An Orange for Mary Heather

Her favorite fruit was an orange. Ustev knew this. The whole class knew it. Almost the whole world knew it; even the bus driver, the hall monitor, and her pet rabbit, Tom, knew it. They all knew about Mary Heather Munroe’s obsession with orange—not the color, but the fruit. Mary Heather Munroe walked into class on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday with a bag full of orange slices. She ate them at her desk before class began, always finishing before the first period bell rang, always cleaning up afterwards, keeping her area neat and tidy. The teacher, Ms. Galaffagos, was nice to everyone, but was particularly fond of Mary Heather.
“Mary Heather,” Ms. Galaffagos would begin with sweet tones, “thank you for being a good girl and cleaning up your desk.”
This drove the rest of the class crazy, so they teased Mary Heather and called her the “teacher’s pet”. This continued for a time, and Mary Heather ignored the teasing for the most part. All the teasing bothered her, of course, but she never let other people’s actions determine her behavior. When her best friend, Sandra, sat by her at lunch and effectively explained how she couldn’t be seen associating with a teacher’s pets, Mary Heather Munroe broke.
That day, when Mary Heather came home from school, she told her mother about the other children teasing her; she told her how she would never go back to school, but would hide in her room with Tom the rabbit and eat oranges. Mary Heather began to cry. And Mrs. Munroe, who was a gentle woman, gave Mary Heather a big hug, handed her an orange slice, and held her until the tears stopped. The next morning Mary Heather went to school. Tom the rabbit cheered her on.
Ustev was a polite, shy boy. He would arrive to class half an hour early, and pretend to work on his math assignment from the night before. Really, though, he went early to see Mary Heather. This morning was no different. He sat at his desk with what he thought the most daring, intelligent face he could muster. He stared at the mathematics book before him. “This is what Mary Heather will like,” he thought proudly. And when Mary Heather walked in that morning, he looked up and nodded his head at her. She smiled at him.
“It worked! She smiled at me,” thought Ustev. “It really happened. I wonder if she knows my name. I wonder what she likes to do. I wonder if she smells like flowers. Probably. I wonder if I smell like flowers. Probably not. I hope she has seen Star Wars.”
While Ustev thought these wonderful thoughts, Mary Heather began rummaging through her backpack, searching for her oranges. The orange slices weren’t there. Panic.
Other children began to trickle in. Mary Heather put her head in her bag, and all the children began to notice her frantic search for the oranges. Some laughed and teased her, but some just sat in still silence, waiting to see what she would do. She cried– first in short sobs, then outright. When Ustev saw this, he knew what he must do. He ran. First he ran out the door, then down the hall, then into the cafeteria.
“Mom.” Ustev called. “Mom, are you here?”
A large woman in an apron walked out of the giant freezer, which stored the school’s fake meat. The meat didn’t actually need to be frozen or refrigerated. The principal told the lunch-ladies to put the meat in the big freezer, because they needed to “keep up appearances”.
“Ustev, why you doing here?” the woman said with a disapproving frown. “You should be in class, working on subtractions like the other children.”
“Mom, listen. I need an orange. Do you have an orange?”
“Ustev, why do you need orange?” Ustev’s mother said with suspicion. “Are you going to throw it at someone? Is this your idea of a game? What would Papa think? What do you think he would say? I do not think he would like this one bit.”
“No, Mom. I just need an orange to eat, please.” Ustev now smiled at his mother with a heart-warming, sentimental smile.
“Fine. Fine. I will bring you orange.”
The smile worked. Ustev’s Mom handed him the orange and told him to go on his way. The boy ran back down the hall, and into the class, where Mary Heather had laid her head on the desk, presumably to hide the tears. The boy tapped her on the shoulder. She looked up and saw Ustev holding the orange. Mary Heather smiled.

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