“Dad, do I have to go to school?” Jeremy asked, kicking the glovebox in front of him. He was sitting in his car seat (in the front!) while his dad drove him to his first day of school. Again. This was the third school he was going to try and he knew it wouldn’t be any different. People would be mean and then he’d get angry and upset and either start yelling or go quiet and then he’d have no friends.
Even at five years old, Jeremy knew that’s how the world was. No one liked him except his dad. Even his mommy didn’t like him, she was always angry at him even when he did nothing wrong.
Add the fact that everyone except dad thought he was a girl and you had a recipe for Jeremy hating the world as much as it hated him. He didn’t know why he had to be here, but he was stuck. There wasn’t a pause or quit button like on video games.
"You have to. I'm sorry, Annie- Sorry, I meant Private." At least his dad was trying. Jeremy hadn't told his dad about his new name yet just in case his mommy overheard. "School is something everyone needs to go to. And hey, third time's the charm. I'm sure you'll do great. Actually, no, I know you'll do great."
Jeremy sighed and stopped kicking the glovebox. If his dad thought he’d do great, he’d do his very best. Jeremy really loved his dad, as much as his dad loved him, so he wanted to make him proud.
“Since I gotta go, can you tell the teachers that I’m a boy please? I even have a boy name to use, but you can’t tell mommy or she’ll get angry.”
His dad instantly nodded. “Of course, Private. I won’t tell her about your new name, but I’ll keep calling you ‘Private’ around her when I can,” he promised as he smiled down at Jeremy. “Now, what name did you choose?”
Jeremy beamed, wiggling in his seat. “My name is Jeremy.” He nodded, almost bursting with happiness. That was the first time he said it out loud. He loved his name and it felt right, like it already was his name, when he first heard it on the TV a few weeks ago.
“That’s a fantastic name, Jeremy! I’ll be sure to tell the teacher about your name.” When he pulled into a parking spot, his dad turned and held his hand out to Jeremy with a knowing wink and a smile. “Hi, Jeremy, it’s nice to properly meet you.”
Jeremy flailed, trying to sit up enough, before grabbing his dad’s hand and shaking it up and down like how he saw other grown ups do. “Nice to meet you too!” He giggled, wiggling in his seat more.
Okay, now that he had his new name officially, Jeremy was super excited for school. Dad said he’d do great! And he had his real name now, too, so everything had to go right, didn’t it? It had to!
His dad seemed to think so as he took him into his new kindergarten class. The teacher, Miss Carlson, was waiting for him, greeting him and his dad warmly. His dad told Miss Carlson his name, which had her nodding her head in understanding.
“Well, thank you for letting me know, Jeremy. I’ll be sure to change your name tag and tell the rest of the class.”
She seemed nice now, but it was only a matter of time before she started- no! Be positive, this was going to be his lucky charm school. His dad said so.
“Thank you, Miss Carlson,” Jeremy muttered, scuffing his shoe on the floor awkwardly but trying his best to be polite and nice like dad taught him. “It’s nice to meet you.” He hesitated, then held out his hand to shake hers. He introduced himself, that’s what grown ups did when they introduced themselves.
Miss Carlson smiled and shook his hand. “It’s nice to meet you too, Jeremy. Now, your cubby has the wrong name on it right now, but I’ll change it by tomorrow. You can put your things there and then I’ll show you to your desk. I’ll also change your name tag there by tomorrow.”
Jeremy nodded and pulled his bag up onto his shoulders. “Thank you, Miss Carlson...” She was being really nice. Maybe this would be different to the other schools. By this point, most of the teachers would be giving Jeremy that look, the one where he knew they hated him already but didn’t want to say so in front of his dad. He hated that look.
Even after he said bye to his dad, Miss Carlson didn’t give him that look. Instead, she kept smiling and showed him to his desk, which had ‘Annabelle’ in pretty letters on his desk. “If you tell me your favorite colors, I’ll work on your new name tags as soon as possible,” she promised before going to say ‘hi’ to other incoming students.
Jeremy poked at his name tags, frowning a little. It wasn’t his name, but the letters were pretty. Maybe Miss Carlson could make his new name tags look the same, since he liked the yellow and blue on there already.
He looked around, trying to see who was going to be sitting near him. There was a name which said... R-I-C-H... Rich? Yeah, someone called Rich would sit over there and next to him there was another name. M-I-C-H-A-E-L... that one was weird. Mi-ch-a-el? Mich-ael? Oh, Michael? That seemed like it might be right.
Jeremy only looked up when he heard someone come over. A boy with brown hair, overalls, and a big jacket sat down in the seat for Rich. He was staring at Jeremy with big, wide eyes before sitting quickly in his seat. “You’re new. I’m Rich.”
“I’m Jeremy,” Jeremy mumbled, feeling his words start to lock up in his mouth. What if Rich was mean to him like all the other kids his age? He was nervous, and it was starting to affect him.
Rich seemed to think what Jeremy said over, looking down at the name tag on Jeremy’s desk. “That’s not on your name tag. Did Miss Carlson mess it up?”
Jeremy nodded. “She’s gonna fix it tonight.” Rich seemed nice. Maybe this really was a good school? Jeremy did like learning things, which is what’s supposed to happen at school. It didn’t normally for Jeremy but maybe this time, because no one would pick on him.
That seemed to be good for Rich because he nodded. “Okay. Hi, Jeremy.” He seemed to be nervous too, like Jeremy, because he stared at his lap before going to grab crayons from the bucket on the table and paper before drawing.
Jeremy decided to do the same. If Rich was nervous, then it had to be normal, right? He could do this. He could be a big kid and go to school and make dad proud.
Jeremy grabbed the black crayon and started drawing a dog. He’d like to have a dog, a big black one and she could be called... Ellie! That was spelled... E-L-E, right?
After some time of drawing a few Ellies, Jeremy saw Miss Carlson come over. She knelt down next to Jeremy, looking over his work. “Oh, who are you drawing? Is it a lot of cute dogs?”
Jeremy nodded, showing his pictures proudly. “They’re the dog I want. Her name is Ellie, see?” He pointed to where he wrote her name in the top corner of the paper.
Miss Carlson hummed happily before seeming to think. “You are really close on the name, but can I help you out?”
Jeremy nodded. “Yes please.”
Miss Carlson, in her pretty letters, wrote E-L-L-I-E. Oh! “There you go, Jeremy.” She seemed to want to say more, but she looked to the doorway of her classroom. “I’ll be right back.” With that, she left.
Jeremy traced the new letters with his finger. So Ellie had an extra L and an I in it? Wow, Miss Carlson was so smart. And really nice. She was the best teacher ever!
While Jeremy tried to write Ellie’s name right this time, Miss Carlson came back over with a boy who had glasses and a big yellow shirt on. He was picking at his shirt at the bottom and wasn’t looking at anyone, though Miss Carlson held the boy’s other hand. “Jeremy, this is Michael. Michael, this is Jeremy. He is your new table friend.”
Michael glanced up at Jeremy, but he only waved and didn’t really talk. It didn’t seem like he didn’t like Jeremy though, but he wasn’t going to talk.
Jeremy nodded to himself. He understood how hard talking could be, he never liked saying the first thing in case he somehow did something to make people be mean to him. Jeremy just waved back and curled in on himself a little. He didn’t want to get into Michael’s space.
Michael’s eyes seemed to get bright when Jeremy waved, but he didn’t say anything as he sat in his seat. He didn’t color or anything, just messed with his shirt.
Rich spoke up then, looking up from his drawing full of blues, greens, and yellows. “Michael doesn’t really talk. He’s answered questions though.”
Jeremy nodded. “Sometimes I don’t talk too,” he said, even though his voice was really quiet. “My dad says it’s fine...”
After a moment, Jeremy had an idea. If Michael didn’t talk, maybe he couldn’t be mean to Jeremy so they could maybe be friends. How did his dad say to make friends again? Find something you both like? But Michael didn’t talk! How could he-
Oh wait! Jeremy slid his drawing closer to Michael. “This- this is Ellie. She’s the dog I wanna get...” There. Now Michael could see Jeremy liked dogs. Maybe Michael liked dogs too. That would be good.
Michael looked up from his shirt at his drawing. He stared at it for a minute before grabbing a sheet of paper and some crayons. Jeremy got confused for a second before he saw that Michael was trying to draw Ellie.
Was this what it was like becoming friends? Jeremy liked it if it was. Making friends made his chest feel all warm and fluttery.
“Ellie will be nice and black,” Jeremy explained as he watched Michael draw. “And she will make pig noises when she’s happy.”
Michael didn’t say anything, but Jeremy watched Michael finish Ellie before grabbing a pink crayon from his pile. He then started to draw a pig next to Ellie. Both Ellie and the pig had big smiles, and Michael wrote something on top of the paper before sliding it and the Ellies to Jeremy. F-R-E-N-S.
Frens? Oh! Michael wrote friends! Were they friends now? “Is the piggy and Ellie friends? Like us?” he added nervously. He really wanted to be friends with Michael. He liked Ellie!
Michael quickly nodded, though he still wasn’t looking at Jeremy yet. He was staring at the table as he grabbed another piece of paper and started drawing some more.
Jeremy scooted a little closer to Michael and started drawing again as well. They were friends! Jeremy had a friend, his first ever! He decided to make something for Michael since they were now friends and that’s what friends did in tv shows, they made each other presents.
Jeremy did his best to draw Michael and him playing outside in the sun. Michael had the yellow shirt on,and it was the same color as the sun! And Jeremy drew himself in his green cardigan which was really soft and comfy. He did his best to write friends and then wrote his name and Michael’s name (he’d been practicing writing Jeremy already, and he could see Michael’s name on the table).
After he was done, Jeremy nodded and held out the paper for Michael to take.
Michael looked up then, and he actually looked at the paper and then Jeremy. It seemed to take him a bit to get what was happening before he took the paper and looked it over. Jeremy couldn’t tell what Michael was feeling, but he had to be happy, right-
Wait, why was he crying?
Oh no! Jeremy had made Michael cry! Now Michael wouldn’t want to be his friend which was sad because Michael seemed like he’d be really nice.
Jeremy pulled back and curled up into a ball, being careful to keep his feet off the seat. “M’sorry. Please don’t cry,” he whispered, watching Micheal and feeling like he might cry.
“Thank you,” Michael said, which caught Jeremy off guard. Why was he thanking him? He made Michael cry!
Before he could ask, Michael slid the paper he was drawing on over to Jeremy. He had drawn himself and Jeremy together with Ellie in the middle. He tried to write all of their names and they were all smiling.
“Oh,” Jeremy whispered, uncurling himself and looking at the paper properly. “You drew us too. And Ellie!” His eyes widened. So Michael was crying because he was happy? Jeremy didn’t know that was a real thing, he’d never been that happy before that he cried. “Thank you, Michael. Is this for me to keep? ‘Cause you can keep that one I made... It’s a present for you.”
Michael nodded before running off. Wait, where was he going- Oh! He was putting Jeremy’s drawing in his backpack.
When he came back, Michael was smiling wide, even if he sniffled a lot. “Thanks.”
Jeremy smiled at Michael too. “I’ll be back.” He jumped to his feet and ran over to his cubby and put the drawing away, being careful to keep it away from his drink bottle so it didn’t get ruined. He was putting that drawing up on the wall in his room and keeping it safe forever.
As soon as he was sure the picture was safely away, Jeremy ran back over to his seat and beamed at Michael. “You’re really nice, Michael. Thank you.”
Jeremy watched Michael’s eyes widen (wow, they could do that?) before he wiped his eyes. “You’re nice too.”
Jeremy blushed. No one except his dad ever said he was nice before. Jeremy really wanted to give Michael a hug, because Michael was making him feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but he didn’t know if that was allowed. Did friends hug friends? He wasn’t going to risk it.
“I like your glasses,” is what Jeremy said instead.
Michael kept wiping his eyes for a bit before he stopped. “Thank you. Ina picked ‘em out for me.” He looked at Jeremy with a smile, even if he looked like he needed a hug since he just cried.
Jeremy hummed. “Who’s Ina? Is that someone you know?” It was probably one of Michael’s friends. He seemed really nice so he must have loads of friends.
Michael nodded as he put his crayons back. “Yeah, she dropped me off. Mama can’t ‘cause of work. Ina works at home.”
Jeremy blinked. Was Ina like a big sister? He could ask properly later. Right now, he had a big feeling to deal with which he couldn’t hold back any longer. “Can I give you a hug please?” he blurted out, the words louder and more messy than anything he’d said today. Oh no, he was being weird again!
That didn’t seem to bug Michael though. He just blinked before nodding and holding his arms out. “Yeah. Hugs are nice.”
Jeremy smiled nervously and awkwardly shuffled to Michael. He grabbed him in a gentle hug, his brain getting really worried. What if he was being weird? What if he was smelly? What if Michael didn’t actually want a hug and he called Miss Carlson over and got Jeremy into trouble?
Michael grabbed Jeremy and hugged him back, causing all of Jeremy’s worries to go away. He even hummed as he hugged Jeremy. “You’re nice to hug.”
“You’re nice to hug too,” Jeremy whispered back. He really was. Michael was warm and soft in the perfect way.
Before Jeremy could say that, Miss Carlson cleared her throat and called for class to start. Michael quickly let go and sat back down in his seat, but he gave Jeremy a smile. It made Jeremy’s heart warm up in the best of ways.
Jeremy also sat down quickly, not wanting to get in trouble. He couldn’t stop smiling, though. Even when Miss Carlson started calling attendance, Jeremy kept smiling. He had a friend. He had a friend who gave him a present and a hug. No one except dad had ever hugged him, not even mommy.
The rest of the day was fun. Michael spent it with him, helping him with any activities Miss Carlson had them do. They sat together at lunch, played together during recess, and slept next to each other during nap time. Jeremy couldn’t help but be happy.
As the day was ending, Michael sat with Jeremy in one of the play areas where no one else was. There were people around it but not in it. Michael was fiddling with his shirt while Jeremy got out the blocks for them to play with. He didn’t seem sad, but he seemed... There was something wrong.
Well, Michael didn’t talk much but he did speak to Jeremy a little. Maybe he should ask? Since dad would ask if Jeremy was okay when he was upset, it must be the nice thing to do.
“Hey, Michael. Are you okay?” he asked softly. There were a lot of people nearby and that made Jeremy feel nervous which made his voice quiet. They weren’t super close, but they were around and it was a lot.
Michael looked up at Jeremy then, looking... He didn’t know the word for what he looked like. “You’re gonna be my friend tomorrow? Y’re not gonna not be my friend?”
Jeremy’s eyes widened. Why would Michael think that? Had Jeremy been mean without realizing?
“Yes I will! You’re my first ever friend.I really like you!” he cried, almost dropping the blocks he was carrying. Then he paused. “You’re... still gonna want to be my friend, right? ‘Cause I’m really sorry if I did something to make you not like me. I really do like you. I wanna be your friend.”
“No, y’re not mean. Kids...” Michael looked down at his lap, whining a little as he pulled some string from his shirt. “They never stay my friends. You’re my longest friend.”
Jeremy frowned at that and scooted closer to Michael. “Why don’t they like you? You’re really nice. You come up with cool things. You’re really fun to play with! You’re such a great friend, I think.”
Michael shrugged as he squirmed where he sat. “I dunno.” He looked a bit sad as he kept tugging on the string from his shirt. “But... thank you. For being my friend.”
Jeremy scooted even closer, not touching Michael but being as close as possible. Jeremy knew that he didn’t always like being touched when he was sad, so he would do the same for Michael.
“Thank you for being my friend,” Jeremy whispered. He was going to tell Michael a secret, about how many schools he’d been to, so he didn’t want anyone else hearing. “I’ve never had a friend before. Everyone doesn’t like me at the two whole schools I went to before. They all were really mean and nasty. I tried my best to be nice...”
Michael’s face changed from sad to... surprised. That was the word. Well, he still looked sad, but more surprised. “What? But you’re nice! And really fun! They’re... they’re... stupid.”
Oh wow, Michael said a bad word for him! He must really mean it. “Thank you, Michael. You’re... if I’ve never had any other friends, could you maybe be my best friend?” He asked, fiddling with his fingers. “You’re the nicest person I’ve ever met, even as nice as my dad! I really wanna always be your friend...”
“You... you wanna be my best friend? Me ?”
Jeremy nodded quickly. “Yeah! Of course I do, you’re so nice and cool and friendly!”
Michael went to move before stopping. “Can I hug you? Please.”
Jeremy nodded. “I really like hugs. Only dad hugs me usually.” He scooted closer so he was sitting right next to Michael, leaning a little against him.
Michael’s arms wrapped around him in a warm hug. Jeremy felt safe and loved in this hug. “I love hugs.”
Jeremy couldn’t help but relax. This was almost as good as dad’s hugs. Wow, Michael was a really good hugger.
“I think I love hugs too.” Jeremy sighed, squeezing Michael closer.
They kept hugging until Jeremy heard his name called. He looked up to see Miss Carlson smiling at him. “I’m sorry to stop this hug, but your dad is here to pick you up, Jeremy. “
Jeremy didn’t want to let go. He didn’t want to leave Michael, just in case. He almost wanted to cry because what if Michael didn’t actually like him tomorrow even if they were best friends?
“Oh- Okay...” He sat back and scrubbed at his eyes, lifting his glasses a little. He looked at Michael. “Do you wanna come meet my dad? He’s really nice, like you.”
Michael nodded as he stood up, offering his hand to Jeremy. Only his dad had ever wanted to hold his hand before. “You think he’s nice, so he’s gotta be nice.”
Jeremy couldn’t help but smile. Today was the best day ever, even if Michael wasn’t his friend tomorrow. He took Michael’s hand then looked up at Miss Carlson.
“Can Michael come and meet my dad, please? He’s my best friend and I want my dad to get to meet him,” he asked the teacher, who was still waiting nearby.
“Of course.” Miss Carlson was smiling so wide. It had to hurt to smile that much.
Jeremy almost wanted to ask, but at the same time he thought she might have had the bad look in her eyes, maybe just a tiny bit, so he didn’t say anything about it.
“Thank you, Miss Carlson.” Jeremy tugged Michael over to his cubby and grabbed his stuff, then they headed to the door where Jeremy could see his dad waiting. “Dad!” he cried, louder than he’d been all day. How could he not be? His dad was here and his dad was his other best friend (besides Michael now). “Hi dad!”
“Hey there, Private!” His dad gave him a hug before looking at Michael. Michael was standing near the door, a bit away as he messed with his shirt again. “Oh, who is this?” As he asked, he waved at Michael with a smile. Michael waved back, but didn’t come closer yet. It was like how he was when Michael first met Jeremy but quieter.
Jeremy smiled and took his dad’s hand, leading him closer but not too close. He didn’t want to make Michael uncomfortable.
“This is Michael. He’s my best friend and he’s really, really nice.” Jeremy explained, smiling first at Michael then at his dad. “Michael, this is my dad.”
Michael waved again and didn’t look at anyone. He looked at his feet instead. “Hi, Jeremy’s dad.”
“Well hello there, Michael. It’s so nice to meet Jeremy’s best friend.” His dad squatted (his dad told him that was what it was called a few days ago) and smiled at Michael. “If Jeremy is saying you’re so nice, you have to be.”
Michael’s cheeks got red as he kept looking at his feet. “Thank you.”
Jeremy let go of his dad’s hand and instead scooted closer to Michael, holding out his hand in case Michael wanted to take it.
“You don’t have to be nervous, Michael. My dad is nice like you,” Jeremy whispered.
“Sorry,” Michael whispered back before he took Jeremy’s hand. He still didn’t look up.
“It’s alright, Private. I can tell he’s a nice boy. Plus, I’m new.”
Jeremy squeezed Michael’s hand. “You don’t have to be sorry. I just want you to feel comfortable,” he whispered.
He looked up at his dad again. “Michael drew me a picture of us and Ellie, and I drew him a picture too.”
“Oh really? I can help you hang it up in your room when we get back.” As he said that, he kept smiling. “While it’s nice meeting you, Michael, we do need to get going soon.”
Jeremy nodded. He held out his arms, not letting go of Michael’s hand. “Can I give you a goodbye hug?” he asked.
Michael glanced up for a second before nodding. “Yeah, of course.”
Jeremy stepped forwards and grabbed Michael in a tight hug. “See you tomorrow, Michael.”
Michael hugged him back and held on for a bit before letting go. “See you tomorrow, Remy- Sorry, I meant Jeremy.”
Jeremy blinked. “You can call me Remy. It’s a nickname, right?” He heard that friends gave their friends nicknames. “Can I call you Mikey?”
That got Michael looking up and at Jeremy. “You... Yeah, if y’wanna.”
Jeremy smiled nervously. “Well... bye.” He stepped back and took his dad’s hand. What was he supposed to do now? He never really had to say goodbye to anyone before.
Michael waved to Jeremy, giving a smile before going with Miss Carlson back into the classroom. Meanwhile, Jeremy’s dad walked with him out of the school. “So, I’m taking it that third time's the charm?”
Jeremy nodded. “Yeah, I have a friend for the first time ever, and Miss Carlson is nice and doesn’t act like I’m always mean. And there is a boy who sits near me who is also kinda nice, I think. He wasn’t being mean anyway.”
“That’s great! I’m so glad that you found the place for you. How about we celebrate with a quick stop for ice cream?”
“Really?!” Jeremy cried. “Can we sit in the car and eat it? I don’t want the big kids to spill their ones in my hair again.”
“Yes, of course, but you’ll need to eat it all over the bowl so it doesn’t spill in the car,” his dad told him as he unlocked the car.
Jeremy grinned. “I will!” This really was the best day ever!
Jeremy was really loving school. Having Michael around meant that Jeremy was never alone, and for some reason all the other kids left him alone. It was awesome! Not only did Jeremy get a best friend, he also was finally able to learn at school without being worried about everyone else!
It couldn’t last.
Michael had been feeling a little sick the day before, but Jeremy was sure that he would feel better by the next day. It was only because he ate the ice cream too fast, he promised he was fine. Except Jeremy was sitting in his seat, waiting, and Michael was running late. He always came into the classroom when the big hand on the clock was pointing at the four, except he wasn’t here and it was already almost at the six. And what was worse was Jeremy was starting to hear the whispers again. People were talking about him.
The bit of scrunched up paper hitting the back of his head made Jeremy start to feel sick. It was happening again. People were starting to be mean to him. Oh no…
Rich didn’t even say anything or look at him. He had seemed so nice too…
Miss Carlson, though, had come over to Jeremy and picked up the paper after talking to someone else. “Are you alright, Jeremy?” At least she was still being nice.
Jeremy nodded as he tried his best not to cry. Maybe it was an accident. This school had been so good so far, he didn’t want to have to leave because people were being mean again...
“I’m okay, Miss Carlson,” he said, nodding again.
“Are you sure? No one should have thrown paper at you,” she told Jeremy. “It’s okay to be upset.”
Jeremy nodded again. “I’m used to it.” He sighed. “It always happened at my old schools. Those were the nicer days. They weren’t so mean then.” He poked at the scrunched up paper that now sat in front of him. It looked like someone drew a poop on it. That was pretty mean.
“You being used to people being mean isn’t alright either,” she said as she took the paper from his desk. “Now, Michael isn’t here today. Do you wanna stick by me?”
Jeremy nodded. “Yes please.” She would hopefully protect him if things got worse. Things always got worse.
Miss Carlson gave him a smile then. “Alright. You wouldn’t mind being my special helper then?”
Jeremy tried for a smile. “I would like that.” It would be nice to have someone nice while people were being mean. “What do I need to do?”
Throughout the day, Miss Carlson had Jeremy doing tasks for him that other kids couldn’t do. If anyone was mean to him by saying mean things or tossing things, they got talked to by Miss Carlson. She was the nicest teacher Jeremy ever had.
Miss Carlson made Jeremy feel safer at school than he had ever felt with any teacher ever. He was staying at this school for sure.
Miss Carlson was great, but she couldn’t be there all the time. When she ran off at recess to stop some people fighting over a ball, Jeremy tried to hide in the classroom, but they found him. The bullies. They always found him.
“Where are you going, pipsqueak?” one of them called. Jeremy didn’t remember his name. He stayed quiet, instead just trying to focus on heading back to the classroom.
Then he got shoved to the ground. Jeremy felt tears form because he scraped his hands and knees and it hurt! “Hey! Listen to us! Don’t be mean.”
Jeremy tried to push himself to his feet, or at least to be sitting up, but he was pushed back down again. And when he tried to open his mouth to tell them to stop, nothing came out. It was like his voice had disappeared.
“What, you only talk to that weird kid? That’s so mean. We’re gonna tell on you.” Some of the kids laughed at him as they pushed Jeremy down once more.
Jeremy tried to tell them that he wasn’t trying to be mean, that his voice just wasn’t working, but it wouldn’t happen. No matter how hard he tried, all he could manage was a small squeak.
He tried to get up again, sniffling and trying to stop his tears. If the bullies saw him crying, it only made everything worse. Just like getting a teacher. If he tried telling a teacher, they’d say he was the mean one and then Jeremy would get in trouble, not the bullies.
“What a crybaby.” One of the kids mimicked him and the others all laughed. They high fived each other before sticking their tongues out at Jeremy and leaving.
Jeremy’s arms shook as he tried to push himself up again. He couldn’t help but cry as his hands and knees hurt. Was he bleeding? Oh no, blood made him feel sick.
His tummy started bubbling in a bad way as he managed to turn over and sit on his butt. Seeing the blood on his hands and knees made him want to be sick.
“-remy?” Suddenly, Miss Carlson was by his side, kneeling by him. “Oh, let’s get you all cleaned up. Can you stand or do you want me to pick you up?”
Jeremy opened his mouth again, but no sound came out, just sick feelings so he closed it again quickly. He made grabby hands at Miss Carlson, looking up at her pleadingly. She was nice, right? She’d look after him. She had to. He felt like he’d break into little pieces if someone didn’t look after him or call his dad to come look after him.
She seemed to get it as she picked him up. “I’m so sorry, Jeremy. I’ll help patch you up in class.” As she walked to their class, Miss Carlson seemed to think. She did that a lot. “If I list off what someone did to you, could you nod when I’m right on what happened?”
Jeremy clung to her as best he could without hurting his hands. He nodded. Even if he couldn’t speak, he could nod.
Once they were in the classroom, Miss Carlson sat Jeremy down in the comfy chair by her desk. She got out some bandaids and other things before listing a few things that didn’t happen. “So none of those. Did you get shoved by more than one person then?”
Jeremy paused, then nodded. He didn’t like lies, they made his tummy feel weird. Even though telling a teacher usually meant things getting worse, Jeremy didn’t think he could let his tummy feel worse off than it already did. He didn’t want to be sick.
“If I told you names of your classmates, could you tell me who the people who hurt you are? They should not have done that to you in the first place. I am so sorry, Jeremy.”
That... wasn’t a lie? Miss Carlson actually thought that Jeremy shouldn’t be hurt like this, which was... different to most people. Jeremy decided he really liked this teacher a lot, she was amazing.
He nodded slowly. Even if he didn’t exactly remember their names, he could try. If Miss Carlson was gonna be so nice to him, Jeremy would try his best to do what she wanted.
Miss Carlson helped him figure out who were mean to him by asking which desks the kids sat at. He could put faces to desks that way, so it helped. She made sure Jeremy was safe for the rest of the day, and she told his dad everything that happened when he came to pick Jeremy up.
Jeremy waited until all the other kids had gone before going over to see his dad. It wasn’t long, just waiting until the clock was pointing to the seven instead of the six, but it was long enough. He stayed clinging to Miss Carlson’s leg right up until the last student left the room, at which point Jeremy raced over to his dad and clung to him, crying hard. He needed a dad hug. Nothing else compared (well, maybe a Michael hug but those were a special case).
“Woah, hey Private.” His dad picked him up and hugged him, keeping him held and against him even after the hug ended. “I’m so sorry about what happened today. That wasn’t fair to you at all.”
Being with his dad and knowing the other kids were gone, Jeremy felt his voice unlock. It was like someone pressed a button and it turned back on at last.
“Why do they all not like me? I’m not mean. I try so hard to be nice but they all say I’m mean!” he whimpered, his voice still soft and croaky but working at last.
“I don’t know, kiddo. I’m really sorry.” His dad pressed a kiss to Jeremy’s head before he took Jeremy’s backpack and lunchbox from Miss Carlson. “When we get back home, we can cuddle and you can watch whatever you want. I’ll even let you have two bowls of whatever snack you want.”
Jeremy nodded before he realised something. “Is mommy home?” Mommy was sometimes home after school. He really hoped she wasn’t, she was mean and would probably blame Jeremy for getting hurt in the first place.
“No, she’s still on her business trip. She won’t be back until Monday,” his dad told him before he looked to Miss Carlson. “Thank you so much for helping him today.”
“Oh, of course. I hope you feel better, Jeremy. I promise that tomorrow will be a better day.”
Jeremy looked at Miss Carlson and paused. Then he made grabby hands in her direction. As soon as his dad let her take him, a little confused, Jeremy cuddled Miss Carlson tightly in a hug, trying to show her just how happy and nice she made him feel, even on the bad day like today. “Thank you, Miss Carlson,” he whispered.
“You’re welcome, Jeremy.” She gave him a squeeze and a smile before she eventually gave him back to his dad.
Jeremy held onto his dad tightly, not really noticing how he started sucking on his thumb. He was tired after today, he just wanted to cuddle with his dad and sleep. Everything hurt and he just wanted to feel loved and sleep. And maybe see Michael. He’d be nice to cuddle with, he was warm and soft, like a teddy bear but better.
He didn’t see Michael until the next day at school. Michael was sat down in his seat, his arms criss-cross on the desk with his head there. He looked tired, but he still smiled when Jeremy came over. “Hi, Remy. Sorry, I was sick.”
Jeremy almost ran over when he saw Michael, only stopping when he was right next to him. He sniffled and scrubbed at his face. He had been crying a few minutes ago, he didn’t want to come in. Michael and Miss Carlson were the only reasons he did.
“H-hi Mikey. Are you feeling better now?” he asked, his voice softer than usual. He was still a little scared after yesterday. What if Michael decided that Jeremy was mean too, and decided to leave him properly?
“I still feel icky and bleh. I’m better though and came. I missed you,” Michael said. “I don’t wanna do much today. I’m gonna be boring. Sorry.”
Jeremy sat down in his seat. “I missed you too.” He nodded. “And boring would be good today. Anything that means we stay away from the people on the green mat tables.”
Michael frowned at that. “Why?”
Jeremy paused then put his hands up on the desk face up, so the band aids were on display. They weren’t the cute hello kitty ones Miss Carlson had given him yesterday, but they were covered in stars which was also good.
Michael gasped before frowning even more. “Oh no. I’m sorry they were mean to you. Do they hurt?”
Jeremy nodded. “A little. But everyone was mean yesterday, except Miss Carlson. She’s always really nice.” Jeremy whispered. Miss Carlson had said he didn’t have to join in for the writing lessons today, so long as he tried extra hard tomorrow. She was so super nice and Jeremy thought that he might love her a little, like how he loved his dad and Michael. Not as much, but a little.
“Miss Carlson is the best. She is my teacher friend and was my first friend. Well, you’re really my first. I dunno if she can be my friend right now. Y’know, ‘cause she’s our teacher.”
Jeremy thought for a second about it. “I think she can be our teacher friend.” He nodded after a moment. “Because she looks after us like friends do, but she’s a teacher too.”
Michael nodded before sniffling. “She said I can lie down like this. I don’t feel the best still.”
Jeremy nodded and scooted his chair close enough that Michael could lean on him a little if he wanted to. “I don’t feel so good either. My voice feels all sticky in my neck,” he admitted.
“That’s weird. I’m sorry,” Michael said before moving an arm and offering his hand to Jeremy.
Jeremy took his hand and squeezed it. “If I’m trying to say something, but the words get stuck, do you think you can say it for me please? Because I try to speak, but it only works sometimes. ‘F I’m scared or nervous, it gets all sticky and quiet.”
“Yeah, of course. I’ll help you out. That’s what friends do,” Michael promised with a smile that made Jeremy feel really happy.
Jerrmy wanted to cuddle Michael until it was time to start. “Can I lean my head on your shoulder please or would that make you feel icky?”
“Yes please. It’ll help.” Jeremy could feel Michael relax when he had his head on his shoulder. Hopefully they wouldn’t keep feeling icky as long as they stayed with each other.