by Abigail Miller
A Mean Girl’s tragedy holds a hard lesson for her victim.
This was the day that Karma finally asserted itself.
Spring had sputtered out with the AC as the sweltering summer heat mounted and danced on the pavement. The palm trees stretched their sinewy necks to the sky and people, leathery and scantily clothed, crowded the shimmering Florida shores.
I was not amongst them.
I drank lukewarm Fantas and splayed across the family room couch, flinging myself into a new position every few minutes in hope that it would be more comfortable than the last. I picked up the remote and, greasy hair dangling over the edge of my seat and legs propped up against the wall, turned on the TV.
The screen illuminated with an unblemished, glowing face. I recognized Lila Delorez immediately, but then the picture faded into another, bleaker one. It concentrated on a sallow-skinned girl who was lumped into a hospital bed. I would not have connected the two girls if the similar smirk hadn’t registered with me.
“On Saturday, middle school student Lila Delorez reportedly fell off a boat while she and her friends were cruising the Intracoastal. The boat propeller caught and severed her right leg. It has been amputated from the thigh down, and has had multiple skin grafts. She is currently on her way to a full recovery. Students of the Jupiter Middle School of Technology plan to raise money to help Delorez pay off the bill for her amputation.”
In the picture, the mayor of West Palm Beach leaned on the rail of her bed, grinning. I wonder if a glance into Lila’s past would smudge the politician’s painted-on smile.
“She’s in my prayers, Sherri. Thank you.” The reporter, a perky blonde with silicone lips, smiled at the camera. I turned off the television.
Lila’s glorification made my stomach lurch. She’s in their prayers? Who ever prayed for me or anyone else under Lila’s wrath? But, maybe someone did pray and that’s why this happened to her, or maybe all the fistfights, degrading language and rumors caught up with her at last. It would be wrong to say that she deserved this, but it can’t be said that it was ultimately unfair. After all, she was supposed to be serving a detention that day for “inappropriate class behavior,” which she earned by bad-mouthing our morbidly overweight PE teacher.
Lucky for her, Lila’s reputation didn’t precede her outside of school. At Jupiter Middle, she belonged to a pack of tanned, skinny, dress-code violators. They could pass for the “Plastics” if Mark Steven Waters directed my life like the movie Mean Girls. Unfortunately, I had neither Lindsay Lohan’s luscious hair nor her character’s spunk. Day after monotonous day Lila and her friends cornered and victimized my own group, spitting insults onto our acne-strewn cheeks.
I did try standing up for myself once. I had squared my soldiers, clenched my fists, and told them to leave me be. In response, their laughter had smacked me across the face, leaving it burning red. From then on I stopped remonstrating. I accepted their view of me to be the only view, the truth: I was worthless.
Now, I curled in on myself, resting my head in the valley between my knees. I could hear the screeches erupting from Lila’s throat as it filled with salt water and the clatter of red solo cups hitting the floor, spilling their alcoholic contents as her friends rushed to her aid. In the cacophony, I also heard her voice echo, “Worthless, worthless, worthless.”
In the following weeks I acted as though I had never had the misfortune of meeting Lila. Instead of brooding over her, I dragged myself around the house like a zombie scavenging entertainment rather than brains, until my mom decided to emancipate me from stagnation.
I stuck my head out the window and gulped down the fresh air as we headed to the Downtown mall. In Downtown, people leisurely strolled between the department stores, enjoying quirky events (a band or maybe a baking contest) in the sun and ambling over little bridges, a thin stream of gushing water rolling beneath them. I trailed after my mom as shoe displays and “Sale!” signs lured her into stores.
While my mom, toting bulky bags, and I lumbered down the walkway, someone behind us called out, “Lila!” I froze up. I told myself that it couldn’t be her; it couldn’t be, though the consolation didn’t lessen my urge to flee. Thinking that the greeting was directed at me, my mom turned, beaming and waving in the other direction.
“Are, those friends of yours, dear?” she asked. Two of Lila’s friends walked on either side of Lila’s wheel chair like guards. Before I could see any recognition in their eyes, I tugged at my mother’s elbow and hurried towards an exit. Protesting, my mom bombarded me with questions as I rushed her to the car. Humiliation colored my face and red splotches blossomed around my eyes like roses in the summer. When she saw that I was blubbering, she silently got in the car and pulled out of the parking lot.
The turmoil inside began to subside and I started reflecting on how childish I was. What was I really running from? I leaned against the curve of the car door and gazed into the side-view mirror.
Lila wasn’t the perfect human; no, far from it, but neither was I. She must have been worn thin by so much drama in middle school and now by the tragedy of losing her leg. My brows furrowed as I gazed at my reflection. I gradually forgave Lila and wished the best for her, and after I did so, I looked in the mirror and finally saw someone of worth.