1 A strange girl with strange dreams.

“Haggity Haggity Haggity who?
A stranger girl we never knew!”

The children circled round Haggity like hyaenas, chanting. Haggity crouched into the dirt, covering her head with her arms.

“Haggity Haggity Haggity hey!
She kissed the boy, he went away!”

The circle grew smaller as they swarmed closer, chanting louder. Haggity tried to hide her face, but she could still feel their warm breath as they’re chanting grew into a crescendo, angry spittle flying in her long hair, which now covered her helpless form like a veil.

“Haggity Haggity Haggity who?
Haggity Haggity Haggity who?”

They chanted over and over, louder and louder, now crouched over her, the mass of their bodies making it difficult to breathe.

Where was he? Where was her savior?

“Haggie…”

She heard him, from far away. They kicked sand in her face, and she shrieked, her eyes stinging.

He’d never make it in time.

“Haggie…”

She could hear him; why won’t he come for her? Fingers were pulling at her hair, dragging her face to the ground. She pleaded with them, tears streaming, but their rage had peaked, and they showed no mercy.

“Haggie…!”

He was closer now, but he was too late to save her. Her face in the dirt, suffocating, she frantically turned on her back, only to see one sneakered foot poised above her face, then crashing down with all its might…

“HAGGIE!”

Haggity gasped awake, her heart pounding.

“Haggity — come on, it’s 6 o’clock!”

She shot up in bed, and turned to see a pair of smiling blue eyes peeking above her windowsill.

“Bastion!” she breathed, still existing in the moment of her nightmare, her pulse raced, and she struggled to process what was happening.

Bastion.

Morning.

School.

Late.

Haggity threw off her covers, and stumbled to the window. Bastion was grinning at her like the Mad Hatter. Frowning, she lifted the heavy windowsill.

“What?” she demanded.

Bastion’s eyes travelled down to her toes, then back up. He smirked, “Are those your footie pajamas?”

She glowered at Bastion, then glanced down at her feet, and wiggled one big toe which peeped through a well-worn hole in her footie. She tried to suppress a smile, “So?”

His grin widened, “Unbelievable, Haggie. How old are you?”

“Shut up!” she tried to sound angry, but a smile creeped on her lips in spite of herself.

“Hurry up and get dressed. We gotta go!” Bastion jerked his thumb behind him for emphasis.

“Yeah, yeah,” she mumbled, pushing her chaotic curls from her face. She rubbed her eyes, “Give me ten minutes. I’ll meet you outside.”

Bastion held up ten fingers, “Ten minutes,” and shot her a look that said “…and no longer.”

Bastion left her window, and Haggity whirled around her room in a frenzy, tearing off her pajamas. She grabbed her jeans from the foot of her bed, stumbled into them, searching for a shirt in the chaos that covered the floor of her room.

Eyeing a purple t-shirt crumpled in a corner, she pounced on it, giving it a quick sniff.

Passable.

She threw on the t-shirt, then attempted to tame her unruly mop of chestnut hair into a rubber band at the nape of her neck.

Clothes: check. Next stop: food.

Haggity raced into the kitchen. Without any time for breakfast, she eyed the counters desparately for something that would do for lunch.

Ah. Coffee cake.

Grabbing a slice, she mummified it in some plastic wrap, and raced to her final stop by the front door. She threw the slice of cake into her backpack, and crammed her sockless feet into her pink sneakers. With a final sigh, she donned her backpack and opened the door.

Bastion was waiting for her.

His left eyebrow arched.

Haggity blew a wayward curl from her forehead. “What?”

“What are you wearing?”

She looked down, smoothing down her hopelessly wrinkled shirt.

“Is that mustard?”

She followed his eyes to her knee.

Indeed it was. She licked her thumb, frowning while she tried to rub the stain from her jeans. “I didn’t have much time…”

“No kidding!” he grinned.

She glanced at Bastion, whose blond hair was neatly coifed, his clothes casually matched and spotless, cooly confident as always. Her frown deepened, and she blushed.

She locked the front door behind her, and they began their morning trek to the bus stop. A crisp fall breeze freed the leaves from the oaks that arched over the small road. The canopy above them dripped with Spanish Moss. Navigating the old, cracked sidewalk in an even older neighborhood, Haggity avoided the dandelions making desperate breaks through the concrete. She had a soft spot for dandelions.

“That’s the third time this week. What’s up with you?”

She slowed for a moment, pondering how much to tell him. Then she shrugged, looked down, “I don’t know…I’ve been having weird dreams.”

Bastion regarded her guarded posture, her averted eyes, “Hmmmm…” he mused, not pushing her further.

They walked in silence for several minutes, Haggity’s mood tinged by her still-fresh nightmare. Sliding her eyes to her friend, she noticed that Bastion’s face was dark, his eyebrows knotting over his downturned gaze. He opened and shut his mouth several times, and Haggity realized he was working up the nerve to say something to her.

“What’s up?” she tried to sound light.

Bastion’s mouth worked, then finally, “I…have a favor to ask you.”

She waited.

“I…want…” he paused, “I’d really like you to come to Lucia’s birthday party with me.”

Haggity stopped short, and whirled on Bastion. “Are you…kidding me?!”

Bastion held up his hands defensively, “Just…hold on. Just…just…” he was stuttering now “…think about it.”

Furious, Haggity’s squeezed her backpack’s shoulderstraps until she could feel them biting into her palms. She could barely process what she was feeling.

Betrayed. Yes, betrayal was definitely something she was feeling.

“Why are you even going to her party?” Haggity spat. “She’s…evil!”

Bastion sighed, “She’s not evil, Haggie –“

“But seriously,” Haggity interrupted, tears springing into her eyes, “You know how she…treats..me. Why are you even going?”

Bastion’s voice became soft as faced the onslaught of Haggity’s rage, “Listen…she invited me, and…”

“And what?”

Bastion was obviously panicking in the face of Haggity’s swelling emotion. “And…everyone else is going…” he added lamely, averting her eyes, “and…”

“And…?!” tears were running down her face now.

“And…” his eyes met hers now, quite steadily, “I thought it would be cool if came with me. Maybe it would be good for you.”

And there it was. The real reason for this whole ploy.

It wold be good for her. He agreed to go to this party, so he could take her along, so…so what? So she could play nice with all the jerks?

She blinked, the blood rushing to her face. She turned her head, and slowly started walking again. Bastion followed quickly, catching up to her.

There was silence for a while. Bastion looked miserable, glancing up at her pleadingly, guiltily.

Finally, Haggity murmured, “I’m not pathetic.”

Bastion unloaded a deep sigh, “I know you’re not pathetic, Haggie –“

“You don’t have to fix me. I don’t need any friends.”

Bastion, ever sensitive, said softly, “I know Haggie.”

Haggie, releasing her anger, sagged her shoulders.

“I just…” he smiled lamely, “I just thought you might have fun.”

It was a long, silent walk to the bus stop.

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