Attention

Ali Collins was what most would call an “all-rounder”. She was smart, beautiful, and talented. This girl could slack off all semester yet still ace every paper.

Could she draw? Like Picasso.

Could she sing? Like an angel.

Sure, she wasn’t Miss Popular. But she didn’t need a whole room of admirers to boost her ego.

But there was something in her seemingly perfect life that bothered Ali. Something buried so deep that she wasn’t sure if she could ever bring it to light.

She sure as hell wanted to. But she was convinced absolutely no one would understand.

All she would hear was “you’re so ungrateful”, “you’re spoilt”, “you’re pathetic”, and she’d heard enough of that already.

And since she couldn’t say what was on her mind, it started eating up at her from the inside. No one suspected a thing because all she’d do was smile and insist that everything was okay. And Ali resented the world for it. Because although she didn’t say anything, she left little signals here and there. But no one took the hint.

No one thought that it was weird when she started dressing differently. No one raised an eyebrow when she swapped her pop music for alternative rock. And no one questioned why, in the middle of summer, she started wearing longer sleeves.

Ali wanted attention. Not the kind that’s full of flattery. The honest, inquisitive kind that sees through the words, “I’m fine”. The kind of attention that can break a person’s walls. The kind that makes everything make sense again. But she never got it.

Then she started causing trouble. Ali found herself in situations no “good girl” ever would. And after her first arrest, her parents took it upon themselves to “discipline the devil out of her”.

And they tried. But they only made matters worse.

Ali ran away from it all. She was tired of pretending. Tired of smiling through the pain. Tired of the burden she carried by herself.

She knew she’d hurt those she left behind. But she also knew that things weren’t going to change.

Ali didn’t want to leave. But to her, there was no hope again. No way out.

And when they found her, all that was left was her story, scrawled out in a tattered notebook. She knew someone would figure it out someday, but she didn’t stick around to see the aftermath.

Sometimes I wonder what would have been different. What could have been different if she had gotten her lucky break? Why did things happen the way they did? But what’s done is done. All we can ask is “what next?”

But I still lay awake at night, thinking about that one thing.

Attention.

It’s all she ever wanted.

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