Absinthe Of The Heart (Sins Of The Heart #1)(3)

By: Monica James

“I know, Miss Jackson. I have three,” she said, accenting her claim with a slight scoff. Miss Jackson didn’t say anything, but it was clear she could see through Delores’s lies.

Miss Jackson led the way into a small room where a dozen or so wooden hooks were attached to the wall. Some hooks had blue schoolbags dangling off the ends, their zippers undone, revealing different colored lunchboxes and drink bottles inside.

“You can hang your bag here.” Miss Jackson pointed at a hook at the end and smiled. Just as she was about to say something else, a loud bang was followed by an ear-piercing shrill. There was no mistaking the sound of someone falling over. Miss Jackson’s lovely face turned troubled, and she quickly brushed past Delores to see what the commotion was all about.

Delores exhaled, thankful to be alone. All this pretending was exhausting. She didn’t understand why she couldn’t just tell everyone the truth. Surely, they wouldn’t judge her because her mother didn’t drive a fancy car, or she didn’t live in a mansion in the hills.

She placed her bag on the hook and decided to take off her prickly sweater. Once she’d hung up her things, she straightened out her dress, and satisfied she looked just like everybody else, she exited the coatroom with a rush of confidence. To fit in, she needed to make friends, and she couldn’t wait to find her first best friend. They would be inseparable, just like Bert and Ernie.

The thought was too exciting for words; however, Delores was stopped dead in her tracks when she saw a group of girls form a tight circle around something. At first, she had no idea what they were doing, but when she heard them giggling and noticed them pointing, she realized a blonde little girl was the center of their mockery.

The scrawny girl was crying, her large blue eyes streaming with tears. Delores had no idea why she was so sad but wondered why the group of girls wasn’t asking if she was okay. If anything, they appeared to be making her cry harder.

“Crybaby! Crybaby!” one of the taller girls chanted, egging her two other followers on. This only made the blonde girl sob louder.

Delores hated bullies. She’d seen enough of them in her neighborhood, riding their bikes around as if they owned the place. Her mother had taught her to stick up for what was right, and what she was seeing this minute was anything but right.

She didn’t think twice before she marched over, tapping the taller girl on the arm. “Excuse me?”

“What do you want?” the girl said, turning around and glaring at her.

Delores gulped. She was suddenly frightened that she’d bitten off more than she could chew. But remembering her mother’s words and her father’s strength each time he went to the hospital, she swallowed down her fears. “Stop being so mean to that girl.” She pointed at the little girl who was shaking, tears still cascading down her cheeks. She saw her backpack lying on the ground, opened, the contents spilling onto the cement.

“Why? She deserves it. Her mom is a gold digger; my mommy said so,” the taller girl said, as if that warranted her cruel behavior. None of them even understood what a gold digger was, but sadly, hate bred hate.

“Well, whatever her mom is doesn’t give you the right to be so mean to her. Leave her alone.”

The blonde girl’s snivels stopped swiftly, and she stared wide-eyed, mouth slightly parted. She looked as surprised as Delores felt. This surge of confidence had come out of nowhere, and she suddenly felt like her hero, Wonder Woman.

The tall girl, who seemed to be the leader of the mean girls, narrowed her eyes. She was already a little brat with training wheels on. “What are you going to do about it?”

Delores wasn’t intimated by her. “I’ll tell Miss Jackson.”

“Who’s Miss Jackson?” the girl smugly countered.

“Our teacher,” Delores replied, not missing a beat. “I don’t think she’ll be happy to know she has a bunch of bullies in her class.”

The girls’ faces paled, as they didn’t want to get into trouble on the first day of school. Delores stood her ground, waiting for them to reply. This could go either way. She held her breath, waiting. She exhaled when the girls looked at one another and decided to pick on somebody else.

They shoved past her, almost knocking her to the floor. “Nice dress, by the way,” the tall girl mocked. Delores didn’t understand until she noticed the logo on her uniform was different from everyone else’s. “That was the logo from a hundred years ago. Where did you buy your dress? From the Salvation Army?”

Delores’s cheeks burst into flames. Her mom was going to be so angry with her. She just wanted her to fit in, but Delores had brought unnecessary attention to herself and her secondhand clothes. The girls thankfully left, bored by the schoolyard antics already.