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A woman walked by Bench 4, phone glued to her ear, quickening her pace when she noticed my starring. Click! Birds flew above me, from tree to tree, picking out their new home. Click! I put my camera in my lap and glanced at my watch, she should be arriving soon. Two little kids walked by me, holding hands. Both girls had two ponytails and wore matching spring dresses, pale pink with white and yellow flowers. Click! My eyes darted to the park entrance, looking for her. She’d be in her long winter jacket and a big black hat covering her extremely blonde hair with black sunglasses; this was her disguise so no one would recognize her. A chipmunk ran past the bench and up the tree in front of me. Click!
“Hello Carissa,” a girl whispered, sitting next to me on Bench 4.
She made it and she was right on time. Slowly, I put my camera in its case and looked at the sky. “How was your day today, Nikki?”
“Good I guess, if you call failing a test and then finding out that you didn’t get the main role in the school’s play is good.”
“What part did you try out for?”
“Wendy from Peter Pan. I knew the lines and I thought I did excellent, but apparently I didn’t,” Nikki sighed and adjusted her sunglasses. “Now I’m playing some mermaid that doesn’t talk, it’s so unfair. A Brit is playing the role of Wendy, when does that happen? If the other cheerleaders find out, I’m gonna be in so much trouble. I might get kicked out and I’m the leader of the group!”
I fiddled with my camera bag, this was one of those moments when I didn’t know what to say. I could be nice and say that the other girls won’t kick her out but that was the truth she’d get kicked out. I could be mean and be blunt and say she always has me but that’d hurt her. “What Brit?”
“The short skinny one. She has the red hair and always wears those lime green knee socks. The prettiest one of them all, which makes it even worse,” Nikki grumbled, kicking a rock that was sitting in front of her. “I wish that we didn’t separate into two groups, we used to be the biggest, most feared group in the school. One word about Brittany's pink socks and out she went. Along with a dozen other girls that loved her bright socks and spunky hairdos.”
I remembered watching the separation, it was the weirdest thing I’ve seen in my life. The Cheerleaders was this big group of girls that were, believe it or not, cheerleaders. The group was invincible, towering over the other girls and trash talking each and every one of them. Nikki was the leader, the prettiest, tallest, and richest girl in the group. All the others followed her orders, like a puppy in training, getting treats left and right for obeying.
I have nothing against Nikki, she’s my “best” friend. We used to be friends back in elementary school, when the line leader was superior. Then we reached middle school and had no classes together, we hung out after school and on the weekends. Nikki then heard about cheerleading and her weekends became booked. By high school, Nikki and I never saw each other. Maybe we’d pass by each other in the hallway but she couldn’t say hi, cheerleaders don’t say hi to weirdos that walk the halls. That’s when I started sitting on Bench 4. Nikki and I would meet there after school in middle school, it was like getting a hug from her, sitting on that bench. It reminded me of what we had and how it all slipped away when we weren’t expecting it. We were ice skating on a frozen pond basically, knowing we could fall in and never see each other again. Luckily, we both took the risk but it caved in. One day after school, I walked to Bench 4 and saw Nikki sitting there in tears. I sat down next to her and she looked at me and apologized for ruining our friendship with her after school activities. That began the tradition of us meeting after school on Bench 4, Nikki used to not wear a disguise but she was caught with me and got teased. From then on she wore a disguise, I couldn’t blame her, I would’ve done that too.
Back to the Brits and Cheerleaders, one cheerleader, Valerie, didn’t like how Brittany went against the Cheerleader dress code - only wearing name brand clothes and no bright or dark colors, only pastels. Brittany always wore a school uniform with high knee socks the colors of lime green or bright yellow. Valerie got fed up with it and trashed talked her. Nikki tried to cool their fight down, but she kept re-lighting the fire. By the end of the lunch period, Brittany and twelve other girls became Brits. Brits were now know for their random outfits of bright colors and side-swept ponytails. They were cheerleader haters and would do anything to become the group that the whole school was afraid of.
“Hello, Carissa? You in there,” Nikki chanted, waving her perfectly manicured hand in front of me.
“Yea, sorry,” I managed, still starring into space.
“What should I do about this? I mean what am I supposed to tell the others that look up to me?” Nikki started to bite her nails, ruining her French manicure, it was her habit. The one she couldn’t break, not even with that bad tasting nail polish your supposed to put on.
“Maybe you shouldn’t do anything and see what they think. The director would want pretty girls as the mermaids, they’re like Sirens, trying to pull Peter in but he doesn’t fall for it. All the guys will drool over you in a bikini if that’s what you have to wear. You should be thankful, the Brit doesn’t get to show off her body, just her acting. No boy that I know would want to date a girl who acts; they’ll never know if she’s acting or speaking the truth.”
Nikki burst into a wide grin, “Carissa, you’re so helpful! You make everything better, you know that? The mermaids, which are me and some senior, get to wear this really short mini skirt that looks like a tail and a coconut bra. The boys will drop dead!”
I smiled, that’s what I’m here for is what I wanted to say, but that sounded cocky. “That Brit won’t know what’s coming!”
“Nope!” Nikki checked her cellphone and looked at me, “I should be going, my mom is taking me out to dinner for making it into the play. Catch you later!” She got off the bench with a quick wave and walked out of the park.
Her quick goodbyes always made me sad, no hug or anything, just that same quick wave that I’ve gotten to know too well. Nikki’s hair slipped out of her hat as she rounded the corner and disappeared out of my sight. I couldn’t wait for tomorrow.