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It’s Michelle’s first day of school, and all she wants is to be in bed at home, with the familiar sound of Chinese filling the air

All I could see was the dark blue carpet beneath my feet, blurring and clearing as I held back the tears in my eyes. My hand, cold and frail from the lashing winds outside, latched on tightly to the corner of my mom’s winter jacket, afraid to let go. I dug my nails into the soft, velvety fabric so hard I was afraid it was going to rip into shreds. I felt the stitches, one by one, as I pressed my other hand down deep in my pocket. My eyes stung, as if someone had squirted fresh lemon juice straight into them, as I barely managed to hold back my tears from pouring out like an endless waterfall. I just wanted to go home. I wanted to go back to the comfort of my bed awaiting me and welcoming me into its affectionate arms. I wanted to go home, where someone, anyone, would wrap their strong arms around me as they comforted me and told me that everything was going to be fine. Suddenly, a woman walked into the room and bent down to me.

“Hi! Welcome to first grade! I’m your teacher, Ms. Muzyka,” she greeted me cheerfully. “Can you understand me?” she asked, speaking slowly.

Love Sculpture

I turned my head slightly and stared back at the bare ground. She was unlike any teacher I had ever seen before, with her chocolate-colored brown hair and bright caramel highlights. She had big round eyes, the color of the sky on a bright summer day. Her smile was so sweet and sincere, it felt misleading. Maybe it was like a needle inside a chocolate bar, gaining your trust, then stabbing you right back. Maybe seconds later, she would jump into reprimanding and screaming at me, like most teachers I’d had. But this time, I could not convince myself to believe so. I wished she could just flash out the mean side all teachers are supposed to have and scold and yell in the way I was used to, but she didn’t.

To my surprise, she took me by the hand and led me across the room. Her hands were warm and soft, like freshly washed towels, cradling me in warmness. She dragged me to the opposite corner of the room, where the floor was lined with a rug filled with all the colors of the rainbow. There were baskets of stuffed animals with black beady eyes and soft bodies sitting by a shelf of books. On the walls were pictures of characters, from colorful, spiky dinosaurs to striped cats wearing giant red hats.

I trotted toward the shelves of books to see even more characters woven between letters and words I could not make sense of. When I glanced at the windows, I saw messy drawings of all kinds of people. Some with black eyes and brown hair like me, others with strawberry-blonde hair and rosy red lips. Nothing seemed familiar. I glanced back down at the floor as I felt another tear roll slowly down my cheeks. The bright colors of the rugs seemed to have lost their luminous glow, and I descended into a world of darkness.

“I’m sure she’ll do just fine,” the teacher reassured my mom, followed by another perfect smile.

No! I will not be fine, I thought stubbornly. All I wanted to do was go back home. Home, where I could understand everything and everyone. Home, where the familiar sounds of Chinese rang happily in the air. Home, where everything is all settled. Another unintentional tear rolled slowly and heavily down my cheek.

All I wanted to do was go back home. Home, where I could understand everything and everyone.

Suddenly, the back door opened and I was hit with a wave of the cold, winter air, sending chills down my arms. The sound of ripping Velcro boots and shrieks and laughter filled the room. There was the loud chatter of words, some I could not wrap my head around. I felt the whooshing air pass by my ears whenever someone walked past me. I could feel the eyes staring and burning straight into my skin. I quickly looked at the ground and slouched into my winter coat, my face flushed red with embarrassment.

Then, I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder. I turned my head around nervously to see a girl with bright-red cheeks and a pink, fluffy sweater. She had straight, dark hair and light brown eyes like marbles, glistening with every look.

She smiled at me and asked, “What’s your name?”

“Mi-Michelle,” I replied with a tremble in my voice as I wiped the last tear off my face.

“Do you wanna come play with us?” she asked, eyes filled with curiosity as she pointed toward another group of kids sitting by the bookshelf. I slowly but surely nodded my head as she pulled me away.

Strangely, I felt warm as her icy cold, yet gentle, hands latched onto mine. A feeling of comfort and happiness surrounded me, as if I had just opened a pot of freshly steamed rice. I glanced back at my mother and she smiled at me. It was almost as if she was saying, “I believe in you.” I watched her step confidently out of the door, her eyes glittering with hope, as I managed to squeeze out a slight smile and sat down with the others.

Michelle Wang
Michelle Wang, 12
Lexington, MA

Penny Gottesman
Penny Gottesman, 10
Arlington, MA