Who Is Sarah?
Excitement crackled in the air like fireworks as they walked in loose groups, laughing and talking. Their clothes, still stiff with the newness that clung like perfume, crunched with their movements as their untouched notebooks glistened in the sun. It was the first day of neo-school and almost all were excited. They were seeing their friends whom they hadn’t seen for awhile and perhaps new adventures waited inside the freshly scrubbed classrooms. Yet, beneath the excitement there was a thin veneer of disappointment, for the doors that closed behind them signaled the end of the summer - the end of their freedom. While it remained unsaid, all of them knew that it wouldn’t be too long before they would be counting down the days until the next summer.
Sarah sat at one of the desks near the window, her eyes drawn to the beauty that stretched out like a fabulous painting. The red Nimmo sighed slightly as she watched the gentle wildflowers dance in the warm breeze. It was as if they were beckoning to her, “Come out and play, Sarah,” but she was stuck indoors. Perhaps choosing a seat this close to the window hadn’t been a good idea.
“Hey, Sarah,” a voice said nearby. “How was your summer?”
She turned to face the Royal Eyrie who was arranging his stuff on the seat next to her, a warm smile imprinted on his regal face. “It was fine,” she answered, “but what about your summer, Valor? How was Terror Mountain?”
“Cold,” Valor immediately replied, “but it was fun. I even learned to ski a little.” His smile broadened, and he blushed slightly beneath his fur as his eyes drifted towards the floor. “Actually, it’s more like I learned to fall without breaking anything,” he admitted. “I don’t think Eyries are built to be good skiers.” He flapped his wings once as if for emphasis.
Sarah returned his smile, for this was typical of her friend. Valor was so smart and kind, but he never acted vain or like he was better than anyone. He had been painted royal when he was very young, but it hadn’t gone to his head. At times, she felt a little plain and boring beside him, but Valor acted as if there was no difference between them. It was one of the major reasons they were best friends.
There was a sudden lull in talking and Sarah looked around to see what had happened. She gasped slightly when her eyes fell upon the doorway, for standing there was the most beautiful Faerie Draik she had ever seen. Shyly, her blue eyes scanned the room as she took a few hesitant steps inside the room and sat down at a nearby desk. It was obvious that she was new to the area, but Sarah thought that the Draik would have no trouble making friends.
The bell rang and everyone took their seats as their teacher turned from the blackboard where she had bee writing. “Good morning, class,” she greeted, and there was a few mumbles of good morning in return. “My name is Miss Talia. Welcome to my class. I’m sure this will be a great year for all of us. Now, please listen as I call roll and say ‘here’ when I call your name.” The Island Krawk took up her attendance book from her desk and leaned against her desk to take attendance.
Sarah listened carefully and soon found the new Draik’s name was Amagdeline, which suited her perfectly as the name was equally foreign and elegant. It was nothing like Sarah, plain and boring. She was intent on this train of thought that she barely heard Miss Talia call her name, but Valor quickly nudged her before it became too obvious she had been daydreaming.
“Now, class,” Miss Talia said, “I thought that this year we’re going to start off with a little writing assignment to give us a chance to get to know each other.” A slight moan rippled through the class, but their teacher completely ignored it as she continued. “Each one of us are unique,” she explained, “and we’re all individuals. So, I want each of you to write an essay about who you are and what makes you special. Today is Monday and, since this is your first assignment, it won’t be due until Friday. Now, I’m not overly picky about length, but...”
Miss Talia continued and even wrote the requirements for the essay on the board, but Sarah wasn’t listening as she felt her stomach draw into a tight knot. An essay about herself? How could she ever write that? She was a nobody.
“That wasn’t bad for the first day of school,” Valor commented as he walked with Sarah, “But I’ve heard that Miss Talia’s pretty cool - for a teacher and all.”
“I guess,” Sarah mumbled, shuffling her feet along the dusty path.
“What’s wrong?” the Eyrie asked. “Are you sick?”
Sarah shook her head. “I’m just worried about that essay,” she answered. “I don’t know what I’ll write.”
“I’m sure you’ll do fine,” her friend said.
She tried to smile because she knew he was only trying to cheer her up, but it was hard to hide the uneasiness in her eyes. “I need to be hurrying home. I’ve got a lot of chores to do.” Without giving Valor a chance to say anything else, she shouted a quick bye over her shoulder as she ran home.
In truth, she was a little embarrassed of her neohome. Valor had seen it before, but she still hated to bring him or any of her friends here. Most of them lived in nice, neat neohome that were organized and structured. Her neohome, on the other hand, looked like it had been designed by a near-sighted chia clown. It was a good reflection of her family, for they were all so different from one another, yet they lived here happily. Sighing, she looked up at the disjointed angles and varying textures as her thoughts drifted towards her family.
First was Gwendolynn, her older sister and the eldest one of their family. She was a Royal Uni who had won the Beauty Contest with ease many times over. She seemed to be the living example of elegance and grace, yet she was simultaneously humble and modest. Never did she think herself better than anyone else, nor did she hesitate to get her hooves dirty to keep the house clean. Everything about her was amazing.
Her older brother, Frederick, was a Shadow Lenny and he was extremely smart. In fact, his nickname was Brains, but he didn’t seem to bothered by that. While the most difficult conundrums were no more than childish riddles to him, he did his best not to make others feel dumb or less capable mentally. He was also very gentle and caring, especially towards his youngest sister.
Ithialia was the youngest. The tiny Baby Usul, who usually answered to Itsy faster than her given name, was completely adorable and sweet. Adding to her charm was the fact that she could sing so beautifully and clearly. No one doubted that she would be a famous singer one day, but for now she was content at home. Next year, she would be starting neo-school.
Sarah always felt a bit out of place when she thought of her family. She was beautiful like Gwendolynn or smart like Frederick, and her singing was like that of a sick Kadoatie with a thorn stuck in its paw. She wasn’t special in any way. Her family were all like these amazing jewels, and she was just a rusted cog that somehow got thrown into the mix. Sighing, she finally walked inside.
“Welcome home,” Gwendolynn greeted from the kitchen. “How was your first day?”
“Okay, I guess,” Sarah answered.
“I can’t wait to start neo-school,” Itsy said, looking up from the toys she had been playing with. “Is it fun?”
“Sometimes,” replied Sarah. She turned back towards her older sister. “I’m going to go upstairs and get started on my homework.”
“You have homework after your first day?” Gwendolynn seemed amazed.
“It’s just an essay,” Sarah explained. “It’s not due until Friday, but I wanted to get an early start on it.”
“Do you need any help?” Frederick questioned.
Sarah forced a false smile upon her face. “No, I’m fine,” she said. “Thanks, though.” With fake enthusiasm she ran upstairs to her room and quickly shut the door. She could hear them all downstairs, and tears she had been fighting back all day slowly slipped down her face. It wasn’t fair that she was so plain and simple. Allowing herself to cry for a few moments, she finally got to her feet and made her way over to the wooden desk next to her bed. Opening a clean notebook, she laid it down upon the desk and stared at the white paper, hoping that inspiration would suddenly bloom. Yet her mind remained as blank as that unsoiled page.
The next few days went by quickly, and she could hear her classmates talking about their essays in class. Even Valor had been working on his, but no ideas came to her mind. Despite herself, she felt anger towards the essay and actually entertained thoughts of just turning in a clean sheet of paper as a representative who she was, but she didn’t want to get a bad grade on her first big assignment. She had no idea what she was going to do.
On Thursday, she really felt the pressure building within her mind, so she walked down into the woods near her neohome. She had always loved it here and found it was the best place to think. So many times, she had wandered here upset and angry, only to find herself smiling as she sat at the trunk of an ancient, wise tree, its branches spreading protectively above her. Here, sounds were soft and pure as wild petpets rustled in the brush and rumbled in nature’s playground.
Today was different. The trees now seemed cold, their branches talons reaching down for her or else trying to push her aside. The crackling and crumbling around here were ancient whispers telling her to be gone. Tears filled her eyes as she plopped down on a hard, smooth boulder. Time was almost up.
“Help!” a voice drifted on the breeze, distant and familiar at the same time.
Sarah sat up and looked around, but only saw the trees and rocks. Was this assignment actually driving her crazy.
“Help me!” the voice cried again, answered her question.
“What’s wrong?” Sarah asked, listening to the voice and trying to follow it.
“I fell down a hole,” the voice answered. “I was running after my new Eizzel when I got lost in these woods.”
Sarah followed the voice and soon found the hole in question. Peering down she saw the frightened and dirty face of Amagdeline looking up at her. “Can you crawl out?” Sarah questioned.
“No,” Amagdeline answered. “I’m afraid I’ll fall, and the hole’s too narrow for me to use my wings.” She had been crying, and there were two muddy paths streaked down her beautiful face.
“Hold on,” Sarah instructed. “I’m going to get help.”
“Don’t leave me!” the frightened Draik screamed.
“But I have to get help,” replied Sarah, looking around desperately for bit of rope or vine she could use. The forest floor was disappointedly barren. “I can’t pull you out myself.”
“I’m scared,” Amagdeline cried. “Please don’t leave.”
Before Sarah could respond she heard a beautifully familiar voice call her name. “Sarah, dinner’s ready!”
“Itsy!” Sarah screamed. “Go get Gwendolynn and Frederick! Hurry!”
“What’s going on, Sarah?” the young Usul asked, walking over towards her.
“I can’t explain now,” replied the Nimmo, “but hurry. You have to go. Please, hurry!”
Itsy looked like she was going to ask more questions, but then thought better of it. She turned and ran back towards the neohome as quick as her short legs could carry her. “Itsy’s going to get help,” Sarah explained. “It’s going to be okay now.”
“Thank you,” Amagdeline replied, sounding very tired and drained.
Seconds ticked by mercilessly slow as Sarah listened for any sounds of her family approaching. The Draik seemed to be growing more tired as well, her eyelids dropping as she shifted slightly in the hold. Suddenly, her hands slipped and she began to slide.
“Help!” she screamed, her claws scratching in the loose dirt.
Sarah had no time to think. She leaped forward and grabbed Amagdeline’s arms as she dug her strong feet into the ground for support. She had stopped her classmate from falling, but she could feel her feet slipping. With every ounce of strength she had, she pulled, but she knew it was a losing battle. Soon, they would both be lost in the hole.
Strong hands grabbed hold of her and began to pull. Slowly, she was pulled out of the hole, still holding on to the terrified Draik. Amagdeline was still shaking and dirt was caked upon her from head to toe, but she appeared to be fine. “Thank you,” she gasped. Relieved, Sarah looked up at her family who had came to their rescue and the tears that filled her eyes now were those of joy. She was lucky to have a family like them.
“We should get you in the house,” Gwendolynn said.
“Thank you,” Amagdeline said, “but I’d just like to go home now. I’m really tired, and I’m sure my family’s worried about me.”
“Are you sure?” Frederick asked.
Amagdeline nodded and Sarah walked over next to her. “Don’t worry,” she said, “I’ll walk her home.”
“Okay,” Gwendolynn reluctantly agreed, “But hurry back.”
“I will,” Sarah said, helping Amagdeline to her feet as the two started out of the woods and towards the Draiks’s neohome. Sarah’s family waved to her, watching as the two walked out of sight.
They walked without talking for quite awhile, and Sarah thought that perhaps Amagdeline had fallen asleep while walking, until she suddenly pointed towards a neohome. “This is it,” she announced.
The simple one story house didn’t look anything like what someone as beautiful as Amagdeline would call home. White with a plain wooden exterior, it seemed pleasant enough, but there was nothing about it that was fancy or elegant. Still, she did her best to hide her feelings as she said, “Are you sure you’re going to be okay.”
Amagdeline nodded. “I just really need to take a bath,” she said. “Thanks so much. I really thought I wasn’t going to make it.”
“No problem, Amagdeline.”
The Draik frowned slightly. “Could you call me Maggie?” she asked. “I’ve always hated my name. It’s too long and weird sounding.”
Sarah was surprised. “But it’s a beautiful name. I mean, I’ll call you Maggie if you want me to, but I still like your name.”
“Thanks,” Maggie replied, “but I’ve always wanted a normal name. Something pretty that I don’t have to spell out for people and that people can actually pronounce. I would love if I was a Sarah. Now, that’s a pretty name.”
The Nimmo couldn’t find her voice to reply as Maggie turned and walked towards her neohome, but suddenly the Draik turned and looked back at her. “I really envy you,” she admitted. “You have an amazing family, interesting neohome, and you’re so brave. I couldn’t have done what you did. Plus, I don’t have any friends like you do. Everyone at school likes you, but they just stare at me.”
Sarah smiled gently. “I’ll be your friend.”
“Thanks,” Maggie replied. “I’ll see you tomorrow then. Good night!”
“Good night!” Sarah called back as he her new friend disappeared inside her neohome.
“I was really impressed by everyone’s essays,” Miss Talia said, as she greeted the class the following Monday morning, “but there was one that really stood out to me.” Smiling brightly, her eyes scanned the room before finally pausing on Sarah. “I was hoping you’d be willing to read your essay aloud, Sarah,” she said.
The Nimmo nodded and slowly made her way to the front of the room. She had written her essay late Thursday night, and had been worried that her teacher wouldn’t like what she had written, but it appears that hadn’t been an issue. Taking her essay from Miss Talia, she looked at her classmates. All were smiling at her, but none so brightly as Maggie and Valor. Taking a deep breath, she began to read her essay.
“Who is Sarah? When I first heard about this essay, I wasn’t very happy about it. I mean, I didn’t know who I really was and I didn’t think I was worth writing about. I haven’t done many of the things other people have. I’ve never been to the peak of Terror Mountain, danced on the beaches of Mystery Island, or swam in the waters above Maraqua. I didn’t think I was special either. I’ve never been painted and I’ve never been zapped by the secret lab ray. I don’t even have a fancy name. I really felt like a nobody. I was no one special.
“Yet, as the days went by I realized that I was someone special. I was very lucky because I had a loving, wonderful family. We care for and help each other when we need it. There’s always love in my crazy neohome. My family is truly unique.
“It’s not just my family that makes me who I am either. I learned that I had strength and courage that I didn’t even realize. Through it all, I even made a new friend who showed me how much I really have. She even taught me that as much as I look around and want to be like other people, they might be thinking the same thing about me.
“So, who is Sarah. I’m nobody, but I’m somebody. I’m special and unique simple because I am me, and I’m happy to be simply myself.”
She stopped, and looked up at her classmates who were staring back in silence. For a moment, she was worried that they would start laughing, but Maggie started clapping instead. A second person started clapping, followed by a third and fourth. Soon, the sound rumbled through the class like the most beautiful thunder ever heard.
And they were all clapping for her.
Miss Talia, the Island Krawk teacher, was also mentioned in my short story, "The Haunted Toilet."