I hesitantly entered the sixth grade hall. I tightened my grip on my book bag and vaguely noticed a few groups of people had stopped to gape at me. One girl in particular, Jaycey*, blocked my path.
“Hi, Kelsey,” she said, keeping her distance from me as if I’d lash out at any given moment. An eruption of giggles from her friends caused her to look back and shoot them a look. She whirled back to me, narrowing her eyes as she smacked on her minty gum. “So, uhhh...how was your summer?”
I swallowed hard. ”It was great!” I faked enthusiasm.
Jaycey stepped closer to me, and said in a low voice, “We all know what happened with you and Evelyn, Mary-Beth and Leigh. They never really liked you, anyway.” She snickered, stepping back. “Neither did we.”
I hung my head, allowing Jaycey’s voice to fill my ears. “They never really liked you, anyway. Neither did we.”
That summer, everything changed for me. I had lost everything: my popularity status, my so-called best friends, my sassy spunk.
Later that day, while I stood lonesome in the cafeteria, I felt a finger tap my shoulder. I turned around and came face to face with Evelyn. Behind her stood Mary-Beth and Leigh.
“Kelsey, you really hurt me by how you acted,” Evelyn snapped. “You practically said, ‘Let’s not be friends.’ People just don’t do things like that, Kelsey.”
“Whatever,” I said, my voice wavering. My eyes stung. “You’re the one who always left me out.”
Evelyn snickered. “Kelsey, we’ll forget what happened,” she said. “I’ll snap my fingers and all will be forgotten. What do you say?”
“No,” I said, my voice strong. I turned and began to walk away.
She grabbed my arm and growled, “You’re making a mistake, Kelsey. You’ll be a nobody without me in your life. A NOBODY.”
I spun around and faced her. “I’d rather be friendless then have so-called ‘friends’ who gossip about me and hurt me just to gain self-confidence. Good luck in finding your next victim.”
I now understand, deep within my heart, that I’ll never be the popular, talented girl everyone envies. I know, without a doubt, that I’ll never be anything but me.
Kelsey Barcomb is a freshman at Gadsden City High School in Gadsden, Ala. Kelsey won $100 for her story. Read the full story, and submit your own, at nextSTEPmag.com/ShoutOut.
* Names of others changed.