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“Do you know why she hates me so much? I mean, I haven’t done anything! We don’t even talk to each other anymore!” Shelby Johnson looked desperately to the school guidance counselor.
Mrs. Rivera placed a comforting hand on Shelby’s shoulder. “Well, Shelby, have you ever considered that that might be the reason in itself? That you and Monica used to be best friends? That now, because you spread rumors about her and her single mother, she’s just a little upset?”
Shelby tossed a loose piece of hair over one shoulder and reached for her nail filer. “That’s not it at all! Geez, Mrs. Rivera, for a guidance counselor, you’re not giving me much guidance…or much counseling!” She slumped back into her chair.
Mrs. Rivera sighed. “Shelby…” Shelby focused on her nails. Mrs. Rivera raked back her hair and tried again. “Shelby…could you please put down that filer and listen to what I’m saying? You and Monica were best friends since second grade. I’m sure a friendship like that can be mended, but you need to take the first step. You need to find Monica and apologize and this situation will work itself out. I’m sure of it.”
“You don’t understand at all” griped Shelby, standing and snatching her bag. Mrs. Rivera’s proud smile vanished at the verbal attack. Ignoring the sudden look of pain on Mrs. Rivera’s face, Shelby barreled on. “You are the worst guidance counselor ever! Why don’t you just go to h…oh it doesn’t matter where you go as long as you leave me alone while you’re there!” She flounced out dramatically. Mrs. Rivera chose not to mention that it was Shelby who had sought out the guidance in the first place.
Once outside the office, Shelby took a deep breath, turned to head back to class, and nearly walked right into Eric Lawrence, star of the football team. “Hey Shelby…” He tipped his head towards the closed door. “I heard some yelling…everything alright in there?”
Eric opened his locker, put in some books, and slammed the door. Shelby inched closer. “Oh that?” She widened her eyes innocently. “Mrs. Rivera was just trying to tell me how to run my life, that’s all.” Shelby twirled her hair flirtatiously and leaned against a locker. This was the longest she and Eric had ever spent together without being interrupted and it made it kind of hard for Shelby to focus on what she was saying. “Um…she told me I should make up with Monica. You know, go find her and apologize for the things I said about her Cuban ancestors and stuff, but I told her where she could put that opinion.” Shelby laughed breathlessly and leaned closer to Eric so she could smell his cologne.
Eric frowned and shouldered his bag. “I think you should.”
Shelby leaned so far forward that she almost fell over, but quickly grabbed the row of lockers for support. “What?” She looked at Eric out of the corner of one eye, hoping he was smiling or something; teasing her at the very least, but his face was set in a steely gaze that never wavered.
“I think you should” he repeated slowly. “Go and find Monica and apologize. This whole thing has gotten out of hand. You two have been best friends for longer than I can remember. Plus those things you said were rude, hurtful…and I’m pretty sure half of them were incorrect. Cuba is definitely not in Africa.” He shook his head. “See ya around Shelby…maybe.”
Shelby’s heart banged around in her chest like a jackhammer on cement. “Wait, Eric! I was joking!” Shelby pushed herself off the lockers and hurried after him. “I was actually just on my way to apologize right now!” Once catching up with him she flashed a small grin in his direction, hoping to melt the ice in his expression. “You are totally right. I should apologize. I mean, me and Monica…best friends for life, right?” She let out a breath of relief when she saw Eric finally smiling back at her. “Only one more thing to do first” she added, ducking back into the guidance office. “Mrs. Rivera, I am so sorry I yelled at you and well…almost told you to go to the place down under…you were just trying to be helpful and do your job.”
Mrs. Rivera looked up from her paperwork and chuckled. “I’m glad you’ve had a change of heart Shelby. And may I inquire as to what his name is?”
Shelby blushed, not realizing she was that transparent. “It’s Eric.”
Mrs. Rivera smiled and chuckled again. “Well I hope things work out between you and Monica. And if you ever need me, I’m right here.”
Shelby nodded and headed for the door where Eric was still waiting for her outside. “Thanks.” She paused with her hand on the doorknob. “Mrs. Rivera, one more question.”
Mrs. Rivera put down her pen and smiled politely. “Anything, dear. Go right ahead.”
Shelby frowned curiously. “Is Cuba really not in Africa?”