Valerie's ProblemI slump in my seat, sulking. The bus rattles over a pothole, jostling me. I squeeze my backpack to prevent it falling on the floor. Behind me, I can faintly hear the whispered conversation of Mac and Frankie. I can't make out anything they're saying, but I can hear Mac snort with laughter. Turning my head, I look out the window.
The thin sheen of grime on the outside of the glass prevents me from seeing much, but I do make out the cars whizzing by. The side of the road is still covered in slush, tinged brown with dirt. It's February 13, which means that winter's getting a bit warmer, but still all slushy and gross. It also means that tomorrow is Valentine's Day.
"Psst!" A hushed whisper shoots out from across the aisle. I look, and sure enough, it's Henry and Tina, the popular kids, probably going to insult me in front of everyone. Tina grins. "Yeah, you! Loser!"
My cheeks turn red and I hug my backpack to my chest. "Er, what?"
Henry stares me straight in the eye. "Just wanted to let you know that you better not be expecting Valentines tomorrow, wimp. No one likes you."
I duck my head a little down.
A bunch of people are staring now, including Mac and Frankie, who leer at me. Tina smirks. "You so ugly, even the Joker wouldn't touch you with a ten foot pole!" Henry adds his own insult - "So tomorrow, don't be surprised when the only thing in your Valentine's box is a cobweb!"
"Why you look so down?" I glance up. It's Grandma, standing in the hall. She raises an eyebrow. "It's them kids again, ain't it?" She motions for me to sit down, and I do. "You can't let them bother you so much, girl. They just trying to get a reaction. You keep your stone face, an' I betcha, they'll stop quicker'n a blink of an eye. What they say?"
I can't bring myself to look her in the eye. "They called me ugly and said I wouldn't get any Valentines. They said no one likes me," I mumble.
Grandma brings her hand up to my chin and lifts my head so I'm looking her in the eye. "Now you listen to me, Valerie Elizabeth Martin. You are beautiful, inside and out. Tomorrow, you'll be gettin' Valentines just like ev'ryone else. Betcha you get more Valentines than those two. You're a likable kid, Valerie. Just remember that."
That night as I lie down to sleep, her words are in my mind. I'm pretty, like she said, and so is everyone else. Even Henry and Tina, I guess. I'll be giving them Valentines even though it's middle school and we don't have to. Everyone deserves some love.