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created Wednesday September 15, 05:29 by Vikram Thakre



408 words
406 completed
The first time I thought I was too poor was in the third grade, the first day back from Christmas Break. We were still in the old middle school, which smelled like dust and dead flowers. The walls were covered in pictures: maps of the United States, the new 1999 calendar, family photos with you in brand-new pressed shirts. A color of green that had only been popular in the 70's leaked through the cracks between. Every time I looked at it, my stomach turned; something about those chinks in the armor forced my eyes back to the bright posters and beaming faces. But that day, the green just reminded me of the Christmas tree that still sat in my living room. I was so excited to show off all of the gifts that Santa had left under it: a tiny stuffed horse, a soft blue sweater, and three extra-large packs of peanut M&Ms. I wore the sweater now, and my mom braided my fire-red hair into two plaits, just like Anne of Green Gables. I'd never felt better. At the beginning of my first class, my teacher, Mrs. Tigress, asked us all to say our favorite gifts from the holidays. Charlie Hanna went first, passing around his brand-new teal blue Game Boy. Then, I raised my hand. I pushed to my feet. I got this, I said. I stuck my arms out and rocked back and forth on my heels, waiting for everyone’s awestruck reactions. From the back of the classroom, Clara O'Hara called out, That's not from Santa! I saw that at the church present drive. She clutched a bright pink Furby to her chest. My mom said that’s for homeless people, Lizzy Bradshaw added. I didn't know what they meant, only that they sounded like they did when they told me my nose was too pointy or my lips were too big. My face went hot. The sweater that had just been soft and homey suddenly felt scratchy and stiff. The turtle neck that once reminded me of the stylish girls I saw on the posters in my cousin’s room now closed in around my throat and forced me to sit back down. Mrs. Tigress blinked, once. Sweetie, why don't we take a trip to the principal's office? I didn't move. I wanted to cry. I wanted to change.  I wanted to punch Clara O'Hara in the big mouth. But I didn’t want to move.

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