A/N: The class in this story is based off of Mrs. Shewmaker's 6th grade class of 09-10. The students are each almost exactly the same as real students of this class. The actions they perform, though, are almost always purely fictional. Yeppers! Review, please!


Don't. Tell. Anyone.

Over and over, that's what I said in my head. Step over the crack in the sidewalk, keep going. Slush coats my foot from a puddle I splashed into, turning it into a sneaker popsicle.

Don't. Tell. Anyone.

The steep, concrete stairs came next, covered in snow. A cold, stupid Wyoming January, perfect for my cold, stupid, messed up life. And that was when I started crying again.

It wasn't a bawling cry, the kind that makes your shoulders heave and nose turn splotchy. It was more of a silent, hidden cry. Silent and hidden. Again, perfect for me.

I kept to my law, the number one thing to do in situations like this one; you know, just a few yards from school, trudging through half-melted Wyoming snow, hiding one of the most horrible secrets you've ever been faced with.

The number one rule is…just keep walking. Put one foot in front of the other and keep your eyes on the ground. It was my default setting, lately. My way of pretending I didn't hear them gossiping and laughing about me, didn't notice their mean glares and questioning glances, their probing eyes, searching deep, deep down inside me, trying to find out if the latest rumor they'd heard about Zoe was true.

The large building loomed above me, and I quickly dried my eyes and took a deep breath. When I reached the school playground it was already full of kids. There were the little ones, crawling over the equipment like ants, the fifth and sixth grade guys messing around in the sloppy field with a football, and small groups of wanderers clustering together. I already almost could recognize each person and each group from my days of studying in my tree. My tree, my haven. A Chinese maple with long branches that are easy to climb and are hidden from view by huge bushes. No one can see me, but I can see everyone…

When I managed to wade through drifts (guess the snow plows didn't make it that morning) I almost start to cry again. I found that the bush concealing my secret has been chopped down, leaving the top lower than my shoulders. Cursing silently in my head, I resorted to making slow circles around the playground, mourning for my loss. Julia, Sara, Nikki, and Naomi passed me- you could almost taste the awkwardness. Nicole and Naomi gave me a tiny wave and smile, which I returned- followed by a nasty look from the other two girls. Shoving past me, the group whispered and giggled. I caught the words Zoe, weird, and freak. God.

Suddenly, it was all too much. My ex-friends, the fact that one of the only places I felt safe had been taken from me. And the secret. My vision blurred and my head seemed to be spinning. I doubled over. The bile rose in my throat. I retched, and heard the girls alternately gasping in disgust and laughing. I closed my eyes, wiping my mouth on my sleeve, and willed myself to disappear. Where were the teachers? Weren't the teachers supposed to be watching for stuff like this? A crowd was beginning to grow. Some of the guys from the field and basketball court had joined, as well a kids I didn't even know who had just happened to pass by. The noise was growing louder mixing together into one mix of snickering and yelling for friends to come, come, look at this! Pressing my hands to my ears I scrunched down and squeezed my eyes as tight as possible. That night came rushing back to me, a night when all my senses were on overdrive. I remember all the smells, the sounds, the taste. Everything.

Shhh, Zoe. Don't worry. Just hold still. Shhh, Zoe.

No, no, please, no. Please no. Just make it all stop and let me go to my tree. My tree where none of you can touch me, where I can be alone and sleep, just sleep. Please, no.

And then I feel a hand on my upper back, gentle and comforting. The hand helped me hold back my hair then grabbed my elbow and stood me up on shaking legs. I turn my head slightly to see Hayden, one of my classmates, positioning his body so he hides me from the crowd but keeps a respectable, polite distance. Feeling weak, I forget being a proper young lady and lean hard on his shoulder, trying not to fall over. We shuffle in this odd position to the nurse's office, making slow progress. Hayden even waits for me when I have to dash into the girls' bathroom and puke again, risking trouble with the teachers.

When we finally reach the nurses office, I collapse on the little bed. Conversation floats in and out of my head as I close my eyes and wish for sleep that won't come.

"Wrong…threw up…barely walk…talk…you are…Hayden…class…ate…not sure…thanks…ma'am…get well…Zoe…"

By the time I opened my eyes, Hayden was gone and the nurse was staring at me from her desk. We were good friends, me and Ms. Koger. She was a middle age, bouncy woman with a cute pixie cut who was only about an inch taller than me. All through my school career I'd had a series of nurse's office visits that lasted awhile and usually resulted in me going home and her using up a lot of equipment entertaining me.

"Zoe, are you okay?" she asked, rolling over to a cabinet and grabbing an ear thermometer.

"Yeah," I whispered, turning my head so she could insert the tip. After a few silent seconds it beeped and she checked the little screen, adjusting her glasses.

"Well, you don't have a temperature. It's probably just a severe bug. Do you think you need to go home?"

I nodded and clutched my stomach (even though it was already feeling fairly better), glad for a way to escape the hellhole of school. The nurse looked deep into my eyes for a few uncomfortable seconds, then instructed me to try to relax and left the room. I obeyed and, after a little bit, fell asleep.