Summary: Hillary Biggs isn’t looking forward to being a new student at all. But when she arrives to snickers, jokes, and other insults, she wishes she’d never come to Elwood City at all. Will she get any allies in this new school? Can also be found here on ff.net.
Hillary looked up from her knees with a fearful look. She’d felt the car stop before, but she knew this was The Stop, the one that would take her into her new school for the first time. Being new wasn’t something she was used to, but she had no choice but to embrace it as her mother looked back at her from the driver’s seat with a sympathetic smile on her lips. But her eyes gave her away. If Hillary didn’t get out and go to school like she was supposed to, her headstrong—and physically strong—mother would drag her out of the car and into the building.
Hillary didn’t push her luck, and within a minute she was inside the school at the principal’s office. She was told to report there even though she already knew where she’d be going, Mr. Ratburn’s third grade class. She’d even gone to the room, but it was late afternoon and no kids were still there. She knew it would be scarier once they were there, and she was right. There was a pit in her stomach as she waited for Principal Haney to finish working with a pair of students in Lakewood sports jerseys who seemed to be dropping off change buckets for a fundraiser, not that their attention was on the buckets. Their eyes were on her, and Hillary only felt worse as they kept looking back, stoically at first but soon with bemused grins on their lips. They were going to spread the word, but more than likely, they were going to make fun of her in the process.
“Alright, Hillary, I’m finished now,” Principal Haney said as a bell chimed nearby, “Ah! Just in time! Follow me and I’ll introduce you to your new homeroom class. I believe Mr. Ratburn was there when you were led to the room?”
Hillary nodded, “Yes, he was, but no one else was here.”
Principal Haney smiled, “That’s because you came at almost five o’clock in the afternoon on a Friday. No one is typically here anyway, but Friday’s are particularly quiet. People are eager to get home so they can get an early start on their weekend, and I can’t say that I blame them. Weekends are my favorite time of year,” he winked, placing a palm over Mr. Ratburn’s doorknob before knocking three times.
He entered without waiting for a response, not that there was anything to see. The children were well-behaved, and each of them sat quietly in their desks, their eyes flickering to the board, where several math problems were written in clean, white chalk. The students took no notice of Principal Haney, but soon they realized why he was there. She was spotted, and Hillary prayed she would just disappear. A skinny girl in a red sweater cracked up and tapped her friend’s arm, a girl with pigtails, and she too busted out laughing. The whole class was breaking under pressure, the pressure of having a girl like Hillary in their class—a big girl with the body of a hippo.
“Class, class, settle down,” Mr. Ratburn scolded before thanking Principal Haney and sending him out, leaving just him and Hillary at the front of the room. Mr. Ratburn smiled to her and gestured to the class, “Everyone, this is Hillary Biggs. She’s from Metropolis and has moved to Elwood City with her family. She will be your classmate now, and I expect you all to treat her nicely. Hillary, you can take a seat at that table. Across from you are Brain and Maria,” he said, and the two gave gentle waves (well, Brain barely waved. He was the only student whose attention was still fully on the math problems at hand), “and beside you will be Jenna. You three are tasked with showing Hillary around when it’s time to leave the room.
“Now, you all have five minutes to finish these problems. Hillary, feel free to join them,” Mr. Ratburn said.
Hillary knew he couldn’t see the problem, but her new classmates did.
“She’s huge!” she heard the red-clad girl whisper. Her friend nodded, but her cheeks were red as she looked between Hillary, her paper, and the problems on the board.
A boy at another table cracked up, “Yeah I bet she could eat more than Buster!”
“Hey! No one can eat more than me!” another boy countered, pausing a moment. Hillary felt the eyes on her and knew what was next, “Oh, well, you might be right. My mom would say she’s just big boned though. It has nothing to do with size.”
“Then why are you staring at her like we are? Is her gravity pulling you in?” the red-clad girl snickered sarcastically, her mind fully off the math problems.
To Hillary’s surprise, the boy across from her was distracted too, but he was distracted on her behalf, “For your information, Francine, people cannot create a gravitational force large enough to cause such a reaction, as the muscles in your eyes are already regulated to face certain factors. It would take a planetary body much like that of Mars or Venus for such a thing to occur.”
“Well it’s happening now,” Francine snickered, and a few people joined in.
But Hillary had allies, and surprisingly enough, the pig-tailed girl across from Francine was one of them. Muffy shook her head at her laughing friend, “You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Francine Frensky. She’s very chic. Who cares how big she is? None of us care how bad your clothes look.”
“That was a low blow!” Francine spat, clearly angered by the insult, but the class was silenced. Hillary could tell this was major, like a building war behind her. Thankfully Ratburn regained control by going over the answers to the math problems. Students were asked to grade themselves, and Hillary was happy to be the only other student to get them all correct (Brain was the other, of course). She and Brain received stickers for their achievement, and Hillary quickly put hers inside her desk.
Lessons began, distracting the class as they tried to take in the information Ratburn seemed to effortlessly spew out. Hillary had a teacher like him back in Metropolis and was used to the stream, but several students struggled to keep up, either due to lack of interest or the complexity of some of the concepts. Hillary didn’t care. Every moment that someone else was the center of attention was another moment that she wasn’t.
But mid-morning the class was lined up for an art class. Jenna stuck beside Hillary, guiding her to a stool next to hers in the art room, which was arranged in a circle today for painting practice. Easels circled a bowl of vibrant fruit, and jars of paint (red, blue, and yellow) were at each station. Aprons were passed out, then the teacher tasked the students to paint the bowl of fruit at the center of the room as they saw it.
Hillary and Jenna began mixing colors first, using empty jars to make purple, green, and orange so they could accurately paint the fruits showcased in the bowl—apples, grapes, bananas, oranges, and even a pineapple. While the girls discussed how to make brown in the last empty jar, Hillary heard it begin.
“No, this looks just like her! I swear!” Francine snickered, showing her easel to the pig-tailed girl beside her.
Muffy scoffed, “You’re despicable, Francine Frensky.”
“She’s right you know,” a large guy beside Francine said. When Buster asked him for help making orange like his shirt, Hillary learned his name was Binky, and he was the only one in the whole class who was almost her size…but she was still the largest, and it was obvious as Francine showed the painting to a snickering Alex a few kids over: Francine was painting a fat hippo just like Hillary.
“You have to admit it’s funny,” Alex laughed as the art teacher took notice. She rushed inside the circle and snatched up Francine’s paper, silencing the room.
The art teacher balled up the paper and tossed it in the trash. Then she looked back to Francine with a look of pure Hell, fire and all, and demanded she escort herself to Principal Haney’s office. Normally the kids would whoop or call out, but they all sat in stunned silence as they watched Francine stoically leave the room. Their eyes then followed the teacher as she moved into her office to fill out the report that would soon follow Francine to the office.
“You know, she deserves to get in trouble. Hillary, I think you’re beautiful. I don’t know what Francine’s problem is, but she isn’t my friend anymore, and you’re not either, Alex, for thinking her stupid drawing was funny!” Muffy spat.
Alex scoffed, “I wasn’t your friend anyway. What’s your problem, Muffy? You shun me for whatever reason, you won’t let other kids to your house either, and you’re always being so saucy with everyone in the class. Then she comes and you’re her new BFF before you even know her name!”
“She’s from Metropolis, a city girl. I love that about her, and I’d love to get to know her. You can’t get to know them by doing paintings you’ve titled “Hillary the fat Hippo” like Francine did,” Muffy spat, turning to Hillary, “If you’ll excuse the poor judgement of my peers, I’d like to invite you home with me this afternoon for snacks and a tour of the Crosswire mansion, a real privilege that will no longer be extended to either of our enemies, as your enemies are now mine.”
“I hope you have enough to feed her if you’re providing snacks,” Alex snickered, and a few others joined in…at first.
But Hillary’s allies were growing. Buster shook his head at Alex, “You know I can eat like a garbage truck worth of food but you’ve never asked that about me. You don’t know anything about her.”
“I know she’s big, and I bet Brain’s wrong. I can practically feel her pulling me across the room from here!” Alex cackled.
“You’re a horrible human bein’,” Ladonna spat, throwing down her paint brush, still covered in red paint, and snatching a GIRLS bathroom pass from the board, “Tell her I couldn’t take it anymore if she asks.”
“Can do!” Muffy replied with a harsh tone, but Ladonna knew it was meant for Alex, not her. Muffy shook her head, “You’re worse than Francine. She just got caught.”
“No, I hear him too. Get up,” the art teacher spat, looking back over the room, “I’ll have someone listen in. Anyone else who says anything will be written up too. This school has zero tolerance for bullying, and I won’t have you use my supplies or even your words to bully another student in my presence.”
Within seconds Miss Sweetwater, whose class would’ve been in music, poked her head in the door. Students went back to their task when she came in ooing and ahing over the beautiful paintings, as she called them. Hillary knew her orange was lopsided, and Jenna laughed when Miss Sweetwater left after complimenting her apple (which she’d accidentally painted purple, or rather her grapes didn’t turn out so she turned them into a purple apple instead). Hillary told her the work was good, and Jenna complimented hers.
It seemed the troublemakers were dealt with in her own class, but Hillary knew more kids would mingle in the lunchroom. She was worried until it came time to line up again. She was instantly surrounded by Muffy, Jenna, Brain, Buster, and others who were on her side, and they kept any naysayers at bay. They became her protector, and as days went on, they only allowed those who weren’t mean anywhere near here.
When Francine and Alex got back, as they had been suspended for a few days, they were forced out by cold shoulders and dirty glances. It took genuine apologies read to the class for them to be accepted again, though Muffy and the others made it clear that they would only remain in the circle if they continued to be nice. Francine kept her end of the bargain, but Alex continued being mischievous, often throwing food at Hillary in the lunchroom and other shenanigans. He was kept at a distance, but others were allowed to embrace Hillary.
Soon she had plenty of friends, and her worries about newness were over. She knew her weight wasn’t standard, but she was a hippo, and her classmates understood that not everyone was built to be the same size. Muffy was always careful to check weight limits to make sure her new friend never faced embarrassment over a busted floatie or folding chair, and others accommodated her size by refusing to acknowledge she was any different.
It was everything she’d asked for, but she was surprised it had gone so well. After those first moments, she had clear doubts, but now those were distant memories and all was well.
A/N: For my Summer 100 One-Shot Challenge.