Nightmares rise from the depths. At least, that’s what Shivangi’s mother and father had explained to her. Shivangi always had nightmares; they visited every once in a while. They always greeted her with a friendly hello, and invited her politely into their land. When Shivangi refused, they turned vicious and snarly and their invitations were no longer asked, they were demanded. And so Shivangi obeyed, of course; she didn’t want to hurt their feelings! Nobody wanted their feelings hurt. Shivangi knew that for certain. She hated being teased. Her parents called it bullying, and talked with her class teacher and the principal about it. Shivangi knew that her principal was a good man, and she even knew how to spell his name. Prince, drop the e and add the I, because he’s your pal. Princ-i-pal.
Shivangi dreamed of princes before the bad monsters took over. The princes that visited her looked like some of the boys in her classroom, but they were handsome and weren’t shorter than her and they could never beat her in a race across in the play ground. They had long curly black hair that shined and shimmered like the sunshine on the sea. They wore silly looking clothing and rode prettied horses. But they always turned out mean, and they called Shivangi bad names and made her cry.
There was a prince that Shivangi loved, though. She even talked to him when nobody was listening. His name was Areeb. He was more handsome than any of the other princes, and he was better than the other princes in every way possible. His sword was sharper and shinier; his shield had never broken though it had many a dent and scrape. His hair was black like the night, and was worn in long dreadlocks that touched his horse’s back when he sat down. His skin was equally dark and his eyes were so brilliantly blue that they dazzled and swirled with goodness when she looked into them. His clothes weren’t silly; he wore a knight armor that melted into regular clothing when he touched her.
Areeb always protected Shivangi. Whenever the mean princes began to circle around her and tease her and make her cry, Areeb came dashing through the woods to her rescue and fought all the bad guys off. Shivangi had always wanted to hug him, but he always disappeared. He did touch her once, though. It was when she was so scarred by her day’s events that even in her dreams she was in pain. Areeb appeared, smiled, touched her forehead, and his clothes turned normal. Then, he disappeared.
The day was Tuesday May 1st, at 3:15 P.M., fifteen minutes before school would be over. She was waiting in line for the bathroom. The boy who was in there, had been taking forever, and Shivangi could barely hold it anymore. She clenched her legs together and prayed to God that she wouldn’t wet her pants in front of the entire fifth class. Finally, Anshul came out and walked to his desk. Mrs. Nair, the teacher, scolded him for not washing his hands and sent him to the sink. Shivangi rushed into the tiny square of a room.
As she relieved herself, she looked at the dirty tile floor. The tiles were so small you could fit them into your mouth, no problem. But Shivangi wouldn’t do that, oh no. That’d be gross, and she’d probably get sick. There’s lots of dirt and stuff in the floor, and it’d be smelly, too. Shivangi’s eyes looked over the painted cement-block wall, and up to the square ceiling light, then to the toilet paper holder. The paper was called Jackson Tissues and it was scratchy and thin. Shivangi liked the kind mom bought, with a Charming name; it was thick and soft and flowered or lined. She wanted to curl up and sleep in a blanket of Charming, someday.
There was a little vent in the door, and Shivangi could see a few boys’ shoes outside. She got nervous, and began to pull her pants up. Before she could get them up all the way, a boy opened the door, said, “Oh, sorry,” and closed it. And then there was laughter. The whole class was laughing. Shivangi’s face turned a deep red and she didn’t want to leave the bathroom. She wanted to sit in the corner and cry.
“Mama, come get me” she whispered, hoping that her mother would hear. But she couldn’t, and Shivangi knew that Mama was at home, probably dusting or cooking lunch. Tears began to drip down Shivangi’s face as she zipped her zipper XYZ-PDQ. (e)Xamine Your Zipper Pretty Darn Quick. All the kids said that, especially when playing Dog and the Bone on the pavement, even when someone’s zipper wasn’t unzipped.
Slowly, Shivangi pushed down the silver handle with her shoe so that the toilet would flush and she wouldn’t have to touch it and get germs. Even slower, she peered into the classroom. All eyes were on her; some people laughed, some looked away. Shivangi blushed even more and began to cry. She turned right around
Shivangi!” Mrs. Nair cried. “Come out, please.”
There was laughter, and Shivangi could hear one of her friends, Priya, saying, “Leave her alone, you big fat bully. I hate you.”
There was a few gentle knocks on the door. “Shivangi, are you in there?”
‘Don’t ask me stupid questions, Mrs. Nair, I hate you right now,’ Shivangi thought.
“Shivangi Jain, open the door immediately.”
“Miss Jain, would you like me to call your parents?”
Oh no, oh no, don’t do that. Only bad kids get their parents called, and I’m not bad. Plus, you have to go to the office to wait, and the office is where the really really bad kids get put so they can wait for their parents, and I’m never, ever going to go to the office,’ Shivangi thought.
The classroom was silent. “Shivangi, darling, please come out right now. its okay, nobody will hurt you.”
“Leave me alone!”
“Shivangi Jain! I’m getting the principal.”
Not the principal, not the principal. He’s for the super duper bad kids. Shivangi began to cry even harder.
Minutes passed, and Shivangi heard the principal’s booming, jolly voice.
“Miss Jain, you in there?” He asked, gently knocking on the door. Kids began to talk all at once. “Yes, Sir, she’s in there, she’s been in there for hours,” “She sure is Sir, I bet her parents will be real angry at her,” “Sir, will she get suspended?” “Nobody can get her out, Sir,”
Shivangi didn’t want to be bad, so she decided to speak up in a very small voice. “I’m in here, Sir.”
“Send your class out to recess, Mrs. Nair,” the principal said quietly.
“But Sir, we’re in the middle of our lesson and we have ten minutes until school gets out”
“Mrs. Nair, send your class out to recess immediately, please.”
“What good will it do?”
“Shivangi will be less intimidated and more comfortable, causing her to come out in a non-humiliating fashion. The kids in the classroom will be less tempted to come and look and make a big fuss over this. Am I clear?”
Mrs. Nair sighed. “I suppose.” In a few seconds, she said, “Recess, class! Line your backpacks up against the wall; you can retrieve them when the bell rings. Go, go, go!”
“Ma’m, as Shivangi’s most best friend, can I stay inside with you?”
“No, Priya, go on outside”, Mrs. Nair said.
The classroom was empty and children’s voices could be heard faraway outside.
“Shivangi, will you come out, please?” The principal asked. Shivangi felt a wave of humiliated sorrow wash over her and she began to weep again.
“Onlyonly if Mrs. Nair goes away.”
“What?” Mrs. Nair asked, shocked.
“You heard her, Geetha. Please leave; you may supervise your class.”
Mumbling, Mrs. Nair left.
“She’s gone now, Shivangi.”
“I don’t want to come out,” Shivangi sobbed.
“It’s okay, now, I won’t judge you.”
What does that mean? Shivangi thought
Slowly, Shivangi got up off of the dirty floor and opened the door. The principal was sitting on a chair beside the bathroom door. Shivangi expected him to start laughing at her, but he didn’t. She felt a little better.
“Now Shivangi, what caused you to hide in the bathroom?”
“I don’t want to say, Sir.”
“Please tell me, I need to know.”
“I don’t want to say, Sir.”
“Shivangi, please answer my question.”
“I don’t want to say, Sir!”
“Now you listen to me, Shivangi, I asked you a question, and when I ask you a question, you are to answer it. Am I understood?”
Shivangi began to cry, and turned back for the bathroom.
“Oh, no you don’t,” the principal said, and ran for her, but she got into the bathroom first. She locked it from the inside.
“Miss Jain, if you don’t come out right this instant, I’ll phone your parents!”
Shivangi began to sob. No, mom and dad will be so angry. No, please no. Sir, I don’t want to be a bad girl and get into trouble! I don’t want to get grounded
“I’m coming in, Miss Jain,” the principal said. He shouted. Shivangi heard approaching footsteps.
The handle of the door began to shake. “Shivangi, Shivangi come out right now!”
“Leave me alone!” Shivangi screamed, curling into a ball and crying hysterically. They were going to hurt her! They were going to tease her again.
The handle broke and the mean princes surrounded her. All were sneering and laughing at her.
“Shame shame..puppy shame..all the donkeys know your name..”
“Be brave Shivangi, use the knife. The one I told you to bring and hide in your pinafore” As always, Areeb appeared to her rescue
“But..but..” she whimpered
“Do it Shivangi, just the way I taught you….”
“You will help me?” She asked at once frightened and excited at the prospect of getting back at them
“Yes..of course..let’s do it together..”
They charged with the knife , striking at the mean princes. Again and again. Till the voices stopped laughing. And calling her names.
Shivangi turned to thank Areeb, but he had disappeared, as always. But she knew she was safe now.
The phone rang incessantly in the principal’s office. It was Shivangi’s mother. She wanted to tell the principle that she had forgotten to give Shivangi her medicines today. And that if they could give her a half day to take her to the doctor. Shivangi hadn’t been feeling too well of late. As the phone rang, she also continued to wonder, where was that brand new knife she had purchased yesterday?