When the bell rang for recess, Gwen jumped up, shoving books into her desk. Clarabelle was waiting at her desk, her books already somehow neatly stacked. Her smile was tentative yet excited. Gwen smiled back, and the two girls bounded out the school doors into the crisp autumn breeze. Gwen started at the little kids’ end.
“These are their swings,” Gwen explained, “and this is their toy thingie, they call it the ‘Big Toy’, it has slides and bridges and stuff. Then this is the hopscotch area, and this is their field.” She pointed to each playground section as she gave it an explanation. “This, over here, is the older kids’ end,” Gwen began again. “Soccer field, benches, swings, basketball court. Then we have a toy too, we call it the ‘Blue Toy’, but no one really plays on it, mostly girls gossip on it. Sometimes the boys start a game of ball tag.” She stopped to take a breath, and realized that was the whole schoolyard. “Then there’s, um, well, I guess that’s it,” She finished lamely. She looked down at her bitten nails, tapping them against her leg. Clarabelle nodded slowly, absorbing it all. She glanced at the Blue Toy.
“Looks like they’re playing ball tag right now,” She said, pointing. Gwen shaded her eyes from the weak sunlight. “Yep,” She agreed. She rolled her eyes. “It’s the same thing with ball tag-boys are it, they tag the girls they like, the girls complain about how hard they throw it, so they throw it harder. It’s so dumb.” She exhaled loudly in exasperation. Clarabelle watched the game with amusement.
“Let’s go!” She cried suddenly, running over. Gwen’s mouth fell open.
“Jeez! Does she like getting hit hard with a dodgeball?” She muttered as she jogged over to join the shrieking crowd. It was exactly as she had predicted, the boys hurling the colorful foam balls with all their might at their crushes. The girls would cry out and pretend to be hurt, so the boys would remain it until they caught someone of their own gender. Why ANYONE would want to play was a mystery. When the boys saw the lovely but intimidating girl joining the fray, they switched targets. “Hey, that’s the new girl!” They would holler, pitching the ball with all their strength. Clarabelle easily weaved through. “Aw, man!” and “I had her!” and “What the-?” were the confused shouts when she dodged.
“I’ll get her!” Kody Anderson bellowed. He swaggered up to Joe, who was still it, who tossed it over. Kody glared at Clarabelle. Clarabelle simply smirked. By this time it was silent.
Kody smacked the ball into his hands a few times, the hollow ringing slap against his hands the only sound. Gwen cringed. Kody was the best looking, most athletic, meanest kid in seventh grade. He would hit Clarabelle for sure, probably hurting her to the point of tears. How embarrassing. Clarabelle didn’t look nervous, however. She stared coolly at the confident boy. He glared back. Everyone gaped at the pair. Gwen was nearly trembling. Suddenly, Kody drew back his arm. Everyone seemed to be holding their breath. Suddenly, Kody’s arm thrust forward. SLAP! Everyone gasped. Clarabelle was holding the ball an inch from her face, apparently unruffled. Clarabelle tossed it casually back. The force knocked Kody off his feet, but no one dared laugh. Gwen clapped a hand to her mouth to keep her giggles inside. Clarabelle jumped off the Blue Toy, landing lightly on her feet. She strode over to Kody, spitting out sand. “Nice try.”
Clarabelle’s words broke the tension. Everyone started howling. Gwen was doubled over, hooting. The girls were all hysterically laughing. Even Kody’s close friends snickered. Kody walked away, shoulders up to his ears, which were cherry red. Clarabelle sauntered over to where Gwen was still chuckling. “Okay, drama’s over, let’s go,” She said in an undertone. Gwen got some control over her giggles and gasped, “Oh, God, Clarabelle, that was historical! Hysterical! Kody sure as heck won’t bother girls anymore!”
“Okay, okay!” Clarabelle said, closing the subject, but Gwen could see the faint smile of triumph shining through.