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2nd Prize Winner - Group I - Claire

March, 2015
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The hallways looked exactly the same as they did last year. The only thing that was different was that I was in year four, not year three. Happily, I skipped to my brand new year four classroom. All of my friends were inside, but SOMEONE was sitting at my favorite seat, the one I had picked when I had come to visit my teacher.
Straight and tall I walked over to the girl and tapped her gently on her shoulder. Quickly, she turned around and smiled at me. (Immediately, I could tell she was new because I had never seen her before and I had been a student at the school for over three years). Her teeth were crooked. She had messy, long blond hair and stains all over her uniform. “Hello,” she said kindly. I did not say hello back. Instead I said in a stern voice, “I think you’re sitting in my seat.” “Oh,” she mumbled. Tears filled her eyes as she stood up, picked up her bags, and left to sit in a different seat. I smiled triumphantly.
As soon as the teacher walked into the classroom, everyone stopped talking and scurried back to their seats. The teacher had short, boy-like white hair and was very plump and stout. “Ahem,” she cleared her throat loudly. “I am Ms. Gray, and I will be your teacher this year.” “Good morning Ms. Gray,” the whole class mumbled like robots. That is, except for the new girl. She sang out a friendly, “Good morning Mr. Gray,” but made a tiny mistake. The entire class burst out laughing. The new girl blushed and her face turned as red as a tomato.
“Oh my!” exclaimed Ms. Gray. “Now, let us get on with our class. First we will do roll call. Nicola?” “Here.” A girl with long golden hair excitedly raised up her hand. “Alexander?” “Here.” This time a boy with brown hair and glasses raised his hand. It kept going until she called out the new girl’s name. “Claire?” “Hello Ms. Gray,” answered Claire. “Thank you, but a simple here will be fine,” said Ms. Gray. “Yes Ms. Gray,” mumbled Claire as she slumped down in her seat.
My best friend Saho leaned over and tapped on my desk. “That girl acts like she’s never been to school before,” she whispered. I smiled and nodded. “Saho, please face the front,” instructed Ms. Gray. Saho turned around in her seat. “First, we will do Literacy.”
A whole hour went by of talking, and working, and more talking, and more working until FINALLY the bell rang for break! As fast as lightning, I raced down the stone stairs followed by Saho and my other best friend, Aliya. During recess we played ‘stay as far away as we can from Claire’ until she spotted us and ran away.
After a little while, the bell rang and we all lined up to go inside. Claire lined up behind us and I could tell she wanted to say something but I just couldn’t be bothered. My friends and I all moved to the back of the line. Next, we had Chinese class. When Chinese was over we walked back to our classroom. When we reached our classroom everyone was up and out of their seats looking under tables and chairs, and a silly boy named Tom was looking under notebooks. Even Ms. Gray was searching! We walked over to Ms. Gray. “Whats wrong?” I asked. Ms. Gray looked at me with a worried expression on her face. “It’s Claire - she’s gone missing!”                                                                                        
* * *
We looked all over the school. Finally, Nicola, the girl with pretty golden hair, found her outside on the playground sitting on the bench, crying. Ms. Gray ran outside. Aliya, Saho and I ran after her. “What happened?” asked Ms. Gray in a terrified voice. “I-I got lost,” sniffed Claire.
We all went back into the school; Ms. Gray at the front, my group of girls and I in the middle, followed by Nicola and last of all, Claire. When we reached our classroom, Ms. Gray made an announcement. Strangely, whenever she has something important to say, she stands up on her chair and speaks as loud and clear as she can. “From now on, Claire will need a helper to help her around the school!” Jessica was the only one who raised her hand. “Okay, Jessie will be your new partner,” smiled Ms. Gray. “I am JESSICA!” roared Jessica, her hands on her hips. Claire did not look so happy about her being her helper, but at least she had someone to look after her!
* * *
At lunch, I could see Jessica bossing Claire around, telling her which food she had to choose and where she had to sit. Finally, I guess Claire had enough because she let out a big, “Uggh,” and left to sit at an empty table. I have to admit, I did feel a bit bad for her, not because she had to sit alone, but because her partner was Jessica, the meanest girl in year four.
Every day went on the same way; Claire responding timidly during role call, Claire sitting by herself during lunch and recess while the other kids played, and Claire remaining quiet during Ms. Gray’s ‘goodbye game’ at the end of the day.  Even I began to feel a little bit sorry for her. Then one Thursday, Saho and Aliya didn’t come to school. They told me that since winter break was so soon, they were leaving for vacation early. Unfortunately, this meant I had to sit at a table all by myself, just like my first day of school. At lunch I got the food Aliya, Saho and I always got on Thursdays and sat down at an empty table.
Soon Claire came along and asked if she could sit down with me. I shrugged. “Sure,” I answered. Not because I wasn’t paying attention to the question, but because I had just been so desperate for someone to talk to, or even be near, for the whole day.  At that very moment, I realized that this must be how Claire felt every day when we ran away from her.
Surprised at my answer, she plopped down happily across from me. Then she started chattering away as if she hadn’t spoken to anyone in years. She told me tons of things about her, and asked me a lot of questions, hardly giving me time to finish before she asked another! She even gave me half of her cookie. For the first time, I really smiled at her. “Thanks,” I grinned. She smiled back.  I started to think that Claire might not be so bad after all.
During Topic, Claire helped me with the worksheet about the Great Wall. During Literacy, Claire gave me ideas for my new story I was working on. During Math, she helped me with my six times tables. Before we knew it, Ms. Gray stood up on the chair and announced that it was time for recess. Julia suggested we should play ‘run away from Claire,’ but I thought that it was high time we started to play with her instead of run away from her. Julia didn’t like that idea, so she went off to play with other people instead.
I found Claire sitting under the slide reading. Taking a deep breath in and a deep breath out I asked her, “Would you like to play with me?” At the sound of my voice, Claire quickly turned her head, her tangled hair flying behind her. She shrugged her shoulders the same way I did and answered, “sure.” Before long, Claire and I found ourselves laughing and playing all recess. We were upset when it was time to leave for home, so we planned a playdate the next Saturday. The entire long way home I felt like I was going to burst I was so excited!
I guess what people say is true. You can’t judge people by how they look. It’s what’s inside of them that matters.
By Margot Siebengartner
Yew Chung International School of Shanghai


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