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  • S.P. Lowe

Unicorns

Ever wonder how Candy Sky and Maggie Fiser became friends in Candy Sky Tells A Lie?


Margaret Lynn “Maggie” Fiser moved to Neiwood a week after first grade started. Our teacher Mrs. Nolan introduced her, but no one paid any attention. We were all still new to elementary school, even those of us who went to kindergarten together, so another face to the bunch didn’t garner much interest. Maggie mumbled a meek “hello” before scurrying with her head tucked down to an open spot in the middle of the classroom. She blended in perfectly with the sea of Paw Patrol logos and rainbow sparkle hair scrunchies.


I forgot about her within seconds. I was too focused on ways to get back at Derrick Jeeder for pulling my twin hair braids and hollering, “Giddy up, horsey!” He was always picking on me: stealing my pencils, untying my shoe laces, and doodling in my notebook whenever I wasn’t looking. Dumping yogurt in his backpack was the only logical course of action.


We spent the morning working on reading and writing. I was too giddy for revenge to pay attention, but I made sure to nod along to avoid a lecture from the teacher. I sneaked glances at the clock and watched the second hand sweep sluggishly over each tick mark. 


After a quick spelling activity, we finally had snack. The teacher gave us ten minutes to grab our lunch boxes one by one based on last name, stuff ourselves with no more than two items, and return everything to our cubbies or backpacks before Mrs. Nolan shook her ear-splitting cow-bell. I was always one of the last kids to go because of my last name. By the time I sat back down at my seat, half the class had already finished eating. I hardly ever get to taste my food.


After cramming my gob with Dad’s homemade tortilla chips and salsa, I slipped my yogurt under my desk and waited for the teacher to call on my raised hand. I planned on asking for a quick run to the bathroom, and when no one is looking, I would do the deed—dump the entire cup into Derrick’s lame Minecraft backpack.


I couldn’t wait for his open-mouth shock as he pulled out strawberry-banana goop-covered books.


I vibrated in my seat with excitement.


Fate had other plans, though. Mrs. Nolan shot a firm “Not now, Candice,” before ringing her bell and calling an end to snack time. I glared at the back of Derrick’s buzzed-cut head as I packed my food away.


So much for my revenge. I would have to come up with another idea.


Mrs. Nolan paired us up for math groups. For added fun, she temporarily mixed up the class seating. Trudging to my new spot, still disappointed by my failed plan, I found myself instantly annoyed with the way my partner, Maggie, refused to talk or even look at me. No hello. No acknowledgment. Nothing. She opened her math workbook and silently began solving each question. I grumbled and followed suit.


If there was anything I learned about Maggie, despite her lack of engagement, she was a math wiz. By the time I trudged through the first two problems, which took me several minutes because I was terrible at addition and subtraction, Maggie reached the end of the entire assignment and set her pencil down. She was the first one done in the entire class.


To my continued surprise, she pushed her workbook toward me. Her imploring eyes finally met mine, and she gestured from her answers to my incomplete ones. 


Was she letting me copy her answers? 


I waited for her to say otherwise. Instead, she smacked the workbook down on the table and shifted back into her seat. 


Reaching down to her backpack, Maggie wiggled out a glittery composition notebook with a cartoon octopus on the front. I wondered where she managed to find such a unique journal, probably off the Internet. 


She flipped to a clean page and started drawing with black Sharpie. Of what I do not know. She guarded it with her arm and ducked her head low so no one could see.


My attention returned to her workbook.


Maybe Maggie wasn’t so bad after all.


I scribbled down the answers along with the steps Maggie took to get them. Mrs. Nolan always emphasized the need to “show your work” even if it was just drawing sets of dots and adding or subtracting them. So annoying.


With a satisfied sigh, I closed my workbook and slid hers back over. As she took it, her arm moved just enough for me to see her drawing—a unicorn with an ice cream swirl mane and large eyes with long lashes. Diamond stars sprinkled down the page from the tip of the unicorn’s horn.


“That’s really good!” I exclaimed


Maggie jolted. She slammed her notebook shut and swiftly stowed it away. Face flushing red, she dropped her head below her shoulders until her nose touched the desk’s surface.


“What’s the matter?” I asked. “Why’d you put it away?”


She did not respond.


“Come on, I want to see it!”


Still no response.


“Are you going to say anything? Why are you so quiet?”


Maggie scrunched her body further into a ball.


I groaned, impatience mounting.


Feeling around the inside of my own bag, I found my spiral notebook—a plain yellow one because my mom refuses to spend $4 on one with a cute dog cover—and tore out a piece of paper. I pushed it under her nose.


“Make me one,” I demanded.


She peered up at me, brows furrowing together.


I rolled my eyes. “I don’t know anyone who can draw a unicorn that good. I want one to color it in.” Then I quickly added, “Please.”


Maggie chewed on her lip. She uncapped her Sharpie and stroked the page with an obvious system for drawing unicorns. She started with the snout before moving up to the jaw and hairline. Next came the ears. They were a little long and on the donkey side of the family, but they were better than anything I can do. The mane took the longest with the swirl effect, but soon she finished with the eyes. She passed the paper over to me. Maggie must have drawn this a million times. 


I grinned, she gasped.


“What?” I asked, barely paying attention. I was too busy admiring the unicorn. 


“Look!” Her tweeting voice startled me.


I lurched at the sight of her desk. An exact copy of the unicorn marked the surface. The Sharpie bled through the paper.


“Cover it!” I handed her my journal.


Tears sprang to her eyes. “What do I do?”


I opened my mouth to answer and—


The buzzer on Mrs. Nolan’s phone blared through the classroom. Everyone stood up, collected their things, and squeezed their way back to their original spots. Maggie and I stared at each other with dread. 


Time was up for math groups.


Slowly gathering our notebooks, we parted ways. My stomach threatened to spill morning’s breakfast from how hard my heart pounds in my chest. I waited for that surprised gasp and tattle from whoever normally sits at that desk.


It didn’t take long. 


Mrs. Nolan swooped through the classroom like a hawk after a rabbit to the student wailing “someone drew on my desk!”


A wave of murmurs filled the room. Everyone looked around.


“Who did this?” Mrs. Nolan’s voice was sharp. “Who drew on this desk?”

The class fell deathly quiet. Only the high whine of a mosquito broke the tense silence from somewhere in the room.


I glanced at Maggie. She was trembling. Her eyes were glossy from building tears. She whimpered through her clenched lips. As her hand slowly lifted into the air, I could tell she was about to cry.


“I did it!” 


The words felt foreign on my tongue. My hand waved in the air before my brain could process that it had moved.


Perhaps I lied because I owed her for the math answers. Perhaps I did it because the accident was partially my fault: I did force her to draw me the unicorn. Or perhaps it was the idea that this quiet mousy girl did not deserve Mrs. Nolan’s wrath on her first day of school.


Whatever the reasoning, taking the blame for ruining the desk and receiving a suspension solidified our Best Friend status forever.


Until I appeared in This World where I don’t even have her number saved in my phone.


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