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One In The Same
The sun was shining, birds were chirping, flowers were blooming.
It wasn’t at all how I felt.
The bell rang, signaling the end of sixth period and the beginning of lunch. I slowly capped my pen and closed my notebook, taking my sweet time placing them carefully back in my backpack. I made sure the edges of my binders were all lined up before zipping it shut.
I kept my head down as I timidly made my way through the thick swarms of people crowding the halls. They used to give me a hard time, call me names and trip me when I walked, but I guess I wasn’t worth even that anymore.
I tried to push my way through the dense mass of students without setting anyone off. It felt as if I was trying to swim through a pool of Jell-o, the bodies resisting me as I tried to move forward.
Finally, the throng of students gave in, and I found myself standing before my locker in no time.
As I hung my backpack on the hook in my locker, I absentmindedly wondered if she would try to talk to me again. Before I had much time to ponder on the subject, I felt a light tap on my shoulder. I slowly twisted around to see who it was, though I already had a pretty good guess in mind.
“Hi, Aisha,” she greeted me happily with a bright smile on her face.
“Hi, Kate,” I said back in a voice so quiet it was barely audible. I tilted my head forward slightly so that my hair would fall in my face, just the way I liked it. I didn’t like the way Kate was watching me so expectantly.
“So, do you want to head to lunch?” Kate asked in her ever-perky voice, pointing a thumb backwards over her shoulder towards the cafeteria.
“Um,” I mumbled out, trying to think up a good excuse as to why I didn’t want to go with her to the cafeteria. Unfortunately, she didn’t give me adequate time.
“Come on.” Kate grabbed my arm and started pulling me towards the cafeteria with her. I didn’t resist.
The cafeteria was among my least favorite places. None of the time I had ever spent in there ended well, so I tried my best to avoid that dreaded room. But apparently, Kate had other ideas.
She didn’t let go of my arm until we had made it through the lunch line and were sitting at a table near the center of the room. I felt out of place, like there were too many eyes on me.
I was vaguely aware of Kate waving somebody over to our table, but I was preoccupied trying to keep my breathing steady.
A group of girls, Kate’s friends, came over to us and sat down. Kate introduced them to me, but I merely smiled before I fixed my gaze back on the table.
“So, Aisha, how long have you gone to this school?” One of the girls asked me.
“Um, since third grade,” I answered quietly.
“Oh,” the girl said, clearly surprised and maybe a little embarrassed that, too. We were both seniors, and had gone to the same school for ten years, and she thought I was a new student. To make it worse, we had been in the same class for three years straight, but I didn’t bring that up. I guess she didn’t have anything else to say, as she turned to the girl sitting next to her and started up a conversation.
As for me, I turned back to my food and tried to eat as quickly as I could so I could leave. I normally spent my lunch periods outside, where no one bothered me, or in the bathrooms if it was raining.
Once I was finished, I pushed back my chair as quietly as I could, but Kate still detected my movement and looked over.
“Leaving already?” Kate asked, a slight frown on her face.
“Yeah, I, uh, have some homework to finish up before next period,” I explained in a mumble.
“Oh, okay, well I’ll see you later, I guess.” Kate smiled and waved as I turned and walked away, but I could still tell she didn’t believe my weak lie. And she looked disappointed that I was leaving, too, which I didn’t quite get.
There’s no nice way to put this. I don’t have friends. People don’t like me. People go out of their way to avoid being seen with me, and now Kate is going out of her way to talk to me. And she’s nice doing it. It doesn’t add up.
Kate is popular and pretty, and she has plenty of friends, so she wouldn’t be talking to me out of desperation. Surely it’s not out of pity either. But what then?
I shook my head to clear my thoughts. It wasn’t like the answer was just going to appear out of midair the more I thought about it. It was only going to raise my already high suspicions.
Luckily, I didn’t have any afternoon classes with Kate. I grabbed my backpack from my locker and walked off to my next class.
There were still fifteen minutes
before the end of lunch, but I didn’t mind being early. It was better than my other options.
I chose a seat in the back row, as I always did. I didn’t like attracting unwanted attention, meaning any attention at all. I went to class, I did my homework, and that was about it. But it was enough. I was a straight-A student; some people even go as far as to call me a nerd, but it’s who I am.
The rest of the day passed quickly enough, as did the night, and before I knew it I was back in homeroom the next morning.
The teacher took role, and gave the morning announcements. I jotted down a few of the more important things she said while a few people around me saw what I was doing and snickered.
She dismissed us to go to our first class, and I let everybody get a head start into the halls before I braved the crowded pathway between this class and the next.
Keeping my head down, I walked as quickly as I could. It wasn’t long before I heard someone’s footsteps coming closer and then a girl’s voice calling out my name.
“Hey, Aisha, wait up,” Kate said, coming into step next to me. She was smiling, as always. I swear, that smile is always plastered on her face, but somehow she keeps it looking sincere.
“Hey, Kate,” I answered softly.
“So listen, are you free this Friday?”
“Free?” I repeated, admittedly confused. It wasn’t often that I got asked about my weekend plans. Come to think about it, it was never that I got asked about such things by anyone.
“Yeah, on Friday,” Kate confirmed. “I’m having a sleepover with a few of my best friends, and I’d really love it if you could come.”
I didn’t know what to be more shocked by. The fact that she was inviting me over or the way she grouped me into her “best friends.”
“So, what do you say?” She prompted when I failed to answer.
“Um, I’d have to check…” I trailed off, lost in my thoughts. I wish she would just tell me why she was talking to me and being nice to me and inviting me to sleepovers. Suddenly, a wave of confidence rushed through me. I squared my shoulders and took a deep breath, surprised when my voice came out at a normal volume. “Kate, why are you being so nice to me?”
“What do you mean?” Kate asked, taken aback.
“I mean,” I said. “Why are you talking to me and inviting me over? You have plenty of friends, I don’t. You’re popular, I’m not. I just…I don’t get it. We’re not the same kind of person. You shouldn’t like people like me. We’re just…different.”
As my words soaked in, a soft, genuine smiled spread across Kate’s lips. “You’re human, right?”
“Yes,” I drawled, my brow knitting in confusion. Where was she going with this?
“Then that’s good enough for me.”