16: Bellybutton Betrayal

16: Bellybutton Betrayal

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Middle School

Bellybutton Betrayal

Trust can take years to build, but only a second to break.

~Unknown

“You want to see something cool?” China asked.

“Sure, I guess so.” We were in China’s room after school. I hadn’t been to her house very often, but I liked hanging out. She had her own horse, which was awesome, and her parents didn’t bother us too much. Her mom worked late, and her stepdad didn’t pay a lot of attention.

We’d been lying around, talking and listening to music, and then—boom—she showed me her bellybutton. When I looked close, I could see it had been pierced, even though she didn’t have a ring or anything in it at that point.

“Wow, cool.” I wanted to get my bellybutton pierced more than anything, but my mom kept telling me I had to wait till I was older. Since I was only in eighth grade, she said it would be a very long time until I could do it.

I did have my ears pierced, but whoop-de-doo. Suddenly, that didn’t seem like much of a thrill.

“I did it myself,” China said, “and my mom doesn’t even know. If you want to try it, I’ll show you how.”

I guess I was pretty dumb back then, because I didn’t really stop and think too much about it. I wanted more piercings, and if I didn’t need Mom to sign for me, so much the better. “Cool. Sure,” I said. “How do you do it?”

“Hang on.” China ran downstairs and grabbed some ice cubes, a lighter, and a couple of safety pins. She dumped all that and went into the bathroom to wash off her belly. When she came back in, she put the ice on her bellybutton to make it numb, and then used the lighter to heat up the safety pin. I guess she thought it would kill the germs or something.

Next thing I knew, she had stuck the pin right through her bellybutton skin.

“OK,” she said. “Your turn.”

I hardly hesitated. After all, I’d had my ears pierced at the mall, and I knew what that was all about. How bad could it be? Well, it hurt. But when I looked down at my newly-pierced bellybutton, I thought, “All riiiiight!”

China told me to leave the pin in for a couple weeks, and then I could put in an earring. I went home with my shirt covering the evidence. I felt a bit sneaky—but cool.

I waited about a week, but then my piercing began to hurt. I’d had an infection in my earlobe the last time I’d gotten a piercing, so I knew exactly what that felt like—and this was it. My bellybutton was red and swollen and really, really sore. I took out the safety pin and just kept putting peroxide on the hole, hoping for the best. Finally, to my relief, it cleared up without my having to tell my mom what I’d done. I put away the safety pin and didn’t stick it back in. I just wanted to put it all behind me.

Summer vacation soon came, and everything was okay for a while. But one day, I got a letter in the mail. It was from China. There I was in the yard, in my shorts and flip-flops, reading this thing. And it said that China had been to the doctor, who had found her piercing. It turned out that China had a blood disease and was supposed to be very careful with needles and anything involving her blood. The doctor flipped out when he saw her piercing—and so did her mom.

She said her mom demanded to know why she did it. China told her I had dared her—that I’d paid her twenty dollars to do it! Apparently it didn’t matter that I didn’t even have twenty bucks to my name. China said she was no longer allowed to hang out with me or talk to me on the phone or computer. She said we could still send letters over the summer.

My heart started pounding like it would explode—I was furious. How dare she blame me? I was so mad, I ripped up her letter into little pieces. Then I stormed inside and told my mom everything.

Mom was speechless. She wanted to see my bellybutton and wanted to hear everything that had happened, from the beginning. She thanked me for confessing, but still grounded me for a month. She told me I knew how wrong what I did was, and the only reason I wasn’t punished even worse was because I had confessed to her—and I was already suffering the consequences, all on my own.

Our school district had just built a new building. One evening a couple of weeks later, Mom and I went there for orientation. The gym was so packed, we ended up standing for a while. Next thing I knew, China was standing across the room. I saw her walk in with her mom and felt my temper start to boil over.

She kept trying to catch my eye and wave at me. I ignored her, but she didn’t seem to take the hint. After the administrators talked awhile, they told us we had to break into small groups for a building tour. I ended up with some of my classmates, a couple of friends, and some kids from band. China split off with another group, and I just tried to concentrate on the tour.

We walked through classrooms, labs, the library, the cafeteria, the big, new fitness center, and the fine arts wing. I started to relax again, and kind of enjoyed myself. The tour ended with the administration office. I was one of the last to walk into the room from the hall.

Suddenly, I heard someone yell my name. I looked back, and there with another group was China, acting like we were still best friends forever. “Hey, hey,” she said, “our parents aren’t here, so we can talk.”

I turned to her and lost it. “How can you stand in front of me, talking like we’re buddies, when you made up a lie about me like that? How can you live with yourself?” By now, a crowd had gathered. I was right in China’s face, and two of my friends had to hold me back. Luckily, the tour leaders moved in. They had seen China leave her group and approach me, so they told her to go away. They pulled our group into the office and shut the door in China’s face.

My experience with China taught me to be wary of following someone else without really considering the consequences. After the do-it-yourself piercing, I asked myself why I did it. It was stupid and I should have just waited and done it the right way, later on, if I had wanted it so much. Instead, I risked infection and getting into trouble. Coming from a small school like mine and going into a new, bigger school with a lot of different people, I made a bunch of bad judgment calls. But the important thing is that I learned from them. Now, I only befriend people who really show they are worthy of my friendship. And I think twice before I get involved in any other people’s bright ideas.

~Rosario Rivera

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