Running, smiling, laughing, through the crowded square she ran. Red scarf flying, blonde hair getting tangled in the wind. Her face was lit up with a bright smile ready to conquer the world.
The scarlet leaves waved to her as she trudged by on her way to school. She did not wave back. The orange and golden leaves blended together to create a peachy color. Addy didn’t notice. School was a jail. It was worse than a jail. The inmates sneered and snarled at her. There was no end to their unforgivable tormenting. Never a smile crossed her face in the last months of living in New England. Home was no better. The big white colonial house with friendly windows and green grass out front always welcomed her for there was no one else to say, “how are you Addy?” Or, “How was that science quiz you were so nervous about?” And, “Are you hungry?” Her dad was always on calls and typing away furiously on his shiny computer. Her mom traveled constantly. She was away visiting beautiful cities. Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles, and Paris. Addy begged as a little girl to go with her. But no,
“Big cities aren’t for little girls.” Her mother shook her finger at her which was one of her favorite habits. Then would turn around and continue on a project for work. Her parents insisted that all this work was important. They wouldn’t have the big house and the vast backyard they had now. Their pool out back would not be there. The magnificently furnished house would be bare and incomplete without them. So Addy learned to go about her day being quiet, not interrupting, and solving her own problems. The teasing at school was relentless, and it was one unsolved problem that seemed forever ongoing. It wasn’t until her parents had announced the move that things started to change. Addy was now 13 and summer was fast approaching.
“Where are we moving?”, she had asked cautiously.
“London! My favorite city! Your father got a promotion which requires him to be at headquarters more often.” Her mother had replied staring hard at the computer.
“I have a meeting in a few minutes I better go”.
“When do we leave?” Addy asked quietly.
“Two weeks, Addy I need peace do you mind working on homework or something quiet?” Running, crying, Addy bounded up the stairs two at a time. Sure it’s bad here she thought, but now she’d have to start over. Everyone would hate her again. Life would be hard. I can’t do this she thought burying her head into her pillow. I can’t handle change.
Then again, who can?
Their new apartment was in the heart of London a block from trafalgar square. The apartment took up two floors and was very spacious for a family of three. The apartment was decorated with white walls and gray furniture. It was,“ in style” as her mother had put it. Not the most exciting place in the world, but it was home.
On September first addy changed into her blue-green and white plaid skirt and plain white tee shirt.
“Bleh”, she held the edge of the skirt in her skinny fist. Her legs looked long and gangly. Her hair was tangled in knots. I hate myself. I’m so ugly. Her eyes watered. I can’t do this. I’m too scared. I won’t be good enough. Thoughts bombarded her brain, but Addy did what she always did. She swallowed down the tears and smiled her best smile in the mirror. It looked more like a grimace but if she didn’t get going now she’d be late. Butterfly’s flew around in her stomach. They feel more like bees she thought.
Once in school she pulled out her schedule. Reading, walking, she went down the hall of white walls, shiny tiles made her black shoes squeak. Suddenly it was there. Two feet in front of her. The door. Deep breaths she thought. Before she could change her mind, she barged in making a loud bang pushing the door against the wall.
“Woah there! You alright dear?” A middle aged woman was looking at Addy through her glasses which seemed a bit large for her face. Her mouth was turned up at the corners and she had a mountain of light brown hair piled on top of her head.
“Y-yes. This is room 235 isn’t it?” Addy asked quietly looking down.
“Yes you have the right place and you must be the new student Adaline I presume?”
Addy nodded. That accent! She thought almost producing a smile. It really was different here. She looked up peeking through a few strands of hair which had fallen out of her messy ponytail. The room was empty except for the smiling woman standing in front of her. What do I say, what do I do, I can’t do this I ca-
“You are a little early but no worries you're welcome to stay. My name is Mrs.Haden.” The smiling teacher had interrupted her thoughts. Addy wondered how she knew she was the new student. She must be really out of place. She’d had a struggle getting dressed this morning as she wasn’t used to school uniforms. Stockings a few sizes too small. Shirt half tucked in, and tie knotted all wonky. I’m so ugly she said silently. She didn’t dare speak for fear that instead of words coming out of her mouth her toast with raspberry jam would spill out onto the floor.
“Choose a seat any seat.” Mrs.Haden said flicking her hand toward the rows of seats. Addy gripped her backpack tighter and marched to the seat closest to the window but also closest to Mrs.Haden’s desk. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. I can’t do this. I can’t get through it. She deflated letting out her breath, and sinking into a chair.
“We’ll sort out your backpack in home room, when I assign your lockers to you.”
No sooner had Mrs.Haden finished her sentence, when kids started streaming into the class chattering and bouncing. Addy stared straight ahead holding absolutely no expression on her face. The first thing in every class, in every school, on every first day, the students shared their names. Once again Addy surprised herself. As the students went around in a circle sharing names addy knew what she was going to say. When it was her turn she blurted,
“My name is Dela.” Maybe starting over wasn’t really such a bad thing.
“What a beautiful name!” Remarked Mrs.Haden
“Dela is also new to London as of this summer, so why don’t we give her a welcome before we move on.” A chorus of welcome Dela rang throughout the room. Kids looked at her, and she stared right ahead blushing. Ugh already she was embarrassing herself. Mrs. Haden talked about what a wonderful year they would have together, she had explained the class a little and then...
“This year we are focusing on a theme which is identity. You will learn a little more about yourself and who you are. Who are you? What are your beliefs? Even better we will be connecting it to this year's curriculum for social studies! Let’s get started shall we?” Dela stopped fiddling with her pencil and listened. Identity? Who she was?
Who was Dela? Well she’s not Addy, Dela thought triumphantly. She opened her book eager to step away from who she was. She learned that she was pessimistic. Which meant she had a negative outlook on life. She learned her morals and beliefs weren’t strong. Dela wanted to change that. At the end of class Dela asked a question that had been hanging around all of class.
“Can a person completely change?” She asked conscious of all the eyes on her.
“Well,” pondered Ms. Haden, “I think that’s up to you. What do you think?” A tall boy in the back with a curly mass of brown hair raised his hand. I don’t think you can change that much. You are who you are and you should embrace it. Everyone is different and they shouldn’t try to change themselves.” Dela stared ahead thinking. Her forehead creased. No she wasn’t going to sit silently and be addy.
“But what if someone wanted to change? Maybe they want to improve them self and-and change.” She said defiantly. She looked back at him and looked him in the eye. He scowled back at her.
“What an interesting point you make. We’ll come back to this conversation tomorrow class is dismissed.” Mrs.Haden dismissed the class as the bell rang and kids were walking, running, yelling down the halls. She got up quickly and walked out head high. She didn’t want to act snooty but she didn’t want to look down and bite her lip like addy would’ve. As Dela opened her locker a voice called out to her.
“Hey, Dela! Where are you from? I noticed your accent and it’s pretty cool.” So that was how Mrs.Haden knew she was new. More to the point though, someone was talking to her! A girl with shiny dark brown hair that measured to her waist. She had olive skin and was very petit.
Smiling back, She replied, “Boston.”
“That’s so cool! I’ve never moved in my life but I’ve been on vacation to France. That was cool but I’ve always wanted to visit New York City.” This girl just talked and talked and talked. she continued talking on the way to their second class.
“I’m sorry I talk too much just tell me if you want me to stop.” Dela didn’t mind, how often was it she got to make a friend? Never, the answer was never. Addy didn’t have the courage, but maybe Dela did…
After school, Dela and Bliss made an appointment for the next afternoon.
“I have to show you London. There are so many things you have to see!” Bliss talked rapidly.
“I’ve seen the lions in Trafalgar Square. It’s a block from my house.”
“Those are cool, but you haven’t been in the London eye, Covent garden, Big Ben, you haven’t walked along the Thames, through Kensington gardens, or ridden the tube.” Bliss rattled on. “We will explore the city! I’ll be your guide.”
The next afternoon they did exactly that. After taking a ride on the tube (which was packed)and the London eye, they strolled along the Thames talking about the year that stretched out in front of them. Dela asked Bliss the question she’d been asking herself since Bliss started a conversation with her at her locker.
“Why are you doing this? Being my friend, taking me around the city I mean.” Dela looked out at the water keeping her eyes on a boat bobbing up and down in the water struggling to keep control over the rough water. She dreaded the answer. The answer wasn’t pity like she’d expected.
“I like you, as soon as I saw you I knew I wanted to be friends with you. You have this smile that’s full of kindness. As for me showing you the city, it’s who I am. I love being around people, and making them feel happy is what I do best. It seems hard to move from one place to another, not like I’d know or anything. I’m also sorry that I talk a lot. Actually it’s just when I get nervous.” Bliss laughed nervously.
“I just didn’t want you to feel sorry for me. I don’t think you know who I am. I’m weak. I can’t think positively all the time like I wish I could.” Dela couldn't believe she was pouring her heart out into a stranger. What if she got hurt? She could trust Bliss, something about her lively bubbly attitude told her Bliss wasn’t leaving anytime soon.
“Well, if you weren’t who you are, I probably wouldn’t have come up to you the other day in the hall. Let's hop on a double decker and get off at Hyde park. It’s beautiful this time of year.”
She looked into the mirror the next morning and saw the birds nest on her head, her tired eyes staring right back at her. Looking into the mirror she noticed the blue green of her uniform. Her mind replaced her current thoughts with a boat. Just barely floating above the waves. That little boat will never get bigger. It will never change. The waves won’t get smaller. It just has to keep trying and someday it will sail confidently above the waves.
She had the same dirty blonde hair that was forever getting tangled. The same kind smile Bliss had pointed out. Nothing had really changed.
But there was one more thing she had to fix. At 7:00 a.m Dela walked up the stairs to her mom's office.