Kat strode confidently into school, looking amazing, feeling even better…
...only to be immediately blasted by a bucket of water from each side. Vanessa stood to her left, snickering. Angelica to her right with a broad smile. Both dropped her empty bucket to clatter on the ground.
Supposedly water-resistant eyeliner and mascara streamed into Kat’s eyes, stinging and burning them red. Her vibrant, shimmering hair, so beautiful when she had primped it in the mirror this morning, hung in stringy tentacles over her eyes. She blinked furiously, eyes tearing up ostensibly from the makeup, but more truly from the shame.
How could she have walked right into this?
Somehow, her rivals had stripped her of her newfound confidence in the span of a heartbeat. She was right back to her pre-book, mousy self. She pulled the curtain of soaked hair away from her eyes to see the two girls prancing in delight at her misery.
Embarrassment and humiliation turned to anger.
Kat screamed and lunged for Angelica. The beautiful blonde’s eyes widened in shock as Kat drove her to the wall, small fingers clenching wads of fabric in each hand. Kat slammed the stunned girl into the wall several times before hands reached around her and pulled her away.
Struggling against the hands, Kat saw nothing but red. The color was both figurative and literal this time, her dripping hair whipping splatters of water all around her during the struggle.
As her surge of anger faded, she watched Angelica don the cloak of the victim, performing exaggerated sobs and pointing at Kat. Two teachers came to her aid, rubbing her shoulders to console her. Kat rolled her eyes, when she heard Vanessa behind her.
“It was just an accident. Angelica and I were just doing our duty with the National Honor Society to clean the school windows when Angie slipped and accidentally splashed some water on Kat. We tried to apologize, but Kat just went crazy and started attacking Angelica. It was only an accident!”
She heard overacted sniffles and sobs burst from Vanessa as well. Hearing the concerned reactions of the teachers, she knew that this battle was lost. She began to feel the hollow regret that came with allowing anger to consume her.
So much for being ready to fight back. She had just been resoundingly defeated by the unlikely alliance of her two rivals. With both of their words—and acting chops—against hers, she didn’t stand a chance.
She was right.
After a less than pleasant conversation with the principal, Kat walked sullenly home, knowing she would have to deal with her mother, who would be the supremely unhappy recipient of an email from the school’s administrator informing her of Kat’s three-day suspension for fighting.
Arriving home, Kat flopped on her bed and pulled her pillow over her head. This day had started so promisingly! At some point, she dozed off, because she awoke to loud, urgent knocking on her door.
“You open this door NOW, young lady!” came her mother’s voice. Kat considered leaving it locked to avoid her mother’s wrath, but she knew that would only make things worse.
She slunk over to her bedroom door and opened it. Her mom, red-faced, steam coming out of each ear, stormed in, brushing right past Kat before she whirled and pointed at her daughter with a trembling finger.
“I don’t know what you think you’re doing, but I will not stand for it, Kat!” her mother’s voice shook with fury. “Fighting! At school! That is NOT how I raised you.”
Kat hung her head, knowing tears would be coming soon. Her mother breathed out in a growl and began to pace.
“Kat, I don’t know how I’ve gone so wrong! I thought things were going well! Your ballet instructor told me she was impressed with your progress. You joined the choir. You’ve been doing so well. Then THIS!”
Another surge of anger quivered her mother’s lips, but the older woman kept an icy calmness this time— the only thing worse than the yelling. Kat felt the first of the tears roll down her face, along the side of her nose. She tasted salt as it ran over her mouth. She couldn’t meet her mother’s furious eyes.
“I honestly don’t know what to do with you, Kat. What. Should. I. Do?”
Kat opened her mouth to speak, but the lump in her throat wouldn’t allow it. She couldn’t make a sound.
She tried to be angry at Angelica and Vanessa. She thought that might be able to get her through this.
She couldn’t even muster the desire to be angry with them right now. She felt so guilty about putting her mother through this. How had she let them win like this? How had she lost her cool so completely? Her mother was right. It had been her fault. She could have responded in many different ways to their bullying, and she had chosen the worst possible option.
It would not happen again.
Her mother began to cry, walking toward her and giving her a gentle hug, all anger evaporating with the gesture. The older woman and her daughter shook as they cried in each other’s arms.