I stalled, trying to come up with the perfect thing to say to resolve the situation.
“Let me show you something here on the computer.” We walked over to the desk and I plopped down into the office chair. I signed into my Facebook account and pulled up an old photo that someone had tagged me in from high school.
It was a bit grainy, as pictures of pictures tend to be, but you could still clearly see the group of us girls, arms over shoulders, the lot of us grinning widely. “See that? That’s Mommy.”
“Yes. And is that Aunt Maggie?” she inquired, pointing to a girl who looked absolutely nothing like my sister.
“No, that’s just another girl with blond hair. That’s me my friends after we did a play. That’s Katie, Jen, and Leslie.”
I could tell that she was trying to figure out why I’d show her this. “My friends from Theater Arts were all really nice, especially Leslie, the girl with the jean jacket and red hair at the end. She was really sweet and funny. Want to see a picture of her now?
I typed her name in the search bar, and came across her page. I covered the computer screen with my body (awkwardly) until I found the specific photo I’d been looking for. “That’s her. That’s Leslie.”
The model-quality picture was a headshot of Leslie’s exquisitely structured face, framed by chunky yellow earrings. Her piercing hazel eyes held firm to the camera lens as though she was staring at the viewer. Her smile was genuine, as though she’d just been told a joke. Her hair was notably absent, yet it didn’t detract from the beauty of her face; perhaps made it all the more magnificent, as there was nothing to divert an observers attention away from the confidence of self that was indisputable in the photo.
“Do you think you’d be friends with Leslie?” I inquired, as she continued looking.
“Yes. I think she’s probably really nice. She has a nice smile.”
“She is. Are you scared of her?”
“Just because someone doesn’t look exactly the same as they’re ‘supposed to,’ doesn’t mean that they’re different. Or scary. I think what probably scared you the most about Tayler is that you thought she was one way- had hair- and it turned out that she didn’t.” I instantly regretted telling her what she felt instead of letting her tell me.
“I guess. When I go to sleep I’m scared that I’m gonna think about it and have nightmares.”
“Are you scared because of what you saw, or are you disappointed in the way you reacted?”
She didn’t say anything for a minute, just looked at me, then the picture of Leslie that was still on the computer screen, then down at her feet. “I made Tayler sad,” she said, then started to sob.
“You know what? She probably did feel sad. Nobody wants to feel badly about their differences. If a person is already insecure about something physical that makes them unique, like blindness, a birthmark, a missing limb, having that justified by someone else makes it all-the-more worse.”
“Huh?” I could tell she was starting to get sleepy an my explanation was falling upon deaf ears.
“Go get ready for bed and pick out a book that we can read. Tomorrow we can sit down and write a letter to Tayler. You can apologize, then talk about all the things you love about her.”
“Like how she lets us stay up late and eat ice cream!”