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The Prank

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Warm air rushed into Lindsay Thompson’s face and hundreds of voices came at her at once. The heavy front door slammed behind her, shutting out the chilly December air. Lindsay wiped her boots on the carpet and hurried up the stairs into the Jefferson High School hallway. The halls were packed with people. Yelling, chatting, singing, laughing voices echoed off the walls and bombarded Lindsay as she walked into school. A couple of kids smiled at her as she headed to her locker. She smiled back and nodded to them. Her best friend, Audrey, was standing at her own locker, a couple rows down from Lindsay’s.

“Hey!” Lindsay greeted her and started opening her locker.

“Hi, Lins!” Audrey smiled and came over to her. “How was field hockey last night? Sorry I couldn’t make it, I had to work on that English project.” She rolled her eyes.

“It was fine,” Lindsay replied, then set down her backpack. “What English project?” she asked nervously.

“Due tomorrow, don’t worry.” Audrey laughed and leaned against the locker next to Lindsay’s. “You are such a procrastinator.”

“What? No I’m not!” Lindsay replied as she pulled her books out of her backpack.

“You’re just….” Audrey started.

“Busy.”

“With what?”

“Stuff, okay? You know, field hockey, lacrosse…”

“Painting your nails, watching romantic comedies…” Audrey grinned at Lindsay.

“Fine!” Lindsay cried, and Audrey laughed.

After finishing putting their books away, and taking out the ones needed for their first couple of classes, Audrey and Lindsay started off up the stairs to their third floor homeroom.

Audrey and Lindsay were sophomores at Jefferson, outside of Hanover, New Hampshire. They had been best friends since 6th grade gym class, when they bonded over their non-existent basketball talent. They played field hockey together, watched movie marathons together, and hung out pretty much every weekend. They were like sisters.

After an uneventful homeroom, math class, and English class, it was lunchtime. Audrey sat down at their usual lunch table, and Lindsay went up to buy a slice of pizza. When she came back, the rest of their lunch table was there: Mackenzie, Georgia, Kendall, Morgan, and Claire. Lindsay slid into a seat, and immediately a million conversations were going on at once. Lindsay was talking to Mackenzie about field hockey last night, Georgia and Kendall were talking about science class, and Morgan, Claire, and Audrey were all chatting about going to the mall on Friday night.

Lindsay tapped Georgia. “Wait, what happened in science?”

“Oh my gosh. It was crazy. Cameron was talking back to Mr. Donovan so much. I don’t know what he thinks he’s doing, because he’s just buying himself a week of detention,” Georgia told her.

“Hmm. Yeah, Cam can be pretty dumb. But also kind of funny…” Lindsay smiled.

“Yeah, but his sense of humor can be so mean,” Kendall added.

“You’re right,” Lindsay responded. Just then, the bell rang, ending lunch, and all of the girls parted ways, heading to different classes.



*****************

Lindsay was just sitting down in history class, when she heard someone whisper, “Lindsay!” She looked around and saw Cameron, the famous back-talker, sitting to her left. She raised her eyebrows.
“What?” she asked.

“Brad and I came up with the most hilarious prank ever. It’ll honestly go down as the best prank we’ve ever done, and the best prank the school’s ever seen.”
Cameron and his best friend Brad were huge troublemakers. They were popular, because they were funny, but their sense of humor could err on the mean-spirited side. Lindsay couldn’t help but laugh at a lot of their jokes, but she knew that they weren’t always the nicest kids.

“Yikes.” she smiled at him playfully.

“No, really, it’s gonna be awesome. So, you know how--” Mr. Stevens, their history teacher, interrupted Cameron’s plan.

“Class, take out your homework.” he called from the front of the room.
Cameron rolled his eyes and whispered, “What homework?”
Lindsay just shook her head and pulled her worksheet out of her folder.
Forty-five minutes later, as history was ending, Cameron finally got the opportunity to tell Lindsay his plan. He walked with her through the hall to Spanish class.
“Ok, so you know how tomorrow we have that big assembly?”
“Yeah,” Lindsay replied.
“And the science robotics team thing is going to go on stage for awards ‘cause they won at the state contest?”
“Yeah,” Lindsay said again.
“Well, Chris Lewis, that total nerd, is, like, the head of the team, and is going on stage to get awarded this big medal for being such a good leader and blah, blah, blah.”
“Uh-huh. What does this have to do with anything?” Lindsay asked impatiently.

“Brad and I are gonna hide underneath the stage, on the left side where the stairs are, where he’s going to walk on, and right as he walks on stage, we’re gonna trip him and he’s gonna sprawl on the stairs in front of everybody.” Cameron smirked.

Lindsay couldn’t help but giggle.

“Oh my god. You are ridiculous,” she laughed.

“Ridiculous? I would say more like, a prank god,” he told her.

“Let’s not go too far,” she said to him, laughing again.

“Whatever. You just wait, it’s gonna be absolutely hilarious.”

“Okay. Whatever you say. Although, come on, humiliating Chris in front of the entire school? It’s gonna be funny, but…” she trailed off.

“Aw, lighten up! It’s just a prank. An amazing prank!” At that, he slipped into the Spanish room with a mischievous grin.

After Spanish, and a long technology class, Lindsay and Audrey were heading onto the bus.

“Guess what?” Lindsay asked Audrey as they plopped into a bus seat together.

“What?”

“Cam and Brad are planning this crazy prank.” Lindsay told her all of what Cameron had told her.

Audrey looked concerned. “Wow. That is crazy, and mean. Like, completely thoughtless and a terrible idea.”

Lindsay punched her lightly in the shoulder. “Aw, come on. I know, it is a little mean, but it’s funny. I had a similar reaction when Cam told me, but I realized it’s just a practical joke. It’s hilarious!”

Audrey raised her eyebrows and said, “I don’t know. This is a prank that is purposely trying to absolutely humiliate Chris in front of the whole school. It might be a bit funny, but it’s most definitely a bad idea, and not nice at all.”

“Audrey!” Lindsay exclaimed. “You don’t need to always be so focused and serious. Lighten up, and have a little fun! So what if Chris is gonna get a little embarrassed. It’ll be fine.”

Audrey just shook her head. “No. I think you’re wrong on this one.”

There was a brief silence. These two friends never disagreed. Neither knew what to do, because disagreements just didn’t happen with them. Finally, Audrey broke the silence.

“Just picture yourself in Chris’ shoes for a second. Imagine you having to go on stage in front of the whole school, and getting tripped and completely sprawling on your face. Maybe it’s just me, but I would want to burst into tears, lock myself in my room, and never go to school again!” Audrey said.

“Okay, that’s an exaggeration. Lock yourself in your room? Never go to school again? I’m sorry, but I think you’re wrong on this one.” Lindsay shot back.

Just then, the bus stopped, and the girls realized it was Audrey’s stop.

“Whatever. I know you’re wrong, and I know I need to stop this from happening. Don’t bother calling me tonight, because I don’t have anything to say to a bully.” Audrey shouldered her backpack and hurried off the bus.

Lindsay was stunned. She sat there on the bus for a full minute, as it sped away from the corner of Oakland Avenue, not moving, just thinking. A bully? She thought to herself in disbelief. How am I a bully for laughing at a prank? She didn’t know how or why Audrey had acted that way. Even she knows it would be funny. Audrey just needs to lighten up and stop being such a serious buzz kill. She sighed. This stunk. Lindsay and her best friend were in probably their first, and worst fight, because of a stupid prank.
Lindsay wanted, desperately, to believe that Audrey would just let it go, and sit and watch the prank happen with everyone else on Friday. But she knew that was not what was going to happen. Along with Audrey’s focus and utter determination came absolute stubbornness. If Audrey thought she was right, she wasn’t going to let it go, ever. She was going to make things right, if it was the last thing she ever did.
Finally, the bus made it to Lindsay’s stop. She walked off the bus and made the long one-block trek home. When she got home, she grabbed a granola bar from the cabinet, said hi to her mom, and went directly up to her room. The whole rest of the night, the argument with Audrey stuck in her mind. Through homework, through dinner, through TV at 8 PM. It just didn’t go away. Maybe, because deep, deep, down, in the bottom of her heart, she knew Audrey was right, absolutely. Although, she couldn’t admit it. At least, not now.
A heart-wrenching flashback made Lindsay pause her TV show. Suddenly, she was back in seventh grade, watching her good friend, Alex, get shoved against the lockers and tormented by a group of eighth graders. Tears rolled down his face as the three tall bullies laughed. As much as she wanted to do something, all Lindsay could do was stand there, watching, frozen. Later, another student told the principal and Lindsay went into the principal’s office to give her account of the scene. The bullies were punished, but Lindsay felt nothing but guilt and shame. One thing Ms. Sanders, the principal, told her, that stuck in her mind was: being a bystander is just as bad as being the bully himself or herself. Lindsay shook her head to get the flashback out of her mind and sat back against the couch.
She began to realize this absolutely applied directly to her in this situation as well. Cam and Brad were bullies. There was no doubt about that. They targeted weak, unpopular, different kids and played pranks on them, and, while they could be funny, were mean, and humiliated the victims badly. And, Lindsay; Lindsay was just a bystander. A supporter of the bullies. When she realized this, a metallic taste formed in her mouth, and a deep pit settled in the bottom of her stomach. She was just as bad as Brad and Cam, going after weak kids and making them feel even worse about themselves. Lindsay felt horrible. She felt guilt like she had never felt before. She knew what she had to do. She thought, I have to help Audrey save Chris tomorrow. And I have to confront Brad and Cam before it’s too late.


****************

The next morning, Lindsay couldn’t get to school fast enough. As soon as she got into homeroom, she tapped Audrey on the arm. Audrey’s face went from a friendly smile to a frown in an instant when she saw who had tapped her.
“What is it?” Audrey asked.
“Look, Audrey, I’m sorry. I was absolutely wrong, and you were so right. You don’t need to lighten up, I need to realize what’s right in front of my face: bullies, and I’m one of them.” Lindsay looked at her apologetically.
Audrey sighed. “It’s okay. I forgive you. Brad and Cam can be funny, and I can understand why you didn’t see what they were really doing in the first place.”
“Thanks, Audrey. You’re the best.” Lindsay gave Audrey a hug.
“So, shall we confront Brad and Cam?” Lindsay asked as she pulled away.
“Yup. Let’s do it.”
They walked to Brad and Cam, who were sitting a couple of rows behind them. Before Lindsay or Audrey could open her mouth, Brad and Cam looked at them and said in unison, “No.”
The girls looked at each other.
“What?” Audrey asked. “We haven’t even asked you anything yet!”
“Yeah, but we know what you’re about to ask us. You’re about to tell us to back down from the prank, and not do it because it’s mean,” Cam said matter-of-factly.
“And, that we should step in Chris’ shoes and think about how he’ll feel.” Brad rolled his eyes.
“Well-it…” Lindsay started. Audrey just shook her head.
“How did you know?” Audrey said. “Wait- I don’t want to know. I just know that you should really think before you do this.”
“Audrey, we have thought about it. We’ve thought long and hard and we’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a hilarious, ingenious prank. We’re not gonna step in Chris’ shoes or think about how he’s gonna feel. We’re doing this, and there’s no way you can stop us.” Cam motioned for Brad to follow him, and they sauntered out of the room.
“Ugh!” Lindsay hit her fist on the desk in frustration. “Why do they have to be such idiots?” Audrey shook her head in agreement.
“Okay, so talking to those two blockheads isn’t going to work. We’ll just have to take another approach,” Audrey added, and she and Lindsay discussed their plan, and decided to talk to Chris right before lunch. Assembly was right after lunch, so they had no time to spare.
History and math couldn’t have taken longer. Audrey and Lindsay practically sprinted out of math and upstairs to their lockers. After throwing their stuff in their lockers, they found Chris about to head downstairs. He was a short, scrawny kid with short black hair and glasses. Lindsay’s heart ached when she thought of herself going along with this prank and embarrassing this poor kid. Audrey hurried up to him and tapped him on the shoulder.
“Hi, Chris,” she said.
“Uh, hi.” he replied awkwardly.
“We’re sorry to delay you from your lunch period, but we had to talk to you,” Lindsay began. “When you go on stage at assembly, you need to go up the right side.”
Chris stared at her. “Why?”

“Because Brad and Cam are going to trip you if you go up the left side. It’s some prank they’ve been planning. But if you go up the right side, then you won’t get tripped, and their prank will fail.” Audrey explained.

Chris looked at them like they were absolutely nuts.

“Really, Chris, we’re trying to help you, so please take our advice,” Lindsay added.

“Um, okay. I have to get to lunch. I’ll see you later, I guess,” Chris said hesitantly.

“Wait-” Audrey exclaimed, but he had already blended into the crowd of students on the stairs, heading down to the cafeteria.

“We did all that we could,” Lindsay said, reassuring both Audrey and herself.

“Yeah,” Audrey agreed. “Let’s just hope he takes our advice.”

When assembly finally came, Audrey and Lindsay were sitting in the auditorium next to each other, on the edge of their seats. Principal Martin went on stage, welcomed everyone, then the soccer team went on stage to get a special award, then some announcements, then finally the moment of truth.

“Now, Chris Lewis, the head of our school robotics team, will accept an award for being a great leader and role model for the rest of the team in this year’s competition,” Principal Martin told the school.

Chris walked down the aisles between the two rows of seats, and headed for the stage. Lindsay and Audrey looked at each other nervously. He walked, walked, walked…. and hopped up the right side of the stage. Lindsay and Audrey let out a big sigh simultaneously. Their classmates next to them must have thought they were crazy, but they didn’t care. Such relief flooded through Lindsay’s body as Chris went up to Principal Martin’s podium and accepted his award. She felt as though a 20-pound weight had just been lifted right off of her shoulders.
When the assembly finally ended, Audrey and Lindsay were chatting as they walked out of the auditorium. Suddenly, Chris ran up to them and stopped them before they went out into the hallway.
“Listen, I just wanted to say thank you for helping me. I saw Brad and Cam come out from under the left side of the stage and I realized what you were doing for me. I appreciate you looking out for me.”
The grateful smile on Chris’ face made Lindsay feel a kind of satisfaction she had never felt before. Warmth spread through her body and she couldn’t help the smile creeping up her face.
“No problem, Chris,” Audrey replied.
Chris just nodded at them and slipped through the doors and into the crowd of students.
“Man, he can just slip into the crowd and disappear so well,” Audrey said.
“I know!” Lindsay replied. Just then, Brad and Cam came up to them.
“What the heck? You guys had to ruin our prank?” Cam asked them, irritated.
“That was a mean prank. In fact, it was a rude, disrespectful, and humiliating prank. You guys are bullies,” Lindsay said, letting it all out.
“What?” Brad asked indignantly.
“Think about it. Targeting weak, defenseless kids, being mean to others to make yourself feel good...” Audrey said.
It was silent for a second. Cam stared at the floor.
“I-It’s-You’re right. We need to tone it down, pranks-wise. Our pranks aren’t necessarily considerate, but everyone thinks they’re funny so we keep doing it. It’s stupid,” Cam admitted.
“They’re not that bad,” Brad said.
Lindsay and Audrey stared at him.
“Fine. We’ll lay off the mean pranks. For now,” Brad said.
“Ugh. I hate admitting you guys are right.” Cam groaned.
Lindsay and Audrey both grinned and slipped into the moving sea of students.



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