Doree Weller was a mental health counselor in a previous life, and her passion for destigmatizing and creating conversations about mental health inform most of her stories. Currently Doree lives in Texas with six cats, two dogs, and one husband, proudly wears the label of “crazy cat lady” and is working on a novel.
Links to her other published stories and blogs can be found at https://doreeweller.wordpress.com.
by Doree Weller
For Pammy’s 12th birthday, Grandma gave her a silk scarf.
It was white and mint green with polka dots. A curved line separated the white background with green polka dots from the inverse on the other side. Pink and yellow butterflies swooped up and down.
She had no idea what she was supposed to do with a scarf that wasn’t even warm. In August.
Pammy texted her best friend, Lena. “Grandma got me the weirdest present.” She added a picture of the scarf.
Then she waited. And waited. And waited.
At the beginning of the summer, right after Lena moved away, Lena would have texted back immediately. But then Lena had met some girls at the pool, and now she sometimes took a day or more to answer.
Pammy felt sick to her stomach. Since first grade, it had been Pammy-and-Lena. But now she was starting sixth grade alone, and she hated it.
The scarf felt silky and soothing as she ran one hand down it, then the other, back and forth.
On the first day of sixth grade, Pammy dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, wondering if any of the girls got boobs over the summer, or how they’d treat her now that she was one instead of two. Pammy stroked the scarf as she worried, then stuffed it into her pocket.
The bus ride was normal since she and Lena had always ridden different buses. Pammy stared out the window and didn’t even look when someone took the seat beside her. At school, other kids said, “Hello” or “How was your summer?” or “Did you go on vacation?”
The class part was fine. Find your assigned seat, sit, be quiet, listen. She could do all that. Though her eyes kept drifting around the room, searching for someone with a smile directed at her. Pammy had loved and hated how Lena always tried to distract her during class, but it was more distracting with her gone than it ever had been with her there.
It was lunch that she’d been dreading, and it was as bad as she feared. She took her paper bag and sat at the end of a table. Around her, conversations buzzed. Girls hugged and traded apples and desserts and half sandwiches. But no one came to sit with Pammy. No one even looked at her.
It was hard to swallow her lunch, but she managed to eat most of it and not cry. She put her hand in her pocket to stroke the silky scarf and wondered what she would do if she never had any friends again.
At the end of the week, Pammy got to go TAG. The “Talented and Gifted” class was the first place she didn’t miss Lena since she’d been going there since first grade without her.
Mrs. Wolf greeted her. “Did you have a good summer?”
“Lena moved away.”
“That’s too bad, honey. But maybe it will be a good opportunity for you to make new friends.”
“Well, we have a new boy showing up. He just moved from another district. Why don’t you show Cameron around for me?”
Pammy did not want to do that but also didn’t want to argue with her teacher. So she agreed but reached into her pocket to stroke her scarf.
It had been the same kids in the class for the last several years, so Pammy knew them all. She glanced around at Greg and Sarah and Heather and Matt greeting one another. They said hello to her and she waved.
The new boy stumbled into the room. He was gangly, with scuffed corduroy pants and a striped shirt that was tattered at the cuffs. His grin was huge and he went toward Mrs. Wolf. “Hi! My teacher told me I should come here!”
Pammy had seen him around school. He seemed louder and dirtier than the other boys.
“Cameron, this is Pammy. She’s going to be your buddy today and answer any questions you might have. Right, Pammy?”
Pammy wanted to say no, to go off and do her puzzles without the dirty boy. But she loved Mrs. Wolf and wanted to make her happy, so she agreed.
Sarah, Heather, Greg, and Matt were gathered together at a table, working on their “About Me” project. Before Pammy could stop him, Cameron went over to them and plopped down in an empty chair. The table moved a little when he bumped it. “What are you guys doing?” he asked.
“Hey, be careful!” Sarah wrinkled her nose. “There are lots of empty tables. Why don’t you go sit with Pammy?”
“Oh.” Cameron’s enthusiasm diminished only slightly. “Okay.”
Sarah had wrinkled her nose at Pammy in that way before, so she knew how awful it felt. She wanted to leave him to figure it out himself, but Mrs. Wolf had told her to help him. Pammy went up to Cameron and said, “Come on, I’ll show you where all the supplies are and explain what we’re doing.”
Cameron chattered as they worked on their project, and Pammy tuned him out, concentrating. She loved when she did her project just right and Mrs. Wolf praised her attention to detail.
The next day, Pammy was on the playground. Nicole and Brenda had asked her to jump rope with them, but she didn’t feel like it. Pammy drifted back and forth on the swings, dragging her feet in the mulch. If Lena were there, they’d be racing to see who could get highest fastest. They’d take turns jumping off when the teachers weren’t watching.
“Hey!” Cameron plopped on the swing next to hers. “What are you doing?”
“Nothing,” she said. “Just swinging.”
“Is that yours?” Before Pammy could answer, Cameron had reached down and grabbed her scarf off the ground.
Pammy hopped off the swing and snatched it back. “Don’t touch that!” The scarf must have dropped out of her pocket.
Cameron looked hurt. “Why not?”
“Because she doesn’t like it.”
“She? Your scarf is a girl?”
“Yes.” Pammy made up the story as she went along. “And her name is Emilie. She’s not just a scarf.”
He half scowled, like he wasn’t sure if she was making fun of him or not. “So, what is she?”
“She was a girl my age who was turned into a scarf by a mad scientist. I have to figure out how to turn her back.”
“Oh, that’s cool. Can I help?”
Pammy frowned. That wasn’t the response she’d been expecting. “I… guess so.”
Cameron got off the swing and did a cartwheel. When he was upright again, he asked, “Well, what do we have to do?”
“I don’t know yet,” Pammy said. “I’ll talk to her tonight and figure it out.”
“Just to me.”
“Cool. I wish I had a talking scarf.”
That night, Pammy thought about what could turn a scarf back into a girl. The mad scientist must have gotten angry with Emilie for something she did.
Pammy remembered that poem her mom used to say when she was young, about sugar and spice. But Pammy didn’t think that’s what girls were really made of. She decided she’d have to come up with her own recipe, and if they could gather the ingredients, then they could turn Emilie back into a girl.
She scribbled on paper after paper, making lists, crossing things out, starting over, until she finally had something she thought worked.
Girls are made of tears and fears
Of strength and friends and lies
Girls want to be heard
They want to be loved
And never left behind.
Help me change back to a girl
By finding all those things
When you have them all
The spell will run out
And I’ll change back to me.
She showed the poem to Cameron the next day, and he frowned. “What does it mean?”
“It means we have to find things that represent everything in the first part. Tears and fears and stuff like that.”
He chewed his lip. “What do you think boys are made of?”
“I don’t know. I’m not a boy.”
He nodded, like that made sense.
“I have this,” she said. It was half a heart necklace that said “Be Fri.” Lena had the half with “st ends.” They hadn’t worn them since like third grade, but Pammy still kept hers in her jewelry box. “It’s for the part about wanting to be loved.”
“Okay. What should we work on next? What about the part about wanting to be heard? Like a phone?”
“Yeah.” She nodded. “Or a megaphone.”
“What about a kazoo?”
“A kazoo? Why a kazoo?”
Cameron shrugged. “I don’t know. I have a kazoo, so I thought I’d see if it could work for something.”
“It has to mean something,” Pammy said. “It can’t just be any old thing. This…” She held up the necklace. “…was from my best friend back when we were still friends.”
“Why aren’t you friends anymore?”
“We’re still friends. I didn’t mean we weren’t. She just doesn’t live here anymore so now she’s busy. She has to make new friends and maybe her new school is harder.”
Cameron kicked the dirt. “I have a baseball cap that was my dad’s. Before he left. I don’t see him anymore.”
“Oh.” Pammy thought about that, what it would be like not to see her dad anymore. He worked a lot but helped her whenever she had a hard math problem and took her for ice cream on Saturdays. “That sucks.”
Cameron shrugged like he didn’t care, but he didn’t look up at her. “So the baseball cap could be the part about being left behind.”
The bell rang, ending recess before they could figure out the other parts. But that was okay. Pammy didn’t want to figure them out too quickly. It was fun to pretend that she was doing something important.
Cameron brought the baseball cap and a prism the next day.
“What’s that for?” Pammy asked, pointing to the prism.
He turned it so that pieces of rainbow fell on the ground. “Doesn’t it look a little like tears?”
It kind of did. Pammy smiled.
Over the next several days, Pammy and Cameron met every recess to think of things they could find to represent the different parts. After a few days, Nicole and Brenda came up to them. “What are you guys doing?” Brenda asked.
“We’re trying to find lies and strength!” Cameron said.
Pammy glared at him. The poem and Emilie was their secret. It might not feel as special if he shared it.
“What does that mean?” Nicole asked.
Cameron grinned at her. Pammy reluctantly pulled the paper out of her pocket. “Here,” she said, handing the poem over to them. When they were done reading, they both looked at her questioningly.
“Her scarf used to be a girl named Emilie, who was captured by a mad scientist. He turned her into a scarf, and if we can collect all these things, we can change her back.” Cameron rocked back and forth on his toes as he explained it.
Nicole and Brenda were looking at them like they wanted to help, and Pammy liked the attention. Maybe it would be fun if they helped. “I have a necklace that means love, and Cameron has a baseball cap that means left behind, and a prism that means tears.” She took the prism and the necklace out of her pocket to show them.
Nicole frowned. “Where’d you get that?” She grabbed the prism. “That was in my desk. You stole it!”
“No, I didn’t…” Pammy stopped and looked at Cameron. He wasn’t looking at her, and she realized he must have taken it. She almost told Nicole that Cameron had taken the prism, but she didn’t want to get him in trouble. “I found it,” she said. “I didn’t take it, I swear.”
Nicole hesitated. “Really? Where was it?”
Pammy looked away. “It was in the trash can. Someone must have put it there. I thought someone threw it away.”
“Okay,” Nicole said. “Well…” She shrugged, then she and Brenda walked away. Pammy had thought they were going to help her and Cameron, but now they thought she was a thief.
She whirled toward Cameron. “Why did you take her prism?”
He shrugged. “I didn’t mean to, not really. I saw her showing it to someone else and I thought it would be perfect. I just wanted to bring you the right thing so we can change Emilie back.”
She shook her head. “You could have gotten me in trouble. You could have gotten us both in trouble.”
“I’m sorry,” he said.
Pammy was so furious that she stormed away and told herself that she’d never speak to him again.
That night, she took Emilie, the poem, and the necklace out of her pocket and left them on her dresser. It was all such a stupid idea.
She picked up her phone to text Lena and ask her what to do, but when she looked at the texts, she noticed that Lena still hadn’t answered the last one she’d sent. Tears burned her throat.
Pammy ignored Cameron for the next two days at school. She started swinging alone again but watched Brenda and Nicole running around the playground together. She wondered if they were talking about her. She wondered if anyone else missed Lena. She wondered if anyone else noticed she was always alone.
Cameron walked around aimlessly, kicking rocks and walking through the middle of the boys’ kickball game. He didn’t seem to notice when they yelled at him.
Pammy wasn’t sure what she felt. In one way, she was mad at him for almost getting her in trouble. In another way, he had pretended with her. Lena always thought things were stupid if they weren’t her idea. She wouldn’t have liked Emilie. She would have said that it was a stupid game to look for any of those things.
Pammy reached into her pocket before she remembered that she’d left everything on her dresser. She missed the silky feel of the scarf, the poem crunching under her fingers, the cool metal of the necklace. She missed Cameron poring over the poem with her, telling her that he was afraid of spiders and clowns, and that he was not collecting either of those things for her.
He was still wearing his dad’s baseball cap, as he had been since the first day he brought it to show her. Cameron understood about being left behind, just like she did. She wondered why they were so easy to leave behind. But there was nothing wrong with Cameron. Other than that he talked too much and couldn’t stand still. Those weren’t good reasons to ditch someone. Cameron had stolen the prism, but he’d just wanted to help.
Pammy jumped off the swing and ran up to Cameron. “Hey.”
His eyes lit up. “Hey.”
“I think we need to find a new thing to represent tears since we can’t use the prism anymore.”
Cameron grinned. “I had an idea about that…”
Copyright 2018 by Doree Weller