The bell rings.
A swarm of small children race out of the schoolhouse. Some take over the swings, others climb up the slides. Most grab assorted balls kept in a nearby bin and run over to the lawn to play football and basketball.
One child stays inside and watches the others silently from the window.
The teacher pricks their finger, checks their monitor and then places a little pink bandage on the tip. A reassuring smile is on her face.
“There now! You’re good to go outside and play,” she says. The child nods, but on their face, is a look of dejection.
“Thank you,” they reply, grabbing a large, heart-shaped bag. They walk out of the classroom, towards the front door of the building. They are an unusually pretty child: They wear a white and pink striped shirt and black shorts. Fluffy, black hair cover part of their face.
They sigh as they step outside. Ahead, in the schoolyard, continue screaming and laughing children. But to their immediate left is another child, almost unnoticeable.
This one is crouched down, little arms wrapped around their knees. They seem to lean against one of the pillars on the school’s front porch. They stare intently at a snail, slowly making its way across the wooden beams.
“Hi Blooky,” the first child says, waving.
The teacher joins the two children at the door. She sees the one crouching and a slight look of worry crosses her face.
“Napstablook, your cousin is here…wouldn’t you like to play with the other children?”
Napstablook shakes their head, not even bothering to look up. They are paler than their cousin, a little younger. They wear a blue and grey striped shirt and a loose jacket. Their eyes are big and blue, and always look a little sad. As if they are always on the verge of tears.
“Thank you,” The first child says to the teacher, walking over to Napstablook. “We’ll be alright out here.” The teacher nods slowly and returns into the building, leaving the children alone on the porch.
“Where’s Maddy?” The first child says, now walking past Napstablook to the steps. They stop at the second step to take a seat. Blooky, now for the first time, glances at a nearby window.
“They got in trouble again. They can’t play outside today.”
“What happened this time?” The first child asks, pulling a small journal out of their bag. It’s gaudy, pink and covered in glitter. They pull out a matching pen, covered in stars.
“Um…” Blooky says slowly. “Someone stole their lunch. I think…that person ate it, and then spat it out in front of them. They called it ‘phantom food.’”
They are both quiet. The first child seems to go stiff with anger. Part of it was because of their sad lot in life. It was something that they could never seem to be rid of. The children of the Blook family all had one thing in common—they were ghosts.
In a metaphorical sense.
They were often ignored, misunderstood, shoved, teased, and made the butt of poorly constructed jokes. They were moved to the back of classrooms. They were last to be called upon, if ever at all. They were ridiculed. They were left behind. It was only when the charitable few recognized them that they felt accepted. Or, in Maddy’s case, made extreme efforts to make their presence known.
“H…Happy..?” Blooky asks, breaking the silence.
The first child flinches. The other part was because of that nickname. Something that their cousins had come up with a while ago to make them feel comfortable. Long ago, they claimed that they couldn’t stand their full name. It stifled them. So, a truce was made. But even still…it didn’t feel…right…
“What?” Happy asks, their soft voice coming out of grit teeth.
“I’m sorry…please don’t…be mad…”
It was at this point that Happy realizes that they are clutching the pen very tightly in their fist, and trembling slightly with a child-like rage. They sigh and open the journal. They click their pen and start to write:
This is the worst day ever. Again.
A ball bounces and lands at Happy’s feet, interrupting their entry. Before they can question the sudden appearance of the ball—a boy, no older than Blooky, immediately comes running up to get it. He seems to appear just as spontaneously as the ball.
Both children on the porch watch curiously as he picks it up. As he straightens, he immediately comes eye to eye with Happy. There is a pause. The boy raises an arm and points directly at the bewildered child.
“YOU’RE CUTE!” He shouts, rather definitively.
“COME ON PAPYRUS, BRING BACK THE BALL!” One of the children off in the distance shouts. The boy looks back and sees all the other children waiting for him to come back with the ball. He turns back to Happy.
“BYE!!!” He shouts, waving and grinning wide. He takes off running towards the others.
Blooky stands up from their crouched position, unsure of what just transpired. Happy stares off at the other children, their mouth still agape. After a moment, they look down at their journal. They realize that their sparkly pen has slipped out of their hand. They pick it up and take a deep breath.
After another moment, they change their entry:
This is the worst day ever. Again.
Today is the best day ever.