I raced across the field, grinning, and stopped short just before colliding with Lily. She screamed, giggling, and darted to the side. I chased her, laughing, and Lily turned and began running in the opposite direction. I caught up to her and took hold of her sweater.
“Laura, you idiot!” Lily shouted, laughing as she pried my fingers off of her sweater.
“Okay, okay, I’ll stop!” I gasped, grinning widely at her.
“Seriously, Laura.” Lily complained, staring at me stonily. I widened my eyes and pouted until a smile spread across Lily’s face. We burst into giggles at the same moment.
“Oh my gosh Laura I can’t take you seriously. You look so weird with those puppy-dog eyes!” Lily exclaimed breathlessly, wiping tears from her eyes.
“I love that I can make you laugh so easily.” I teased her.
“I know, it’s horrible. I can’t keep a straight face.” Lily laughed again.
“So, what’s up with you?” I asked once we both regained our composure.
“Not much, really. Nothing new is happening. Anything with you?” Lily asked.
“Nothing, just school, really. There’s so much more homework in high school!” I mock-complained, smiling. Lily nodded seriously.
“Oh my gosh, yes!” Lily sighed dramatically. “The teachers give you assignments due in two days, and there are like three tests a week!”
“I know! It’s crazy!” I exclaimed in agreement, nodding. “Very different from middle school.”
“Very.” Lily nodded her head vigorously.
“So nothing new with people? Like, relationships…” Lily prompted.
“Mmmm, nope, nothing new, really.” I replied slowly, shaking my head. “I don’t really talk to many people who we used to go to school with.”
“Yeah, neither do I.” Lily sighed. “They’re just so stuck-up, you know? Very superficial and rude and popularity-obsessed. They only care about themselves.”
“Yep.” I agreed soberly, recalling visions of past recesses and classroom experiences.
“All they do is talk about other people.” Lily went on, making a face.
“Yeah, I can’t stand people who gossip. I can’t be friends with someone who is just going to talk about me behind my back. There’s no trust. If I can’t trust you with what I tell you, then how can I be your friend?” I ranted, getting worked up.
“I know!” Lily exploded, and then was quiet for a moment. “Laura, when we talk about our old friends and what they’re doing, we’re not gossiping, are we? We’re not just as bad as…”
“No.” I said with conviction. “We are not just as bad as her-“
“Because have you ever thought that that’s kind of what we do, too?” Lily interrupted, sounding uncertain.
“Lily, no. I have thought about it, and it’s not what we do. It’s not what we do at all. When we talk, first of all, it never goes anywhere else. What is spoken between us stays between us. We don’t spread it around. Secondly, you talk to me about other people when you feel upset, or when you need someone to talk to. We don’t talk about other people to make fun of them. And third, we don’t tell other people’s secrets. I may tell you something someone said that upset me to get it out of my system, but I don’t tell you random stuff I’ve heard about them, or secrets anyone has told me. We are not like them, Lily. We are better than them.”
Lily seemed reassured by the fierceness in my voice.
“You’re right.” Lily said, sounding bolder. “We are better than them. I don’t tell your secrets, and you don’t tell mine.”
“And I don’t tell anyone else’s, either.” I added, glancing out at the street.
“I’m so happy that I have you as a friend, Laura.” Lily gushed, hugging me.
“I’m lucky to have you as a friend, Lily.” I smiled, hugging her back.
“I just hate going to school with all of those people from middle school, knowing that they all hate me and talk about me.” Lily sniffled.
“They don’t all hate you!” I argued. “And the ones that do, they’re not worth it. They hate me too. If they can’t see how amazing you are, they’re not worth it, Lily.” I responded firmly, hugging her tightly. Lily hugged me tightly back in response.
We stepped back from our embrace and I glanced at the screen on my phone.
“I have to go.” I said regrettably, offering Lily an apologetic look.
“Same. I still have math and science homework to do tonight.” Lily sighed.
“I’ll see you later.” I smiled, waving goodbye.
“Yeah, call me when you’re free.” Lily shouted over her shoulder, already walking away.
“I will!” I shouted back, and then turned, walking slowly back across the field.
This is what I was like at fourteen. Confident, brave, loyal, smart (I got 100% on a final exam and was an A student) silly (with friends) and happy. I knew who I was, what I wanted, where I wanted to be, and where I was going. I wasn’t afraid of the world. I felt like I had become the person I wanted to be, and was growing into a person I would continue to be proud of. Lily and I went to different schools, but I was committed to keeping in touch. We are still good friends today. I read books at lunch by myself with no shame. I wasn’t troubled by having few friends or spending time alone. I enjoyed the solitude because I chose it. I was doing well in school and never procrastinated. It was a good time in my life. I miss that time.
At fifteen everything changed for no apparent reason. I just started feeling sad all of the time. And I know I can’t turn back the clock and fix the relationships with people I started pushing away, I can’t regain those lost moments and I can’t bring the girl back that I used to be. The caring, responsible, friendly, happy, confident girl who always had her friend’s backs. The girl who didn’t have anything missing in her life. What I can do is move forward and try to become someone I am proud of being again, maybe even someone better.