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I was nine when I signed into my first chat room. Let me tell you though, it sure felt great. For me this was dangerous; for me this was rebelling. All my life, my parents would sit me down and make me watch these horrible newscasts about these girls, just like me, being kidnapped by internet predators or pulled into someone’s van or shot or something. All because they were never careful in chat rooms, and the thirteen-year old girl they were talking to was really some 45-year old sicko with a computer. It was funny to imagine though. My face being broadcasted on the news, cameras showing some actress playing me on her computer, tap, tap, tapping away. All while some narrator told my story. And then the newscast would be over, and they would move on. My parents warned me about things like that. They warned me. I didn’t listen though, and this would change my life.
Now wait, if you think this is another story about some girl being kidnapped and abused horribly, think again. If that were true, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here right now. I don’t want to creep you out. I just want to tell you about Danie. The best thing that has ever happened to me.
I met Danie when I was twelve. I logged onto my favorite chat website and started walking my little pixel-person around. Talking to random people, minding my own business, I was safe. I clicked open a new room and there was this little girl. Well, a pixel person of a girl, with the sad crying face above her head.
“What’s wrong?” I typed out, moving my pixel to stand in front of hers. She told me her boyfriend broke up with her.
“Awwww, I’m sorry,” I typed back, adding a sad face to the end of my entry. She told me not to be, because he was a jerk.
“I’m Claire,” she said, this time adding a smile. I gave her my fake-online name, Bella. She asked me if I wanted to have some fun. I told her “Sure”. So she led me to her ex-boyfriends pixel bedroom, and we messed it up writing funny messages on the post-its on the walls and moving the furniture in weird places. When she had to log off, she told me she was sixteen. Not wanting to look like a total loser, I told her I was fifteen. She seemed perfectly fine with this, so we became friends.
Months passed, and pretty soon Claire had become my best friend. We told each other everything. I told her about the troubles with my friends, my parents, and my life. And she always listened and gave me her wise, experienced sixteen-year old advice. This is why I was surprised when she asked me for my advice. I logged on one day, and saw her pixels face flash on my buddy list, meaning she was on-line.
“Hey Claire, what’s up?” I typed out.
“Bella, I need to talk to you,” she answered back. So we met in her pixel room, and she told me she wasn’t really sixteen. She was born in 1996. Eleven years old. She told me she was so, so, sorry for lying to me. That I didn’t deserve to be lied to, that I was a great person. Then she told me about her dad.
Claire hadn’t seen her father for five months. He couldn’t even talk to her. Her dad had come home drunk one day and threatened her mother. So Claire called the police, and he hadn’t been allowed near them since.
I had nothing to say. I mean, what could I say? Here was the girl that had lifted me up all this time. Helped me through so much, and I had nothing to say to her. Bella, however, had other plans.
“…Oh Claire….” I typed out. Like, “Poor pitiful you.” I realized I had made a mistake; I didn’t want my best friend to hate me! But she didn’t hate me, there was just this long awkward pause, and then she answered.
“Call me Danie,” she answered. “My real name is Danie.” I told her my real name in return. I told her I was twelve. She didn’t seem to care that I had lied to her, though. What she did next surprised me. She gave me her telephone number and told me she lived in Warsaw, New York. I didn’t need to respond; all I did was punch the digits into my phone and press “Talk.”
I didn’t know what to expect on the other line of the phone. Maybe it was the police or my parents, about to give me the lecture of a lifetime on internet predators. They would tell me how stupid I was for falling for it. They would tell me how lucky I was that it was just them.
I hung up on just the second ring, then wondered if it were a *real* internet predator. She would have my phone number! It could also be my friend, the girl I’ve known and trusted for months now. So I dialed star sixty-seven before her number which would prevent my number from coming up on her caller I.D. It rang once, it rang twice, and then I heard a soft click on the other end. Someone had picked up the phone.
“Danie…?” I asked into the phone. “Is that really you…?”
There was silence and then I heard her call my name into the phone. But it wasn’t the voice of a policeman or a predator. It wasn’t the voice of my mom. It was a girl’s voice, she sounded about my age, and she had a slight accent, like a New York and a southern accent mixed up.
Then, I heard a sob and then another. Until I was crying too, Danie was on the phone with me! Danie! I guess we were just so happy to talk at last. She told me she missed her dad; she wanted to talk to him. So I agreed. I hung up on her. My insides were soaring until I realized I would be breaking the law.
She was forbidden by the court to have any contact with her father whatsoever. I didn’t care though. This was my friend, and I wanted her to be happy, so I dialed her dad’s number and explained everything. He sounded kind, exactly like a dad should sound. He told me he missed his Danie-girl. So we set up a little system of talking.
He would text me. I would forward that text to Danie, and Danie would send her response to me. I would then forward it back to him. It was flawless.
I saw how much of an effect I had. Danie and her dad seemed so happy. They even realized that her mom had been lying to both of them. When a court date was set up, he won, being able to tell what really happened. This was all because he could talk to his daughter through me. They now see each other every weekend. I still get constant messages from her dad, not to talk to his daughter but to talk to me. We talk about how Danie’s doing, we talk about life and what made us happy that day. And Danie? Well, Danie’s still my best friend. A day doesn’t go by when we don’t talk to each other (unless of course, our mothers take our phones away as punishment). We tell each other everything, and her great sense of humor keeps me smiling throughout my day.
I’ve learned to do what YOU think is best. What you know in your heart is the right thing to do, even if it isn’t the smartest thing, to live without any regrets and to live my life happily. I know disobeying my parents isn’t right, but I also know that listening to myself is. Danie helped me realize this. For that, I’ll always be grateful. I promised we would always be friends. If I keep my promise, I’ll still know her when I’m seventeen. So, I plan to take the eight-hour drive to visit her in a little town called Warsaw, New York.