Ruth was a late bloomer and somewhat homely yet her outside wasn’t nearly as ugly as her inside. As she entered high school she still hadn’t had her menstrual cycle or developed any of her lady parts. She did however develop a serious acne problem. Her flat face was often plastered with base in an attempt to camouflage and mask the bumps, pimples, zits, whiteheads and blackheads covering her messy mug. Ruth grew two inches in her last year of middle school so she was a head taller than all of girls and most of the boys in her class. Stringy, greasy black hair was matted over her head often somewhat un-kept and undone. The doting Carol took her ugly duckling of a daughter to the salon twice a month to get her hair done and it usually came out pretty good. Within days Ruth would have it undone and looking like it did the day prior to her sitting in the hairdresser’s chair.
Her hygiene left something to be desired as well. Ruth was a big sweater but she didn’t always wear deodorant. She couldn’t yet fill out her training bra but under the right conditions her underarms could smell stronger than that of a construction worker’s. All of these factors added to her sneakily nasty disposition. All of her flaws were like bait to the average high school kid. Kids are cruel and Ruth was generally disliked by her peers all of her childhood. So she seemed to be an easy target but in actuality she was laying in wait. A Venus fly Trap waiting for a victim to land so that she could snap shut on her prey. She always targeted the most popular and cruel. Ruth loved to share her pain.
“What do you mean Ruth?”
“Well, I heard him.”
“Yes. His locker is right next to mine. I heard him telling Charles and Carlos how much he liked you. He’s was just too nervous to come up and talk to you, but he wishes you would.”
“He’s just so popular. Why would he like me?”
“Well he was telling his friends that he was tired of dating stuck up cheerleaders. He wants someone who is down to earth, pretty and smart.”
Jessica smiled exposing her braced teeth and colorful rubber bands.
“Pretty? He called me pretty?”
“Yes Jessie, you’re a very pretty girl. Any guy would be lucky to date you. I know that Ian is the captain of the jv football and basketball teams but really he’s just another cute boy. He’s lucky to be liked by you and he knows it. You need to have more confidence in yourself. If Ian and I can see how beautiful you are, why can’t you see it in yourself?”
Jessica looked into the girl’s bathroom mirror and smiled shyly at herself. Ruth stood behind her and Jessica saw it. She was beautiful, especially in contrast to Ruth’s pimply porous puss. Her confidence grew; she smiled wider with more belief in her beauty.
“Now you should go and ask him to the dance. It’s Sadie Hawkins; the girls ask the boys. You better go ask him now before anyone else does. You know he wants to go with you.”
Jessica turned and looked Ruth in the eye, over the top excited.
“You’re right Ruth I’m going to find him at lunch and ask him. I can’t wait! Thank you so much. You’re the best. If there is ever anything I can do…”
“Oh don’t worry about it kid. You just go be happy. That’s reward enough for me.”
Jessica turned to leave then she had a second thought. Slowly she turned around to face Ruth again.
“Um, Ruth, are you going to the dance?”
Ruth was quick with her lie or… Ruth’s truth.
“No, my parents scheduled a beach trip that weekend. Our whole family is going and one of my boy cousins is bringing his best friend, a guy, I’ve been kind of seeing.”
Jessica easily bought Ruth’s elaborate lie.
“Well have fun Ruth. I’ll see ya later.”
As the door closed behind Jessica, Ruth let loose with a wicked chuckle, so looking forward to the lunch time entertainment. The prior two days Ruth had been spreading a rumor that Jessica liked Ian and Ian liked Jessica. She told some people that Jessica liked Ian and she told others that Ian liked Jessica. Some people she told they were going steady. Everyone she told ran in the circles of the popular, preppy and athletic. They all got a kick out of it. In actuality she only told three people. She knew these kids all her life so she knew which ones liked to blab and gossip.
Ruth told the basketball manager/water boy that Jessica and Ian were going steady and he told cool players on the team just to gain favor with them. Ruth told Sandy Johnson; head jv cheerleader, that Ian had a secret crush on Jessica. Sandy broke up with Ian earlier that semester and still had an axe to grind. She told the rest of the cheerleaders, ninth grade, jv and varsity. Ruth told class secretary Angela Joyner that Jessica liked Ian and was going to ask him out to the dance. Angela in return told the rest of the student government and all of her popular friends. Ruth swore them all to secrecy. They all promised not to reveal where they got the information from. By the time the rumors swarmed all around the underclass no one cared where they originated. The rumors even made their way into upperclassmen circles.
By the time Ruth had her little revealing pep talk with Jessica there was already whispering going on behind her back in class. Ian on the other hand was being openly mocked by his friends, teammates and neighbors. The fifteen year old had grown tired of all the harassment and the lies. Jessica didn’t communicate openly with her peers because she always had her nose stuck in a book. Secondly, the last person catty teenagers tell the rumors to is the person the rumors are about. Jessica was truly oblivious and unjustly confident in Ian’s devotion and love for her.
Ruth orchestrated the entire mess just to hurt Jessica and get her out of the way. Ruth knew how emotionally fragile Jessica was so she decided to use it to her advantage. Jessica was number one in their class and Ruth was number two. Ruth’s greatest aspiration for her high school career was to be honored as her graduating class’s valedictorian. Salutatorian just would not do. She wanted to deliver the closing statement at their graduation ceremony. It would be the greatest valedictory of all time. She’d written it three years prior at the tender age of twelve and had been editing it ever sense. That same year she realized that there was a student who was slightly better than her. Ruth was plenty smart but it seemed Jessica just tried that much harder and grasped concepts that much quicker.
It was then that Ruth decided to fix her wagon but she didn’t know how to go about doing it. Ruth was always friendly to Jessica, keeping her enemy close to her. She noticed over the years how the girl looked at the handsome and talented Ian but never made mention of it. Ruth just observed and took mental notes. Now three years later the opportunity had finally presented itself. Ruth knew that a huge embarrassing moment might cause Jessica to miss some school or at the least distract her from her studies.
Either way Ruth would have a huge advantage at becoming first in her class. Once she got the lead, all she would have to do is hold on to it.
She sat in the corner of the lunchroom waiting on the fireworks. Jessica walked past where Ruth was seated and gave her the thumbs up. The two exchanged a smile and Ruth mouthed the words “good luck” to her. Jessica smiled wider and said “thanks” under her breath. She marched right up to Ian and his friends with a confident smile on her face.
“Ian, can I talk to you for a moment?”
He turned to face her with an irritated look on his face.
“What is it?”
Jessica was somewhat taken aback but she continued on anyway. She looked back at Ruth across the room and was again given thumbs up. Jessica turned back towards the group of boys.
“Ian, I wanted to know if you would go to the dance with me. I hear you’ve got a thing for me.”
Ian stepped back from her as his friends then half the cafeteria burst out in laughter.
“What!? Helllllll NO!”
The rest of the adolescent diners laughed as well. Ian continued on his verbal assault to Jessica’s dismay. He was boiling over from all of the teasing the rumor had caused.
“Look, I don’t know who told you that I like you but I don’t okay! Stop going around telling people you’re my girlfriend and go get a life!”
He then climbed on top of a lunch table and made an announcement to everyone in the cafeteria.
“Listen up everybody. I am not going out with nor do I like Jessica… whatever her name is. Someone started this rumor and it is not true. Again, never have I or well I ever go out with Jessica. Thank you!”
As he jumped down to the floor Jessica ran off crying. She ran by Ruth on her way out. Ruth had a wide smile on her face as Jessica approached. Just then he realized that Ruth had caused it all. Through her tears she mumbled to Ruth as she passed.
“I hate you!”
Ruth laughed out loud with everyone else. She was so proud at what she’d done. She whipped everyone into frenzy, got a great laugh and destroyed her rival all at the same time. She just loved to make people her puppets; it was all so very entertaining to Ruth.
Jessica ran out on the cafeteria, down the hall and out the front doors to day light. Her eyes had a tough time adjusting to the bright sunlight through her tears. She ran blindly into a bush scraping up hr arms and legs. There she sat, still weeping, until being discovered and confronted by the campus police officer.
“Are you okay young lady? I think you need to go back inside and see the nurse.”
Jessica only offered a one word answer.
She rose to her feet and pushed pass him leaving her belongings in the bushes. The officer collected them and brought them to the school’s office. There he wrote a report on what he saw and turned in her things. Jessica walked seven miles to her house crying the whole way. When she got home bloody and emotionally drained she was greeted by her mother. She had just gotten off the phone with school officials and was on her way out to find her daughter.
“Jessica, what happened to you sweetie?”
“Oh mom, it was awful.”
Jessica told her mother all while crying on her shoulder. She begged her mother not to go to the school and make a scene. Jessica just wanted to transfer. She never wanted to see any of those kids again. Her mother made it happen and Jessica was not forced to go back. She went on to have a stellar academic career and graduate as the valedictorian of her high school. Jessica received a full academic scholarship to the University of Florida and once again graduated at the top of her class.
Ruth also graduated at the top her class and received a partial scholarship to the University of Miami. She could have gotten a full ride to one of the state universities but she instead opted for a private school forcing her parents to pay several thousands of dollars in tuition. Carol gladly took out loans to pay it because what ever Ruth wanted, Ruth got!