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The Hand of Friendship
Jersey Rose pranced into the choir room joyfully the very first day of the brand new year, nearly floating on air.
“Good morning, Mr. Shay,” she greeted her teacher with her enchanting sing-song voice.
“Hello, Jersey. How was your break?”
“Nothing special, really, sir. Have you decided on the pieces for our next concert coming up?”
“I have a few ideas as to our next performance, but I think you will all have a free day while I work out the kinks.”
“Sounds good to me,” Jersey answered. She dashed to retrieve a chair from the rack on the far side of the room and placed it in her assigned section. She was a soprano, so she sat near the door with the rest of the high voices. The minute bell rang, just then, and the students in the hallways scattered like ants, making a bee-line for their classrooms.
“Move over, Jersey!” Naomi Anderson demanded, pulling up a chair. Jersey giggled and pushed her chair about three inches to the right.
“So how was your vacation?” she questioned her friend. Naomi shrugged.
“It was alright, but nothing compared to last year.” The two high schoolers shared a good laugh, their minds falling back to that hilarious day when Naomi’s brother rear-ended an ice cream truck.
“Alright, class. Take your seats and settle down. I have a couple of announcements to make before I take attendance,” Mr. Shay practically hollered over the multiple conversations in the room. The talking, snickering, and gossiping quickly ceased to be as everyone bid their friends a final words before seating themselves accordingly.
“Are we doing anything today?” a junior called out. Mr. Shay ignored her.
“Now that I have your full, undivided attention, I would first like to say welcome back. In addition to that, I am pleased to say we have a new student in our class this term.” Mr. Shay continued on with his speech, but Naomi made it extremely difficult to focus on his message.
“New student? Oh, great. That’s just what we need. Another noob or sucker.”
“Shush, Naomi. They probably aren’t a beginner,” Jersey hissed at her friend. A stunned look crossed Naomi’s thin face, but not another word was uttered from her lips.
“-is from Tempe, Arizona and has been in choir since the fifth grade. If you would make him feel welcome here, that would be great. That’s it. You may have the rest of the hour to yourselves.”
The students broke off into groups, talking amongst themselves. The new boy, however, was secluded in the far corner of the room with his head on his knees.
“Jersey? Snap out of it!” Naomi ordered, snapping her fingers in front of Jersey’s face. She pushed Naomi’s hand away but uttered not a single sound.
He looked so alone, so isolated, yet so used to being in this upsetting state. Jersey couldn’t imagine why he would be so alone, but her heart was crying out for her to immediately take action to change that.
“Hey Naomi, want to come with me to talk to that boy?” she asked her own friend. Naomi cackled like a witch.
“Pssssh. Like I’d want to talk to a noob like him. What, are you going to talk to him?”
“I want to. He looks so alone over there,” Jersey replied.
“Big deal. He’s just some kid. You don’t even know the guy. C’mon, I’ll redo your hair. It’s all frizzy.” Naomi was allowed to proceed in styling her friend’s shoulder length hair, but Jersey’s mind wasn’t in it. Her thoughts lingered on that poor, lonely, isolated boy. She knew he needed a friend, so why hadn’t she protested when Naomi changed the subject?
After lunch, Jersey was heading toward her fourth hour class alone when she spotted that same boy near his locker, but he wasn’t alone anymore. He was surrounded buy three of the biggest guys in the school, and boy did the poor kid look frightened. Jersey knew the boys better than she wanted to from when she had first came to the high school she now attended. She knew how nasty things could get, and how quickly they could get that way. Jersey did the only thing that would register in her mind. She raced to his defense.
“Leave him alone!” She cried, jumping in front of the new kid. The older boys snickered and chuckled.
“Scram, freshman. This don’t got nothing to do with a shrimp like you,” the biggest boy, Anthony insulted.
“Not until you get away from him, you jerk!”
“Jerk?” He snatched the collar of her shirt and lifted her off the ground. “You want to repeat that, punk?” Jersey grinned smugly and spit in his face. Anthony dropped her and wiped his eyes, grunting in pain.
“Jerk,” she restated, rising from the floor.
“This isn’t over, you little elf! C’mon, guys!” The boys sauntered off, Anthony still rubbing his eyes. Jersey turned around to find the boy with his back against the lockers, his face deadpan.
“Hey,” Jersey began, but he cut her off with a sudden outburst of rage and fury.
“What’d you do that for? I can handle myself, you know! I don’t need help form some dumb girl!” With that, the boy stormed off. Jersey stood there for a brief moment, then shook her head and proceeded to her class.
“So then he calls me yesterday and apologizes. How dumb is that?” Naomi rambled on and on as Jersey viciously jammed her books in her locker and pulled out her coat.
“Um, Jersey?” an unfamiliar voice said questioningly. She turned to find the new boy. Naomi was staring him down like a hawk.
“Yes,” Jersey replied.
“Could I talk to you for a second?” His eyes shifted to Naomi for a minute, and then fell back on me. “Alone?”
“Yeah, okay.” Jersey turned to Naomi. “Go ahead and wait in the car. I’ll be there when I’m through.”
“Fine,” Naomi sighed, rolling her eyes. She marched down the hallway with her nose in the air, turned the corner, and disappeared from sight. The boy grabbed Jersey’s hand and led her to a bench. He then seated himself and pulled her down next to him. He sat there for a moment, intently staring at his hands. Jersey gazed upon him, almost lost in his majestic, breath-taking beauty. His tan, muscular arms glistened as the many radiant beams of sunlight passing through the window fell on him. She could almost hear the angels singing when he finally looked up at her, the vast oceans of emerald misty with tears that threatened to pour any second.
“I wanted to apologize for how I acted earlier. You got me out of a tight spot, and for that I thank you. It shocked me that somebody I didn’t even know would help me like you did.” He paused to take a few deep breaths and to collect himself, but he never continued.
“Hey, it’s fine. I like helping people.”
“I had no right to take my anger out on you. It wasn’t right or fair.”
“Well, what are you angry about?” Jersey questioned hesitantly, uncertain of his reaction. He opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out. A choking sound emerged from his throat, and then the tears finally spilled over, streaming down his face in buckets.
“My dad,” he whispered hoarsely. He broke down. Jersey’s girly instincts kicked in at that point and she took him in her arms, holding him and providing a safe place for him to release his jumbled mess of emotions. Of course, once the words were said, she knew, but she didn’t push for him to tell her how. She could see that it wasn’t the time or place, and that it would come in time along with trust. The most she did was pat his back and mumbled hushed words of comfort in his ear. After a full five minutes of her playing the role of the mother and him playing the frightened child after a thunder storm, his sobs slowly ceased to be and he sat up, drying his eyes with the sleeve of his jacket.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Jersey asked gently. The boy shrugged.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be crying like this. I just met you. My dad died last month, so it’s kind of hard now,” he informed her, still gasping to catch his breath.
“I’m sorry. That’s got to be tough,” the concerned girl commented. He nodded.
“The worst thing about it is that I’m the oldest out of five kids, and my siblings are all nine and younger. My mom is always working now, so I usually get stuck babysitting, and it’s not that I mind watching them, but I don’t want them to see me cry. I just feel like I’ve got to be the strong one now, you know? It’s so stressful dealing with four little kids who don’t understand what’s going on.”
“I know I can’t fully relate, but I do understand the pressures of losing somebody you love,” Jersey replied. She placed her hand over his.
“My name is Rayven, by the way,” the boy told her. “Rayven Barson.”
“I like that name. It’s different. Do you want my cell phone number? You could call me sometime and we could hang out or I could help you babysit or something.”
“Sure. I’ll give you mine, too. Thanks.”
“No problem.” The two exchanged numbers.
“Hey Jersey, does this mean we’re friends?” Rayven’s voice contained hope and enthusiasm. Jersey nodded.
“Of course. Why wouldn’t we be friends?”
“We’ll, I’ve never known somebody like you. You’re such a beautiful person inside and out, and you’re so kind-hearted,” Rayven answered, his face turning a brilliant shade of red. Jersey giggled.
“How do you get home?”
“Bus.” His tone was glum.
“Not anymore. Want to ride with me?”
“Sure. Thanks,” Rayven responded, his face instantly lighting up. They hurriedly gathered their things, and then made their way out of the school. As they neared the exit, Rayven slipped his hand through Jersey’s. A glowing smile fell over her face as well as his, and that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship and many grand adventures to come.