Fitting in wasn't always the best policy.
|Co-win. 918 WC. Entry for "The Writer's Cramp" prompt: Many a true word said in jest|
“What a beautiful dress.”
For Harriet Wallace, new student at Olympus High, it wasn’t the first snide half whispered comment that had reached her ears on her first day at school.
Under her breath she whispered the one that hurt the most. “Bobby socks and sneakers? What a fashion statement.” Tears misted her blinking eyes. “Why does dad have to be in the military?”
This kind of hazing happened every time they moved. It wasn’t so bad, made in fun, when they lived outside the U.S. No kid blended in at first. “ We were proud of learning, living and wearing the culture we just came from.”
Here, jeans and t-shirts made every student look alike. She stood out like a scared rabbit in a fox’s den. Every eye was on her. No-one talked to her. There was the buzzing background noise of angry bee’s in a disturbed hive.
Between her first two classes, Harriet used her cell phone. “Mom? If you get this message early enough in the day, bring jeans, T-shirt and sandals to my school ASAP.”
“Look at that hair style.”
“And that makeup.”
The comments grew more detailed as the day wore on. It got so bad, Harriet couldn’t concentrate on her schoolwork. Her stomach began aching. “It’s not only the girls. Now the boys are getting in on the act,” she mumbled to herself.
Somehow, she made it through the end of the last class. The only reason why, was because of the dead silence hanging around her, instead of the teasing whispers haunting her every thought.
“How was school today, hunny bun? I got your message while shopping. I laid your new clothing on your bed. Everything all right?” her mom said, still putting away the stuff needed after the big move.
Harriet needed a hug. “They made fun of me the whole darn day. I’m so embarrassed. It was worse than a dream about going to school naked. I’m going to need this whole weekend, getting enough nerve up to go to school on Monday.”
Her dress and attire had caused more than a ripple. Weekend phone calls started rolling in “I couldn’t believe the gold chain ankle bracelet you wore. Where did you manage to find it? I’ve been looking at every second hand store in town?”
“See what I mean?” Harriet gave the cell phone to her mother. How anyone had gotten her number so fast was amazing. “I had to finish the paperwork in a rush. Miss Seymour had another student walk it to the school office while I got introduced to the class.”
“Poor, dear. Do you want to take Monday off as a sick day? Let things die down? Her mother asked.
Harriet had stopped answering her phone. She barricaded herself in her new bedroom, putting it in order as a way of distracting her mind. “Why couldn’t the school have a dress code, like some foreign schools I’ve been in.”
Her closet held a number of such outfits. Harriet had been so excited, coming back to the states, when her mom had taken her shopping in the airport shopping mall after they landed. “I felt so pretty getting my hair styled, makeup done.”
Both her dad and mom had gone out of their way to make her feel her best. The last stay had been a long one. She missed the friends she’d made. Harriet didn’t think any of them had ever had to put up with what she did this first day of school.
Monday came too soon. Dressed in jeans, t-shirt, sandals and no makeup or jewelry, she knew she would fit in, if they let her. “Mom, hurry up. You’re making me late again.”
Her mother was intent on another shopping trip buying stuff she’d forgotten. “You look fine, dear. Are you sure you don’t want me to go in with you?”
“Yes.” Harriet meant she wanted her mom to.
“Well, off with you then. The tardy bell just rang.” And her mom in their newly purchased RAV was gone.
“Wow. What happened to you?” were the first words spoken as she barged through her first class room’s door. Every girl in the room was dressed as close as they could get, like Harriet had been before.
“Now, you’re talking,” a boy said and whistled.
Another stood up, bowed and replied, “No home girl looked so good dressed like that. You look different. I wonder why?”
Harriet slid into her seat, eyes rolling, This day was going to be a repeat of the last. It had all been in her mind thinking the girls and guys had been making fun of her. The opposite was true. “They were admiring what I looked look so much they wanted to be like me.”
Now they were kidding her for real. Many a true word said in jest could be taken the wrong way, Harriet realized. It was all in how it was interpreted. The shocked look on their faces meant there would be a lot of questions and answers to be sorted out.
Harriet laughed, making up her mind to just weather it through for the second day. It was kind of fun being the center of attention. Harriet slipped the notes from boys wanting to get to know her in her jean pockets. Words might be hard to understand, but action like this wasn’t. She wondered how to make herself stay a fashion leader when her third school day arrived.