The most amazing thing happened, though. People rallied around me. Some of the most popular kids in my grade became a protective shield for me -- checking in with me, saying hi. Just the basic kindnesses.
By the time I got to HS, I was put into a bereavement group with other kids who have lost a parent. J lost her mother, F1&V lost their dad, and F2 lost his dad I believe. These people became my part of my family. To this day there is a very special place in my heart for them. Even when I went off to college and really experienced the grief over the loss of my mother for the first time in a sincere way, I knew that I wasn't alone in what I was going through as I carried them with me.
Before he graduated (he was a year ahead of us), F1 pulled me aside and said "One day people are going to wish they were nicer to you. You're going to be a knockout."
I mean, even as I am writing this, I'm getting tears in my eyes. One of the most popular and well-liked guys in the whole entire school really got me. Not only that, but he let down the barrier of HS social protocol to tell me. On my worst days I remember this. On my best days I remember this.
I remember his coming home from Marine Boot Camp the following year and barely being able to get out of my car. I just cried and cried after seeing him because I was so proud of the man he had become. And I was thankful for what he did for me -- he basically said that all the jokes at my expense, all the lonely nights crying wishing I had a better lot in life would be worth it. I didn't care whether I'd be a model in others' eyes, all I really cared about back then was at least being worthy of being looked at, talked to, respected, and even loved.