“Clarissa” She said, correcting her teacher.
Names were important. For years she’d been embarrassed about her name and wished it were something ordinary. But then something happened that changed her mind.
…Clarissa was tired of sitting in the background, out of the action. She was tired of people passing over her without giving her notice. She was tired of being forgotten. Clarissa was her name and she wanted to embrace it. Today was that day.
“What?” The teacher asked.
“My name. It’s Clarissa. Not Claire. Not Clarice. Not Chelsea. It’s Clarissa,” She said.
The classroom went silent as the whole class turned to look at her. The teacher stopped, almost stunned by Clarissa’s outburst in the middle of the classroom.
She had never really been one for idioms, but in this moment you could literally hear a pin drop.
“Excuse me?” The teacher said meeting Clarissa’s gaze.
Clarissa glanced over to see her friend, Alice sitting in the desk next to her. Alice’s expression was white with fear.
Then Clarissa glanced back to the teacher who was still standing still, chalk in hand.
“You got my name wrong. Again. Everyone does. And I don’t say anything. I just answer to every name that starts with a C. I don’t make a fuss. I don’t bring it up. I just let people call me whatever they want. But I shouldn’t. My name is Clarissa,” Clarissa said.
As she spoke, her words got softer and softer and they began to lose their edge. Eventually it was just a soft whisper.
“I need to go to the restroom,” Clarissa said.
Clarissa ducked back into her desk, grabbed her stuff, and left the classroom in a whirlwind. She heard a mixture of whispers, laughs, and sounds of confusion, but she just kept walking at a brisk pace towards the girl’s restroom.
She slammed opened the bathroom door and stood in front of the large mirror in front of the sinks. The door closed behind her and she burst into tears. Clarissa’s face grew hot as tears started to pour down her face. The adrenaline began to lessen and she felt herself getting dizzy. Clarissa dropped her backpack on the ground as she bent over the sink using it to steady herself. Tears fell from her face, splashing into the sink, and then they flowed down the drain.
Clarissa spent the next couple of minutes regaining her composure, taking deep breaths to calm herself down and wiping away tears. She splashed some water on her face, but it still felt warm.
There was a knock on the bathroom door and it opened just a crack.
Clarissa could see a sliver of Alice’s face peaking through.
“Hey, are you alright?” Alice asked. “Is it alright if I come in.”
“Yeah you can come in,” Clarissa said.
Alice opened the door and stepped into the girl’s bathroom.
“Mrs. Shriver sent me down here when you didn’t return. She just wanted to make sure you were alright,” Alice said.
“Alice, I embarrassed myself. I disrupted the classroom and everyone was staring. I can’t go back there. I can’t even leave this room. I’m going to have to move schools,” Clarissa said feeling the heat return to face.
“Come on, Clarissa. It…it wasn’t that bad,” Alice said.
“Yes it was. Everyone was laughing at me as I left.”
“That’s not true. Everyone was more surprised than anything else. I’ve been your friend for years and I don’t think I’ve ever heard you raise your voice.”
“Well don’t get used to it, because it’s never happening again,” Clarissa said.
“I don’t know. I think the stern, in control thing really works for you. Plus you seemed to gain some attention,” Alice said. “Even Diego was watching you leave.”
“Oh no. I can’t leave here,” Clarissa said leaning her head against the bathroom mirror.
“First of all, you did something incredible today. You stood up for herself. That’s something you can’t just take back. You were right when you let people walk all over you, but you shouldn’t. What you did today took cuts and you can’t just forget it happened,” Alice said.
“But everyone is going to laugh at me and make fun of me.”
“Some people might, but who cares. They are either jealous of you or aren’t worth the effort. Probably both. You are Clarissa. It’s time the whole school hear you roar,” Alice said placing a hand on Clarissa’s shoulder.
Clarissa let out a sigh.
“Yeah I guess you’re right,” Clarissa said.
“Of course I’m right. Now come on. Let’s get back to History Class. There isn’t too much time left before the bell rings,” Alice said.
Clarissa nodded. She picked up her bag and they both walked down the hallway to the class. They walked into the classroom and took their seats. Once again, the class took notice of Clarissa, but she sat in her seat, sitting up as straight as possible, and kept her face looking forward.
Clarissa pulled a notebook from her bag and spent the rest of the class, taking down the rest of the notes which were on the teacher’s blackboard.
Eventually the bell rung and students began packing up their things and leaving for the exit.
“Remember we will have a quiz tomorrow,” The Teacher said as students began to file out. “Be prepared.”
Clarissa stood up and began to leave.
“Oh Clarissa. Can you wait for a minute. I want to talk to you.”
Clarissa froze and then began to turn.
“Uh…yeah,” She said.
Clarissa exchanged looks with Alice, but Alice just gave her a thumbs up.
Clarissa walked up to the front of the class.
“Mrs. Shriver, I’m really sorry…I…” Clarissa began.
“No, Clarissa. I’m sorry,” Mrs. Shriver said. “You have nothing to be sorry for. You are right. I guess I never spent a moment to correctly call you by your name and that is inexcusable. All students deserve respect and that begins with using the right name for each student. Identity is important and I’m sorry I’ve been incorrectly assigning one to you.”
“Although, maybe next time you can talk to me after class instead of…what you did today,” Mrs. Shriver said.
“Yes. Of course. Sorry,” Clarissa said.
“Now you’re going to need a hall pass. What class are you heading to next?”
Mrs. Shriver wrote Clarissa a hall pass, and Clarissa left the classroom. As she did, she ran into a gentleman who was standing outside.
“Oh I’m so sorry,” Clarissa said.
The boy turned and she saw that it was Diego. The one that Alice had mentioned earlier and the person Clarissa had had a crush on for some time.
“Oh…oh my gosh,” Clarissa said.
“I am so sorry,” Diego said. “That’s what I get for standing in the middle of the hall. You alright?”
“Uh-huh. Yeah. Yes. Yeah I’m ok,” Clarissa said.
“Well I’m glad you ran into me. I wanted to tell you that what you did in there was cool. Plus Clarissa is a really awesome name,” Diego said.
“Oh. Well thanks. Diego is a cool name too,” Clarissa said.
“Yeah I guess it is. Anyway, maybe I’ll see you around,” Diego said.
“Oh yes. You’re definitely going to see me around. And I’ll see you. Ummm…. anyway I gotta go to Art.”
“Ok cool. See you later, Clarissa,” Diego said.
The way that the sound of her name rolled of the tip of his tongue, sent a jolt of Clarissa’s spine. She quickly turned away as her face grew red.
“Yeah. See you later, Diego,” Clarissa said as she quickly walked down the hallway towards the Art room.
This new, confident Clarissa that stood up for herself and talked to boys was something that Clarissa had to get used to. This was a good first step, but now she just needed to get some breathing room and focus on her art.
Header Photo Credit to My Student Voices
Writing Prompt comes from Piccadilly “Complete The Story” Journal