering her current mood, doodling on the back of the previous sheet of notebook paper was another graspable option.

Across the room, James watched as Opal picked up her pen from the floor and proceeded to write as if nothing had happened. This odd bird had just made solid eye contact for him for almost two minutes and then she goes back to writing her poem? It didn’t make any sense to him, but girls like her never made any sense to him.

The rest of class passed quickly and with some work getting done the class of 201C packed up their belongings and moved with hurried enthusiasm to their final class. James packed up his things and had a small conversation with Thomas before starting for the door. As he turned to leave he looked back to see that Opal was sitting at her desk, her backpack tucked under her chin as her shoulders moved violently with every breath she took in. He had seen his sister’s anxiety attacks enough to recognize when an almost complete stranger was having one. James wasn’t the kind of guy to just leave a girl there struggling, so he took a deep breath. “Hey, uhm, Opal right?”

She looked up from her backpack with wide eyes and nodded her head very slowly at first. James guessed that even now that class was over she still wasn’t going to say a word. It might have been the anxiety attack she was having, or that he was a new oddity to her world and she wasn’t entirely sure what she was supposed to do with somebody, other than Devin of course, calling her name of their own free will.

“Aren’t you going to leave the classroom? You’re going to be late if you stick around here. Man, I don’t know if you’ve ever been late to a class before but they charge like three dollars every time you’re late. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody, and I know that even you don’t deserve to have three dollars robbed by an institution like this.” The teacher gave James a dirty look and he smiled sheepishly, “No offense Mrs. Brigsby, I’m just stating my opinion. So come on Opal, it’s about time you got to class.”

Opal stood up and slung her backpack on her shoulders and hurried out of the door past James. He wasn’t at all shocked that she didn’t thank him for bringing her back down to earth. As soon

as Opal was down the hallway he made his way to his next class and took his seat. Something didn’t sit right with him, it might have been the fact that he didn’t finish a single line of the poem he was supposed to be working on. Yet he couldn’t help but remember the way those brown eyes seared into his own, the way that Devin had said that she didn’t really have a choice. What did she not have a choice on, Opal was a person and people always have a choice.

School had ended at three thirty, and all of the students at Red Road High shouted with glee as they were done of yet another week of, what they saw as, imprisonment.

Red Road was located in the middle of a thriving suburban community. A real paradise for the father who goes to the office from nine to five and the stay at home mom, who dropped the kids off at soccer practice and then went home to drown her troubles in cheap wine. There wasn’t a lot that happened in this sleepy little suburb and that was the way the people liked it. Although it had been the talk of the town when it was heard that there were two openly homosexual students at Red Road High.
Devin had never minded that, she craved the attention. Being the star runner on the track team and only other female member of the Varsity football team was equal to a big ego. Then her world was made brighter by the entrance of a short and sweet freshman. Summer had brought fireworks and infatuation for both Devin and Opal. They had met in the usual way, every year the town celebrated the Fourth of July with a marvelous firework display. Devin had seen Opal with her friends earlier in the evening, when the sky was still light and the youngest children of the town were still awake. The sound of her laugh and sweet disposition had made Devin determined to make Opal hers by the end of the night.
After a bit of conversation and one kiss as the grand finale later made the two of them, as Devin called it, bonded together for all of eternity. Or at least until high school was over.
Opal found it funny that something so sweet could turn out so bitter and painful.

Checking the time on her small cellphone, a bright little screen showed that she had a few

missed messages from her mother and a single message from Devin. It was only a single sentence but it made Opal’s heart sink, she was hoping that Devin had forgotten all about the small dispute in English. “I said that you didn’t have a choice, remember?” The message was sent five minutes earlier, when the school day had come to an end.

Maybe Opal could get past Devin’s house without her noticing her. Luck was always on her side and if today was a good day then she would go without running into her at all. She passed the tall red and brown brick house and watched her surroundings very carefully. There were lots of people around her so even if Devin found her she would be forced to keep things rational. This meant that there wouldn’t be a fight and Opal would be able to get home safely after all.

Making all the necessary twists and turns to arrive near her neighborhood, Opal felt like she could breathe easy for the weekend. There was that poem for English she had to work on, if she worked hard enough Opal could get it done by Saturday and have Sunday to relax and—“Oh my god.”

The phone began to ring and Opal looked at the screen. Her stomach clenched and the name on the phone made her feel like she was in a hospital, desperately waiting for the test results. There was no way that Opal was going to answer this phone call. Her life in this very moment, Devin free, was the way that she wanted it to go for the next three years. She lowered the volume on her phone and tucked it back into her pocket.

Continuing her walk home, Opal started to list off all of the good things that had happened that day. She had done well on her math test, the book she had picked out of the library was very nice, she was writing a poem and, oh, was Opal enjoying that her life was Devin free now. Opal thought, “Devin can’t take a hint, she can’t take it when I’m being honest with her, what does she want me to do? She says that she wants me to be happy and I’m honestly so much happier when she isn’t around. Why can’t she understand that?” She began to run her fingers through her hair and tugged down very lightly on the bottom. Opal made a mental note to stop doing that, if she kept it up she was going to end up pulling all of her hair out by the time she’s an old lady.

After a good amount of time had passed by Opal decided to check her phone again. Her oldest

sister had convinced her to get some weird blogging app called Tumblr, maybe she had gained a follower or two in the course of the day. Pulling her phone out her stomach rose to her throat and threatened to come out. On the lock screen was a long list of missed calls from the same contact, Devin. Over the last ten minutes she had been viciously calling her, in total there was about fifteen missed calls and five voice mails. Opal was afraid to even hear them, there would be raving and screaming. In all honesty, she wasn’t prepared for that.

The phone then began to ring again, and it was with no surprise, Devin. Opal swallowed the air in her mouth and answered the call, “Devin I said leave me alone. We’re done, I just can’t do this anymore. You’ve never considered what I want, you never have. I feel like when we talk I speak and you listen but the words just don’t get through.” In her mind, the doctor in her imaginary hospital walked through the door, “I know that you think that we’re doing fine but we’re not Devin. We are not okay.”

There was a long sigh on the other end of the phone and then silence. Opal heard nothing and it petrified her. Then a soft noise that sounded like Devin was clearing her throat, “Where are you?”
Opal stopped walking and took a moment to look around and see just where she was. She wasn’t too far from the park, if she could just make it past there her house would be in sight and Devin wouldn’t be able to bother her. Or worse, “It doesn’t matter where I am Devin.” The walking continued and her voice got hushed as a woman pushing a stroller walked by. “Look I can’t do this anymore, I’ve tried and tried to tell you but you just won’t listen to me. What we have isn’t healthy, you’re trying to control me and I’m losing who I am—or well I guess who I used to be. Either way you have to just let me go Devin. Please Devin, let me leave and let this end in the cleanest way possible. Just let me go.” Opal knew the how Devin would react over something as small as wanting to end the relationship. She knew her so well that she could feel her frustration and silent anger through the phone.
Devin’s anger was the worst kind of anger, at first she was calm and silent. Then it didn’t matter if you had your guard down or up, she would unleash a bombardment of crippling words. Words Opal knew would break a person down like a limestone wall in a summer rainstorm. All the arguments that they had left her with the interior scars from those battles, but Devin was smart. She knew not to damage Opal too badly so that the scars would heal and no one would be able to tell what was going on. “Are you with somebody right now? Oh my God, Opal, who is putting you up to do this? What we
have is special and if you don’t believe me just take a look at these past months. I’ve treated you good haven’t I?”
“Devin, please.”
“Answer the damn question Opal.”
Opal looked around once more, paranoia that Devin might be around and find her was starting to set in. “Devin, I don’t want to.”
Devin grunted, “Well I’ve bought you flowers, haven’t I?”
“Yes you have, but—“
“I always remember our monthly anniversary when it comes around, don’t I?”
“Then why,” Devin’s voice began to crescendo, “Why do you want to leave me?! You can see that I’m the only one around here who really cares about you. Your friends? They all left you when you got with me, they were too embarrassed to be around you Opal. You made them sick, we made them sick. I stayed with you when everyone left you. Every day at lunch who is it that sits with you and keeps you company? Is it them? Is it anyone? No Opal, it’s only me. I’m the only one who cares. You want to throw that away?” She was yelling now and Opal’s eyes had started to burn with the threat of tears. “For what Opal, because your feelings get hurt? People fight and it’s a perfectly normal thing for couples to do. Saying that I don’t ever listen to you or care about your feelings. Apparently, Opal, it isn’t obvious that I’ve put so much into making this relationship work and you’ve done nothing but sit there and be just useless.”
“If I’m so useless then why don’t you let me leave?” Opal rubbed her eye lid. Silently, she thanked God that she was a little bit dehydrated. Her eye makeup looked really good today and crying would have just ruined it. Especially if her tears were once again being shed over the fact that Devin was yelling at her.

“I’m not letting you leave because you may be useless but you’re mine, Opal. I don’t like to lose what belongs to me. When you decided to kiss me that night, you said that you would take me as I am, come what may. You plan on ending everything we’ve worked on because of your own selfish reasons. Opal don’t be an idiot, you need me. There is no way in hell that I’m letting you do that. I was willing to make compromises and sacrifice for you and your needs. If anything, you haven’t let me have anything that I’ve wanted to have. We’ve been together for ten months now and you haven’t even let me get to second base.”
“That’s because I’ve told you that I’m not ready to even think about going that far Devin! Why can’t you just respect that? Oh, wait a minute,” Opal paused and gathered up her courage and let the tears that were once trapped inside of her be free, “You’ve never really respected anything when it comes to what I want. You always pick where we want to go and what we do, I don’t even think it goes through your mind to ask about me, Devin. Maybe if you had given me a ‘how was your day Opal?’ or maybe an ‘Opal, what do you want to do?’ heck I would even settle for you telling me that I look beautiful. You never tell me that I look beautiful Devin, I’m always hot or cute or—“
“Just shut up Opal,” Devin’s voice boomed and Opal realized something terrifying. Opal could hear the echo of Devin’s latest shout. “Shut up and tell me where you are, or so help me God I will find you myself. Even if I have to tear up this whole city I will find you and make you see that what you’re doing is stupid. Oh hey,” Opal turned around and saw that at the other end of the park stood a tall blond figure, one that she had known all too well, “I see you.” Opal hung up the phone and turned her back to Devin and began to walk faster, “Opal,” Devin shouted from the other side of the park, “Opal don’t you dare walk away from me,” She continued to walk faster and when she turned her head to look back she saw that Devin had now started to run.
Opal began to run as fast as she could, it was only seven more blocks to her house. She could make it, she had to. The extra weight of her backpack slowed her down a reasonable amount and her short legs where only willing to push themselves so far. It wasn’t long until Devin caught up to Opal, and grabbing her by the arm, pulled her behind one of the houses which were empty and up for sale.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
“Did you honestly think you could outrun me? Come on Opal you’re so slow that it hurts me to
go and watch you run. I am the—“
“The school’s track star, I know Devin. It’s not like you remind me of that every day.” Opal pulled her arm away from Devin’s grip and rubbed the now sore spot where she had been grabbed. If she was lucky her arm wouldn’t bruise, but like everything Devin did to her, nothing ever did. “Could you please just let me go home? I’m tired and I-I have homework.”
Devin smiled at Opal, “Oh come on. I know you get all of your work done at school. You’re not fooling me Opal, I know you just don’t want to be around here,” she narrowed her eyes and looked at her as a hawk would at its prey, “Admit it, you’re just sick and tired of being around me, aren’t you?”
Opal moved the hair from out of her face and began to exclaim her disbelief, “Do you honestly not remember that I told you I have to work on that poem for English? It’s not like we have that class together or anything. If you would actually listen to me then you would know that I do have something to do. Now Devin, just let me go home.” She turned and started to walk away from Devin. In a moment’s notice, Opal was crying out in pain as Devin reached forward and pulled back on Opal’s hair.
“Oh no baby, you’re not going anywhere. At least not until we settle this little domestic dispute of ours. I know you want to leave me but you don’t have a very good reason to so I’m not going to let you.” She pushed Opal to the ground, where she landed with a shout and a thud. “We’re not breaking up and that’s the final say in the matter. You don’t have a choice Opal.” Devin squatted down so she was at eyelevel with the mortified Opal, long blond bangs falling into her face as she opened her eyes wide. “Aw babe, why do you looked so scared? We settled this quickly and you didn’t even make me yell or get angry. You’re doing really well this time. Now come on, we’ll go to my house and then get a little something to eat.”
As Devin stood up and quickly took out her phone to check the time, Opal remained on the ground. She didn’t want this, all of the guilt of being with Devin and the blame constantly falling on her. Standing her ground was her last choice but at the moment it was her best choice. Her voice was soft and shaky the first time that she said no, but as Devin looked back at her when she heard the soft sound
it grew in volume and confidence. “No, I’m not going with you Devin and we’re not getting back together.”
Devin looked down and over at Opal and in a low voice said, “What did you just say?”
Opal stood and looked up to Devin, the height difference between them no longer seeming very large. “I told you that I’m not going with you. I also said we’re not getting back together, so leave me alone. I’ve said this a thousand times before but we gave it our best try. That’s all that matters, now move on. Our relationship went from you being jealous, to possessive, and I didn’t want to admit this for a long time but this has just turned abusive. I know that you think that you’re trying to help me in your own weird way, but this isn’t the way to do it, and I can’t do this anymore. I say this over and over again but you just,” Opal’s little speech was cut short by a sharp and direct slap to the face.
Devin had hit her with the back of her hand and as Opal grabbed her face in pain and shock, Devin ran a hand through her hair. “Take it back Opal. Just say you don’t mean it and you’ll be alright.”
Opal, still in shock from the painful blow Devin had dealt her, took two short breaths, “You hit me again. Devin you just hit me and you promised you would stop doing that. You promised you would never do it again!” Opals eyes filled with tears and they dripped from her eyes as she closed them tight, “This is all the reason I needed, so I won’t take it back. I don’t have a reason to take it back Devin, you just proved my point!”
With fuming anger, Devin raised her hand and hit Opal with more force than before. Opal cried out and held her hand to the now swelling side of her face. The inner rage inside of Devin was manifesting with a twisted scowl on her face, and her voice was loud enough that anyone walking by would wonder who was yelling and if they needed to call the police or not. “Say that you’ll take it back!”
Devin grabbed the back of Opals hair and pulled down, “Say it! Say that you’ll never leave me and that you love me more than words can say.”

Opal was now sobbing hysterically, “Devin you’re hurting me!”
“Say it now!”
Opals will was beginning to bend and soon she found the pain to be too much and felt helpless as it broke. “Fine! I’ll never leave you…and we’ll always be together.” She took a moment to just cry, “And I love you more than words can say.”
Devin let go of the back of Opal’s hair and adjusted her shirt. “I love you too Opal Marie. Now get your things, we’re going to my house.” Devin began walking in the opposite direction that she was standing in and Opal grabbed her backpack off of the ground. It must have fallen when Devin pushed her. In her own thoughts, Opal cursed herself for not being brave enough to stand up to her for good. She has a sickening feeling that it was going to be quite a while that she would get the opportunity to do this again.
With her eyes looking down at the ground, Opal caught up to Devin and flinched as she wrapped her arm around her. Promising herself that this time of her life wasn’t forever.

The following Wednesday the classroom of 201C was back in session. A room once more buzzing with excitement and the occasional line or two of poetry. Sitting on the far right side of the room was James, beaming with pride over his solo for jazz band.  Yes, their show had gone beautifully and he was surprised with how much he could do with only two hours of practice. Sure, it wasn’t necessarily perfect but it would do.
His friends were sitting at Thomas’s desk asking one of their friends about how is date went and if he got anywhere because of it. They erupted in laughter when they were told that he got a hug and a kiss and nothing else. It made him smile, they were all having the time of their lives and forgetting all about the assignment that was given to them the week before. Oh yes, James remembered the poem he was supposed to be writing. Starring down at the empty pieces of notebook paper in front of him he began to wonder what he could write about.
There was the jazz band, but for his classmates to understand the rush of blowing on the trumpet in front of hundreds of people, all of which who came to hear you play, they would just have to go and experience it for themselves. “I could write about my dog,” thought James, “She’s cute and fluffy and I don’t know a single person who isn’t a fan of dogs. Well actually I do, but someone who isn’t a fan of dogs I am no fan of myself. Hmmm, I could write about how boring high school is. Isn’t there a rumor that there’s a growth on Mr. Hamilton’s foot? I bet he has to wear special shoes just so he can walk around. Ha, that teacher must be so weird. Maybe I could write my poem on his mystery growth. Oh but then if it really isn’t there I might get in trouble and then maybe even suspended. I could write it on something I like to do. Oh but what do I like to do again?” He tapped his pencil against the paper and took a moment to look around the room.
Yes it appeared that everyone was having fun with their fellow classmates or working on their poetry. Even Mrs. Brigsby seemed to be enjoying herself, as she was smiling at whatever it was she was looking at on her computer. James started to wonder if maybe Opal was sitting there all alone, as she usually was. In a way that made it look obvious that he was trying to be discrete, he turned his head very slowly and looked at Opal.
Opal was sitting at her desk, notebook out in front of her and pencil placed in the long nook at the top of her desk, but she wasn’t working on her poem. She sat at her desk looking out the window and her thick hair covered most of her face. James thought, “That’s weird, Opal’s always working on something. Maybe she’s got something on her mind.” James looked around the classroom to where Devin usually sat. She wasn’t in the classroom at the moment and that’s what must be bothering her. Come to think of it, James couldn’t remember Devin even walking into the classroom.
James began to think that maybe Opal just had separation anxiety and Devin was her crutch in social situations. He wasn’t right but he wasn’t wrong.
Opal sighed and decided that maybe it was time that she start working on her poem. What she has so far was good but she did have to share it in front of the class. That meant that if Devin was there that day then she would know that the whole thing is about how badly she wants to leave the relationship. Opal didn’t want Devin to go through that, and she didn’t want the pain that would follow after the day ended. This poem was a last ditch attempt to get someone to help her. Although it seemed
that no one would come and heed her call, Opal would give it her best try anyway.
Someone cleared their throat and Opal looked over to see that the boy from last week was standing right in front of her desk. This was the second time Opal had gotten a good look at his copper blond hair and blue eyes. She wasn’t sure what she could do, so she froze with a startled expression.
He furrowed his eyebrows and scratched his cheek. “You okay Opal? I don’t bite you know.”
Opal ran a hand through her hair and looked down at the desk below her, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to stare.” Her voice was hardly above a whisper and her leg began shaking.
James smiled and chuckled, “Don’t even worry about it Opal. I get that it might be a little weird. I mean not a lot of people just come up and talk to you, it’s usually just Devin right? Oh I’m James by the way—“
Opal looked up at him, “What do you want?”
“I’m sorry?”
“I asked you what you wanted. Or do you need something?” His eyes met hers and he could tell that there was in fact, something that was bothering her.
“I don’t really need anything.” James looked over his shoulder and saw that his friends at Thomas’s desk were now looking over at him. He narrowed his eyes and they looked away and resumed their conversation.
Opal looked back to the window, “Then why are you here?” she asked and began to mentally count the cars that passed the school.
James leaned against her desk, “Man,” he said, “You really aren’t used to people just coming up and making friendly conversation, are you? I’m here because I saw that you’re all alone and I just thought that maybe you would want someone to talk to. I needed someone to talk to too, and well honestly all my friends ever talk about are their girlfriends and hunting. Gets old after a little bit, so I thought maybe you had some new and interesting things to say.”

“Look, John,”
“Sorry. Look James, it’s a nice thought for you to do that but I’m fine on my own. Really, I am. Now could you please just leave me alone?” Opal looked back at him with pleading eyes and as she picked up her pencil the door swung open.
“I’m sorry that I’m late Mrs. B,” Devin said from the door, “I was having a talk with one of the girls I run a relay with and we just lost track of time.” She walked up to Mrs. Brigsby’s desk and placed the late slip on the desk. She then stopped and looked at Opal and James. Opal’s stomach dropped and she tried as hard as she could to not make it obvious that she was, in fact, afraid that Devin would approach her desk.
“Opal Marie,” said Devin as she walked over, “Who is this new friend that you’re talking to?”
“Hi,” James said and he looked from Opal to Devin, “I’m James.” He then looked back at Opal and could swear that she had stopped breathing? Well that certainly was a bit odd, James was sure that when Devin got to class that Opal would be overjoyed at seeing her girlfriend.
Opal looked at her desk and tugged at the end of her hair, “Devin I’m sorry, I don’t even know this guy and” she began, “And he just came up to me and started talking to me. I tried to get him to leave me alone Devin, I swear I did. He won’t leave me alone Devin.”
Devin made a small coo of sympathy and hugged Opals head, “Don’t you worry, everything will be okay baby, I’m sure that this guy won’t ever bother you again.” She turned her head towards James and glared at him, “Right James? You won’t ever bother my sweet Opal Marie again?”
James looked at Devin and then at Opal, who looked like she was so uncomfortable and that she wanted to cry and scream. He wanted to stay and get Devin off of her and tell her that Opal was obviously very uncomfortable with what she was doing, but he knew that Devin would probably call him out right then and there. It wasn’t easy, but with a deep breath he ran a hand through his hair, “Yeah, I
won’t. I’m sorry that I bothered you Opal, I won’t do it again.”
Opal didn’t respond and Devin began to smooth out her hair, “I’m sure she forgives you. Now if you would leave us alone, I’ve got to have a little talk with Opal Marie.” Devin motioned with her hand for James to leave, as if he was a fly and she was shooing him away from a freshly baked cake.
He did leave and Opal shoulders fell, “No,” she thought, “Why didn’t you stay?  I bet that you could see that I’m upset right now. I bet you know now that I don’t want to be around Devin, at least not alone. Please James, come back and help me. You could be the help I’ve been praying for, but how can you help me if you don’t stick around to defend me? Ugh, I swear that people are just getting less and less helpful!”
“Opal,” Opal was disrupted from her inner thoughts and tried to look up at Devin, “You’re not allowed to talk to that boy ever again, you hear? If I find out that you did so help me Opal.”
“So help you what Devin?” Opal’s voice was just above a whisper once more, “So help you God? Oh wait, you don’t really believe in him do you? And just what will you do if I do talk to him again? You’ll hit me? You already show that you do just enough of that. What do you have left to do?”
“If you talk to that boy again,” Devin leaned down and whispered into Opal’s ear, “I’ll come and I’ll kill you, that’s what I’ll do. The only person you need in your life is me, and if you feel that you need other people then maybe you don’t need a life at all.”
The bell rang and Devin sprang up and practically leaped to the door. Once more the classroom of 201C was dismissed to their final period, and Opal sat in her desk. This time though, James didn’t wait. Besides Mrs. Brigsby, who was reading an article online, she was all alone. It was this moment where Opal did something that she hadn’t done for a long time in public. Opal began to cry.
She collected her things and wiped her tears away, careful not to rub her eyes. Rubbed eyes mean that they’re red, red eyes mean people can tell you’ve been crying, and when people can tell you’ve been crying that’s when they start asking questions. Opal sulked out of the classroom and headed down the hall for her next class. She was relieved that the day was almost over, Opal wasn’t sure how much more of the day she could take.
On her way to the classroom Opal saw a girl talking with her friends and noticed that one of them pointed out a couple of hickeys on her neck. The girl simply laughed and explained that she had a pretty wild class period with the prize of the track team herself. At first, Opal couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Sure, Devin would look at plenty of other girls, but never had Opal ever considered that all this time Devin was cheating on her. An empty feeling filled her stomach, and she didn’t know if she should be angry or sad. Opal decided to just remain indifferent, she would have guessed this would have happened sooner or later.

Once school had gotten out, Opal had begun her walk home. She looked up at the sky and noticed that the clouds were a little bit greyer then they usually were. “That’s strange,” she thought, “The rains don’t usually come until the very end of the month, and even then they usually happen in May. Maybe it’s just an overcast? There isn’t any winds going on right now, if anything this is just a light breeze.”
She had survived the middle of the week and now it was time to head home and wrap herself in a blanket. Time to forget all of the things that have happened in the day. All of the homework, the stares people gave her when she walked by in the hallway, the times where people would whisper slurs at her in the middle of class, time to forget James, time to forget the heavy threat that Devin gave her. Opal would go home and forget them all.
Taking her phone out, Opal saw that she has a few messages from Devin. All of them were saying something about how much she loved Opal and that they would be together for the rest of high school and when Devin went to college she would wait for her. One even said that Devin was just as much Opal’s as Opal was Devin’s. The messages made her stomach churn, as they reminded her the cost that love has.
“Is this even love anymore? I’m always afraid when I’m around Devin, I don’t feel safe like I used to. I just want her to let me leave, I miss my friends and I miss my life the way that it used to be. I’m just a kid, I shouldn’t be having to worry about these kind of things. I didn’t even want to have to worry about being in an abusive relationship ever. So how did I manage to get
myself mixed up in all of this mess? It started out with a kiss, and the next day I’m in a relationship.” Opal ignored the messages and continued walking, sulking in her misery and self-pity.
“Hey! Opal!”
Opal looked back and—to her dismay, saw that James was running to catch up with her, trumpet case in hand. She stopped walking and her jaw dropped. Had he not heard Devin clearly when she said that he wasn’t supposed to bother her again? It wasn’t long until James had caught up to Opal, and when he stopped he put his hands on his knees and wheezed. After James let out a large cough he stood up. Opal clutched onto one of the straps of her backpack, “What are you even doing here? If Devin finds out that I’m talking to you she’ll—“
“She’ll what?”
“She’ll,” Opal couldn’t tell him that Devin had threatened her life, he was still a stranger. “She’ll freak out, Devin gets really jealous and I don’t want her to go have to feel that way because of something I did.”
James scratched his head, “Yeah, I can see why that would be a problem, but I can also see that you’re not very happy with Devin.” Opal turned and started walking, James followed. “I think that right now you’re lying to me. I may be wrong here, but I think that something is going on between the two of you, and from where I stand it doesn’t look good.”
“Well you don’t have a right to stand where you stand at all!” Opal snapped, “You have no idea what’s going on. So you can’t say that you think you know what’s going on when you don’t. You don’t even know me! Nobody even knows me!”
James went silent and Opal hugged herself. They walked in a splitting silence for a moment and then Opal began to speak. “Last summer, I met Devin. It was at the fireworks show and back then I was just figuring out who I am. I,” she took a long uneven sigh, “I thought that she was someone who was really going to care about me because that night she kissed me underneath the grand finale. Everything was great until about three months ago where I realized…”

James looked at Opal full of disbelief, so that was it. Opal was implying that Devin was doing something to hurt Opal. Now he didn’t see anything physical, so that must mean that she’s hurting inside. “Is she…well, uhm. Does she—“
“Yeah, she does. At first I thought that Devin would just get upset because she loved me and wanted to protect me. Then when school started she made me get rid of all of my friends. Of course they weren’t okay with it. I’ve known them for almost my whole life and now I was giving all that time up for what? Some girl? I told them that they didn’t understand what it was like to have the whole world against you and someone you love, so I just left them. Devin had told me that they were ashamed of me, that they were ashamed of us. For a while she was the only person that I ever needed. I didn’t realize it until it was too late that Devin had planted that thought into my mind. Now I can’t go back to them and she constantly reminds me of that.”
They turned a corner and James looked at the concrete, “Opal, I’m so sorry. I had no idea things were this bad.”
“In all honesty, I’m glad you’re talking to me. I’ve been trying to get some help for a long time but because of her it’s really hard for me to talk to people. I had a little bit of social anxiety before I met Devin but not enough that it was bad. Now it’s crippling and the only way I can even try to get help is by hoping that people will notice.” There was a clash of thunder off in the distance and Opal knew that there was going to be rain later tonight.
To James, it all made sense. The looks that she gave him weren’t ones that happened by chance, they were screaming at him to help her, to save her. They continued the walk in silence until they reached Opal’s house. He walked her to the door, Opal opened it and turned to go inside. “Hey Opal, you have a phone right?” Opal nodded and pulled it out of her pocket, then held it out to James. “I’m putting my number in your phone, alright? If you ever need anything at all you can call me and I’ll be right over. I promise.” He handed Opal her phone back with a smile.
“Thanks James,” Opal pocketed her phone and returned his smile, “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow.”
James turned to leave, “Yeah, I’ll see you tomorrow.’

The rain had started nearly an hour ago, and the way that James was handling it was the way he always did. The obvious answer would be to sleep during the storm but his method was to stay up until it went away. This meant he would have to stock up on blankets, video games, and a lot of coffee. After beating Super Smash Bro’s Brawl for the eleventh time in his gaming career, James decided to take a short break and get a drink from the kitchen.
Taking his phone he went down the stairs of his house and made a bee line into the kitchen. He opened the door to his refrigerator and saw that his stash of orange soda was indeed, still in there. After grabbing three cans he headed up the stairs, only to stop when he heard a buzzing noise. “Oh that’s right,” he thought, “I left my phone in the kitchen.” Turning back, he headed into the kitchen. Grabbing his phone on the counter he saw that the number calling him was unknown.
James hit the answer call button, “Hello?” he said, “Who is this?”
“James, thank God you answered your phone.” The voice on the other side was violently shaky, and after she finished the sentence she burst out into sobs.
It had slipped his mind that he had given Opal his phone number. Was she crying? “Opal? What’s going on? Are you okay?”
“Devin is trying to break into my house.” Opal held the phone away from her and James could hear Devin shouting at Opal and swearing at her. The door to her house was being banged on and it was hard to tell how hard it was happening exactly, as the rain was beginning to get harder and harder.
His blue eyes opened wide, “Where are your parents?”
“They’re out, and I’m hiding around the corner by my room. I’m so scared James, she must have followed us home and I didn’t want to tell you earlier.” Opal shrieked as the banging got worse, “Devin said that she would kill me if I ever talked to you again! James, please come and bring help—Oh my God she’s kicking the door,” James heard a thud as Opal dropped the phone, and Devin’s
shouts getting louder. Opal screamed, “Opal? Opal what’s going on?!” The call suddenly ended and James suspected the worst had happened. Devin had kicked down the door and gotten into Opal’s house.
In a flash, he leaped up and to his garage where his bike was. Soon he was peddling down to Opal’s house as the lightning lit up the sky and thunder clashed. The rain was starting to soak James but he didn’t really care, if it meant that he could prevent someone from getting hurt then he would ride a bike through all the rest of the rainstorms he has yet to see.
When he reached Opal’s house he wasn’t surprised to see an old blue Toyota corolla and that Opal’s door had been kicked open. James knew that Devin was strong but he didn’t know that she was capable of doing this. Placing his bike down on her grass, James ran into the house and followed the sound of Devin shouting and banging on a door down the hall.
James saw Devin, huddled in front of the door. Her hair and clothes were still dry but her boots were dirtied by water and mud. With hunched shoulders, Devin banged on the door and her green eyes had a vicious sort of light to them, one that matched the twisted expression on her face. “Opal,” she screamed, “You better open the door right now! He’s not coming to save you, no one is. I told you what would happen if you talked to him again, didn’t I? I follow through with my promises opal. Get out of there right now!”
“Hey,” Devin looked back and saw James, who loomed over her about three inches. His hair was plastered to his face and his sweatshirt and jeans clung to his body, “You really should stop telling your girlfriend lies. That could lead to a really unhealthy relationship.”
Devin looked at James, all soaking wet and pretending to play the hero. “You,” she said, “This is all your fault! If you hadn’t gone and talked to Opal today this wouldn’t be happening! To make things worse, you walked home with her too! I told you to leave her alone, James!”
He balled his hand into a fist and pointed at Devin with the other. “The only person who needs to leave Opal alone is you Devin! She’s told me what you do to her when you’re alone. She’s told me what you did to her with her friends!”

Devin turned her back to the door and her attention to James, “You have no idea what you’re saying! I love Opal!”
“No you don’t!”
Devin lunged at James and landed a solid punch to his stomach. They rolled on the ground at each other’s throats until Opal started screaming. Devin looked at the door and shouted, “Shut up and let me handle this, Opal!”
A loud bang sounded from the other side of the door, “Devin I called the police! They’re on their way, now get off of him!”
Devin looked over at the door, “No you didn’t Opal,” Devin laughed, “If you loved me you wouldn’t say things like that!”
From the other side of the door, Opal could be heard crying, “But I really did! And I don’t love you anymore! I stopped loving you when you made me give all my friends away, and when you started hitting me. I stopped loving you when you started to force me to love you.”
Devin got off of James, and he sat up and coughed up a little bit of blood. “How could you? Opal Marie how could you?!” Devin kneeled in front of the door and hit it with the palm of her hand, and repeated the two sentences over and over again. Then she did the unspeakable, Devin started to cry.
Not long after the police sirens were heard and the police ran into Opal’s house, and with guns at her back took Devin into the back of a police car. A paramedic was looking at James to make sure that he hadn’t been hurt too badly by Devin. The police were questioning Opal’s parents and her mother was crying.
Opal was wrapped in a shock blanket, sitting next to James as the paramedic finished the checkup.  He looked over at her, “Are you okay?”
“No,” she responded, “But I’m going to be.” She smiled weakly and James wrapped his arm
around her. She started to cry but no one but James heard, the rain made it too loud for anyone to notice.

Two weeks had passed since Devin had been found guilty of breaking and entering, and attempted murder. She was tried as an adult and Opal was promised that she wouldn’t have to worry about Devin hurting her again for about twenty years. The English classroom of 201 C was now buzzing with the gossip of how Opal could have handled that relationship for as long as she did. Now, at the end of the month, the class was getting ready to present their poems.
Mrs. Brigsby stood at the front of the class, “Thank you, Thomas, for that wonderful poem on, uhm, carpet cleaner. Now, who would like to go next?” A single hand shot up through the air. “James, please step up here and read your poem.”
James stood up from his seat and headed to the front of the classroom with his paper in hand. “My poem,” he began, “Is called, Not a Mouse.
“This poem isn’t very long
And it’s not very good
But please correct me if I’m wrong
At one point or another, we’ve all been misunderstood

We should all know the story
About the lion and the mouse
Where the mouse was the key

To the lion not ending up in the jailhouse.

I knew a girl once, we all called her a mouse
But she was suffering in silence
In the walls of her house
And celebrates an absence

I admire her and all the things she can do
Although I see she’s a little bit stubborn
And didn’t lose it while she made-due
She’s a muse that’s very modern
And I like her.”
The class applauded and on the far side of the room, a girl with fluffy brown hair’s face was a bright red. Everyone knew who the poem was about and what it meant, even Opal. James gave her a small smile and returned to his seat. Mrs. Brigsby stood up once more, “Who would like to go next?” No one’s hand shot up this time, one rose timidly. “Opal? Are you sure that you want to go? You don’t have to share yours, if you don’t want to.”
“It’s alright Mrs. Brigsby,” there was an audible gasp from the room, this was the loudest that they had ever heard her speak. She rose from her seat and simply stood in front of it. “I’m really sorry, I couldn’t get to three stanzas. I tried my best though,” there was a small amount of laughter from the classroom and when it quieted down, Opal began to read.

“A bird in a cage, cramped and weary
Longs to leave the one responsible for her abduction

She should be able to fly away, in theory

But her wings are broken beyond reconstruction.

The bird wants to sing as she used to do

But her once lovely voice has been silenced

Only good for her master to use

A voice to be silent in a time of great sorrow and violence.

A stone all take for granted

Never praised for her beauty

Whose progress has been halted?

Yes, because diamonds have a better bounty

Because this stone isn’t as pure as the others

There are streaks of color in her eyes

Used only by the doers

And the owner of the bird.


The bird will soon be able to sing

And the stone will be able to shine

For we all share the same name

The one that is also mine

And I know that I am only one of a thousand

Like a bird and a stone

That are better than diamonds.”

The class erupted with applause for Opal, who only blushed and took her seat. The remaining students went and shared their poems and as the bell rang, Opal collected her things and went out of the classroom.

“Hey Opal,” Opal looked back and saw that James was walking in her direction. “That was a really brave thing you did, you know, sharing your poem and all. I know what it’s about and I know that it still might be tough for you.”

Opal took a long sigh, “No I’m doing fine, and life is so much easier without Devin around. The only problem is that people have this idea in their mind that I’m a lesbian.”

James was shocked, surprised, and obviously overjoyed, “You’re not?  A-Are you straight or—“

“No, no there’s no way I’m straight. I’m not sure what I am right now, but that’s okay. I’m only fifteen and I have whole life ahead of me to figure it out. Besides, I’ve got a friend like you to help me out on the way there. You’re the only one I’ve got right now.”

James smiled, “You’ll make more, don’t worry. I believe in you Opal.”

Opal smiled and looked at the ground, “Thanks James, well, I better get to class. I’ll see you later?”

James nodded and Opal walked off to her last class. She wasn’t sure what it was that was so liberating about reading that poem in front of everyone, but she had a good idea. Maybe it was that she could finally let go of all the pent up anxiety that she had because Devin made her not speak to anyone for almost an entire school year. Now Opal could get herself back again, she could smile and laugh and life for herself. Opal Ramirez was going to learn to love herself. It all started with one mindset that she

really was like her namesake. Yes, she really was better than diamonds.

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