Her mind drifts back to the “say no to bullying” posters that were littered around the school some months prior, the way everyone covered each other in orange hairspray and then made jokes about losing their souls in favour of the cause. The National Kalosian Anti-Bullying Day was celebrated and honoured by the students of Lumiose City High School, and at least half of every lesson was devoted to learning about bullying instead of doing classwork.
But that was several months ago.
Now there’s no posters and no orange hairspray and no jokes about losing souls. A problem that everyone was so passionate about for that one day is ignored, and the people that wore their orange clothing so proudly are now the ones tormenting her.
She does not understand. They were friends two weeks ago! What’s changed?! Everyone was so welcoming when she had to transfer schools earlier in the year, but now they’ve finally gotten sick of her. Realised how awful she is deep down.
It’s with a heavy sigh that Rosa Bianca White recalls her Rhyhorn to its Poke Ball and walks inside. Pokemon aren’t allowed inside school grounds, in much the same way that phones aren’t -- obscure difficult-to-find out-of-date rules say that you have to leave them at home or give them in to the office before entering the class, but expecting anyone to do so is ridiculous. People send out their Pokemon in class all the time, and as long as they’re not disrupting the class nobody bats an eye. Still, a Rhyhorn is inconveniently large and inconveniently loud and would just attract more unwanted attention.
That’s honestly the last thing she needs.
Actually, scratch that, the last thing she needs is to be in school at all. Her hair’s probably not even enough, which means she’s going to get picked on, but she didn’t have time to fix it this morning -- she was already running late. She had been in a bit of a mood this morning, still sour and resentful about her fourth period class the on Wednesday
The class had been given laptops so they could research the answers to their questions, simple enough. She’d had laptops in other classes, but the science faculty had only recently obtained them, so she wasn’t completely sure what to do with them. She saw her friend -- or she thought they were friends, anyway -- Hugh moving them from the nearby desk into the charging case, so she assumed that was the correct thing to do.
Hugh found out about this mistake and yelled at her in front of the entire class -- about how she had one job, about how she was stupid and retarded, about how she couldn’t complete this simple task. She couldn’t handle it and burst into tears in front of the entire class, and they watched, some wanting to help but not knowing how, others not wanting to help at all.
The teacher stood there and did nothing, of course.
Her entire year hates her. They act nice to her face, sometimes, but the second she fucks up, they’re right behind her, yelling and teasing and acting like she’s the worst thing in the world. She hates it. Nobody’s perfect. They make mistakes, too, but nobody yells at them for it. It’s okay to make mistakes when you’re not autistic.
She talked about it yesterday, to her sophomore friend Hilda. “You need to tell someone about this,” the older girl had insisted. “You should tell a teacher.”
“And what are the teachers going to do?” Rosa had protested. “Hypnotise them and make them like me?”
“Suspend them,” Hilda had answered, not missing a beat. “Expel them, if it keeps happening. Hey, you said some of them are on the SRC, right?”
“Uh, yeah,” said Rosa. A large number of freshmen had been chosen to join the Students Representative Council based on their academic performance in middle school, so that the people in charge of making decisions would be aware of the youngest, most vulnerable people in the school. Rosa would have been selected, probably, but she hadn’t been at the school when they were chosen. Maybe next year.
“Tell me their names,” said Hilda, who was also in the SRC. “And I’ll tell Mr Sycamore and if they keep it up they’ll get booted off.”
Rosa shook her head. “I don’t want to get people in trouble.”
“Well, sometimes you have to. They’re bullying you, Rosa. They’re not allowed to do that.”
“It’s not bullying!” Rosa had insisted.
“Then what is it?”
Rosa hadn’t been able to answer that. But Hilda had important sophomore work to do and it was Thursday, meaning the students got to go home over an hour earlier than usual in exchange for one of the periods being forty minutes instead of eighty, and the lunch break was fifteen minutes instead of thirty.
“I’ll talk to you tomorrow, okay?” suggested Hilda before going back to her work. “During one of the breaks.”
Of course they would talk during one of the breaks -- they shared exactly zero classes, and because they were in different years they wouldn’t share classes except in rare special circumstances. They didn’t even have each other’s phone numbers, so they couldn’t exactly text each other in class.
Rosa didn’t point this out; she just nodded and put her earphones back in and walked off.
She’s not really sure if it is bullying, to be honest. It’s the whole year, everyone she shares a class with constantly picking her apart and giving her a hard time, but it’s rarely the same person twice, and they’re not going out of their way to seek her out and hurt her. Bullying has to be repetitive, right? It’s not bullying unless the same person does it repeatedly. It’s just general assholery, and the teachers aren’t obligated to do anything about that.
Besides, even if it is bullying, nobody’s going to treat it as such. The teachers think bullies are just unconfident and unhappy with who they are and they just find someone weaker than them to pick on and use as an emotional punching bag. And maybe that’s true sometimes. But sometimes it’s not.
Sometimes they just look at her and only see her weirdness, her quirks, her lack of social skills. Sometimes they don’t see that she’s a person. Sometimes they genuinely think that it’s okay to bully her, because they’re just teaching her to be normal, right? She can’t feel it it anyway, she’s not even human. She can’t be, humans don’t act like that.
The teachers are always happy to turn a blind eye when the autistic kids are the ones getting bullied. Arceus forbid the kids attempt to fight back, though. That would be awful.
As she was walking out of the school yesterday, she saw some familiar faces. They were May Marina Sapphire and Dawn Amethyst Platinum, her friends from middle school. They all went to middle school together, and made friends despite being in different years. They always used to walk home together, and somehow they had managed to continue the tradition even after Rosa left for high school -- who was there varied from day to day, but they passed the high school on their way home, and they could make it in time to wait for her if they ran.
“You okay?” May had asked. “You were really upset yesterday.”
She had been, honestly, and May had seen her. She had walked home with tear tracks running down her face after Hugh’s berating of her in science class, and May and Lyra had been waiting for Lyra’s older sister, so they were forced to separate before they could find out what was wrong.
“Yeah,” Rosa had mumbled. And finally, she said it:
“I’m being bullied.”
It was an empowering realisation, in a way -- they weren’t just punishing her for existing, they weren’t just being jerks in a way that couldn’t possibly harm her. They were bullying her, and that wasn’t okay.
Looking back at the school gate in front of her, she sighs. She’s really not looking forward to today. But she has little other choice. Full of dread and anxiety, but also determination, she steps into the school.