Izzy Becomes Isabel
None of us felt the change Izzy made over the months following her accident. It was too subtle, and, quite honestly, we all felt so terrible about what she had to deal with that we didn’t take anything she did too seriously. If she spent a whole day listless and unresponsive to us, well, it was her right. She was coping with so much loss. There was a stretch of healing and rehabilitation ahead of her with no end in sight. I’m still quite hazy about why Izzy’s legs had to be removed. My mom and dad tried to explain it to me when I got older, but there was always some mental block keeping me from understanding. I could only remember it had something to do with too much blood loss, infection that spread and the way the car impacted her on the road. My mind is too filled with those horrible sounds. I can’t think beyond that, no matter how hard I try.
Izzy changed. She wasn’t my Izzy anymore. We didn’t play or talk or do any of the things we did before the accident. She had connected me to the physical pain she went through and the mental anguish of having to learn how to walk with prosthetic legs. She avoided me like I was bad luck, like the closer she got to me, the more likely it would be for her to get hurt again. I didn’t fight this change. I didn’t even get angry at her for blaming me. In so many ways, I felt that it was my fault. I was the one she was chasing. I was the one who decided to run on the sidewalk around the trees. If I had been thinking more clearly in that moment, if I had been paying attention, maybe I would’ve run on the grass and skipped the trees altogether, maybe I could’ve kept her safe that way. So Izzy was right. I was to blame. And if my penance was being ostracized from her company, that was okay with me. I deserved it.
With my parents she was different. Nothing changed really, apart from her heightened need for them. Before the accident, she was more independent and fierce. She was my best friend first, and mom and dad’s daughter second. Not to say that she didn’t love mom and dad; it was just that we had such a tight bond that we both often forgot to pay attention to mom and dad when we were together. After the accident, it seemed like Izzy transferred all of her time, energy and devotion to them. And mom and dad being parents dealing with a hurt child never thought a second about it. None of us did. She needed them because they were strong and they were her parents. She didn’t need me anymore. She didn’t want me.
It wasn’t so bad, her excluding me, until she joined me in middle school. By that time, she had overcome the worst of her rehabilitation and was fitting in pretty well with her classmates in the seventh grade while I still struggled to find my place in the eighth grade class. Oftentimes, kids at this age are expected to be cruel to the weak, the timid and the weird-looking. Fortunately for Isabel (she wouldn’t let me call her Izzy anymore), that was not the case. It didn’t work out so well for me. She received overwhelming amounts of love and acceptance from almost all the kids in school despite her being in the lowest grade. But it wasn’t that she was treated like a pet – Isabel was charming and engaging from the day she was born, so it was only natural that people would warm to her quickly. I was happy that it seemed she would have a normal childhood after all, but that happiness quickly switched to inner despair when Isabel wielded that power against me.
I remember the first day Isabel realized the new superiority she had over me. I wasn’t too weird of a kid back then. I could get along with people just fine if I wanted to, but I was more introverted than Isabel, so even though I was in the oldest grade, I didn’t have nearly as many friends as she did. I got along fine with my peers on a small group or one-to-one basis, whether or not they were popular, and I wasn’t really intimidated by people who were universally liked or revered by others at school. I think I just enjoyed the freedom I felt in being by myself. Which put me at a great disadvantage when Isabel rose in popularity. The first time I felt her abuse, I was at my locker, gathering my things before the bell rang in the start of the next class, and I saw Isabel walking by with some of her friends. Before I left for school, Mom asked me to tell her something important that I can’t quite recall now. I called to get her attention, and, instead of stopping to talk to me, she just gave me a disgusted look and kept walking by, rolling her eyes in response to someone like me trying to talk to someone like her. One of her friends sounded incredulous, asking Isabel why she didn’t stop to talk to her sister. They all looked back at me then, and at that moment, Isabel said something in a hushed voice which incited an extreme outburst of laughter as they gave me one last mocking glance before walking away. Little did I know how much pain and harassment would ensue from that small incident. I shudder just thinking of it now.
Isabel walked home with me that day. I thought it was because she felt sorry for hurting me since she rarely walked with me to or from school on any other day. I was dreaming of reconciliation, not noticing that the silent walk home was saturated with so much hate. Before we got to our front door, Isabel cut me off, and, standing in front of me, she spit out, “Are you gonna tell on me?” I was too stunned to respond. I thought Isabel was finally going to forgive me; I thought we were going to get back to normal. She mistook my silence and said, “Whatever. Just wait and see what’ll happen next if you tell. I’m only getting started.” She stomped off ahead of me into the house. I’m not sure when I started to cry, but once it began, I couldn’t stop myself. I just stood in front of the door, tears streaming down my face with no end in sight, until mom opened the door, pulled me into the house and asked me what was wrong.
I glanced at Isabel. What a fearsome thing she was to behold. I could see that same fiery spirit she had when we were friends, before the accident, only this fierceness was terrifying. It didn’t radiate the beauty that was little Izzy; it spewed fire and ash and hate. And I was the object of that loathing. If I told the truth, I knew she would destroy me. If I lied, perhaps my role as the oppressed at school would not be so burdensome. How wrong I was in that moment. I said something about getting a lower grade than I expected on some quiz It seemed a plausible enough thing to say at the time. I was given hugs and kisses and advice, but I don’t remember any of it. I only remember Isabel’s angry eyes burning holes into my flesh. She gave me a little smirk as mom shuffled me towards the kitchen for some sympathy food, and I knew to the very pit of my stomach that she meant it when she said she was only getting started. That new and realized fear made me tremble and filled me with anxiety that has not been matched by anything I’ve experienced to this day.