“…an igloo made of books.”
Abby’s shoe, one of the sparkly ones with horses that lit up when she stepped, was untied. The flopping pink lace got snagged under her other foot as she turned out of the lunch line, and Abby WHOOMPHed flat on her face, scraping her knee and sending jambalaya flying. It landed in her hair and on her back, and she jumped up—Ow! Ow! OW!—hollering as the hot mush seeped through her shirt.
All 324 other kids in her grade pointed and laughed. Mrs. Turner, the lunch lady with purple old-lady hair, took Abby to the main office and gave her a new T-shirt. It was too big and hung almost to Abby’s bleeding knees, but Mrs. Turner said it was better than wearing your lunch all day. She also tied Abby’s shoe laces, so tight Abby thought her feet were going to pop.
When Abby made it back through the line, a new helping of brown lunch mush on her tray, the other kids kept teasing her. She stared at her classmates, now nearly finished eating, and found no one inviting her to sit down. She sat alone at the end of one of the long tables after a group of boys raced off to recess. She ate half the meal, even though it was her favorite at the cafeteria, and slumped to the playground.
She didn’t have anyone to play with. Twice she approached a group playing tag or bouncing a ball, and they laughed. “Ha ha, Abby dontcha know you’re not sapposed to put food in your hair?! Ha ha, Abby’s so gross! Abby, why are you so dumb?!”
Abby sat on a swing and cried, head buried in her too-big ugly t-shirt, until the bell rang to go inside.
Tuesday was no better. At least it was pizza day, Abby thought, because if she fell now the pizza wouldn’t make a mess or anything. She sat next to a group of girls whose desks were near hers and picked off the pepperoni squares.
No one talked to her.
At recess she climbed to the top of a rickety old wooden fort that most of the kids didn’t like anymore—they played on the new metal playset with the monkey bars and the twisty slide.
She pretended she was on a desserted island. No one would ever find her out here, and there was all the ice cream and cake she could eat.
It rained on Wednesday, so all the kids were sent to the library after finishing lunch. Abby gave her cookie to Katy, one of the cool kids, and Katy took it but then went and sat on the beanbags with girls with new hairbows and pens that wrote in different colors.
Abby wandered into the library stacks and built an igloo out of books. She crawled in and talked with a polar bear and a penguin. She told them about the cartoon she had watched last night, how the unicorn knew friendly ponies and they all had adventures together. The penguin told Abby she could have adventures, too, but Abby fretted that she needed magic at least.
When the bell rang, the librarian found Abby sitting in her circle of books, and made Abby late to class because she had to put them all back. The librarian gave her teacher a note, and Abby slunk back to her seat.
Timmy whispered to Katy behind his hand, and Katy giggled while sneaking glances at Abby. Abby hid behind a book.
The next day the weather was fine and Abby felt pretty in her green jumper. She was wearing the plastic hair clips with cat faces that her aunt had given her for Hanukkah. AND the cafeteria had peach slices, yum. She talked with Sue-Ellen, who had drawn a butterfly on her wrist with marker and was saying it was a tattoo, in the lunch line, and followed her to the long tables.
They sat together, talking about the art project the class had worked on that morning. Abby waited until Sue-Ellen was done, and followed her outside. No one teased her, and that was good.
Abby pretended to be a jaguar. Sue-Ellen hung upside-down and was a monkey throwing bananas at the scary, spotted cat.
On Friday, Abby and Sue-Ellen waited in the lunch line together. Abby gave her chocolate pudding to Sue-Ellen in trade for her strawberry fruit leather. They were arguing fiercely about whether or not they might find buried treasure on the playground. (Sue-Ellen thought maybe if they dug in the sandbox deep enough.)
When they were putting up their trays by the trash cans, Sue-Ellen slipped on a crumpled napkin. Her arms flailed as she fell, and Abby caught her elbow, steadying her.
Sue-Ellen smiled back.
They raced each other to the playground.