It has occured to me, while consuming massive amounts of Harry Potter fanfiction over the last three weeks, that I once knew a Draco Malfoy.
His name was Rane, because I was living in Alabama at the time, a place where all children who are born into wealth and privilage are given either Biblical or ridiculously overthought, fashionable monikers. I can't recall his last name at the moment, but I'm sure it was something like MacMillan, or Macintyre, or Macgyver. You know, one of those old country names because only people from the old country still have money in the South.
I can't remember how our mutual hatred began, exactly, but it may have had something to do with him being a wealthy, white, arrogant jerk whose family had been in the area for generations and I was a poor military brat. Not that we were starving, white trash poor, but I'm sure my father's ranking wouldn't have meant much to him.
Public high school in Alabama was the typical clique country that is so often depicted on Lifetime TV in movies about teenage girls who have enough and kill the popular cheerleaders. I never killed any cheerleaders, lo how I may have wished to. My friends and I were as guilty as the Preps of irrational dislike and unfair bias. That isn't to say there weren't any Preps who actually liked us, they were just few and far between. Also, they were relatively lower on the totem pole of Preps. The ones up high, Parkinsin, Malfoy, Crabbe, they were the ones who went out of their way to tease you; they called you names and made fun of your work and just when you thought they were handing you a compliment, they'd pull the rug out from under you. Bam. Straight on your ass.
Our first month into my freshman year of high school, my only year of high school in Alabama, Rane gave me a nickname. It stuck. Whenever he saw me, he'd call me that. I don't know if he thought he was being funny in a nice way, but I hated it. He knew I hated it. He called me it anyway. Every now and then one of his minions would call me it as well, but they rarely spoke to me. Sometimes they even called me by my real name.
Eventually, a month or two from the end of school, he started to get tired of it. That's what I attributed it to, anyway, because he stopped calling me it as often. He started to use it mostly when it was just him around me and my friends. Passing in an empty hallway, leaving an empty classroom. Then, one day, a miracle happened.
I entered a little clay tinket box I'd made into our school's art show. It won third place. When our art class went through to view the exhibits, I saw Rane hovering over the table my piece was on. He was helping to monitor the exhibits, apparently. As I walked past the table and saw my box with its little prize tag, he stopped right across from me.
"Congratulations," he said.
I stopped and looked at him. I didn't know what to say. I wasn't good with accepting compliments back then. It made me awkward and overly modest.
He must've thought I didn't know what he was talking about, because he gestured to the box and said, "On your box, you won a place. It's really nice."
I think I may have scoffed, because he would've continued. Instead, I said something that I've always felt a little bit bad about. A few weeks earlier my friends had given me an idea of what I should say the next time he was being snide. Partly because I'd been so hurt over the course of the year and partly because I wanted to just test it out and see what would happen, I used the idea.
Giving him a withering look, I said, "I love you too, Rane."
He was confused and hurt. He really had just been trying to compliment me. He returned my sarcasm with a dismissive, "Whatever, I was just trying to give you a compliment, Retainer."
When people ask me my most embarrasing story about high school, that one always comes to mind. How I said one wrong thing my first month and was forever known by the humilitating nickname Retainer. I think I could've broken the cycle if I'd just accepted his compliment, but instead I had to get him back, had to be just as mean and nasty and not accept his apology in the form of a compliment. Rane was just a scrawny, stupid boy. By the same token, I was just a plump, geeky girl. I wish now I could've been kind to him at least once and accpeted his offering of peace. On the other hand, I was kind plenty of times and quietly took his bullying. Was I wrong? Was I right? I wish I knew.
When we moved to Alaska, there were Preps and Geeks and all sorts of groupings, but somehow I was able to transcend them. I may have had my own group, but everyone knew me and I knew plenty of them. There wasn't the same sense of horrible rivalries and pairings and bullying that I grew up with in the Alabama system. Or maybe it was that I changed. Either way, I never knew another Draco Malfoy.
Where are you, Draco? Are you okay? Are you happy? I hope so. Wherever you are, take care of yourself. Blessings.