Falling apart

So, the Charmer. When last we met our hero, he’d agreed to consider maybe applying to possibly choice back in to my school for next year. Full of conditionals, absolutely, but progress, I felt. And then. Oh, and then.

I still don’t really know what happened. Except…he fell apart. Suddenly I started hearing these stories about him and about what a huge asshole he was being. That should’ve been nothing new, but it was. It felt different this time. It felt mean. From him, AND from the people talking about him.

I have to go back, I think, for this to make sense. Backstory matters; sometimes it’s dull, sometimes it’s just the writer who needs to know it, but sometimes the audience needs it too. I think it’s needed here.

There’s this girl. In sixth grade, the two of them were together; as together as sixth graders can be. I don’t THINK it ever came to full on sex, but I don’t know, honestly, and I don’t really want to. Anyway, they were very close emotionally. When the school year started, I asked this girl, the Over Achiever (because she is – I don’t think she’s ever failed at anything in her life), how the Charmer was doing. She shrugged. “We broke up like a week after school got out. We never saw each other, so there just wasn’t any point.” I nodded, said something about how that made sense, moved on.

When the Charmer came back to my school, they…reconnected. Sort of. The Over Achiever came flying into my classroom one day after school, sobbing that she was there to say goodbye to me because she was transferring schools because the Charmer was being sooooooo mean to her. She credits me for one of her main achievements, getting elected to student council, because I’d pushed her to run (no way would she not have won. Most popular kid in school, even as a sixth grader, but it was nice that she appreciated my support), and so she said she didn’t want to leave without thanking me for all I’d done for her.

This was before the Charmer and I got back in touch, and I had no idea what she was talking about. I calmed her down and she spilled. He’d called her a bitch, but that he’d then apologized and they’d started talking again, and flirting, and he’d told all these people how much he liked her, and so she’d scooped up all her courage and asked him out, at which point he’d backpedaled and claimed he needed more time, and then started talking trash about her. I murmured platitudes about what a great kid she was, how she had so much potential, how she couldn’t make decisions based off a few bad days, how maybe it would work out with him and maybe it wouldn’t but she’d be okay no matter what, how she needed to decide if she really wanted to be with someone who would treat her that way…the same stuff I tell all my kids when they’re having trouble with a member of the opposite sex. She sniffled, and listened, and dabbed her eyes with the corners of tissues that she’d crumpled in her hands while talking.

A couple of weeks later, my school held a holiday celebration with a dance room. The Over Achiever and the Charmer were both in there, and clearly dancing to impress the other. I assumed they were working it out and would get back together shortly.

Apparently not, though. Somehow it never happened, though not for lack of trying on the Over Achiever’s part, or so I heard through the seventh grade grapevine. Weird stories; almost creepy. Losing her shit when another girl was going to ask him out and threatening to kick the girl’s ass, any time, any place. Pretending to be at his house and having a friend pretend to be him on the phone with a third person; making that person promise not to text the Charmer for real to verify, and saying that the friendship would be over if she did (the third person rationalized that she hadn’t promised not to call, so dialed the Charmer, only to be met with a horrified, “Oh HELL no she’s not over here.”).

Maybe these are typical seventh-grade-infatuated-with-someone-who-doesn’t-want-you-back stories, but this is not the typical seventh grade girl. This is a kid who is adored by teachers and students alike; a girl who gets awards constantly, receiving them as her due, a girl who is cheered by her peers, a girl who fields offers for boyfriends near daily. This is a girl who is a success by just about anyone’s definition, and a girl who is not used to failure. And she was failing with the Charmer this time around.

She was part of the reason he originally didn’t want to move in to honors classes; she’s in all honors and he told me he didn’t want to deal with her all day long. Which I get – it’s super annoying to be around someone that causes you pain, and when you don’t have to do it, why put yourself through that? And leaving out all the weirdness, she’d also really hurt him the previous summer. He’d cared about this girl deeply, had trusted her when he was going through some really tough stuff, and she abandoned him. Not that she didn’t have valid reasons, but he was still in pain. But he finally agreed to go into math and science honors, and only two classes with her didn’t seem that bad.

I don’t think it was, at first. I think they were fine, except that was when her infatuation escalated. That was when the threats to other girls and the lies about his relationship with her started. He’d complain about it sporadically to me, but he never seemed that worried, and I brushed it off. Maybe I shouldn’t have.

Tomorrow, the end.

(Photo credit to onkel_wart (very busy),


"I'm a dreamer but I ain't the only one Got problems but we love to have fun" -K'naan, "Dreamer"

I teach eighth grade Language Arts at an urban school. My kids kick ass and will change the world. I want everyone to know.
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