The New Kid
Also by summerschilde
Emily stood uncertainly in the schoolyard, nervously clutching her Math book to her chest. It was the young Red Ixi's first day as a student at Neopia Grammar School, and she was anxious to make a good start. Her family had just moved here from Mystery Island, and she didn't know anyone yet. She hoped that would change today.
Brriinnngg! The first bell of the day rang shrilly, and an army of students made their way toward the school building. Emily looked uncertainly at the foreboding structure, unsure of where to go. The Administration Office, perhaps? Timidly, she reached out and tapped another student on the shoulder. The student turned around and looked down at the little Ixi.
"Did you want something, or do you just enjoy poking people you don't know?" asked the older student dryly. The pair of students accompanying her chuckled delightedly at this witticism. Emily shrank back, a little stung. Gathering her courage, she spoke.
"I'm new here, actually - my name is Emily. This is my first day, and I don't know what to do. Can you help me?"
The older student, a rather prissy looking Plushie Gnorbu in a fashionable pink sweater, theatrically rolled her eyes and sighed dramatically for effect. Her rapt audience was highly amused, just as she intended.
"Gee, let me think... maybe the OFFICE would be a good place to start." She glanced over her shoulder at her tittering classmates. "It's always this way with the new students, isn't it? I guess it must be tough being new and all, so I'll just call you Noob, okay? It's nice to have a nickname people can remember you by. Just go straight down the hall, Noob, and it's the third door on the left; do you think you can remember all that?"
Emily cringed as the nearby children loudly guffawed. Lowering her head, she hurried past the group and made her way to the office. Her good feelings about the day were rapidly evaporating, and she wasn't sure if she would make any friends at all. Maisy Gnorbu watched her go, then turned to her friends.
"She seems to be a pretty nice kid," she commented. "Polite, that's for sure. I wish there were a few more like her in this school; things would be a lot easier with fewer troublemakers." Her friends nodded in agreement, and the three of them headed into the school building.
Later that day at lunchtime, the group who had heckled Emily sat together at a table in the center of the lunchroom with some of their other friends and talked about it together over cheese sandwiches and Kau milk.
"It was hilarious!" Stella the Island Lenny smiled as she recounted the incident. "The new kid tapped Maisy on the arm and Maisy turned around and gave her one of her patented remarks, you know, a Maisy zinger. She doesn't mean anything by it, of course; it's just the way Maisy expresses herself. Everybody knows it, so they're not bothered by it."
Kathy the Faerie Zafara nodded. "Sure, Maisy's a real sweetheart when you get to know her. Most of us have gone to school with her since the first or second grade, so we know what she's all about. She'd do anything for her friends, and she's got a great sense of humor. That's why I like her so much!"
The two friends finished their lunch and excused themselves as they got up from the table. There were a few minutes left of the lunch hour, and they planned to head over to the school library to do some quick research on a history project they had coming due. As they left the lunchroom and turned right down the corridor towards the library, Kathy grabbed Stella by the arm.
"Hold on a second, Stella. I want to stop in the restroom to check my teeth. It would be SO embarrassing if I had a piece of cheese caught in there or something!"
The two friends went into the restroom. Kathy stopped in front of one of the sinks and closely inspected her teeth in the mirror. Stella decided it would be a good time to comb her hair. As she rummaged in her backpack looking for her comb, she gradually became aware of the sounds of muffled crying. She caught her friend's eye in the mirror, and the two of them looked around the bathroom until they determined the sobbing was coming from one of the locked stalls. After a moment's hesitation, Kathy knocked on the door. The sobbing stopped abruptly, and she could hear someone inside sniffling and blowing their nose.
"Are you okay in there?" asked Kathy, concerned. "Is anything wrong?"
"Go away and leave me alone," said a miserable voice. "This has been the worst day of my life. People have been making fun of me all day, and I just want to go home."
Kathy frowned. "Why have people been making fun of you?" she asked, her voice shaking slightly in her outrage. "It's not right, and I won't allow it."
The trembling voice continued. "Someone called me a name today. It wasn't very nice, but I guess they thought they were being funny. Now EVERYONE is calling me that name, and it's NOT funny; it's just mean!"
Stella and Kathy looked at each other in indignation. It WAS mean, and they would make sure that this poor kid didn't have to put up with it.
"Come on out here so we can see you, sweetie," said Stella kindly. "We won't call you anything nasty, I promise."
The door unlocked and out stepped Emily Ixi, head downcast and wiping her eyes. Kathy gasped in recognition.
"Why, you're that kid from this morning!" she cried. "What have people been calling you? You're new here; no-one even knows you yet!"
Tears welled up in Emily's eyes. "Noob. Everyone is calling me Noob, and I hate it! This is just my first day. If it's going to be like this for the rest of the year, I don't think I can stand it. No-one will want to be my friend now; everyone thinks I'm stupid."
Kathy and Stella blanched. Their eyes met over the top of Emily's head as they simultaneously made the connection. Stella spoke first.
"It's what Maisy said this morning, isn't it?"
Stella felt a deep sense of shame and her cheeks burned. Putting a hand under Emily's chin, she gently raised her face so she could look in her eyes. "I'm sorry, Emily. Maisy wasn't trying to be mean; it's just her way of being funny. I guess she didn't realize she'd hurt your feelings. Everybody who knows her..."
Emily cut her off. "Well, I DON'T know her. I'm new here, remember? She made a few people laugh with what she said and now they're ALL laughing. At ME.”
Kathy took Emily's hand. "Don't worry, kiddo. We'll make this right. Stella and I are going to have a few words with Maisy and make sure she realizes that she's hurt your feelings. I know she'll apologize right away. We'll also make sure that people stop calling you that name. It wasn't nice, and you're right to be upset. Isn't she, Stella?"
Stella nodded before speaking quietly. "Sometimes when you're on the inside looking out you kind of forget what it's like to be on the outside looking in," she said humbly. "We were all new once. I remember when I was in first grade and my family moved here from Terror Mountain, all the kids used to made fun of my knobby knees. I was humiliated."
Kathy looked at her critically. "Well, you do have knobby knees."
Stella rejoined smartly, "And YOU have a big nose. But I still like you, Kathy." She smiled sweetly at her friend, batting her eyelashes.
Emily giggled, relaxing a little as she saw that the friends cared about each other despite the teasing. Maybe, just sometimes, people could tease each other for fun and not mean to be hurtful, although it still wasn't very nice when it was directed at people they didn't know.
"Come on, you two," Stella continued. "There's still a few minutes left of lunch, and we've got someone we need to talk to." With that, she pushed open the restroom door, and the three new friends headed towards the cafeteria, hand in hand.