10: A New Best Friend

10: A New Best Friend

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just for Preteens

A New Best Friend

There are big ships and small ships. But the best ship of all is friendship.

~Author Unknown

Lisa and I squeezed each other as tears rolled down our cheeks. She pulled away and looked into my swollen eyes. “I want you to stay. You’re my best friend.”

I frowned and reached for her hands. “You’re my best friend too, and I don’t want to leave either. But I don’t have any say.”

“You’re moving so far away. What if I never see you again?”

“Mom promised we can call each other and have sleepovers.”

Although I was only moving ten miles away, to us it felt more like a million. I couldn’t imagine life without her. She was the jelly to my peanut butter. We were always together. I knew all of her secrets and she knew mine. We doubled our joys with combined laughter, and cut sorrows in half with our tears.

I didn’t want to go to a different school, and I was afraid of being the new kid. With only one six-week period left of my fifth grade year, I couldn’t understand why I had to change schools, but my parents insisted. I had been going to my school for five years and knew everyone there. Now, I would have to start all over with making friends.

Life was so unfair. Why did my parents have to be so mean? Why did we have to move? Even though I loved the new house, I resented having to change schools and leave my friends behind.

“You’ll like your new school,” Mom said. “You’ll make friends.”

I didn’t believe her. I curled up like a kitten on the couch and cried. “All the kids there already have best friends. I’ll be a stranger to them.” I buried my face in the sofa and sobbed. “I’ll never have another best friend.”

Mom sat down next to me and stroked my back. “Of course you will, sweetheart.” Her efforts to help didn’t fill my emptiness.

The entire family made piles and packed boxes over the next couple of weeks. I put my broken Lite-Brite and cracked Etch A Sketch in the trash pile with some outfits I didn’t like and wanted to get rid of without Mom knowing. I didn’t really play with my Barbie dolls anymore, but I put them and all their accessories in the keep pile anyway — along with my books and Lucky, my special teddy bear.

Moving day arrived. I felt important when I got to make big decisions, like where to put furniture, which drawer the silverware should be in, and what color the bathroom would be.

I jumped with joy when Mom suggested Lisa sleep over on our first night in the new home. That night we stayed up way past our bedtime talking, giggling, and eating Cheetos. We even made some prank calls and played with the Barbies — for old time’s sake. We had such fun together that it made saying goodbye the next day even harder.

The night before my first day of school, I couldn’t sleep. My mind wandered to my first day at my old school as a first grader. I had gone to kindergarten in Oklahoma before we moved to Texas, and although I missed my friends when we moved, the worst part was the teasing I endured. As a six-year-old, I couldn’t understand why the kids had to be so mean. No one knew how much it hurt when I was called “freckle face” and “carrot top.” They didn’t understand how rejected and lonely I felt when they wouldn’t let me play with them and when they knocked books out of my arms and laughed.

Although I did have a few special people in my life — my sister and two brothers and a girl that lived across the street — they each had other friends they played with more than me. Their friendship did diminish some of my misery from the teasing, but it didn’t keep a girl from attacking me as I walked home from school one day. She hit me several times, and the only reason she stopped was because a kind adult drove by and yelled at her. She shook her fist at me and snapped, “I’ll finish with you later.”

Relief washed over me as she ran away, but pain and humiliation made me cry the rest of the way home.

The teasing finally died down after third grade. A few kids still made fun of me, but most of them quit. After two years of hating school and despising myself, I found enjoyment in having friends. I was even invited to do fun things, like roller skating and birthday parties. Then I met Lisa, and everything was better with a best friend. And now, I was losing her.

I lay in bed and soaked my pillow with my tears. What if I’m teased again? What if no one likes me? I didn’t expect to find another friend like Lisa, but what if I didn’t make any friends at all?

Monday morning, I tried on four different outfits and redid my hair three times. My mom had to force me to eat. I trembled as the principal walked me down the hall, wondering how long it would be before I was teased or beat up. When she opened the door to my new classroom, everyone looked at me. Heat rose in my cheeks and my eyes widened as I tried to hide behind the principal. My stomach tumbled and churned, and I thought I was going to throw up on my favorite shoes.

“Okay everyone,” the teacher said. “This is Leigh Ann, and she will be joining our class for the rest of the school year.” She looked at me and smiled, then pointed to an empty seat in the last row. “You can sit there.”

I tried to disappear into the wall as I made my way to the back of the class, but everyone watched me. I looked around trying to decide who was nice and who was mean. As I did, several kids smiled at me.

As the day went on, I felt accepted. No one teased me or called me names. In fact, a few even seemed interested in getting to know me better.

By the end of the school year, I had made several friends. Although none of them considered me their best friend, I had found more happiness than I expected.

When I returned to school for my sixth grade year, I met another new student, Jennifer. She and her family had moved to Texas from New York over the summer, and we had an instant bond — I was born in New York. We talked and hung out and had fun together.

A couple of weeks later, she invited me to spend the night. When she introduced me to her parents, she said, “Mom and Dad, this is Leigh Ann — my best friend.” She looked at me and smiled.

I smiled in return and a warm sensation flooded my heart. She was right. I had a new best friend.

~Leigh Ann Bryant

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