She was different than the rest of us.
I remember when we were in grade one. I took Jamie Grants’ cookies. I offered Sarah one and she refused. Said it was wrong.
I ate the cookies.
She was weird. She made her own rules and stuck by them, but wouldn’t judge you if you didn’t agree with her. It was like she enjoyed obeying.
I know she loved her life.
When Sarah was in grade seven things started to change. People started to notice her learning problems. Jonathan started calling her really crude names. Other kids joined in. “better her than me” was their excuse.
I also gave that excuse.
Sarah never reacted to the teasing. One time I saw her crying after the kids said their “words.” But that was it. She didn’t yell or swear, even when they were swearing at her. She didn’t care what they thought about her.
I cared what people thought.
It didn’t seem Sarah even realized how unpopular she was. She always said that she was accepted just the way she was. I don’t know where she heard that. Wasn’t at school.
Sure wasn’t from me.
To me Sarah was cool, but I never told her. I never told anyone. I knew she had some problems learning in school, but who didn’t? There were so many times when I wanted to tell the kids to leave her alone.
But I didn’t.
Sarah gave me a letter one day. She said she thought I was a nice person and liked my art. No one had ever told me they liked my drawings. I never replied to her letter.
This one time some guys threw mud all over her dress right before class pictures. We all laughed. Her mom had to pick her up.
I don’t know how upset she was. I never asked.
Sarah wore a little bracelet around her wrist. I thought it was corny and stupid. “W.W.J.D.” it read. She told everyone what it stood for. The only time I had heard the name “Jesus” was when my dad yelled at my mom. She loved that bracelet. Said it wasn’t just words. Said it was “her life.”
I thought she was crazy.
Yesterday something happened. Something I’ll never forget. The kids didn’t want Sarah at school no more. They said they hated her so much it made them sick. I thought the crack they were smoking was doing that. But I never said anything.
I never do.
Jonathan sent Sarah an invitation to a birthday party down at the river. Sarah was so excited. She hadn’t been to a party since the third grade.
I always meant to invite her.
There were ten of us. Eleven including Sarah. Sarah came wearing a geeky pink flowered dress. The kind a grandma would wear. She had this sickening sweet smile plastered on her face. It made Jonathan real mad. He started throwing rocks at her. Then everyone joined in. I didn’t know what to do, so I started throwing too.
I’ve always wanted to fit in.
My rock hit her head. I’ll never forget that sound. She fell. Everyone closed in around her. They started hitting her. They used sticks, rocks, even their feet. I couldn’t look. I could hear her screaming. She was crying. She kept asking them to stop. I heard her praying. She kept saying she was “coming home.” Don’t know what that meant. Then she stopped crying. Everyone starting running. I walked over to Sarah. Blood was everywhere. I hardly recognized her. Then I saw that stupid bracelet. Somehow it came off. She was holding it. Like it was the only thing that could save her.
It didn’t. She’s dead.
I wish I stuck up for her. I wish I phoned her that day she left school crying. I wish I invited her to my birthdays and asked her to play volleyball. I wish I listened to her when she tried talking to me. I wish I never picked up that rock.
But I did.
Sarah had something the rest of us didn’t. “Purpose” she called it. She said a Christian life was full of hope, joy and purpose. Funny, it didn’t seem to work for her.
Or maybe it did.
I was so scared at what they would think of me. I guess that’s my problem. I’ve always been too scared.
Sarah never was. Not even at the river.
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