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Hanging by a Thread of Friendship
“All right, let’s have a bathroom break guys,” Mrs. Block declares. Our class stands up from our seats, get in line, and walk down the hall like proper fifth graders should: Straight line and silent. The seven of us girls head for the bathroom.
“So what do you guys wanna do during recess?” Rachel asks, jumping to the stall ledge.
“I don’t know really,” Maggie replies, copying Rachel’s actions.
“What about tag?” Rahel suggests while washing her hands.
“No, I don’t want to play,” Maggie says. She removes herself from the wall and enters the first stall. I take the spot beside Rachel. Rachel smiles at me and continue her jumping and hanging. She has to jump to reach the ledge, I think to myself. What do I have to do to get up there? I’m a good four inches shorter than Rachel. If it’s a challenge for Rachel, then it’s gonna be close to impossible for me. But, I’m still going to try. All it takes is muscle power to shoot me up there and hold on.
First jump: the tips of my fingers barely touch the edge. Second jump: I manage to reach it, but lose my grip. I fall to the tile floor, barely landing on my feet. Third jump: oh, forget this. I grab the small, green stool under the sink. It’s supposed to be used by kindergarteners so they can reach the sinks, but for now, it’s gonna serve me a higher purpose. The other girls giggle at my antics.
“Oh, shut up, you, guys,” I tell them. I place the stool by the base of the wall and hop on. Even with the help of the stool, I’m still too short. I rise to the tip of my toes and latch on. I grin and kick the stool away with my feet.
“Good job, Guila,” Marcela comments. I strengthen my grip and try to do some pull ups. I stop, scared of falling. Seconds later, Marlena walks in.
“You guys shouldn’t be hanging like that,” she says, “You could get in trouble.” Rachel and I brush off her warning and continue to hang. Mrs. Block calls us back and we exit the bathroom. Our group gets in line, Marlena up front with Mrs. Block, and the six of us behind the boys. Marlena and Mrs. Block are discussing something, but I dismiss it and go back to the heated debate of whether or not Warriors could beat Harry Potter. Class starts again and I make my way over to my seat. But I never get the chance to sit.
“Miss Rachel, Guila, will you please come with me? The rest of you go read “El Sombrero” from your big Harcourt book,” Mrs. Block commands. Rachel and I give each other questioning looks. What is going on? Are we in trouble? I follow Mrs. Block out the door to the hallway. Once the door closes, Mrs. Block turns to us with an angry expression on her face.
“What do you guys have to say for yourselves?” Mrs. Block demands. My eyebrows crunch together. Say for ourselves? What did we do wrong? I ask myself. Sensing our confusion Mrs. Block explains, “Hanging in the bathroom stalls is not allowed.” I don’t get it. How is hanging in the stalls wrong? And how did she find out in the first place? Then it clicks. Marlena tattled on us. Why would she do that? I keep my head down to hide my anger. Isn’t it that friends stick together? Why would she do this to us? I haven’t been listening to Mrs. Block, but Rachel has. She starts to sniffle quietly beside me. Is what we did that bad? I mean, yes our school has some strict rules, but this is insane!
“And both of you will see Deacon Brooks at lunch today.” I freeze in shock. No, please, not that. I want to tell her. Rachel’s sniffles turns into sobs. My eyes start to water, but I stop blinking to dry them. I will not cry. I have to be strong. But not even my willpower can stop the lump in my throat from threatening to break me down. The three of us quietly enter the classroom. Maggie, Rahel, Jessica, and Marcela try to comfort us as soon as we’re close enough to hear their whispery words of assurance. I pat Rachel’s back in what I hope is a comforting gesture and take my seat by the window.
My head buzzes with thoughts of what might happen during lunch. My portrait image of Deacon Brooks turns from happy bunnies to a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Deacon Brooks used to be this fun and happy guy. When I think of him, I can’t help but think of smiley face, rainbows, and unicorns. But now, I see him with his teeth bared, angry grizzly bear eyes, and standing in the middle of a burning building.
Forty-five minutes whiz by me as I conjure up possible dark tortures that will be my punishment. The classroom is quiet. Only the turning of pages can be heard. Rachel’s crying has quieted down. She’s one of the strongest among our little group. To see her cry feels like I’m in a different world.
“I expect Chapter 18’s work pages done by tomorrow,” Mrs. Block says, breaking the silence. She motions for Rachel and me to follow her to the Hallway of Punishment. Rachel and I stand side-by-side while Mrs. Block looks down on us. Rachel’s shoulder shakes as she tries her best to hold in her cries. Her eyes are red and bloodshot, and her nose is red as well from wiping it so many times. The lump in my throat is back.
“You’re not going to see Deacon Brooks,” Mrs. Block announces. Rachel and I look up at her in surprise. I let a sigh of relief and Rachel cries tears of joy. We stand in the hallway in silence before Mrs. Block says, “But I hope you’ve learned your lesson to never do it again.” We both nod our heads. Oh thank goodness! For a second there, I thought I was a goner.
The three of us walk back into the room with smiles on our faces. Lunch that day is tense. The gap that appeared between us and Marlena widens, threatening to push us into a deep pit of unwanted hate. It isn’t until after the weekend that the gap shrinks form being a sea, to a lake, then a pond, the finally to nothing but dehydrated dirt. To this day the seven of us, Rachel, Maggie, Marcela, Jessica, Marlena, Rahel, and I, are still the best of friends. Though sometimes that dry dirt fills up with water, the burning sun always manages to evaporate the churning waters of destruction.