Dandelion Girl

By: Aroog Khaliq

They called her Little, but Little was big. Little was tall, with stooped shoulders and an odd, loping gait. Mostly, though, Little was lonely.

She was like a dandelion in a field of perfectly cut grass—bright and beautiful to some, but ugly and unwanted to others. 

Some of the ‘others’ were her classmates. “Hey Little, how’s the weather up there?” a few of them would jeer. Some of the girls liked to trip her in the halls and laugh as she tumbled over her large feet. When she awkwardly picked herself up, they’d hiss, “Fuh-reak.”

Little said nothing. She never did. Inside, though, her emotions were tumultuous. Hurt, anger, hate—they burned inside her, an inferno itching to be released, but there to counter them was the true Little.  The true Little doused the flames with a cooling, steady mantra of, ‘it gets better, it does, it will, it has to.’

Sometimes, though, the heat was too agonizing for the true Little to bear, and as she buckled under the weight of all the hate, the anger cooled to an unbearable sadness even Little couldn’t shield from the eyes of others. “Don’t mope, Little,” her parents scolded. “You’re big now.”

Oh, how Little hated being big!

At school, Little spent her recess periods as quietly as she could manage. She drooped against a different brick wall of the school every time and read, hoping her classmates wouldn’t find her.

But they always did. They made a game of it, too. Whoever found Little first and took her book back to the main playground first, won.

“Here, Little, Little,” she heard one of her classmates taunt. Another one mocked, “Here, girl.” Little tried, but could not put names to her classmates’ faces; they were always just nameless, faceless devils to her, there to torture her for no good reason.

And then they all pounced on her out of nowhere, like she was a canary and they were starving cats. Hands shot toward her book and Little curled in on herself, saying nothing, just like she always did. A sudden shout made all the kids falter—not Little; Little never raised her voice. It was the New Girl, Alex, with her hands on her hips and a scowl on her face.

“Are you deaf?” she shouted again. “I said, get off her. Get off her before I knock out your teeth!” And then a pudgy hand was in hers and pulled her up roughly. With Alex guiding her like a shepherd to his sheep, Little followed her toward the grass-covered hill behind the playground. Little was silent for a moment, studying the girl in front of her with awe.

Alex plucked a dandelion from the midst of the hill and dropped it into Little’s lap. There was no roughness in her voice as she confided, “I’m a weed, too.” She gave Little a hard look and stood, placing a hand on one hip and announcing, “But you’ve got to own it! You’ve got to embrace your weediness, Little! You’ve got to work it like its fierce!”

Little smiled, taking those words to heart. Little is fourteen now, truly Big. She is no longer lonely. She is fierce