12: The Gift of Lost Friendship

12: The Gift of Lost Friendship

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Middle School

The Gift of Lost Friendship

You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.

~Winston Churchill

When most people look back on middle school they remember their teachers and their best friends. But what I remember most is one person who isn’t even my friend anymore. Lots of people will give you the gift of friendship, but this person gave me an even bigger gift. She gave me the gift of no longer being my friend. I know that sounds strange, but let me explain.

My heart was pounding as I climbed onto the school bus on the first day of middle school. I adjusted my backpack as I looked for a place to sit. My eyes landed on two girls sitting next to each other. They smiled at me and patted the seat adjacent to theirs.

“Hey!” the blond said. “My name is Heather. What’s yours?”

“Rachel...” I stammered. Normally I’m not shy, but I barely knew anyone and was anxious to make new friends.

“Nice to meet you,” said the brunette. “My name’s Jessica.”

I sat down on the hot vinyl seat and faced the girls. I looked at my Converse All Stars and frowned. Why hadn’t I worn more stylish shoes?

“Do you live around here?” I asked.

“Over there,” said Heather, pointing left.

“I just moved here from across town,” explained Jessica.

It turned out we had first period together and we became friends. We ate lunch together, hung out at the park and had Smallville marathons in Jessica’s room on weekends. We became the three musketeers. But our friendship wasn’t without its faults.

Jessica made Heather and me laugh. She was very fashionable and we’d go to her for make-up and clothing advice. But she had an “I’m-the-boss” personality that demanded attention. She always had to be in charge.

One time, the three of us went to the mall. Being the preppy one, I wanted to go to Abercrombie & Fitch.

“Abercrombie, are you kidding?” Jessica said, rolling her eyes. “I’m not setting foot in there. We’re going to Rave.”

Not wanting to argue, I followed her into Rave, my eyes lingering on the door to Abercrombie.

“This skirt would look great on you,” Jessica exclaimed. “Try it on!”

“I don’t like it that much...” I said.

Jessica gave me a death glare so I made my way to the dressing rooms.

I ended up buying the skirt. I spent fifty dollars on a skirt that I didn’t even like, just to make Jessica happy.

Throughout sixth grade, this was how it was. If Jessica went somewhere, Heather and I went there too. We had little fights, but nothing major. That summer was filled with sprinklers, lemonade, midnight trips to the pool and afternoon tanning in the backyard. But when seventh grade started, things were different.

Heather and I became Jessica’s sidekicks. If Jessica wanted to go ice skating, Heather and I were obligated to come. If we were busy with other plans, it didn’t matter. We had to come or she would say we “didn’t care about our friendship.” If Jessica was mad at me, Heather always took Jessica’s side. When she was mad at Heather I did the same thing for fear of being yelled at by Jessica. Even though most fights were just minor misunderstandings, they usually ended with Heather or me apologizing and praying for Jessica’s forgiveness. Then we’d mumble to each other about how ridiculous the latest fight was.

As time went on, I found I was behaving as a pretend version of myself just to please Jessica and to keep her from being mad at me. She complained I was different when I was around other people, when in truth I was being myself. I was always afraid she’d get mad at me for saying something that I wouldn’t normally think twice about.

I was obligated to take Jessica’s side even when I didn’t agree. For instance, one time she got in a fight with a girl named Leslie and she expected me to be mad at Leslie too. When I told her I had no reason to be mad and that Leslie was my friend, Jessica didn’t speak to me for three days.

Then, summer came around. Jessica invited Heather and me to go to Cape Cod with her. I decided to go to Florida with another friend instead, and Jessica got angry. When I came home, Jessica was gone. I went to camp and didn’t hear from her.

One hot day, my phone rang and the caller ID glowed “Jessica.” If I answered, I’d be yelled at. If I didn’t, Jessica would get even madder. I flipped open the phone.

“Hey... How are you?” I asked.

“Fine,” Jessica replied curtly.

“Is something wrong?” I questioned, biting my lip.

“Why do my other friends call and you don’t?!” she demanded.

My heart raced. I remained silent for fear I’d say something wrong. Finally, I took a breath, “I’m sorry.... I’ve been at camp and in Florida. If you wanted to talk so badly, why didn’t you call me?”

“You don’t care enough to call me!” Jessica exclaimed. “I can’t be your friend anymore if you don’t care.”

I needed to tell her the truth. I took a breath and whispered, “Jessica, I’m afraid of you. You’re fun to be with, but you’re intimidating. I never know when you’re going to get mad at me.” My voice shook. “It’s hard to have a friend who’s always angry—there, I said it. I’m sorry if it hurts your feelings. I want to work things out but I thought you should know how I feel.”

The line went dead. She’d hung up on me. Heather had a similar falling out with her within weeks.

I sometimes wonder what life would be like if I hadn’t told the truth. But telling the truth is never a mistake, and that’s what Jessica taught me. Without knowing it, Jessica showed me that real friends listen to what you say and care how you feel. Real friends are there for you through the toughest times—they don’t cause them. Real friends respect who you are and encourage you to be yourself, rather than asking you to be who they want you to be just to please them. Lots of people will give you the gift of friendship, but once in a while someone will give you the gift of lost friendship.

~Rachel Joyce

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