September hung in the air. The leaves were just beginning to get the very beginning of reds and golds. School had started a few weeks previously.
“See you tomorrow!” I called to my two best friends on the volleyball team as I slung my backpack over my shoulder and walked out of the gym. We’d all just made varsity and were ready for a great season. Of course, the season would be considered great if we won more than a single game
Our school had about 40 kids per grade and as such, we didn’t have as many people to make good volleyball team. But we were all loyal to each other and over half of us had been playing on that team since we were in the fifth grade. Now as eighth graders, we ruled the team and the school. I’d been at this school since I was three years old. This was my final year. I could barely wrap my head around the idea that I would have to leave for high school. As it turned out, I’d have to wrap my head around it pretty quickly.
I hopped into the front seat of my mom’s car, my twin sister in the back. After the usual questions about my day, my mom turned to me.
“Nicole, I have some good news.”
My stomach immediately dropped. I didn’t know what she was about to say, and I certainly didn’t expect what I heard, but I knew something was up. I could hear it in her voice.
“What?” I asked, apprehensive.
“You just got into Grand Mountain.”
I didn’t think my stomach could drop farther, but it did. It dropped right down to my feet, splashing my innards and making me a little nauseous.
“What?” I repeated in a significantly louder voice, this time incredulous.
“You got in.”
“For next year?”
“No. For eighth grade.”
I couldn’t believe it. What was my mom telling me? My head was moving slowly. My heart started to beat with the ferocity of a huge drum. Thrum. Thrum. Thrum.
“So, what do you mean?”
“You got into Grand Mountain.”
“When would I start?”
I expected a week to say goodbye to my old school. I’d been there for ten years, after all.
“The district wants a response tonight. You would probably start either on Thursday or Friday.”
My mind was deceiving me. This had to be wrong. This couldn’t be. But, deep in the pit of my gut, I knew it was true. I knew I’d be going. And I knew I’d stay at Grand Mountain.
Grand Mountain is the best school in the state, number 34 in the country. My sister, Ella, and I really wanted to get in for high school. We’d been trying to get in since fifth grade. But not middle school. I wanted finish middle school at the school I was currently at.
I had five great friends at my school. I had several great teachers. I’d built up relationships for years there. I’d had a really rough time in sixth and seventh grade. I was ready for the much calmer year eighth grade promised. I’d been cheated. Why did this happen?
“Do you want to text your dad? Ask him to come over? We can talk this over. This is a big decision.” My mom looked sympathetic.
“What decision?” I asked numbly.
“The decision if you’re going to go to Grand Mountain or stay at your current school.”
I knew there wasn’t really a decision. I knew I was going to end up at Grand Mountain. And stay there. And leave my friends. And my teachers.
“What happens if I decide to stay at my current school?”
“Then they move you to the bottom of the waitlist. You won’t get in for high school.”
That sealed it. I knew what my future had in store for me. It was so drastically different than the future I saw merely ten minutes earlier.
“Yeah. I’ll text Dad.” I murmured.
Later, when my dad arrived at my house. I felt numb.
I was perusing the Grand Mountain website. Smiling faces of kids all happy to be going to that school stared up at me from the screen of my laptop. I did not feel like smiling
“You know, Nicole, we are so proud of you.” My dad smiled and gave me a big hug. I managed a very weak, forced smile. Then my mom, my dad, and I sat down at the dining room table.
“You don’t have to do this,” my mom gently reminded me.
“That’s not true!” my twin sister burst in from the other room. “We all know she’s going to Grand Mountain! Am I the only one who is freaking out? Nicole, what about your friends? What about your teachers? Why are you not terrified?”
“Ella, why are you freaking out?” My mom stood up and walked over to her.
The exchanged a few quiet words and my mom led her to the other room.
I was terrified. No part of me wanted to be in the position that I was in. I wanted to be going to my normal school tomorrow, without the knowledge that it would be my last day.
“If you’re not happy, you can always go back. I called the school. They said they’ll hold your spot. If you're not happy in, say a month, you can go back.”
“Ok,” I replied weakly. I wanted to go back, oh I wanted to. But I knew I would never go back.
We talked a little more. We decided that the next day would be my last day at my old school, Thursday I would go in and meet the school counselor, get my schedule and get my questions answered, and Friday would be my first day at Grand Mountain.
My dad got up to leave. He gave me another hug and repeated the same message about being proud of me. But I could barely hear him. I wanted to cry. I wanted to shout. I wanted to scream about how it wasn’t fair. But I just stayed silent. I sat there and didn’t say a word.
“Nicole, how are you going to tell your friends?” My mom gently asked from the other room.
“I guess I should text them.” My voice came out soft and raspy.
I pulled my phone out and sent the following text to my five best friends:
Guys, there’s something I need to tell you and I swear I’m not joking. I just got into Grand Mountain and I’ll probably start this Friday. Tomorrow is my last day. I’m in shock.
They responded with appropriate sadness. We’d been friends for a long time. I’d been the one to make the group. I was the unofficial leader. I was the first member. I was the first one to join the school. And now, I was the first to leave.
I came so close to crying. I could feel the lump in my throat. But I didn’t let a tear fall.
My mom then let me watch TV until it was time for me to go to sleep. We had dinner in front of the television, a rarity for us. But the food was tasteless. The television was meaningless. I was in shock.
“You should go to sleep now,” my mom gently reminded me at about 10:15.
“It’s been about five hours since I found out,” I whispered.
“I know,” she replied and gave me a big hug.
I have no idea how I got any sleep that night. My head was swirling with thoughts of my old school, my future school, my friends, my past, my present, my future.
But I did manage to fall asleep.
And I managed to get through my last day at a school I’d been at for ten years.
And I managed to get through my first day at Grand Mountain.
And my second.
And my third.
I’ve been at Grand Mountain for five weeks now. And it’s getting better. I’ve settled in. I’ve made friends. Some days, I feel like I’m starting to make a home for myself. Then there are other days that I want nothing more than to go back. And I get through each day.
I miss my friends.
I miss my teachers.
I miss my school.
Transferring is hard.