ASHLEY, by PhoenixMist

     “Mommy, I don’t want to go to school.” I complained. She continued brushing my hair, and then put it in a ponytail.
     “You have to go to school, or you won’t learn things.” She replied.
     “But I don’t like school.” I said. My mom laughed softly and helped me put on my shoes. Once I had my backpack and lunchbox, we headed across town. My stomach turned at the sight of the school building. Old, brick, an empty playground in front. It was large, going from Pre-K to fifth grade. It was my nightmare.
     “Mommy, I really don’t want to go to school.” I repeated.
     “Don’t worry sweety, I’ll be here to pick you up the second school’s out.” She promised. I reluctantly grabbed my bag and got out, walking quickly to my class. Two fifth graders snickered at my hurrying. They never went straight to their classes, but lingered in the other hallways.
     Sitting down against the wall outside of the classroom, I dug out my notebook. My classmates always made fun of me, saying that I did my homework waiting for class to start. That wasn’t true. My homework was in my backpack, sitting neatly in my homework folder.
     “What’cha writing?” Ashley asked. She was my one friend, in the whole school. She understood that the notebook was for my stories. However messy my handwriting is, she always reads the page long stories and gives me encouragement on the next.
     “A story,” I answered, smiling. She’s the only one I smile to here. “About mermaids.”
     “Ooh, mermaids? When will you finish?”
     “I don’t know where to end it. She meets the human, but I don’t know what next.”
     She furrowed her eyebrows, thinking. “Maybe… he can become a mermaid too?”
     I grinned and hugged her. “Thank you!”
     “Gaah,” She gasped. We both fell over, giggling. One of the fifth graders that patrol the hallways gave us a look, but kept on walking. We smiled and sat back up, still giggling quietly.
     The bell rung, and I packed my notebook back up before hurrying into class. Ashley took my arm in hers and we walked in together, as usual. We always get called weird for it, but who cares? It’s fun.
     “Okay class, today we’re going to start with…” Our teacher began the morning announcements as I quickly turned in my homework and sat down at my desk, right next to Ashley’s. At ten a teacher came and excused me from class, taking me to another classroom. Five other students were in it, all of them my age. I focused extra hard for the next two hours, because it was fun. Since my kindergarten class hadn’t taught me how to read, everyday since first grade I had gone to a special class to teach me. It was really fun, and I learned more words everyday. My teachers said I would be able to stop taking them when this year finished, though.
     “Okay, that’s all for today. Now who’s ready to get back to class so you can eat lunch?” The teacher asked. We all happily went back to our classes, just in time to go to the cafeteria. It was noisy and crowded. I squeezed into the bench next to Ashley, and we reviewed our lunches. Then the we traded sandwiches, like every other day. Peanut butter and jelly for a grilled cheese.
     “Did you hear?” Ashley asked me. I shook my head, and she launched into the story. “Ms. Bectran is leaving next week. Her class went crazy when she told them. She still hasn’t told anyone why, though.”
     “Wow,” I murmured. We continued talking until lunch was over. Then we went back to class and worked on science. Next was Math. Then we went outside for recess.
     “Do you want to keep writing while we’re outside?” Ashley asked. “I think I will.”
     “Sure, maybe we can write together.” I said happily. We grabbed our notebooks and pencils and got in line. We were at the back, as usual. We walked silently through the halls, most of the class breaking into cheers when we made it outside. Ashley and I were left in the dust when everyone ran towards the playground. We walked quietly to the bench and sat down, opening our notebooks. Before I resumed writing, I scanned the playground for the team of bullies. Thankfully, their class hadn’t been let out for recess yet.
     “Do you want to know what my story is about?” Ashley asked. I nodded as she explained how the pirates try to take over a group of fairies. It sounded a lot better than my story. But we both started quietly writing. I was caught up in my story when a shadow appeared over my notebook. I looked up, Ashley looking up after me.
     “You two are writing again, huh?” The fifth grader asked. He had short, auburn hair, and was my height. You would’ve thought him one to be bullied, instead of bullying.
     “We always write.” Ashley said proudly.
     “Writings for idiots!” One of the fifth graders friends said angrily. He had dark brown hair. I looked at each of the five people in front of us. The whole team was here.
     “Writing is for smart people.” I opposed. Ashley nodded in agreement.
     “Smart people? You barely even know how to read!” The first kid yelled. He snatched the notebook out of my hands.
     “Hey! That’s not yours!” I yelled, standing up.
     “Make me give it back then.” He laughed. The four kids behind him mimicked him. Then he opened the notebook and began reading. “Mermaids? Mermaids?? How stupid and childish!”
     “They’re not stupid!” I yelled. I could feel tears coming to my eyes. Mermaids were special. I had always wanted to become one.
     “Oh yeah, you’re not the only stupid one here.” He remembered Ashley and took her notebook too. She stood up in dismay and went to hit him. He easily dodged her attack, but went to shove her anyway. I got in between him and her, stepping on his foot as hard as I could. He yelped, leaned down, and started rubbing his foot. When he stood back up again, he was furious.
     “You seriously tried to hurt me?” He demanded.
     “N-No…?” I stuttered. I was not what you could call courageous. More like cowardly.
     He shoved me to the ground. I coughed because of the sand and stood back up. When I felt his arms on me again, they were shoving me against the chain-linked fence that bordered the playground. I looked around. My teacher had disappeared, as usual.
     Me and Ashley were shoved around for easily five more minutes, the sidewalk meeting my face several times. I could tell my arms and knees were going to be bruised. Just one more reason to wear jeans.
     When the gang finally moved away, Ashley helped me up. Our elbows were bleeding, so we hurried to the nurses office.
     “Did you two trip again?” The nurse asked us. We nodded, faking embarrassed smiles. She cleaned the sand and dirt from our elbows and put bandaids on them. By the time we made it back to the playground, a lot of the classes were heading back inside to get ready for dismissal. We found our class and hurried to shake out our shoes and go inside. Back in the classroom, I packed up my schoolbag and waited in my seat for the bell to ring. The moment it did half the class jumped up and rushed for the exits. Ashley and I waited until the classroom was almost empty, picked up a few stray pieces of trash, and then walked happily outside, holding hands.
     “Ew, lesbian.” A girl said, moving away from us. I didn’t know what she meant, nor did I care. I was kind of sad that I had lost my notebook, but happy that Ashley wasn’t hurt too much.
     “So, I’ll see you tomorrow?” Ashley asked. We were standing in the doorway to the car loading zone. My Mom was standing next to the sidewalk, smiling. She was here, right as school got out.
     “Yep, see you tomorrow!” I said happily. We hugged.
     “Stupid second graders.” A fifth grade boy muttered, shoving past us. Ashley and I smiled, and I went to take my moms hand.
     “So, how was school today?” She asked me. We started walking to the car.
     “It was fun,” I lied, smiling. “Ashley and I wrote stories together.”
     “That sounds like fun. Guess what I found out today?”
     “You’re being moved to a new, better school! You won’t have to go here anymore.”
     I stopped walking and looked up at her. I wouldn’t be bullied anymore. But what about Ashley? Would she get moved too? Or would she stay here, and keep getting bullied?
     “Mommy, I can’t leave Ashley, I’ll miss her.”
     “Don’t worry sweety, you’ll make new friends.”
     No, I wouldn’t.

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