“So how is your boyfriend… Shannon, is it?” Matilda asked her daughter one night after Margaret sent Morgan to bed. Margaret shrugged.

“No idea. Haven’t seen him in a week,” she replied, munching on a cookie while reading a gardening book for her work. Matilda frowned.

“Are you bothered by that?” she asked. Margaret looked up with a slight frown.

“Actually, I didn’t even really notice he wasn’t around until you asked me about him just now,” she admitted, biting her lower lip. Matilda raised an eyebrow.

“Perhaps you rushed into a relationship too quickly, dear?” Margaret sighed.

“Maybe… but he’s still a nice guy. We’ll talk the next time we see each other,” she told her mother, going outside to tend to her garden. Margaret still hated gardening and the outdoors with a vengeance, but she was determined to become a Creature-Robot Cross Breeder and if spending hours rolling around in dirt with nasty bugs assaulting her face and arms was the only way to do it, then she’d just have to grit her teeth and bear it.

Despite loathing every minute she had to spend outside in her garden, Margaret did a good job of raising thriving, healthy plants.

Morgan’s hands shook as she packed up her school things in her newly decorated room and looked in the mirror to adjust her hair ribbons. What if they laugh at me? she thought to herself. What if the teacher makes me talk in front of everyone and they laugh at me because I sound funny? What if they think I’m stupid because I’m deaf?

“Are you ready for school, Morgan?” Margaret asked, making the hand signs as she spoke. Morgan bit her lip.

“Mom, what if they make fun of me?” she signed. “I don’t want them to make fun of me.” Margaret sighed and bent down to hug her daughter.

“Just keep your head held high and walk proud, and you’ll be okay, no matter what happens,” Margaret said slowly so Morgan could lip read. “Do you have your hearing aid?”

Morgan pulled it out of her pocket and stuffed it in her ear, turning it on with a frown. She didn’t want to wear it. For one thing, all the noise when she was used to silence made her head hurt and for another, it was noticeable to the other kids, but she knew she needed it to hear the teacher. Her family slowed their speech so she could lip read and used sign language for her, but the teacher wouldn’t.

Morgan took a deep breath and stepped onto the school bus with a worried frown. She sat down beside a cute little redheaded girl who looked to be the same age as her. The girl smiled and Morgan gave a nervous smile back. She could see kids whispering to each other and pointing at her hearing aid. Going red, she tried to cover it and slide as far down in her seat as she could. She discreetly flicked it off so she wouldn’t have to hear anyone talk about her.

Morgan quietly sat down at her desk and pulled out her school books. She could hear with her hearing aid on, but not as well as she’d be able to if she weren’t deaf. Sometimes the sound crackled in and out. She squinted her eyes shut tight, trying to only focus on one sound at a time. So much noise was hurting her head again.

“Morgan, please stand up and recite the class rules to the class,” the teacher asked her after the bell rang. Morgan went red and shook her head, pointing to her ear. The teacher frowned. “Morgan, I’m well aware of your disability, but that’s no reason to be a shy little mouse. Stand up now and do the best you can,” she insisted kindly.

“Rule One: Sharing is caring,” she said. As soon as the words left her mouth, the crackling noise of giggles met her ear and her eyes filled with tears. She tried to continue because the teacher told her to, but her voice got smaller and smaller. Didn’t the teacher know how terrible she sounded? The teacher glared at her students and gave the gigglers detention, but that didn’t stop the points and whispers coming Morgan’s way. The same redhead she’d sat next to slipped a piece of paper onto her desk. Morgan unfolded it and slowly sounded out the messy, misspelled words. They were still only six and learning to read and write.

Thay arr meenees. Yu did a gud job.

– Savannah Piper

Morgan smiled, feeling better. Not everyone in her class hated her, but her smile soon turned into frustrated and hurt tears once again as soon as the recess bell rang. Savannah had asked Morgan if she wanted to play with her. Morgan agreed and the two were happily building sand castles in the sand box when some of the gigglers in the class stomped over and knocked their sand castle down. They had a couple of older kids with them, too.

“Hey loser! Nice satellite in your ear! Can you talk to your home planet with it?” one of the older kids sneered while the younger ones laughed. Morgan went red and tried to cover her hearing aid with her hair. Savannah put her hands on her hips and stalked forward.

“You’re just bullies and meanies, all of you!” she shouted. “If you was deaf would you want people makin’ fun o’ you?” she challenged.

“Shut up, trailer trash!” an older girl snapped. “You don’t have a right to talk. You don’t even have parents and you live in a trailer with your hooker aunt!”

“At least I don’t go around bullying smaller kids!” Savannah shouted back, though the insult had plainly hurt, because there were tears streaming down her face. She grabbed Morgan’s hand and pulled her away, rubbing her eyes furiously and sniffling. “Big fat meanies…” she grumbled. “That’s all they are.” Morgan nodded and hugged her new friend until she stopped crying, but Morgan was crying, too.

“How was your first day of school, kiddo?” Margaret asked with a smile when Morgan walked in the door. Morgan’s shoulders shook and she burst into tears. Margaret rushed over to hug her little girl and wipe her tears. “What happened?”

“They were mean to me, Mommy,” Morgan signed. “They said my hearing aid was a satellite and I talk to aliens with it and that I’m an alien and they were mean to Savannah, too.” She spoke the last part aloud, only because she needed to say Savannah’s name. Margaret stroked her daughter’s hair.

“Who’s Savannah, honey?”

“My friend,” Morgan signed. Margaret smiled.

“Well one friend is better than none, right?” she signed to her daughter. Morgan sniffed and nodded. “Go do your homework and then you can tell me all about Savannah, okay?” When Morgan ran upstairs, Margaret bit back tears. Every mother wanted to protect their children, but this was something Margaret couldn’t fix for her daughter. It broke her heart to see her baby crying because someone was mean to her.

Savannah soon became a permanent fixture in Charm Manor. She came over every day after school and slept over every weekend. She was such a bubbly, good-natured girl that everyone in the house fell in love with her and started treating her like a part of the family.

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