Sophie stuck her head out of her dorm, looking around the hallway before she stepped out. She nervously crumpled her canary yellow sash in and out of her fist as she strode down the hallway towards the big doors, head down. However, she paused when she saw a poster showing the different sash colors and what they meant. Sophie scanned the poster until she got to Yellow. Alarm on her face, she read it again and again, sure there'd been a misunderstanding. So sure she would've been placed in red.
"No. No. This can't be! It just simply can't be!" Trying to hold back tears, Sophie swept her hair into her face and headed to the library. She would check out one of her favorites, like maybe Gone in the Wind, something she read when she needed to be alone and comforted. Sophie scanned the shelves for the book, and found it. For some reason, it had two pieces of tape on it; orange and red. Hoping that didn't mean anything, Sophie hurried to the checkout. The clerk examined the pieces of tape around the book's binding, then peered scrutinizingly at Sophie through her glasses.
"Show me your sash," she said in a friendly voice. Burning with embarrassment, Sophie dropped the crumpled sash on the desk. She fixated her eyes on a small ink stain, determined not to show her glistening eyes.
The clerk looked at the color of the sash, then the color of the tapes on the binding of the book.
"I'm sorry," she said. The friendliness had drained from her voice. "You need to have an orange or a red sash to check out this book. Go put it back and head to the Junior Graphic Novels section; those are for yellow and below. Maybe you'll even find a yellow book by the Fantasy Novels. I'm afraid this book is above the reading level you showed in your test."
"What?" Sophie wasn't sure she'd heard right. "I'm not allowed to check out this book?" How was that possible? She fought to choke down tears as she tried to explain, her voice wavering dangerously high. "Ma'am, I'm sure this-- this is a mistake. I've read this book thousands of times before! How is it possible that I'm not allowed to check this out?"
The clerk stared at her levelly through her glasses. "I can assure you that this is not a misunderstaning. What is the seventh word of the second paragraph on page 108?"
Sophie just stared at her and stalked away. Grabbing a random book from the shelf, she curled up in a beanbag chair in the corner. She pushed the book against her face and swept her long, dark hair forward so nobody could see the tears stinging her eyes. For now, all that mattered is that she gathered the broken pieces of her hopes, and her eyes, red and puffy, went back to normal. She couldn't see the words of the book through the tears that blurred her eyes. It was just for show, anyway.