Mary licked the gooey stream of chocolate ice cream that was running down her arm, as she enjoyed a paddle pop during lunch break. She sat perched on a bench under the big gum tree, her little legs swinging underneath her, as she watched the other girls in the playground.
Being painfully shy, Mary was finding it hard to make new friends. She missed her old school, and the friends that came with it. It was overwhelming moving to the city, as this school was triple the size.
A group of girls giggled, passing something around the circle, and pointed in Mary’s direction. Mary lowered her head, staring at her scuffed school shoes. Miss Mills was on playground duty. Smiling kindly at Mary, she approached the little bench. ‘Did you enjoy your paddle pop? Chocolate is my favourite too.’
Mary smiled back with tears welling up in her eyes. Miss Mills placed her arm around Mary’s shoulders. ‘It will get easier sweetheart, I promise, it just takes time.’ Yelling at two boys who were trying to chase down a girl and kiss her, Miss Mills went to deal with the two little Casanovas.
Deciding to head to the library, Mary stood up from the bench just as a chewed up apple core was hurled in her direction from the group of giggling girls. Mary avoided eye contact as she ran towards the library doors.
The library was her happy place, a sanctuary. She had already discovered a fluffy pink beanbag in the corner that she would curl up in to escape to another world, and avoid the mean kids. The school Librarian, Mrs Keeley, was slowly becoming Mary’s best friend.
Mary quickly become engrossed in a story, but was aware of a girl peering at her through the books on the shelves. Slowly, the girl approached. ‘What you reading?’ Mary looked up to see a girl with tight blonde curls, olive skin, glasses, and red tartan ribbons in her hair. She was the polar opposite to Mary, who had long dark hair, and a face full of sun kissed freckles.
The blonde haired girl sat cross legged on the floor beside her. ‘My name is Barbara, but I get called Barb for short. What’s yours?’ Mary closed the book and eyed Barbara carefully. She had become wary of everyone, as no one had been particularly nice to her since she arrived at the school. ‘I’m Mary, I’m new.’ Barbara smiled and put out her hand for Mary to hold.
‘You must be in Miss Mills’ class. I am in Mrs Dooley’s, but we are in the same year.’ Mary took Barbara’s hand and the girls made their way back into the playground as Mrs Keeley peered at them over her thick rimmed glasses.
Both girls could feel the means girls ogling them as they happily skipped from the library hand in hand, but they didn’t care. Mary felt comfortable with Barbara and walked with a new found confidence beside her.
The girls spent the rest of lunch chatting about their favourite books, swatting away flies, and trying to avoid melting in the relentless summer sun. From that moment on, the two of them were inseparable.
Unpublished Work (c) Hayley Walsh 2020