Just BE YOU

Francine felt uncertain, “could she actually follow through with her list from yesterday?” Today it felt scary. “What if Jennifer had no desire to become friends? What if she could not find Amy? She couldn’t ignore the girls she didn’t like, but, she knew she did not want to hang out with them.”  Taking a deep breath while she stretched she remembered it was a journey, all she could do was her best. 

Getting out of bed she started to get dress. Unlike her brother, she preferred to shower at night, good thing, or they would fight over who got to go first. Putting on her jeans, she could hear her mom in the kitchen making the lunches and she guessed her breakfast too.  

Listening to her mom, she found herself really grateful that she was not alone in all the new feelings and thoughts. Her mom was also trying to figure out how to create change in her life. The magazine had opened up a part of her mom that Francine had never known. It was so cool! Her mom was really a good artist. 

“Hope you two are almost ready, only ten minutes before you need to hit the road,” called out Rita. 

Francine put on her sweater, for the mornings were still chilly. Picking up her heavy backpack she headed to the kitchen to make some quick breakfast. She didn’t know how her friends did it, not eating breakfast seemed crazy to her. 

As her mom hugged her goodbye for the day, she whispered in her ear, “The magazine is on the nightstand waiting for you.” 

“Thanks mom, see you tonight” Frank and Francine chimed together as they closed the door behind them. 

In the car Francine was unusually quiet. Frank asked her, “Are you okay? Normally you’re badgering me to let  you play your music.”

“Yeah, I’m okay. Just thinking about some stuff with school,” she answered.

“Like what,”  he inquired.

“Oh, it’s not any big deal, just some things with friends,” she shared. “Hey, what do you think about mom’s art,” she asked, hoping to shift the attention away from her, she was not ready to talk with Frank about all the things she was thinking about. 

“I think it’s really cool. I had no idea she loved it that much, or had the dream to be an artist,” he responded.

Pulling up to the school, Francine found herself relieved. She could head her direction, getting away from Frank’s probing questions.  

As she stepped from the car, she felt different, raw, exposed, unsure. “Could everyone see the changes,” her anxious mind wondered. “Just go to class, keep breathing, no one knows anything,” she coached herself.  

“Hi Francine,” a voice called out to her.  Francine felt her stomach lurch and her jaw tighten, it was Rosie,  the  last person she wanted to see. Yesterday she had decided not to message back to Rosie’s text. If she was going to be true to herself, she actually did not want anything to do with Rosie. This was going to be tough. 

“Hi Rosie,” she responded, looking at her. 

“Why didn’t you respond to my text yesterday,” asked Rosie.

“I was busy working on some things with my mom, sorry,” stated Francine in half truth. “Have a good day,” she offered as she walked toward her classroom. “Whew, that was a close call,”  she thought to herself. Once at her desk, she pulled out her notebook with the list on it from yesterday. Reading it again, she built up some courage to keep focused on what she wanted.  

Feeling someone sit down next to her, she closed the notebook and looked over. As though the magazine was helping her out, Jennifer was now sitting next to her. She had forgotten they were in this one class together. 

“Hi Jennifer, how are you,” she smiled at her. 

Jennifer looked over at Francine, smiled and stated,  “I’m good, thanks.”

“I was wondering if we might hang out later today,” asked Francine.

“Ummm,… yeah, I guess we can if our schedules work out. Why,” responded Jennifer.

“I’ve been thinking about some things that I wanted to ask you about, if that’s okay,” shared Francine.

“Good morning class, let’s get started with the reading assigned for today,” interrupted the teachers voice.

Francine wrote down her schedule and shared it with Jennifer to see if they might connect later in the day. Jennifer wrote on the edge of the paper that she could meet the last few minutes of lunch. Both of them kept looking up, hoping the teacher would not notice that they were passing a note back and forth. They agreed to meet outside the tech building. 

As the class ended, Francine thanked Jennifer, telling her she looked forward to getting together later. Walking to her next class, Francine reflected on how all this time they had been in the same class and she had never reached out to Jennifer. Of course Jennifer had never tried to do more with her either. As she thought about this, she found herself reacting, maybe Jennifer didn’t like her, what if she had no desire to be closer friends. Fear gurgled up, trying to take control of the story.  

Sitting down in her next class, she tried to remember all that she and the magazine had talked about. It asked her if she was happy. When she didn’t really know, they explored why. Thinking about her mom and going through life as she had, it helped her to push the fear away.  She did not want to go through life pretending. She did not want to do things just because others did or it felt like it was expected. Swallowing her fear, she again looked at the list feeling into why she wanted to do these things. 

At lunch time she could barely eat, even though her mom had packed one of her favorites.  She was nervous about meeting with Jennifer.  Standing with a group of her friends, well not really she thought, it was the normal group and Rosie was dominating the conversation as usual. She had not been listening or engaging, looking at her phone for the time, she happily stated, “I have to go, see you all later.”

Walking away quickly before anyone could ask anything, she headed to the tech building. Looking out the class doors she could see Jennifer. 

“Hi,” she smiled, as she approached Jennifer.

“Hi,” responded Jennifer.

“Thank you again for meeting me. I know we don’t have much time, so I’ll try to share quickly. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my friendships. I don’t really have friends that I trust, or really enjoy. I have friends that are in specific groups, but not ones I necessarily chose. Does that make sense,” she authentically shared. 

“Yeah, I get it. You’re in the popular group, which comes with a lot of pressure. It’s exactly why I have no desire to be a part of that group.  Some of those girls are really mean and egotistical,” offered Jennifer.

“I know and I don’t like it. I am not sure how to change it all, I just know that I want real friendships, with good people I enjoy. For some reason, I feel that you might be that kind of friend. Plus, you seem like someone who doesn’t care what others think, you stay true to you,” explained Francine.

“You’re right, I don’t care. If people don’t like me, that’s not my problem. High School is a short period of time, I have lots of things I enjoy and stuff I am working towards that are way more important,” presented Jennifer.

The bell interrupted their conversation, declaring that the lunch period was over.

Francine felt herself fidgeting, feeling unsure and exposed. Reaching out to someone was not comfortable, because she was popular, people always came to her, wanted to be her friend. Standing with Jennifer felt good, even if it was a bit awkward. Not wanting to lose the opportunity she blurted out, “Would you like to come over to my place after school on Wednesday? I’m at my mom’s which is really close, I can ask my brother if he will give you a ride home after we hang out.” 

To be continued… 22

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