Short Treatment 31 - Senioritis

FARRAH is a 15-year-old high school student who’s looking good and feeling confident as she heads into the first day back from summer vacation. She had a growth spurt over the summer and lost some weight besides, she got some new clothes, and looks and feels like an entirely different person from the somewhat-chubby loser she ended the last year as.

It doesn’t take ten minutes of being back at school, though, before any delusions of grandeur start to fade. She bumps into her bullies - DOLORES, JAYA, and AIDEN, who laugh at her, mocking her for thinking should could ever be anything other than a loser. It’s the leader of the trio, Dolores, who really delivers the KO, when she tells Farrah she’s not even gonna bother messing with her, because she doesn’t have to - Farrah is a loser, and will always be a loser, and Dolores wants Farrah to know that she isn’t a loser because she’s bullied, she’s bullied because she’s a loser - even if Dolores doesn’t do it, somebody else will.

It’s not true, obviously, but it doesn’t really matter if it’s true or not, because Farrah believes it and takes it to heart. She spends the rest of the day crying in the bathroom and slinking through hallways trying not to exist - even if people would’ve taken to her fine before, now she looks like a wierdo and gets treated like one.

At the end of the day, she tries to sneak past Dolores and the others without being noticed - but they do notice her, and again, they don’t bother to do anything to her, they just laugh. Which is worse.

This is pretty much how the next month of school goes, and it’s miserable.

Farrah isn’t entirely friendless, but she doesn’t have friend-friends. She has “friends.” As in, other losers who stick together not out of any sense of loyalty or affection, but just because they don’t have anyone else to hang out with. Honestly, none of them really like each other, secretly believing that they don’t belong with these actual losers. Farrah sees through the hypocrisy and so even still is kind of the outcast of that group, too.

Farrah’s parents aren’t oblivious, but they don’t understand the scope of the problem. They think she’s just a standard teenager. Her mom does get a little uncomfortable with Farrah never bringing friends over, though, and as a part of an attempt to get her out of the house, she convinces Farrah to volunteer with her at the nearby seniors’ center.

Farrah takes to the senior center like a lonely outcast who suddenly found a group of people who are genuinely grateful that she exists. The elderly folks there range from fully aware, just too old to fully care for themselves, to mid-stages of dementia; but most of them are with it enough to be grateful and excited to spend some time with a teenager - or just anyone new.

Farrah gets on well with three of them in particular:

There’s MARTIN, a Bob Ross, soft-spoken semi-hippy man in his 80s. Martin’s in a wheelchair and only has partial use of his left hand, but has an extremely upbeat view on life regardless.

There’s also MISS FARRAH, a blue-haired woman with no teeth who shares a name with Farrah. She always has something insightfully nice to say, but just happens to swear like a sailor. “Once you get past 90, nobody gives a shit’s ass about what you say as long as they don’t have to feed you or change your diapers.” Farrah does have to change her diapers.

Finally, there’s Farrah’s favorite: OH NO, a 65-year-old woman who, after a stroke, can only say “Oh no.” Her real name is Mandy, but she thinks the name Oh No is funny, so she likes it. She’s learned to be remarkably expressive without words, making extensive use of snaps, eyebrow waggles, and eye rolls. Every once in a while she manages a different word - especially automatic stuff, like “Please,” and “Thank you,” but generally it’s just different uses of “Oh,” and “No.”

Farrah’s attitude improves, but it takes the form of her realizing she doesn’t need to waste time hanging out with anyone who thinks she’s a loser - which includes her only “friends” at the moment, so it actually leads to her being even more of a loner at school. She starts spending more time at the senior center.

It’s Miss Farrah who first asks her what the hell she’s doing there. “You’ve been here five times in the last four days,” she says. “It’s Friday night. You should be hanging out with your friends. We’re not that interesting.”

Farrah opens up to them about her school life, breaks down a little bit. Martin is the one who’s the most disappointed, though. “Is Aiden’s last name Schumaker?” Farrah’s surprised he knows her - turns out, she’s his granddaughter. “I think I’m going to have a little chat with my son.”

Farrah panics, doesn’t want to rock the boat at all. She begs him not to say anything, tells him she can handle it. But Martin is unusually stern. “This isn’t just about you. It’s about my granddaughter and the kind of person she’s growing into.”

She goes home terrified of what’s going to happen.

When she goes to the retirement home the next day, she’s shocked to see Aiden there. Aiden is pissed. She glares daggers at Farrah, but Martin stops that hard. “What do you think happened? You think she hunted down your grandfather so she could tattle and get you in trouble?” That kind of had been what she was thinking, but once he says it out loud, no. He takes her into a back room to talk things out with her.

Afterwards, she sits next to Farrah for a little while. It’s actually Farrah who apologizes first, for getting her in trouble. Aiden shakes her head, though. “I didn’t realize how bad it was. You’re cutting class to spend time with my grandpa. School must be hell for you.” It’s an awkward moment, but a hopeful one.

Monday at school, Farrah is optimistic for the first time in a long time. Aiden says hi to her in the hallway, and she smiles. Then Dolores appears with Jaya in tow. She straight-up chokeslams Farrah, screams at her for making it so Aiden can’t hang out with her anymore. Aiden slinks away. Teachers come, everyone gets in trouble, it’s a big deal.

Farrah and Dolores both wind up getting suspended as a part of the school’s “Zero Tolerance” policy towards violence. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but Farrah’s parents don’t fight it. They take an impromptu vacation for a couple days, go camping as a family.

Farrah is, obviously, in a weird place. Her parents are kind of freaked out because they’re finally understanding how bad everything’s been for her. Everybody wants a chance to reconnect but it’s really awkward to actually talk things out so it’s slow.

Finally, one night over the campfire, Farrah and her dad chat. He tells her he talked to Martin and Miss Farrah and they told him what she’d told them. He tries to make sure she won’t blame them for it, but she’s not mad, she gets it.

Farrah’s dad tells her how important she is to him and her mother, and that they’re willing to do whatever she wants. They can look into switching schools, even mid-year if she wants. His office is opening another branch a couple states away, and he could talk about moving there.

That’s kind of a big question to lay on someone, and Farrah already feels like a nuisance, so she doesn’t want to change anything, but they leave it as an open conversation to continue later.

On the car ride home, they talk about Dolores and Jaya. Apparently, Dolores’s parents called, and she wants to apologize in person to Farrah. Farrah doesn’t buy it, probably wouldn’t want it even if she did. Her mom tells her too bad: “If she’s not sincere, that’s on her. If you don’t put forth an effort, that’s on you.”

Farrah and her dad don’t think that’s entirely fair, but mom’s firm. “Life isn’t fair. You think Dolores is an asshole just because? Or do you think maybe her life’s been shitty, too?” “Yeah, but when my life was shitty I didn’t take it out on other people.”

Mom finally relents. She won’t make Farrah do something she doesn’t want to do. But she thinks Farrah should at least hear Dolores out.

Over the weekend, Aiden comes over for a bit as a parent-arranged “hangout session.” It’s super weird, and even if it wasn’t, they really don’t have much in common. They probably wouldn’t have been friends without the bullying. But at the end of the “sesh,” Aiden says something that sticks with Farrah: “I know we’re not, like, friends. But we don’t have to be friends just to talk about stuff sometimes.” Even if it’s not friendship, it’s the closest Farrah’s had in a long time. She cries in her room for a while, but it’s happier crying than usual.

She spends Sunday hanging out at the senior center. The mood is glum - they had two deaths over the week, thankfully none of Farrah’s friends. But they remind Farrah, “This is where we’re going. We’re here for you as long as we’re here at all, but we’d all be a lot happier if we knew you’d be okay without us.”

Monday at school, Farrah seeks Dolores out. Dolores starts with a clearly faked, forced apology, and Farrah interrupts. “I don’t want you to apologize if you don’t want to apologize.” Dolores is taken aback, a little mad. She didn’t ask for this, you know- “And I didn’t ask to get bodyslammed.” The moment hangs there.

Farrah walks away. She’s not sure what changed, but something did: she doesn’t care what Dolores thinks about her anymore.

In an epilogue, we find out Farrah’s dad wound up getting asked to head the new office, which was too good an offer to pass on, so they did move, only a month later. Farrah kept in touch with Aiden and Martin, which is how she knows Dolores stopped being quite so big a bully.

Oh No had another stroke a few months after Farrah left, and passed peacefully a couple weeks later. Farrah came back for the funeral. Martin and Miss Farrah are both alive and doing well. Farrah goes back to visit every once in a while.

Farrah did really well at her new high school, where nobody knew her. She actually succeeded in reinventing herself, and has several friends at graduation.

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