Barre Vale, New York
7 Years Old
“Four-eyes! Four-eyes! Four-eyes!”
My bottom lip trembles, and hot tears slide down my cheeks as Mark and Jensen tease me. I wish I remembered to take my glasses off before coming out to recess. I don’t know why they hate me so much, but they always pick on me. This time it’s because of the stupid glasses Mom is making me wear. I wish they’d leave me alone.
I cross my arms over my chest, turn around, and sulk over to the swing set, trying my best to ignore their taunts. My shoulders droop when I hear them following me. Keeping my head down, I sit on the swing.
“Leave her alone!”
I jerk my head up at the angry voice. My breath catches at the black-haired boy with his back to me, blocking Mark and Jensen. It’s the new kid from my class who just started today. Mrs. Garner said his name is Lincoln. I wonder if he’s stupid or very brave because no one ever stands up to these two bullies.
“What are you gonna do if we don’t?” Jensen taunts. He puffs his chest out like he’s trying to act bigger than he is. If it wouldn’t cause more problems for me, I’d probably laugh.
“You’re gonna find out if you don’t leave her alone,” Lincoln says, taking a step closer to him.
Something happens that I never thought I’d see. With Lincoln’s back to me, I can’t see his face. His expression must be scary though, because Jensen drops his eyes and takes a step back. Mark’s face turns white, and he trips over his feet trying to get away and almost falls on his butt. I kinda wish he would have.
My belly stops tumbling when Jensen and Mark turn and run to the slide, looking back over their shoulders as they go.
“Thank you,” I mumble. I sway back and forth on the swing, the tips of my toes grazing the wood chips covering the ground.
When Lincoln turns to face me, the look on his face scares me at first, but it doesn’t last long. As soon as his eyes meet mine, the mean look is gone. He has the prettiest eyes I’ve ever seen. They remind me of the sky when there’s a storm coming. His black hair is long and messy on the top but cut shorter on the sides.
“Do they do that a lot?” he asks, pushing his hands into his front pockets.
I’ve only ever told one person about Mark and Jensen picking on me. I went to my teacher last year, and she called all of our parents in for a conference. The talk she gave them didn’t do any good. It made their behavior even worse. A week later, they pushed me down on the playground, and I scraped my knee and palm on the woodchips. They normally don’t touch me, but their words hurt more anyway. I haven’t told anyone since then, worried about what they’ll do if I did.
For some reason though, I want to tell Lincoln.
“Not all the time.” I shrug.
“Well, they won’t anymore when I’m around. I’ll protect you.”
Something weird happens inside my stomach. It feels like there’s a bunch of butterflies flying around.
I stare at him as he walks over to the swing beside me. Mom would say it’s rude to stare, but I don’t care. It’s like something is making me look at him. I don’t think I could stop even if I wanted to.
“What’s your name?” he asks after he sits down and starts pushing his swing with his foot.
When he looks at me, I jerk my head forward, my cheeks turning hot at being caught watching him.
“I like it.”
I peek at him again. “What do you mean?”
“Your name. I like it. It’s pretty.”
“Oh.” A smile pops up on my face. “Thanks.”
As we continue to swing, my eyes keep going back to him. I really like looking at him.
My glasses slip down my nose, so I push them back. I’ve thought about purposely dropping them and stomping on them, but I don’t want Mom to be disappointed in me. She stressed the importance of taking care of them.
“Thank you for making Jensen and Mark stop.”
He lifts his shoulders. “They’re jerks.”
I nod. “Yeah. I don’t know why they don’t like me. I haven’t ever done anything to them.”
“It’s because they think you’re pretty,” he grumbles.
My eyes widen. “What? No, they don’t.”
He looks at me out the corner of his eye. “Mom says boys pick on girls because they think they’re pretty.”
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