From Chicken Soup for the Girlfriend's Soul

Getting It Right

The only thing to do is to hug one’s friends tight and to do one’s job.

Edith Wharton

On the April morning I found out about Lucy’s mother, it rained. A light, cooling sprinkle of tears that grayed the Texas sky. I didn’t know what kind of cancer Mrs. Hastings had until later, but I knew her condition was serious— very serious.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love Mr. and Mrs. Hastings almost as much as I love my own parents, and Lucy is my best friend. But I didn’t want to go to school that day. And I sure didn’t want to see Lucy.

What could I possibly say to her? What do people say to their friends at such a time? I was afraid to send Mrs. Hastings so much as a get-well card because I wasn’t sure she was going to get well. I tried every trick I knew to get out of going to school. But Mom insisted.

“You have a history test this morning, Kristin,” she said, looking at me as if she’d crawled into my mind and knew I was just making excuses. “Had you forgotten?”

“No, Mother, I hadn’t forgotten.”

She smiled. “Be sure to stay close to Lucy, especially today, because that poor girl is going to need your strength.”

Strength? What was Mother talking about? I had no strength. I didn’t even know what to say to my best friend.

I hid out in the choir room between classes in hopes of avoiding Lucy, but she was never out of my thoughts. I kept trying to come up with something appropriate to say to her because I really wanted to get it right. I even wrote out a dialogue between the two of us, but in the end, I tore it up because it simply didn’t sound like me.

Lucy and I had last-period English in Mrs. Green’s room. Though I’d eluded her all day, I was going to have to face her last period, and I still didn’t have a plan. However, I worried needlessly because Lucy never showed up for class.

When English class was over, Mrs. Green said, “Kristin, I know Lucy Hastings is your best friend, and I would like to know how she is handling her mother’s illness.”

“I don’t know how she’s handling anything,” I said, “because I haven’t seen or heard from Lucy since yesterday.”

“Well, you’ll be seeing her shortly because Lucy is coming here in a few minutes to get her lesson assignments.”

“Lucy is coming here?”

Mrs. Green nodded. My heart tightened into a hard knot and I trembled inwardly. I still didn’t know what to say to Lucy, and time was running out.

“Excuse me, Mrs. Green,” I finally said, “but I have to— to go now.” I bolted from the classroom.

I raced down the hall and out the front door of school practically in one breath, joining the students who were headed for the campus parking lot.

It had stopped raining, and the air smelled clean and fresh. A rainbow cut across a sky still darkened by thunderclouds, and the wind tossed my hair in all directions until I pulled up the hood of my yellow raincoat.

In the distance I saw someone coming toward me. I knew it was Lucy even though I couldn’t see her face. She had her head down, and she was wearing a yellow raincoat exactly like mine. She’d pulled her hood up, too; maybe she hadn’t seen me. Maybe if I ran back inside and hid in the choir room again, she wouldn’t find me.

Then I noticed how Lucy’s shoulders shook with every step she took. And I knew she must be crying because I was. The rain came down again. Raindrops mingled with my tears. Lucy’s heart was breaking, and I wasn’t doing a thing to help her.

As I drew nearer to her, my throat tightened, making it impossible to speak, even if I’d known what to say. A deep ache filled my heart. I prayed for strength, the strength my mother claimed I already had, and I forced myself to move forward, arms outstretched.

“Oh, Kristin,” Lucy cried. “I was hoping it was you.”

We hugged then, but I still couldn’t utter a sound.

Looking back, I learned something that day that I might never have grasped in any other way. You see, I’d been focusing on me: What should I do? How should I act? What will I say to Lucy?

But when we finally came face-to-face, I forgot me and centered on Lucy and her needs. When I did that, I was able to share Lucy’s grief—let her know that she was special and that I really cared.

Since then, Lucy has told everyone she sees that I have the gift of saying just the right words at just the right time. I still don’t think she realizes that on the day we hugged in the April rain, I never said a word.

Molly Noble Bull

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