I’ll be able to explain more tomorrow, but here’s something to read in the meantime:
Not now, please. Not today, not today, not today … I thought. Still, she kept walking towards me.
No, no, no, no! What did I do to deserve this?
Every day, I read under the awning. Every. Single. Day. No matter what, I was there, nose in a book. Today, it was sunny. A slight wind. It was really one of those days that you couldn’t pass up. It was towards the end of spring, so it hadn’t been too hot, but it hadn’t been rainy either. Not too windy. It was too perfect – I had sat on the swings, leaving my book inside.
Five minutes! Is that all the ‘happy time’ I’m allowed to have? What have I done to you?
No matter. It was too late to run, too late to hide, too late to get help. I had to stay. Try and stand my ground. Try to ignore them. Try to be strong without my shield of literature.
She just stood there. Just for a moment, she looked at me. I had focused on a picnic table, just to give myself something to do, but I saw it from the corner of my eye. She stared at me. There was no pity in her eyes.
There was nothing except apprehension.
“Well, well, well. If it isn’t Ally!”
No, no, no, no! A crowd had gathered. It’s almost as if they had a built in embarrassment shame-detector.
She waited until everyone had settled before moving on. “I can’t believe you’re so cruel!” A tear started to form in the corner of her eye.
Not the waterworks! That gets the audience every time!
“I mean, like, really! How could you break- I’m, I’m sorry. I … I can’t.” Within milliseconds, her entire posse – and posse hopefuls – were rubbing her back, giving her hugs, and muttering, “It’s okay. Let it all out. There you go,” in soothing voices.
“Thanks, guys. I needed that. It’s just that … well … it’s so hard to face the person-” she said ‘person’ as if she were taunting a trapped virus. “The person responsible for my baby sister’s broken arm!”
I had been so confused at the time. All I could think was, What sister? She has a sister?
Riley continued on with her tale. From what she said, I had deliberately pushed her baby sister, who at that point was supposedly around five, off the swing even though there were open ones right next to her. She landed on her arm and broke it. Of course, the crowd, which was immense by this time, must have assumed that I ran away laughing hysterically, and they started to shout at me. “Baby hater!”
All I could do was watch in horror. How could everyone just assume she was right? Would no one listen to my side of the story – that I hadn’t even know Riley had a sister and that once I got home from school, I didn’t leave the house? In fact, all year, I could count on one hand the amount of times I had left the house after three o’clock when school ended.
Meanwhile, the chant continued. “Baby hater! Baby hater! Baby hater!”
I couldn’t take it anymore. I had always had just one policy when it came to bullying: Ignore them. Don’t show emotion. They’ll have to go away eventually.
Now, I was questioning that. They had been here for a solid ten minutes, just listening to Riley and then chanting. They were supposed to leave now. They were supposed to go away, to stop chanting, to stop teasing me. To stop …
They didn’t, they wouldn’t. I was reaching my boiling point, already having my mouth agape with horror. Already have shown emotion. Already have broken. I couldn’t move, I could only watch as Riley and her posse laughed and laughed while the crowd screamed. I heard some saying they should try to make pitchforks.
This is why I hide.
How could people just stand there and watch? How could someone not do anything to help? How could no one hear the screaming in my head, the rushing in my ears, the pound of my heart?
I can’t, I can’t, I can’t. While Riley’s tears had been fake, the ones that were on the way out of my eyes were genuine. I could only resist them another minute or so, there were too many.
Too many, too many, too many …
All hope was lost. If they saw me break, if they saw me cry, everything would get so much worse. I had to, somewhere inside, find the strength to at least run away, but it wasn’t there. Nothing was left – it seemed as though everything had been replaced with tears, and that if I didn’t crack soon, I would burst.
Someone was disturbing the crowd. People were being jostled, pushed, shoved. It was probably someone who wanted a better look, someone who wanted to see Ally the Baby Hater up close.
Bethany. She was the only one I could trust at this place, and sometimes even she was unsafe. We were friends when her mood allowed it, and I clung to that – it was all I had. It was pathetic.
Nevertheless, she was the one who was walking through the circle of people that had formed.
She was the one who was trying to reach me.
She was the one who was pulling me out of my swing.
She was the one who was forming a path through the hostile crowd.
She was the one who was dragging me across the parking lot.
She was the one who was towing me into the bathroom.
She was the one who was saving me.