Chapter 3 - Thank You For Being a Friend
“Thank you for being a friend / Traveled down a road and back again / Your heart is true, you’re a pal and a confidant” – Thank You for Being a Friend, Andrew Gold
I learned about each of the different characters in this group of friends. Diana is an overachieving academic who wants to go to MIT and become a doctor and do research for a cure to diabetes but also loves biking, running, and hiking. Teddy is a musician that loves guitar and piano but is aspiring to become a marine biologist. George is a hockey player, hoping to get a scholarship, but is also a mechanic. Lincoln, a very attractive, pale blue-eyed guy with blonde spiked hair, is an academic like Diana, but his subjects are History and English. He wants to go on to become a professor one day. Eleanor is a firecracker, good at any sport you ask her to play, and a whiz when it comes to computers. And finally, Sarah, a striking girl with long wavy red hair and eyes to match, is an artist, watercolour painting being her favourite, with a love of everything that was to do with the outdoors, camping, climbing, hiking. Anything.
“So why did you come to East Side?” Lincoln asks.
This was the question I was dreading, but I knew would come up at some point. “I just had some issues at West Side and ended up transferring here,” I say, “My sister transferred with me, she’s in Grade 9.”
“Don’t feel the need to go into detail with us,” Teddy says and I am grateful.
“Lincoln is taking Ancient History as well,” Diana says as the bell rings to signal lunch is over.
“I can meet you at your locker and walk you over if you want?” Lincoln says.
“That’s nice of you,” I say, surprised by this immediate kindness from someone I’ve only just met.
“No problem,” Lincoln says, “I’m just glad to finally be able to converse with someone that likes history as much as I do. None of these guys will take it with me.”
“Because it’s boring, Lincoln,” Sarah says and then smiles at him. “It’s in the past.”
“I’m not having this argument again,” Lincoln says and turns to me. “Your locker is next to Diana’s?” I nod. “Kay, I’ll just go grab my things and meet you there.”
“Thank you, Lincoln, I appreciate it,” I say.
“Just don’t bore her too much with all your history knowledge,” Sarah says, “We would like to keep her as a friend.”
Lincoln rolls his eyes. “I’ll see you soon,” he says to me and walks away.
“You have a great group of friends,” I say to Diana when we are at our lockers.
“They are pretty great,” Diana says. “We are kind of a mix of everything in the group; athletes, academics, and artists. No obsessiveness with looking perfect and being popular and no drugs either, a perfect balance. It’d be nice to add another girl to the group. Can finally outnumber them!”
“Thank you for being so welcoming to me,” I say, “I was nervous about coming here, what with being from West Side Academy.”
“People are definitely going to have some things to say about it, but it doesn’t matter to us,” Diana says, “As long as you are nice, we have room for you in our group.”
“That means a lot to me, thank you again,” I say.
And as promised, Lincoln is at our lockers with a kind smile on his face. “Ready?” he asks.
“Yup!” I say, “Thank you again.”
“No problem,” Lincoln says. “See you in English, Diana.”
“So how do you like East Side so far?” Lincoln asks as we walk to class.
“Definitely a change. But you guys have made the transition easier,” I say.
“Glad to hear it,” Lincoln says. “I watched you at the finals last year as well. I thought you were really good too. I watched you the year before as well and knew East Side would have its work cut out for them with you against them.”
“Thanks,” I say.
“Are you worried at all?” Lincoln asks, reading my mind.
“West Side and East Side have always been rivals. And people know of me here,” I say, “I don’t think everyone will be as nice to me as you and your friends.”
“Fuck ’em,” Lincoln says.
“Excuse me?” I say surprised. Isn’t this guy wanting to become a professor?
“You seem nice and this whole West Side versus East Side rivalry is just about pitting the jocks against each other and putting them up on a pedestal. As if they didn’t have enough of a reason to think so highly of themselves.” Lincoln says. I raise an eyebrow at him. “Of course, I don’t mean anything against you, Arya. You are smart and kind and just so happen to be a very talented athlete. You are not one of these jock meatheads.”
“They’re not all meatheads. And how can you make that observation of me, you barely know me,” I say.
“I’m pretty good at reading people actually,” Lincoln says. “I’m the one everyone in the group comes to when they want to date someone to get my opinion.”
“You provide approval?” I ask.
“Something like that,” Lincoln says. “Here’s the class. Mr. Lupin is great, you’ll like him.”
Ancient History goes over well with no conflict. Lincoln was right. Mr. Lupin is a great teacher. Lincoln was like another shield in that class, but I could still feel the stares and could hear the whispers. My first day finally ended in English class with Lincoln, Teddy, Diana, and George all there as well. And when the last bell rang, I was so grateful to go back to my locker and head home.
“We do a board game night every Friday at my house, you should join us!” Diana says at our lockers.
“I’d love to,” I say.
“Great!” Diana says, “It’s kind of hard for us all to hang out during the week with all our different schedules and getting homework done, but we always hang out on Friday night unless something major comes up. They have public skating at the rink Tuesday nights if you want to join Sarah, Eleanor, and I.”
“I’ll be there,” I say. I am in no position to deny any friendship and if I can stay in Diana’s group then I may just be able to enjoy my time at East Side. And stay out of the spotlight.
“When the weather starts getting better, we can go biking and hiking as well,” Diana says while packing her bag. “Are you taking the bus?”
“My mom is going to pick my sister and me up, just for today though, after that we’ll be taking the bus,” I say.
“Great!” Diana says. “Well I’ve got to run before I miss my bus, but I’ll see you tomorrow!” I wave as she leaves me.
As I finish packing my bag, I head downstairs to try and find Mia. I made sure to take my time to ensure that at least most of the students had left. I was grateful that I found her easily. “Hey!” I call out.
“Hey!” Mia says.
“How was the first day?” I ask.
“Pretty good actually,” Mia says, “Teachers are okay, and people have been nice so far.” Because you are the shiny new object, Mia. Something new for them to play with and you can be anyone you want to be. Not like me, you didn’t have enough time at West Side to truly become one of them. They don’t see you as a West Sider, and for that, I am truly grateful. Mia doesn’t deserve the stares and whispers. She deserves a normal high school experience.
“Glad to hear it,” I say.
“What about you?” Mia asks.
“I met some nice people. I think I might be able to survive this school if I can stay in their group,” I say.
“Look at you! Making friends already,” Mia says, “I told you it would be fine.”
“It’s only the first day,” I say, “I’m just glad everyone was nice to you. I saw you at lunch and you seemed to be enjoying yourself.”
“Change is good sometimes,” Mia says, “Even if it’s not the change you want.”
“Enough with the philosophical lesson. Let’s get out of here,” I say.
As we head towards the doors to exit the building, we walk by the gym and the change rooms. I see several girls walk out, clearly on the volleyball team, heading to the gym for practice. I see Lisa, with her hair in the tightest and highest ponytail and booty shorts that look like underwear, lead the pack and she just walks straight by us without even giving us a second glance.