Lost and Found - By Nicole Williams Page 0,1

was so I could sneak off at the earliest opportunity.

As the line of bodies continued by me, it became obvious I would be the last one off. I wasn’t invisible to the other passengers. They just treated me like I was. I was familiar with that act.

Moms steering cartfuls of kids and groceries through the store would shoot me sideways glances like they expected me to roll my sleeve up and shoot up right there in the middle of the cereal aisle. When I’d passed my peers in the hall, they narrowed their eyes because I had the audacity to take up space on the planet.

People had never ignored me, but they wished they could. They wished people like me would just disappear or fall off the face of the earth so they wouldn’t be reminded their little lives were so fake and full of shit.

As one guy about my age passed me, his attempt to ignore me faltered. Giving me a quick once-over, he shook his head and mouthed Yikes before he went on his Abercrombie-wearing, cheerleader-screwing way. I was tempted to give his back the bird, but for once, I controlled myself. Besides, that was nothing new. I lived that at least a dozen times a day back in the lowest form of purgatory known as high school.

I’d worn so many different labels I lost count. People liked to label things; it made them feel like the world made some sense. Like, if I was one thing, they were the other. I guess that made people feel better about themselves. If they focused on how screwed up I was, they could pretend they weren’t just as screwed up.

I’d been labeled a goth, an emo, a druggie, a loser, and my personal favorite only because it showed just how ignorant people were: a freak.

I’d been called a million and a half other colorful names, but those were the most popular. However, labeling me a goth or an emo was just an insult to actual goths and emos. I didn’t want a label; I didn’t want to fit into a certain crowd. I was who I was, wore what I wore, and did what I did because that was who I was. Or at least the person I’d convinced myself I was.

I wasn’t overly mysterious like a goth or exceptionally sad like an emo. I’d done drugs, but I’d never wandered into first period stoned off my ass like the hardcore druggies. I wasn’t sure “loser” fit either, since I was a conscientious objector to all things that made conventional “winners” and “losers” out of people. So maybe out of all of those labels, the one that fit me best was freak.

A few more people shuffled by, and their attempts and immediate failures to ignore me confirmed I did freak well. As I fell in line behind the second to last person, my belief that people basically blew went up a few conviction levels.

Montana was bit warmer than Portland; that was the first thing I noticed as I stepped off the bus. The next thing? It already smelled like cow shit. Not overwhelmingly so, but that pungent tinge was in the air, along with the sweet note of grass and the not-so-sweet note of a sucky summer to come.

I almost sighed. I came so close.

But I didn’t.

I didn’t sigh anymore. Sighing showed disappointment, but I didn’t hope anymore . . . thus eliminating disappointment from my life.

But I came pretty darn close when I examined the landscape. I’d been right. Wide open spaces, no building in sight taller than two floors, and nothing remotely resembled something I was familiar with.

“This must be your bag, young lady,” the Greyhound employee said as he held out my bag.

“Why would you assume that?” I snapped, ignoring the man’s overdone smile. “Because it’s as dark and dilapidated as my clothing?”

That overdone smile fell quicker than my GPA in middle school. Apparently Montana and I were already off to a rocky start.

“Ehhh . . . no,” the man said, clearly flustered. “It’s the last bag in here.”

I glanced at the storage compartments. Empty.

Well, crap.

“Oh.” I took my bag from him. “Sorry about that.”

“I meant no offense.” The man dusted his hands off on his pants before closing up the compartment doors.

“Me, either,” I said as I headed away from the bus. “It just comes naturally, unfortunately.”

My bag had to weigh almost as much as I did. I wasn’t exactly a light packer, and sporting a