“Hey, you ugly duckling! Shut up and go home.”
11-year-olds don’t really understand how badly can words hurt, that sometimes, one shouldn’t be so honest and straightforward. But, as kids, who did ever care?
I remember when a boy in school said this to me, I was totally blank. Everyone who heard him saying that, started to laugh and I started to cry.
That one comment, changed the definition of my life.
I wasn’t ugly. I swear, I wasn’t. I just had braces and a very queer hairstyle. I basically looked odd.
I could just cry for few days, and then later forget about it. But, that never happened. Everything became uglier.
I started to hate looking at myself. I even started to hate my shadow. I stopped talking to people because I feared that when I’ll talk, they’ll look at my face. I used to spend most of my time at home.
I used to make excuses to avoid going to school. I used to pretend being sick. I stopped playing with my friends. I stopped talking to my neighbors. And the worst part? I stopped smiling too.
Dad changed my school thinking that I had some problem with the earlier one. It made a little difference. Just, a little.
I was in 8th grade then. I didn’t have braces now. Nor did I have a weird hairstyle. Nobody called me the ugly ducking. Except, for me, myself.
Mom started to teach me how to play the violin as I was very fond of music. I used to spend hours and hours learning it. Even after school, I used to go to the playground and play the violin.
First few weeks at school were difficult. But, later on, I was just fine.
One day, after school, when I was sitting alone, playing the violin, a girl came with her two other friends and said,
“Hi, I am Monica. You’re in the other class, right? I have been noticing you for some time now. You are really good at this. My friends like it too.”
I got up awkwardly, smiled and said,
“Yes, I am new here. My name is Naomi.”
“Nice to meet you. I have been wondering if you would be interested to join our band. The Orange Glance. We play at various events and for the school too. We don’t really need a violin player for the band, but you seem like an exception. We practice at my friend’s house after school. His name is Gordon. Meet me after school tomorrow if you are interested.”
Band? No way. I thought. But, mom told me to give it a shot.
The next day, I met Monica and went for the practice.
Her friend Gordon, was the lead guitarist. From the little conversation I had with Monica before reaching Gordon’s house, I understood that she probably liked him.
“Gordon, this is er.. ” said Monica.
“Naomi.” I said.
“Yeah, Naomi. She is the girl I was telling you about. She is fantastic.”
I smiled when Monica said that.
Gordon liked how I played the violin and said that it would be great if I actually join them.
And, I did.
I became a part of The Orange Glance. We started practicing daily. School was so much easier now. Monica and I became really good friends, we started to hang out together. People started to know me. Though they knew me as ‘Monica’s friend’ or ‘That violin girl’, I was really happy.
Anything was better than being ‘the ugly duckling.’
Monica was a great girl. She was pretty, talented and was the vocalist.
She was this popular girl in school, everybody knew and adored. So, obviously when I used to hang out with her, I used to get very little attention.
Our band performances were a hit. We took part in various competitions, won a lot of them and were very famous. Though, I was never under the spotlight (I was not worth being under the spotlight too), I enjoyed playing for TOG in the dark.
I used to be the invisible person on the stage. People used to realize that I am there on the stage, only when Monica introduced us by the end of the performance.
Monica evidently liked Gordon. Everyone knew about it.
I liked him too. But, no one knew about it. Not even my mom.
He was this sweet, adorable guy, who anyone would want to be with. But, I knew about my chances. There were none. Zero.
The only conversations I used to have with him, were related to the band. And trust me, there were hardly any. Monica spoke on my behalf most of the time. Every time, I tried to talk to him, Monica would interfere.
That was okay. I knew she wanted to be with him.
Monica didn’t appear for a band practice one day.
“We need a vocalist. Who’s gonna sing?” the drummer (Ed) asked.
Gordon looked at me, when I was busy pretending to be invisible.
“Naomi? Can you try?” He asked.
I used to get nervous even while talking in front of him. Singing? No way. But, I actually did Monica’s job.
I remember after the practice, Gordon came up to me and said,
“You’re immensely talented, Naomi. It’s great to have you with us. “
I literally went crazy, got too awkward and said something really irrelevant to change the topic quickly,
“Do you like doughnuts? My mom makes great doughnuts.”
I was such a horrible person, I thought. Gordon must be thinking I am a fool. When I told this incident to Monica, she said,
“That’s exactly why you’ll never get boys.” and laughed it off.
I really loved Gordon. Only if he knew about it. Only if,
I was not the ugly duckling.
By the end of the year, Monica finally decided to tell Gordon what she felt for him. She decided to tell it to him, on the last day of school. And there I was, a shame on my own existence.
The last day of the year finally arrived. We had this ‘Goodbye’ ceremony, where everybody dressed up, partied, spoke about the best things of that year, performed and did silly things.
Monica looked too pretty, I knew Gordon would fall for her by the end of the ceremony. I looked okay. Probably better than everyday. I tried.
While entering the hall, I saw Gordon with his other friends.
He looked flawless.
“Naomi! You know what? I got to know that Gordon’s going to sing a song for the girl he likes today. Can you beat that? He is going to sing a song for me!” Monica excitedly said this to me.
Monica’s confidence was something. But, she could totally be right. There was nobody else Gordon would like.
“Oh my god Mon! I am so happy for you. Can’t wait for you to be with him.” I said.
I was very excited, not because he was going to confess it to Monica, but he was going to sing. Gordon Jackman was going to sing.
The moment finally came.
Gordon went on to the stage smiling. He looked pretty nervous. The lights of the entire hall went off. The lights were only on him now. He looked like a star. Literally.
He started to speak,
“The entire year, I have met a lot of people. Made a lot of friends. I have had the time of my life performing. TOG has been the best thing that has happened to me this year and I am glad I was a part of it. I have never done anything beyond playing the guitar on the stage. I don’t even consider myself very good at it. But, what I am going to do today is something I’ll be doing for the first time. I wrote a song.” he said.
I looked at Monica. She was almost on the edge of her seat. I smiled. I was happy for her somehow.
“I am going to sing that song today. For her. For the girl, I love. I hope she likes the song.” he giggled. “But, let’s keep this a mystery. You’ll will know who she is after I am done singing. She’ll be right under the spotlight.”
I could sense the excitement the crowd felt. I was still looking at Monica. She was indeed very lucky.
Gordon started to sing. His voice was so good that the entire crowd went quiet. How could someone be so incredible? I wondered.
I stood there, looking at him. Imagining how it would be if he was singing that song for me. I was almost in tears.
I slowly shut my eyes and cried.
I could picture all the moments with him. The first time I met him. The awkward hellos. The awkward handshakes. The way he used to smile when Monica used to introduce me on the stage. The very little horrible conversations. The way he said, ‘Naomi.’
Everything felt so heavenly. Every little moment with him.
I loved him. I loved him so much.
When he was done singing, the entire crowd applauded. I realized I cried more than I was supposed to. I opened my eyes to look at Monica, only to realize that she was looking at me too.
To my surprise, I was no more in the dark.
I was the girl under the spotlight.