Friendship High School Inspirational

The lockers slamming used to scare me. It’s pathetic, really. I know, I know.  

You might be thinking, lockers are a common sight in a high school, dummy. Why would you be scared of that? 

I used to be bullied. All through elementary and middle school, they would point and tease. 

“Look at her leg.” One would say, loud enough for everyone in the hallway to hear. 

“Yeah, what’s wrong with it?” Another would ask, knowing full well “what was wrong with it.” Classic. 

I’ve gotten used to looking down at the ground. It’s better to act like you can’t hear them than to react every time. It gets tiring, if I’m being honest. And for someone who’s going to be a freshman in high school starting today, I’m exhausted by now. 

The alarm clock rang later than I set it for, but it was fine. Unlike most of the other girls my age, I didn’t need a full hour to put on makeup. What was the big deal with that, anyway? If you’re pretty, you’re pretty. If you aren’t, you aren’t. At least that’s how it worked in my head. 

The bus arrived at exactly 6 a.m., and the sun hadn’t even risen yet. I leaned on my cane and wrapped my hands around my torso. My teeth chattered like a woodpecker’s beak, and I clenched my jaw to keep it from moving. My thin jacket wasn’t nearly warm enough to protect me from the biting Pennsylvania weather. I hobbled up the steps, nodding to the bus driver politely, though I saw her staring at my leg just a little too long for me to not notice. 

First off, the school was bigger than I had been told. 

Middletown High wasn’t that big,” Mom had mused to me last night, her hazel eyes clouded with nostalgia. “I’m sure you’ll find your way around pretty easily.”

Yeah, right. 

I looked down at the crumpled paper I held in my hand with my schedule on it. I was supposed to go to the G building for homeroom. 

There was a G building??

Second of all, what the heck! There were so many rows of lockers, lining every hallway. They were all the same, bright red and shiny. How in the world was I supposed to find mine? 

I slowly but surely wandered the hallways and found my locker. It was number 563, conveniently on the top row. I sighed. The code was 442-765-914. I grunted and stood on my tiptoes to put in the code on the locker door. It clicked open. I grabbed my bag from the ground and placed it in the books I didn't need until the afternoon. 

That’s when I heard footsteps coming towards me. I braced myself. It was probably a teacher, most likely offering to hold my bag for me or ask if I needed help. Trust me, I didn’t need it by now.

But it was a student. She had long black hair, her skin an olive complexion. Freckles dotted her nose and cheeks, and her eyes were a dark green. She stood there, her eyes flitting to my leg and back to my face.

 I frowned. “Am I in your way or something? I was just putting a few of my books up.”

The girl shook her head and smiled, but it wasn’t in a very sweet way.

“Nah, I was just checking out the fresh meat.” She laughed, a high pitched, annoying sound. “Welcome to high school, limpy.” 

She turned around and strutted off, her hair almost whipping into my face. 

I took a deep breath and held in my feelings. I slammed my locker closed, not caring that I had made myself flinch and stagger away. This was going to be a great day. 

“Now, who can tell me why Thomas Paine had these beliefs about the three liberties?”

I groaned quietly from my desk in the back. My cane rested against it, blocking my view of Mrs. Watson. Exactly how I liked it. 

Civics was the worst. If there was one thing I had learned since starting 9th grade, it was that by a landslide. Who cares about this stuff? Sure, I had a 103 in the class, but it was so boring.  

I fidgeted with my lead pencil and doodled a flower on my study guide. Almost no one was paying attention. To my right, Victor Bryant was asleep, snoring pretty loudly. To my left, Rich Evans drummed on his desk obnoxiously, his ear buds barely visible through his unbrushed nest of blonde hair. 

“Beatrice? You would like to answer question #6?”

Mrs. Watson’s scratchy voice made my head jerk up in alarm. I hadn’t even raised my hand, but then again, Mrs. Watson obviously was determined to force someone to answer

“Uh…” I begged my brain to turn on, to turn my mumbing into words. 

A few students raised their heads at the sound of my voice. I wasn’t really surprised, seeing as how I rarely ever spoke in any of my classes. That, and they probably wanted another excuse to look at my leg. 

I saw Emma Summers turn to stare at me, her pretty features scrunched up, scowling. She wanted to see how smart I was. I saw it in her eyes. I cleared my throat and focused. 

“Thomas Paine not only believed in the importance of letting the American people have life, liberty, and happiness, but he also knew the need for a civil government was crucial. He wanted the people to have rights, but didn’t want an anarchy. An involved government was key in his theology.”

Mrs. Watson nodded in approval, trying to cover up her surprise. “Excellent response, Beatrice. Well done. Moving on…”

I tried not to beam wildly. Emma Summers still stared at me, her dark green eyes full of intrigue. 

They weren’t as mean-looking as the first time I had met her, I thought for a moment. But then their familiar flash was back, and she scoffed and turned back in her seat. 

After class, I tried my hardest to scurry out of there. The last thing I wanted was Mrs. Watson to call me to stay after for a “little chat.” I hurriedly grabbed my books and my cane, walking out as fast as my one leg (and a half) could take me. 

I was so focused on getting the heck out of there, I almost ran into Emma. She looked like she was about to say something with that stinging tongue of hers, but then she stopped. 

“That was a good response in class today,” she said casually. 

I eyed her, unsure of how to react. “Thank you,” I eventually replied quietly. 

I tried to exit the conversation by walking past her. I needed to get to the third period before the tardy bell. Mr. Rhett wasn’t fond of students that came in late, and I really didn’t want an infraction from him…again. 

Emma wasn’t having it. She walked right along with me, and though it was slowly, she didn’t mind— at least she was pretending not to. People stared at us as we walked to the B building, and my face flushed. I was embarrassing myself by being with the most popular freshman in my high school. 

“I was wondering something.” Emma said as we rounded a corner, entering another hallway. 

“Yeah?” I was utterly confused, wondering what Emma Summers could possibly want from me

“Could you tutor me in civics? I need to bring me grade up, and I've noticed how smart you are.”

I stopped short. I leaned on my cane, staring at her. She looked as embarrassed as I had been feeling just a second ago, and I felt a flash of sympathy towards her. This was probably hard for her, asking for help with school. Especially if her help was a disabled person. 

“I…Yes, I can. What days work for you after school?”

Emma shrugged. “I’m free any day.”

My eyebrows furrowed. “You mean you aren’t doing anything all week?” My voice unintentionally sounded harsh. 

Now Emma looked really uncomfortable. I cringed inwardly. Okay, so maybe I hadn’t done it by accident. But how could I forget her little “pet name” for me? It hurt deep inside anytime she spoke it. Her words were like daggers, and they sunk unto my heart more and more with each day. 

And it wasn’t just her words that left wounds in my heart, it was everyone’s. They constantly were stabbing me, and I sometimes felt like I couldn’t go on any longer. No, the name was impossible to forget, and I likely would always remember it. 

“Yeah, I um…” She paused, as if looking for the right words. “I don’t really have as many friends as most people think. Everyone assumes that just because of what I choose to show. They don’t really know me as a real human, just the outer shell I display. You know?”

I looked into her eyes, surprised. How could someone like her say she was so lonely? But I felt in my gut that she was telling the truth. 

We had stopped in one of the hallways, leaned up against a row of lockers. I didn’t even flinch when one slammed nearby. 

“Why are you telling me this?” I asked. I had to know why she was suddenly opening up to me like this. 

Emma shrugged again. “I dunno. I’ve seen you at lunch, sitting by yourself, talking on the phone with someone. Sometimes, if I was close enough, I could hear you. You sounded so different from the people I know. You sounded…real.”

I knew what she was referring to. I had taken to calling my older sister, Lucy, every day at lunch. We both missed each other terribly, as she was at college in Albany. It was a comfort to have someone I trusted and loved to talk to while I sat alone at a lunch table.

I snapped out of my thoughts and realized Emma was still looking at me, expecting a reaction to what she had just said. 

I found myself smiling. It was the first time in a long time since the start of the school year. This girl, this person who I hadn’t known for very long, had just said some very personal things to me, seeming to genuinely mean it. I again felt sympathy for her, but there was something else. It was empathy. Because believe it or not, I knew exactly how she felt. 

I put my hand on Emma’s shoulder, and she looked surprised for a moment, then returned my smile. 

“I understand how you feel. Maybe more than anyone else you know.”

Emma nodded, a small, sad smile. “I’m…sorry for calling you ‘limpy.’ It was wrong of me, Beatrice. I never should have said that. Can you forgive me? ”

I felt the daggers in my heart release. Not all the way, but enough to wear I could take a deep breath again, and not feel like I was going to collapse to the ground if anyone looked my way.

The wound that Emma had caused was still there, but I knew it would scar over in time. It would always be there, a part of me, but it would no longer influence the way I saw myself.

The tardy bell rang, loud and obnoxious in our ears, but I didn’t care at the moment. 

I reached out my arms to the broken girl in front of me, and she returned my hug. We stood there for a moment, both of our shoulders shaking silent sobs. 

When we released each other, our cheeks were both stained with tears. 

“I forgive you, Emma. And how does today sound? We can meet up at my house, and after we study, we can rent a movie. Do you like popcorn?”

Emma laughed and nodded. She wiped the tears still lingering in her eyes. “Yeah. That sounds good.” She looked down at her watch and grimaced. “We got to get to class!”

“Oh, shoot! You’re right.” 

I turned from her to head to Mr. Rhett’s room, just a couple doors away. A few stragglers were still in the hallway, but I didn’t notice them. 

“Beatrice?” Emma’s voice carried from down the other end of the hall where she had stopped and turned to look at me. 


“We’re friends now, right?”

I hesitated, but smiled. She had hurt me, but this girl had an understanding of me that very few other people did. I could forgive her, I knew it. Our friendship would go a long way if I told her yes. If I told her no… what good would that do either of us?

Emma still stood there, and for the first time, I saw hope alight in her green gaze. I could only believe she could see the same hope in mine. 

“Yes. Yes, we are.”

January 30, 2022 17:02

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