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Melinda and the Freaks


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18 July 2010, 05:09 AM    #1
The Founder
Joined: 2 Apr 2009
Posts: 350
New short story(For Lucy's contest!) also posted on inkpop.

“Meeeeeeeeeliiiiiiiiiiiiiindaaaaaaaaa!” shrieked Calla, as she ran down the hall
towards Melinda Marie Cook, the most popular girl in the seventh grade. Bailey, Marka, and
Susan followed close behind.

Melinda cringed at the too-familiar sound of Calla’s voice. Ever since Melinda’s mom
started working at the soup kitchen for poor-“But not homeless!”-people, Calla and her
friends, whose families were poor, would not leave Melinda alone.

It was, to say the least, quite embarrassing.

Melinda slowly turned around, knowing what she would see. As usual, Calla was standing too
close to Melinda and grinning widely. “Hi!” she chirped in that annoying, high-pitched
voice of hers. “What’s up?”

“Um…” Melinda never knew what to say. She felt a little bad for Calla and her
friends, because since they were, poor had been labeled as freaks. Melinda thought that
was a terrible thing to do. Then again, the label could also have something to do with
each and every little flaw every girl had. “I’m….good.”

Before Calla had a chance to say anything else, Erin, Melinda’s best friend,
interrupted. “Go away Calla. Leave Melinda alone! She doesn’t have time to deal with a
freak like you.” Calla’s face fell, and she and her friends walked away.

“Thanks,” said Melinda, relieved to be rid of the annoying girl.

“No problem,” replied Erin. “What are friends for?” Laughing, both girls went to
catch up to the rest of their friends.

*******************************

Melinda walked inside her house after a long, but fulfilling day at school. “Mom, I’m
home!” she called, dropping her backpack near the kitchen table. She headed over to the
refrigerator for a snack. Spotting a half gone pie tin, she was about to grab it when her
mom practically swooped into the room.

“Hello, my little Angel,” she said in her sing-song voice. “How was your day?”

Melinda replied with a typical teenage answer: “Good.”

“Well, are you read for your day to get better?” he mother grinned, and Melinda got a
sinking feeling in her stomach. “Put that down,” she commanded. Melinda made no move
to put the pie back in the fridge. He mom sighed. “You’re coming with me to help at
the soup kitchen tonight. Don’t wear anything nice!”

Melinda started to protest, but her mom was already gone. Great. Just great. With her
luck, Melinda would probably see Calla, Bailey, Marka, and Susan at the kitchen. Then at
school the next day they would start talking to her about it, and it would probably get
around school pretty fast that Melinda has been to a soup kitchen, of all places to be,
and then she’d probably be labeled a freak as well, and…

“Mom!” yelled Melinda. “I think I’m sick!”

***********************************

Melinda was the kind of girl who just one day becomes popular for no reason at all. It
could have had something to do with her being the new girl three years ago, but Melinda
liked to believe that it was simply because she was….herself. She was also the kind of
girl who could get caught up in her popularity and be mean to some kids, but deep down she
felt bad about it.

She did well in school, but wasn’t a nerd. She wasn’t terrible at sports, but didn’t
enjoy playing and wasn’t about to become the next women’s athlete star. She loved
anything chocolate, but calling herself a chocoholic would be going too far. In short,
Melinda was quite literally an average girl, always in the middle, not too much of this
and not too much of that.

From how she is described, you would think that she would at least not say anything to the
unpopular people. But no, isn’t it sad how she sometimes simply must join in the
teasing-or even start it?

************************************

“All right, you do the dishes, you take orders, and you, make the food. Let’s go! We
don’t have all day!” said Tim, a big man in a stained white shirt who was in charge of
the whole soup kitchen. He appointed jobs to everyone who was there, then left himself to
start cooking.

“Mom,” whispered Melinda. “What am I supposed to do?” 

“Well, you can either help me cook, or you can go out there and talk to some of the
people.” She pointed out a little window, and much to Melinda’s dismay, she saw Calla,
Bailey, Marka, and Susan all out there, sitting with their families.

“I guess I’ll help with the cooking,” Melinda sighed.

Half an hour later, as she was making some pasta, the door to the kitchen banged open, and
in ran Calla. She stopped in her tracks when she saw Melinda.

“What are you doing here?” she asked, completely bewildered.

Melinda half-heartedly motioned to her mom. “She works here, remember?”

“Well, yeah, I know that, but I never thought you’d be here.”

Something about the way she said that made Melinda feel bad. She then asked with fake
cheerfulness, “So, what are you doing in here?”

“Oh, sometimes Tim let’s me help out. I usually take the food out to the customers.”
In this soup kitchen, it was custom to call everyone who came ‘customers’, asking
people what they wanted from the small selection of food they had at that point in time
‘taking orders’ and all the people who volunteered ‘workers’. Almost like a real
restaurant. 

“Anyway, I guess I’ll just take the stuff that’s ready,” said Calla. She didn’t
move, however. Melinda finally realized that she was waiting for her to give her the
food.

“Oh, um, why don’t I come with you?” She had no idea why she had said that, but was
kind of glad she did when she saw how Calla’s face lit up. “Okay!” she said. Both
girls proceeded to go out to where the customers where.

Calla took Melinda around all the tables introducing everyone she knew-and even the ones
she didn’t. “There’s Mrs. Brown and her two sons. Don’t talk to her ‘cuz
she’ll just yell at you to stay away from her kids. Over at that table is Mike. He
doesn’t have a family, but he’s really good at juggling and magic tricks!”

“Who are they?” asked Melinda, pointing to a family that consisted of parents and
three little kids.

Calla shrugged. “I dunno. But they probably traveled all the way here from New York in
one truck because they lost there home and heard that the best food even was right here,
made by the best chef ever, also right here!” Melinda couldn’t help herself, and she
giggled.

They walked over to Bailey, Marka, and Susan, who shyly said hi to Melinda. Calla sat down
and motioned for Melinda to sit as well. All five girls started talking, and pretty soon,
Melinda realized she was enjoying herself, something she never thought would happen with
The Freaks.  

Melinda felt like only a few minutes had gone by when her mom came and said it was time to
go. “But can’t I just stay a little longer?” she pleaded.

“Angel, it’s already 9:00! And it’s a school night!” replied her mom. Melinda
almost gasped; they had arrived at six. Had they she really just spent almost three hours
talking to the Freaks? But wait, they’re not freaks, they’re just normal girls,
thought Melinda. People only tease them because they’re poor. That’s so wrong!

“Well, I guess I’ll talk to you guys later,” said Melinda a bit uncomfortably. She
suddenly remembered how bad it would be for her reputation if Calla started talking about
the soup kitchen tomorrow at school. As if reading her mind, Call said quietly, ‘Don’t
worry. We won’t say anything to you tomorrow.” Melinda was thankful, but couldn’t
help notice that Calla looked a bit sad when she said it.

******************************

Nothing eventful happened at school the following day, unless you count the fact that Erin
mentioned how none of the Freaks had tried talking to Melinda at all. Melinda has simply
absentmindedly nodded. All day she and Calla would sneak glimpse of each others, then
smile as if they knew what each other were thinking. Melinda couldn’t wait until
evening, when she would go back to the soup kitchen. 

The weeks went by, and Melinda became very good friends with the Freaks. She soon realized
that all of them were funny, charming, and very kind, especially Calla. Melinda even had a
thought to invite Calla over to her house, but quickly pushed it away, for her mind was
never far from popularity. 

Melinda was glad that her mom never mentioned anything about Melinda always wanting to go
with her to the soup kitchen, then simply sitting and talking with the very girls that
Melinda had gossiped about earlier in the year to her mom, about how the girls were always
teased and why (omitting the parts where Melinda joined in). But she was not so lucky in
the best friend department, where Erin was nosing around.

“What is with you?” she asked unexpectedly one day when Melinda received a note from
Calla, a continuation from a conversation the two had been having a for a week.

“What do you mean?” Melinda asked innocently.

“I mean, the Freaks haven’t spoken one word to you in almost a month, but they keep
smiling and looking at you like they’re your best friends. And you keep smiling
back.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about!” said Melinda. “Honestly, sometimes you
can be really paranoid. 

************************************

“Class, I’ll need your permission slips handed back by the end of the week,” said
Melinda’s teacher. 

Brittney, another popular girl, raised her hand, then starting talking without waiting to
be called on. “But Mrs. Hughes, I don’t want to go to a smelly soup kitchen full of
poor homeless people!”

“Ms. Frank, the soup kitchen is neither smelly nor filled with homeless people. The only
people you will find there are the volunteers, the poor people, and the students,
including you. This is not an option; we are all going on this field trip. And don’t
forget we are going this Monday!”

“Some field trip,” muttered Brittney. A few kids giggled softly. The bell then rang,
dismissing class.

“Ms. Cook,” said Mrs. Hughes, who always addressed students by their last names.
“Could I speak with you for a moment?”

“Sure,” said Melinda, as she walked to the teacher’s desk. “What’s up?”

“I am aware, Ms. Cook, that your mother volunteers at the soup kitchen, right?” said
Mrs. Hughes, taking off her classes and folding her hands in a very teacher-ly way. 

“Um, yeah, almost every night. Why?”

“And do you accompany her sometimes?”

“Yeah, pretty much every time.”

“Well, since this field trip is held after school hours-and I am only doing this
once-you are excused from the trip. You already do so much work there, I will not force
you to go now.”

Melinda smiled. “Oh, thank you! Thank you so much!”

“You are welcome. Now go to your next class,” said Mrs. Hughes, a bit amused.  

Melinda was thankful that she didn’t have to go to the soup kitchen. First of all, her
mom would be there, and might say something about how ‘Oh, Melinda never really does
anything, and just sits talking to that nice girl Calla and her friends’. Second of all,
some of the customers might recognize her, and that might be a bit embarrassing!

***********************************

As the week passed by, Melinda made a mental note to not go to the soup kitchen on Monday.
On Thursday, when she and Calla were talking, Calla said, “So, are you not coming on
Monday?” she sounded ad as she said it.

“Yeah....” answered Melinda. “Look, Calla, I’m sorry that we keep have to
hiding-“

“Hey, you’re the only one hiding the fact that we’re friends,” interrupted Calla.
Then she got up and left. 

Monday came quickly, and with it, a lot of homework. Melinda had a stressful day, that had
started bad and went downhill from there. When she got home, she took a nap until her mom
woke her up at six o’clock. 

“Angel,” her mom said gently, shaking her shoulders. “It’s time to go to the soup
kitchen.”

“Wha-what?” Melinda said sleepily.
“The soup kitchen,” her mom repeated.

“Oh yeah.” Then they both left.

Melinda didn’t see any of her friends-that’s who she called the Freaks, now that they
had become friends-yet, so she went into the kitchen and pulled an apron of the hooks. She
started making the dinner; tonight they were making actual soup. After about twenty
minutes, she heard voices outside. She opened the door and immediately spotted Calla,
Bailey, Marka, and Susan. 

“Hey guys!” she greeted them with a smile. 

“Melinda, what are you doing here?” said Bailey, confused.

“I thought you weren’t coming because-“ Marka was interrupted by Melinda saying,
“Why wouldn’t I be here, crazy? Come, one let’s go sit down.” She motioned for
them to follow her.

The girls looked at each other, then shrugged and followed Melinda. They all talked for a
while, the Melinda’s came out and said, “Angel, we nee you help in the kitchen.”
Melinda followed her mother, then returned a few minutes later carrying two bowls of
steaming soup. Before she delivered them to the customers, she stopped at her friends’
table.

Suddenly, the front door opened, and in walked the entire seventh grade class. Melinda
looked up and froze. A million thoughts ran through her head: What are they doing here?
The field trip isn’t until Monday! Ohmygosh-today is Monday! Ooh, this is really bad!
I’m wearing an apron, I’m talking to the Freaks. Wait, they aren’t freaks, they’re
my friends!

Melinda’s thoughts were interrupted by Erin, who practically ran over to Melinda.

“What they heck are you doing here?” She screeched. “And why on earth are you
talking to the Freaks?!” 

Melinda looked from Calla to Erin, Erin to Calla, Calla to Erin. She was speechless.

“Are you friends with them?” asked Erin, her voice threateningly low.

“I, um…”

“Yeah, Melinda, are you friends with us?” Calla stood up, her hands on her hips. She
looked mad and hurt. When Melinda didn’t answer, Erin yelled, “Oh my god! You ARE
friends with them! I can’t believe it! Why would you go behind my back like? And, and,
with the FREAKS, too!” 

“They’re not freaks,” Melinda started to say.

“Takes one to know one,” spat Erin. Melinda looked at her friends, then back at Erin.
Erin was glaring at Melinda. Calla, Bailey, Marka, and Susan were all staring at her. They
were all waiting to see what Melinda would do.

Finally, she said, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that.” The apology was
directed towards Erin.

**********************************

The weeks passed. Melinda did not go back to the soup kitchen, and was again thankful her
mom didn’t ask about it. Erin quickly forgave her, and the girls continued to hang out
and went on with their lives. But Melinda was not satisfied.

Calla had avoided Melinda and wouldn’t look at her or any of her notes. The rest of the
girls were the same. Melinda felt terribly bad, but what could she do? How could she
choose hanging out with the girls that everyone despised over her best friend and her
popularity? 

Finally, Melinda couldn’t take it anymore. She cornered Calla in the hallway one day at
school, stating that she needed to talk to her. “Look, Calla, I’m sorry. I apologized.
What more do you want me to do?”

Calla simply glared at her. “I want you to admit that you’re friends with me and
forget about being popular, because you’re acting really stupid.”
Melinda blinked. “Seriously, I can’t believe you would start calling me and the other
freaks again! How could you do that?!”

“Calla, well, because you guys are freaks. My freaks! I love you guys! You’re better
friends than Erin; especially you! You’re all the best friends I’ve ever had!” As
she spoke the words, she knew they were true.

Calla was silent; she was shocked and touched. “I-thank you, Melinda, but......it’s
still not enough. I don’t want to be friends in secret anymore. I want to actually be
able to hang out, go places, and talk during school. Plus, we all miss you at the soup
kitchen.” She turned managed to turn around and motion behind her, where the rest of the
freaks were waiting. Apparently, they had heard the whole conversation, for they nodded in
agreement.

“Auugghh! Whatever, Calla,” said Melinda. She didn’t have to deal with this. She had
popularity. She had friends. She had a good life, decent grade. She didn’t have to waste
her time with these people.

Melinda turned, and walked away.

*************************************

“How come you never come to the soup kitchen anymore, Angel?” Melinda’s mom asked
for the first time, a week later. Melinda didn’t answer.

“Angel, if it’s something to do with your friends…”

“They’re not my friends.” Melinda cut her mom off.

“Really? Because I always thought you were. Those girls seemed to just light up like a
Christmas tree whenever they saw you there. And you looked so much happier with them than
you ever did with Erin.” 

Melinda didn’t speak.

“Ok.....well, I just want you to think about what’s more important in life. Following
the crowd or being with those you love.

********************************

A few days later, Calla, Bailey, Marka, and Susan were sitting at their usual table at the
soup kitchen, waiting for their food. Calla asked a passing worker where their food was.
She said it would be out in a minute.

True to her word, a worker came and stood by the table a few minutes later. All the girls
looked up at the worker, and stared in curiosity as she put the food on the table. Calla
then smiled at the worker, her biggest smile ever.

And Melinda smiled back.
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