Once upon a time, there was a little girl. This little girl was a happy girl. She loved dancing and singing and drawing and playing. She loved chocolate, she loved dresses, she loved her friends, and she loved theatre. Her favorite thing in the world, however, was having friends. She didn't want to seem arrogant, or stuck up, but she loved attention. She loved knowing everybody, being trusted, being in the center of the social scene, and having everyone know her name. It was her life to care about others, and make sure that everyone was happy. And she thought others should feel the same way.
Now, this little girl wasn't so little, really. She had just finished the 6th grade feeling on top of the world- she had won her school's election! She was going to be well known, and was going to make a difference. And best of all, she was taking an 8th grade only class. Leadership.
The school year started. And everything was different for the girl. All of her old friends had little or no classes with her. They drifted apart. By the time she stopped chasing her old friends, it was too late to make new friends. Of course, this made the girl sad. But she could live with half friends, right? She told herself that she could.
It was fine. No big deal.
Leadership had started out superbly for the girl. She had aced the first project, and even began to make friends with some of the 8th graders. But as the year progressed, there seemed to be a point where all the 8th graders turned their backs to her. She didn't understand- had she done something wrong? She tried to continue talking to them and helping out, but she was shunned. Contributing in discussions got her giggles and snorts. Offering to lead an event got her public ridicule. Even attempts to help someone who needed help were shut down. Her help was worse than no help at all.
The main purpose of this girl's life was to know people, to care and be cared about. And this purpose was crushed. All the cliques had formed, with no room for her. The class she had most looked forward to had shunned her and laughed in her face. She could not do what her heart wanted to do.
The girl eased herself into her new life. Bit by bit, she took the mocking and the disgrace, and built an immunity. However, the more she fought it, the more it came. And the worse it became. Her resolve cracked. Her shell broke. Her heart shattered. The girl was gone, and in her place was a rag doll. She still looked the same, but her spirit and fight were gone. Time and time again she wound tape and bandages around her heart, sure that all she needed to do was rest it. So she stopped caring. She stopped feeling. She could now be tossed around, be laughed at, ignored, then thrown away like the toy she was taught to be. She took to sitting away from the others in class. At lunch, she tried to sit with the group of people she most wanted to be friends with. She tried so hard, but they never noticed her knocking at the door. The ragdoll was content to slump outside the walls, content to just be near other people.
No girl or boy ever asked the ragdoll why she had become a ragdoll. They never noticed the girl fade away to a husk. A teacher or two would ask her if she was ok, if she was sick. The doll merely replied that she was tired, and that was that. She dreaded coming to school, only to become a nobody once again. At home she was able to come back a little, become less of a shadow and more of the person she used to be. But it was at school where she fell the hardest.
The girl grew used to being a ragdoll. The weeks rolled by, and the doll remained oblivious to what she had become. However, remaining oblivious was infinitely better than becoming aware. Better than noticing what she had become. Had she noticed herself become the ragdoll, she would have felt the burning desire to get out. She would have tried to cut open the fabric keeping her trapped inside, if it hadn't been for a girl the ragdoll met. She had sandy blonde hair, bright blue eyes, and a sweet smile. She was in a few of the doll's classes, and one day approached the doll and began to speak. Talking to the girl became a habit, and soon she was invited to sit with the girl at lunch as well. The ragdoll found herself in a circle of people who didn't mind hearing her opinions, who considered her worth listening to. Perhaps they noticed her brokeness. Perhaps not. But they listened. They listened to the tales of what happened to the ragdoll every day in Leadership. They listened to her constantly thanking them for caring, for liking her. They listened to her fears, and they cared.
The ragdoll's face began to light up a little more every day. With every squeeze hello, the blonde haired, blue eyed girl squeezed a little more life back into the ragdoll. She began to show her face to the world. She started conversations instead of waiting for them to be started by someone else. She was firm in her opinions, and didn't shirk from competition. She held her own.
Finally, she decided she would no longer be pushed and ignored and mocked. The ragdoll no longer lurched or dragged herself- she walked with a purpose to Leadership. She sat down in the center of the room, and dared them to tell her to move. They didn't. They discussed a new project, and she gave ideas. They tried to ignore her, but she filled the silences with her voice. Her voice was ignored, but the doll noticed her ideas put into action. They had heard her.
They heard her. They listened.
And that was all she wanted.
The ragdoll's features began to take shape again. Her eyes were no longer glassy marbles, but orbs alive with thought and wit. Her smile was no longer made of shards of glass, stuck together with glue. It was genuine, and no longer needed to be held together. Her heart could feel again. For the first time that year, she could feel again.
She had a purpose again. She was rebuilt, brand new.
And the sandy girl didn't even know what she had done for the ragdoll. One day, she noticed the doll she had befriended seemed to come to life. And she liked that.
It would take months for the girl to look back and realize what she had become. She was horrified at what she had been so close to doing. She was ashamed of not doing something to help herself. She was thankful for the sandy girl.
One day, years later, the girl noticed her friend had changed. Her movements slowed and seemed forced. Her smile was painted on. She jerked along as they walked. The girl dismissed it as a phase, or a mood. But as time went on, and her friend continued to act as though pulled by invisible strings, she faced the truth. The girl she had once known was now a marionette, with no control over herself or her life. Her strings were being pulled, with nothing she could do. The marionette was aware of what she had become, and considered cutting her strings to feel free again. But she wasn't a fool- to cut her strings would leave her with no way out.
The sandy girl who had saved the ragdoll switched places with her. She became the marionette who needed to be saved.
And the ragdoll hoped that she could.