Disclaimer: This work makes references to suicidal feelings in a young child. There are also references to physical bullying between young children. Understand that these ‘triggers’ are present and exercise caution while reading this story. If you begin to feel anxiety, please discontinue reading and enjoy some of my other happier works. Thank you for considering your emotional health first, and thank you in advance to anyone reading.
Clarissa’s teacher called the mother’s earlier this morning. She expressed concern for the child and wanted to have an urgent lunch meeting with the school principal and guidance counselor. When Linda got the voice message she called her wife in a fluster. What could it possibly be? Clarissa hadn’t shown any signs of misbehaving at home.
Barbara thought it was something relatively insignificant that the school was unnecessarily upset about; so many schools are pretentious these days. Barbara had to remind her wife on the drive over that in pre-school the teacher called home concerned that Clarissa had deep rooted anger issues over a crayon she broke in half on purpose. Kids do stupid things sometimes, and as long as nobody is getting hurt – Barbara believes a note would suffice.
Unfortunately, Miss Claymoore slides a couple of pieces of paper across the table for the mothers to examine while the principal and the counselor make their way to the classroom. Linda leans in first. Between the two women, she is far more dramatic and emotional. As soon as she pulls away and covers her mouth, Barbara can only assume that the papers hold something horrific.
She decides not to look at them until the other people arrive, and only out of necessity. In the meantime, though, Miss Claymoore decides to make small talk; “How are you guys enjoying the new house? The landscaping was looking lovely when I passed through the neighborhood.”
Linda looks offended so her wife speaks in her place.
“It is far from finished but that’s all we can get done with cooler weather on the horizon. We are trying to find our Halloween decorations because we’re still living out of the boxes. Can’t figure out which box is the right box, it seems.” Barbara works in a collection agency as an office manager and emotionlessness comes naturally to her. When emotions are high – as they always seem to be – she can keep her composure. That’s how she nabbed the position in the first place.
Miss Claymoore helps her mother sell homes, and that’s originally how Linda and Barbara knew her. She was the one who actually showed this home to them. In actuality, she’s the one that sold the property because she was a close friend of the couple. The young lady was able to tell them all sorts of things that her mother probably wouldn’t have known about the property. Things that made the space special…
“I can’t wait to see you keep up the holiday spirit! Tim and Joy will be happy to hear that you guys are contributing to the excitement on the block!” Thankfully Barbara doesn’t have to concoct a response because a few soft knocks turn all of their heads. In the doorway are two tall men. One is stocky and sports a three-piece suit. The other is lanky. His nose also seems too big for his face.
Everyone introduces himself and herself. Barbara and Linda Lindley, Clarissa’s mothers. Mr. Jordan is the principal and Mr. Benson is the counselor. Linda signals for Barbara to look at the papers before everyone broaches the urgent topic about what is happening. Barbara grabs the paperwork and sports her best poker face.
The first page is a picture of a tree with orange and brown leaves falling off of it like rain. Underneath it is a stick figure with a blue triangle dress and ‘X’s for eyeballs. There are three very upsetting sentences beneath it: Sometimes I have dreams about not waking up. I want to die by a tree so that the leaves will hide me. I don’t want to get cold.
“So, I want you to know what we were doing that this came up. Last night I was grading papers for the exercise we did in class. On Monday I asked the kids to write about their dreams. Plenty of kids wrote about dreams they have when sleeping so I didn’t count Clarissa’s work as wrong, but this was disturbing. Then on Tuesday I asked the kids to tell me what they want to be when they grow up…” She gestures for Barbara to look at the second page. Obviously she complies with the eyes of everyone else in the room boring through her very being.
I don’t want to grow up. Kids are mean. Adults are meaner. Beneath it are some notes by Miss Claymoore. She asked Clarissa if kids were being mean to her, but she replied that people don’t have to be mean to her in order to be mean. Miss Claymoore then asked what she meant, but Clarissa said sometimes people look at her like she’s a full trashcan.
Barbara knows why she chose those exact words, and Linda probably picks up on it too. A few sets of parents two blocks away heard about Barbara and Linda and were not pleased, to say the least. Lesbians – it was apparently “just wrong” for such a religious group of families. That is to say, they were “full trashcans on the curb with no place but a landfill.” Linda fears each morning might be the morning their neighbors find out the truth. How would they react when they found out that neither lady had always been a lady.
They would lose their minds if they ever knew that the two women had undergone sexual reassignment surgery together. The two of them met in a support group and just fell in love. It was brilliant but sometimes Barbara believed that they had yet to be pushed to their limits – to see if their love could stand the trials of time.
Maybe this would be the first trial… A trial of pain… a test of morals… a test of strength… But most importantly: a test of parenting.
“This morning Clarissa came to school with leaves stuck in her hair and dirt all over her face. I sent her to the nurse and when once cleaned up there were evident welts and bruises on her shoulders. Clarissa said that kids are mad at her and tell her that she belongs in the fiery pits of Hell. She said those exact words.” Mr. Benson is the one addressing the group while Miss Claymoore covers her face in pity. Linda is shaking her head and full on sobbing now. This is how she expressed herself for pretty much all emotions. And who wouldn’t be distraught by the things the wives had been told? The only reason Barbara is keeping it together pretty well is because she’s heard sad stories at work. Stories that people only recognize from their nightmares.
Mr. Jordan says that he’s preparing a letter for parents and that it should be disbursed by Friday. He’s also holding a meeting with the school board to incorporate a more effective Anti-Bullying campaign in the district. Barbara shakes her head, shrugs her shoulders, and finally decides to speak again…
…”I don’t think this is just a bullying problem, sir. I think that there’s a deeper issue than just kids being mean and adults being mean. There is inherent discrimination happening. The lack of knowledge perpetuates hateful practices starting in parents and passing down through generations.”
Miss Claymoore knows exactly to what Barbara is referring. Linda had shared with her why the type of neighborhood was important to them – why they were looking for a more liberally affiliated area of town…
Mr. Jordan lets his guard down and rubs his face. Clearly he expected this and hoped to avoid it. Miss Claymoore can’t make eye contact. Fortunately, Mr. Benson maintains his composure and pushes forward through the meeting; “We understand that you have frustrations with the school curriculum. There’s only so much individuality awarded to the schools. As such, we cannot do much to inform the children about different life choices available to them, but we will do everything it is within our power to control this situation from the school. In the meantime, we want to get you the resources you need in order to help Clarissa as her loving her parents.”
The meeting goes on for another half an hour but when the ladies get home in time to get Clarissa off of the bus, they realize that the meeting wasn’t over exactly. They might not be with the school staff discussing the issue at hand, but they have a folder full of materials they need to review. Therapists, psychologists, pediatric specialists, support groups, and so on.
Linda says what they’re both thinking first, though. It makes all of the paperwork and brochures seem irrelevant. Even if she sounds a little broken her brilliance is undiminished; “I suppose it is time to reach out to Franklin. He did wonders for us.”