I got ten out of ten on my math test last week. Dad promised if I got perfect, he’d buy me a stuffed animal. So I named her Angel, and she came with me everywhere.
Mrs. Spehar taught us about letters today. I filled a whole sheet of paper with the word “dirb” until my teacher told me it’s spelled “bird.” I also learned how to write my name, Michelle with a big M.
“Don’t forget your Scholastic book orders are due on Friday,” Mrs. Spehar said as we made our way to our cubbies.
My cubby was number one-three, in between a girl named Domenique and a boy named Jacob. I packed my blue pencil case over top my half-eaten lunch and headed out the door.
Most people went home after school, but I went to Gym B. I would pass the small janitor room where Mr. Blankstein’s radio would play, even if he wasn’t there. I’d pass the first-aid office where the nurse would stab you with the needle before she said, “Three.” Then I’d pass Mrs. O’hara’s room, a pale skinned, red headed lady who was half a grade two teacher and half a witch. Well, that’s what Denise told me. And at the end of the hallway was Gym B. It had tall white walls, two basketball nets, and light brown floors that had tiny rocks everywhere from the bottoms of peoples’ shoes.
Gym B turned into the YMCA after school. It was a care-sitting program that Mom put me in so I had something to do until 5 pm when she would pick me up. One-half of the gym had eight long wooden tables that people sat in to do arts and crafts, and the other half was open for people to play sports like soccer or basketball.
I sat at a table with Alanna and Sarah, two friends I made last week. Alanna (like the word banana) was in grade three. She was blonde, tall, and had glasses like me. Sarah was in grade two. She had straight blonde hair and always had a wet braid that covered her left eye. She wore a black choker, boy shoes, and had a deeper voice than most.
Sarah ripped out a page in a colouring book and showed it to Alanna. “Which Powerpuff Girl do you wanna be, Alanna?” she asked.
“I like Blossom,” Alanna said.
“Okay, so I’ll be Bubbles, and Michelle, you’re Buttercup.”
I looked down at the picture. Buttercup had a boyish haircut and a yucky green dress. “Can we switch?” I ask. “I don’t like Buttercup.”
Sarah pierced her eyes at mine. “Shut up,” she said.
Laura, the YMCA supervisor, opened the storage room door across the gym.
“If you want a ball, come line up,” Laura announced.
I ran over to get a ball and came back to Alanna. “Alanna, do you wanna play catch?” I asked.
Sarah stood up and snatched the ball from my hand. “Let me play.”
“Hey, give it back,” I said.
Sarah drew her arm back, like an arrow ready to fire a bow, and shot a fist at my shoulder. Her knuckle hammered into the surface of my bone, stinging my nerves, weakening the muscle in my arm and the voice in my throat. “Shut up, loser,” she taunted.
I shut my eyes and squeezed my shoulder as Sarah walked away. Alanna stood silent. Laura stood across the gym, handing out basketballs to other YMCA’ers. I didn’t want to be a tattletale, so I stood there, too.
I didn’t show anyone the bruise the next day. And weeks after that, I just covered my shoulder. But I still hung out with them because they were my friends. And I didn’t want to tattle on my friends.