Middle School

Hour 9, Prompt 17, Year 2021

It’s lunch break and as always
She sits by herself in the empty classroom
She reaches in her bag for her lunch box, then her book
And then she remembers what she promised her mother
She pauses, panics a bit, then takes a deep breath
“You can do this,” she hears her mother’s voice
She braces herself and exits the room

Outside in the corridor, the students are chattering
Each in a group of their own
The popular girls, the jocks, the math whizzes
A lot to choose from
But simultaneously none
She approaches the closest group to her
Hoping that her courage will be rewarded with welcoming
Instead, she stumbles and falls
The chatter around her stops
Everyone looks up, shocked
Then silence turns into laughter

“Look at her trip!”
“What a klutz!”
“Where’s she from anyway?”
“And what’s up with her clothes? Tatters everywhere.”
“And the oil in her hair? Gross!”
Chatter all around, all directed at her
Tears stream down her face
Hot tears in the summer heat
She brushes the dirt off her knees
Gets up, slowly, unaided
And goes right back to where she came from

Back at her desk, she opens her book
And buries her nose deep, deeper
Not deep enough
All she had promised her mother was to try
She had tried
It was done
For good
She was safe now

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