“She’s just mad that he broke up with her,” a classmate of Alana’s says as Alana passes her in the hallway.
“That’s why she got him arrested.”
“I don’t know why you’re trying to ruin his life!” another classmate yells at Alana’s back.
“I saw that picture she sent him. She wanted it.”
Alana fights back tears.
About three weeks have past, and the rumors have been unbearable. The judgmental questions-- “Why didn’t you just leave?” “Why did you go to a boy’s house late at night?” “I thought you liked him?”-- were nonstop. Alana didn’t have an answer. She asked herself the same questions too, and worse. “How could I have been so dumb?”
A teacher, Mrs. Sampson, sees Alana cowering in a corner. “Alana, why don’t you come in my classroom? You can eat your lunch in here.”
“I didn’t bring a lunch,” Alana said.
“I’ll share my lunch with you, then,” Mrs. Sampson offered. “Do you like hummus?”
Alana nods and walks into the classroom. Mrs. Sampson closes the door, but Alana quickly turns around.
“Would you mind keeping it open a little?”
Mrs. Sampson nods. “No problem.” She cracks the door slightly. “Is that good?”
“Yes,” Alana says as she takes a seat.
Mrs. Sampson pulls out a sandwich, a small salad, crackers and hummus. “Anything look good? If not, I think I have a bag of chips I confiscated from a student earlier.” Mrs. Sampson laughs a little to herself.
“I’ll take the hummus,” Alana says. They eat in silence for a few minutes.
“I heard what the girls were saying in the hallway,” Mrs. Sampson starts. “I know kids in high school can be mean.”
“Yeah,” Alana sighs.
“But I also know that you did the right thing. Speaking up is the hard part. But that is the best way to reclaim yourself and your power. You matter, and because you matter, when you spoke, the school acted, the police
acted, your family acted. So even if your classmates are having a hard time supporting you, I am here for you. And you can eat lunch in here as often as you would like, if you just want a safe space.”
Alana looks down. Mrs. Sampson continues, “Okay, I’m done preaching. I can turn on Netflix, is there anything you’d like to see?”