September 29, 2007
By Michelle Pei, Foster City, CA

“I just can’t believe it!” I yelled over the phone to Tyler, “Kristen tricked me!”

That was my reaction when I found out.

It all began on the first day of eighth grade. My two best friends, Tyler and Isabella were paying for their lunches. While Isabella looked for an extra dollar from her purse, I saw somebody waving to me. It was Kristen, the most popular girl in the school.

Why is she waving to me? I asked myself. We haven’t talk since fifth grade.

Fifth grade. The year she got a chance to be popular. And now, she doesn’t live for popularity, popularity exists because of her. We’ve been best friends, that is, before she became the queen of popularity.

Tyler and Isabella picked up their lunches. We walked to the lunch table that we’ve always sat at, in the corner of the cafeteria.

As we talk, I kept on taking glances at Kristen every minute. Every time she caught my glance, she would smile back. She seems so harmless now, or so I had thought.

RING! The bell rang. Everyone charged for the door – only three minutes to class and if you are late, one hour in detention after school.

I got all my books and headed for my fifth period social studies class.

Kristen was in my class.

“Hey, Alex! Over here!” She yelled from across the room as I entered.

“Hi Kristen.”

“Do you want to sit here?” Me? She wanted me to sit next to her? It caught me by total surprise. Why would she want to do that? I mean, I’m not the most unpopular person but I’m not one of her friends either.

I told her yes, sat down, and class started.

“Class, today I am going to pass out textbooks and while I’m doing that,
you and the person next to you is going to read the first chapter,” the teacher, Mr. Walker, told us. And Kristen and I started to read.

Halfway through the chapter, Kristen randomly said, “We should hang out sometimes.”

“Yeah, maybe we should,” I said. But I wasn’t serious. I doubt that she would want to hang out with me.

“Well, I don’t have anything after school. Maybe at four?” Kristen asked excitedly.

“Ok, do you know where I live?” I asked.

“Of course, we were friends.”

I felt excited that Kristen is accepting me now. But my instincts told me otherwise. Why is she suddenly nice to me? It was just last year at the end of school when she purposely spilled juice all over my shirt. But I didn’t listen to my instincts; I wanted to be popular, like all other everybody else.

Then class ended and we went on to our next class.

Two minutes after I came back home from school, the doorbell rang. It was Kristen.

“Hey Kristen. Come on in.”

“Let’s go up to your room.”

Right then, I didn’t sense that feeling of demanding from her. I guess I
was eager to have a new friend, a popular friend.

We went up to my room and Kristen took a look through my closet.

“Wow. You have so much stuff. Do you ever wear these?” I know why she asked that question. My mom is, as I recall it, a fashion freak. She knows all the latest fashion and goes shopping almost every single day. Whenever she comes back from a shopping trip, she brings me a hundred dollars worth of stuff. I never wore any of them so they still had tags on them. I like to stay the way I am. I wear clothing to make me comfortable, not trying to squeeze my body into a little sun dress.

“Let’s do a fashion makeover! I’ll do you today.” Kristen said excitedly.

And without asking me if it was fine, she started picking things out of my closet. I had so many clothes in there. She looked for half an hour. Finally, she came out with a tight tank top and a miniskirt. I tried it on and it actually looked good on me.

Then she went through my drawers. She found some makeup and nail polish and took them out in front of my mirror. Then she put all the junk on my face and painted my nails bright pink.

“Ta-da!” Kristen said proudly as she examined me, “you look really good. Wear that tomorrow.”

We talked so much. But the only thing that Kristen was the most interested in was the student council. She wanted to run for treasurer but she said that she’s not good at doing math. Then she asked me if I would do it with her. Math is my best subject. I said yes. Then we started to work on our campaign posters and speeches. Right after we finished, Kristen’s cell phone rang.

“Yeah, ok. Bye,” she said into the phone. Then she turned to me and told
me, “I have to go. My mom is already outside. Bye! Oh, and don’t forget, wear that outfit tomorrow and put on the makeup!”

Then she was out the door.

The next day I showed up at school with the makeup and the clothes.
There were butterflies in my stomach. How do I look? What is everyone going to think of me? But from the moment I entered the door, all the butterflies were gone, all the self-consciousness was gone. I felt different. I felt confidant. People were staring at me in a glamorous way. I felt so flattered, like a movie star. Then when Kristen and I walked through the halls together, I felt even better. The popularity made me forget what I used to be. But I also felt guilty at the same time – I was being mean to everybody. I called people names and made fun of what they wore. I even made the teacher look bad in front of the whole class. I got into so much trouble. Detention, suspension and many trips to the principal’s office. I had never gotten into so much trouble in my whole life. But I didn’t care. All I wanted is popularity.

Then the next few weeks I stayed at the top of the popularity chart. I loved the feeling of being accepted by the whole school. I was over my head. I was no longer friends with Ty and Isabella. I wore all the clothes in my closet and even made my mom buy more clothes and accessories for me. Things kept on getting better and better. I won the spot for student body treasurer. I had people trailing behind me wherever I go. I was on the top of the school.

Then one day, Kristen came over to my house unannounced. She wanted the key to the donation box and the safety deposit box. The money was for the eighth grade graduation. There’s at least two thousand dollars in there. And since I was the more responsible, the assistant principal gave me the key. She said it was so that if one of us is sick, then the other can transfer the money from the donation box to the safety deposit box alone, which only the treasurers knew the combination to open. I did whatever she told me to. We practiced until dinner time when she said she had to go home.

I didn’t know that she was going to use me.

But I found out. The next day I got called to the principal’s office.

“Alexandria, sit down please,” the principal said as he waved me in.

“What did you do yesterday afternoon?”

“I did my homework and went on the computer,” I answered wondering what the principal meant.

“This morning, I got an e-mail from the assistant principal. She said that this school’s treasurers withdrew all the money from the eighth grade donation box and the safety deposit box. Did you do it?”

“No sir. I didn’t touch any money yesterday.”

“Don’t lie young lady.”

“But I’m not lying. I didn’t do it. I didn’t take the money. I promise on my life.”

“Kristen was in here just a few minutes ago. She confessed to me that you told her to not tell anyone that you are going to get all the money out of the donation and safety deposit boxes. Where is the two thousand seven hundred and eight dollars?”

Then it hit me. Now I know why Kristen wanted to be my friend again. Why she wanted me to run for treasurer. Why she demanded for the keys.

Instantly I made up with Tyler and Isabella. We are best friends again. But I never talked to Kristen again and never wished to be popular. What’s the big deal about being popular anyways? I didn’t care anymore. I focused more on my studying and participating in school activities. I realize that being popular or trying to be can not help your future.

The next year I ran for student body president. I won. I didn’t have to be
a stuck up popular girl to do that. Soon, I gained my place back on the popularity chart. But this time it wasn’t from clothes or makeup, it was from my courage, loyalty and being caring of others. This time, I didn’t feel guilty to be the most confident person in the whole school.

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