A Grain

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My daughter has the best of everything. Her clothes are from the finest boutiques in town, her wardrobe rivaling mine in size and quality. Her hair has been highlighted and cut by my own stylist from the time she was small.    I’ve given her everything she’s ever wanted. Things she didn’t even know that she wanted. Private dance tutors, acting classes, beauty pageant wins, cosmetic enhancements.  We want her to be happy. I thought she was happy.

When her teachers told me that Riley’s interactions with another girl in school could be considered bullying, I dismissed it, taking it with a grain of salt. Didn’t all teenage girls argue? But then I met the girl, Cassie, and her mother, in the principal’s office, and I saw something I recognized in her sad eyes. Riley laughed the whole thing off in the car on the way home, and I joined in, wanting to make her happy, to reassure her I was on her side, but my heart wasn’t in it.

Cassie is gone now. When I found out the news, I locked myself in my bedroom and cried the rest of the day. Visions of my own youth tortured me. Disdainful looks from the pretty girls with their perfect skin and shiny hair. My desperation to be accepted, only to have doors slammed in my face at every turn. I thought about the day I gave birth to Riley, when I promised her that she would never endure one moment of suffering.

Today, I dried my eyes and got on the phone to find my daughter a lawyer. They want to put her in jail, but I can’t let that happen. She’s my baby.

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A Phase

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The comments had gotten more venomous. All of Riley’s social media accounts had been shut down, at her parents’ insistence, when the backlash had reached its crescendo, but she couldn’t resist reading the articles, the blogs. The world was talking about her.

Her mother had argued she was just going through a phase, an adolescent cruel streak, during the first principal’s office visits with Cassie and her mother. They’d laughed about the meetings on the drive home. At Cassie’s dopey pink nail polish and out of control acne, her face blotchy and red and dotted with craters, her mother’s dumpy figure, her wash-and-wear muumuu dress and flip flops.

They’d found Cassie a week later under the 6th Street bridge, lifeless and cold. Bullied To Death!  The headlines screamed. Rumors swirled. Riley and her friends could be charged with murder. Her mother had stopped laughing, going into defense mode, getting on lengthy calls with school officials and lawyers.

Riley’s own words had come back to find her, in blog posts, in comment sections, on social media. Do the world a favor and die. You’re worthless. You and your friends disgust me. The world hates you. Go kill yourself.

She wouldn’t cry.

She wouldn’t cry.

That would make her no better than Cassie. And Cassie was a loser.

She breezed through the front door. She ignored her mother’s protests, as she always did. Her mother could never understand that she still needed to feel young. She needed to drive her car. She needed to live. She didn’t know how many more days of freedom she had left.

The reporters were parked in front of the lawn, converging on her as soon as she stepped outside.

“Riley!” A redhead ran over to her, thrusting a microphone in her face. She’d been there every day since the story broke, not giving up despite the fact Riley had never spoken to her. To any of them. “Do you have a message for Cassie’s family? Or anything to say about Cassie herself?”

Riley stopped, turning to face the woman, feeling the tears spring to her eyes. She slipped on her sunglasses before anyone saw. “I hardly knew her,” she whispered.

For Story a Day

Wildflower

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The Reclining Gentleman

Tara noticed the flower every morning on her walk to the bus stop.  Sprouting through the cracks in the concrete sidewalk, it bloomed, arching toward the sky.  She imagined herself far away from this hopeless neighborhood, somewhere beautiful.

“Hey!” Nia, a notorious bully, called to her.  Tara ignored her, as usual, as her mother had taught her to do. Nia shoved her, causing her to stumble.  Everyone laughed.  It wasn’t their laughter that incensed Tara.  It was the sight of those yellow petals, crushed under Nia’s sneakered foot.  Tara closed her eyes, clenched her fist, and swung into the darkness.

For Friday Fictioneers