From Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul


Actions, not words, are the true criterion of the attachment of friends.

George Washington

It was spring at last. The sun was high in a cloudless sky. Birds sang. Flowers bloomed. Best of all, it was Saturday—a perfect day to be out playing with friends. The problem was, we’d only been in town two months so I hadn’t made any friends. My family moved a lot. It’s hard when you’re always the new kid on the block.

So, here I was, stuck with my baby brother John and Mary, the new sitter, while Mom and Dad were out of town on business. It was not going to be a fun day!

Just as we started lunch, the phone rang. I hopped up to answer it. “Hello, Morrell’s residence. Lou speaking.”

“Hi, Lou. It’s Alicia.”

My heart did a rapid pit-a-pat-pat. “Alicia Whitman?”

She giggled. “You know another Alicia?”

“No.” There was only one Alicia: the most popular, prettiest, richest girl in my class.

“I called to invite you over to my house this afternoon. We can ride my horse.”

“Hang on. I’ll ask.” Heart racing, I ran to the kitchen. “Mary, can I go play with my friend Alicia this afternoon?”

Mary was trying to scoop peas off the floor faster than my brother dropped them. “Where does she live?”

“Only a few blocks from here,” I said, picturing the fancy brick house that we passed on our way home from school. I held my breath.

“Would your mom let you go?”

“Sure, she would. Please, Mary. Please, please, please.”

John dumped the whole dish from his highchair.

“Oh, all right,” Mary said with a sigh.

I rushed back to the phone. “Alicia, I can come. What time?”

“One o’clock?”

“Great. See ya then.”

I was so excited I could hardly breathe. I was going to hang out with Alicia Whitman! Ride her horse. Every girl in class wanted to be Alicia’s friend.

“Come eat your lunch,” Mary called.

“I’m not hungry. I have to get ready.”

I chose my outfit very carefully: my best shorts, clean T-shirt and brand-new shoes. I even washed my face and combed the tangles out of my hair. When I was satisfied, I called, “I’m going now, Mary.”

I set off. The sun beat down on my back and bounced off the sidewalk. Cars and trucks swished by on the highway. I didn’t care about the heat or the noise. I was too busy daydreaming about the possibility of becoming good friends with Alicia. I’d liked Alicia from the first day. We were a lot alike. We both loved to read. Our hands were the first up to answer questions. We mostly got A’s. We both liked to play sports, although Alicia was always picked first and me last. And we both were horse-crazy. I just knew we could be best friends—if we had a chance.

The sidewalk stretched on forever and ever. It hadn’t seemed this far in the car! My shirt was getting sweaty and one heel in my new shoes hurt like crazy. I stopped and pulled down my sock. A big, fat blister had bubbled up. Youch! I kept going, walking on my tippytoes. It couldn’t be that much farther now, could it?

Several blocks later, across the highway, I saw the meadow with Alicia’s horse, Buttercup, in it. Now all I had to do was cross four lanes of traffic. I sure hoped I wasn’t late!

Cars and trucks whizzed past me. I waited the longest time for a break. When it came, I made a mad dash to the other side. Whew! I was there.

The Whitman house was surrounded by big, old trees. The cool shade felt wonderful. I smoothed my hair and my shorts. My mouth was dry. I hoped Alicia would offer me a cold drink right away. I walked up to the front door and rang the bell.

No one answered.

I rang again, then knocked. No one came to the door.

Maybe they were out back? I walked around on the brick walk. There were no cars in the driveway. No one on the fancy rock terrace either. I knocked on the back door.

Nobody came.

Alicia’s tree house was empty, too. I climbed up to check. Except for Buttercup, the whole place was deserted!

I couldn’t believe it. Had I heard Alicia wrong? Didn’t she say today? Why would she invite me and leave? Maybe she’d gone to pick me up? That was it! Alicia didn’t walk to school or ride the bus. A shiny black car brought her and was waiting when school was out. She wouldn’t expect me to walk all the way out here. We’d just missed each other.

Happily, I went back and sat on the front steps. I waited and waited and waited. It got later and later. No Alicia. No Whitmans. Nobody came.

I sat there with my head in my hands, growing more disappointed and confused by the minute. I finally decided that Alicia wasn’t coming, so I got up and trudged home. I was ashamed of myself. I’d been so hungry for a friend that I’d fallen for her mean trick.

By Monday morning my shame had turned to anger. Being pretty and popular didn’t give someone the right to trick people! I spotted Alicia on the playground, surrounded by the usual group of girls. I pushed my way into the circle. “What you did was mean, Alicia Whitman. I don’t want to be your friend, now or ever!” I stomped away.

“Wait!” Alicia cried. “What did I do?”

Right there, in front of God and all her friends, I told her.

Alicia was shaking her head. “I didn’t call you, Lou. It wasn’t me. We were out of town all weekend.”

Someone giggled and said, “Miss Brainiac got fooled.”

I ignored the name-caller. “Then who called me, Alicia? Who played that dirty trick?”

Alicia looked around the group. Her gaze stopped on Morgan, who was trying to hide the fact that she was laughing to herself. “It was a dirty trick, Lou. I don’t know who did it—for sure. But that person’s no friend of mine.”

Morgan turned bright red. “It was just a joke. Can’t you take a joke, Lou?”

“Some jokes aren’t funny. Right, you guys?” Alicia said, taking my arm.

Everyone nodded and closed in behind Alicia and me. Morgan’s hurtful joke backfired. We all walked away, leaving her standing alone on the playground.

Lou Kassem

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