Large windows on the north wall gave brightness to the otherwise typical classroom of twenty-five fifth grade students. Everyone was a stranger to me except Mr. Douglas. He was writing on the blackboard in front of the room. He had not brought attention to me, and I remained detached from him. It appeared we had a silent agreement of keeping our kindred secret.
At recess, I stood aloof and watched the other girls jump and skip across the hopscotch squares. No one spoke to me, and I didn’t make an effort to join in. Before, when I started a new school, I had been sure of myself, but this time I lacked confidence, and the other children may have sensed it.
At noon, Mom had tomato soup and tuna fish sandwiches ready for lunch.
“How’s school?” Mom asked hopefully.
“Okay,” I lied.
“I’ll go to school next year,” Bronco piped.
Boy will you be sorry, I thought as I bit extra hard into the sandwich.
I made my feet cross the street and return to the grade school. I had decided it should be called, “Socorro Alcatraz Elementary!”
The afternoon was just as lonely as the morning. After school, when the other kids were laughing and walking home together, I ran across the pavement, through the fenced in yard and into the duplex. I had made a decision. I hated school and all fifth graders, and in that order!
The following day, at recess, one of my classmates walked up to where I was standing, watching the other girls play.
“Hi,” she said, “I’m Joy,” she invited me to join in the hopscotch game, and for the first time I talked to the some of the other girls. I could see a glimmer of hope.
After school, Joy ran up to me.
“Can you come over to my house?” she asked.
“I’ll have to ask my mother,” I responded. I was hoping Mom would say yes, and she did.
Joy and I made an effort to converse as we walked to her house, but there were long periods of silence. We didn’t know each other.
At Joy’s house, her mother was very nice and said she was glad to meet me. She hoped I was getting acquainted at school. Joy took the saucer of cookies her mother gave us, and I followed her into her bedroom. I was sitting on the bed eating a cookie when Joy said abruptly...
“It wasn’t my idea to invite you here. I only did it because Mother said I should be nice to you since you’re new at school.”
Joy’s tone was catty, and I realized she didn’t really want me for a friend. My heart sank and the glimmer of hope died. My throat tightened and I fought back tears. I felt vulnerable and desperate! Without Joy’s friendship I would be alone at school again. I listened incredibly to my own voice as it spoke meekly...”Thank you for being nice to me.”
As I walked home, I kicked a rock out of my way and wiped angry tears from my eyes. My face burned with shame every time I remembered thanking "that girl" for being nice to me. My self-esteem and pride had been dealt a blow.