"Hey, sweetheart." Mr. Sheldon quietly closed the door behind him, looking over his daughter's room. The walls were a comforting light blue color with posters of the beach, nets of shells, and a yellow surfboard propped in the corner. A dream catcher spun above her bed in slow, methodical rotations. Papers were scattered across the floor. And there sat Fleur, staring out the window at the enchanting sunset descending below the ocean. "I got a new job today. One that can support us."
Fleur managed a small, pitiful smile. "That's really good," she said softly.
Her father approached the bed and sat near her, but not too close that he was invasive. He remembered being a teenager and needing space. "What's wrong, honey? I thought you'd be excited, with today being your last day of school and summer just starting."
Fleur was silent for a long while. Her eyes were staring out over the water, unwavering and grave. Ever since her mother had died, Mr. Sheldon had done the best he could to be everything for Fleur. He knew he could not always be the perfect father, but he would try his best till the day he died.
"I hit Paige Anderson today."
Mr. Sheldon's eyes rounded. "You hit her?"
Fleur exhaled thoughtfully. "With my binder."
"Fleur, why in the world -"
"People don't understand. They're mean. They say mean things about me, and about you, and about our family." Fleur curled her legs to her chest and wiped her eyes. "Dad, I don't even do anything to them, and they still hate me."
Mr. Sheldon hugged his daughter for a long time, cursing the spoiled rotten children who are cruel to others just because they can be. "Listen, Fleur. Those are the type of people who find it fun to hurt others. Their parents have money, or they think the world owes them something, so they act horribly. If people see that you're happy even when they torment you, it takes the fun away. Remember that." He stroked his daughter's long brown hair. "I deal with it too. It doesn't go away."
"Great," she sniffled. "I'm screwed for life."
"Listen to me, Fleur, and listen well. When someone torments you over and over and over again, think of them as sandpaper. They may hurt you quite a bit, but in the end, you end up polished, and they end up utterly useless."
A smile broke on Fleur's face, and Mr. Sheldon wiped her damp cheeks. "You are my beautiful and brilliant daughter. Don't let anyone else tell you different."
Fleur nodded. "Love you, Dad."
"Love you too, sweetheart." Mr. Sheldon advanced to the doorway, pausing before closing the door. "Your choice in weaponry is astounding, by the way. I hope I won't be receiving a phone call..."
Fleur giggled. "You won't, I don't think. Paige wouldn't want to be known as a tattle-tale." With that, her father said his goodnights and Fleur tucked herself into the bed.
Although her dad made her feel like she was invincible and dearly loved, something was nagging at her, creating a thrumming knot in her chest. It was not until Fleur drifted into a dreamless sleep that she realized the nagging was a strong desire for one simple thing: a friend.