Emma sat down to eat the supper her mother had left her: corn chips and dip. The dip was made from leftover spaghetti sauce, salsa, and cream cheese. Her mother was the queen of throwing random things together and calling it a meal.
What if I don’t eat any of the salsa chunks? Then at least I won’t gag. Maybe I could make myself a sandwich. But that’s what I had the past three evenings. Emma eyed the bite she had scooped before putting it in her mouth. No chunks. If I were at someone else’s house, then I’d be eating good food. But it would help to have friends to do that.
Emma finished eating her supper and sat down at the piano to play a little. She let the music flow through her, but it did nothing to ease the tension in her shoulders. Glancing around, Emma looked for some other way to entertain herself. Snow was gently falling outside. Emma put on her coat and boots and went outside. As Emma crafted a snowman, she couldn’t help thinking how much more fun it would be with other people to help her. Leaving the snowman half made, Emma went back inside.
Well, I do have homework to do, so I guess I should get on that. I wonder when my mom’s going to be home from work.
Emma trudged up the stairs to her room.
Why am I so alone? Why does no one love me? My mom and dad split up because of me and now Mom has to work two jobs. No one at school will be my friend.
But Emma pushed that thought from her mind and started her algebra homework. When she was done, she had nothing to do. It was late enough, so she decided to go to bed.
The next morning, Emma got up, hoping her mother hadn’t left for work yet. But Emma was all alone, like always. At school, everyone acted like she was invisible. But she pretended it didn’t affect her at all. She went to her morning classes and did what was expected of her. At lunch, she ate with the group of people she usually did.
“So, how about hanging out on Friday?” one of them said.
“Sure, why not,” another replied.
“Just like, watching a movie at your house or something?” asked a third person.
“Yeah, we can work out the details later,” the first replied.
Emma knew their plans didn’t include her. Why would they start now after leaving her out for so long?
Why do they even let me eat lunch with them if they won’t include me in their plans?
Emma went to her afternoon classes, but she couldn’t forget what the people she hung out with had done to her. They had given her false hope by accepting her into their group, but not being her friend.
That’s the last straw. I’ve been putting up with this for too long. Things have got to change.
But what could she do to change things? Emma was quieter than usual the rest of the day, but no one noticed.
On her way home from school, Emma tried to think of a way she could make people notice her. If someone knew the way she felt, then maybe things would change. But she had no ideas how to make people listen. From there, her thoughts went wild. But she finally came up with a solution. All she needed were the means, and the right time and place.
When she got home, Emma played some songs she was working on from her favourite music book, and then she fooled around, creating her own stuff. By the time she looked at the clock, an hour had passed.
Emma smiled. She now had a plan to make things change. People would hopefully start paying attention to her after she implemented her plan. After she finished her homework, Emma’s mother wasn’t home yet, but today that didn’t bother Emma.
* * * * *
The next day, Emma’s mother wasn’t home when she got up, and her peers still treated her like she was invisible. The people she ate lunch with didn’t tell her to go away but didn’t treat her like they cared about her. But, today Emma was looking for the opportune moment to do what she had planned the day before. In Chemistry class, she thought the moment had arrived; they were doing a lab.
What if I swallow this substance? Would that do the trick? But what if it kills me? Then I won’t be around to see the reaction of people.
Emma couldn’t bring herself to swallow the chemicals. As she continued with her day, Emma looked for the right moment, but none presented itself.
When Emma got home from school, her brain was a muddle. She knew she wouldn’t be able to concentrate on her homework, and playing the piano wouldn’t calm her down. Instead, she sat at the computer and listened to some music. The song “How to Save a Life” by The Fray started playing.
If only someone would offer to stay up all night with me if that’s what I really needed. I’ll come up with a more concrete plan so next time I won’t chicken out when a good moment arises. I just need to figure out how to do it.
But Emma couldn’t come up with anything, so she did her homework. If she started slacking off now, her teachers would notice, and she didn’t want that. She only wanted her peers to stop treating her like she was invisible.
* * * * *
The next day was like the day before. But this time, Emma had the confidence to make people finally take notice of her. During lunch, she went wandering, looking for the right moment to hurt herself. Then she saw the perfect opportunity. Before her lay a staircase. The stairs had a steel frame, painted grey. The steps were slabs of beige terrazzo, edged with coarse sandpaper to keep people’s shoes from slipping. They went down half a flight, turned 180 degrees, and went down another half flight. A fall down a staircase like that would injure a person, but not kill them.
Emma stood at the top of the stairs, preparing herself mentally for what would follow. Things were about to change. If enough people saw her throw herself down the stairs, they would know she had done it on purpose. She wouldn’t be invisible anymore. People would start doing what they should’ve been doing all along: being her friend.
Here goes! This is the beginning of the rest of my life!
When she was about to do the deed, someone stepped in front of her, so she caught herself. She didn’t want anyone else to get hurt. She grumbled to herself and waited until there were enough people to see her, but no one else would get hurt. Someone called her name. Emma looked behind her, trying to see who it was who was delaying her plan. It was one of the girls she ate lunch with.
“Hey! I was wondering where you were. I knew you were at school today, but I was surprised you didn’t eat lunch with us today.
“Yea. I… uh… just needed to do some thinking by myself.”
The other girl nodded.
“Well, when you’re done your thinking, you know where we are.”
She walked off down the stairs. Emma tried to clear her mind and prepare herself for another attempt. As she got another chance, someone else called her name.
What now? Emma stifled an audible groan.
“Can I borrow the notes you took in class yesterday? I didn’t get a chance to finish copying them off the board.”
“Yeah, sure. I’ll give them to you during class,” Emma replied.
Ann’s lab partner walked off.
Emma was beginning to be fed up with all the people stopping her from throwing herself down the stairs. She sat down on the top step, frustrated, and began going through what had just occurred.
In the space of a few minutes, two people treated me like I wasn’t invisible. And they didn’t know. They didn’t know I feel invisible. Yet they talked to me. Three people saved me, but they didn’t know they did.
Emma couldn’t get out of her head that maybe people actually did care about her. Maybe she wasn’t invisible after all. Something at the back of her mind told Emma she was finally thinking clearly, and that when she had formulated her plan, her mind had been clouded. It had taken almost throwing herself down the stairs to realize she wasn’t invisible. There were people who might care about her. And that was enough for now.
I am invisible no more!
Liz Henderson is a proud Canadian, born and raised in the capital, Ottawa. Having always enjoyed writing, Liz decided to get serious about it on Halloween of 2013 when she decided to do NaNoWriMo. Over the next 4 years, she successfully wrote over 50,000 words in the month of November. Liz is married with one son. Her debut novel came out in late 2020. Connect with Liz on Twitter @LizHendWrites and check out her website at lizhendersonbooks.com.