“Have you ever noticed your fingers get puffy and wrinkled when you take a bath or spend a long time in the pool?” Mr. Phoenix asked the class.
Yup. And I don’t care why. Harper thought to herself, sighing.
“Or have you ever wondered how a plant gets water from its roots?” Her teacher continued.
Nope. I haven’t. When she was sure he was not looking in her direction, Harper reached up and gently flipped the tiny switch on the back of her hearing aid.
She shifted slightly in her seat, turning her right side toward her teacher as best as she could. Her hearing was significantly worse in that ear — so much so that a hearing aid was of no help to her.
Though she could still hear bits and pieces of Mr. Phoenix’s speech about Mitosis or Osmosis or Boring-osis or whatever the heck it was, it was so much easier to tune him out when his voice was softer and a bit fuzzy — especially now that her bad ear was facing his direction.
Instead of listening to his lecture, Harper began allowing herself to daydream. She thought back to last weekend, when her cousin Dahlia had come to visit.
Dahlia was probably Harper’s favorite cousin, even though she was one of the oldest. Her mom, Auntie Charlie, was probably Harper’s favorite aunt too, so maybe that had something to do with it.
But then shouldn’t Harrison be one of her favorite cousins too? Auntie Charlie was his mom too, but he wasn’t nearly as cool as Dahlia was. He was only two years older than Harper, but he didn’t like many of the same things she did, and they often butted heads. Especially when it came to Void Critters.
Harper was happy that only Dahlia had come to visit. She had taken her to go see the new Wonder Woman movie, and Harper loved it. She’d spent a long time talking about it with her parents when she got home… Especially her Papa. He always had a soft spot for superheroes (though Batman would always be his favorite).
Thinking about the movie made Harper start to wonder though… What would it be like to try writing her own super hero story? One where the hero wasn’t perfect. What if the hero was like her? What if she wore a hearing aid or used an inhaler, but was still powerful and awesome?
Or what if the villain was like her?
Everyone always expected people like her to be weak and harmless. Innocent and good. But what if they weren’t, for a change?
“Harper? Earth to Harper!”
The young girl almost jumped at the feeling of a slight tap on her shoulder and the muffled sound of a familiar voice in her ear. Harper noticed that the rest of the class seemed to be out of their seats and moving around the room.
She reached up to turn on her hearing aid before finally facing her friend. “Sorry… Trying to ignore the snore-fest.” Harper laughed softly.
“I figured.” Nyla shook her head in amusement as she spoke, taking a seat beside her friend. “I was trying to ask if you wanna work together?”
“Sure! Um… Work on what?”
“The celery experiment. We’re supposed to work with a partner.”
Harper rolled her eyes. “Ugh. Another experiment?”
“Yup.” Nyla sighed. “You’re lucky I was at least kinda listening to the directions. Not everybody has an ‘off’ switch like you do when we wanna stop paying attention!”
“Oh yeah, lucky me.” Harper’s voice dripped with sarcasm, but she did not lose her smile.
“Well I hope you were at least paying attention to the announcements this morning… Did you hear football tryouts are tomorrow?” Her friend asked.
Harper nodded. “Yeah. Are you gonna go?” She she whispered, noticing that Mr. Phoenix had begun addressing the class yet again.
This time, she had to keep her hearing aid on so she could continue talking to Nyla, but she did her best to ignore him anyway. We have way more important things to talk about!
“Of course!” Her friend whispered back, leaning close and speaking into her good ear. “What about you?”
“Well, I want to. As long as my parents let me.”
“Why wouldn’t they?” Nyla asked.
“You know how annoying they can be sometimes…”
Both girls jumped at the sound of Mr. Phoenix’s voice. Harper could feel the eyes of the rest of her classmates, staring at her.
“Yes, Mr. Phoenix?” She asked softly.
“Are you having a nice conversation?” Her teacher scolded.
Harper pouted her lip slightly, and tried her best to look as innocent and unassuming as she could. She knew how to play this game. “I’m sorry, Mr. Phoenix. I was having trouble hearing. Nyla was just helping me.”
The man’s face softened immediately. “I understand, Miss Rosebrook.” He replied gently. “But if you have a question, please feel free to ask me, okay? Or wait until a better time to have Miss Flores assist you.”
Mr. Phoenix gave her a small nod. “Very well, class. You may begin.”
The classroom gradually began to fill with soft chatter as the students got to work.
Nyla stared at Harper for a few moments, wide-eyed. “How are you always able to get away with that?” She asked.
Harper shrugged, smirking as she allowed her innocent mask to fade. “Grown ups love feeling sorry for me. It’s so annoying most of the time.”
“Not all the time though, huh?” Nyla laughed. “You sneak!”
Before she had a chance to reply, Harper noticed that, at the table beside them, Katie was talking quietly and giggling with one of her friends. The two girls kept glancing very obviously in Harper’s direction every now and then as they continued their conversation.
“Ugh!” Harper clenched her hands into fists at her sides. She knew Katie was making fun of her again. She had to be! Harper just wished she could find a way to get back at her.
Last time Katie had teased her had been one of the worst times yet. Miss Li paired them up for a project together, and the whole time, Katie kept saying “What? I can’t hear you!” any time Harper tried talking to her… Mocking Harper and laughing at her for her hearing problems, just like she always did.
As revenge, Harper had caught a frog at recess and hidden it in Katie’s desk when no one was looking. It still made her laugh to remember the look of horror on her face when she’d found it.
But what wasn’t so funny was all the drama that came after. No one could prove Harper had done it, but Katie certainly seemed to think it was her. There’d been a scary trip to the principal’s office and a meeting with Harper’s parents, but nothing had come of it. No one seemed fully convinced that she was guilty. And, as usual, everyone loved feeling sorry for her.
Still, it had been really scary being so close to getting in trouble, and it wasn’t something Harper was too keen on repeating. But knowing that Katie was back to making fun of her again made Harper’s blood boil. If only revenge wouldn’t be so risky…
“Uh, I think we should probably start doing something.” Nyla’s voice called her back to the present. “I’m not sure if we can trick Mr. Phoenix again…”
Harper sighed softly in resignation. “Yeah, okay.”
Nyla ended up doing most of the work, of course. And though she continued chatting with her friend about how excited they were for tomorrow’s football tryouts, Harper’s mind was very far away…
Daydreaming about a tall, beautiful supervillain who wore a hearing aid, used an inhaler, and rained a storm of slimy frogs on bullies named Katie Fletcher.