Meredith’s audacity to step out of the house each morning surprised most high school students. She had a severe case of Alopecia Areata, refused to wear wigs to cover the patchy red hair on her head, looked good in virtually nothing, had crooked teeth, and had extreme allergies to most foods and cloths. She remembered the day she had been asked to leave Red Lobster because of her appearance.
She loitered into Red Lobster, her mom by her side, giving an almost toothless grin to the hostess. She smiled back until Meredith went to observe the lobster’s in their tanks, crawling over one another to establish authority, even though they’d eventually be boiled alive. She began to hear the whispers of the customers. One elderly lady with curly white hair whispered to her husband, “Children like that should be aborted.”
“No eyes should have to look at that.” Another mother said to her son. The hostess walked over to the lobster tank and tapped Meredith’s shoulder.
“I’m afraid I need to ask you to leave.”
“Leave?” Her mother grabbed Meredith's hand. “If you bigots can’t handle a child who doesn’t look like everyone else, I don’t want to eat here. C’mon, Meredith. You’re just fine.” They stormed out of the door.
Meredith hadn’t thought about that incident until now, prom day. She eyed the trimmer on her dresser. She touched the parts of her head where bushy red stumps stuck out. With a full body mirror in front of her, she grabbed the trimmer, cutting it all off. When she switched off the blade, the pieces that had given her insecurities were gone. Her mom’s face lit up when she walked into her room.
“Whatever you do, I support you.” She burst into tears, knowing that she was comfortable with herself. Meredith looked like a shaven fairy with her bright blue eyes
and faded pink dress, but her bold statement of individuality didn’t stand with the rest of the school.
When she arrived to prom that night, she found her best friend Bella going at the pace of a rocket to hand out fliers with Meredith’s face printed onto them. She almost ran over her while handing her one, not realizing who it was until she turned back.
“Meredith! Your hair,” she stuttered, “I love it.” She yanked her into the gym, dragging her to the photobooth. Bella grabbed a fake mustache, Meredith grabbed a green bowler hat.
When the song Thinking Out Loud caused all of the couples to merge together like a sandwich, Meredith looked at Dylan, her only crush since middle school. She felt envious of the girl who got to put her hands all over him, pampering him like a doll. She looked down at her feet and whispered the song. Bella was indulging in the warmth of her boyfriend, Tyler, when her spirit told her something was wrong. She pulled away from him and saw that Meredith wasn’t at the table they had been sitting at. She ran through the gym, asking Meredith’s friends if they had seen her, they all responded no. She found Meredith in the bathroom, pools of tears spilling into the sink, her breaths becoming heavier and heavier. Bella pulled her head to her chest, rubbing her back.
“I’m never going to make a guy fall for me, or be pretty, or meet someone who won’t immediately judge me by my looks.”
“You know that’s not true.” Bella bit her lip, knowing that what she was about to say might hurt Meredith. “Certain people find beauty in the most unorthodox people.”
“I knew it. Even you, my best friend, think I’m ugly.”
“I never said that. I’m saying that certain people only find beauty within today’s beauty standards. You don’t fit into those standards, which makes you more beautiful. Some may not like how you look now, but one day, a boy is going to look at you and say, ‘You’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen.’” She wiped her tears as she heard the prom king and queen being announced.
“I told everyone to vote for you.” Bella said as they walked into the gym, but Meredith already knew who would win. They pushed their way through the clusters of kids grinding on each other to the main stage. A woman with a folded sheet of paper, a silver tiara, and a golden plastic crown walked onto it. “And the king is,” the DJ queued the drumroll affect, “Dylan Harper.” He ran onstage, looking half kid and half adult. She put the golden plastic crown on his head. “And the queen is,” her eyebrows shot up, “Meredith Hollingsworth.” Her heart jumped as she went to stand next to Dylan, who, despite being her friend in sixth grade, looked at her with hatred. He pushed her away when she put her arm around his shoulder, took her tiara, and stomped on it. He gave everyone at the front of the crowd a death stare, grabbing the microphone out of the lady’s hand.
“I don’t care how bigoted and superficial I seem. Who would vote for a girl who deliberately shaved her head, can’t grow nice teeth, and doesn’t make an effort to look pretty? Y’all need to learn common sense. In the real world, girls like this don’t get anywhere.”
No one said anything until Bella seized the microphone from him. “You see her? She’s been my best friend from birth. We’ve done everything and been through everything together. She’s the most beautiful person I’ve ever met, and she has the purest heart.” She looked down at Dylan. “And you, worthless dog, you don’t deserve her. Come near her, and you won’t see tomorrow.” She pushed him offstage, dusted off Meredith’s tiara, and put on Dylan’s crown. For the rest of the dance, and the rest of senior year, everyone had a newfound respect for Meredith. Her individuality encouraged others, and nothing could stop her.