The Project

She bit her lip, not because she was shy, but because that was what shy people did. Her character—the painstakingly crafted project that she would live through until the end—smiled reassuringly.

“I totally get what you mean,” the project said with a nod and the understanding smile that Gatsby used. The others relaxed. The project always let them see what they wanted to see. They could interpret her in their own petty ways, but there was one consistency in each of their minds. They always translated her project into the best light possible. And depending on who was there, she always read the situation differently and gave them the responses that they wanted. She even broke down once or twice under the stress, but it wasn’t her grief. It was her project’s grief. But she could never truly show any of them what she was behind the project.

Correction: she showed a girl once but then pulled her mask on even tighter. Another mistake would mean the end of the show.

Perhaps that was why she was well-liked by everyone but was never really close with anyone. She left everyone, in fact, encouraged everyone’s interpretations of her but never really had anyone to truly see her in the end. They all saw what they wanted to see and accepted it.

Just in case, on the second night, she tested everyone’s feelings towards her. She wanted to ascertain that they, indeed, felt what she thought they felt. She chose her victim, a boy who had just joined the circle of friends just like she had. It was a safe choice. She forced the poor soon-to-be sufferer to do something socially frowned upon and twisted the situation so it seemed like she was the victim. How ironic it was.

“Dude, what are you doing?!” a girl had shouted at him. “That’s gross.”

“Yeah. That’s pretty gross,” another person chimed in. She smiled inside, because she had just secured herself into their circle despite the other person. God, she hated herself. She was the manipulator even though they couldn’t see it. They were so blind to her.

At first she loved how blind they were, how she could easily manipulate them into situations and smile it all away. She was the golden girl of the circle. There was one point where she felt insecure over how they all thought of her. She pictured herself as the golden girl, but truly, did they see her that way too?

Another two girls assured her that she, indeed, was.

“No one says bad things about you. And, if they do talk about you, it’s always nice things like how you’re so helpful,” one told her. She smiled at thanked the girl.

One night, perhaps the third night, she wore something a bit flashier. She usually just wore t-shirts, but that night the more prominent people of the camp were required to wear something a bit dressier. When she walked into the dorm after changing, the girls were practically screaming compliments. Fake, a small voice whispered in her head. You might be beautiful, but you’re this beautiful, fake fool. That night she sat with a boy she was friends with and pretended not to notice the occasional looks he was giving her. Her character wouldn’t notice that kind of thing: her character was oblivious.

The occasional bouts of guilt and shame she felt over her project almost drowned her in a sort of sorrow that she tried really hard to mask. It was masking over the mask: a feat, was it not? She blamed it on the stress of taking care of  the little kids when others noticed her feeling down.

Even the parents loved her. It wasn’t just her friends and the many kids she loved playing with but also the parents. They always complimented her and told her what a good job she was doing. Those were some of the few compliments she really appreciated, because she just loved the kids. That was her one virtue.

But the vices were much, much more numerous than her virtues. She hated herself for it.

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