The scene takes place in upstate New York. Annie had just moved to Suffern, New York, with her family, and stepfather, as he took on a new job. The story is narrated by Annie, a 12 year old girl, new to the area, with hopes of making new friends. Annie gives a 12-year-old girl’s perspective on friendship.
I was the new girl in school, once again. You’d think that I’d know what I’d have to do in order to fit in by now. But I suppose, I never did. I mean, I could never really fit in, and it was irrelevant for me to fit in, being that the duration that I lived in one place was never for very long, so, knowing what to do to fit in was something that frankly, I never knew how to do. I had a few neighbors, Andrea was one of them. She was this preppy type of girl that lived in the same complex as I did, only her mother and father lived together, and she had nicer clothes and things. Her backpack looked brand new, and she was always smiling or looked like she was perfectly content to just be alive.
The funny thing is, she moved into her place around the same time that I moved in, only with a family, full of people, that were just like her, chin up, confident, and they all seemed to feel better than most others, or at least, me. I’m not really sure how I knew that, or felt that way, being so young and all, but I did. Maybe I just assumed that she was so confident, because I thought that she was nothing like me. Now, don’t get me wrong, because I was always a pretty girl, just more nerdy, scrawny, and awkward, and anything but smiley and preppy.
One day, on my way walking to the bus stop, I saw Andrea and started chatting with her. She was seemingly so nice, and she didn’t stumble like I did towards making good and thought-provoking conversation, small talk, and configuring out what to say in order to be more interesting. It was almost as if she had the mind of a 15-year-old or something, with no fears, and no insecurities on anything when she would talk. She didn’t seem to question herself or what she would say, which probably made me look twice as insecure, or immature. Anyway, that’s probably why she didn’t sit next to me on the bus, but I guess it didn’t matter, because after all, we just met the other day, and I figured that, in time, she would learn to like me and want to be my friend. After all, why wouldn’t she, I mean, we are neighbors, and we’re both girls that are new in town.
She was so pretty with her dark hair just below her shoulder, and she had pretty teeth, yeah, I remember her pretty teeth because she would always smile, but without really smiling, almost as if she just wanted to show that she had pretty teeth. I didn’t see Andrea much in school, so I figured that maybe we had different classes or something, but I was O.K. with that, because I figured, I’ll see her after school, and maybe I’ll even be lucky enough to ride home on the bus with her, and maybe she’d even sit next to me this time. Maybe then, she’d have a chance to get to know me better, ask me questions about things I like and don’t like, and I can do the same with her, and then we could become best friends, with so much in common, and so many things to talk about.
When the dismissal bell rang and school was over for the day, I grabbed all of my things from my locker, hustled like never before, and went straight to the bus. I was nearly one of the first people there. I figured that, if I save a seat for Andrea and me, she would definitely have a place to sit, and being the new girl in school and all, I’m sure that she needs one, you know, in case it was busy and a lot of people rode the bus home today. “Where is she?” I wondered, “And why isn’t she here yet?” She never showed up, and perhaps, she got a ride home from her happy parents or something. Since she didn’t ride the bus home today, we missed out on what could’ve been a great conversation, but I figured that I’d catch her after school and talk to her then, since we live so close and all. We hold that to our advantage.
Andrea seemed so nice when we were talking this morning, and she even told me how happy she was to have met me, and how she doesn’t know anyone else, just like me. I was so happy that I found this new, special friend, and I couldn’t wait to get to know her. My new school seemed to feel like the last thing on my mind, and if anything, being distracted by Andrea, kind of taking the pressure off of me being so scared about not knowing anyone else. I was just happy that I had this new neighbor and friend, and I knew that I was willing to do anything to make our friendship work.
Life at home sucked, and my mom and stepdad always moved around so much, so, I never really had the chance at making, I mean, keeping my friends, for very long. It was like, as soon as I’d meet someone and really liked them, as soon as I’d feel that I wasn’t being picked on in school anymore, and everything would seem to be great for that moment, and then I’d lamentably hear, “We need to move.” Geez. “Again?” I’d say. “Are you fucking kidding me?” But, it was cool, because at least I was used to the routine. I’d storm up to my room and shout, scream, and bawl my eyes out, knowing that nothing would change the “family decision,” and that we would indeed, have to move. But knowing that right now, I’m still here, and that we just moved here, and we had no plans of moving anywhere else, at least that I knew about, I could embrace this new friendship with my new neighbor, Andrea, and we could be happy and stay friends forever. She was so cool, and told me that if I ever needed anything, I could just come by and ask.
So I did…
I sweetly but shyly asked, “Hi, do you have any sugar I can borrow?” I smiled, knowing how silly I must’ve seemed, since I was already asking her for a favor, like the very next day and all. But the truth is, my mom was baking cookies or something. Actually, it probably wasn’t cookies, because if it was cookies, I probably would’ve waited and took some over to Andrea, welcoming her and her family to their new home. I know that then, she would’ve liked me for sure, and maybe she would’ve even come over to have some cookies with my family and me. I mean, if my mom was actually baking cookies.
I’m not sure why, but I felt so nervous, standing at her door, waiting to ask her for sugar, but it’s probably because it was such a new friendship and I really didn’t know if she liked me just yet. I wanted her to like me more than anything, and she more than willingly gave me a cup of sugar, but she looked at me in such a way that I never really understood what was wrong with me, why I deserved that look. I mean, after all, the moment that my mom said that she needed sugar, I thought right away, “Oh, I know! I’ll ask Andrea! She’s our new neighbor. I’ll just go over and ask her if she has any.” I figured, I could ask Andrea for sugar, and that, would be a great excuse to go and talk to her and become better friends.
I’ll never get that look that she gave me out of my head. I couldn’t understand what her expression meant. After all, I smiled, I was friendly, and I was trying to welcome her into the neighborhood and befriend her. But she looked at me as if I was some sort of foreign object that she’d never seen, and she responded with, “Um, sure.” And she went back inside of her home, so that she could get the sugar, closing the screen door in front of my face. I wished she hadn’t, and wish that she would’ve invited me in, at least just for a minute, but she didn’t. At least then we could’ve spoken and gotten to know each other a little bit better while she was getting the sugar, but I guess that didn’t happen. She brought me the sugar, and said, “Here you go!”
I gratefully thanked her and left, but still couldn’t get her expression out of my head. I almost felt like maybe I shouldn’t have gone over and asked to borrow some sugar. I know, it was probably really cheesy of me, but she’s the first person that I thought about asking, and maybe it wasn’t that I really wanted to be friends with her, and I really wanted to help my mom get some sugar, and I thought, I know someone that might have it, after all, who doesn’t have sugar. I kept thinking about it all night actually, and even before I closed my eyes to fall asleep. But that image, that face, the way she looked at me, it was almost as if she didn’t like me, but how could she not like me, she didn’t even know me yet, we didn’t even get a chance to sit next to each other on the bus and ask each other lots of questions. How can you not like someone that you don’t really know?
The next morning I was a little more excited about school, because I thought it would take some of the pressure off of having to receive another one of those expressions from Andrea, not accepting me, not liking me, and thinking I was an idiot because I asked her for some sugar. She probably thought that I wanted the sugar, just as an excuse to talk to her or something. I mean, I did, but I really don’t see what was wrong with that anyway. After all, I was always taught to be kind to others and to welcome them, and make them feel that you like them by your words and actions.
I waited at the bus stop this morning, and I saw Andrea waiting there as well. She must have gotten there early, excited to go to school, because she got there before me, and I was usually the early one. She was talking to some other people, and I didn’t really know who those people were, but she seemed to know them somehow. “Good for her,” I thought. “I’m glad that she’s making friends. It’s hard to be the new kid.” I’m not really sure why she didn’t say hi to me, or even first, but I guess it was because she was busy talking to other people, even though, she wasn’t really talking anymore, after I walked up. She actually got kind of quiet, and I couldn’t figure out why, but maybe she was still judging me for asking for sugar.
I knew I shouldn’t have asked her for sugar. It messed up everything, and sometimes I’m in such a hurry to make new friends that maybe that’s why I don’t really have any. I mean, at least not any friends that like me back. Not anyone that I can talk to, or see outside of school, and I guess, well, not anyone that talks to me in school, only those that I talk to, when I have something to say. I really never know what to say though, which is probably my biggest problem. I can never figure out how to start up a conversation, and make people like me and want to be around me. It’s almost as if these kids were all brought up together or something, but I know that that’s not always the case, because Andrea is new, just like me, but now she’s made new friends, and they also seem to be her neighbors.
I didn’t think that there would be a big chance that Andrea would sit next to me on the bus, but I wanted to make sure that I was still friendly to her, and act as if I didn’t care about the sugar, and that I didn’t think that it was such a big deal. I mean, who would think that sugar is such a big deal right? I figured that I must’ve been crazy to even concoct such a hypothesis. So, I said hello, and she just kind of smiles, unless it was that regular expression that she usually had to show her pretty, white teeth. Her lips might’ve curled a little bit more upward, but it was hard to tell because her teeth are so shiny and bright. I felt lonely, and I couldn’t figure out why it was so hard for me to make friends, and I didn’t know why Andrea didn’t like me or want to be my friend, but I figured that maybe there was still hope, and maybe it was all in my head.
After school, I was still thinking about everything that went on throughout the day, and it was really hard to concentrate on my homework, but I knew that the sooner that I finished my school stuff, the sooner that I could have time for my friends, and the sooner that I could find out more about Andrea and if she liked me. More than anything, I wanted to ask her if I did anything wrong, because if I did, I’d gladly apologize, and then maybe she’d see that I was a really sweet and cool person, and she’d know that I didn’t mean to be weird and awkward or too eager and forward.
The second that I finished my homework, I flipped my hair through the back opening of my antique-looking baseball cap, into what looked like some version of a ponytail, and I pulled the brim of my cap down in the front, but not enough to cover my eyes. My mom always said that eyes are the gateway to the soul, and that you should always show your beautiful eyes by opening them big and bright, so that people could see. But I never liked when people would stare at me, because I felt like they saw right into my soul, and then they’d know exactly what I was thinking. But my thoughts are kind of embarrassing and I wanted them to be kept private. So, I liked wearing my hat where I could have the option of putting its brim lower.
I ran out my front door, walked over and up the stairs to her place, and then I hesitated for a minute, thinking that maybe I’m going to make things even worse. But then I logically thought for a second, how can I possibly make things worse. I figured, if she doesn’t like me already, then what’s the worst that’s going to happen, what, she’ll not like me even more than she doesn’t already? Great, gee, what a great start to our new found friendship. I didn’t care and figured, now is as good a time as any to find out what’s going on, why Andrea seem so distant, and maybe I can even share small talk with her, and she’ll probably tell me something like, “it’s all in my head,” and then I’ll know that I should’ve never really worried in the first place.
So I stood at the door and knocked. Andrea answered the door herself. But I heard some people in the background, so I thought, maybe her parents had company or something, or maybe it was just the natural sounds that go on in her home, her full home, full of happy people. She said, “Oh, hey Annie.” I said, “Hi!” She said hello again, but she had an unusual expression on her face. It was somewhat different this time, and I couldn’t really place it. But with this expression, I felt like she wanted to tell me that my puppy had died or something. It was hard to place, because she usually has such a nice perma-grin with her shiny teeth, so it was hard to tell. I asked her if we could talk for a minute, and she said that, she only has about a minute, and said that she wanted to talk to me as well.
I had no idea what she could’ve possibly wanted to say, but it must’ve been good, and maybe she even wanted to apologize for being so cold and distant with me. I thought that maybe she’d offer me to come inside so that we could talk, and maybe I could be a part of her family gathering or just be a part of all of those happy people noise that I was hearing from inside. But instead, and to my surprise, her hand was still holding the screen door open, and she stood from the inside while talking to me on the outside, and said, “You know, sometimes it’s better to let other people come to you, and that’s how you’ll know that they really like you.” I could hear her preppy, Bronx-ish accent seeping through her words when she spoke. I suddenly started to feel yesterday’s cookies in my gut, the ones that my mother didn’t bake, that I imagined digesting, eagerly forcing themselves back up from the inside my stomach, into my throat, burning it, in a way that I’ve never experienced, at least not for some time.
I felt dumbfounded, confused, and I really didn’t know how to respond to what she said. I tried to play it off like I didn’t care, and said, “O.K., yeah, you’re right. I get it, I totally understand.” So I left, but now, I thought of her as a bitch. The new girl bitch that didn’t like me. Someone that I wanted to be friends with so much. And with her bitch face, she told me that I shouldn’t have come over to make conversation, and I should’ve waited until she came over to me. I never talk to the little bitch face again, but one thing that I can tell you that I learned from her, was never to ask to borrow anyone’s sugar. It’s not worth it, and it can mess up a whole new friendship, before it even begins.
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