Jessica’s Gift

January 27, 2008
By Elizabeth Mack, Elgin, IL

I remember walking single-file through the long, narrow hallways and into the freezing cold gymnasium. The distinct odor of ancient gym socks stunk up the air and goose bumps covered my skin. I shivered and reluctantly joined the stampede in running our daily six laps. I was in the seventh grade; due to small classes at our parochial school, we were with the eighth graders for many periods of the day. Dreaded gym was one of those periods.

That morning, we were all lounging around on the floor waiting for our PE teacher to finish picking teams and captains. My small group of friends, Molly, Christy, and Emma, gathered around me and we started joking around. All four of us were the underdogs; we didn’t fit in. I was shy, quiet, sensitive, and had no other friends. I was trapped in a shell. Worst, I was picked on and gossiped about daily, and had no idea how to defend myself.

We made silly comments and told jokes. At first, it was fun and we all enjoyed our time together. However, as time wore on, the “jokes” made by Christy and Emma became harmful pokes and jabs, with the intention of hurting. It came to the point where they were getting in my face about everything, rapidly tearing me apart.

“Why do you even bother wearing makeup?” Christy asked. “It only makes you look weirder. You’re not pretty; even with it on.”

“Yeah,” Emma agreed. “And your clothes are terrible. Your pants look like gangster pants! Why do you dress like that?”

“She’s just weird,” Christy announced. “I bet she’s just trying to fit in. It’s stupid to even try, Elizabeth. Number one, why do you want to? They’re all dumb. And number two, you will NEVER fit in! Everyone agrees with us. You’re just weird!”

Molly and I tried to fight back, but it did no good. They wouldn’t give up and nothing we said seemed to faze them. My face turned beet red and Molly stared hopelessly down at the floor. I had no idea of what to do. Why did my friends act this way?

Jessica, the most popular student in school, was sitting but a few feet away, watching it all. She was in eighth grade, and was pretty, smart, athletic, musical, outgoing, energetic, and charismatic. I admired her as someone I always wanted to be like. However, until now, Jessica didn’t appear to acknowledge my existence.
She glared at Christy, her dark eyes narrowing and her expression threatening. “What do you think you’re doing?” she asked, ready to fight. “Go on; tell me anything you dared to tell her.”
Christy just sat there, a sassy, mocking look painted all over her face. “Bla, bla, bla!” she mimicked, giggling with Emma by her side.
“Excuse me?” Jessica asked. “What did you just say to me?”

The argument seemed to last much longer than it really did. By the time Jessica finally concluded their quarrel, gym class had barely even started!

I watched as Christy and Emma angrily walked away, whispering and giggling amongst themselves. Jessica waited until they were gone, and then shifted her gaze over at me, motioning for me to come and sit by her. When I reluctantly refused to budge, she crawled over to me.

“Why do you let Christy and Emma push you around like that?” She asked, a concerned expression on her face.

“I don’t know,” I mumbled. “I guess I just considered them my friends.”

“Friends?” Jessica exclaimed. “Friends? Are you kidding me? Do you see my friends treat me like that?”

“No,” I replied. “But what can I do?”

“Try sticking up for yourself,” she answered.

“How?” I asked.
“Tell you what.” Jessica replied. “I’ll be your bodyguard. If Christy and Emma criticize and put you down about anything, I’ll take care of it. They will not continue treating you like dirt.”

“But what if they don’t listen to you?” I questioned.

Jessica giggled, amused. “They will,” she assured me. “They will. And if they don’t, they’ll learn to. Trust me.”

Jessica stood up and I stayed seated. “Come on,” she said, motioning for me to get up. “Mr. K finished dividing everyone up. I’m the captain and you’re on my team. Let’s go, best friend.”

We jogged across the gymnasium and joined our team. Despite the fact many of her cool friends were also on our team, she wasn’t afraid to cheer and encourage me. She talked to me much of the time and didn’t seem to care about what her friends thought.

Jessica and I talked more after that, mainly at handbell practice every Wednesday after school. She always stood up and defended me when I was getting bullied, and I would observe her, learning for myself. I felt free to ask her questions about anything I wanted to know, from homework to the latest news around school. She gave me advice whenever I asked for it and she always seemed to be concerned about me. I grew to trust her immensely; it came to the point where I’d tell her almost anything that went on in my life, school and home.

As the year flew by, I overcame my shyness and became impressively good at sticking up for myself. Jessica’s job as my bodyguard soon diminished and people learned not to mess with me. I befriended nearly every girl in my class; I was a social butterfly, traveling from clique to clique, group to group. With Jessica’s help, I broke out of my shell.

Jessica taught me how to do my makeup flawlessly and she did it for me until I was a pro at it myself. She instructed me which stores to shop at for the coolest, trendiest clothes, and she updated me on all the latest, cool music. Jessica got me into the habit of walking straight and tall and she gave me all kinds of tips on how to do my hair. Plus, she hooked me up with my very first boyfriend. I became popular, but none of that changed who I was inside.

It was the last day of school and had been drizzling for days. At exactly ten o’clock, the dismissal bell rang, loud enough to wake the dead. I put my last few school supplies inside my backpack and walked downstairs towards the main exit. There I spotted Jessica for the last time. She smiled and waved good-bye to me within the mob of people. I waved back, pondering memories of everything we had done together. I knew that chances of me forgetting any of it were slim to none.

The time is drawing near for my graduation. I haven’t seen Jessica since last year and I think of her often. She opened the door to a variety of things, the most important bring love. I learned not to focus on myself and what others think of me, but to focus on others, caring and doing favors for them. I also learned to be myself and to stick up for what I believe in, shrugging my shoulders at what others think. This year as gone by quickly; I’ve sorted out all her tips and advice, putting them into action during everyday situations. My popularity has continued to increase, not because I’m mean and threatening, but because I’m caring and always available to help. Thank you, Jessica, for everything.

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This article has 3 comments.

Joyce P. said...
on Sep. 5 2008 at 7:41 pm
What a wonderful lesson on life!!! Elizabeth found Christmas every day of her life by giving of herself to others! Christ is in her heart and her life shall always be up there!!!!!!

auntieomaha said...
on Sep. 5 2008 at 4:44 pm
Very well written and descriptive story. Heartbreaking if this is autobiographical. Makes me glad I'm not in Junior High/High School anymore. Keep up the excellent work. Only negative comment is just the presence of two typos in last paragraph.

Moccafix said...
on Sep. 4 2008 at 1:15 pm
A well written story. Has heart and shows life experiences with positive outcomes. One spelling error that I noticed: last para, third sentance, 'bring' should be 'being'. Keep up the fine work. I'd like to read more from Elizabeth M.


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