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I roll over in my bed, struggling to free myself from the tangled mass of my legs and blankets. Next to me is my little slumbering kitty taking up nearly half of the beds space. As I glance over to look at the clock reading 6:31 she wakes up and proceeds to walk all across me her tiny claws digging into my back. Sitting up I rub the grit out of the corners of my eyes and flail my arm to turn on the light on the table next to me. Ugh, that is way to bright for this time of day, so I pull the covers over my head again. I just lay there for a few minutes. Slowly and cautiously I remove the covers and build up my strength to the light. Belle licks my nose and jumps off the bed awaiting breakfast. Swinging my legs off the side of the bed I stumble around my room to the closet, in search of a sweater. Finally I reach the cubby with my sweaters and clumsily pull one on. Cozy in my sweater I make my way to the hallway. Belle shoots in front of me, still persistent on her hunt for food.
I take carefully measured steps down the hallway, my brain focusing so intently on each placement of my foot I almost forget where I was going in the first place. Turning abruptly into the kitchen I lurch towards the cupboard with Daisy’s food. Go to cupboard. Get cat food. Simple stuff. I walk over to Belles bowl and begin to pour the kibble. When the bowl is near full I will my hand back but it just won’t stop pouring I watch as the little bits spill out over the top of the bowl. Finally my hand connects to my brain and brings the box up. Sighing, I drop the near empty box and begin picking up the mess.
One. Two. Three. Four. Five. I meticulously drop each bit into the box. Belle helps too, nibbling at the spillage like it’s a fine cheese. In the middle of my tidying I hear a scuffle behind me and mum sighs and clicks her tongue. She comes over and helps me up. “Maggie, oh honey. Why don’t you go get ready for classes okay?” she’s using that voice that is meant to sound happy and carefree. That’s not fooling me. Mums the only one who I have been around for my whole life. And the voice she’s putting on doesn’t cover up the concern in her eyes.
Little by little I make my way back to my room. Opening my closet door I glance at all of my drawers. Each one is carefully labeled by mum. Socks, shirts, pants, underwear. Taking one of each item out of their drawers I set them onto my bed just looking at them. This is one of my habits. Every day is structured around these habits. My therapist says that these habits are comforting me but I should try to vary what I do. The thing is, I don’t want to. I like my habits.
“Maggie hon are you getting dressed?” mum shouts from the kitchen. “Yeah.” I yell back. She knows that I’m not and she doesn’t say anything. She knows that I always set my clothes out before I put them on. She knows that I won’t have brushed my teeth for at least another 10 minutes. Yet she doesn’t complain, she doesn’t try to rush me, or change what I am doing. That’s what I love about her. She knows that I can do things for myself it just takes a little longer.
Finally I am all dressed and ready to go when mum walks in and hands me my lunch bag and backpack. “All ready?” she asks her eyes running over me like she expects something to be missing. I nod my head and we walk out into the hallway. Even though she could easily pass me by she slows down and walks behind me. As we near the stairs she grabs my arm and helps me edge down them. Another habit. I always walk down the stairs with mum. I could probably do it myself but it’s become so engrained in my day I just don’t bother.
Walking out of the house mum hands me the keys and has me lock the door behind us. The huge pile of keys jingles as I hand them back to her, she smiles at me and turns and opens the car door. Helping me into the passenger she is quiet and looks tired.
“Are you alright mum?” I ask quietly. “Yes honey. I’m fine, just a little out of it.” She sighs and walks to the drivers seat.
“Out of what?” I say my eyebrows wrinkling.
“What I’m trying to say is that I’m tired Maggie. That’s all.” Mum smiles again and then starts the car.
The ride to classes is quiet and short. The ride only takes about 7 minutes. I know because I asked mum to time it once. Once we are there mum walks me into the classroom and says hello to all of my teachers. Once she is gone I set my stuff down in my cubby. Just then the door swings open and my friend Julian walks in with his dad. His dad looks like he is in a rush and hurries out the door. He was probably late for work.
“Hi Julian. How are you?” I ask as he comes in and sets his backpack down in a cubby.
“I am great.” Julian smiles a huge happy smile and walks off.
I see him hug our teacher Karen go and sit down next to another boy, Robbie. I look out the window and see a group of boys standing by the fence. They are all huddle together talking and laughing. They look like they are having so much fun. Then one turns around and sees me through the window. He pulls a face and laughs.
“Dude, look that retard girl is watching us.” he announces.
“Yeah I’ve seen her looking at us before” another says.
“Seriously, she must be some kind of retarded stalker.” Says the one in a blue hat.
They all laugh loudly and turn around to look at me shaking their heads and slapping each others backs.
Slowly they all start to walk away heading to class but they still look over their shoulders and laugh as they go by. Standing there my legs start to wobble and I slump down to lean against the bookshelf. I feel my lip tremble and the tears welling up in my eyes. One by one, the tears fall.
What did they know about me? Did they really think that they were that much better than me? I don’t look or behave like everyone else. They think that I am too dumb to understand what they’re saying. That inside my head is a bunch of mush. What those boys don’t know is they are the ones who don’t understand. They cannot accept someone who isn’t the same as them. They are scared of the differences they see in themselves and me. They are the stupid ones. That kind of person makes me so angry because they don’t even know what I am capable of. And even though I want to yell at them and make them understand, I won’t. I will be the quiet retarded girl that everyone laughs at for not understanding jokes or laughing at the wrong time. I don’t want people to mock and whisper about me. But more than that I don’t want people to pity me. I may not be able to express all of this out loud, but I wish someone would want to let me try.
Just then Julian walks over and pats my shoulder gently. “Are you okay?” he mumbles.
“No I’m not.” I say wiping away the tears. Sitting down next to me he gives me a little hug.
“It will be okay. It was those boys wasn’t it? I saw them outside.”
“Yes, they were being very mean.”
“They don’t know you. They don’t know how nice you are.”
“Thank you Julian. That makes me feel better.”
I smile and stand up shakily.
“You are very welcome Maggie. You are much nicer than them. Don’t think about them anymore.”
And I didn’t.