Finding Friendship

Finding Friendship

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Be The Best You Can Be

Finding Friendship

Don’t wait for people to be friendly, show them how.

~Author Unknown

In middle school I was the shy, quiet girl who always did her work, sat in the back of the class, and never raised her hand for fear of giving a wrong answer. My shyness was a problem when it came to meeting new people, but I had a small group of friends who I had grown up with, and I believed they would always have my back. Emily, Vicki, and Michelle were my three best friends in the whole world; they were also my only friends.

Vicki was the leader; she took it upon herself to always invent games and take charge, and she absolutely hated anybody standing up to her. Put simply, she was bossy, and if something didn’t go her way, she wouldn’t hesitate to fight.

Michelle was Vicki’s sidekick, and she was much more passive. She followed Vicki around like a puppy dog, and went along with whatever she said.

Emily was quiet and not as bossy as the others, but she was also more assertive than I was. She never picked fights with anybody for disagreeing with her, and she never had anything bad to say about anybody. I trusted her the most of my three friends.

I was in sixth grade when I finally saw my friends’ true colors, and it felt like a slap in the face. I had just finished gym class, and I was walking to the cafeteria with Vicki, Michelle, and Emily. It was time for lunch, which was my favorite part of the day.

We walked in as a group, with Vicki and Michelle in front, while Emily kept pace directly behind them. I brought up the rear, walking slowly and silently. Without warning, the three sat down at a table nearest the entrance, and I suddenly noticed that there were no empty seats for me to sit in.

“Very funny, guys,” I said softly, hoping they would move to another table. The one where they had chosen to sit was already full with a group of boys that I barely knew.

“Can you make room for me?” I asked, and I could already feel the flush of embarrassment creeping up my cheeks.

“There’s no room,” Vicki said simply, looking me straight in the eye.

“Can’t we just sit at a different table?” I pleaded. I felt humiliated. I was being abandoned by my best friends, my only friends.

“No. We’re sitting at this one. You should just walk faster next time.”

“Yeah,” Michelle piped in.

I looked desperately at Emily, my last hope, but she stared down at the sandwich in her hands instead of meeting my gaze. She acted like I wasn’t even there.

The hurt and embarrassment of this betrayal was enough to shatter what little self-esteem I had, and I could barely make my voice audible, much less keep it from breaking.

“Wow, thanks guys,” I choked. I had tried to make it a sarcastic, biting comment, but I couldn’t maintain my composure. I wanted them to feel a fraction of the pain I was feeling, I wanted them to regret this. But Vicki had already moved on and was starting a new conversation with Michelle.

I shuffled away from the table, holding onto my lunchbox for dear life. I refused to let myself cry, but I couldn’t stop my face from turning what must have been an unsightly shade of red. I glanced at every table I passed, skimming each one for a single friendly face. I just needed someone to sit with, just for today. Sadly, this was the moment I realized I really had no other friends. There was nobody else I could sit with. I finally made my way to an empty, dirty table in the back of the cafeteria.

I wished desperately that someone would join me, and I angrily wondered why my friends couldn’t have simply sat at this empty table.

Halfway through lunch, a teacher walked over to my table. I wondered frantically if I had done something wrong to draw his attention. I didn’t want to get in trouble.

“Hey, Brianna,” Mr. Hickey said to me kindly. His voice was soft and comforting, but that didn’t stop my anxiety. “Did you and your friends have a fight or something?”

I shook my head vigorously, “No, we’re fine.”

“Then why are you sitting all alone?” he seemed concerned, and a small part of me was thankful that somebody was taking notice, but I didn’t dare say anything about my friends.

“I just felt like sitting here for a change, I guess. I don’t really know.” I shrugged and bit into my sandwich like it was no big deal.

He nodded slowly, and started turning away. “Okay, well, if that’s all. Enjoy your lunch.” He looked back at me over his shoulder, but only for a moment, before a group of boys shooting milk out of their noses drew his attention and he was gone.

The next three days followed a similar pattern, only it soon became a race not to be the last to the table. I was desperate, but somehow, I was always last. For three days I sat by myself at the dirty table in the corner. Mr. Hickey didn’t approach me after that first day, but I never missed his glances in my direction.

One day this pattern was broken. I was sitting alone at my table, like always, when a small voice asked, “Can I sit here?”

Startled, I looked up to see a girl named Stephanie who I only vaguely knew. She had ridden the same bus as me the year before, but other than that I had never really had much contact with her.

“Yeah, sure,” I said, eagerly making room for her.

Suddenly, lunch didn’t seem so miserable. We talked all period, and my heart felt like it was going to burst. Stephanie’s act of kindness was hugely important to me, and I have never stopped feeling entirely grateful to her. I also didn’t miss Mr. Hickey’s quick smile as he watched us from over his shoulder.

The next day, it wasn’t just Stephanie who joined me for lunch. Emily came over, as well as three other girls who were friends with Stephanie. A few short days later, my entire table, once empty, was almost completely filled.

Finally, there was only one person missing.

“Can I sit here?” Vicki asked softly.

I looked at her for a long moment, and Stephanie opened her mouth to deny her.

“Yeah, there’s a seat next to Michelle.” I cut in.

Vicki scurried over to the indicated seat, and Stephanie turned to me, asking why I had let Vicki join us.

I had no answer other than sometimes a little kindness can go a long way. I had learned a lot over those few days, and finally I saw who my real friends were. Stephanie, who was practically a stranger, had seen me when I needed help, and she was the only one to come to my rescue when my “friends” abandoned me. Now I want to reach out to others, to spread kindness and love, just as Stephanie did for me.

~Brianna Abbott

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