All day at school, Brian is plagued by Jian, who is in most of his classes. After school, the Asian boy openly expresses his interest in Jordan, which makes Brian angry. She reminds him that he’s supposed to be kind, no matter what, but that doesn’t sit well with Brian. When Jordan gets to the drama room, she finds Lien there, sitting alone.
“Hi, you okay?”
Lien shook her head, eyes wide with fear.
“Is it your brother?”
The other girl shook her head, trembling. She shrugged.
“If he’s so mean, can’t you talk to your dad, tell him?”
“You don’t understand, Jordan. It’s not our way. My brother and father can do or say what they like. I’m only a girl.”
Jordan wanted to scream. Her Inner Feminist grew incensed at the idea. She knew that some countries had a very different view of women, but she hadn’t thought she’d ever encounter it in her home town. Now, she was confronted with a very real issue of discrimination. She wanted to fight it, but knew it really wasn’t her business or her conflict to resolve.
“You shouldn’t let him treat you badly. There are laws….”
“Yes, but not for me.”
Jordan tried to speak, but Lien held up her hand.
“Thank you. I appreciate your support and the fact you want to stand up for me, but this is how it’s been since I was a little girl. It will continue forever, until I marry. Then, I will be under the auspicise of my husband, answering to his rules.”
“That’s so—archaic. Barbaric.”
Lien shrugged. “But it is our way. It’s all right, Jordan. They don’t always get their way, but they can be very unkind when I talk back or refuse.”
Jordan had no answer. Lien had accepted it, so must she. She couldn’t fight every battle, even if she wanted to.
The drama coach walked in, grinning. “We’ve got a new student joining us today,” she announced. “Everyone, please welcome Lien.” She presented the shy young woman.
Smiling, Lien stood and waved at everyone.
“Jordan, will you take over introductions and start the warm up? I have to go talk to Mr. Ferris.”
“Sure. Everyone, up on the stage.” She’d done this before. As a senior, and the designated assistant director, they listened to her. She did the introductions and started a game to help them all learn one another’s names. It wasn’t just because of Lien, there were some new freshmen and transfer students, so it was helpful for them all. By the time Mrs. Joyce came back, they were well into their warm up. She let Jordan continue until they were done, and invited everyone to sit in a circle on the stage.
“I’ve just spoken to Assistant Principal Ferris. He’s informed me that he’d like us to perform for the first assembly of the year, introducing students to the arts. He’s been a big supporter of ours, fighting for the team to have funds, so I don’t want to disappoint him. We need to think of some things we can do that won’t take a lot of preparation, since the assembly is in less than two weeks.”
“We did that short one act last year,” Jordan said. “All three of us are still here. We could do that. It’s about ten minutes.”
“I can do the soliloquey I memorized last spring,” a boy popped in.
“And Dwight can do his Mark Twain,” Jordan suggested. “Lien, is there something from your country that you could perform?”
Taken by surprise, the young Asian woman stared at Jordan.
“Perform something from my country?” She thought a moment. “Well, yes. I suppose. As a project one year, I learned one of the traditional dances. I still have the dress and fan. Would that be all right?” she asked the teacher.
Mrs. Joyce beamed. “Oh, I think that would be amazing! We could start with Mark Twain, go to the soliloquey, do the short one act and end with your dance. I think that would make an amazing performance! Excellent! Let’s get to work. Lien, can you come show me the dance, even if you don’t have your costume and music?”
“Of course. I would be happy to.”
“Great. Jordan, why don’t you three take the stage. Boys, one of you on stage right wings, the other stage left.”
“Yes, Mrs. Joyce!” they chorused.
Brian stood just inside the door to the debate coach’s room, feeling Jian’s eyes on him. He didn’t have to look around to spot the boy, he knew exactly where he was in the room. The weight of his glare wasn’t frightening so much as it was irritating. It made Brian angry, but he pasted a smile on his face and walked over to greet the members of the team. Mr. Wymore was talking to a couple of new freshmen, getting them oriented and finding out how much experience they had—virtually none.
© 2018 Dellani Oakes