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By Yainie Gallego, age 14
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“’What’s your problem?’

‘What do you mean?’ he says, raising his eyebrows

‘Whenever Prosper’s around, you get quiet and ignore us. Do you not like him?’

‘It’s not that. It’s just weird having someone new that’s closer to you than me.’ I am confused and Aaron can tell. ‘Like, we’ve always had friends that we met together. Not just you and then me.’”

The last time I looked at the clock it was 9:21 p.m. I got ready for bed so early because tomorrow is my first day at high school. I’m not prepared. My best friend in the whole world is going. Just me and him from the same school that I know. I’ve known him since the first day of kindergarten. His name is Aaron White, which is ironic because he’s black but his great-great grandmother is white. The first day of kindergarten, I was sitting on the carpet with about five other children. He came in and threw a tantrum because he didn’t want to leave his parents. They left and came back about 20 minutes later. There were now about seven kids on the carpet. He came back with food in his hand and put it in his cubby. He seemed calmer this time around. He came and sat next to me and I moved over. He then moved closer again and again and again and I kept moving over until I was off the carpet. Ever since that day we’ve been best friends. Sometimes in the summer for a month his parents take us to Europe and we spend all summer together.

I can’t see the time on the clock but I see the red light shining on my side table. My room is brighter than usual. Ever since the day care across the street had installed new lighting, it shines right into my room. I thought my curtains were dark enough to keep out any light from the outside world. Then I feel tiny feet on my legs. When I look down I see a white figure with a tail. I realize it is my cat and he didn’t leave my room. That means that when he’s ready, he’ll wake me up to open the door for him.

Every night I reflect on my day and try to think about every second of my day. I always try to imagine myself the next day and what everyone looks like and how they act. I can’t do that tonight for some reason. Maybe it’s because I didn’t do anything today because I realized it’s my last day to actually relax and have a day to myself. Doing nothing was pretty amazing because I didn’t really have a worry about high school, not knowing it was so close.

I don’t realize that I fell asleep until my alarm clock goes off at six this morning. I then hear the shower come on and then sizzling of some sort, maybe food. I hear my mom say, “Have a great day Ellie. Tell Aaron and his mom hello.”

I hear my heavy feet clomping down the steps. I don’t come to all my senses until I slam Aaron’s mom car door, they watch him.

“Good Morning Ellie. Are you ready?” Aaron asks me.

I take a deep breath and nod my head yes. When we arrive there are some students lined up wearing the school sweater and smiling at us. They all repeat, “Hi, welcome, how are you, please step to the right, there are numbers on the desks representing your grade, have a nice day!”  

As you walk in there are four desks lined up next to each other with two people sitting at each desk. Each desk has a number on it.

“I think we’re supposed to go to that desk,” Aaron points at a desk with the number nine. Aaron’s mom follows close behind us. I think it is kind of weird because I haven’t had a parent chaperone since sixth grade. There are a lot of other moms too, so we aren’t embarrassed.  

“I can’t stay or else I’ll be late for work. Ellie’s mom will pick you guys up after school. Have a good day!” Aaron’s mom kisses us both and runs out the door.

We walk up to the desk that has the number nine.

“Name?” A lady with a big smile says to me.

“Ellie Kogan.”

She goes to her clipboard, looks for my name, moves right, and checks my name off. She then hands me a paper with my schedule on it. Aaron walks next to me. Again students line up and say, “Please go straight ahead and take a seat in the auditorium.”

There are students lined up showing us to seats. We’re in the third to last row. It starts about eight minutes after we find our seats.

“Welcome students to…” a tall, slender, white man, with a full head of black and gray hair, starts. That’s when I stop listening. I realize that the people in the front are the ones leaning forward in their seats trying to catch every word this man was saying. The two rows on the sides are half listening, on their phones, whispering to each other, listening and eating. A couple rows in front of us, kids are talking, laughing, passing notes and joking around. Basically, they all act the same except the first couple rows. I guess those are the freshmen and we’re supposed to be up there. The kids in the first row are either wearing dresses, or jeans with nice shirts and cardigans. The kids on the side and the back are wearing nothing special. Aaron’s wearing jeans with a white shirt with his open sweater. I am wearing black jeans with my Vans that matches my sweater. Then it is back to reality. A kid turns around, he looked as if he’s a senior because he’s joking around while the man is talking.

“Hi!” a boy says with dark skin, perfect white teeth and deep dimples. I smiled, my way of saying hi back.

“Junior?”

“Freshman,” I say with a smile.

“Shouldn’t you be up there,” he says pointing to the front of the auditorium.

“Is that where the freshmen sit?”

“Yeah! But you look comfortable where you are.”

“I am,” I say again with another smile. “Are you a senior?”

“Funny! Sophomore.” He smiles at me.

Aaron hands me a paper with staff names and pictures next to it. The man talking turns out to be the principal.

“Is this your brother?” He asks looking at Aaron.

“No.” I turn my head toward Aaron and smile. “This is my best friend Aaron.”

“Oh, hi!”

I know Aaron is listening but he doesn’t look at me or the boy I was talking to. “Hi,” Aaron says softly.

“He’s really shy.” I clarify.

“I can tell,” he smiles, which made Aaron blush, “I’m Prosper.”

“Pardon?” I said, not hearing him clearly.

“My name is Prosper.”

“Really? Sorry, but I’ve never heard a name like that.”

“Yeah I’m unique.”

“Ha! I’m Ellie.”

“Oh, do you know who you have for homeroom?”

“Umm,” I say, shuffling papers, “Mr. Hendrix. I also have him for science.”

“Wow!” he said, raising his eyebrows.

“Wow what?”

“Just do your homework and don’t talk in his class and you should be fine.” He closed the sentence with a wink.

“… thank you and have a nice day!” the principal says and walks away.

Wow, I talked to him the entire time! I wonder if Aaron was listening at all to the person on the stage or paying attention to my conversation with my new friend. I’m guessing!

***

Aaron’s schedule is pretty similar to mine. Only two classes we aren’t together, and I have advanced math classes with the upper grades. Fortunately, we do have the same lunch period, which is nice because I know it’s hard for him to make friends by himself. There are seven periods in the school day. Lunch for us is at 1:00. The worst part about having lunch is that this is the only time we have to share with the tenth grade. Which is bad, because tenth graders think that they’re better than everyone else. Which isn’t true, because seniors are better. The day is going exactly how I thought it would go. Every class we did an “icebreaker” activity, where we play small educational games to learn everyone’s names. After this we did pre-assessments, the bell rang, and off to the next class it was.

The class before lunch Aaron and I don’t have together so we decided we would meet up in front of homeroom and make our way down the stairs just like some of the high schoolers. Since we are in high school the teacher doesn’t take us down. We have to go down two flights of stairs. The stairs aren’t like they were in middle school. We had to line up in two straight lines and walk down quietly. Now everyone runs down, skips steps, screams, jumps, and I’m pretty sure those are the tenth graders. The rails are black, the steps are black, and the floor is black. On every floor there are big glass windows through which you can see into New York City.

Once we get to the cafeteria I notice that there are kids who jump on the school line, ones who starve themselves, and the ones who bring lunch. The tables are different from middle school. They’re round and white with eight red chairs surrounding them. If you didn’t make it to the table right on time you would have to go sit somewhere else, which was maybe the worst thing that could happen. We sat toward the back where we weren’t noticed but we weren’t invisible.

That’s when I see Prosper. I know Aaron doesn’t like him very much just by the look of his face. Not that I don’t like Prosper. I just don’t want Aaron to feel like I am neglecting him, so I sit so Prosper can’t see my face.

“How was your day so far?” I ask Aaron.

“Good, I got homework from almost every class. The teachers were fairly nice but I think it’s just because it’s the first day. I want to see how they act when ––. ” Then he rolls his eyes and starts to eat.

“What happened?”

That’s when Prosper pulls up a chair and sits next to me.

“Hey. How was your first day?” he says with that bright smile he gave me this morning.

I peep at Aaron and see his head down. “It was great,” I respond. “Everyone was really nice. The teachers of course had to give homework, but everything aside from that was good.”

“That’s great! Aaron, how was your day?”

“Fine,” Aaron says with his head still facing downward.

“Okay, that’s good,” Prosper says, twisting his mouth to the side.

Prosper and I have a mini conversation about our summer. Then one of his friends calls him, so he tells me he will see me later and tells Aaron bye. As soon as he leaves, Aaron’s head lifts back up. I stare at him and he stares back.

“What!?” he says, still staring at me.

“What’s your problem?”

“What do you mean?” he says, raising his eyebrows.

“Whenever Prosper’s around, you get quiet and ignore us. Do you not like him?”

“It’s not that. It’s just weird having someone new that’s closer to you than me.” I am confused and Aaron can tell. “Like, we’ve always had friends that we met together. Not just you and then me.”

I have no response to what he just told me. I think Aaron’s jealous. I can’t tell him that. He would deny it right away and feel like I am trying to make him jealous.

Oh.” The rest of lunch is quiet. I don’t know what we can talk about at this weird moment.

Last period goes by fast. I meet Aaron at the corner. I am a little late because I was talking to Prosper. He wanted to walk with me but I told him I was in a rush and Aaron was waiting with my mom. I told Prosper bye and I’d see him tomorrow.

Aaron and I wait in silence for my mom to pick us up. She asks a lot of questions when we are going to drop Aaron off and we answer them. When we get home she knows something is wrong. She is watching me in an uncomfortable way, so I watch her back.

“Anything else happen that we didn’t discuss in the car?” she said, cutting up cucumbers.

“Well…” I tell her everything that happened –– how Prosper and I met, and how Aaron acted and what he said at lunch, and what I thought about but didn’t say to him –– by the time I finish we are eating.

“That’s normal high school drama. It never gets easier. Aaron should accept the fact that he’s in a new environment with new people with different behaviors. But you shouldn’t forget who your friend is. I understand why Aaron would react this way. I mean, you guys are like this,” she says crossing her fingers, “and it’s hard for Aaron to make friends, so he may not feel comfortable with new people. I’m not saying to not hang out with your new friend but make sure Aaron feels included with this relationship you’ve formed with someone new.”

Again I am speechless, I am in shock. I’m not sure Aaron feels this way but he probably does. I’ll talk to him tomorrow for sure and hopefully he understands and we can work this issue out.

***

The next day Aaron and his mom are downstairs waiting for me. I feel nervous but I am determined to fix this right away. We get to school a lot faster than yesterday. When we get out of the car Aaron doesn’t even say bye to his mom. I wave goodbye to her and run to catch up to Aaron.

“Hey, what’s your problem?” I say trying to walk at his pace.

“Nothing,” he says, walking faster with his head down. That’s when I see Prosper but he doesn’t see me yet and this is my time to talk before he comes and interrupts.

I pull his shoulder toward me and he rolls his eyes and looks at me. His face has a mean attitude that I am used to, and I know how to deal with it already.

“I know what’s wrong with you.”

He rolls his eyes again. “Nothing is wrong with me.”

I see Prosper turn around talking to someone but doesn’t see me yet.

“I know it’s hard coming to a new school where everyone has their own personality and not everyone wants to hang out with people who hang out with other people.”

He looks at me confused and I realize I am making no sense.

I start again, “I know that you’ll make friends that you might not want to hang out with me and I’ll make friends that don’t want to hang out with you. It’s like a test of friendship because we can’t let anyone come between us. Not matter how hard they try because if you have a tight bond that can’t be broken like ours, that shows how much we care about each other. So if I don’t show it or can’t just remind me who my best friend is and how much he means to me, because he means the world.” I am just in time because Prosper starts walking toward me. Aaron starts to hug me and I hug him back.

“Hey,” Prosper says with his bright white smile.

“Hello,” I say as Aaron and I broke up our hug.

“Hi.”And that is when Aaron gives his smile.

Then I realize that this will be the best four years of my life.

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