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Carly sat in the library staring out the window. The duck pond outside was glistening in the morning sun and the breeze was blowing softly through the grass. Carly wanted to be out there, sitting by the pond and feeling the breeze instead of sitting in the library doing English homework. The thought of cool grass on her bare feet and the sun shining on her skin was so tempting.
It was her first day of college and her first class was over with. So far, it was off to a good start. But for Carly, sitting outside and doing her assignment sounded much better than a library. But she resisted the temptation. She didn’t want to be the only one out there and have people walk by and stare at her. She never liked to be the center of attention, and to have strangers walk by her and not know what they were thinking about her made her feel uncomfortable. So she continued to sit there and tried to concentrate on her assignment for the next hour and a half.
When it was finally time to head to her next class, Carly packed up her laptop and walked up the stairs to the third floor. She found her class at the very end of the hall. Carly chose a seat next to a window where she could look outside and see the pond. When class was over, she decided to walk across the campus to one of the cafés and get some lunch.
As she passed by the pond the thought crossed her mind to eat her lunch there. But the thought of strangers staring at her came back to her mind and she decided against it. As she sat down to eat a deli sandwich, a short girl with blonde hair sat down next to her and held out her hand to Carly.
“Hi! I’m Lisa”, she said.
Carly hesitated a minute before shaking the girl’s hand. “I’m Carly.”
“Are you new here?”
“This is my first day.”
“Oh, really? So what do you think of it so far?”
“What do I think of what?”
“Oh, so far so good.”
Lisa stared at her for a moment without saying anything. Carly began to get nervous. That was one of the things she hated the most: being stared at by strangers. What is she thinking? Did I do something weird?
Finally Lisa said, “You don’t talk much do you?”
Carly shrugged, “Only to those I really know. I’m not good at starting conversations.”
“That’s okay. You’ll learn how. You just gotta get to know some people first. This is my second year here and I already have tons of friends! You will too.”
“I dunno. Maybe.”
“Of course you will! You’ll see, by the end of the semester you’ll already have a bunch of friends. In fact, why don’t I introduce you to some of mine. Are you doing anything after school today.”
“No, not that I can think of.”
“Then how about coming with me and my friends to get ice cream sundaes across the street?”
“Sure, I guess.”
“Alright then. I’ll find you in the parking lot at 5:30. I gotta go. See you later!”
Lisa shook her hand again and left. That was a short conversation, Carly thought as she opened her Math textbook and started to study.
When she headed to her third class of the day she found herself going to a building on the other side of the pond. She walked along the breezeway, passing by the student parking and the Library. There, sitting at the very edge of the pond, with both feet in the water, was a guy about Carly’s age. He was wearing blue jeans and a button up, blue plaid shirt. His dirty blonde hair was combed to the side and he wore dark-rimmed glasses. He had a book in his lap and a half eaten apple in one hand. He looks so relaxed, thought Carly, wishing she could be dipping her feet in the water too.
The guy closed his book, stood up, and brushed off his jeans. All of the sudden, he looked directly at Carly. That’s when she realized that she had been standing there staring at him for a good several minutes. He raised his hand to wave. She blushed, waved back, then walked away hurriedly.
After her third class was over she headed to the Library to get a book. At the breezeway she stopped and looked at the pond. She thought, I have time to get the book before I leave. She stepped onto the grass, but someone was walking by her, and when she turned to look, the guy in the blue plaid shirt was staring at her. He laughed, shook his head, and walked on by. Carly didn’t take a step further. She walked back to the breezeway and continued on towards the Library.
It was 4:30 when Carly’s last class of the day ended: an hour before she was supposed to meet Lisa. She had nothing to do, so she decided to just sit in her car and wait. She walked down the breezeway once more, but this time she didn’t look at the pond. She wasn’t even going to consider sitting by the pond to wait for Lisa.
But as Carly stepped out of the breezeway and headed towards student parking she heard someone shout, “Hey you!” She turned around to see who said it, and there, on the other side of the breezeway was the guy with the blue plaid shirt. He was beckoning her over to him.
Carly hesitated. Not sure if she wanted to. Finally she walked over to him and shook the hand he held out to her.
“I’m Lyle,” he said.
Lyle gestured toward the parking lot. “Were you about to leave? Because if you need to be somewhere, I don’t want to hold you up.”
“No, actually I’m waiting for someone.”
“Me, too. Why don’t we wait by the pond?”
Carly looked around to make sure no one else was nearby or watching, then she followed him. They both sat down in the grass and stretched their legs out in front of them.
“So, where are you from?” Lyle asked.
“Virginia? Wow. So what brings you to Florida for college?”
Lyle laughed. “That’s a good reason I guess. What are you studying for?”
“I want to be a sports physician.”
“Really? What made you decide that?”
“My dad is the football coach at my hometown high school, and my mom is a nurse. I wanted to follow in both their footsteps. Being a sports physician sounded interesting and I think I’d be pretty good at it.”
“So it’s in your blood.”
“Yeah, I guess you could say that.” Carly looked over at him. “So, what about you?”
Lyle shrugged. “Well, I’ve lived in Florida all my life. In fact, I’ve lived right here in Lake Herndon for the past six years.”
“And why did you choose to come to Sanders State College?”
“Because I don’t have the money to move out of my parents’ house just yet. Otherwise I would be long gone and in California by now.”
Lyle turned to her and grinned. “The beaches,” he replied.
Carly laughed. “No, really. Why?”
Lyle shrugged. “I guess I just want to be around Hollywood and the stardom. I think it would be a great place to get a feel for the world of moviemaking.”
“You wanna be a moviemaker?”
Lyle nodded. “That’s my plan.”
“Sounds like fun. Do you want to write the movies or film them?”
Carly nodded. “Well good luck with that.”
“Hey, can I ask you a question?”
“You’ve been asking me questions.”
“True. So why did you walk back to the breezeway earlier as soon as you saw me?”
Carly blushed. “I know it sounds silly, but you were laughing at me.”
Carly shrugged. “I don’t like people laughing at me or staring at me.”
Lyle looked puzzled. “Well, that’s ironic: the girl who likes to stare doesn’t like being stared at.”
Carly blushed again. “I didn’t mean to stare earlier. You just looked so relaxed. I kinda wanted to dip my feet in the water too.”
“So why didn’t you?”
Carly looked at him. “I thought it would be awkward.”
“Yeah, if some random girl came and sat here and copied everything you did, and you were the only two doing it, wouldn’t that be awkward?”
“Nah, not really. Not to me. You know, when it comes to little things like that, you shouldn’t care what people think. Just be yourself and eventually you’ll meet a friend who is just as different from others as you are. And soon enough, that “difference” will become normal. Trust me, this is my second year here and I know from experience.”
Carly nodded. “Maybe you’re right.” She stood up and checked her watch. “I gotta go to my car, somebody will be looking for me in a few minutes.”
Lyle stood up and shook her hand. “Well it was nice to meet you, Carly.”
“You, too. See you around I guess.”
Carly sat on the hood of her car. It didn’t take Lisa long to find her. She came running up to Carly waving a piece of paper. “Hey! I meant to give this to you earlier, but it slipped my mind.” It was a flyer, advertising the college’s new girl’s volley ball program.
“I didn’t know of you’d be interested, but I already signed up and I’m supposed help recruit more people. This is the first girl’s volley ball team the college has ever had. Have you played any sports before?”
Carly nodded. “I’ve played basketball, baseball, girl’s football, and softball, but not Volley Ball.”
“Would you consider giving it a try?”
“I’ll think about it I guess.”
“Great! Listen, my friends are already over at the ice cream place and my brother will be bringing some of his friends too.”
“What’s the party for?”
Lisa laughed. “Nothing. My brother and I just like to do everything together, that’s all. Hey, how about I give you a ride over there and we can bring you back to your car later.”
When they arrived at Danny’s Ice Cream Parlor, Lisa’s friends already had a table reserved. After looking at the endless choices of flavors and combinations, Carly finally decided to get espresso flavored ice cream, topped with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles. Lisa’s friends were a little on the rowdy side, but they made Carly laugh and she felt comfortable around them.
An hour and a half later they were still sitting there, swapping stories and telling jokes, when Lisa said, “My brother’s here!” pointing to a group of college students who had just walked in the door. One of the guys walked up to Lisa’s table to greet her. Carly recognized him immediately. “Carly,” said Lisa, “This is my brother –“
“Lyle,” Carly finished.
Lyle looked at his sister, “We’ve met.”
“I see that,” said Lisa.
“So you two are brother and sister?” Carly asked.
“Twins, actually,” said Lyle.
“See!” said Lisa excitedly. “It’s your first day of school and you’ve already made new friends. I told you would have a bunch of friends by the end of semester.”
“Speaking of friends,” said Lyle. “Let me introduce you to my crew.”
And so Carly spent another hour and a half talking to Lyle and Lisa’s friends, and by the end of the night, all shyness in her was gone. When everybody finally decided to call it a night, Lyle offered to drive Carly back across the street to her own car. “So I guess I’ll see you tomorrow?” asked Lyle as Carly started her car.
“At the pond?”
Lyle grinned. “Sure. At the pond.”
The next day Carly brought her lunch to the edge of the pond, took off her sandals, and put her feet in the cool water. A few minutes later, both Lyle and Lisa joined her.
“I see you stole my idea,” said Lyle.
“Well it’s a genius idea,” said Carly. “Feels good. Oh, Lisa, guess what?”
“I signed up for volley ball.”
“Really? That’s great!”
For a while the three of them just sat there with their feet in the water. Every now and then someone would walk by and give them a weird look. But to her surprise, Carly didn’t care anymore. And when Lisa left to go to class, Carly turned to Lyle and said, “You were right.”
“About what you told me yesterday.”
“I told you a lot of things yesterday. Be more specific.”
Carly laughed. “About not caring what people think of the little things you do. About being yourself. You were right.”
Lyle nodded. “Yup, except for the part about finding a friend who is as different as you are. But don’t worry, we’ll work on that.”
“No need,” said Carly and looked directly at him. “I think I already found that friend.”
Lyle grinned at her. “Well, I’ll be. So you did. You know what that means.”
Carly shook her head. “No. What does that mean?”
“It means you’re on your way to finding whole bunch of “different” friends. And then you, me, my friends, your friends: we’ll all be setting a trend.”
“The duck pond trend. Just watch. In another month or so you and me won’t be the only ones sitting by this pond.”
“You think so?”
“Yup. I think I’ll call it ‘The Year of New Friends’. It’s gonna be a good school year.”
“I think so too,” agreed Carly as she looked out at the pond.
The sun was shining on it’s surface and a gentle breeze rippled the water around Lyle and Carly’s feet. Carly ran her fingers through the cool grass and breathed a sigh of content. Yes, she thought, it’s gonna be a good school year.