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Abby couldn’t tell if it was sweat trickling down her flushed cheeks or if her skin was melting. Each hair on her neck prickled and she swallowed her stomach which had somehow found its way to her throat. She felt eyes stabbing every inch of her- cold, knowing stares permeating her body. 

 
From the back of the classroom came one damning word, “Doorknob.” 

The word stunk with accusation and contempt. At once Abby knew who uttered it. Dylan Carter hated Abby because she had seen him cry at end of Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. They had the same babysitter, and on days when she “just couldn’t,” she would turn on a movie for the kids and retreat to her bedroom with a box of wine. Abby hadn’t told anyone about how Dylan wept when Shadow came limping over that hill, but Dylan had not forgiven her for seeing it. 

 
The damning word was his. 
 
The first punch came swiftly from the left. It was dealt by Carl Clark. Carl loved any opportunity to hit a girl, especially a girl who’d just passed audible gas in a learning environment. The second came from Lindsey Dorsky whose limp wrists and feather top pens would imply a softer swing. A third and fourth blow came in quick succession from Abby’s one-time crush Peter Winston. With this, Abby snapped to attention. 
 
She struggled to stand as 2/3 of her 4th grade class waged fist war on her. The only way to make it stop was to touch the bronze doorknob 3 meters from her desk: a feat that seemed nearly impossible. 
 
Nauseated, perspiring and on the verge of panic, Abby pushed by her peers. She should have called “safety,” but she hadn’t wanted people to know it was her. If it had been silent she could have just looked side-eyed at Ramona Cutlidge. Ramona Cutlidge always smelled like just-steamed broccoli and was blamed for 90% of unidentifiable classroom farts. But no. Abby’s transgression had been deep and thundering, like a trombone blasting through a denim mute, or a an August storm.

She had to get to that doorknob. Life, limb and what remained of her dignity were on the line. 

 
Knocks and jabs and cuffs fell on her from all angles. Disoriented and sick with embarrassment, Abby could barely remember where the door to the classroom even was, and finding the doorknob seemed an even more daunting task. Terrified she’d fart again, and reeling from the first, Abby fainted. When she came to, the class was gone, except for Dylan Carter.  

“Dylan? Why-” Abby began, but before she could finish her sentence, Dylan slugged her square in the jaw. 

 
“That’s for seeing me cry.”
 
—-

Julia Weiss is a writer, improviser, and actress. Julia has a big heart and a tiny bladder. Julia likes baths and wine. @weiss_tea.

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