"I'll see you after class," the teacher said, dropping something on to the desk in front of Alexis. A little confused, Alexis pulled it towards her to see what it was. Examining it carefully she discovered it was her recent essay on the origin of Christmas. She'd never had a teacher want to see her after class in her 12 years of life, why now? Squinting at the page in front of her she realized the front page of her work was covered in a large red F.
"Lexi," said a voice beside her. "That's your homework." It was her support assistant; the person who read things for her when she couldn't. Alexis hated having to have a support assistant, but she hated it more than ever at that moment. Not only was the woman talking to her as if she was an idiot - again - when she was far from an idiot, but having a support assistant made it obvious to everyone how different Alexis was. She didn't mind being different, but she wished it was for something good, not because she had poor eyesight. "Alexis," the woman repeated, breaking in to Alexis' thoughts. "I'm talking to you."
"Yes," Alexis muttered. "I know. It's my homework."
"You got an F," her support assistant told her, as if the large red F on the paper wasn't big enough for Alexis to have noticed it. "Lexi, how did you get an F? Did you not understand the essay? I wrote what she'd put on the board, if you couldn't read it..."
"I understood it just fine," Alexis snapped. "And I could read what you wrote just fine."
"Look, I don't know, OK. I guess I'll find out when I talk to her after class."
"Want me to stay with you?"
"No! I think I can manage to have a conversation without you."
She'd never had an F before in her life, and it bothered her. And she'd put a lot of work in to the Christmas piece; not that she'd minded, those books on Pagan celebrations had been fascinating. She wished she wouldn't have to return them to the library next week.
Soon class ended and the rest of the students filed out of the room. Giving them plenty of time to do so - and attempting to prolong what she was sure would be a far from enjoyable conversation - Alexis took her time gathering her things, and packing them in to her bag. By the time she was finally done, her teacher was sitting at her desk with her arms folded, glaring at her with disapproval.
"Miss?" Alexis said as she approached. "You wanted to speak to me?"
"I did," the teacher said. "What is the meaning of this?"
"Of what?" Alexis asked. "You mean... my essay?"
"I did what you said; I wrote about the origin of Christmas."
"Lies!" her teacher shouted.
Alexis took a step backwards, shaking her head. "But I got the information from several sources," she said. "I quoted them at the end like you're meant to."
"You can't believe everything you read in books child," her teacher announced, and then launched in to a speech in which Alexis only made out the words "devil worshipers" and "the bible says."
"But if I can't believe what I read in books," Alexis said bravely. "Then why should I believe the bible?"
Her teacher glared angrily at her, then quickly wrote a note and stuffed it in an envelope. She then thrust it in to Alexis' hands and told her to give it to her parents and get out.
Alexis ran from the room, fighting tears. She was meant to go to her next class, but she was already late. She wasn't going to walk in to a room full of people when the battle against the tears that was getting harder every second. Instead, she locked herself in a cubical of the girls' toilets and allowed the tears to fall. She was still there when the lunch bell rang, but she didn't care; she wasn't hungry.
After a while she heard voices and a group of girls came in. One of them tried the door to the cubical she was in.
"Someone's in here," Alexis said in a shaky voice. As soon as she said it she wished she hadn't. A moment later she heard the unmistakable sound of someone climbing on to the lid of the toilet in the next cubical, and a head popped over the wall.
"Hey," said a girl. "Alexis is crying, come and see."
The next thing Alexis knew, a head had popped up on the other side too. "She's right," said the second head. "It is Alexis, and she's crying."
The girls then fell about teasing her until she summoned up the courage to open the door and make a dash for it.
"You didn't wash your hands," one of the girls called after her, as she disappeared out of the door. The others laughed.
As she ran she stumbled over feet that were intentionally stuck out to trip her, and tried to ignore calls of, "watch where you're going. Oh, that's right, you can't."
It wasn't long though before one of the feet sent her sprawling. She landed heavily; pain shooting up the arm that had broken her fall, and the contents of her bag spilling over the floor. All the onlookers laughed as she scrambled to find and repack the contents of her bag.
"What's this?" said the boy who had tripped her. With a sinking feeling in her stomach Alexis looked up to see him holding up a book. That was when she remembered; she had the books she'd used for her Christmas essay in her bag still.
"Give it back," she demanded.
The boy examined the book then looked around at his friends. "It's a book about witches," he informed them all. "Are you a witch Alexis?"
"Give the book back to me," Alexis repeated, ignoring his question. Besides, what difference did it make if she was a witch? Witches weren't bad people, were they?
Alexis found her thoughts drifting back to when she was seven years old. In her hands was a bible, and she stood in front of her Sunday School teacher.
"Why though?" asked seven year old Alexis. "I thought God treated everyone the same."
"You're different," her Sunday School teacher replied.
"Why?" Alexis asked her.
"Because you're disabled," came the reply.
Anger burned in the child as she glared at the adult before her, and - without thinking - she began to flick through the pages of the bible she held in her hands.
"What are you looking for?" her Sunday School teacher had asked.
"The right spell," Alexis had replied.
Her Sunday School teacher had then launched in to a fit of ranting and raving in which she had called Alexis, "witch," and "Devil worshiper," and "evil."
Alexis remembered she had been confused. She liked witches, and what was wrong with playing witch anyway?
"I said, are you a witch, Alexis?" the boy asked, jolting her back to the present.
"And I said give me back the book," Alexis responded.
"She didn't deny it," one of the others that had surrounded her said. "She must be a witch."
She was spared what might have come next by the sound of a pair of high-heeled feet coming down the corridor. At the sound the boy thrust the book at Alexis, and all the children scattered; nobody wanted to be caught in the act by a teacher, after all.
By the time the teacher came around the corner Alexis was alone in the corridor. "Are you OK, Alexis?" the teacher asked.
"I..." Alexis hesitated; knowing that telling the teacher would only encourage the bullies. "I tripped, and I landed hard on my arm, and my stuff spilled everywhere," Alexis offered.
"You should be using your cane," the teacher pointed out as she began to help Alexis gather the rest of her things.
Alexis ignored the comment. She hated the thing, and she wasn't going to use it. Her sight wasn't bad enough to need the stupid stick, and she wasn't going to use it. She didn't need it. And, anyway, using the cane would only make them bully her more, and she needed that like a hole in the head.
"What's this?" the teacher said, spotting the book on witchcraft Alexis still held.
"Just a book," Alexis muttered, stuffing it quickly in to her bag.
"What kind of book?" the teacher insisted. But Alexis ignored her, making sure this time that the clasp on her bag was done up, before swinging it across her shoulder and starting to head off down the corridor, barely even remembering to stop and thank the teacher for helping her collect her things.
Alexis’ arm was throbbing, and her music teacher noticed her struggling to use it. The teacher sent her to the nurse, and told her not to bother coming back to class afterwards. She did go to the nurse to have it bandaged, but told the nurse she was meant to go back to class so as to escape from there. She hated to lie; and was rarely good at it, but she didn't want to be stuck in the nurse's room. She needed to think.
She found a spot near the entrance where the taxi that took her home stopped. She pulled the book from her bag. She hadn't planned to read it, but it seemed to call to her, inviting her to read it again and again; that's why she had it in her bag instead of leaving it at home.
She was confused; all she'd read about Pagans and witches seemed to answer the questions she had ever since she was a seven year old playing witches with the bible. The bible never gave her those answers, but this... this felt right.
A bird swooped low overhead, and she looked up, wishing she could see it clearly enough to tell what kind it was. The sky was a brilliant blue, with puffy white clouds in it, and she smiled - for the first time that day - as she looked at them. "If a Pagan or witch - or whatever you want to call it - worships nature," she announced to nobody in particular, "Then I'm one." She looked down at the book still in her hands. "And I'm not evil," she added, "Because witches aren't evil."
Today is the last of the three Yule blog parties I've signed up for, and the theme of today's blog party is based around gifts. I wasn't sure what kind of gift I could give at first, but with a little help from Magaly - who is a gift in herself - I was able to come up with a gift to share with you. Therefore, my gift to you this holiday season is the story of how a young witch found her path.
Alexis' story was based on my own story - which you can read here - I'll let you decide for yourself how much of Alexis' story is fact and how much of it is fiction though! ;)
Find out what other wonderful gifts are being shared this holiday season by visiting the other participents; you can do this by clicking on the button below: