In fifth grade language arts class, the second and final period of the day, I sank in my seat, roasting in Diana's glare. She had apparently found out about how I had went up to the math teacher and had asked, "May I have some Germ X? Diana scratched me." She was going to kill me—I knew it.
Then that fateful knock on the door caught the attention of my teacher. She opened the door and there stood the vice principal, Mrs. Janette Barley.
"I need to see Sydney and Diana."
My eyes widened. The vice principal wanted to see us? What for? What did I do? Was I in trouble? Mrs. Malley—probably the best friend I'd ever had in fifth grade and fellow writing and Star Wars enthusiast—looked at me with a confused look on her face. She was as much in the dark as I was. Principal's office and Sydney never mixed in the same sentence unless 'receiving an award' was in the sentence as well. I stood up slowly and avoided Diana's eyes. I could feel them burning through the back of my head.
We walked out of the classroom and into the hall and I tried to keep my knees from buckling. I had never, never been to the principal's office except for one incident where one of my classmates drew a gun on the inside of a card I had given him for Christmas in 2nd grade. I was the good kid—principal's offices were as bad as Hades' underworld. Especially when my worst enemy stood beside me.
"Now, honey," Mrs. Barley was referring to me, "Can I see that scar?"
As Diana's jaw locked in anger, an electric shock ran up my spine. The scar. Somehow the vice principal had found out. And now she wanted to talk to me and Diana. Lovely—I knew for a fact I was not going to survive the next thirty minutes.
"I-I-It's not that bad," I tried.
Mrs. Barley didn't really care for my word though. "Alright, well, may I see it?"
Defeated, I held out my hand to her as we walked to her office. She noted the scar on my hand clearly caused by someone's well-grown-out fingernails. Mrs. Barley didn't seem too happy at the sight. Sure, it wasn't the worst she had seen, but for ten-year-old girls, it was pretty bad.
This was not good. That was her thinking 'hmm'. Diana was going to get in some trouble and she was not going to be happy afterwards. And who better to direct her anger to than me, I thought nervously.
We stepped into her office and I took in the scenery. Being the daughter of a nurse and knowing many teachers, I had ventured into many rooms in every school I went to. But the vice principal's office was new to me. Scary new.
"Sit down, girls," Mrs. Barley said, sitting behind her desk.
I sat down as far away from Diana and her malevolent glare as physically possible. I took notice that Mrs. Barley was not interrogating us individually. In other words, I would not be saying much because of how much of an advantage Diana had gained over me. Diana, on the other hand, had quite a bit of control over the situation. Like usual, my odds were not good.
"Alright," the first question came, "So are you two girls friends?"
Now this was a question I was sure Diana and I could agree on the answer for—NO!
"Yeah, we're real good friends," Diana replied.
My jaw almost fell off its hinges. In no way were we friends. Especially not after all Diana had done to me this school year. Already, this interrogation was off to a bad start for me.
Mrs. Barley looked to me to confirm the statement.
I glanced at Diana quickly. If looks could kill I would have dropped dead. "I—er—uhm—y-yeah."
I hoped Mrs. Barley had picked up the look of a frightened lamb in my eyes. I hoped she somehow figured out that no, Diana and I were not friends.
"Well, how did you get that scar on your hand, Sydney?" she questioned.
My stomach lurched. If Diana's eyes were not bearing into the side of my head, I would have sang like a canary without my stutter. But I was much too frightened to tell the whole truth.
"I—uhm—er—well, we w-were in math class and uhm . . . Diana had put her st-stuff on my s-side of the desk," I managed slowly. I had to choose my words carefully otherwise I'd be paying for them later. "I tr-tried to move it a bit over"—little did I know that this was due to an issue that I had involving things being set straight and equally sometimes known as OCD—"a-and Diana moved it-t back. And uhm well. . ."
"My stuff was fine where it was," Diana snapped.
Mrs. Barley looked at her curtly. "I asked Sydney, you'll have your turn momentarily."
She crossed her arms and continued to glare at me. I swallowed hard.
"Please, continue," Mrs. Barley prompted.
"I—uhm—Diana. . . she, uh. . . I'm sure sh-she didn't mean to," I failed to conjure an appropriate alibi for Diana in a timely manner to save my skin. "Sh-She scratched me pushing her st-stuff back over." This was not true, of course. My OCD made me push the stack of composition books back. Diana saw this as defiance—me challenging her for the first time to do something about it. So she grabbed my hand and dug her apparently well-manicured nails into it until I finally released the books. My OCD never ceased to leave me alone that day.
Mrs. Barley nodded slowly. I sure hoped she didn't think I was stuttering because of the fact that this was my first trip to the vice principal's office. Oh, what I'd do for telepathy.
"I see, Diana, is that true?"
"Yup. It was an accident."
I shivered. I don't know what was worse. The fact that this was merely being brushed off as an accident or that I had just lied to a teacher for the first time—and to defend Diana! What was wrong with me? I was scared out of my wits, that's what.
"Alright, well," Mrs. Barley was apparently not done with us. "I'm going to give you both a piece of paper and pencil and I want you two to write down what happened."
My eyes brightened. Forget individual interrogation—this was perfect! I could tell the whole story and Diana wouldn't know how much I had said. Mrs. Barley handed us each a piece of paper and a pencil. Immediately, I began filling up my paper.
'That morning, in Mrs. Lee's class, Diana and I were sitting at the same table like we do every day at school. Mrs. Lee was talking about fractions. I was going to do my bellwork, but Diana's stuff was on my side of the desk, so I moved it to her side. She pushed it back. Again, I pushed it back and was about to tell her how her stuff was supposed to be on her side of the desk. Diana got angry at me. She grabbed my hand and scratched me hard. She pushed her stuff back and I didn't touch it after that.'
I handed the paper to Mrs. Barley, and she laid it on her desk. I sat back down and waited anxiously. While Diana was writing, she kept looking up at me and each time she did I shifted in my seat. She had apparently guessed that I tattle on paper about her. To state the obvious, she wasn't happy.
I looked up to Mrs. Barley, half fearful, half hoping that she was reading my paper and wondering why the story was different. But she wasn't. She was just watching Diana finish.
"You can go back to class. Diana, I want you to stay here."
Gladly, I jumped to my feet, steered clear of Diana, and stepped out of the office. In the hallway once again, I allowed myself to shiver. That was what could possibly be considered the scariest incident in my days at the upper elementary. Scarier than the bike wreck that caused my spiral fracture and broke both bones in my leg. I did not manage well in the vice principal's office, that was quite plain.
I scurried into the girl's bathroom and locked myself in a stall. I sank down to a crouch and hugged my knees close. For what could possibly be the millionth time since I had left the lower elementary, the school my mother worked at, I thought: I want my mommy.
I cried there for a while. I cried because I was scared, I had been scared, and now I was more scared. I also cried for Diana. Sure she was not nice to me in the least, but that office was the second scariest thing to me and she had to stay there alone. That was close to a fate worse than death through my eyes. I could stand sitting in a teacher's office or the front office all alone, but the vice principal's office . . . that was cruel and inhuman in my opinion.
Eventually, I got up and returned to class. I laid my head on my folded arms and stared at the keyboard and small screen before me. On that screen was the longest story I had ever written at ten years of age. Taylor's Journal. A story about the No Bullies Club. Led by none other than the narrator of the story, Taylor. Taylor was a ten-year-old whose gender was never defined in the story because I wanted it to be a story that anyone's eyes could see into. Taylor was brave. Taylor stood up to bullies and made posters and told bullies to stop being mean. Why could I do that? I wanted to be Taylor. That's why I came up with Taylor. Taylor was a super brain, Taylor got bullied but stood up to them and they stopped, Taylor became cool for standing up to bullies. I could hardly stop stuttering in front of bullies; there was no way I was anything like Taylor.
I sighed and laid my head down.
I have no idea how much time passed, but later there was a second knock on the door. Mrs. Malley stood in front of the door so I couldn't see who it was she was talking to when she opened the door.
"May I see Sydney?"
"Oh, oh, yes. Sure."
The vice principal—again? Oh, this day would be one to remember. Mrs. Malley motioned for me to come for the door, and reluctantly, I did. The sight I was greeted by at the door shocked me completely.
Diana stood in front of Mrs. Barley. Her eyes were dark and puffy and tears were streaming down her face. Mrs. Barley said, "Diana. . . Is there something you'd like to say?"
There was a pause, and Diana looked me in the eye. That hateful glare in her eyes was gone. She looked like she had been broken. I doubt she'd look like that tomorrow, but today I got to see what she was like under that tough exterior. I felt even sorrier for her now. This was not Diana, or at least the Diana she presented to people. Then she said it.
Was that all I wanted? No, of course not. I wanted her to stop glaring at me, stop saying mean things to me, stop scratching me. Stop bullying me. But this was a good start. I smiled. Not smugly. Not triumphantly. But sincerely. A smile to let Diana know how much I appreciated that apology. Sure, the principal was standing right behind her and probably told her to say it, but hey, it was better than nothing. Through my eyes, at least.
"I'm sorry too." What did I have to be sorry for? Not telling someone about this sooner and ending this whole painful ordeal. Making Diana cry as well. I did not like watching someone cry—certainly not making them.
From that day on, Diana's bullying was a much lower key. Sure, I would have liked for her to stop altogether, but at least she wasn't hurling all she had at me anymore. A snappy comment here and there. A glare from time to time. I learned how to ignore it—eventually. But I was happier. Later I discovered it had been my mother who went to the principal and it was the most incredibly helpful decision anyone could have made. Life was easier.