A Friendship of a Different Kind

January 22, 2009
By Shannon Schultz, Kimberly, WI

There is not one day that goes by in Riverview High that the halls aren’t filled to capacity with loud and obnoxious teens. It is difficult to find anyone in the mix of huddled groups and cliques, well everyone except for Michael Cross. Michael walks slumped over and expressionless with a quick pace through the halls everyday. As he makes his way down the long halls he keeps his black sweatshirt hood pulled up over his head in an attempt to block the insults being shot at him like speeding bullets. He has no friends, so there is never anyone with him. Sometimes I think that the only reason he has no friends is because nobody ever took the time to get to know him, not that he is very interesting but that is just what it seems like on the outside. He lives everyday the same as the one before. I often times catch myself wondering about him, like does he have a family, why he is so quiet, and other random things about his life. I’ve never talked to Michael before, and come to think of it I’ve never even heard him talk until behind me I hear a faint voice whisper, “excuse me please.” As he looked through his scratched up glasses, we made eye contact with each other. In that short second I managed to see a small tear roll down Michael’s cheek. As he passed me and continued walking down the hallway I saw the milk dripping down over a sign stating ‘loser’ that was firmly taped to his back. I don’t understand how anyone could do such a thing to another person, even if it is Michael Cross.

“Did any of you see Michael just walk by? That is horrible, all of that milk, who would do such a thing?”

“Grace, just don’t worry about it, it’s only Michael.”

“Yeah, he probably doesn’t even care Grace.” My friends weren’t the least bit interested in what I was trying to say. They were too busy with their heads buried into their compacts applying on more make-up that they didn’t even need in the first place. Around school I am considered ‘popular’ but I’ve never followed the stereotype.
“Who is Michael?” One of the girls in our huddle asked, making everyone else shriek in laughter. I on the other hand didn’t find it too funny. I’m still puzzled how people can find all of this ok, making fun of Michael and covering him in milk, there is no good in any of that. Right then the bell rang and everyone scattered to there classes while I just took my time, taking small strides as I thought about Michael.
All I did every morning for the next week was watch for Michael to walk by. My friends questioned me everyday, “Grace, who are you looking for?” Not wanting to stir the pot anymore I would just reply nobody. Everyday until the bell rang I did nothing but look, but there was no Michael, I wonder what happened to him.
The weekend came and left fast. No matter what I was doing Michael was always on the back of my mind. The mystery of who he is just keeps me guessing and wanting to know more. His life is like a book I am dying to read; as crazy as it sounds Monday couldn’t come any sooner.

* * *

“Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry. Here let me help you.” I bent down and tried to gather all the scattered books. Curious as to who I bumped into I peered in front of me only to see Michael, hunched over also gathering his books. “Michael?” I said surprised. He looked at me with a puzzled look on his face. I looked at him again and saw that he had a black eye.

“Thank you for the help.” He whispered softly and quickly walked away.

“But Michael wait!” I tried to stop him but he just kept walking. Seeing Michael was the last thing I would have expected to happen. For a week and a half I had looked for him everywhere but he was nowhere to be found. And now I see him randomly and he has a black eye. Things just don’t seem right to me. Hopefully I can find him later in the afternoon; I would really like to talk to him.

“Michael… Michael wait up!” I shouted as he passed me in the hall. I started towards him as he began to slowly come to a stop. “Hi Michael, I’m Grace.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Oh, well I was wondering if you would want to go get some ice cream with me after school.” Michael looked back at me with shock in his eyes. “You don’t have to, I just really want some ice cream and wanted you to come with.” I stood there with my fingers crossed hoping he would say yes but all he seemed to do was stand there. His lack of interest led me to think he didn’t really want to. “Well like I said it was just a thought, I guess I’ll just talk to you another time,” I said. With still no reply I just turned around and began walking away.

“Wait,” came a voice from behind me as a hand grabbed my shoulder. “Where should I meet you after school?” With a huge smile and excitement in my voice it was hard to answer him.

“Just meet me outside the front doors.”

“Alright, I will see you then,” he replied as he began walking away. I was so excited that he actually agreed to go with me I threw my hands in the air and yelled yes. Multiple faces looked at me with awkward looks but I didn’t care. With a little extra pep in my step I hurried to my next class.

* * *

“And what can I get for you two today?”
“Um, I’ll have a medium twist cone and Michael what would you like.”
“I’ll just have a hot fudge Sunday,” Michael ordered his ice cream in such a soft whisper that the waitress needed him to repeat.
“Alright, your orders will be ready soon.”
“Why did you bring me to get ice cream Grace,” Michael broke the silence with his soft voice.
“’Cause I didn’t feel like anything else.”
“No, I mean why did you bring me, like instead of your other friends.”
“Oh, because you seem like a really cool person and I wanted to get to know you.”
“I’m not very interesting, I don’t,” Michael was talking as our waitress came with our ice cream.
“Here you go,” she set down the ice cream and left.
“What were you saying?”
“Never mind, it was nothing.” I was a little upset that he didn’t finish his sentence but I was happy enough with my ice cream to give it a second thought, but I did try to bring up other conversations.
“So Michael, that is a pretty good shiner you have there, what happened?
“Oh, well, um… I just ran into my bedroom door.”
“Ouch, sounds like that hurt.”
“A little,” he mumbled with a mouth full of ice cream. I could tell that he wasn’t interested in talking anymore, so I just stopped and began to eat my ice cream. Finally we were finished, I offered him a ride home but he said he would be fine walking.
“Really Michael it’s no problem, I’ll just drive you home.” He didn’t live all too far away from the ice cream parlor but there was no need for him to walk plus I wanted to find out where he lived. It was a cute little house, light green siding with white shudders. I pulled into his drive way and let him out.
“Thank you for the ride Grace.” He got out of the car, slammed the door and headed toward the front door. As he was walking a man stumbled out the front door. With a scruffy, face the man glanced at me then looked at Michael and began yelling something. I couldn’t hear anything, I just saw the man grab Michael by the collar of his sweatshirt and pull him into the house. Quickly I backed out of the driveway without a second for thought. The rest of the night was just like any other, it was as if what happened earlier didn’t even happen.
I didn’t see Michael at all the next morning which wasn’t really a big surprise after the night before. During calculus I left to go get a drink of water. As I was walking back to class I saw Michael heading toward the stairwell. I ran over to him. He had a camera hanging from his neck. “Can I show you something?”
I knew that I should really get back to class but I figured why not and followed Michael down the stairwell and into the basement. We came to one of the old storage rooms. He pulled a key from his pocket, unlocked the door and walked in. I followed behind him, looking around me and taking everything in. There were no lights as we were walking further into the room. We had to go through yet another door and then Michael pulled a cord that turned on a light and revealed what must have been hundreds of photos. “Wow, did you take all of these?” I kept looking around me; there were pictures of animals and the sunset, a lady bug against a bright green leaf background.
“Yeah I did,” Michael replied as he worked with his camera.
“They are amazing Michael.”
“Thanks.” There were more pictures of kids laughing and playing in the park and beautiful flowers. Then there was one picture that left me speechless. Out of all the others, this one just made me smile; it brought back so many good memories from when I was younger. I just sat and stared at it for what seemed like forever. “You like this one don’t you?” Michael asked. The picture was of a swing set.
“I’ve always loved to swing,” I began. “The feeling of being almost weightless, feeling as though you are a bird flying, I just love that feeling, there is no other like it. And this picture just captures that, because while the swing is still you can just look at it and imagine yourself swinging, back and forth through the air.”
“I know what you mean; I actually took this picture for similar reasons. When I was younger, my mom would always take me to the park and push me on the swings but ever since she died I just can’t get myself to go on a swing.”
“I’m so sorry Michael.”
“It’s alright. We should probably get going though.” Michael locked up the room and we started walking to our classes. As we were walking there were a couple of the ‘popular’ guys just chillin’ in the hall. As we got closer one of them began saying some rude remarks towards Michael, calling him a nobody and a worthless piece of s***. Michael and I just ignored them and kept walking but one grabbed Michael’s arm and asked where he was going but Michael didn’t reply.
“Answer me when I ask you a question punk.”
“Just let him go Jim,” I said sternly, but it didn’t even seem to phase him.
“Well isn’t that cute, you need your little girlfriend here to fight your battles for you.”
“She isn’t my girlfriend,” Michael whispered softly.
“What did you say to me.” Jim took Michael and threw him up against the lockers.
“Jim stop!” I screamed as I grabbed Jim’s arm. In return he let Michael go but grabbed me and threw me to the ground. The last I remembered was hearing the footsteps of Jim and his friend running down the hall and feeling Michael kneel to my side.
“Somebody help!” Michael screamed.

* * *

“I’m here to see Grace Emerson; I’m a friend of hers.”
“Sure, room 237,” replied the nurse at the desk.
“Hello Michael, I’m so glad that you could come, I called you because I know that Grace would be so happy to see you. Not even a coma can come between such a special friendship like the one you two have, one that comes on so quick and so strong.” Mrs. Emerson was trying to lighten up the unpleasant mood that lingered in the room, she was normally good and turning a bad situation into something better but that was hard to do given this certain situation.
“Thank you Mrs. Emerson, how is she doing?”
“Well the doctor said that she is stable but she has yet to show signs of coming out of the coma. But Michael we were just about to go get something to eat but you are more than welcome to stay in here.” The whole Emerson family left the room leaving Michael and Grace. Michael walked over to the bed where Grace was peacefully laying. From behind his back he pulled the picture of the swing set and put it on the end table next to the bed and gently grabbed Grace’s hand.
“I brought your favorite picture for you; I thought that you would like to have it here, to make you feel better. Grace, I miss you.” Michael said with his head bowed down. A single tear rolled down from Michael’s eye and landed on the back of Grace’s hand. He lifted his head, looked at Grace and saw a smile on her face. At that point he knew that she could hear him and so repeating himself he said softly, I miss you.

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