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Cadie, Spelled C-A-D-I-E
“Your name is Katie right? My name is Katie too! Only it’s spelled C-A-D-I-E. A lot of people get that wrong. They think it is Caddy, like that movie. Caddyshack.” I stare, too surprised to respond, into the face of this gutsy brand new student in my fourth grade class at Oak Grove Elementary. She is a clone of me, down to the glasses dipping down onto the bridge of her nose and the thin brown hair pulled back into a pony tail. She is wearing a pair of the new Sketchers sneakers, the kind that light up with every step. My mother won’t let me have a pair of those.
“There are lots of Katie’s in this glass,” I reply when I find words. After months of being left alone by my classmates, I feel affronted by her outgoing energy.
“Well, I live at 96 Brick Street. And my mother said that you live at 24 Brick Street and that I should try to find you during school today so I would have someone that I at least know.” I am about to point out that we didn’t know each other, per se, when I remember that I have no friends to speak of. I begin to plot. Maybe if she starts to like me before the other kids tell her what a loser I am, I think, she will be my friend.
“I live there! You want to eat lunch with me?” I ask. She nods vigorously, shaking her wire rimmed glasses even farther down her nose. She pushes them back up with her index finger. “Where do you eat?” She asks, looking around for an empty table.
I lead her to a small table in the corner of the cafeteria where I usually eat; hoping that Briana or Destiny won’t notice the presence of a new girl. The two girls rule our school like Lenin and Trotsky. The table is off-center, and rocks when I sit down, making an irritating clip-clap sound when the table legs meet the floor tiles. My fingers trace the lettering scratched into the finish on the top. Y-O-U-R L-A-M-E and F-A-T-S-O. I try not to take these insults personally. Cadie sits down next to me, opening her lunch box and placing its contents on the table in a pyramid of nutrition. Her face is a study in concentration; her lips pursed in a thin line and her brow furrowed. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich comes first. I notice the crusts are cut off. Next comes an already peeled orange, then an oatmeal cookie, and finally an apple juice box. I smile to myself, wondering who she has at home making her lunches with such care. I begin picturing a quaint brunette woman, humming around the kitchen table as she prepares her daughters lunch. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a blonde girl with long braids approaching, snapping me out of my daydream. I groan. Oh no, it’s over. It was nice having a friend for five minutes but you better say your goodbyes now.
“Hey! Are you new here? What’s your name?” Briana asks Cadie. She is followed by Destiny, wearing the kind of tight low-rise jeans my mother would kill me if she saw me wearing. Her ears are pierced in two places. I want to be just like her, I think.
“I’m eating lunch with Katie! She lives on my road!” Cadie responds, enthusiastically. She isn’t aware of the trap she has fallen into. “Aren’t her glasses cool?”
I already know the answer, and I cringe as I wait for it. Cool! Ha, no. Glasses are for losers. Losers named Kate.
“Ha!” Briana laughs. Behind her I hear Destiny chortle. I study the engravings in the table as if they are ancient hieroglyphics. “I think they make her look dumb.”
“Four eyes!” Destiny yells from behind Briana. Four eyes, clever. But it still stings.
Cadie sits still, looking from Briana to Destiny, then Destiny to Briana. The smile has been wiped off her face, but she doesn’t look unfriendly. She has pursed her lips together, and when she opens her mouth it is only to close it again quickly. Finally, she says, “you know, that’s not a nice thing to say. And I wear glasses too.”
Briana and Destiny’s eyes widen, then become small slits. I’m quite sure they have never been challenged before.
“You can come sit at our table if you want.” Destiny says, looking over at Briana for approval. Briana nods.
But Cadie doesn’t. She squares her chin, and then says, “I don’t think I want to sit at a table where people are mean.” Then she bits into her sandwich with resolute forces and starts to tell me where she is from. Briana and Destiny stand rooted to the ground, suspended in time, then scurry back to their table.
After school, I run home as fast as I can. With each strode, my backpack bounces into the air and lands back down only to repeat the process. I slam open the door and yell to my mother to tell her about the new friend I made. She grabs me by the hand and dances me around the kitchen, celebrating this milestone in my social life. Then she picks up the phone and begins to dial the number of our new neighbor. Immediately, panic seizes me. I reach for the phone desperately.
“Mom, no! No, we just met, Mom she’s not going to want to hang out with me! Stop, don’t call her!” My mother laughs, its sound soft and light. She continues to call.
“Petra! Hi, it’s Sarah P. calling from up the street.” Pause. I am sitting on the hardwood floor, anxiously biting my nails down to the quick. “I was just wondering if you wanted to come over for dinner. We’re having pot roast!” Another pause. My mind goes over all the possible answers. No, we are busy tonight. Destiny’s mother is having us over for dinner. Maybe we can do it Friday night, because tomorrow night we are having dinner with Briana’s mother. And sorry, my daughter thinks your daughter is weird. So I think we will stay here for dinner, we have meatloaf. Thanks though!
“Great! See you at six tonight!” My mother clicks off the phone and bends down to look me in the eye. “You need to learn to lake control of situations, Kate. Cadie is coming over for dinner tonight, so why don’t you go clean your room and make it look nice for her.”
I spend the next three hours in my room, cleaning. I organize all my books alphabetically. I put all my clothes in their drawers, separated first by type of clothing and then by color. I fold all my undies into little balls the way my mother had shown me. I vacuum. I dust. I obsess. I want her to like me. When she finally knocks on my bedroom door, I am once more seized with panic. She will like you. Try not to act like a freak and she will not think you are a freak, I tell myself. Opening the doo, she bursts into the room with an energy only ten year old children have.
“Hi! I really like your room! Do you have any cool games we can play?” She asks me, not stopping to hear the answer. She bounces around my room like a ping pong ball – feeding my fish, looking in my closet, and then crawling under my bed. Uh oh.
“Hey! What’s this?” She holds in her hand a chicken egg, which I had tucked safely away under my bed. I freeze. I do not know what to say. I kept the egg there because, quite frankly, chicken obsessions were not cool. And harboring a fugitive chicken egg under one’s bed was definitely not cool. That’s it, I think, she liked me for a minute and now she’s going to hate me because she knows what a weird I am and I’m never going to have friends and I’ll probably die alone…
I struggle for words, but I know the situation is unsalvageable. I decide on the truth. “That’s a chicken egg. My dad knows this lady who owns a farm and she gave it to-“
“I LOVE CHICKENS!” She interrupts her face lighting up in an ear to ear smile. “You like chickens too?!”
I look at her, and mirror her bright smile. It is not because she knows I like chickens and doesn’t think I am weird. It’s not even because she likes chickens too. It’s because now I have someone to play with at recess, and someone to share my lunch with. It’s because now, I have a best friend.
The next day, I stand in the lunch line biting my nails. I can feel my heart pounding. Peeking around the head of the person in front of me, I strain to see the table where Cadie and I had sat the day before. Empty. Maybe she thought I was weird after all. I pay for my chocolate milk and walk to my table, dragging my feet. I can hear Destiny and Briana snort with laughter as I walk past them, alone.
Sitting down at my table, I find my fingers tracing the rough, crudely engraved words in the table. Fatso. Your lame. These insults are a welcome alternative to looking up and facing the gaze of my classmates. All of a sudden I hear footsteps.
“Hi…” Cadie says, with uncharacteristic shyness. “Can I sit here again? Do you mind?”
“Of course! I mean, no!” In my excitement, I stumble over my words. I can feel the heat rising to my face. “No… I don’t mind.”
Cadie gives me a small smile, then sits down and begins pulling out the contents of her lunch bag in methodical order. First, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with the crusts peeled off. Then an apple, followed by a chocolate chip cookie and orange juice. She looks up at me, takes a chomp out of her sandwich and smiles.
“So, do you think we can convince your dad to take us to that lady’s farm?”