Sweet Little Thing

By: Abbi Glines

IF ONLY MY BACKPACK WERE larger it would be easier to hide the presents I got today. It was sweet of the boys to think of me. I especially loved the pink teddy bear with the “Be Mine” red heart in its hand. Its fur was so soft and pretty. I’d never been given anything like that before. The chocolate candies and heart-shaped necklace were also nice, but the bear was my favorite.

Tucking them all close to me to hide them while I rode the bus home was the hard part. I had to because I was afraid someone would take them. I’d already prepared myself to hand over the necklace and chocolates first if Harriet Boyd came after my things. She was six inches taller than me and tough like a boy. I was pretty sure the bus driver, Ms. V, was scared of Harriet too.

Getting home with the pink teddy bear Davey Eaton gave me was my goal. The other presents I could part with.

Davey was cute. He was also rich and popular. I imagined the bear cost a lot. It didn’t look like the ones I’d seen at the pharmacy or grocery store all month. It was special—the kind of special I’d never gotten and would likely never get again. So, I was keeping the bear close.

Out of the three boys who gave me Valentine’s Day gifts, I didn’t like one any more than the other. All the boys were nice to me and seemed to like me. I knew that before they gave me gifts.

Momma told me not to worry about boyfriends in the third grade. But after getting the presents, I thought I might need to pick one. Maybe it would stop them from fighting over who got to sit by me at lunch.

I took a quick glance around me. I never made eye contact with Harriet if it was at all possible. Her voice was so loud, I knew she was only a few rows behind me. She was taunting someone about their hair.

My bus stop was next. I needed to make it to my stop, and then I’d be free. Safe from her bullying and possibly stealing my gifts.

Harriet hadn’t bothered me too much this year. There was a girl who sat three rows back on the bus that had red hair and her teeth poked out a little too far in the front. Harriet was mean to her. I wished I was bigger. Or older. That way I could take up for the girl three rows back. But I was smaller than Harriet, and younger. Nothing I said would sway her. And today I had a teddy bear that needed to get home safely.

The bus slowed to a stop in front of my trailer park.

I made it.

I glanced back at the girl Harriet was harassing. I wanted to say something to help the other girl. But the bear in my hands kept me from doing anything. Not that anything I could have done would have helped anyway.

I quickly exited the bus, hurrying down the gravel road that was lined with oak trees and random empty beer cans. The grass was overgrown, and there were ant beds piled high on both sides of the road. I didn’t study any of it long because I was in a hurry.

The blue single-wide trailer that I called home was faded from the sun. I’d imagine it was pretty at one time, but that had to have been years ago. Now it was old, and most of the siding was broken or missing. Momma said the trailer was all she could afford in rent. It had window units that cooled us in the summer, and we had a cranky heater that warmed us in the winter. The roof worked just fine. I figured we had it good.

When I stepped onto the overgrown grass in front of our trailer, the front door swung open.

“Beulah!” My sister’s high-pitched voice carried across the yard when she shouted my name.

Heidi didn’t go to school yet, even though we were only three minutes apart in age. Momma said she would be ready for school in a few years. I’d worried a lot that Heidi would never start, but Momma said there were special classes for her. I hadn’t seen these special classes and hoped Momma was right.

“I have you a surprise,” I told Heidi as I met her halfway when she ran out to hug me like she did every day. Heidi was my favorite person—even over our momma. She was happy no matter what. She loved you even when you were having a bad day and acted ugly. She was the perfect person and I wished everyone was like Heidi. I wondered why Momma said she was slow and she didn’t fit in with everyone else.

She clapped her hands and squealed in delight. “What?” she asked.

I liked making her happy. I knew the moment I was given this bear today that Heidi would love it. I slipped my hand into the book bag and pulled out the bear.