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When she was home, Mary Margaret rarely left her room. In her room, she could avoid Regina and Cora (she refuses to call the woman by her mother’s rightful title) and work on her artwork. Often Regina would bring her friends over and that usually included Katherine. If they ever saw Mary Margaret, Katherine would usually start talking about how amazing David is and how often he tells her he loves her. It usually makes Mary Margaret sick to her stomach to hear of the perfect cheerleader’s boyfriend.

Exactly at three o’clock, Mary Margaret hears the front door slam and she pauses in her painting to listen to Regina, Katherine and Ashley loudly gossip their way to the kitchen. She hears the blender going and decides to quickly slip into her mother’s studio to grab more paint before they all troop up to Regina’s room one floor above her’s.

Mary Margaret puts down her brush and slips into the hall. She turns to the stairs and collides with Ashley. The contents of Ashley’s purse spill all over the floor and Mary Margaret looks around for Regina or Katherine. When she realizes that they are still downstairs in the kitchen, she kneels down to help Ashley pick up the things that spilled from her purse.

“I’m so sorry, Ashley,” Mary Margaret says over and over, but the girl seems too focused on collecting her things. Mary Margaret picks up the last item and stands to give it to Ashley, but then she realizes what she’s holding. In her hand, she holds a pregnancy test and a little pink plus sign shines from the window. Mary Margaret looks up into Ashley’s face. The cheerleader looks at the pregnancy test and then looks at Mary Margaret’s face. “Are you…?” Mary Margaret asks, trailing off. Ashley’s face becomes scared and bursts into noisy tears.

Mary Margaret automatically wraps her arms around the crying cheerleader and leads her into her empty room. They sit on her canopied bed and after a few minutes, Ashley stops crying. “I’m sorry, Mary Margaret. I’m so sorry,” she sniffles and wipes her cheeks. Mary Margaret grabs a few tissues from the side of her bed and uses them to wipe at Ashley’s running mascara. “Everyone needs a shoulder to cry on sometimes, Ashley,” she says. “I just want to help you.”

“Why?” Ashley asks. “We are awful to you. I mean we are just horrible to you. I won’t blame you if you had just left me there.”

Mary Margaret just sighs. “I’m not that person. I help those who need help and that is all. And don’t worry, I won’t tell them.” Ashley sniffs. “Why not?” Mary Margaret rubs the weeping girl’s shoulder. “Because it’s not my place.”

Mary Margaret realizes that she shouldn’t want to help Ashley or feel in any way like helping this girl, but her mother’s words still stick in her mind years after her death. There are always those who need help, my princess. No one is ever beneath you. Mary Margaret was always one to help others, especially after mother died.
Ashley is looking at Mary Margaret with incredulity written all across her face and so she asks, “Does Sean know?” The cheerleader sniffs and shakes her head. “Well, he’s a good guy, I know he’ll help you, whatever you decide to do.”

Ashley suddenly stops as if she realized something terrifying, “What am I going to do? Oh my god, what have I done?” Mary Margaret folds the girl back into her arms and holds her as she cries. She feels a surge of strength and takes advantage of it, as it doesn’t happen very often that Mary Margaret feels powerful. “You are going to take care yourself and your baby. You are going to go the doctor’s and get checked and take vitamins or whatever you need to do. And you are going to tell Sean before you tell anyone else and the two of you are going to figure out what to do. Okay?” Ashley nods numbly and stands up, wiping her mascara off her cheeks and goes to the bathroom to touch up her makeup.

As she leaves her room, Ashley stops and looks back. Mary Margaret hasn’t moved from her spot on her bed. “Thank you, Mary Margaret.” And then the cheerleader returns to her gossiping friends.

Mary Margaret revels in the feeling of completeness that comes from helping someone, even if that someone was her enemy’s friend. She couldn’t call Ashley her enemy anymore, not when she knew what the girl had in front of her. That girl was going to have a tough year.

She comes back from her mother’s studio and heads to the painting set up near the fire place when her phone buzzes from its place on her nightstand. She sets down her supplies and goes over, tilting the screen up and then almost dropping it when she sees who has texted her. 3 messages from David Nolan? She opens her phone quickly and reads the messages.

David: Hey
David: Mary Margaret? are u ther?
David: Can we talk?

Mary Margaret stops and considers what she should do. Should she respond and risk Katherine finding out, or should she shut him down like everyone says she should? She only ponders for a moment before she quickly types an answer.

Me: What’s up?

She heads back to her painting, expecting a reply in a minute or so, but less than ten seconds later, her phone buzzes.

David: Are you okay?

Mary Margaret frowns at her phone. Is she okay? She’s not really sure how to answer that question. She’s definitely been worse, but she could definitely feel better too. Okay? Maybe, but she would settle for surviving at the moment. Her nerves are always frail around Regina and having Katherine and Regina both attack her in one day has set her more on edge than usual. And having Emma come to her rescue only to get a month’s detention wasn’t doing much to help her feelings of self-worth.
Why does he even care? His girlfriend is the one tormenting her most of the time because she likes him.

Me: I’m surviving.
David: Im so sorry.
David: About Katherine and Regina attacking you today
Me: I’m used to it.

There’s a long pause where he doesn’t text back, and for a moment, Mary Margaret is afraid that she’s offended him or something. But then, she gets a snapchat from him showing a selfie in football gear in the school locker room. His face is covered in a sheen of sweat and for some reason, this makes Mary Margaret’s stomach clench. He has a gorgeously gentle smile on his face and it comes with the caption i thought u could use a smile :)

Usually Mary Margaret doesn’t snapchat much, but this once, she likes the gesture. She turns on her camera and clicks a picture of her barely-started painting and sends it back to him with the caption thanks handsome ;)

She receives a text from him a second later.

David: Are those the birds from earlier?
Me: Yea. I liked them so much, I couldn’t wait to start.
David: Looks really nice.
Me: I haven’t even started yet. It’s just a sketch with some paint.
David: Then it’ll be stunning by the time it’s done, right?
Me: You have too much faith in my prowess.
David: It seems you don’t have enough faith in yours. I’ve seen your work before. It’s really good.

Mary Margaret blushes a little at his compliment and then freezes when she hears Regina and Katherine loudly coming up the stairs. They giggle loudly before Regina opens Mary Margaret’s door and leans against the frame. “Whatcha doing, M&M?”

She turns away, her fingers going stiff around her phone. Not another attack, please not another one. She’s not sure she has the strength for a third today. “Painting,” she whispers away from them.

“What was that, you little whore?” asks Katherine loudly, but before she can respond, Regina says “Oh look, she’s painting, Katherine. Isn’t that sweet, she’s trying to be talented. Too bad her paintings look like a cow turd.” The two laugh heartily and move up the stairs to Regina’s room. Mary Margaret squeezes her eyes shut before the tears sting her eyes. She hears Ashley’s voice say “Sorry” from the door before it closes and she’s left in the dark again.

Mary Margaret’s phone buzzes and she sees that David has texted her 4 times. She opens them, still reeling from the harsh words. She can’t flirt with David because he is taken and his perfect girlfriend enjoys reminding Mary Margaret of her inadequacies at every turn.

David: Mary Margaret?
David: Hey, u okay?
David: Whats wrong?
David: Whats wrong?

After a moment, collecting herself, she types back.

Me: I’m sorry David I can’t.

Her tears fall freely now and she goes to her bed before she ruins her painting with the salt water. She lies facedown while her tears seep into her pillow. Her phone buzzes and before she can stop herself, she’s opening it to look at David’s message.

David: What happened?
Me: Your girlfriend just stopped by my room
David: Oh. What did she do?
Me: Nothing she hasn’t done before, but it made me realize that I can’t
David: Can’t what?
Me: I can’t flirt with you and we cant spend time together because they’ll always find out and torture me for it. I like you, so I just cant. Bye

Mary Margaret flings her phone down onto her floor and sticks her earbuds into her ears and blasts some heavy rock while she continues to cry.

Hours later, her music and tears have run out, but Mary Margaret hasn’t moved, still facedown on her pillows, eyes closed and trying to drown out the sounds of Regina and Katherine and Ashley laughing upstairs.

“Mary Margaret? Honey?” a soft voice asks. She turns over on her bed to see Johanna holding a tray of food out for her. She sits up and rubs the wetness off her cheeks. Joanna was one of the only maids they still kept in the house from before her mother’s death. She was a kind and quiet woman who Mary Margaret had come to treat as a friend. She would always bring Mary Margaret her dinner so the teenager did not have to leave her room and risk facing Regina or Cora.

“Oh sweetheart,” the woman says and puts the tray of steaming soup down to pull Mary Margaret into her soft arms. Mary Margaret allows herself to be held, but her tears do not overflow again. She simply breathes in the smell of sugar and bread that always clung around Joanna and allows her body to relax.

“Sweetheart, just focus on your studies and your friends. Don’t pay attention to them and you’ll be fine.” Mary Margaret lets the kind woman’s words wash over her, but doesn’t really listen to her advice. That is what she had always tried to do and look how well that turned out. She had always tried to focus on her work and not anger the cheerleading squad, but the pull to David always overrode her conscience. She just had to stay away from him.

“Well, sweetie, just eat your soup and feel better. Call me if you need anything.” Joanna leaves, closing Mary Margaret’s door behind her quietly. Mary Margaret stares at the soup for a second before going to her bathroom and pulling out a rag and a spray bottle of Windex. She takes her damp rag to every horizontal service in her room. She re-organizes her vanity and re-folds her shirts.

When the clock strikes ten o’clock, Mary Margaret collapses onto her freshly made bed. She picks up her phone and to avoid the temptation, she deletes all twenty of the messages David sent her. Her cold soup goes down her bathroom sink and the crackers remain uneaten. She sinks into her four-poster bed and lets the exhaustion in her body take over.