"Alex Costello to the office please. Alex Costello". I froze, my heart stopping dead in my chest as all heads turned to face me. Time seemed to stop, the seconds drawing out into what felt like hours. It took no more than thirty seconds for me to come to my senses, but it felt like an eternity. I braced myself as my heart began to pound, my breathing speeding up as if I had just run a marathon. I forced myself out of my seat, my legs shaking, feeling as if I could collapse at any moment. As I crossed the classroom, what seemed like an endless stretch form my seat to the door, I focused on my breathing, trying to ignore the stares that seared through the back of my skull and the pounding of blood rushing through my head, an incessant drumbeat to accompany the mounting tension. One foot in front of the other, one step at a time, I made my way towards the door, pulling on the handle with trembling hands. It was only when I reached the end of the corridor that I let myself sigh, a massive exhale that released a mountain of built up tension caused by that small incident.
The shrill sound of the bell marked the end of another class, and I waited, packing my things slowly as my classmates pushed and jostled out of the classroom, eagerly seeking the freedom that lunch hour brought. I slung my bag over my shoulder, mumbling goodbye to my teacher as I made my way out, the last one to leave. I trudged towards the cafeteria, shuffling my feet yet scurrying out of the way whenever a group approached. I took my usual seat alone at the back of the cafeteria, shoulders hunched and head down trying to make myself invisible. I pushed my long dark fringe out of my eyes, then pulled up my hood and put in my earphones, seeking an escape.I flinched whenever someone near me laughed too loud then continued to gossip, certain that they were talking about and laughing at me. I took my journal out of my bag and began to write, counting the minutes until the end of the day when I could finally see Brendan.
I smiled, relief flooding through my body as I got off the bus, ecstatic to see Brendan sitting on the curb waiting for me. In that moment I was truly happy, barely even noticing the shouted insults coming from the back of the bus as people noticed the flush in my cheeks. Brendan had moved in down the street just over a year ago, his family forced to relocate after he was kicked out of his second school. It wasn't because he's a bad guy, he just has quite an eccentric personality and generally doesn't care what people think of him. It's one of the things that I love most about him. Now home schooled, he spends most of his time hanging around the neighborhood, which is how we became friends. Over time I inevitably fell in love with him, although I could never tell him. I can't risk loosing my best friend, the only one who truly cares about me, who keeps me going.
The morning started off badly. I woke up late, completely exhausted and almost missed the bus. I took my seat at the front of the bus, red faced and mortified, wishing I could disappear, as everyone on the bus laughed at me. I pressed myself against the window, making myself as small as I could, and turned up my headphones to drown out their laughter, all the while wringing my hands.
It was only the last class before lunch, yet I was ready to go home and just sleep, never to wake up again. How peaceful that would be. I sighed at the thought as my Spanish teacher entered the room. I was daydreaming about Brendan, his hazel brown eyes a perfect contrast to his pale skin. I thought of his full pink lips, pulled in to a half smile as he laughed, an infectious sound that warmed me to my core. "Alex!". I jerked out of my daydream, blood rushing to my cheeks as the sound of laughter filled my ears. "I called you three times Ales", said Mr Ross, his irritation evident. "Hábleme de usted" he said with a sigh. I began to panic. Tell me about yourself, what could I say? I became aware of the giggles coming from the back of the room as my breathing became heavier and heavier. Soon I was gasping for breath, unable to get enough air into my lungs. I could feel sweat starting to trickle down my brow. I tried to stand, legs shaking, to push my chair back and run to the privacy of the bathroom. I couldn't, my legs refusing to work, and I collapsed to the ground, hitting my leg on the metal leg of my chair as I fell. I yelped in pain as more laughter ensued, but all I could hear was the pounding of my heart as it threatened to beat out of my chest. The world started to spin as my vision blurred. I felt a hot, sticky liquid begin to pour down the side of my head as I fell into the dark abyss of unconsciousness.
Brendan stood over his best friend, a single tear dripping down his cheek as he gazed around the room at the mess of wires and tubes that connected Alex to multiple machines. Returning his gaze to Alex's face, he let out a sob. The doctors had just told him, Alex suffered from depression, anxiety and anorexia. Brendan could not understand why his best friend did not tell him, instead suffering in complete silence. He looked so peaceful now, asleep on the bed as Brendan promised he would always be there for his friend, even when there was nobody else.