Don’t miss today’s Teaser Tuesday from Paint My Body Red by Heidi R. Kling, which is available for pre-order now!
I always understood depression to be something lonelier. Something that happened in a dark room. Depressed people on TV ads crept around unkempt bedrooms with bed-head and weepy eyes usually wearing an old bathrobe.
Golden Boy roamed the halls with a ten-thousand-watt toothpaste grin and Abercrombie clothes, high fiving and fist bumping his adoring minions.
Or maybe that was it.
Maybe it was all just too much. Maybe being perfect for too long was too much. Being perfect at our school was the goal. Look perfect, act perfect.
When I started at the local elementary school when we first moved here, I found it so odd that everyone had to be included. We couldn’t choose the people to play handball with, for instance. Everyone got to play. Everyone had a turn. I thought it was great as a new student—I was instantly included! It wasn’t like in Jackson when a new kid came and people were suspicious of him or her for a while and they had to work at making friends. Here there was like a welcoming committee—instant besties! While it felt nice enough, something about it felt disingenuine. Fake. False.
And life continued on like that. No bullying. No excluding. Just this constant climb for success and perfection.
Some of the kids I knew were forced to take the SATs every year since middle school until they got a perfect 2400. The problems at other schools around the country—bullying for sexual orientation or race or anything like that—didn’t exist here. If the rumor was true, if he’d fallen for Jay and Jay liked him back, they would’ve been accepted. We were a big supportive community of sweet kids from seemingly “nice,” involved families of overachieving parents who, for the most part, either came here from other countries or scraped their way up from nothing. People who could afford to buy two million dollar homes, many with foreign (China) or local tech (Facebook or Google) cash. And they expected their kids to have the same scrappy attitude and relentless desire for success that they had.
But we were just teenagers.
We wanted to do well, to please, but we also wanted the things other teenagers wanted. The things we saw in movies or on the bits of TV we were allowed to watch when we weren’t in our ten-thousand extra-curricular activities: to worry about dances and being socially accepted and discovering our passion.
No one I knew thought about any of that stuff.
Relationships, real ones, were mostly an afterthought.
We pursued straight A’s, perfect SATs, and the best portfolio for college.
Maybe Golden Boy was done being Golden.
Otherwise, why would he, with his perfect body and perfect brain pull over, lean his two-thousand-dollar street bike against a chain link fence, and lie on the tracks until a train ran him over?
About Paint My Body Red:
The world isn’t just black or white. Sometimes it’s red…
They think I’m next. That I’ll be the seventh kid to step in front of a train and end my life. With the rash of suicides at my school, Mom’s shipped me off to my dad’s Wyoming ranch for “my own safety.” They think I’m just another depressed teenager whose blood will end up on the tracks. They don’t know my secrets…or what I’ve done.
I wasn’t expecting Dad to be so sick, for the ranch I loved to be falling to bits, or for Jake—the cute boy I knew years ago—to have grown into a full-fledged, hot-as-hell cowboy. Suddenly, I don’t want to run anymore, but the secrets from home have found me…even here. And this time, it’s up to me to face them—and myself—if I want to live…