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We All Fall Down

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Sameen sat scowling in the chair by the window. She’d been kept in from outdoor play. Again.

“What time is the psychologist coming?” The teacher asked the other teacher.

“Not soon enough if you ask me,” The other teacher said to the first teacher.

“You know I’ve worked with kids on the spectrum before, but what this one does. . . well, it’s just weird. Like spooky or evil almost. And those eyes. Oh my god.”

“She’s been expelled from every daycare in the city. That’s why she’s here, but even for us she’s on the higher end of things.”

“You think?”

They both laughed as though Sameen couldn’t hear them. As though she wasn’t sitting right there.

“I wonder what goes on in that dark little head of hers,” the first teacher said. She slurped her coffee.

“Who knows. It’s not like she talks ever or at all.”

“Ugh, I really shouldn’t have another one of these,” the first teacher said reaching her pudgy hand out to grab a pastry off of the snack table. “Whoever brought in these things is wicked!”

“You think?” They both giggled.

Sameen could hear them chewing. She ground her teeth and stared out the window. She saw Samantha standing outside by the swings, in front of them, just about an inch far enough away so she didn’t get kicked in the face. The sight made Sameen’s face twitch.

The daycare had been dealing with what they called “the Sam Problem” for well over a month now, since Sameen Shaw had been enrolled. Initially, it seemed as though Samantha was going to take to the tiny, black haired child who never spoke. But then Sam got the hot glue gun and tried to squirt it onto Sameen’s palm. Of course a teacher caught her just in the nick of time. Of course.

There were other things too. The incident reports were copious.

Sameen was a biter.

Not just your average once or twice and learn the lesson toddler biter. Oh no. She bit and she bit hard. Samantha went home on more than one occasion bearing the purple fruit of Sameen’s teeth on her flesh.

Then there was the time Sameen had almost given Samantha a concussion playing ring around the rosey. She’d spun her so hard. At first it was cute and the teachers thought the girls were getting along at last. But then Sameen sped up even more and let Samantha go flying into a table where she cracked her head and fell down. The teachers rushed to check on Samantha as she bled in a sweet, little puddle under the table. They didn’t even hear Sameen, and if they had, they would have heard her utter her first words ever at the school as she whispered with a little smile, “We all fall down.”

Funny thing was, Samantha never cried. Her mom would come to pick her up and she would show her the bruises almost like they were badges of honor, then leave with a shit eating grin on her charming little face.

That was the thing. Samantha was pretty and articulate. So she captured the hearts of the teachers in a way the little crow of a child who was Sameen could never. “Miss Daisy, I think Sameen is just asserting her independence,” Samantha said one day when Sameen was cowering in a corner and grunting and throwing blocks at anyone who came near her. All the teachers spoke of it for hours in the lunch room over their sandwiches and seltzer. Samantha, with her pony tails and big, brown eyes, made them smile and sigh.

That Sameen on the other hand. She was another story.

The Sams were separated into different classrooms for their own safety, and for the sanity of the teachers.

Sameen qualified for the child outreach program, so they called for the psychologist and scheduled her for as many different assessments and evaluations as they possibly could. They would get to the bottom of her malady. Yes they would. Certainly it could not be a four year old was such a malevolent presence in their school they could not tame her.

She sat there and breathed against the window. Her breath created a fog on the glass. No one was paying attention to her. She used her finger to draw an “X” in the vapor she’d made. Then she drew another. She huffed and puffed to make more fog on the glass. She drew more exes. Samantha was standing there under the “X” she drew.

They had been separated, but every day at nap time (and not a single teacher could tell you how it happened) somehow the girls found one another. Sometimes Samantha went to Sameen and other times Sameen went to Samantha. It was silent and savvy. No one heard or saw it happen. But you could bet your paycheck that by the end of nap time, they would be there together, cuddled on the same cot, holding hands, their sweaty little heads nestled together on Samantha’s pink security blanket.