The strange paper floated down onto the ground in front of Joy.
Faith and Joy connect with… it was torn down the middle. She picked it up, wondering why her name appeared on a strange piece of paper, until she realized these were simply words of hope. But how, she wondered, were they to “connect” with another thing? Joy didn’t have much time to think, though, because the school bus honked at her to hurry up. She rushed onto the bus, still wondering why a strange piece of paper had simply floated down to her.
Bird was the name, and Bird was the game. Bird wasn’t his real name, of course. But with his short blonde hair, pale skin, robin-egg-blue eyes, pointed nose, and a bony build, the name just stuck. Because of this, and his anti-social habits, Bird wasn’t exactly the most popular person among his peers. So he expected the shove from behind to be on purpose. Instead, a girl mumbled, “Sorry,” before hurrying on. Bird instantly knew the black flowing hair had to be Joy’s.
“Hey, Bird-brain!” Shouts from behind him seemed to echo in the halls. And echo in his heart. Why did the names suddenly hurt him? He took the bullying for years-- why did it suddenly sting? He twirled around, ready to face the speaker. He was surprised to see Skittles. Not the candy, of course. Skittles got her nickname from her colorful way of speaking. “Hey, nice twirl, Bird Brain. You learning ballet?” Bird. Bird Brain. Bird, Bird, Bird. Bird was sick of it all. He put his head down, ignoring her taunts. “Where ya’ goin’ Boid Bwain? You tryin’ to fly the nest?”
Everybody knew to not mess with Skittles. Everybody. So when Bird turned around and clenched his fist at her, she was shocked. Not only because he was trying to threaten her, but also because this was Bird.--the most helpless person in the whole school.
“Ok,” Skittles said, regaining her poise, “let’s have it. Right here. Right now.” Skittles held up one fist, smirking at Bird. Skittles could beat any boy at the school in a fist fight. And, she thought, she could sure as heck beat Bird. But Bird shook his head and walked off, leaving Skittles relieved, which surprised her. Why didn’t she want to fight Bird? She convinced herself it was because she was going to be late for class: why else?
“Ah, there you are, Joy. I’m sure you had some better things to do than get to class on time, didn’t you?” Ms. Kendell walked up to Joy. It was the first time Joy had been late for class, so why was Ms. Kendell picking on her? Because, Joy decided, Ms. Kendell was the most terrible person ever. “Well? Joy, I am talking to you!” Joy had been late because she was examining the mysterious note. Which, according to Joy, had been better than getting to class on time. But Joy just shook her head stiffly, her dark brown eyes watching Ms. Kendell, her left hand crunching the note.
“Joy, the note.” Ms. Kendell held out her hand, and Joy shook her head stiffly again. “The note! Or else detention.” Joy stared pleadingly at Ms. Kendell, but her expression stayed hard. Detention meant a call to the parents, plus giving over the note, plus a whole bunch of questions about why the note was so important. Reluctantly, Joy handed over the paper with the wavy handwriting, and chanted the words in her head: Faith and Joy connect with… Faith and Joy connect with… But why were Joy and Faith capitalized? Maybe they were names, maybe not. But it didn’t matter now: Ms. Kendell had the note in her bony skeleton-like hands whether Joy liked it or not. Ms. Kendell tossed it with a flick of her hand into the trash. Ignoring Joy’s pained expression, she turned swiftly and continued her class.
Unlike most wads of paper thrown at Bird, this one drifted down to him. It looked ripped in half; all Bird could make out was the name ‘Adian’. Bird thought it was strange that someone would give him a piece of paper with his real name on it, not ‘Bird’. The rest of the note was blurred and illegible. This disappointed Bird, since he was curious about the strange note.
“Adian!” Bird jerked his head up to see Mr. Harrison looming over him. Right, he thought, snapping out of his trance, back to social studies.
“His name is Bird!” someone piped up from behind him, and he didn’t even bother to see who it was. This comment triggered snickers throughout the class.
“Pay attention, okay, Adian?” Mr. Harrison put emphasis on Adian’s name, making clear that his name, was, in fact, Adian—not Bird. Bird nodded. But it seemed that Bird’s mind was somewhere else that day—he just couldn’t stay focused. He tried silently taking the note out of his pocket to study it more without anyone knowing. He was unsuccessful. Jake sneakily plucked the note from his hands without a sound.
“Hey! Mr. Harrison! Bird’s got a note!” Jake called out, interrupting Mr. Harrison’s lecture.
“Jake, please. I am teaching here. Show me after class rather than calling attention to yourself.” Mr. Harrison was patient man, but his patience seemed to be running out today. Honestly, he did not care about a silly note.
“N’ver mind... It’s just somthin’ stupid or whatever. All it says is his name.” Was Jake’s mouth ever closed, Bird wondered. He snatched the note back from Jake when Mr. Harrison looked away. Jake glared at him, crept forward in his desk, and whispered,
“Get over yourself. Bird’s your name, and Bird is all you’re ever going to be.”
Bird knew of no other time when something had been that utterly wrong.