Roxana watched as Janie pushed open the playground door. Excited children streamed out of Lakeview Elementary School into
the beautiful, sunny day. Roxana's thoughts filled her mind as fully as the laughter and chatter that filled the halls. Five
extra recess minutes will give us plenty of time to collect the leaves that have blown off all the trees! Some of them are
really pretty! Roxana noticed Janie looking back at her with a frown. I wonder what the problem is? I chose to wait and
be the last one out the door because Ms. Harvey is the only person who talks to me!
Roxana noticed that Janie ignored her friends, Melinda and Sara, as they called her name. That's strange. At lunch
they are always together. Yesterday they made plans to meet after school and go to the mall. Now she ignores them while she
stares at me? Finally, Janie turned toward the largest leaf pile.
Roxana walked to the next pile of leaves with slow steps. Melinda and Sara ran to join Janie. Having lived next door to
each other all their lives, Janie and her friends acted like sisters. They do almost everything together. I bet they have
no idea what if feels like to spend an entire day alone. I can't imagine them working all day in the hot sun, picking fruit,
to earn enough money to pay the rent in the winter months when work is hard to find. Roxana's thoughts were interrupted
when Janie exclaimed to her friends, "Look what my mother bought me yesterday when we all went to the mall!" Roxana quickly
looked down to hide the hurt that reflected in her eyes as she noted the smug look on Janie's face.
They have no idea what I think or feel, Roxana thought as Melinda and Sara admired Janie's latest new outfit.
The pink dress had a matching hair ribbon, which was tied into Janie’s shiny, light blonde hair. I wish mi madre
could take me shopping. Even if she could leave the fields, though, new clothes cost too much, Roxana thought. Roxana
looked down at her own dress and noticed the ripped spot by the pocket. She had fallen down while playing outside, the week
before. This stained yellow dress looks so dirty. Can they tell it came from the church's mission box, sometime last year?
What state were we working in then?
She reached up and touched the piece of string in her own hair. My curly dark hair always looks so wild unless it’s
tied back--especially when I forget to brush it! OHHHH!! It would be so nice to have new clothes like Janie’s, clothes
that always look clean and have hair ribbons to match! Then I wouldn’t have to borrow string from Ms. Harvey all the
Roxana walked to the next pile of leaves, then sat down. Carefully examining each one, she looked for signs of damage from
the weather. I want the leaves without holes or ragged edges, with pretty red or orange coloring and distinct lines. We’ll
have the prettiest hallway in the whole school, the night of the Fall PTO meeting. She ceased her daydreaming as Janie’s
friends continued to talk.
"Hey, Mel, you and Janie should meet us at the mall this afternoon! My Mom wants to get her nails done."
As Melanie whooped with joy, Janie replied, "Sorry, but I can’t go today. I have to go home early. Daddy's boss is
coming for dinner. We’re having steak and baked potato, with pie for dessert! My mother says she makes the pie for me,
but I think it helps make Daddy's boss happy, too."
Roxana continued to sort her leaves as she thought about Janie having steak for dinner. She felt her stomach rumbling with
hunger. Carne asada sounds really good. So does pie. Janie will have a really good dinner.
I’ll have to learn how to make a pie soon. When the fruit trees get ripe, I’m always allowed to buy one
thing just for me on my birthday. If I picked a bag of sugar, we could have something different to eat. I could make a different
kind of pie with each fruit we pick.
Roxana continued to daydream, thinking about the sandwiches she would make for supper and how she would fill the time until
her parents would be home. Daydreaming filled lonely moments and made time pass faster.
I’ll have to go to the store today to buy bread, cheese and milk because mi abuela cannot walk that far anymore.
After supper, while my grandmother falls asleep in her chair, I’ll wash the dishes before I go out to play. Playing
outside, even if I am all by myself, is more fun than doing homework by candlelight. If I didn't have to go to the store and
make supper, I could do it early. But by the time mi madre and mi padre get home, they're too tired to help me with it. Sometimes
I wonder if they can even read English at all.
Ms. Harvey's always so proud that I finish my homework so quickly-and with all the answers right, too! I’m glad
that she lets me stay in at morning recess to do it.
A strong voice and running feet pierced Roxana's thoughts as a large flurry of leaves rained though the air around Janie
and her friends. It was Pete! He had run across the playground to jump into Janie's leaf pile!
Roxana wondered to herself, Why doesn't he just tell Janie that he likes her instead of causing so much trouble!
Pete shouted, "Hey, Janie, get your leaves! If you don't hurry up, old 'rocks-in-the-head' is going to have them all gathered
up and you won't have any!"
Roxana frowned as she gave Pete a dirty look.
Oblivious to Roxana's feelings, Pete continued, "Hey, leave some leaves for us, rocks-in-your-head! We need some, too!"
Finally, Janie looked at Pete and said, "We can use her leaves--she won't need all of these! Since there's nothin' but
rocks in her head anyway, nobody will believe she found all of them by herself! She doesn't even do her homework! I guess
the rocks in her head keep her from thinking at night!"
Pete's black eyes twinkled as his lazy smile spread across his face. His black hair fell over his eyes as he gathered up
Roxana's leaf pile from the playground. Neither he nor Janie ever noticed the pained look in Roxana's eyes.
Roxana was relieved when Ms. Harvey called the class to come in. Janie and Pete were too busy chortling over Pete taking
Janie's leaves to notice the neat stack of leaves Roxana picked up from her lap.
Later, as the students began to work on their projects, Ms. Harvey stopped to admire Roxana's leaves. "Class, look how
colorful Roxana’s leaves are! See how clearly the lines of the leaves show?"
Pete shouted angrily, "That girl has rocks in her head! Those are OUR leaves! We picked them up, didn't we, Janie? She
stole them from our pile!"
Ms. Harvey stood still. Her tall, thin body towered over the children sitting at their desks. Dark brown hair hung down
her back in one single braid. Simple but colorful clothes were nice-looking but comfortable. Her students knew her to be kind
and compassionate, as well as fair and impartial. After studying Pete's face for several moments, her gaze shifted to Roxana.
She quietly asked, "Is this true?"
Roxana looked at Ms. Harvey as she denied Pete's comment. "I had two piles of leaves. I let Pete pick up the pile from
the ground. My best leaves were in my lap." Pete looked at his desk, a guilty expression on his face.
Ms. Harvey asked Pete, "Is it right to lie? How would you feel if Roxana were to call you names and lie to you?"
Janie was quick to defend Pete, saying, "She does have rocks in her head! If she had any brains, she would get her homework
done at night. I get mine done! I even do extra! She would wear better clothes, too, instead of those old, dirty things!"
Ms. Harvey looked at Janie, then said, "Working pages ahead of time and doing them wrong or wearing fancy dresses doesn't
make a person any smarter." Janie, embarassed, looked down at her lap.
Turning to Pete, Ms. Harvey continued, "Calling names and lying doesn't make a person be more important, either." Pete
hung his head lower to hide his eyes.
Ms. Harvey asked Janie, "How would you feel if nobody ever wanted to play with you because your dresses always look so
new? How do you think Roxana feels when no one wants to play with her?"
Janie continued to look at her lap. Bright spots of red colored both cheeks. Roxana ached inside with embarassment, too.
She wished she could crawl under her desk and hide.
Ms. Harvey looked at Roxana, then looked around the classroom at the rest of her students before she spoke again. "How
much money a person has, where or how they live, and what kind of clothes they wear has nothing to do with what kind of person
they are inside. What matters most is how they treat other people and whether they know how to speak the truth. We had planned
to learn about leaves today, but I hope that you have learned much more than that."
Roxana smiled, then said, "The only 'rocks' in my head are my thoughts, diamonds that sparkle in my mind. Someday I may
wear jewels on my fingers, but, until then, being a good person with hopes and dreams is enough."