I was in the school bathroom, sitting on the floor; crying. Curled up in a ball, sobbing quietly. I really hated being treated like a child; but I’m so much more than that. If only people could see who I am, beyond my age. I heard footsteps approaching. I could tell the footsteps, They were Kelly’s. She stood before me.
“Hey, are you alright?”
She asked softly.
“(sniffs) Y-yeah, I’m fine.”
Kelly was my mom. We'd known each other for 4 years now. Step-mom, technically. She came. I knew she would. She'd always been there for me. She’d always been comfortable with me calling her by her name, rather than addressing her as Mom. Not because I wasn’t ready to let go of my real mom; the one who abandoned me. But because I respect her and she respects me; we respect each other. As equals. She sees who I really am.
“So, why’re you crying? What's got ya down?”
“Well, it’s… it’s just--”
She got closer, now sliding onto the floor; sitting next to me. I picked up my head, as I wiped snot off my nose with my shirt. I was still a little choked up from the tears running down my face. I struggled for a bit to conjure up a sentence, but eventually let it out.
“M-Ms. Owens was infantilizing my work.”
I said, frustrated. Why wouldn't she give me her honest opinion on it?
“What do you mean?”
Kelly had a puzzled look on her face; She slightly tilted her head as she said this.
“What do I mean?”
I said, a little standoffish,
“She was talking to me like I was a toddler! I spent SO hard working on my short story, but she just talked about it so childlike, that it was infuriating! I’m not a little kid! It’s like-- she didn’t even see my work as work! She just wanted to hurry up and give it a gold star; without even giving it a second thought!”
I screamed. I could feel my face turning red. She faintly chuckled. I veered my face toward hers.
“What’s so funny?”
I said, now starting to smile; my eyebrows furrowed with confusion and a bit of anger.
“Who cares if she doesn’t like it? What matters is if you like what you wrote.”
She said motivational-like.
"Ok, I think I'm ready now."
“Good! Now, let’s get you cleaned up.”
She said cheerfully, as she put both her hands on my face; using both her thumbs to wipe away the tears that had desiccated on my face. She went over twice, then gave me a hug. I suddenly felt happier; good about myself. She always knew how to cheer me up. We got up, and she told me to go wait in the car; she was gonna give Ms. Owens a piece of her mind. She gets me. She sees me for who I am. As an equal.
“Who does she think she is?!”
I muttered to myself. Ms. Owens had no right to belittle my daughter’s work! I stormed over to Ms. Owens office. She was also a counselor; Great. Isn’t her job supposed to encourage people? I burst through the door, startling Ms. Owens. I interrupted her reading; she put the book down, and looked up.
“I just don’t get it! It seems all her life, as long as I've known her, people constantly do this to her every day! They fail to notice her as a person because she’s “just” a kid. And then I hear about you! that’s just low. Even for a school counselor.”
I said to her.
Yikes, that was a little harsh. But she deserved it. People don’t talk to my daughter like that. I felt especially hurt by this; I used to be JUST like Hanna when I was a kid. Everyone always put my age first; never really taking how I act into account. They just chalked it up to being a kid. Overlooked oftentimes, only seen as well... just that. A kid. I guess that’s why we connected so well when I first met her and her father. I even felt comfortable calling her my own daughter.
“What are you talking about?”
Ms. Owens said. Yeah right. She knew exactly what I was talking about.
“My daughter, Hanna. Why do you think it’s okay for you to baby her?”
“What? She’s the one that’s acting like a child! She’s crying because I wouldn’t give a response she wanted to hear.”
“I don’t appreciate it. Why not just read it for what it is? It might be better than,”
I peered over to her desk. She was reading 50 Shades of Grey.
“Actually, I hope she didn’t write anything like that.”
I said. Ms. Owens took notice of my glance. She rushed to cover up the book; She leaned on her desk, now covering it.
“Well, what makes you think I actually read their stories?”
I said in utter confusion.
I cut her off.
“Only my friends call me Kelly. Call me by my LAST name, Ms. Owens."
I said to her, angrily. She paused in shock; her mouth opened a bit, squinting at me. She continued her thought.
She stretched out.
“No offense, but I think ALL children’s writing is sub-par.”
“Oh, really? Did you know E.L. James wrote that book when she was 12?”
I said, lying.
She glanced at the book.
“She didn’t actually, but you’d still read it? Right?”
“See? That’s your problem right there. You won’t even give a book a chance just because it was written by a kid. Just like how you’re not giving Hanna a chance. Bad book example, but you get my point.”
“Hey, girl. I’m on your team. It’s just-- I don’t have the time!”
“Oh, but you have time to read about--”
“Ok, Ok! I do have time!”
She cut me off mid-sentence. Probably to save herself the embarrassment of me saying it out loud.
She perked up her glasses. I began to cross my arms.
“Your daughter is great. She’s an exceptional writer. It’s just, isn’t she a little young to be taking this course?”
She said nervously.
“Too… Young? If anything, that should make you want to read it even more! Don’t you wanna know why this kid is taking college-level English at 15?!”
“But, c’mon. I know my daughter writes and I don’t even read her work! And she’s 26! Not to mention an author herself.”
I feel sorry for her kid.
“Listen, I’m not asking you to treat my daughter differently. I’m just saying treat her like a young adult; like the rest of the kids in her class. Just give her a chance, as an equal.”
As an equal.
I waited in the car for what felt like forever. What was taking her so long? Did she beat her up? That would be cool. Was she hurt? Did she do enough damage to make me have to move schools? I stopped staring at the dashboard; as I felt a presence approaching the car. It was Kelly.
She said to me, coming into the car.
"Hey, don't worry about her. She's a lost cause."
I didn't care anymore. All that mattered to me was that Kelly actually challenged my TEACHER. That takes some real guts. I admired her for that.
"Hey, thanks Kelly."
She said, slightly surprised.
For what? For being there for me for the past 4 years. For standing by my side in the face of adversity. For coming into my life, and instantly understanding what I was going through. I was going to tell her that, but she looked like she'd heard enough ranting for today. So I kept it brief.
"Just, going in there and confronting her. Most parents would've just coddled their kid; so thanks for going the extra mile. I appreciate it."
She said, still in awe,
"No problem, Hanna. We're equals."
I like the sound of that. Equals.