|Posted on June 10, 2010 at 12:36 PM|
Danny pulled Wynona’s backpack from around the stair banister and slipped it onto her shoulders. It was her first day at a school with humans and not other HDH students. He remembered her telling him that when she lived in Com. 4, her HDH gated community, she went to school with kids like her, lived with people like her, did everything with people like herself until May 3rd, 2096, the day of The Shift.
It was too vivid a memory for her, so Wynona said. She was with her real mother and father when they told her it was time to go. Her father handed her the small backpack that was sitting on the stair step, her mother didn’t want to say goodbye, so she sulked away, sat in the kitchen and preoccupied herself by drying dishes. Wynona’s father hugged her one last time, said everything would be alright, helped her to the sidewalk and went back inside.
“We won’t leave you,” Danny told her, “and besides, there’s no mother to cry when you begin your independent life so no worries.”
“And we would never abandon you, Tulip,” Philip added.
Danny hated it when he called her that:Tulip. Even if it fit, it was like Philip forgot that she had feelings, too. In just under a month he dubbed her Tulip, and it was all because Highly Developed Humanoids breathed out O (oxygen) and in CO2 (carbon dioxide) – just like a plant.
Wynona pulled the door open and waved to them; there was something about the way she looked. It was disheartening. Then they got it, it hit them like a ton of bricks. Philip pushed away from the wall and squeezed her shoulder.
“We’ll be back when you get here … promise. If not, use your key, alright, Tulip?”
“Do you remember the bus route?”
“Try to make friends okay?”
“It’s going to be fine,” Danny said with a reassuring tone. He hugged her but the sadness that cloaked her face didn’t wash away.
“Maybe I should drive her.” He wasn’t sure whether he was talking more to himself or Philip. The idea of letting her out on her own horrified him. There wasn’t a night on the news that a story about discrimination towards HDH didn’t come on. What if she was attacked or kidnapped or tortured or robbed? She’d want to leave them and go back to foster home where she could be with people like her. She would resent to them for the rest of her life. Or maybe- Wynona shook her head vigorously.
“I’ll be fine,” she whispered and hugged him one last time before walking out of the door and down the street.
The bus ride was surprisingly quiet; no one talked to her or bothered her. Save the never ending murmurs and burning stares everything was okay. She sat at the front, because it was what the bus driver advised as the safer place to sit. So she sat there. It was the path that led to school that presented the initial dangers. She was pushed, hit, kicked, called names and that was all before she reached the parking lot.
“Welcome to my grade eight class, my nameis Mrs. Pulp and you will address me as so.”
Mrs. Pulp was a tall woman with curly blonde hair, a thin face, oval eyes and wide pink lips. She might have been pretty if she didn’t scowl so much. For anyone to conjoin with her and help her gain the title 'Mrs' was beyond Wynona's understanding. Wynona sighed, she didn’t get humans, they were too … quick. They jumped on everything with the mindset that they’d never get it or see it again if they didn’t go for it right away.
“Now I know everyone has heard about HDH joining our schools and I am sure you are all aware that we have one in ourclassroom right now. Advanced warning to every one of you: I will not tolerate any sort of hate crimes or bullying that is aimed toward her. I will also let you know this: I do not care for tattletales so do not come crying to me for any sort of juvenile problems. Have we reached an understanding?”
The class broke out is an ocean of hushed yeses and head bobs. Mrs. Pulp grinned.
The first in-class incident was purely (un)intentional. Wynona couldn’t tell. It was only two hours into the day when she felt something press against the back of her skull. She peered over her shoulder and a teeth-baring brunette with silver streaks streaming from the top of her scalp to the ends of her hair waved at her innocently. Wynona waved back and spun around in her seat. It wasn’t until she heard another girl laugh and hoot,“You’re so mean! How is she going to get that out?” That Wynona suspectedsomething.
She put her pencil down and raised a hand to the pressured area. Her fingers bulldozed into something soft and gooey. She was shocked. She pinched it and tugged, whatever it was stretched. She tried to demagnetize the tips of her fingers and break it off but it refused and expanded. Wynona brought her hand back to her face, her eyes widened. It was gum. That girl put gum in her hair! Her clean hand shot up like a rocket.There was no time to wait for Pulp to give her permission.
“I’m going to the washroom!” she announced and bolted from the room, eyes stinging from the threatening tears.
The bell rang, Wynona didn’t move. She had a fifteen minute detention for going to the washroom and staying there until Mrs. Pulp herself had to drag her out. But they didn’t go back to class right away; apparently, one of the office secretaries worked as a hair stylist at one time in her life and could help to remove the sticky material without chopping her hair butch. So now she had one of those boy-cuts- but it didn’t look so bad. Wynona saw it as a positive to her negative, it was the only thing keeping her from openly crying.
“You can go now,” Mrs. Pulp yawned. She must have fallen asleep, one side of her hair was dishevelled.
“Can I stay here?” Wynona pleaded but her teacher pointed to the door.
Outside, the sun was shinning, the white feather-clouds drifted in the breeze and birds chirped distraughtly. Was she being mocked? Wynona, paper bag lunch in hand, slumped down against a wall that was a blindspot for anyone playing in the field. No communication or social interaction she decided. She was keeping to herself until the day ended – maybe the year. In fact, the only thing that kept her from running away right then was the thought of her fathers waiting anxiously by the door to see their smiling foster child sing about her first day at school. They would hate if she didn’t come back, and besides that, there was no where else for her to go. Wynona didn’t know her way around the large town, it was clear as day that something terrible would happen if she just jumped the gun and took the risk. She would just have to wait until her classmates and the world were used to her.
“Wynona your …” Philip’s voice trailed off.
“Your hair!” Danny finished.
She looked down, a mournful shadow darkened her features.
“Can I not talk about it?” she asked.
“I’m guessing you didn’t do that for fun,” Philip intoned.
“Oh, Wynona!” Danny wrapped his arms around her and she dropped her head onto his shoulder.
“I don’t want to go back.” Her voice was muffled by his shirt.
“You don’t have to.”
“Yes she does,” Philip argued, “but we’ll have to do something about this.”
Danny felt his shirt dampen. He drew her closer and kissed the back of her head … it smelled like peppermint. Oh. That was it.
Days went by, each one more excruciating than the next. The brunette girl, her name was Mila, didn’t want to let up. The punishment kept coming and it went from one to three students who brazenly displayed their dislike for her in class. They had yet to find out where she ate lunch so at least things were peaceful then. But she was beginning to harvest a very, very cold spot for her educator. More than once did she approach Mrs. Pulp about the abuse andmore than once did Mrs. Pulp blow her off like an unwelcome fly and tell her to suck it up.