“Fire! Fire! Someone put it out!”
SPLASH! Gasps echo loudly in the cafeteria which is then followed by a roar of laughter. A girl named Rachel picks up napkins to wipe the milk off her face.
“Oops, sorry!” a snobbish girl called Ashley with long black hair insincerely apologizes. “Your hair was so red that I thought it was on fire. My bad!” She giggles with a hand over her mouth. The captain of the dance team crowns Rachel with the cup she used and sashays away proudly with her posse following behind snickering amongst themselves.
Rachel is utterly humiliated by the bullying she received in front of everyone. Keeping her head low, she quietly uses napkins to wipe her hair and her tears. Her friends stare down at their trays and remain silent. They are too frighten to go against the dance squad. She wishes constantly that she could hide among the student body but because everyone knows she is Ashley’s favorite victim, she doesn’t have that option. And thanks to Ashley, most of the school picks on her as well. She has begged her parents multiple times to transfer her to another school but her parents wouldn’t have it.
As of today, Rachel is changing all that. If she has to standout for the remainder of her high school years, then, by God, she is going to stand out in her own way and no longer be Ashley’s play toy. She abruptly slaps the cup off her head and jumps out of her seat.
“Ashley!” Rachel shouts across the cafeteria. The dance squad had almost exited the cafeteria and turns around in unison to face her. Ashley smirks arrogantly, “So the mouse can speak.”
“You… you are not better than me!” Rachel forces the words out of her mouth with a stutter. Her heart is pumping nervously. One of her friends spews milk across the table. “Rachel, what the hell are you doing?” Another one of her friends whispers frantically while keeping her head low. She ignores them all.
“Wait,” Ashley raises both hands like she was about to push someone, “What was that, twerp?”
Rachel gulps and takes a deep breath, “I said that you are not better than me.” The cafeteria hums with murmurs as all the students gawk at the confrontation between the dull girl and the captain of the dance team.
“Did that drink give you liquid courage?” Ashley crosses her arms with a mean look, “You are no way better than me.”
“Yes, I am.” Rachel stood her ground, “I know about your many flaws. All of your flaws.” Ashley’s face went from cute to annoyed.
“You think you know me?” She shouts at Rachel. The five-foot-eight dance captain marches toward Rachel with her team following behind. She stops two feet in front of five-foot tall redhead. “I do.” Rachel nods, keeping her eyes locked on her bully. “Do tell.” She hovers over her in a dominating stance. The shorter girl stands quiet and looks around the room. Everyone is watching them, all astonished by the spectacle.
“For one thing, I don’t need fake friends to make myself cool.” Rachel starts off. One of the girls behind Ashley huffs a “Oh, hell no.” Another purses her lips and shoots a glare. She continues “And you hate being by yourself. You desperately want to fit in with all the cool kids because you don’t want to wash away with the rest of the crowd. You think you stand out as a popular person? Well you don’t. You are just another pretty face among the group of girls the boys here just want to tap and run.”
Ashley’s eyes shot wide open and growled, “Are those fighting words?”
“No, it’s the truth and you know it.” Rachel snaps at her, “As a bully, you made me stand out as a victim and I’ve had it. You are jealous of what I have!” “Are you insane, you little bit-!” Ashley shoves her to the floor. Rachel gets up from the floor unaffected and continues.
“Yes, I’m serious. You are jealous that I don’t have to impress anyone because I don’t have to impress everyone with lies. I have real friends. I don’t have to wear a mask stained with tears on the back like you do.”
Rachel’s adrenaline surges throughout her body and she enjoys bit of it. She boldly jumps on top of the table where her friends sit and shouts to everyone, “My name is Rachel and if I have to stand out, I will stand out as a fighter. I am comfortable with who I am. I may not be beautiful but this school is not America’s Next Top Model and I don’t need to sleep with several boys to feel validated. I don’t need to put down other people to make myself feel better. Starting today, I am no longer going to be bullied!”
A deafening silence fills the room. Rachel gazes around and suddenly feels like she might have overdone it. Everyone is staring at her. Maybe she should have stayed quiet.
Clap. Clap. Clap.
Rachel looks behind her and is shocked to see a guy from the football team standing up and applauding for her. One by one others followed and the cafeteria becomes filled with applause and cheers for Rachel’s speech. She looks down at Ashley who has a blank face. The other girls look like they were ready to attack but she stuck out an arm to stop them. Her eyes appear to be glassy as she slowly turns away and cuts through the group of girls to exit.
By standing up for herself, Rachel will no longer allow people to pick on her. She will stand out as the girl who stopped taking people’s shit and motivate other victims to do the same.