Once-ler was used to the teasing.
As the child, barely twelve years old, walked down the crowded halls of his small school, he pushed them to the back of his mind. The mockery grew steadily worse as he continued on, and his head remained bowed, as if to not catch attentionthough at nearly five foot six, he towered over his peers, and he stood out like a weed amongst flowers.
Gigantor, Toothpick, Long-legs, Einstein, Brain-less, Once-nerd and the most common and clichéfreak. Or geek, sometimes. They liked to play around with it. But the boy ignored the jeers and comments, and kept his small hands tightened on the straps of his backpack.
Soon, they would see. Soon, very, very soon, they would learn to appreciate his genius. It may not be today, it not be tomorrow, or even next week, but soon. Fate and destiny couldn't be so cruel to him.
And so Once-ler continued on his way, a hint of a smile across his cut lip, the blood having dried hours ago since lunch, and hummed a small tune, the designs for his new invention, the Thneed, buried deep within his backpack, away from prying eyes.
"Hey, it's Tree Girl!"
Audrey winced, but stood up taller anyway. Her teasing peers couldn't to anything to her when she was out in the square
"Are you going off to paint s'more?" the group laughed. The redhead stiffened, her slim hands tightening on the handles of the cans of paint. She risked a glance towards them, and mentally chided herself the moment she did so. At the café beside her, the trio sat under and awning outside, watching her with identical smirks painting the three of their faces.
"Oh look!" one of the two girls cried, far too gleefully, "The artist is giving us her attention!"
"We don't deserve it!" the other girl jeered.
The only boy spoke up. "Are you gonna go home to paint some more trees, Autree?" The trio guffawed, and the tall redhead forced back the burning sensation behind her eyes. The group noticed.
"Aw, I think we hurt her feelings!" one of the girls crowed. Her friend crackled, and Audrey turned her head away.
Taking a breath, she muttered a soft, "excuse me," and began walking again. Their taunts followed her to the other side of the road, where she paused before a large fountain. She glared at them from her new position's relative safety, and rebuked herself for not having done something to defend herself. She faced worse at school, and yet she got worked up over little things now.
Audrey shook her head, and picked up the cans of paint again to continue walking. A young and jovial voice called out suddenly from behind her. "Hey, Audrey!"
The teen paused, recognizing the voice, and turned back with a smile. "Oh, hi, Ted."
In Thneedville, everything was structured specifically.
The buildings, blocks, and streets were all similar, laid out in the specific grid pattern. Every home was two stories, with three bedrooms, and two bathrooms. And the familiesthere was to be a mother, father, and child. Those few elderly people were live in a retirement home of sorts, where they would be cared for correctly, and out of society.
Ted Wiggins was one of the few whose family didn't follow these precise guidelines.
His Grammy Norma outright refused to go the retirement home, and his mother wouldn't have allowed it anyway. But he did have a father
once. Everyone did, of course.
But Ted couldn't really
remember him all that well.
What he did remember, were brief clips, snapshot if you will, of moments he spent with the invisible figure. A birthday here, an awards ceremony there
but one thing constantly reminded him of the father long-gone.
And not the real one outside, of course, hidden far behind the smog, but the ones plastered all over his walls and ceiling. His dad's own father had been an astronaut, about a hundred years ago, and he still kept the books depicting each constellation and far-off planet. So Ted's father had bought him hundreds of the stick-on stars for his bedroom, and the two had placed them all together. And there they still were.
Now, several years later, the boy laid in bed, the lights off, going over every constellation. It was a Friday nightwhile most children his age would be out with friends, at the arcade, the ski slope, the beach, or even some pizza place, Ted preferred to remain at home. It wasn't like he had many friends to hang out with anyway.
He could hear the rest of him family already asleep, his mother's raucous snoring filling the whole house, and he managed a smile at the comfort it provided. His family may've been unorthodox, but it was all he had.