The Puppet

"There are bad people in this world."
She nodded along to the familiar phrase. "Ok." She'd mutter, knowing there wasn't a reason why. It was just an excuse for her mom to not let her go outside and play. That's how it always was. Until everything fell apart. The bad people surrounded her and nothing her mom told her could've possibly prepared her for it.


1. The Princess

Reds and yellows fell from the sky, gracefully drifting to the cool fall ground. Children ran from the brick building of Holy Cross Lutheran School, screaming and jumping on the playground equipment. The teachers watched lazily, not expecting the children to do anything too bad. Fifth graders played kickball in the wet, muddy field in the middle of the playground, third and fourth graders cheered on older brothers and sisters from the bench, swinging their short legs as they pushed each other over to get a good sitting view. First and second graders showed off their ability on the monkey bars, while others ran and slid down the cool plastic slides. Sixth graders played four square and hopscotch in the parking lot, while the seventh and eighth graders hid in the back from the teachers, joking with each other and exchanging sex jokes, though none of them had ever had anything like sex. A young girl observed all this alone from her little tower in the playground. It was a spot big enough for only a small child so everyone just stayed off it and played with their friends. All except for the little girl in the polo dress, watching everyone wide eyed and curious. She wondered what it was like to run with friends and cross the monkey bars while they cheered you on. She had always wanted to play kickball with the big kids, but she didn't know how to play. So she sat alone on a tower, spending recess watching everyone else run around as the world they lived in spun. She didn't mind though. This was her castle, and she was the princess. The playground was her kingdom, and she was simply their loving ruler.

She smiled. She had friends here too. Everyone thought that she was alone, but they just didn't pay enough attention to the two children that followed her everywhere. Melissa sat on the roof of the nearby building, reigning alongside her. And Zach, her prince, wandered along the peasants. She had a lot more friends at home, but they didn't like coming to school. She didn't either, but she didn't have a choice. 

"Mel." She calls to the sweet blonde beside her.

"Yeah?" Her friend responded, swiveling her head quickly to face her, her long tresses blowing in her face. 

"Where'd Zach go?" The girl asked. She had lost sight of her prince when she stopped to watch the kickball game. 

"I think he's over there." Melissa answered, sitting up to point at the monkey bars. There he was, wearing his flower crown atop his curly black hair. His big green eyes followed a kindergartner that seemed to be struggling to reach the bars. He looked back to the girl, pointing at the five year old.

"Help him." He mouthed. Melissa looked to her friend.

"I can't help him. My arm hurts." She explained. 

"Fine. I'll help 'im." The young girl said, climbing down hesitantly from her tower.

"I'll save your spot Dell!" Melissa yelled as she ran to help the boy. Dell reached Zach and smiled at him.

"Need some help?" She asked to little boy.

"Yes please." He squeaked, lowering his arms in defeat. Dell wrapped her arms around his torso and hoisted him up to the metal equipment. He wasn't heavy by any means, and she was pretty strong for her age. He crossed the monkey bars, with Dell following him cautiously. He dropped down and grinned widely.

"Thank you." He beamed

"You're welcome." Dell replied cheerfully. The boy being here was unusual. She never saw kindergartners on the playground at lunch recess.

"They already went in." Zach explained, eyeing the child. They weren't much older the the 5 year old, only a year, but he was small for his age, so he appeared much younger. Dell exchanged a glance with the curly haired first grader, then returned her gaze to the boy.

"Kindergarten went in, kiddo." She told him. Shock washed over the boy as he muttered "Oh no." and ran for the doors.

Zach and Dell giggled as they watched the boy run to class. 

"Were we that stupid?" Zach chuckled as they walked back to Melissa. Dell gasped hearing Zach say the "S-word".

"Oooooooooooooooh, that's a dirty word." Dell chimed. She wasn't going to tell on Zach, but she thought it was a funny word.

"No it's not. Shit is a dirty word. Stupid isn't." Zach argued, puffing out his chest at his grown up knowledge.

"Did you just..." Dell gaped at him.

"Yep. I said it." Zach smirked, confident that he wouldn't get in trouble.

"Oh my Jesus." Dell whispered, stunned.

Neither of the children saw the rubber dodge ball until it hit Dell's head. 

She screamed as she fell to the muddy ground, her head pounding. Tears streamed down her face as she called out for help to her friends. 

"Zach! Help! Get a teacher! Zach, Zach where are you? Zach!"

She opened her eyes, hoping she'd see Zach running off to get help or a teacher leaning over her concerned. She didn't see either hopes at salvation. Zach stood there, staring helplessly at her.

"Zach, help me!" She cried, begging her friend to get help for her. She heard loud voices and footsteps coming towards the spot where she lay in pain.

"Who the fuck is she yelling to?" Was the first sentence she could make out. She froze. The fifth graders had found her.

"Oh no." She whispered, barely audible, as she trembled, waiting for the onslaught of insults and beatings. She had overheard stories from other first graders, even seen with her own two eyes what the fifth graders do. She was always too afraid to stand up for the poor kids they found.

"Hey freak! Who's Zach?" Another voice called, followed by laughter. Dell remained silent, unable to move her lips, fearful if she so much as breathed, they'd jump. She slowly opened one eye, quietly begging Zach to help. But he was gone. He must have run away to Melissa when he saw the fifth graders coming. A strong hand pulled the girl up to face the group. Dell counted 4 of them. It wasn't a lot, so she might get lucky. Maybe she'll just get away with some insults.

"Who. Is. Zach." The girl holding Dell asked again. She raised her fist, ready to slug the first grader.

"M-my friend." Dell stuttered, terrified. The four girls laughed.

"She ain't got no friends." A tall girl with glasses and braces chuckled.

"They call her monster, I heard 'em." Another, pudgier girl smiled.

"Nobody here likes you. You don't have any friends." The girl holding Dell spat, releasing the child. Dell fell to the ground and ran away as quickly as she could. She didn't return to the tower that day. The kingdom could live without her for a day. The lone princess locked herself in a bathroom stall for the remainder of recess. 

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