One day we were the best of friends and the next, we hardly knew each other.
I wasn’t sure what to do when I saw her at school. Was it okay if I said, “hi,” or were we not supposed to speak at all? It was tough walking into a building that seemed small when you had friends around you, but now looked huge and overwhelming when you were alone.
Waiting for homeroom to start was torture. Everyone was hanging around in the halls with their group of friends, waiting for the bell to ring and making plans for later. Except, I was just left wandering the halls, looking for a group to fit in. My slightly worn Converse slapped the floor with a quiet pitter-patter as I subtly eavesdropped on conversations that I could easily slide into.
Unfortunately, after my second rotation through the building, the bell rang and I was off to sit in my homeroom. She was there, too, but she managed to keep our friends.
Alone and awkward, I sat listening to the morning announcements. I stood with the rest of the class as we silently pledged our allegiance to the flag and waited for the next bell to send us to our first class. Homeroom was pointless. We didn’t do anything for the ten minutes we were scheduled. I’d rather have gone straight to my first period class, which was French.
She walked passed me with her friends out the door after the bell rang. I tried to get out first, but it was almost like she blocked me on purpose. We didn’t lock eyes, but I heard her laugh and say my name as they continued down the hall. I wanted to cry, but I kept going the opposite direction to my classroom.
What did I do to deserve such treatment? Why couldn’t I be a part of that group? What made me so different that I wasn’t allowed to be included?
I really thought she and I were like twins. But how could we be, if one of us was accepted and the other wasn’t?
My French class was a great distraction. We were really getting into culture, which meant watching films. It was a way to get my mind off my depressing affairs.
Lunch was going to be unbearable until my classmate and regular project partner, Charlie, asked to talk about our next presentation over lunch. It was nice to have someone to sit with, but I knew it wasn’t going to be a permanent fixture. He had his own friends that he ignored today to sit with me.
When the final bell rang I felt my body robotically get up and make its way to the exit. No one stopped me to chat. No one asked if I wanted to hang out later. I walked through the sea of my peers and out the door, unnoticed.
When I got to my car, I let the tears fall. I turned up my music so no one could hear me as I rested my head on the steering wheel. People would think I was taking a nap.
I didn’t think losing my best friend would mean losing all of my friends. I thought we were all close, but when push came to shove, they chose her side over mine. It didn’t seem fair that I didn’t get a say.
A knock on my window jolted me out of my misery and I locked eyes with Charlie. I quickly wiped my tears away and rolled down the window.
“Hey, are you okay?” Charlie asked with a concerned look as I continued to wipe my face.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Just got a bad score on a test. I’m fine.” I tried to look cool in front of him. I went to roll up the window.
Charlie shook his head and placed his hand on the window to stop me. He wouldn’t let it go.
“No… I know that’s not right. Can you give me a ride? My mom can’t pick me up. We can talk about what’s bothering you.”
Charlie quickly hopped into my car before I could answer and directed me towards his house.
“Girl, spill.” He was still looking at me with concern.
“It’s stupid.” I shook my head trying to not seem so desperate for human connection.
“Lana, you have been in my class since kindergarten. We’ve grown up together… suffice it to say… I know you.”
Charlie wouldn’t look away from me, so I finally caved.
“So, the other day, Kayleigh decided we were no longer friends and the rest of my so-called friends walked out of my life with her.”
“Shit. That’s horrible, why?”
“Dude. I don’t even know why.”
Charlie gave me a look, “You know.”
“The only thing I can think of was because I continued to host my bonfire night when she couldn’t attend.”
“Yeah! ‘Cause the day after, she texted me and said I was a bitch for keeping the bonfire going and we weren’t friends. I thought she was joking, but clearly not. Here look.”
I grabbed my phone while we were at a stoplight and showed Charlie the messages. He scrolled through and shook his head. “So much high school drama. I can’t wait until we go to college.”
I nodded in agreement.
“Anyway, sounds like you need to take this negativity and just throw it behind you.”
“Easier said, Chuck.”
“Say that one more time, Laney.”
We both laughed. It was refreshing to be with someone and not have to worry about saying the wrong thing.
“This is going to sound stupid, but Charlie, will you be my new friend?” I asked as I pulled onto his street.
“Lana, we’re already friends. Just give me a call, whenever. If you don’t mind hanging out with some gamers, I’m having a party on Friday. Come… don’t worry there’s no alcohol and my parents will be here.”
“Cool, I’ll see if I can come.” Charlie nodded and hopped out of my car. Before he shut the door he ducked his head in.
“Life is so much more than the Kayleigh’s of our school. See you tomorrow. Don’t forget to write up that –“
“Research, yes Charlie. I’ll do that tonight.”
Charlie shut my door and I was left feeling better than I did coming into my car.
I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I entered Charlie’s house for the first time. We always were partners in class, but we never really talked outside of school if it wasn’t about the projects. I knew he was into computers and video games, but I wasn’t entirely sure what “gamers” meant.
His mom answered the door, she recognized me from past award ceremonies, Charlie and I were always nominated/appointed “Best” something for a subject. We were nerds.
“Lana, how nice to see you! You’ve grown so much.”
“Yeah, thanks for having me over.” I smiled awkwardly. She seemed really excited that I was there, and it made me wonder, was I the only girl?
“Well, Charlie and the rest are downstairs, I think they just started.”
“Thanks.” I walked towards the door where Charlie’s mom pointed and made my way down. I heard some chatter and I started to feel really nervous. Would they like me?
I turned the corner and saw one of the girls in my math class; Elsie was jumping up and down on a pad with arrows, following the sequence shown on the TV in front of her. She locked eyes with me and waved.
“Hey! Lana’s here!” She said before continuing the game.
“LANA!!” Everyone screamed my name as I turned the corner. Mike, another classmate of mine, handed me a can of coke.
“You have to get on our sugar level to play.” He winked, “How’d you do on the Physics pop quiz? I’m trying to gauge if Mr. Drake will give us a curve.”
“NO TALKING ABOUT GRADES MIKE!” Elsie yelled as she made her finishing moves. The music stopped and a high score flashed on the screen. “Yes!”
“I was just trying to see if my F would become a D!”
I started laughing. I didn’t feel nervous anymore; I felt at home. Elsie hopped over to me and placed her arm around my shoulder.
“It’s cool to see you outside of school. I always thought you were like a super nerd who never went anywhere.”
“No, up until recently she hung out with the other girls, but they kicked her out. Isn’t that right, Lana?” Charlie smirked as he gulped his Mountain Dew.
“Yeah, pretty much.”
“Such assholes! See, that’s why I never spoke to them. They always seemed stuck up. Well, welcome, Lana, to the gamer crew. We are grateful for your attendance. And besides, I’ve always wanted have at least one more girl here!” Elsie laughed.
“So what are we playing?” I asked.
“You know what DDR is, right?”
“Yeah, they have that at gym. I never played though.”
“Well, now’s your time!” Mike took my coke away and pushed me onto the mat. “Just press the arrows that show up on the screen. Here, we’ll put you on easy.”
I didn’t know what I was being forced into, but as soon as the music started and I pressed the right buttons, it was the beginning of the fun I had that night.
I never played games with my old friends. We always just sat around and talked about gossip or watched movies. If we weren’t at home, then we were at the mall walking around and spending our parent’s money.
The next game we played was Mario Kart. This game I knew because my younger brother, Josh, had this game. We would play together sometime whenever I wasn’t busy spending time with Kayleigh. In fact, I was playing this with Josh the other night because I didn’t have anything else to do after getting kicked to the curb.
I wasn’t sure if I’d fit in with Charlie and his crew. I wasn’t really a gaming person… but I was open to learn and I think that’s what made them like me.
“Yo! Lana was lying when she said she wasn’t good at this game!” Mike tossed his remote to the floor as I took first place in the Grand Prix.
“Well, my brother usually beats me…” I said nonchalantly.
“SHE JUST SAID YOU’RE WORSE THAN HER BROTHER, BRO!” Charlie yelled to Mike from the other side of the room. Mike waved Charlie off as he went to retrieve the remote he dropped.
“So, for real, how did you do on the test?” Mike asked quietly so the rest couldn’t hear him.
“I probably got a 90 on it. So I wouldn’t worry too much.” I rolled my eyes. I actually think I got a perfect score, but I didn’t want to sound like I was bragging.
“Cool. I didn’t do so well… I read the wrong chapter. Like dude, who does that? Apparently me.”
“Well, I could help you with extra credit if you need it.”
Charlie entered the conversation carrying a plate of PB & J sandwiches.
“I hope you aren’t talking about class… and that you aren’t allergic to peanuts. I forgot to ask.”
“No, I’m a huge peanut lover.”
Mike and Charlie started chuckling and then I blushed with embarrassment.
“That’s not what I meant…”
That sent Mike and Charlie into a huge laughing fit. Elsie and another guy, Jordan, walked over to see what was the commotion about.
“She said she’s a HUGE peanut lover!” Mike said in between laughs. The others joined in with the laughter. I was so embarrassed but couldn’t help and laugh myself.
I officially found new friends… and they were just as awkward as I was.
Going back to school after the weekend was still nerve wrecking, even though I felt that party was a success. No one had contacted me since. I was a little upset going into Sunday because I had thought maybe I wasn’t good enough to be their friend.
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