Ariel had started singing lessons with Mr. Francois. She was in love with it as he was a world renowned musician that got his start in New Orleans. She practiced with him for two hours on Monday and Thursday. It was nice for her to have sometime away from her older sisters. Though she always invited Rachel and Blaire come watch her rehearse, Rachel always refused.

Ariel was always curious why Rachel never wanted to come. Every time, she asked Rachel would say “Oh, I have to help my mom with crochet”.  Which Ariel was puzzled by Rachel wasn’t very good with a needle. She asked her again and was told, “I’m helping Cassie finish a puzzle”. This seemed more believable but Ariel was still hurt that one of her best friends didn’t seem to have any interest in something that meant the world to her. She was always supportive whenever Rachel displayed a new art piece, so why wasn’t her best friend being there for her?

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“You wanna tell me why you keep ignoring Ariel every time she invites you to watch her sing?” Cassie asked her younger sister as her coming up with excuses was getting quite old.

Rachel didn’t really want to but she figured it’d be best to get this out of the way as she grabbed her stuffed cat, Dinah.

“I don’t like it there. Not in a way that it feels unfamiliar or unclean when I go grocery shopping with mom at Walmart…” Rachel started to explain before being cut off by her sister.

“What do you mean you don’t like it there? You love listening to Ariel sing and you’re missing out on time with your best friend”. Cassie said in a state of confusion.

“Okay, maybe saying I don’t like it there isn’t the right thing to say. It’s more like I don’t feel welcomed there. Do you remember earlier in the year when a bully filmed one of my seizures?”

Cassie was worried when her little sister brought that day up as it was one of the worst days of Rachel’s life and considering how many seizures her little sister used to have in one day, that’s saying a lot.

“Did someone make fun of your epilepsy?” Cassie asked fuming ready to punch whoever mocked Rachel.

“No, no, it’s not that. Well, not really. The reason I don’t feel welcomed there is because of a sign. It’s hard to put into words but it makes me feel small and weak”. Rachel was saying holding her composure.

Cassie was starting to get an idea of where this was going. She had never bought into the sticks and stones mantra, that the school taught her at Rachel’s age. She knew words could be triggering and she wasn’t quite ready to tell her sister about words she had heard caused her to enter a spiral of depression. She was wondering what was the sign that was so bad but didn’t want to pressure her little sister to say anything if she wasn’t ready.

“You don’t have to tell me why this sign bothers you, if you don’t want to”. Cassie reassured Rachel but no, Rachel felt she had to tell someone and she was always told to tell an adult when something was bugging her. Okay, her sister was sixteen but that was close enough in the eyes of this twelve-year-old.

“It’s a stupid sign that says being stupid doesn’t equal being disabled. Or something like that, I don’t know. I just know I hate it and every time I looked at it when trying to watch Ariel sing made me feel as though I was shrinking in my chair”.

Cassie was starting to get it, she knew how hard the world was and how much worse it treated disabled people. So for her sister to see that being disabled must’ve felt like a million bricks had fallen on the young girl’s soul.

“Oh Rachel, I’m so sorry. I can see how you’d hate that. Looking at the sign must’ve been awful.  But why haven’t you told Ariel how you feel?” Cassie asked, though she already knew the answer.

“I don’t want to ruin something she loves by telling her teacher has something so hurtful in his classroom”. Rachel said a little sad but also clearly confused about what she should do.

“It’s your call on what you want to do but don’t you think she deserves to know how you’re feeling. I’m not saying you have to confront Mr. Francois as I wouldn’t expect you to but perhaps if you honest with Ariel, you’d hurt a little less”.

Rachel wondered about what her sister was saying and part of her knew Cassie was right. And what seemed to be a miracle of fate, the phone started to ring and it was Ariel was on the other end.

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“Hi, Ariel could we talk about that sign?”.

2 thoughts on “The Sign (An Original Story by Timothy Murphy)

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