Jade West has a secret. And no, it's not something that a teenager thinks is a secret when, in fact, the whole school knows.
(She drinks. She does drugs. She cuts).
No, Jade doesn't do any of those things.
Instead, she takes a cross town bus every Thursday to one of LA's worst and poorest sections and tutors the after-school kindergarten class.
She's not paid in anything but the love and attention she gets from those kids for giving them exactly that.
And she loves every second of it. The kids make her forget about everything from them, and sometimes it's nice to let yourself go.
And how did this Jade West, whose exterior says "I hate children" in that monotone voice, come to be?
Let's just say there was an incident involving scissors and another girl's hair in freshman year and Lane, rather than give her detention, made her go to this school and tutor the students there; kids from poor families who struggle to put food on the table and clothes on their backs.
Jade knew that she was coming back once a little five year old took her hand and said to her:
"Will you play with me?"
His eyes were so full of hope and sadness that she had to say yes.
There's one kid that's really special to Jade this year. Her name is Sasha, and she's the brightest child in the kindergarten class.
She's already reading Harry Potter and only has asked Jade twice this entire year what a certain word meant.
But it's not just Sasha's intelligence that makes her stand out; during playtime one day, Jade was too busy pushing children on the swing to notice that one little boy fell and scraped his knee.
Sasha gave him a band-aid and kissed his boo-boo, and then she took his hand and they skipped off together.
When Jade noticed his scrape later, she asked him what happened. With pride, he said:
"Sasha helped my boo-boo get better!"
Jade's eyes welled up in tears- the compassion and love Sasha had for others was unlike any Jade had ever seen.
These kids have so little- for Sasha to give up a band-aid was a huge act of selflessness.
But why did she have that band-aid?
Jade called Sasha over to her once the other kids had been picked up by their parents.
Sasha, as always, was last to be collected by her parents.
"Sasha, I'm so glad you helped out Jordan earlier. But I was wondering something."
"What was it, Miss Jade?"
"Why did you have that band-aid in your pocket?"
Here Sasha shuffled her feet together and looked down at the floor.
"My mommy and daddy said that if I ever told anyone, they would make it worse".
"Told anyone what?"
"Can I whisper something in your ear, Miss Jade?"
"Go ahead, Sasha".
She leaned into Jade, and, quiet as a mouse, said:
"My mommy and daddy hit me and push me a lot."
Jade was shocked. She'd heard about these children, but never expected to meet one, especially one as social and loving as Sasha.
"That'll be our little secret, right, Miss Jade?"
"Of course. So that's why you have the band-aids? To cover up your boo-boos?"
"Uh-huh. Mommy and Daddy said if anyone ever found out that I would be in big trouble, so please don't tell!"
With that, Sasha went back to reading Harry Potter and, an hour later, her parents (lying assholes, Jade thinks), come to get Sasha with big smiles and hugs.
Jade's not sure if she believes in God, but she prays for the first time in a long time that night. She prays for Sasha.
Jade gets a phone call the next morning while she's on the bus.
It's the school, her little secret.
"Jade? It's Miss Maiga."
"Hi, Miss Maiga, how are you?"
She heard a sigh on the other end of the line. "I'm actually not good, Jade. Sasha…Sasha was killed last night".
Too late too late too late.
"It seems that she was pushed down the stairs of her apartment building, and she cracked her skull.
Her parents have already been arrested- the medical examiner found a lot of bruises and cuts that support the idea of child abuse".
Jade sank lower into her seat.
"She…Sasha told me last night that she was abused. I didn't think that…"
"Jade, this isn't your fault. Odds are it slipped out that she told you, and that's exactly why this happened.
Unfortunately, I see things like this all the time, especially with younger children. They're just no good at keeping secrets."
Jade swallowed her tears for a second, and then said:
"Thank you, Miss Maiga. Is it alright if I come in today?"
"I think that'll be just fine Jade. See you soon."
Once that phone call is over, Jade puts on her sunglasses and lets the tears roll down her face.
Jade's sitting at the lunch table, and Tori's yapping on and on about how Trina didn't let her get any sleep at all last night because of her horrible singing in her sleep.
Jade just snaps at her:
"Stop bitching about how you didn't get any sleep when there are little kids dying because their parents abuse them!"
Everyone at the table, including Beck, stares at her incredulously, and Jade just gets up and leaves.
"Jade, wait!" Beck calls after her.
"What was that about?"
What was she supposed to say? "Beck, I've been volunteering at an after-school program and one of the kids I love there was murdered by her own parents last night?"
No freaking way in hell.
"I'm just tired of Tori bitching, is that alright by you?"
"You could've been a little nicer about it!"
"TAKE HER SIDE LIKE YOU ALWAYS DO! YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT I'VE BEEN THROUGH TODAY!"
"Well, maybe if you told me I would change my mind!"
"I teach, alright! I volunteer at a school in one of the worst sections of the city and one of my kids fucking died last night because her parents pushed her down a flight of steps. There, still angry with me?"
The hell train is here, express service only!
"Don't be sorry for me. Be sorry for that little girl who had her life taken away from her".
"Can I come with you?"
Jade started at that. "What?"
"Can. I. Come. With. You?"
"You're driving me there after school, then."
Jade wants a hot dog from Festus's truck. There aren't any left.
Beck takes Jade to the school and sees just how much the kids love Miss Jade.
He begins to understand how she feels about losing one of her flock, especially in such a violent way.
When the day is over, Jade is unusually silent on the car ride home.
"What's up, babe?"
"Those kids love you, you know that, right?"
"I love them."
"And I love you."
"Love you too babe. So, want to make this a regular Thursday date?"
"It's a deal."
A/N: I'm not entirely sure what this is, to be honest. However, I love Jade's character. Something about her clicks with me- I think it's because I know what it's like to be completely misunderstood by people.
And unfortunately, child abuse happens every day. Atheist, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, I don't care what you are, but keep these children in your thoughts and/or prayers.
Reviews are love.