The little girl stood at the doorway to the bus, the last child to leave, staring out the gaping mouth that was ready to spit her out into the wide world. She clutched desperately to the Spiderman back-pack, her knuckles turning white from the ferocity with which she clung to that one lifeline.
“You gettin’ out, Honey?” The bus-driver lady. Smelled like smoke and had wild hair, wrinkly hands, a mouth that stretched in either a smile or a grimace, but probably stuck somewhere in between. The girl nodded.
“Don’t worry, Honey, you’ll be fine.” The girl pursed her lips.
“Hope so.” She stepped down the three large steps, feet landing solidly on the cracked sidewalk. She took a few tentative steps, heard the bus door hiss closed behind her, the motor chugging as it creaked away.
-Hope, you’ll have a good day today,- she thought to herself as she slid her feet across the concrete like a clumsy ice skater.
-Hope, no one will make fun of your backpack.- She slipped her arms through the straps, shifted it on her shoulders. She stood near the crowd of kids, assembled into a vague semblance of wobbly lines.
-Hope, no one notices you’re lost.- She gripped the straps of her backpack, palms turning sweaty, slick-feeling against the blue, vinyl straps.
-Hope, someone will be able to show you which classroom is yours.- A voice called out a name, indistinctly recognizable; the name of her new teacher. One line began to move, slithering snake-like in through the now-opened door. She shuffled towards the end, two steps behind, followed the last person. The organized chaos involved hanging up light spring jackets, pulling books out of backpacks, talking excitedly to friends. A few cast curious glances at her, but didn’t direct any words her way.
-Hope, no one knows you’ve been taken away from your family because of the bad things they did, that you live with a new family now.- She kept her eyes on the floor as she entered the room, creeping to the teacher’s desk to hand in the obligatory informative note on blue paper, the one with lots of lines, and words, and the picture of the smiley face. She found an empty seat, slumped into it, and glanced surreptitiously at the other kids gathering around her.
-Hope, you’ll find a friend here somewhere.- A girl with blue eyes and a green shirt waved to her, a boy with a bad haircut smiled.
“Boys and girls, we have a new friend joining our class today.” All eyes were suddenly peppering her with stares. The teacher smiled.
“Would you like to introduce yourself?” She would rather melt into the chair, seep down into the floor and disappear from the piercing gazes. Still she cleared her throat.
“My name is Hope,” barely a whisper. Many of them called out her name in greeting; they were suddenly telling her theirs, offering to share their pencils, telling her all the rules of the classroom, making her feel welcome. She felt a small smile, tugging at the corners of her mouth and she lifted her eyes to glance at the others.
-Hope, you’re going to be alright.-
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