Where it all Began…

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Where it all Began…

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My life has been living up to this moment. The moment Mama walked me up to the elementary school, waiting to hear who my fourth grade teacher is.

I have never been so excited! I’m finally in the fourth grade. Isn’t amazing that I will be turning ten this year? I’m already getting so big!

Mama and I walked into the school, her hand holding my shoulder rather than my hand due to the fact that I am now in the fourth grade!

“Papa and I are so proud of you James,” she says smiling down at me. “You’ve grown up so much from that tiny boy I gave birth to.” She pulled me into her arms, and kissed my head.

“Okay Mama,” I say, trying not to embarrass myself because I see some boys up ahead, playing together. They seem to be the big boys I try to avoid, especially Seth, who will bully me more now because he is a fifth grader now.

We walk together, closing in the growing mass of other fourth graders also learning their new teachers. Grown-ups in bright yellow jackets file us into separate lines, and I do my best to keep up with Mama. The line is really long, and I realize we might be waiting awhile.

To pass the time, I look way ahead of me to see anyone I recognize. About four people ahead of me, I see Zachary, one of my friends who I always play handball with. Even farther ahead, I see Randy, who can run really fast and always gets the handball for us. I hope we have the same class. At least Zachary because he is my friend in the whole wide world.

The line picks up speed because more lines open up, and that means people can break apart from this long line into smaller ones. When we make it up to the front of the line, a chubby Mexican guy smiles to me. “Hello, what is your child’s name?” he says to my mama.

“James. James Michael Lupei,” Mama told him.

“James Michael Lupei,” the man repeated, looking through the little slips of papers. “That is in the L section…” He gently pulls out a small slip of paper, and holds it out to me. “Here you go young man.”

I reach for it, and take it in my hands, looking at it. “Mr. McNicky?” I ask.

“Yes, your teacher is Mr. McNicky in room thirty-one,” the man assures me. “It’s right over there.” He points to a classroom behind him, with the door open, and a young man with a handsome face greeting students and parents. I’m old enough to go alone, I think to myself.

“Thank you so much sir,” Mama says to him, pulling me away.

I follow her away from the line, where she holds me by my shoulders. “James, you have gone so far in your life,” she starts. “You’ve grown so much, and I can’t stress enough how proud Papa and I are of you.” She kisses me, and I flinch a bit because I see some kids staring at me. “And I know you are too old for big kisses, but I still love you.” She smiles. “Can you walk alone?”

“Of course,” I say, proudly straightening up. This is the first year I will walk alone to my new class, just like a big boy! “So, do I go?”

“Yes,” she kisses me one last time, and I am sent off to room thirty-one.

I am so excited to be walking to my class, on the first day of fourth grade, all by myself. I swing my lunchbox back and forth, thinking about food which also gets me excited. Mama gave me leftover pizza for my first day of school. I can’t wait to eat it!

I walk the long distance to Mr. McNicky’s class, and he is still standing at the door, very handsome with his wide, shining smile. “Good morning sir,” he says to me.

I can’t help but feel all tingly in my tummy and fingers, being addressed by this handsome man who is also an adult. “Good morning,” I tip my blue cap to him. I couldn’t help but dress well for the occasion, with clean, black trousers with a dark blue shirt that went well with my dark blue cap.

“You are dressed very well,” Mr. McNicky comments.

“Oh, thank you,” I feel myself turn red, and my cheeks burn. I feel the slip of paper in my hand, and I remember I have to give it to him. “Oh, um, here.” I hand him the little slip of paper.

“Thank you,” he says as he reads it. “James?” he then asks.

“Yeah, James Michael Lupei,” I tell him.

“Hmmm,” Mr. McNicky says thoughtfully. “We have the same name. I am in fact, also named Jimmy.”

“Jimmy?” I repeat, confused. “My name is James, though.”

“Jimmy is short for James,” Mr. McNicky tells me.

“Um, cool,” I say, not really knowing what to say.

Mr. McNicky chuckles, and I look away. I hate it when grown-ups laugh at me, especially when I don’t know why. “Welcome to room thirty-one,” he then says, holding his hand out.

I shake his hand, trying to look at him, feeling super nervous because Mr. McNicky is so handsome and professional. He helps lead me to my seat, which has a little pencil box with my name on it.

I seat myself, putting my backpack under the desk, and walking to the hooks to hang up my lunchbox. Mr. McNicky then goes back up to the door to welcome more students. There is an assignment for me waiting on my desk. I get to work on it because it seems to be really easy. Mainly just three digit times three digit.

So I’m sitting there, doing my work, when I look up real quick to see if I know anyone. But something prompts me to stop looking around, and I focus on one kid across the room, and I stare at her.

She doesn’t look up at me, but I examine her carefully. She has long black hair, round cheeks, little freckles, green eyes, and the pinkest lips I have ever seen!

I giggle to myself, turning red. I bite my lip, and look back at my work. It’s best to just ignore her.

I finish my work, and a little later, Mr. McNicky addresses the class.

We review the worksheet and I see that the girl I was looking at earlier wasn’t paying very much attention. She still hasn’t noticed me staring, and I really like admiring her. I don’t see many pretty girls around, but I think this girl looks really pretty. It gives me this really excited feeling, but I have to pay attention to Mr. McNicky.

We did a lot of math this morning, but I was getting antsy because my tummy was growling and I wanted a snack.

When the bell rang for recess, I ran to my lunchbox, and looked for the pretty girl. I quickly grabbed my peanut butter bar, and looked for the girl who was nowhere to be seen.

To eat my snack, I sat in the cafeteria with Zachary, Randy and Ash. Randy and Ash had the same teacher, Mrs. Cotton, and Zachary had Mr. Nipp.

Besides that, we started talking about summer break. I happily ate my granola bar, forgetting about the pretty girl.

Randy finished eating before us, and ran really fast to get a bouncy ball. Ash followed him, and I was left with Zachary.

“So James,” he starts off, “how do you like your new class?”

“I like it very much,” I say. “Mr. McNicky is really nice, and he says I am dressed well. And he is also dressed well, and is very handsome.”

That makes Zachary laugh. “My teacher is a big, scruffy man. I wonder if he knows how to shave. My father can show him. Father knows how to shave very well, unlike Mr. Nipp who is homeless looking.”

I giggle, and look at my lap, staring at my nice trousers. “I am dressed nice,” I say, thinking aloud. “Boy, I am a very handsome young man. Papa is right!”

Zachary smiles. “Yes, very handsome. You are always dressed so well.” He nods approvingly at my cap. “But how can you play with those nice shoes, and fancy pants?”

“Oh,” I say, never thinking of this. “I guess I will just watch then.”

Zachary looks at his chocolate milk. “I’m nervous for the fourth grade.”

“Why?” I ask.

“Because Mr. Nipp is saying that he will prepare us for middle school,” Zachary starts, “and it seems like he will make fourth grade a really hard year.”

“Well, we are no longer in the third or second grade,” I tell him. “We’re now the big boys. So big in fact, that Mama let me walk alone to Mr. McNicky.”

“Whoa!” Zachary exclaims, very impressed.

“Oh yes. All by myself.” I nod to him, crossing my arms.

“Well, you are also really smart, and tall. Besides Paul, you’re the biggest boy in the fourth grade!”

“I guess,” I say thoughtfully, listing off a few exceptions in my head.

“You look so big and strong!” Zachary continues. “I’m so small.”

“You will grow much more,” I assure him. “You will be very big, just like your father.”

Zachary nods, and finishes his chocolate milk. “I’m going to the handball courts, wanna watch me play?”

To that, I say yes, and Zachary runs ahead as I walk slowly behind, drinking a box of apple juice and humming.


After recess, I find myself distracted by the pretty girl again! Mr. McNicky makes us do name tags, and I went to go up to sharpen my pencil a lot of times.

The pretty girl sat right next to the pencil sharpener, so I got a good look of her. Mainly her back.

I took note of her really long hair, and that she was kind of tubby. Which isn’t bad. I mean, I’m a bit on the chunky side. Maybe a bit more than a bit.

I decorate my name tag with my favorite color, blue. Blue is the best color with no exceptions or excuses. It is the most royal and professional color, and being so smart, I know this.

I color my name tag in every single type of blue that I can find. Dark blue, indigo blue, green blue, sky blue, baby blue… I had a total of sixteen blues all over my name tag. Filled with pride, I came up to Mr. McNicky, who was sitting at his desk, and said to him: “Mr. McNicky, I made the best name tag in all the class, and I guarantee that statement as a fact.”

Mr. McNicky turns to me in his chair, and smiles. “Let me see it, James.”

I hold it out to him, pleased that he still remembers me from this morning. He takes it from me, and looks at it. I stand there, very patiently, waiting for him to say: “Amazing James! You are the best!”

Though, when he finally does say something, he says: “It’s very nice James. I will hang it up.”

I jump up, and say: “It’s that good?” I am so pleased that mine is so good that it will be hung up.

“Well, I hang everyone’s up,” Mr. McNicky tells me. He holds it in both hands, and I follow him, seeing where he will hang it up. “Right here, right next to Mint’s.”

I stare up at mine, and then at Mint’s. I feel very angry that this Mint got her’s hung up beside mine, because mine is the best in the class because it has blue and that makes it the best with no exceptions or excuses. Though, I must admit, this Mint can also draw really nice.

“Mint’s really good,” I say aloud, standing beside Mr. McNicky.

“I know,” he tells me. “She is a shy girl, but I see that she really likes to draw. She drew all over her worksheet from this morning,”

I shrug. “I don’t like drawing. It’s not fun at all. It’s boring and I hate it.”

“Well, didn’t you like drawing your name tag?”

I look at Mr. McNicky. “Yeah.”

“Then you can’t hate drawing if you liked drawing your name tag.”

I feel my face turn red. “Okay, then I guess I don’t hate drawing.”

He smiles at me. “What else do you like James? Your father says you like to read.”

“Oh, you know Papa?” I ask. “And yes, I love to read many books. All about space.”

“Yes, I know your father very well. He’s a good man, James,” Mr. McNicky goes on. “He’s very smart.”

“I’m very smart as well,” I pipe up, crossing my arms, and lifting my chin.

“We’ll see about that,” Mr. McNicky smiles. “But I didn’t realize you were Eric Lupei’s son until a little later. You look just like him.”

“Is that a compliment?” I ask.

“Yes, a big compliment.” Mr. McNicky turns to go back to his desk. “Now sit down James, and read or something. Lunch will be soon.” He then turns back to me. “Are you hungry?”

“Um,” I rub my tummy, and think of cold pizza for lunch. “Yeah, kind of.”

“Then you just have to wait a little more, okay James?” He smiles to me. “I liked talking to you James.”

“Oh, I liked talking to you, too,” I say, trying to think of something other than cold pizza now. When Mr. McNicky reminded me of lunch, I remembered my cold pizza and I realized how hungry I was.

He turned one last time, and walked back to his desk, and I was left there thinking. Thinking more about the mysterious Mint rather than Mr. McNicky knowing my papa. This girl better be pretty cool if her art convinced me that I didn’t hate drawing.

I walk to my seat and contemplate this, every so often gazing at the pretty girl.


Papa picks me up from school! I’m so excited to tell him about Mr. McNicky.

I see him walking up to me, dressed very nice for the first day of school. I tip my cap to him, and he tips his own cap to me.

I smile to him, and grab my backpack, running full speed to him. “Papa!” I yell, wrapping both arms around him.

“James!” He hugs me tight, and I nuzzle my face into his big gut. Papa and I both love donuts, especially in the morning. “How are you?”

“Very, very good,” I say, backing away, and him also taking my shoulder. Just like Mama did this morning. “How was your first day of school?”

“Well, the kids are all very nice and smart, at least what I can see.” We walk side by side to his car. “I don’t have a sixth period, so I’ll get out in time to come see you.”

“Oh, that is very good!” I say, clapping my hands together. “My teacher, Mr. McNicky knows you.”

“Jimmy’s your teacher!” Papa bursts out laughing. “That’s wonderful! I know you’ll love him.”

“I think he already likes me,” I boast. “He said I was dressed well.”

Papa laughed. “He is not wrong.”

I like it when people tell me I’m dressed well. Because I always try to dress my best. Papa took me shopping to get new shirts and sweaters with long dress pants for the chilly September days.

I tell him about Mr. McNicky, and my name tag. I also tell Papa that blue is the best color with no expectations or excuses.

I love it when Papa laughs, and he takes me for ice cream because he thinks I did good in school today. And I get chocolate on top of chocolate, along with chocolate syrup and little chocolate chips.

I eat it in the car as Papa starts telling me about how big I am getting or something. Just like how Mama did this morning.

I must admit, I am getting bigger. Especially my belly. Food makes me so happy, and I love to eat it. The thought of me eating, or waffles, or whatever, makes me feel safe.

But I was very happily eating my ice cream in the back, and I did not get any on the seats. Because if I did, Papa would be very angry with me.

When we get home, I play with my new puppy, Cermet. I love him so much! He is a little Corgi with short, fat legs, and a big head with pointy ears.

I play with him in my room, rubbing him and kissing him. I love Cermet so much!

When dinner comes around, I begin thinking about the pretty girl again. I don’t know if I exactly like her, at least not yet. I’ve had a lot of crushes in the past, but they were mainly people I talked to. And besides, I don’t know pretty girl’s name and we haven’t even locked eyes yet.

So, I don’t tell my parents about her. For the time being, she’s my secret.


The next morning, I’m excited for school again! Mama, Papa and I all sit at the table and eat breakfast. I eat my Cocoa Puffs with milk and a spoon. A great way to start my day!

Mama and Papa each eat a bagel, and Papa goes off to work, while Mama takes me to school.

I didn’t dress as nice as yesterday. I want to play handball today, so I can’t dress as nice, or else Papa will be mad because the clothes would get dirty.

I hope today I will learn pretty girl’s name. I want to be her friend, and I need to know her name if I want to be her friend.

Mr. McNicky had his door open when I got to school, and I got to work on the worksheet on my desk.

It was easy, just like yesterday. I finished it very quickly, and instead of reading my book, I looked for the pretty girl.

I looked across the room, and I saw the pretty girl, doing something on her paper. Mr. McNicky is overlooking her, and talking to her, and she seems to be responding with one word answers.

I’m upset that she never looks up, at least not at me. But I do see her eyes are green. And green is a pretty color. Of course it’s not blue, but it’s not everyday you see someone with green eyes.

But Mr. McNicky was not happy with the pretty girl. At least what I can see on his face.

He begins talking more, and leans in closer over her shoulder. I continue watching, the tension growing.

I cannot hear what either one is saying. But pretty girl does not seem to care about Mr. McNicky. Which is confusing.

I thought the teacher had the most authority in the class. But, I guess eventually Mr. McNicky convinces pretty girl to do her work, because he finally looks up and begins looking over other kids’ shoulders.

I start writing in my journal, which I am supposed to do after finishing my worksheet. I was told this when Mr. McNicky caught me reading.

I don’t know what to write for my first journal entry. I don’t know if anyone will read it, and I really hope not. Because I want to write about pretty girl. And maybe my long history of crushes- in general.

I decide to write about my first crush: Jenna Martinez. She was so pretty, and tall, and I fell in love in the first grade.

We actually talked quite a bit, and she treated me very well. We talked in class, and at recess and lunch. I didn’t tell her I liked her at first, because I was scared of rejection.

But when Valentine’s Day rolled around, I made her a card. I thought it was okay if she didn’t like me. Because we were both only about seven years old.

So I made a nice card saying she was really sweet and pretty, and that I really liked talking to her.

I came up to her on Valentine’s Day, and at first, she smiled and actually hugged me! I remember my brain basically blew up!

I was so happy, until lunch when she and some other kids came over and started yelling: “You have a crush! You have a crush!”

It didn’t bother me the first few days, saying that Jenna was my girlfriend. Because like I had said, I did have a crush.

But it became really bad when Jenna’s older sister, who was nine at the time, joined in.

She would taunt me at recess and say things like: “You’re too fat for Jenna!” and “She’s too good for you, stupid!”

She and her friends would always hit me, and call me fat. They would throw food at me, and laugh at me.

I felt very upset. Writing this journal, I find myself crying. Little tears are rolling down my cheeks and hitting the paper.

I remember I would go home, and I would cry. I would look in the mirror and ask questions like: “Am I really that fat?”

I wanted to be good enough for Jenna. So I would eat less. I wouldn’t eat dessert like I used to and I wouldn’t get seconds or thirds. Mama quickly saw my new eating habits, and said to me: “Are you okay James?” She even felt my head for fever.

I lied, and said I was okay. Even though I was very hungry, and of course I wanted to eat more. I wanted to eat chocolate cake and ice cream after dinner, but I didn’t want to be bullied.

I find myself crying more, and the writing darker as I press my pencil into the paper.

I wouldn’t eat my lunch, because the kids made me feel so bad. They would come next to me, and pull at my hair and lift up my shirt, while Jenna’s sister yelled out: “Look at fatty over here!” And the other first graders were very confused.

I remember, one of the last days of the bullying, I didn’t eat anything. No breakfast. No lunch. No dinner. I didn’t even eat my Nutter Butters at recess.

I did that for three days, and it made Mama- and even Papa- cry. They asked me what was wrong, and at first I lied and said “Nothing.”

They got it out of me though, and I admitted that kids were hurting me and I didn’t want to eat.

I showed them bruises Jenna’s sister and her friends made from hitting me. They bruised my belly, arms and legs.

Papa was very angry, and scolded the principal, and Jenna’s sister was expelled, and I had to visit the school psychologist.

She told me I was fine the way I am. That I don’t need to lose weight and that I was healthy.

I felt much better after that, and though I was still bullied, I continued loving myself. I loved my belly. I loved my ice cream and brownies. I was a very happy little boy.

I wipe away my tears as I finish my journal. Mr. McNicky is now over my shoulder.

“What’d you write about, James?” Mr. McNicky asks.

“Oh, just an experience,” I smile to myself. “It made me realize how fortunate I am to look this good.”

Mr. McNicky laughs. “It’s nice to see that you appreciate what you have.”

“Yes, I’m very mature,” I tell him.

That makes him laugh even more.

“Well,” I go, “a lot of grown ups I meet say I’m an old soul.”

Mr. McNicky smiles. “You’re funny James.”

I want him to say I am mature but at least he thinks I’m funny. “Are you happy with how you look?”

“Sure,” he shrugs. “Can I read your journal?”

“Uh, I don’t know,” I say. “When I wrote this, I thought it was private.”

“I have to check your journal. Not like I will make fun of you. Only I will see it,” he promises me.

I shrug, covering a sigh. “You can read it.”

I hold it out to him, and he takes it. He reads it to himself, and I look up at him, patiently waiting for his approval.

Finally, he looks to me and nods. “I like that you were able to overcome those challenges.”

“Yeah,” I say, scratching my tummy. “I don’t think I’m fat. Just a bit tubby.”

Mr. McNicky laughs. “Okay James.” He sets my notebook down and walks off to the next student.

I turn back, and look back in the direction of the pretty girl. And it so happens that I lock eyes with her.

I feel my face get hot, but I smile and wink at her. She doesn’t smile back to me, so I just look down, embarrassed.

I pretend to read my book, super red. My belly turns in on itself and I only think of the pretty girl and her mesmerizing, green eyes.


At lunch, I play handball with my friends. We hit the ball back and forth against the wall, giggling. To be honest, I keep giggling because pretty girl and I were exchanging flirts in class. I kept staring and smiling at her.

She smiled back, but she was really staring at me. It scared me because she made a weird smile and wouldn’t stop!

Anyways, after lunch, we worked on grammer. Mr. McNikcy then explained how he wanted to do English in the morning rather than math. So, he said on Wednesday math and English will switch places.

This didn’t really effect anyone, so we went on with the lesson, and we talked about the different types of punctuation. It was a review, because he wanted to get us started on story writing, which was exciting. Before he dismissed class, he told us that we will warm with a journal, and the DLP (Daily Learning Plan). Everyday, we get a different DLP.

When Mr. McNicky dimissed us, I ended being one of the last kids to get out. I would be the last one out if someone wasn’t with me. And that someone happened to be pretty girl.

I looked at her and smiled, and she looked at me as we awkwardly shuffled to get out.

“Um, hi,” I finally say.

She blushes and looks down a little. “Hi…”

I smile shyly, and look away, but before I get the chance to give her one last smile, she was gone.


That evening, at dinner, I couldn’t get over my interaction with pretty girl. All I could think of is her saying: “Hi…”

I giggle to myself and take a big bite out of my chicken breast.

“Why are you smiling James?” Mama asks.

“Um,” I blush. “I don’t know…”

“Come on, tell us,” Mama goes on. “What’s happening?”

“Well, um,” I feel myself getting all red and I nervously play with my fingers. “Just this girl in class…”

“Who is it now?” Papa blurts out.

“I don’t know her name, but she’s really pretty and she has a chubby face!” I giggle at the thought of her face. “A really cute and chubby face.”

Mama is silent, while Papa is already laughing. “Oh James, you have a little crush!”

“What? I never said that!” I look down, face turning even redder.

“You like this girl James. You think she’s pretty and chubby, I think you have a crush,” Papa persists.

“I do not have a crush!” I holler.

Mama laughs. “You’re funny James.”

Papa nods his head to me. “What’s wrong with having a crush James?”


“Nothing is wrong with it,” Papa answers for me.

“Oh, o-okay,” I stammer. “But, today when I was grabbing things, I saw her.”

“What did you say?” Mama asks.

“Well, I looked at her, right in her eyes, and I said ‘Hi,'” I explain to Mama.

“And what did she say?”

“I am going to tell you,” I say, “she said ‘Hi’ back.”

“Is that all?” Papa asks. “You don’t know her name?”

“I already told you I didn’t know her name!” I exclaim.

“Okay, okay,” Papa says laughing. Mama laughs as well.

I cross my arms and frown. “That’s not nice.”

“You’re just the most adorable boy,” Mama says through laughter.

“Do you think the pretty girl will think that?” I ask, giggling.

“Yes, of course she will think that,” Mama tells me. “She will think you’re the cutest boy. Ever.”

Papa smiles to me, and I giggle a little more, clapping my hands, excited.

“Do you think you will be able to make her your friend? We can have her over,” Papa then says.

“Um, I hope so. I really want to be her friend, and hang out. She’s so pretty.”

Both my parents hold in a laugh, and I feel myself get all steamy. “I thought I could trust you!” I snap.

“It’s just cute James. It’s the second day of school and you already have a crush,” Papa tells me. “We’re not making fun. We just love you. So much.”

“Try to talk to her soon, and tell us what she says,” Mama quickly adds. “We wanna know all about it.”


All of Wednesday, there were no events to report. Which was incredibly disappointing.

But Thursday. Pretty girl errupted.

Let me explain:

When we were doing journal writing in the morning, pretty girl was crying and arguing with Mr. McNicky.

I have no idea why, but it made me feel bad. She was crying and Mr. McNicky sent her to the bathroom to wash up.

Then, Mr. McNicky went on a tangent while she was gone. He talked about the pretty girl, Mint (the pretty girl is the person who convinced me I didn’t hate art!), and how she is really struggling in class. “She can’t focus, or work, she is very upset about something,” Mr. McNicky tells us. “So please try to be patient, with both Mint and I.”

I feel a wave of excitement go through me! Maybe I can sit next to Mint? And like help her with stuff. Not only will pretty girl and I get to know each other, but I will definitely be Mr. McNicky’s favorite student.

I began contemplating how I will get to sit next to Mint, when Mr. McNicky sends a girl off to find Mint while we work.

While I was doing my journal, I always checked the door to see if pretty girl- Mint- comes in. Eventually, she does, and I decide to look away, my face turning red. I didn’t get too good of a look because I turned away, but I could see her face was pink from crying so much.

I tried to get my mind off Mint, even though it was hard to review the weekly spelling words when all I could think of is her crying, and how I could help her. All I could think of is sitting next to her, but that is impossible unless Mr. McNicky lets me. Which I don’t know if the chances are high or low.

At recess, I play handball with Zachary and a girl named Kianna. I was hitting the ball to the wall, and I just missed. I missed and I went flying forwrd, landing flat on my belly and chest. The wind is knocked out of me, and everything hurts.

“Whoa! Whoa!” Zachary exclaims.

I lay there, starting to cry. I clench my teeth, trying to stop, thinking No! I can’t cry! Stop! Stop! Be brave! You’re already bullied enough!

Zachary holds my arm. “James, sit up. Sit up, James!”

I do sit up, and I look up at him, tears filling in my eyes. “Come sit with me James,” Zachary helps me up while Kianna watches me.

We sit together on a bench and I just start sobbing.

“Why are you crying James?” Zachary asks me when we sit down.

“I just fell, and hurt myself,” I say through sobs. I put my knee up on the bench, and pull up my shorts a little to examine my wound. I have a big cut and it’s bleeding really bad. I look at it, and touch it. “It stings!” I announce loudly.

“We can go to the nurse,” Zachary suggests.

“No! I need to go to class!” I tell him while the bell was going off.

“Fine, you better be okay then,” Zachary scowls.

I get up, almost falling because it hurts. I whimper as I set my weight on it.

“I can help you,” Zachary goes on.

“I’m fine,” I snap at him.

“Okay, okay. Geez.” He turns away and heads off to his own class.

I limp all the way to Mr. McNicky’s class, the blood dripping down my leg and rubbing against my shorts.

I stand in the line he makes us wait in before going in, trying to hide my wound. I think I’ll just get a band-aid when we get inside.

I go to Mr. McNicky before I sit in my seat. “Um, Mr. McNicky, I fell at recess, and I hurt myself.”

Mr. McNicky looks at me. “Let me fix you up, or should I send you to the nurse?”

“No, I’ll stay here,” I tell him. “I just need some band-aids.”

“Here James, come with me,” Mr. McNicky notions me to follow.

I limp after him, and he has a little chair with a stool. He sits me down, and I lay my leg out for him.

“How did you hurt yourself, exactly?” Mr. McNicky asks as he wets a towel and presses it to my injury.

“Well, I was trying to hit it and I fell right on my tummy,” I explain to him.

“On your tummy?” He looks up. “How?”

“I was going to hit the ball towards the wall, and I missed, and I swung forward, landing flat on my tummy.” I lay back. “It hurt really bad.”

“You hurt both your knees; you poor thing.” He goes onto my next wound, and gently pats with the towel, and dabs some Neosporin.

I wince as the Neosporin stings. “Owwie!” I cry out.

“It’s okay James. This will help you.” He gets out some bandages. But they aren’t normal band-aids. They’re bandages!

I giggle as he wraps them around my wound.

“You have a little cut on your chin James,” Mr. McNicky comments. “I will clean that up too.”

“Oh, okay,” I agree as he gently lifts my head and cleans under my chin.

“Here James, almost done.” I clench my teeth as he gently rubs some Neosporin on my chin.

“Thank you Mr. McNicky,” I tell him. “It was really hurting.” I didn’t tell him I cried, because I’m too big to cry. I shouldn’t have cried, but my knees really hurt. And I think I scraped my tummy as well.

I sit in my seat, and do the work that was assigned. A worksheet about pilgrims and stuff, and that was really boring. It was not a fun worksheet.

I’m excited when reading time rolls around, though. My book is one-hundred times more interesting than the worksheet.

I begin reading my story, and I’m so into it that I do not notice Mr. McNicky talking to Mint.

Soon, whispers begin spreading, and my attention quickly shifts over to Mint and Mr. McNicky. He seems to be frustrated with her again.

I can’t hear any of their conversation, probably because Mint sits all the way across the room from me, but I can hear that both Mint and Mr. McNicky are raising their voices.

The room goes silent, and Mint distinctly says: “Fine! I will read my book!” and she pulls her book towards herself, and begins reading.

Mr. McNicky nods approvingly, seeing that he has won.

I continue looking at Mint, my curiousity growing. Mr. McNicky is looking at other students and making small talk.

I begin contemplating how I can help Mint, AGAIN. It is true that I have a big crush, but I really can’t help it. I have gone too far. And besides, Mint is really pretty and chubby. So she is perfect.

I finally decide that I need to sit next to her. That is the only way I’ll get to know her.

I don’t know where she sits at lunch, and the only I will probably find out is if I follow her, and that wouldn’t be off to a good start.

I don’t know how I can convince Mr. McNicky to let me sit next to her.

I brainstorm some ideas on a flashcard during reading time. I hide it under my book everytime Mr. McNicky is near me.

I think of some and write them down on the flashcard.

  1. Say that the kid sitting next to me is annoying.
  2. I can’t see the board and I think the seat next to Mint is much easier to see it.
  3. I can help Mint.

I am very hopeful on choice number three. I think it is my gateway to Mint.

I’m going over my choices again, when I then hear Mr. McNicky saying: “Mint, come with me.”

I shoot my head up, and I see Mint following Mr. McNicky up to his desk, her head hanging. I rest my head on my hand, and watch their conversation. I don’t hear much, because Mr. McNicky is talking softly, but Mint seems to be yelling.

They seem to be arguing. Mr. McNicky does not raise his voice, but is countering Mint’s angry howls. Mint is very angry. She seems to be frustrated. She’s yelling, and her face is red. Little tears roll down her cheeks under her chin.

The bell then rings, and Mr. McNicky quickly dismisses all of us. “All of you, go on out. I have some stuff to handle.”

I grab my lunch from one of the hooks, and I go outside, quickly looking behind me to see Mr. McNicky talking to Mint.


I sit by the handball courts, looking at my bloody bandages, every so often looking underneath at my bloody cuts.

Zachary, Ash and Randy are all playing, and I think of Mint and Mr. McNicky. I am mainly curious about what is wrong with Mint. What is she not doing her work? Why is she arguing with Mr. McNicky?

I finally decide that I should put forth plan number three when I see Mr. McNicky walking back to class, the principal, Mrs. Limo, by his side.

I stand up, my legs shaking, and I begin my long journey of limping to Mr. McNicky’s class. He has the door open, so I walk as fast as possible, wincing with every step.

When I arrive at the door of room thirty-one, Mr. McNicky is talking with Mrs. Limo. I do not enter yet, because according to Papa, I shouldn’t interrupt two adults talking. So, I wait outside, eavesdropping.

I can hear them very well. When I first arrive, Mrs. Limo was saying: “Well, if she can’t keep up, I can put her in Mrs. Yeo’s class. She probably has a lot more experience than you.”

I hear Mr. McNicky sigh. “Uh, she tells me she would like to stay. But I don’t think it will be worth keeping her if she refuses to work.”

“Maybe she needs a little bit of care. She has been through a lot. Some of her problems lay deeper than the surface,” Mrs. Limo then says. “Mrs. Yeo will easily fix that.”

“Mr. Gutenberg can help as well,” Mr. McNicky then brings up. “Mint can have sessions with him instead of being transferred to  Mrs. Yeo’s. Besides, I don’t think she should be brought down. She has a lot of potential. It will benefit her to work with typical students.”

I lean in, listening closer.

“Fine,” Mrs. Limo finally agrees. “I do not want another visit from her though. I had enough with her hiding in the trash can.”

“Don’t worry!” Mr. McNicky’s voice shakes as he calls after her. I straighten as I hear Mrs. Limo approach the door.

“Oh, hello,” she turns to see me standing there.

“Hello,” I put both hands behind my back and look right at her. “Um, is Mr. McNicky open to talk to me?”

“Yes. Don’t tell me you’ve been waiting here,” Mrs. Limo says anxiously.

“Well, yes and no.” I look at her defiantly, lifting my shoulders up because they seemed to be sagging a bit.

Mr. McNicky pokes his head out. “Oh, James, what are you doing here?” He steps outside and stares at me defensively.

“What did you hear?” Mrs. Limo asks me, ignoring Mr. McNicky.

“Well, I heard all about Mint, and that is why I was coming here. Because of Mint,” I lift my heels for a second then drop back down.

Mr. McNicky twists his face in confusion, but Mrs. Limo smiles at me. “Why did you come for Mint?”

I blush. “I was thinking about her, and how Mr. McNicky is having a really hard time. So I thought I would think of some ways to help her.” When I say this, Mr. McNicky’s stare intensifies. I continue: “I thought of something I could do to help her.”

“And what is that?” Mr. McNicky quickly asks.

“I just, I just wanted to know if you will let me sit next to her,” I immediately go. “I can help her with work, and explain things, I will make sure she focuses and does all her work.”

Mr. McNicky thoughtfully considers this. “You know what,” he says, “that idea’s not half bad.”

“Yes. If you can help her, then I am sure Mr. McNicky will let you sit next to her,” Mrs. Limo assures me. “Am I correct Mr. McNicky?”

“Of course. That’s so clever James!” He smiles to me and I beam. I don’t know if it’s more about Mr. McNicky giving me approval, or me getting the chance to sit next to Mint.

I’m brought back to reality by Mr. McNicky talking to me again. “That is so kind of you James, helping Mrs. Limo and I out.” He smiles.

Mrs. Limo smiles too. “I think you deserve a prize,” she says.

prize?” I repeat. “What kind?”

“You get to choose,” she says.

I gasp. “Any prize want?”

“Yes James,” Mr. McNicky says, a bit impatient. “Then, when you get your prize, we can change your seat.”

I follow Mrs. Limo, wobbling on my knees, which still hurt very much.

“What happened to your knees?” Mrs. Limo asks as we enter the hallway.

“I fell in handball at recess,” I explain to her. “So, about my prize.”

“We have a lot of options,” Mrs. Limo says. “We have stuffies and erasers and LEGOs.”

“LEGOs?” I repeat. “What kind of LEGOs?”

“Friends, the ones with the girls,” Mrs. Limo says.

“No, I’m good,” I immediately say. I don’t want any girl LEGOs. I was already bullied for playing Cooking Mama on the DS in kindergarten. “Anyways, how much time till lunch ends?”

“Like five minutes. Lets get your prize though.” Mrs. Limo leads me to the Prize Room. I have only visited this room once before. When I was in the first grade, and I was going with Zachary so he can pick up his own prize. But now I get my prize. My very own prize.

I look through the shelves, seeing which toys I like. I see some stuffed animals, which were really cute. But I already sleep with Cermet, who is better than any stuffed animals. I can rest my head on his soft fur, and he is so cute because he has little dreams while I sleep.

There are pencils, erasers, crayons. Really lame stuff. I remember Zachary got a key chain. I don’t know what I want. But Mrs. Limo’s pestering and the bell ringing prompts me to get a pencil and a pack of funny erasers.

I limp back to class, waving to Mrs. Limo. I get back to room thirty-one just in time, right when Mr. McNicky is letting everyone in.

I quickly get into line, and I follow the kids inside. Mr. McNicky smiles to me when I walk in, and I sit in my seat.

It takes time for Mr. McNicky to come to me to switch my seat. We don’t start our worksheet, and Mr. McNicky comes over to me.

“Come on James. Get your stuff together. I’m going to move your seat,” Mr. McNicky helps to take my stuff. I grab my pencil pouch while he takes my notebook and binder.

“Thank you so much James for offering to do this,” Mr. McNicky says to me as we near Mint’s desk.

“It’s all good,” I tell him.

Mr. McNicky comes over to Mint. “Mint, I found a student who can help you!”

Mint looks up at me and Mr. McNicky. She has a confused look on her face, her green eyes staring me down. Mr. McNicky continues. “This is James. James, this is Mint.”

Mr. McNicky makes Richard move and he settles me into the seat beside Mint. She keeps staring at me, so I decide to say: “Hi Mint.”

Her face turns a bit pink, and she quickly turns away. But she manages to mumble “Hi James.”

Mr. McNicky goes on once more. “Mint, James is going to help you with your work and help you focus. He volunteered all on his own.” Mr. McNicky then turns to me. “James, you have to help Mint. She has a hard time focusing.”

I nod to him, and turn to Mint with a smile. I’m trying my best not to act or look nervous, but I can’t help but touch my fingers together when I’m this nervous. I don’t why Mint is making me nervous. Maybe because I wasn’t expecting to actually go though with my plan.

The tension eases when Mr. McNicky gives out another English worksheet. I see that Mint quickly gets to work on it.

I don’t understand why, because supposedly she has a hard time focusing. Maybe this time is just an exception.

I’m working on my worksheet, and I glance at Mint to see if she is doing okay. Which she really isn’t. She is staring right at question three with a blank stare, confused.

“Mint, what do you need help with?” I ask her, overlooking her paper.

“Oh, um, just this one question.” She nervously slides the paper slightly away. “Proof..proo…fread.” She looks up at me.

“Well, it’s proofread, and I can totally help.” I move even closer to her, and regret it when her soft vanilla smell overwhelms me. Two bad things may occur because of this smell: 1.) My tummy might growl and I will look like an idiot or 2.) I will start taking incredibly deep breaths because I love the smell.

I realize she’s giving me a weird look, so I nervously back away. “May I just take a look at your paper?” I hastily say. When I get no response, other than a weird stare, I sigh and look at my own. “Well, Mint, let me read the sentence. It says: ‘Jenny went to the store to buy puppy chow for her new Labrador.’ Do you see anything wrong with that sentence?”

I look at it once more, and I see how weird of a sentence it is. It’s written on the paper like this: “jenny went to the store, to buy puppy chow for new labrador”.

She does not answer. She seems to be staring right at her paper. I nervously touch my fingers and take a deep breath, inhaling more of her vanilla scent.

“Um,” she finally says. That’s all. I stay quiet though, hoping she will say something.

I decide to just say: “Well, shouldn’t we start where we see that the name Jenny is not capitalized? The name Jenny is a proper noun,” I explain to her. I scoot up right against her, drawing three little lines under the ‘J’ in Jenny. I land back, taking another breath of fresh air- free of any vanilla scent. My crush is already getting bigger because she smells so nice. Better have a personality as pretty as her, I think to myself. I don’t like how she is so quiet.

“What else?” Mint then asks, looking up at me. “What else is wrong, James?”

“Oh, um,” I quickly look at my paper. “Get rid of that comma after the word ‘store.'” I lean over and cross out the little comma. “Also, add a period at the end of the sentence. Put a circle around it as well.” I do all that, and sit back in my chair smiling at her. She’s so much prettier up close. She has the most adorable freckles, and pretty green eyes.

She looks over the paper, examining it closely. “Thank you so much, James,” she finally says. She looks up at me, and smiles. “Really, just thank you.”

“So, um, for number three.”

I help her with the entire worksheet. She’s so quiet and barely answers any of my questions! But she kept thanking me, a lot. I worry that this relationship will go nowhere. Because someone tells me ‘thank you’, it doesn’t mean anything. It just means thank you.

The bell is about to ring, and I decide I should take the last minutes of today to talk to Mint about our homework. It’s about plate tectonics, and mountains, so I go into an in-depth explanation about how mountains are formed. I don’t know if I did really good, because she doesn’t look impressed. I hope I didn’t mix up any facts. It’s hard to remember articles I read off the internet.

The bell rings, and I follow Mint when we get our lunchboxes. “I just wanted to say goodbye,” I quickly tell her.

“Um, okay, bye,” she waves to me.

I nervously look at her, and decide to look away, letting her go ahead of me.


At supper, I tell Mama and Papa all about school.

“Okay, first off, in recess, I fell in handball and hurt my knees.” I would lift up my knees to show them, but they already replaced my bandages and I can’t show my knees at the dinner table. “But, I did meet pretty girl today, Mint.”

Papa nods. “You told me.”

“But I didn’t tell Mama!” I protest.

“Yeah, I want to hear all about Mint,” Mama says. “So what about Mint?”

I explained everything to them. About how I heard Mr. McNicky and Mrs. Limo talking. About the prize room. About how I changed my seat and now I sit next to Mint.

“So, how is she?” Mama asks as I finish my story.

“Well,” I say, my voice muffled from a mouthful of mashed potatoes.

“Finish chewing,” Papa says, obviously annoyed. “Then speak.”

I swallow my food and go on. “She is really shy, but she’s really pretty. And she has a cute chin and cute cheeks. She’s chubby, and she has long black hair with beautiful green eyes. But besides that, she barely talks and I worry about our relationship.”

Papa looks up at me. “Relationship?”

“I mean, yeah. Aren’t we destined to get married?” I say. “Isn’t it obvious?”

Mama laughs. “James, there is no way that this chubby girl you barely know is your future soulmate.”

“How do you know that?” I retort. “You met Papa in the eighth grade, and look where you are now!”

Papa keeps staring though, mouthing the words “relationship.” He then says: “Your mother is right, James. It is very unlikely that this girl you just met is going to be your wife. You only like her because she’s pretty.”

“That is not true!” I cry out, unable to comprehend that I am that shallow.

“What else do you like about her?” Papa asks me.

I clench my teeth, and put another spoonful of mashed potatoes because to be honest there is no other reason. The room is silent until I speak. “There is no other reason,” I admit.

“Don’t feel bad James,” Mama tells me. “There is no reason to feel upset.”

“I don’t feel upset,” I say. “I just didn’t know I was that shallow. I went through all that because Mint was pretty.”

Mama and Papa both burst out laughing. I put another spoonful of mashed potatoes along with some beef just to last a little longer before they both pester me.

Papa smiles at me, and just goes on to say: “James, you are nine years old. Your tastes in women are still developing. You don’t know what you like. Most people at your age follow someone because they like how they look. Who knows. Maybe you will marry Mint. But, if you don’t, she will shape your tastes and when you like the next person- whoever they are- they will be a bit more specific. Like maybe they will have green eyes, just like Mint, but they won’t be as shy. it’s pick and choose, until you kind of have a format.”

We’re all quiet for a second. I silently pick at my peas. “Papa,” I then say, “when did you first think you will marry Mama?”

Papa smiles, but he does not laugh. “Well, I didn’t really get to know her until tenth grade. And I took her out for the first time when we graduated high school. We were together for about nine years since then, until I married her…” He looks at me. “I thought she would be the one ever since I took her out when we graduated together.”

“Then, why is it weird that I think Mint will be the one?” I ask.

“Because you are so much younger than I was. I was eighteen James! I knew then. But at nine, I had no clue.” He sighs. “James, you’re too young to have these thoughts and concerns. You shouldn’t be worrying about this.”

I shrug, and just eat a piece of beef. “You’re right,” I mumble, my voice even more muffled because of the food.

“Anyways, James,” Papa then says. “I was thinking about Christmas last night. And I was wondering what you wanted this Christmas.”

“Papa, it’s only September!” I exclaim.

“But James, it’s special this year. This is the first year you don’t believe in Santa,” Papa says.

I turn red and look at my lap. “Okay. So?”

“It’s just we love you, and we want to give you toys you really like. So you have to make a list so we can go shopping before stuff gets crazy,” Mama explains.

I then nod. “I’m listening.”

“In conclusion, what do you want for Christmas, James?” Papa asks.

“I know exactly what I want….” I pause. “A guitar!”


The next day, I come to school, really excited. I woke up really early Friday morning, all excited about the guitar Papa will be getting me. He told me he will take me to look at some in the next month or so.

Anyways, I get to school early to get there before Mint. I put in some research last night after supper. Some research in how to talk with a girl. I wrote some little phrases and possible interactions.

I hid them from my parents, because I knew they would tease me. I was really upset about being so shallow. So I needed to get to know her. Maybe she is really sweet, and my crush will grow even bigger. It’s already pretty bad. I was thinking about her last night. Then I fell asleep because I was thinking about chocolate lava fudge cake.

I looked over my flashcards with all the phrases. Mr. McNicky doesn’t assign work until school officially starts.

I wait some time until Mint sits next to me. “Hey Mint,” I greet her. “How are you?”

“Um, I’m doing good.” She sets her things down. She then takes out a paper and starts doodling.

I thoughtfully scratch my tummy. “So, Mint. You know you can’t draw in class.”

“Why not?” she asks. “Class didn’t start yet.”

“Yeah, but I want to talk to you,” I tell her. I’m disappointed she didn’t ask me how was. But I’m not giving up hope. “How’d you sleep?”

“I slept good,” she says, obviously anxious. “I had a bad dream though.”

“What bad dream?” I ask her.

“I just had a dream about my mama,” she looks away. “I’d rather not talk about it.”

“That’s okay,” I say. “But what would you want to talk about?”

“I don’t know what I want to talk about,” she tells me. “Can we just do our work?”

“What are you doing this weekend?” I go, ignoring her question.

Mint looks confused. “Um, I’m staying home. I’m going to draw and stuff.”

“Cool. My Papa is going to help me choose a guitar for Christmas. What are you getting for Christmas?”

“Uh, I don’t know. I don’t like Christmas very much,” she says.

“What?” I exclaim. “How can you not like Christmas?”

“Just bad memories.” She rubs her hands nervously. “Very bad.”

“I’m sorry Mint,” I say. “But what can be bad about Christmas? You have a full belly, you lay by the fireplace, you get brand new toys. It’s just th-”

“Christmas is not the same for everyone,” Mint interrupts. “Maybe for you it’s fun, with a full belly, fireplace and brand new toys. But for me, it is not fun.”

“Well, what do you like?” I ask getting worried.

She just ignores me, doodling on her paper. Annoyed with her ignoring me, I just read my book until Mr. McNicky gives us a worksheet, when Mint starts asking for help like nothing happened.


At lunch, I tell my friends about Mint. “She’s so rude!” I explain to them. “I ask her about her weekend and Christmas, and she just says the things I enjoy, she might not enjoy.”

“Maybe she thinks you talk to much,” Zachary says.

“Yeah, you don’t shut up,” Ash tells me.

“I don’t talk at all!” I snap at them. “I’m very reserved.

Ash laughs at me, while Zachary attempts to calm me down before I punch him.

“James, just take it easy. What do you think you should do?” Zachary asks.

“I don’t know! I just wanna talk to this girl,” I moan. I bite into my sandwhich with Nutella and butter. “And you guys are of no help!”

Ash sneers at me. “I thought you were a ladies’ man, James,” he taunts.

“I never said that!” I exclaim. “I just think I look handsome.”

“That is definitely not true,” Randy immediately says. “Think before you speak, my God.”

I glare at him. “Whatever,” I say, “but what should I tell Mint? She’s really pretty and I want her to be my friend.”

“We don’t all get what we want,” Zachary comments. “Therefore, maybe Mint is not for you.”

Ash breaks out laughing, somehow even harder. “Exactly.”

I shove an entire cookie in my mouth. Without swallowing, I say: “Not like any of you were good for advice.” I spit everywhere, causing Randy to get up from his seat.

“Come on Ash, lets go get a ball.” He walks off, Ash following him.

Zachary turns to me when they’ve disappeared. “So?”

“So what?” I ask.

“So what are you going to talk about with Mint?”

“Oh! I know!” I say. “I will say how mean my friends are.”

“I don’t like that one.”

“I think it’s great.”

He stares at me. “You’re going to gossip?”

“No! What? No way!” I cry out.

“Then you can’t talk about that,” Zachary tells me.

“Fine. Then what to I talk about?” I ask. “I am actually in desperate need of advice.”

“Ask about her lunch,” Zachary suggests. “Like, what game she likes to play, or what she likes to eat.”

“Yeah, that’s good,” I say. “But after that?”

“It will go from there. Don’t worry. You’ll probably go on about how good at handball you are,” Zachary assures me.

“Well, I am good at handball,” I tell him. “In fact, I’m probably the best player in the whole school.”

Zachary laughs. “Is that a joke?”

“No,” I say in complete seriousness. “I will say it again. I am the best player in the school when it comes to handball.”

“First off, Randy is better than you. And what about Jacob Penille? He can beat anyone!”

“Well then, I guess I’m third best.”

Zachary puts his head to his hand. “I told you not to worry!”

“Worry about what?” I say stupidly.

“About Mint!” he hollers. “Look, you were so busy about your handball playing skills that you forgot all about her! Just tell her about handball. If she doesn’t talk; it won’t be a problem. You don’t know how to shut up.”


After school, I wait in front for Papa to pick me up. I sit all alone picking at a scab on my elbow from last week.

I look up from my scab picking, and I see Mint walking by with a tall and skinny blonde girl. I can’t contain myself. “Hi Mint!” I call out.

She turns and so does the blonde girl beside her. “Who’s that?” the blonde girl asks.

“Someone,” Mint says, and does a small wave. “Hi James.”

“Why didn’t you tell me James, then?” the blonde girl snaps at Mint, pulling her away.

I look after Mint, who is also looking back at me with big, green eyes. I smile and wave. I can’t tell if she smiles back.

We had a good conversation after lunch.

It went something like this:

Me: Hey Mint! How was your lunch?

Mint: It was okay.

Me: Cool. I played handball all lunch. I’m really good at handball. I won a couple times, you won’t believe it!

Mint: Oh cool.

Me: What did you do?

Mint: I just sat alone.

Me: You don’t know anyone to play with?

Mint: No.

Me: You can be with me and my friends. I mean my friends and I.

Mint: I don’t kno-

Me: We sit in the corner. All the way in the back, to your left.

Mint: No, it’s okay.

Me: You can’t miss it.

Mint: No, it’s fine James. Maybe a different time.

Me: Are you sure? It will be really fun. I can tell you about my favorite planet.

Mint: Favorite planet?

Me: Planets are so cool. Aren’t you fascinated by our solar system? Everyone has a favorite planet! Mine is Neptune, by the way.

Mint: What other planets are there?

Me: There are a lot of other planets! There is Mercury, Venus and Mars. We have Saturn and Jupiter, and-

Mr. McNicky cut me off because we had a spelling test he was passing out. He told me that if I wasn’t quiet, I wouldn’t be able to sit next to Mint. I’m pretty sure I’m still his favorite student, though.

Today, Mama comes to get me. Papa had to go to a conference during his sixth period.

“How are you, James?” Mama asks me as she takes my backpack.

“It went well,” I say. “I talked to Mint after lunch, but she was super rude this morning.”

“Super rude?” Mama asks. “How?”

“I asked about her weekend and Christmas, and she said she didn’t like Christmas! I don’t know how or why, and then she wouldn’t explain.”

“That’s weird. Maybe something happened. Maybe Santa didn’t get her the toys she wanted,” Mama suggested.

“Santa is not real! ” I yell out.

“Geez James. I was just making a joke,” Mama says.

“I don’t want to joke about my future wife,” I say angrily. “I need to get her to like me back.”

“Calm down James. Did you forget about last night?”

“No. I actually thought a lot about it. And just like Papa, I’m pretty sure I know what I like. And I think Mint is the one.”

Mama laughs. “James. You are way too young to have these thoughts. You don’t need to worry about this.”

“Mama, you are never too young or too old to fall in love,” I say. “And I am in love.”

Mama shakes her head. “James! Nine years old! You are nine years old!”

“Yeah? So what? Love is love,” I say.

She looks very angry now. “You have to stop this nonsense, James. This is crazy.”

“Crazy? I just have a crush!” I exclaim. “You’re crazy to think I’m crazy!”

Mama has a big frown. “James, it’s the weekend. You can relax. You can play. And you don’t have to think about Mint. I’m going to tell that Mr. McNicky to change your seat again if you don’t-”

“I won’t talk about her at all!” I cry. “I’ll stop! I’ll stop!”

“Okay, good,” Mama said. “So what else happened besides Mint?”

“I did amazing in handball, as usual. And I got a one-hundred percent on my spelling test,” I tell her.

I tell her all about my day in great detail until we get home. Even though Mama wants me to forget about Mint, that is actually impossible for me to do. I can’t get over her adorable face and her vanilla smell. I can’t help myself!

I giggle and record out conversations from today. I makr a bullet point list from today. Each conversation is rated on a one to five scale. I put today’s date, and begin writing.

  • I greet Mint and she does not want to talk. She ignores me when I want to talk about my new guitar and Christmas. Overall rating: One 🙁
  • We work on a worksheet together. She barely speaks but does not ignore me. Overall rating: Two :/
  • After recess, we do more worksheets and reading time. I won’t stop talking but Mint ignores me. Overall rating: Two :/ (She didn’t ignore me when I told her the answers).
  • After lunch, I talked to Mint about space and lunch. This conversation ended abruptly because of Mr. McNicky, but if it weren’t for him, I think it would have went somewhere. Overall rating: Four 🙂

I decide to take note about all the things that continued our conversation. Definitely me talking keeps it going. But when I ask questions, it goes nowhere. How am I supposed to learn anything about her if she doesn’t answer my questions?

I sit at my desk, pondering this. My door opens, and I look up to see Papa. I quickly hide all of my notes.

“Oh, um, hey Papa,” I say as casual as possible.

“Hey James,” he looks around my room. “What are you up to?”

“Nothing,” I say. “What are you up to?”

“I was just wondering if you wanted to order thai food,” Papa tells me.

“Oh yes!” I exclaim. “I would love some thai!”

“Alright, then Mama and I will call the thai place,” he says. He turns and closes the door again.

I look on after him, until I decide to review my notes again. I think it’s best to do some more research on the internet. I turn on my tablet and go to Google.

I type in: “How to talk to a shy girl”. I have to hide it or else Papa will probably get very angry. He thinks I’m “obsessive”.

I get the results, and I click on the first link I see. “How to Befriend the Shy Girl You Like!”

I read the article. This is what it says:

“Approaching women is really difficult. It can end with you getting her number, asking her out, or getting rejected all together. But it can be even harder when the girl you like is shy. There are some ways to win her over and keep the conversation going. But you can easily screw up. Here are some simple tips.

  1. Go solo: Approach her on your own. This makes her less nervous, and makes it easier for you to get to know her. If you and all your friends swarm her, you make freak her out and she will push you away. So go alone.
  2. Be patient: If she is quiet, it’s because she is shy. Try to be quiet as well. Don’t pester her with questions and go on about yourself. Be patient.
  3. Ask her questions about herself: Don’t get too personal though. Ask her things like ‘How are you?’ and ‘What are you up to?’ Don’t go on about yourself. Ask her questions that will need explanation, rather than ‘yes’ or ‘no’ responses.
  4. Take your time with her: Along with being patient, make sure to consistently talk with her. Make her feel comfortable with you. This will help you because she will open up and enjoy talking to you.
  5. Don’t get touchy: This is one that is pretty simple. Don’t start flirting with her until you’ve really gotten to know her. You don’t want to be poking her and holding her hand when you two first meet. Maybe start holding her when she does, or when you know she is okay with it.

Those are some really easy tips to follow when you want to get to know a shy girl.”

I look over the article several times, checking things off that I messed up on, or I have already tried. The only things I did already were “Go solo” and “Don’t get touchy”. My patience was really low, and then I got all aggressive when she wasn’t really talking. At least that is something I can practice this weekend.

I’m looking over the article for the fifth time, when my bedroom door open8s again. I quickly turn off the tablet, and cover my notes. “Hi Papa!”

“James, what are you doing?” he asks. “The thai food is here.”

“Oh,” I say, my belly growling.

“Are you hungry?” Papa asks coming closer to me.

“Um, yeah, I’m super hungry,” I say, rubbing my belly. “I’ll be down in a minute though. I’m busy with something.”

“Busy with what?” Papa asks.

“Just something,” I tell him, hastily. “I’ll just come down, I’m really hungry anyways.”

I follow Papa downstairs where Mama is setting up all the plates. “There’s our big boy!” she exclaims.

I blush. “I’m here.”

“Are you hungry?” Mama asks as Papa goes to the cabinet to get some napkins.

My belly answers for me as I turn all red, and hug myself, gripping my sides.

“What is wrong?” she asks me as she puts her hands on my shoulders.

“Oh, nothing. It’s just embarrassing when my belly growls,” I explain to her.

“Yeah, you wouldn’t like it if it happened in front of Mint,” Papa teases.

Mama laughs. “That would be embarrassing. But you’re with us now. So your belly is okay to make whatever noises.” She takes my hand. “Lets eat now.”

I sit at the dinner table and pick at my beef chow-main.

“How was work Ruby?” Papa asks.

“It was good,” she goes. “Did I tell you how excited James is about this Mint girl?”

“No, you didn’t in fact,” Papa says. “But I did see him on the tablet, researching something.”

Mama laughs. “What were you researching, James?”

“Um,” I stammer, terrified at the fact that Papa could tell I was going on the internet.

“Well, you were doing something,” Papa goes on. “You were writing notes, and reading that article.”

“I was just looking at cool seeds in Minecraft. I wanted to find one with a village that spawned in the river,” I fib, the story quickly coming to me.

“How did I ever raise a boy who lied to his own father?” Papa says sternly, but not necessarily angry. “I could see on my computer that you were researching on how to talk to a girl or something.”

“What? How?” I cry, suddenly realizing that Mama and Papa have a program on the computer that can see what I was doing on the tablet.

“That’s so cute James!” Mama laughs. “You’re such a little sweetheart!”

I blush. “Is that good?”

“It’s adorable!” Mama smiles to me. Papa is holding in a laugh. “Did you learn anything?”

“I learned a ton!” I exclaim. “I took a lot of notes. I hope I can get Mint to talk with me on Monday.”

“Oh, I hope so,” Mama goes on. “I don’t want any ladies breaking my little boy’s heart.”


For the whole weekend, I was taking many notes. I had about three and a half pages worth of notes by Sunday night. So I took them with me to school the next day.

I was reading over them Monday morning when Mint walks in. She puts her lunchbox on the hook, and I expectantly look at her. She avoids my gaze and seats herself next to me.

“Good morning Mint,” I immediately say.

She doesn’t answer, at all. She keeps reading the book she brought. Did I do something wrong?

“Um, how are you Mint?” I then ask.

“I’m okay,” she turns to me, and smiles. “I had a fun weekend. I went to my sister’s karate place to watch.”

“Oh, that’s cool,” I say. “Did you do anything else?”

“I played on the mats. But then Mama Thunder got angry and took me home. She made me sit in the room, but that’s okay because I just watched TV.”

“My mama doesn’t let me watch TV when I’m in trouble.”

“My mama doesn’t let me either, but I still did.” She smiles mischievously. “She didn’t catch me though!”

We both giggle quite loudly, but hush a bit when I see Mr. McNicky giving us a look.

“Did you look at any guitars?” she then asks after we get our breath back.

“Oh,” I go, surprised that she remembered. “No, Papa didn’t have enough time. But I watched a movie with my friends on Saturday night. That was fun.”

“What movie?”

“DogMan: The Return of Pupperoni,” I tell her. “Do you know DogMan?”

“I love DogMan!” She exclaims. “He’s my favorite superhero!”

I gasp. “Really? Oh my God! Twinzies!” We high-five and burst out into more giggles. We ignore Mr. McNicky’s stares and go on.

“I read all the comics from the Bone series,” she tells me. “The ending was so sad!”

“I know right! I actually cried.”

She laughs. “I’ve never seen a boy cry.”

“Well, the ending to Bone made me cry for a while. The ending! What DogeGirl said, that was deep!”

“‘Where the sky and Earth meet, is where we all meet…'” Mint quotes. “‘Where I meet you. Where you meet me. Where you and I meet…'” She giggles.

“That’s how it goes,” I say. “Word for word.”

“Who’s your favorite character?” Mint asks.

“Well, I love DogMan. But I also really love Stephanie.”

“She’s so pretty!” Mint exclaims. “I was her for Halloween when I lived in Germany. I was kind of too chubby.” She lifted her shirt up, and looked at her belly.

I feel myself turn red because Mint has her shirt up. “So,” I say awkwardly, “how was your weekend?”

“I already told you,” she says, pulling her shirt down. She then giggles again. “You’re funny.”

“I am?” I ask.

“Yeah, you are very funny. Can you tell me a joke?”

“Um,” I go, “why aren’t you able to write with a broken pencil?”

She looks at me, her bright, green eyes beaming. “I don’t know. You tell me!”

“Because it’s pointless!” and I laugh really loud to my horrible joke.

She laughs too. “That’s a good one,” she says. “I have one too! Why can’t you hear a pterodactyl use the bathroom?”

“I don’t know,” I lie, knowing the answer.

“Because the pee is silent!” I manage to pull of a fake laugh while Mint breaks into hysteria. I feel my cheeks turn pink when I feel the other kids stares and Mr. McNicky look up from his book. He then looks at his watch and mumbles something about the bell not ringing while he gets up to pass out a worksheet.

I smile at Mint as she looks at me, smiling really wide. She giggles, and flips her hair behind her head. I turn away as Mr. McNicky hands me a worksheet. Mint gets her worksheet, and I decide to help her.


The next couple of days keep getting better and better with Mint. I record the conversations in a journal, and take note of all the things that work. I am really getting to know her, more and more. She’s actually really sweet, and every so often, she is waiting for me, and says “Hi James! How are you?”

On Friday of the second week of school, Mint is sitting in her seat. “James!” she exclaims. “I made something for you.”

“You did?” I ask. I settle into my seat beside her where she is holding a folded piece of paper in one hand. “What did you make?”

She holds it out to me. “I really enjoy talking to you everyday,” she says. “You make me smile. And laugh.” Her face turns a bit red and she looks down.

I open the little folded paper to a pencil drawing of DogMan and DogeGirl. “You made this?” I ask.

“Yeah,” she squeaks, nervously. “Do you like it?”

“I love it,” I say. “I really do.”

The drawing of DogMan was of him smiling, and DogeGirl swinging on a rope, holding up her hand with a peace sign. “I don’t know how to draw you,” she tells me. “I wanted to draw a picture of you helping me with homework, but I didn’t have a reference.”

“That’s sweet,” I say. “So you really like to draw?”

“Yeah.” She scratches her head. “I love to draw.”

“Hmm…” I look at the drawing again. “You’re really good.”

She blushes. “I bet you’re just as good.”

“What? No Mint!” I exclaim. “But I will be good with the guitar.”

She smiles, and does a soft laugh. “Me too.”

“Have you ever played an instrument?” I ask.

“Well,” she goes, “I know how to play the piano.”

“Is that it?” I say, already impressed.

“Well, yeah,” she looks embarrassed. “But you don’t even know one!”

“Okay, I see where you’re going,” I say. “I don’t even know the guitar yet, but I will very soon.”

“But if you’re getting the guitar during Christmas, then how long will it take you to learn?”

“Never mind,” I say. “But I will learn it, and you will see it.”

“So ambitious,” she says.

I stare at her. “Is… is that good?”

“Very good,” she goes. “Will you teach me when you learn? You’re very good at teaching things.”

I blush due to her flattery. “Of course. You can even learn with me. I think my papa will be very happy to teach both of us.”

“I’m excited,” she says. “My papa in Germany would teach me every Saturday.” She looks at her hands. She’s quiet so I don’t say anything either.

We silently look at each other until Mr. McNicky calls attention to the class, where our conversation comes to a close.


I wait in front of the school for Papa, looking at Mint’s drawing that she gave me. I scratch my tummy as I unfold the paper. It’s such a good drawing! I look up, hoping Mint might come by with the blonde girl. I bet the blonde girl is her best friend. And maybe if she does come by, I can see what the blonde girl looks like.

I keep looking up, waiting for Mint to pass. Which she does.

“Hi Mint!” I call to her.

She turns, and so does the blonde girl. “Hey James!”

The blonde girl also waves, which makes me get all red and hot.

“He’s the funny boy I sit next to,” Mint says to the blonde girl, pointing at me. She slows down, and stops in front of me. “James, you never met my sister, Storm.”

Storm hardens her stare at me.

I feel my face burn. “Um, so Mint, you understand the homework, right?”

“Oh yes, James, I do,” she says. “It was so sweet of you to explain it to me!”

“Yeah, I just wanted to help you.” I scratch my head, feeling anxious over Storm’s stare.

“So you help with her homework?” Storm asks.

“I try.”

“That is really nice,” Storm says. “I have heard a lot about you at home.”

Mint’s face gets so red, and she looks right at her feet. “Maybe,” she giggles.

I feel my heart flutter, and a little feeling in my tummy gets me all excited.

“So we’re gonna go now,” Storm tells me. “Come on Mint.”

I wave to them as they walk away, and I’m very excited to tell Papa about the card Mint gave me and how I met her friend, Storm. I wait another ten minutes, doing homework, until Papa walks up to the school, a big smile on his face. I hastily shove everything into my backpack, and run into Papa’s arms, as he squeezes me.

“James!” he exclaims.

I nuzzle my face into his belly. “Papa, Papa!” I exclaim.

“Yes James,” he pulls me off his waist. “What happened with Mint?”

“Well,” I say, giggling, “some funny things happened!”

“Funny?” Papa cocks his head to me. “I hope not funny in a bad way.”

“No, it’s funny in a cute way. Really cute,” I feel my face blush. “First off, Mint and I talked so much before class started this morning!”

“How much?” Papa asks as he takes my backpack from me to carry it.

“Like a lot!” I say, using my hands to showcase how big it really is. “And I told her how we’re going to a get guitar for Christmas, and how we’re going to take lessons. And how you’re going to teach me.”

“And what did she say?” Papa asks. He doesn’t seem very interested, which I don’t understand. This story is probably one of the most fascinating stories I have ever told!

“She said that she would like to learn to an instrument as well. And guess what else she said?”

“What did she say?” Papa asks me.

“She said I’m a good teacher, and that I could probably help her learn how to play.” I put my hands on my hips and beam.

“She likes that you’re helping her,” Papa explains to me.

I tell him my whole story. How Mint and I talked a lot. How she gave me that beautiful drawing of DogMan with Doge Girl. How she’s a sweetheart and how I really like her.

When we get home, Mint is all I can think about. Her soft voice. Her amazing face. Mint, Mint, Mint!


All weekend, I try to draw. My thought process is that if I can draw nice drawings, then Mint will like me. She will like me a lot!

Drawing is hard though. It’s really, really hard. I watched some video and it said that I have to learn how to draw a circle. Which is really hard!

I keep messing up! Half of my circles look more like ovals while the rest look like blobs. Not even a real shape.

I attempt to draw DogMan. I draw his head which looks like a lumpy potato. His body looks way too clunky, and one leg is thicker than the other.

I’m working on it Saturday afternoon, and I get frustrated. Very frustrated.

My wrist hurts so much. And I can’t get over how one eye looks so much better than the other! I draw the left eye which looks amazing! But I try the right eye and it looks like a piece of popcorn. Actually, more like one of the kernels on the bottom that tastes disgusting.

After my firsy attempt, I try again. It takes me a bit longer than my first try. And not with much of a payoff. This time, it looks more like an oval. Just like one of my attempted circles.

I erase this one as well, and try again. And again. And again. And a couple more tries. And again.

After about a half hour, I finally get an eye that looks somewhat similar to the first one. Somewhat.

I then move onto the nose and mouth. I reference Mint’s drawing to study the shape. I get his nose down pretty well on my first try.

But mouths are really hard. I can’t believe how hard it is to draw a mouth. It took me a couple tries to get the tongue right and for it not to look strange.

I tried to put little teeth, but they didn’t look anywhere near as good as Mint’s. Her DogMan looked just like DogMan. Mine looks defective. Like if I were to buy a DogMan action figure, and it were defective. If the paint was dripping, or a misprint. Or if his leg was misplaced.

I worked on his outfit and his hoodie over his head. That was really hard. DogMan’s hat is a big, white dog. Its mouth is open, and DogMan’s head is peeking out of it. The teeth are still in, and it has a vicious looking expression.

It makes me feel weird when I can barely do the detailed fangs and eyes, and it makes me wonder how hard Mint worked on her drawing.

It then makes me think about she was thinking of me. She drew that picture for me. I can’t really picture Mint sitting at her desk, thinking of me.

But I like it.

I really like it.

I begin to visualize her sitting at a little desk, lost in thought saying “Wow, I better work hard on this drawing so it can impress James.” I bet it was in her intentions to show me her skills.

I remember her nametag again. How pretty it was will all the beautiful and vibrant colors.

I wonder if she likes my nametag. My blue nametag.

I wonder if she also loves blue. If she loves it as much as me.


For the next couple of days after the weekend, Mint and I get significantly closer. At least, I think so.

On Monday, I bring in my artwork. I put in a lot of work into it. I drew all the little furs on DogMan’s suit. I put the little shavings on his face. I even added the little hairs that hang over his eyes which are poking out of his hoodie.

She really, really likes it. When I show it to her, she starts squealing and giggling so hard!

I was excited by this response. She kept saying: “James, I love it! I love it! I love it!”

Then she hugged me.

She squeezed me so hard, and I could feel the red on my cheeks spreading like a rash. A good, sweet, in-love-rash.

She squeezes me so hard for so long. Mr. McNicky looks up because all the other kids are giggling.

“Are you okay over there?” He asks, a big, goofy smile on his face. He really is a lot like Papa. Soon he’ll be calling Mint my girlfriend and me “Little Lover Boy.”

“Yeah,” I giggle as Mint lets go. “We’re okay.”

That was Monday.

Now it’s Thursday.

Thursday morning, I come into the class, put my lunchbox on the hook, and go to my seat.

Today, something interesting awaits me. A piece of paper, with a long essay on it.

No, more like a bullet point list.

Our first unit of the year. Story writing. Story planning. Story production.

I read over the bullet list. And the best part is: “You are to choose one partner in this room. You and this partner will plan a story together, and then put it together (complete with illustrations).”

I turn behind me to see Mint coming him. She sees me staring, and gives me her adorable smile.

She then comes over and sits down. “What is this?” She asks me as she picks up the paper.

“It’s a project we’re doing,” I tell her. “You make up a story.”

Mint makes a face. “What?”

“You make up a story,” I repeat.

“But, but,” she stammers. “I can’t do that!”

She shakes her head and grabs fistfuls of her own hair.

“Mint?” I ask her, seeing that she is beginning to panic.

“James, I can’t write a story!” She looks like she’s about to cry.

“But you can do it with me,” I say, pointing to the bullet point stating that you can choose your partner. “I can help you.”

“Oh,” she looks back at the paper. “Well, you’re really smart. You can probably write a really good story with me.”

I feel my heart flutter. “Yeah, I think so, too. You probably have some good ideas for the story…” I pause. “What should we write about?”

“I really like your picture,” she suddenly says. “It’s really cute. Just like you.”

I feel taken aback. What do I say? “Oh, um, you’re also really cute. And pretty. Really cute and pretty.”

She giggles. “I was thinking we could write about DogMan.”

“Can we put Pupperoni in it?” I ask. “I actually really like that movie. And Pupperoni is like the best villain in the entire franchise!”

She smiles. “I totally agree!” She pulls out her notebook. “I’m going to write down our brainstorm.”

We discuss our ideas for the next five minutes or so. It seems that other kids catch onto what we are doing, and they go to meet their partners to discuss as well.

Our brainstorm is pretty good. We have decided that DogMan and Pup Boy are the main characters, and they fight Pupperoni to stop him from causing havoc.

“What should be doing?” Mint suddenly asks. “Like what havoc is he causing?”

For the past couple minutes after our discussion, we were both thinking of what we should choose for the main conflict.

“It should be funny,” I finally say.

Mint laughs. “So Pupperoni should be terrorizing little babies.” Then she pauses. “That’s really dumb.”

“It’s not,” I say. “It’s not at all. Write it down. Maybe we can develop it into something better.”

As Mint writes it down, Mr. McNicky comes by. “You guys are really ahead,” he says. “Bailey and Georgia don’t even know what the story is about!”

“We know what we want to write about,” I say to him. “But we don’t know what the main conflict should be.”

“Hmm,” Mr. McNicky says thoughtfully. “You know what, let me look at it.”

Mint hands him her notebook, and he reads over all our notes. We wrote quite a bit.

Finally he looks to both of us. “It’s good,” he gives us a thumbs up. “But for your conflict -if you want to make it funny -insert these fictional characters into the real world.”

I cock my head. “What do you mean?”

“Like,” he sets Mint’s notebook back down, “if you were to put DogMan in a real world situation. Like going to the grocery store. Or you could just put him in our world. You know?”

I’m still so confused. He seems to know by my face.

But Mint speaks before him. “You just gave me an idea,” she says. “We can make a story about DogMan going to school because that’s where Pup Boy goes. And we can have Pupperoni attack the school and that’s the story.” She looks at me. “You know what I mean?”

I slowly nod. “Yeah, to some degree.”

“Ask me if you have any other questions,” Mr. McNicky says to me. “But I think that’s an excellent idea.”

Mint and I get back to our discussion. Before the bell even rings for recess, Mint and I already know what out story’s about.

Pup Boy goes to school everyday. One day, Pupperoni attacks and the school goes into lockdown. Everyone is very scared and DogMan has to save everyone. Including Pup Boy and Mr. McNicky (it’s set in our school).

On paper, it’s in so much detail, the story is basically written.


After recess, we don’t work on the project. We study our weekly spelling words and read.

But at lunch, it really couldn’t get better.

I sit with my usual group. Zachary and Ash are already there, blowing off at each other.

And really blowing off at each other.

Zachary was late to school today because he went to the dentist or something. He missed out on how Ash also blew off at Randy.

So when he sits down at lunch (supposedly, this is a story I heard on account of Zachary), Ash is venting all about Randy.

This makes Zachary defensive and he too starts arguing. So by the time I’m there, it’s a full blown argument. The two of them are going at each other’s throats!

So I just left before I even sat down.

For a couple minutes, I just wandered around the cafeteria with my lunchbox in one hand. I probably looked like a fool. Confused and hungry.

Until I was walking towards the back corner, and I see one of the tables with only two seats. And in one seat, there is Mint, staring down at her lap.

I immediately invite myself over, and take a seat across from her. “Hi Mint!” I wave as I sit down.

She looks up at me. “Oh, hey James.”

I put my lunchbox in front of me and open it. “What are you doing alone?” I ask.

“What are you doing here?” She counters. She doesn’t seem angry though.

“My friends were arguing, so I was just wandering around, kind of bored.” I then smile to her. “But then I found you.”

“Oh,” she says, looking at my lunchbox. “I’m sitting alone because I have no friends.”

“What?” I say surprised, spitting my ham sandwich everywhere. “Aren’t I your friend?”

“Yeah, but this is like your first time sitting with me,” she explains.

“True,” I nod my head, wiping my mouth with a napkin because I spit everywhere.

She keeps staring at my food.

Finally, I take out a bag of Cheez-Its. “Do you want some Cheez-Its?” I hold it out to her.

Her face gets so red, but she takes them. “Thank you James. Thank you so much.”

I smile. “Of course Mint.”

She blushes a little. “Um, but James,” she says, “do you like how our story is going?”

“Oh yeah,” I say. “It’s going along great.”

“I thought of some ideas,” she looks nervous. “I mean, they’re stupid, but if you don’t mind, I would like to tell you them.”

“Yeah, tell me,” I say looking directly at my ham sandwich. “What are your ideas?”

She starts listing off some of her ideas to me. Telling me her thoughts and plans. All I can do is smile. I feel like everyday I like Mint more and more.

Especially when she tells me things.

I really like that.


Mint and I work really hard on our project for the next few days. Working very, very hard.

After two days of work, on Friday afternoon, we already had a page and a half written out! Mr. McNicky was really impressed with my writing and Mint’s artwork. Before class ended on Friday afternoon, everyone was all over our desk, admiring our work.

Mint looked so happy. She explained to all the kids how she drew the illustrations. She was basking in everyone’s compliments. “You’re so talented Mint!” “You have such beautiful artwork!” “I’m so jealous! You totally have to teach me!” “You have the best artwork in the class.”

She was beaming.

After cleanup, I help Mint get her things together. I help her get her papers back into the binder, and fit her pencil pouch into the backpack.

“James,” she suddenly says as I put my backpack on.

“What is it Mint?” I ask, helping her slip hers over her shoulders.

“It’s just, you’re really, really sweet.” Her face reddens a bit. “But I’m so happy that you’re my friend, and that you sit with me at lunch. I mean, it was only twice, but still.” She giggles.

“Oh,” I feel my face redden as well. “I really like you as my friend too. You’re kind, and quiet. You always have funny and sweet things to say.”

We both blush even harder, and turn away from each other.

The bell rings, and everyone rushes out the door, Mr. McNicky calls out “Goodbye!” after everyone.

I walk with the crowd, and Mint follows me. She’s right by my side.

“Um, Mint,” I say. “Do you wanna come sit with me in front of the school? To wait for our parents?”

“Oh, sure,” she scoots a bit closer to me because there are really so many kids surrounding us.

“Um, so,” I say as we escape through the door, “are you excited to go home?”

“I guess so,” she says, and smiles to me. “But it would be better if we could hang out after school.”

“Oh yeah, me too.” I look up at the sky. “I could show you my puppy. I think you’ll really like him.”

“A puppy,” she says quietly. “Like, what kind of puppy?”

“He’s a little Corgi. He’s really fat and hairy.”

“Like you?” she laughs, and I can’t help but laugh, too.

“Okay, I guess you’re right,” I giggle, grabbing my belly and showcasing it to her.

She laughs even harder. “Oh, me too!” She grabs her own belly, and soon, we’re both giggling at each other’s bellies.

We sit in front of the school, out of breath from laughing at our fat bellies. I sit on the cement dropping my things. Mint flops down beside me, dropping her things as well. She scoots closer to me.

“Hey James, hey James,” she jabs gently at my belly. “Guess what’s happening really, really soon!”

“What?” I ask.

“First off, September is over and something is coming up really, really soon.” She giggles, playing with her fingers.  “And I really, really love Halloween.”

“Oh, me too,” I say, smiling. “One of my neighbors always gives out huge candy bars.”

“Hmmm,” she lays back on the floor, rubbing her belly. “I love those, too, but I don’t have any one really close to me who does that. You know?”

“You should totally go trick-or-treating with me!” I exclaim. “We should make costumes that go together.” Then I grin. “I should be DogMan and you should be DogeGirl! Wouldn’t that be like, the cutest?”

“Oh yeah!” She claps her hands. “But we should make our own costumes. I can sew really good.”

I feel myself blush. More embarrassed than excited. “I can’t sew.”

“It’s okay. Maybe I can teach you. I can come over, and we can sew together.” She looks up at me, her big, green eyes like satellites. “I will try to convince Mama Thunder to let me come over to your house.”

I feel my blood start running much faster. My heartbeat quickens. “That would be so cool.”

“Yeah, I can come over on my birthday!” She throws her arms in the air, and starts squealing.

“When’s your birthday?”

“It’s on October twentieth. I’m turning ten.” She looks so excited. “I mean, not even three weeks left!”

“Oh wow!” I say. “What would you like for your birthday if you’re gonna come over?”

“Just cake. Chocolate cake and spaghetti.” She looks at me again, her eyes getting even rounder. “Really good spaghetti with cheese. Cheese on spaghetti is the best.”

“Of course Mint, my papa will make you some spaghetti.” I smile.

Before Mint can even reply, I hear “Mint! Mint!” in the distance. I turn and I see the blonde girl, Storm, again.

“Oh Mint, there you are,” she looks at me. “Um, boy, can you not do this again.”

“I told you his name is James!” Mint snaps at her. “James! Sweet, little James.”

I smile at Storm, actually I smirk at her. “Mint was with me. She walked with me to wait for our mama and papa.”

“Your mama and papa?” Storm asks, yanking on Mint to get up.

“We were waiting for our parents!” I finish. “And don’t touch her like that!”

Storm is pulling on Mint’s arm. “What makes you have the right to say that?” Storm sneers. She drops Mint’s arm, and Mint falls on her butt. She just lays back, and her eyes water up with tears.

“Mint,” I pull her closer to me, ready to yell at Storm. “Mint is my best friend and you have no right to touch her like that! She’s so sweet and she’s the best!” I hug my arm around her shoulder, holding her in. She’s so close, I can hear her breathing in my ear. Panicked and frantic, fast without any real stop.

“B- James!” Storm raises her voice. “This is stupid! She’s my sister, and I live with Mint. NOT YOU!” She raises her leg and kicks me, so hard.

Mint whimpers in my arm, and I yell. I stand up, and push Storm back, causing her to fall back, and trip on some kids walking past. “Don’t touch me!” I howl. “I’m protecting her from you! You’re disgusting!”

Mint is curled in a ball behind me, and I hear her sobbing. “This is not right!” I go on. “You made her cry.”

“You made her cry!” Storm yells, pointing her finger at my face. I can feel people’s eyes turn on me.

I bite my tongue from saying a bad word. I glare at her. “Mint is staying with me!” I snap, and I push Storm even harder this time.

In response, she punches me right in my stomach. I fall back, almost landing on Mint, who is crying very loudly now. “Stop fighting!” she cries. “Please stop!”

I look at Mint, sitting next to me. “I’m sorry,” I then say. “I’m sorry I got in a fight.”

“Yeah you better be, stupid!” Storm yells.

I keep my mouth shut as Storm gets Mint up on her feet, and walks off. Mint still waves at me though, which makes me feel better.


All weekend, I keep my mouth shut about my fight with Storm. But I do bring up that Mint’s birthday is October twentieth and that she might want to hang out.

It all seems to be going well.

Until Monday morning.

I swear, the second I sit down, everyone stops talking. Everyone goes completely silent.

Mint then comes. “James,” she says sadly, “I’m sorry, but Mama Thunder won’t let me hang out with you after Friday.”

“That’s okay,” I say. “It’s not your fault. If you could, you definitely would.”

She laughs a little (because it rhymes), but then she breaks down crying. Sobbing. “I’m so sorry, James! I really wanted to hang out! Mama Thunder wouldn’t listen to me and, and…” She bends over and starts crying even harder.

“Mint!” I say. I hug her. I pull her into my arms and hug her, letting her cry on my shoulder.

“I really want to hang out!” She cries out, choking up. “I wish I could! But Mama Thunder is so angry at me!”

“It’s okay, it’s okay,” I say, rubbing her back. “You’re fine. You’re okay.”

I’m holding her, and talking to her softly, telling her she’s safe and that everything’s okay.

Mr. McNicky comes by. “Mint and James, come over with me.” He leads us to his desk, and sits each of us in a chair. “Did something happen on Friday?” He asks as we all sit down.

“Yes,” I say, wrapping my arm around Mint’s shoulder again. She lays back on me, her cries quieting a bit.

“Can you tell me what happened?” He goes on, looking at me.

“I was sitting with Mint after school,” I tell him. “And Mint’s sister, Storm, comes by.”

“Okay James,” Mr. McNicky interrupts, “lets try not to name names.”

I sigh and go on. “Anyways, Mint’s sister starts hurting Mint. She’s pulling on her, and pulling on her!” I gesture Storm pulling on Mint’s arm with my hands. “And it’s hurting Mint! Her sister is being very mean to Mint!”

“So what do you do?” Mr. McNicky asks me, his voice still patient and calm.

“I pushed her away!” I exclaim. “I pushed her away from Mint, and told her sister not to to touch her!”

“Mint,” Mr. McNicky turns to her. “You can go to the bathroom.” I let go of Mint, who’s face is red because she’s crying.

“Anyways,” Mr. McNicky goes as Mint leaves out the door. “What did Storm do?”

“She punched me in my tummy!” I exclaim. I point at my stomach to showcase where she punched me. “Really hard, too. She hit me!”

“She punched you?” Mr. McNicky repeats.

“Yes! Right in my belly!” I lift up my shirt to show him the bruise that developed over the weekend.

Mama and Papa don’t know about it though. I did my best to hide it when I took my shower on Sunday. It has gotten worse over the weekend. Dark purple middle, and red outline.

“Does Eric know?” Mr. McNicky asks. “Did you ice it?”

Mr. McNicky looks genuinely concerned for my bruised belly. That’s so funny to me!

“No, um,” I stammer. “But about Mint, we need to help her.”

“That’s okay James,” Mr. McNicky tells me. “You’re not in trouble, okay?”

“Oh,” I say smiling. “Really?”

“You’re fine, don’t worry about it,” he pats my shoulder, and I drop my shirt, feeling immensely pleased with myself. “You did what you thought was right, to protect Mint. And that’s very good, James.” He smiles. “And personally, I think you are right for protecting Mint. She should not be treated like that by her sister.”

I nod. “But are you going to tell Mama and Papa?” I ask.

“I have to James,” Mr. McNicky sighs. “Your parents would like to know. But I doubt they will get very angry. They will probably try their best to understand. I know them both very well.”

I feel so happy. “I’m so happy Mr. McNicky!” I exclaim. “I can’t believe how well you took this!”

“Oh James,” Mr. McNicky smiles, “I know you well, too. I know you’re very mature, James. I understand that all you want to do is help Mint.”

I feel so flattered! I knew I was Mr. McNicky’s favorite student.

I sit back in my seat, and Mint returns from the bathroom. When she sits down, the first thing she does is lean in and hug me. She squeezes me and says how “I’m such a good friend.”

I hug her back, and tell her that everything’s okay. Then we work on our project some more. It’s already really coming together very well! Mint and I are already feeling better. I already forget about my belly bruise!

But when the bell for recess rings, I don’t really realize what might happen.


I lead Mint out with me to recess. We both get our snack, and I make sure Mint stays near me as I exit the classroom. She seems so nervous and scared.

“Are you okay?” I ask her as I peel my banana.

“I’m okay,” she mumbles. “I just don’t feel well.” She points to her belly.

“Oh, it’s okay Mint,” I say rubbing her shoulder.

She bites her fingernail. “I really want to hang out still. It sounds like so much fun!” She smiles to me, and gets closer to me, bumping into me. “You always make me smile.”

“You make me smile too, Minty.”

“Minty!” she giggles. “Minty! Minty!”

“Yeah, Minty,” I say, my mouth full of banana.

“Oh, remember your fat belly!” she starts laughing again, poking my belly. “Wait, I’m sorry.” She stops and looks away.

“It’s fine,” I giggle. “You can poke my belly. I don’t care.”

She starts petting my shoulder and head. “You’re the best.”

She then skips ahead to the benches where we snacks at recess. She waits for me on the bench, eating her crackers and peanut butter.

I sit next to her. “Minty, are you really okay? Did something happen?”

“Some things have happened,” she says. “My mama got very angry at me.”

“But why? You didn’t do anything, Minty,” I say.

“She was mad because I didn’t defend myself,” she says. “I sat on the side and cried. I should’ve stood up for Storm.”

“What? But, Storm was doing the wrong thing. I was trying to defend you.”

“She told Mama Thunder that you punched me and her, and that I just cried on the side,” Mint explains to me.

“But that’s not true!” I say. “That’s not right! She lied to your mama!”

“But Storm is right. She’s smarter than me.”

“No, Minty.” I look at my lap, trying to find the right words. “She hurt you. And now she lied?”

“Um, um,” Mint sighs, and shakes her head. “I don’t know. Storm is always right.”

“No Minty!” I cry. “She’s not! You’re really smart, too, and you are always right! You helped make our story really good. You understood everything Mr. McNicky said.”

She looks down. “James, I don’t know. Mama Thunder always tells me I’m not as good as Storm, so, I decide that I’m not as good as Storm.”

“You’re better than her!” I exclaim. “Your Mama Thunder is wrong! She’s not right. Don’t believe what she says!”

Mint looks at me, very confused. “I don’t know,” she goes again. “But how can Mama Thunder be wrong?”

“Because she’s human!” I exclaim. “Mama Thunder is a human! She doesn’t know everything.”

Mint looks so confused. “I just don’t understand.” She looks away. “What am I if I’m not bad?”

“You’re perfect!” I cry. “There’s so much good to you, do you know? You’re smart, funny, and sweet. You are so pretty and cute, I was dying to hang out with you ever since I first saw you!”

Mint looks surprised by this. “I thought you felt sorry for me.”

“No Minty!” I say, starting to yell a bit. “I really like you, and I just want to be your friend. I just want to hang out. I just really wanted to help you. It’s not that I felt sorry for you.”

“But, I just don’t get it,” she rubs the cookie crumbs across her hands, disposing of them. “You’re just so much better. So much better than me. You’re smart, you dress nice, you’re funny and cute!” She blushes. “But someone as good as you wouldn’t waste his time on someone like me.”

“Minty,” I say. “You’re perfect, okay? I want to be your friend. You shouldn’t think of yourself like that. You have so many amazing features that other people would kill to have! Like your art skills. You’re amazing at drawing, and coloring… Not everyone is good at that. I’m not good at it! I might have to take lessons if I want to be as good as you.”

“Oh James, you’re so sweet.” She scoots really, really close to me. “You know, if Mama Thunder met you, she would definitely let me hang out with you. Because you’re the best.” She smiles to me.

I feel my face flush. My cheeks burn, and my head sweats. I don’t really know what to say. I have never been caught up in something like this.

“Anyways,” Mint says, “do you want to go play? I really like to play with you, I finished eating.”

“Oh, um, me too,” I look at my banana peel. Part of me thinks Mint doesn’t really understand what’s actually going on. How we said sweet things to each other… It’s the first time I ever felt this way. I don’t know if I really like it or not.

But we throw our trash away, and go together over to the handball courts. Mint keeps staring at me, a big smile on her face. I keep thinking that she has a crush on me. But it makes me feel stupid at the same time. I don’t know why, though.

Isn’t it like my dream for Mint to like me?

I walk with her. She keeps giggling and saying my name. But suddenly, I hear: “Hey James!” I turn to see Storm, her arms crossed. “Don’t touch my sister!” she says.

Mint’s eyes widen. I see her put her fingers to her mouth, and start nervously nibbling on her nails.

“I’m not touching her!” I say. “Mint is my friend, and she likes to sit with me.” I want to say “Right Mint?” but I don’t want to be like Storm, and scare her. Mint is so sweet and I don’t want to punish her like that. I care about her too much to do that.

“Mint, do you like to sit with James?” Storm taunts.

“Yeah,” Mint then says. “I really like to sit with James. He’s so sweet, and he always helps me with everything. He’s so nice. He gives me Cheez-Its at lunch!” She starts giggling, and waving her hands, and then hugging herself.

Storm looks taken aback. “But he punched me,” Storm snaps at her. “I told Mama Thunder! He punched me!”

“You punched him,” Mint calmly says. “You punched him in the belly.”

“Yeah!” I pipe up. “You bruised me! Real bad!” I lift my shirt up to show Storm my massive bruise, to which Mint also sneaks a peek.

“Oh, wow,” Mint says, not even pretending. “That’s a bad bruise.” She makes a face. “Poor thing, it must hurt.”

Storm doesn’t even speak. She’s just staring.

Mint comes over to me, putting her finger gently over the bruise. “Does it hurt when I touch it?” Mint asks, looking at it. “It’s very purple, and red.” Her eyes are focused right on my belly.

“Oh it’s fine,” I giggle, pulling my shirt down. Then Mint starts giggling as well.

“Why is it so purple?” She starts laughing. I laugh with her, and soon we’re both laughing hysterically.

“Um,” Storm suddenly starts. Mint and I both turn to her, but we’re still looking at each other, smiling and holding in our giggles. “I’m sorry,” she says. “I’m sorry I punched you James.” She looks at her feet. “I don’t know. I lied, and got angry.” She looks at Mint. “Mint, I’m sorry I treated you so bad.”

“That’s okay,” Mint says quietly. “James is the best. He’ll forgive you.” She beams up at me. “He’s really mature, you wouldn’t believe it. He lets me cry on his shoulder. He lets me eat his food! He’s the best!” She hugs me, and nuzzles her face in my chest, and I hug her back.

“See,” I say, “all I want to do is protect Mint.”

Storm’s expression seems to have hardened, but she says: “Oh, um sure. I’ll tell Mama Thunder. So you guys can hang out together on Mint’s birthday.”

I gasp, and Mint squeezes me even harder in excitement as Storm turns away and all I can do is realize that this Halloween has some interesting potential.


The next two and a half weeks go by in a big blur.

Mint and I finish the project with the book. Mint and I hang out even more. Mint and I plan our hangout on her birthday.

Which leaves me on Thursday evening, right before Mint’s birthday. October nineteenth.

“So James, are you excited for your hangout with Minty tomorrow?” Papa asks for the hundredth time.

“Very excited,” I tell him. I twirl my fork in the spaghetti and put it in my mouth. I have been forcing myself to eat for the past three days. When I get sad, I eat. When I get nervous, I eat. When I get angry, I eat. But when I get all excited, I can barely swallow.

But tomorrow, I plan to feed Mint all the Oreos and pizza I have. Also me too, I want to eat as much as her. Which considering how many of my cookies she has eaten ever since I started sitting next to her, that must mean a lot.

“James, you have to let me help you sew,” Mama says. “I need to help you, I don’t want you to prick your finger.”

I giggle. “Will you sit with me and Minty?”

“Of course I will, I want to meet her!” Mama exclaims.

“This is the plan, James,” Papa says. “I’m going to pick you and Minty up from school. We’re going to get some ice cream, and then come home. Mama already bought your supplies, and whatever, so you two are going to work on that until Mama comes home and makes dinner. Do you like that?”

“Yes,” I say, getting even more excited, and the food getting harder and harder to swallow. “I can’t wait for you to meet Mint. She’s so cute, and sweet, she always giggles and pokes my belly!”

“Pokes your belly?” Mama laughs. “Since when?”

“Since I shoved that girl,” I tell her.

Papa laughs. “I still don’t understand why you didn’t tell us.”

“Because I was scared that you would be mad,” I tell him, shoving spaghetti in my mouth so I can’t say anymore.

“Oh, it’s fine. We’re just waiting until you slug someone,” Mama laughs. “And we won’t be mad. We know you’ll do it for good reason.”

We all laugh. “We are excited to meet Minty tomorrow, though. If she makes you this happy, then we really want to see her,” Papa tells me.

“What did you get her again?” Mama asks. “For her birthday?”

“Well,” I blush and bite my nail, nervously, “we got some new shoes, remember? And some candies, and a library card.”

“Why did you get her a library card, again?” Papa asks.

“I just wanted her to read to me, because every time we work together, she always reads me the instructions and stuff. It’s really cute!” I start giggling, feeling embarrassed.

“My God,” Mama says, “you’re really in love.”

“I am not!” I exclaim. “She’s just really cute, and she makes me smile.” I cross my arms, and make a face.

“We know that James,” Mama laughs and pokes my nose.

I would usually feel even more embarrassed now, but I’m way too excited about Mint coming over tomorrow. Not only will I be able to show her my house, but she might sleep over! She said her mama would let her sleep over, and stay Saturday morning.

Now I really have to pray that Mint will sleep over. It gets me all tingly when I think about her sleeping in the other room!


All day, I can tell Mint is excited. She keeps giggling, and looking over at me, biting her finger nails.

We are sitting together right before class ends, and Mint turns to me. “Jjjaammmess,” she goes, “it’s almost time.”

I giggle. “I know Minty, I can’t wait.”

“I want to see your dog. And your mama and papa. Are they nice?” She looks at me, cocking her head.

“Yeah, Mama and Papa are very nice,” I tell her. “They are very excited to meet you, Minty!”

She makes a little squeal, and bites her nail again. “I’m excited to see them, too. I wonder if they look like you.”

“Hmmm,” I scratch my chin. “I guess you make that decision.”

“James, I have to teach you how to sew,” she says. “Like, it’s an early payback before you teach me the guitar.”

“Oh yeah,” I scratch my head, and smile sheepishly. “I will teach you, I promise.”

She smiles, and giggles. “You’re so sweet and cute.” Then she blushes and looks at her lap. “I really hope I can sleep over. Then I can wake you up and pinch your belly!” She pokes me right in my gut, and we both burst into giggles.

The bell rings, and I help her get her things. She is so excited for our hangout that she starts skipping, and squealing, biting her lip, and looking at me. I just smile to her, and watch her happily giggle and twitch.

I walk behind her, until she stops to talk to Storm, and I catch up with her.

I arrive in the middle of the conversation.

“You brought everything?” Storm asks Mint. “Toothbrush? Clean underwear?”

“Yes Storm,” Mint nods her head. “You bet!”

Storm turns to me. “Um James,” she says to me softly. She’s always scared of me ever since she got into some trouble after bruising me. “You will take care of Mint?”

“Of course I will,” I assure her, putting my arm around Mint’s shoulder. “Why would I not?”

“I don’t know,” she snaps. “Just don’t get her in trouble.”

“Fine, fine,” I say. “I won’t get her in trouble. Do not worry.” I salute to her, and she glares.

“Mint, don’t let him touch you,” Storm says, before walking off.

Just like that.

Now it’s time for our special birthday hangout.

“She’s rude,” I say as soon as she’s out of sight.

“I know,” Mint mumbles. “She’s always like that.”

“Wow, I’m sorry,” I look at my nails, sucking on them. I’m already taking after Mint.

“Oh, it’s fine,” Mint tells me. “I’m just excited for our sleepover.”

“I’m very excited too. It will be a lot of fun,” I look down at my feet, nervously. “We have um, the supplies. Lots of supplies. Sewing string, sewing needles, fabric. We have hot glue guns and hot glue sticks. We also have buttons and-”

“Okay James, I get it. You have lots of supplies.” She then starts laughing again, and then points at me.

I look away, my face burning. “I know, I just wanted you to get it. I just wanted you to understand how much supplies we really have.”

“Don’t worry, I get it. I know you very well,” she giggles again.

We walk together to where I sit outside of school for Papa. She sits right next to me, laying her head on my shoulder.

“You know James,” she says. “I have only been friends with you for so long, but I feel so close to you.” She looks at me. “I feel like I know you better than anyone.”

I smile to her. “Oh, I feel the same Minty. I mean, we’re really close already. I never let anyone poke my belly!”

She giggles, and pokes my belly. “You’re the funniest boy, James. I think of you when I’m alone in my room sometimes, and I smile and giggle.” She lays closer to me, and looks up at me. “You’re the best.”

“Hmmm,” I smile and put my arm around her. “We’re going to have so much fun! We can have movies playing in my room, and we can work on our costumes.”

“Did I show you my sketches?” Mint asks.

“Oh, no,” I say, and Mint opens her backpack to pull her binder out.

“Okay, here is how I want to make her hat,” Mint tells me, pointing to her sketch of DogeGirl’s hat. “I’m going to make her eyes with little black buttons, and to make the little shine, I put some white paint.”

She explains to me her whole design. I’m very focused on what she’s saying, that I don’t hear Papa.

“James?” I suddenly hear.

I look up, and see Papa looking over me. “Oh, um, hi Papa.”

The second that slips out of my mouth, Mint’s eyes shoot up at him. “Um, hi Mr. Lupei,” she says. I’m pleased to see that she remembers my last name. I told her when we first planning our sleep over.

“Hi Minty,” he looks at her, and smiles. “James is right, you are very pretty.”

Her face turns so red, and I feel my own face burn. “Papa!” I exclaim. “You don’t say that!”

“What? I was just saying what you always say,” Papa tells me.

I look away as I feel Mint’s eyes on me. “Oh James!” She hugs me in front of Papa. I’ll never hear the end of it tomorrow after she has left. “He’s adorable,” Mint says, pointing at me.

Papa laughs. He helps us with our things, and leads us to the car.

He keeps asking Mint questions, and she seems so happy. Even though, she is actually very quiet with Papa.

When we sit in the car, she looks at me with big, round eyes. “He looks just like you,” Mint says quietly. “Just like you.”

“Um, yeah,” I say.

“Huh?” Papa says. “Oh, Minty, what kind of ice cream would you like? James keeps saying that you like cookie dough and vanilla, but I thought you would like mint chip.”

Mint laughs to that, and Papa smiles. “I do want cookie dough,” she says, “with vanilla ice cream.”

“The cookie dough here is amazing,” Papa says. “I’m sure James told you all about it, though. He likes the cookie dough too.”

Papa talks with us the whole trip. I think he can see Mint is nervous because he keeps peering in the rearview mirror.

When we get to the ice cream shop, Mint is literally beaming off her excitement. She’s pressed against the glass panel, choosing her ice cream, breathing on the glass. Papa thought it was funny, and asked her why she was so excited.

She kept saying “James is the best! He’s going to make me have the best birthday ever!”

Which I hope is true. I have my gifts at home, and I’m excited for her to open them. I hope she likes them. She has told me before that she wants to go to the library and read books. How she would love to read to me so she can get better.

I can tell she likes Papa. Though she seems nervous. Maybe because (now that she mentioned it), he really does look like me. His big nose, and round brown eyes. His little dimples and half smirk. His big belly, and chest, with his round butt. The biggest difference between him and I is his beard and a couple gray hairs from past stress.

“Oh James,” Mint says, her mouth full of ice cream. We’re all sitting down together, eating ice cream.

“Yes Minty,” I say to her as I put some ice cream in my mouth.

“You have to try the cookie dough!” She says. “It’s so perfect!” She lifts a spoonful of ice cream, admiring it. “Isn’t it perfect?”

“Yes,” I say. “It’s perfect. Just like you.”

Mint’s cheeks get a little rosy, and she giggles, putting that same spoonful in her mouth. “Oh, you make me laugh.”

Papa smiles to me. “So Minty,” Papa goes. “Is James your only friend at school?”

I stare at Papa, and gawk at his insensitive question.

Mint just smiles. “Yeah, but it’s better to have one amazing friends than a few good friends. Because amazing is way better than good. Am I right, Mr. Lupei?”

“Of course, Minty,” Papa laughs. “And you know James considers you amazing, right?”

I feel so embarrassed. But I’m so excited for Mint to come over.

Mint nods. “Oh yeah, I know. We feel the same about each other. We’re really amazing friends. Which is better than good.”


After ice cream, we get home at around three o’clock.

I get all my supplies out from the closet and lay it out for Mint. She gasps and is fascinated by all the supplies. Then she looks at me. “This might actually be the best birthday ever. Actually, the best birthday ever.”

She hugs me.

I love it so much.

I hug her back, and fall on my butt, with her falling on me. We both fall back, giggling.

“Okay, lets get back to our costume”” I say.

Papa joins us, and sits beside Mint, helping her with the needle.

She works on her little hat first, just DogeGirl’s hoodie. She fills the top with cotton so it looks puffier, and puts some little paws coming down the side, just like the actual hoodie.

Mama comes and starts helping me because I’m really struggling. Papa is helping Mint. He does the same things I did when I helped Mint. High-fives, pats on the shoulder, compliments.

Mint looks so happy! She keeps giggling and grabbing his hand, closing her eyes, and just embracing all the love in the room.

Mama seems to like Mint just as much as Papa does. She keeps telling her funny things, and telling her how much I like her -which I’m not a big fan of.

By five o’clock, Mama and Papa are out the room, making us dinner. The original plan was to get pizza, but Mama wants to show her skills off to Mint.

I’m better at the sewing now, but every time I have a hard time, Mint comes over and fixes it for me. She keeps saying: “Oh James! You’re so good for your first day! I’m so impressed!” Then she hugs me, and rubs my belly.

She has never rubbed my belly, and I already like it. I have surprised myself.

Usually I would get angry over someone touching my belly, because usually it means they’re making fun of me. But when Mint does it, it makes me feel happy and all bubbly. I know she’s just trying to be friendly and funny. I really think she likes me.

I really hope she likes me.

It would be amazing if she did.


I sit in my chair at dinner time, right nxt to Mint. Mama and Papa have made a huge meal.

Baked chicken with spices, rice, asparagus, beans, corn and bread with butter.

It was good because Mint and I were starving by the time dinner was ready. I remember how stupid I felt when my belly started making noises in front of Mint. Just like Mama made fun of me a couple weeks ago.

She started laughing, and said “Me too James!” Then I didn’t feel stupid, because Mint kept telling me to be quiet so I could hear her belly growl. I guess to make me feel better.

“You two seem to be having a great time,” Mama says to us. “Are you?”

“Well, duh!” Mint said, giggling. “I got to be with James all day. He makes me really happy.”

I laugh, and Papa looks at me. “Sorry we couldn’t get you any cake,” Mama says. “Eric got you some ice cream though.”

“Oh, it’s fine,” Mint says. “I had an amazing day. I’m even excited to sleep in the guest bedroom. It’s probably so soft and warm!” She hugs herself and laughs.

“Of course,” Papa says. “Whatever you like Minty. It’s your birthday.”

We all laugh and talk. Finally, it’s time for Mint to open her gifts that I got her.

“Okay James,” she says as I hand it to her, “I wonder what you got me better than today.”

“Well, I don’t know about that,” I say. “But I really want you to like my gifts.”

Mama and Papa are watching her, Mama on one side, with me on the other, Papa standing at a distance, all of us mezmerized by what she will say.

“You can open it,” Mama says rubbing Mint’s back.

Mint tears it open and lifts out the shoes. “Oh wow,” she says, holding one of them in her hands. They’re beautiful, purple high-tops. “They’re gorgeous.” She keeps looking at them. “They’re just like your shoes, James.” She points at my feet (even though I don’t have them on).

“That’s the point, Minty,” I giggle.

“Oh, but I love them!” Mint gasps. “I’m going to wear them everyday.” Then she takes the card out, and tears the envelope.

I wrote her a little letter saying how she’s a great friend and how I love to hang out with her. And even if I did get in deep trouble after pushing Storm, it would be okay because at least she’s okay.

Mint smiles and hugs me. “Oh James,” she says, “you’re really wonderful.”

Then, she finally looks at the library card.

“It’s so you can read to me whenever we hang out,” I explain to her.

Mint laughs. “That’s adorable.”

Mama and Papa also laugh, and Mint and I get back to our costumes.


Before bed, we have our costumes finshed. Mint is in the guest bedroom, probably asleep.

After dinner, and the unwrapping of her gifts, she was really sleepy. It was kind of weird because I have never seen Mint sleep. She fell asleep while laying on my bed while I brushed my teeth. It was adorable and all, but it felt weird waking her up.

Anyways, I’m sitting in my bed, falling asleep. Until Mama comes in.

“James,” she says. “Are you still awake James?”

“Yes,” I grumble. “What happened?”

“Oh, I’m just so happy about Minty coming over,” Mama says. “She’s adorable, just like you said.”

“Mama!” I say, as quiet as possible. “Don’t say that!”

“Oh James, don’t worry. She’s out cold in the other room,” Mama assures me.

“Really?” I ask. “Just, exhausted?”

“Yeah, she’s asleep,” Mama says. “She’s so cute though!”

I giggle. “She really is.”

“I thought she was going to be kind of weird, but she’s just a sweetheart. She really likes you, though.” Mama looks up thoughtfully.

“You think so?”

“Oh James, come on! Did you see how she looks at you?” Mama asks. “And she keeps touching your belly and shoulders. She’s all over you!”

“Oh I didn’t know…”

“She’s like mature in that way,” Mama says. “Like, how she flirts with you.”

“Flirts?” I have only heard of flirting in movies. I can’t really believe it happening to me.

“She’s so sweet,” Mama says again. “I’m gonna let you sleep now. Mint is exhausted and asleep. I bet you are too.” She kisses my head and tells me good night.

I lay in bed, thinking. I really wonder if I did find that special someone. I guess I’m not that shallow if I am correct.








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