Stephanie and Kathy sat in Principle Nelson's office, not willing to look at the principle or at each other.
Ms. Nelson folded her hands on her desk and said, "Wow, I'm surprised to see you two in here."
Neither of the girls said anything and Ms. Nelson said, "No, seriously. Tons of kids are sent to my office because they got into a fight, but I never thought I would see you girls in here for that... Especially together."
Stephanie said curtly, "Well, then you haven't been paying very good attention to your students, Ms. Nelson, because Kathy has been terrible to me."
Kathy shot her a look and said, "Stephanie!"
Kathy looked at Ms. Nelson and said, "Ms. Nelson, she's lying. I have not done a single thing to Stephanie-"
"Yeah, except do this to my face!" Stephanie said, pointing with one finger to the paper towel she was holding to her bloody nose.
Kathy said desperately, "Ms. Nelson, Stephanie has been bullying me ever since I've known her, but now that I'm not on the cheerleading squad anymore, she has been working to make me miserable."
Ms. Nelson looked at Stephanie and said, "Stephanie, is this true?"
"No, of course not!" Stephanie said.
Kathy scowled at her and Ms. Nelson said calmly, "Are you sure?"
Stephanie looked surprised and said, "Of course not! Why would I lie?"
"You have plenty of reasons to lie." Kathy said, "To protect yourself, to get me in trouble..."
"Oh, you're already in trouble." Ms. Nelson said, "You started a fight, Kathy. That's not cool."
Kathy looked a little surprised and she closed her mouth.
"You're both in trouble." Ms. Nelson said, "Kathy, you hit Stephanie and Stephanie, you hit her back."
"B-but, Ms. Nelson!" Stephanie whined.
"Hey." Ms. Nelson said, twirling the pencil in her hand to point at Stephanie, "No buts. Now, what I need you to tell me is how your relationship has been in the past fews weeks."
Kathy and Stephanie slowly turned their heads to look at each other; They were busted.
Stephanie sighed and said, "Alright, so maybe I was a little mean to Kathy after she got booted off the team, but at least I didn't punch her in the face."
Ms. Nelson sighed and looked at Kathy, "Kathy? What do you think?"
Kathy sighed and glanced meekly at Stephanie, who glared at her and mouthed, I'm going to kill you.
Kathy swallowed and looked at Ms. Nelson.
"Nothing, Ms. Nelson." Kathy said, "Stephanie didn't do anything.... I made it up because I wanted attention."
Ms. Nelson nodded and studied Kathy.
The vise principle came into the room and Ms. Nelson said, gesturing to Stephanie, "Excuse me, Mr. Howard. Would you mind taking this girl down to the nurse's office and have Ms. Lemon take a look at her nose?"
"Sure thing." Mr. Howard said, gesturing for Stephanie to follow him.
Stephanie gave Kathy one last glare before she left the room; A glare that said, "If you tell on me, you're dead meat."
Stephanie left with Mr. Howard and Ms. Nelson studied Kathy again.
"Kathy," Ms. Nelson said, "I know that you didn't just hit Stephanie for no reason. That's not like you."
Kathy stared down at her feet, breathing hard, and Ms. Nelson said gently, "Tell me what happened, Kathy."
Kathy didn't look up or say anything for a while.
"She's just..." Kathy said softly, "Every time she sees me, she'll tease me and call me names..."
Ms. Nelson nodded and said, "Anything else?"
Kathy swallowed, still looking down at the floor, and said, "She... She trips me... And knocks my books out of my hands... That kind of thing."
"So..." Ms. Nelson said, "When you said she 'teases' you, what do you mean? What kind of things does she say?"
A tear fell from Kathy's face to the floor.
"She... Tells me that I'm no good..." Kathy said, more tears coming down her cheeks, "And that no one loves me... And that no one c-cares about me because I'm not a cheerleader anymore."
Ms. Nelson gave Kathy a pitiful nod and said, "Kathy, I may be your principle, but I think you deserve this from me, as a friend."
Ms. Nelson got up, walked around her desk, and hugged Kathy.
Kathy didn't say anything, she just sat in her place and cried.
Ms. Nelson stood up after a while and said, "Are you able to go to art class right now?"
Kathy's breath shook as she nodded slowly.
"Yeah?" Ms. Nelson patted Kathy's back and walked her out of the office.
"I can go back from here." Kathy said. She kind of wished Ms. Nelson would go with her to the art room, so she could protect Kathy. But it would be selfish for Kathy to ask Ms. Nelson to take her time doing that.
Ms. Nelson nodded and said, "Good luck, Kathy."
Kathy turned to walk away and she said, "Ms. Nelson?"
Kathy looked over her shoulder at the principle and said, "Thank you."
Ms. Nelson smiled and nodded, "You're very welcome."
Kathy bit her lip and walked down the hall to the art room.
Once she was there, she could hear all the other students from outside the door.
Kathy reached for the door and pulled it open before she lost her nerve.
She walked to her table and the room fell silent. Kathy's gaze never left the floor, but she could feel every student's eyes on her.
Kathy silently pulled out her project she had been working on and sat down.
No one said a word or moved a muscle. It was a still silence, quite literally.
After a few long seconds, two girls got up and walked over to Kathy.
A bead of sweat formed on Kathy's forehead. What did those girls want? Were they going to beat her up?
Kathy looked up and watched the girls as they got closer to her. Her heart was pounding.
Once the two girls reached her, Kathy stood up and took and step back.
The girls continued to walk closer until they were practically in Kathy's face and Kathy squeezed her eyes shut.
"So, what happened with you and Stephanie?" One girl said, "You and her were, like, totally fighting."
Kathy opened her eyes and said, "Uh... Yeeeaahh..."
"So, what happened?" The other girl said.
Kathy's shoulders dropped with the realization that the girls were not going to hurt her.
At least half of the art class was watching Kathy expectantly.
"I just, uh..." Kathy said, her eyes darting around nervously, "I just got mad at Stephanie."
But I wasn't mad at her. Kathy thought.
I was afraid.