Then one day, it got worse.  My mom had found a new job, and was working near constantly.  She wanted to move us closer to the city so she wouldn’t have to drive as far to work, and she would be able to spend more time with us.  I was scared.  I had grown up in that town, and despite the constant bullying, I didn’t want to leave.  I was scared that where I was headed would be worse than where I was.  Besides, there was some talk that I might end up failing second grade if I switched at the end of the year, because the new school was much better academically.  I was an honor roll student, so the thought of losing the two things I had–Brittany and my grades–was terrifying.  But it was set.  At first, they were going to let me stay with my grandparents until the end of the school year, but then the plans changed, and I was going to move one month before the end of the school year.  And then, a few days before I was supposed to move, the worst thing happened.  Brittany told me she couldn’t be my friend anymore.  She was worried about what would happen to her once I left, and she had befriended the girl who always said she was going to hit me.  And she told Brittany that if she didn’t tease me too, she was going to punch her.  Suddenly,  I was glad I was moving.

I only had to go back to school one more day before my mom withdrew me.  I didn’t talk to anyone.  In just three short years, I had gone from loving, caring, and compassionate to sullen, withdrawn, and broken.

When I started my new school, I didn’t know how to talk to anyone.  I sat quietly and did my work, and though they looked, they never spoke to me either.  Only one girl tried to befriend me, but we weren’t close.  I spent my days wondering what was wrong with me, picking myself apart for everything–my freckles, being short, not having the right clothes… no detail went unnoticed.

In third grade, I finally made a friend, but once again, the others just ignored me.  Her name was Jennifer, and she was a bit strange, but so was I, and we both liked to write stories.  She would have been a good friend, I think, but we never had another class together.  The summer before our freshman year, she died of a brain aneurysm.

In fourth grade, I didn’t really have any friends, but that’s where I met my friend Becca.  Back then, she was at least as awkward as I was, if not more.  She has always marched to the beat of her own drum, and back then it took the form of never brushing her hair and always forgetting her lunch money.  She was on reduced lunch, so it wasn’t very much, and I would lend it to her nearly every other day.  Actually, it was usually just me returning the money she had paid back the day before.  We didn’t talk much other than that, but I guess she was always grateful for those small favors from elementary school, because in high school, she made a point of talking to me, and we’ve been good friends since.  And she’s always trying to return the favor.

That year I also started playing softball.  I was awful.  The other girls on my team had been playing since t-ball, and I had just started.  But I had a wonderful coach who liked to include everyone, and recognized everyone when they were doing their best.  Unfortunately, the other girls weren’t as gracious as my coach, not even his daughter.  They didn’t pick on me, but they gave me such looks of disdain that I knew I wasn’t welcome.  There were only two girls on the team that talked to me, and they were both outfielders too.  Is it any wonder that I don’t buy into that crap of sports building teamwork and character?  Maybe, in an ideal situation, that is true.  But all too often, it’s just another competition.

In fifth grade, I once again had none of my friends in my class, so I was alone.  But I made friends with the weird boy who sat next to me.  His favorite phrase was, “Cool beans!” and his lucky number was 6.  He said it was because no one else liked 6, so he would always win on “guess the number” with it.  I thought that was crazy, but I tried it and it worked.  Six is still my lucky number.

That’s also when I met Katy.  She was new to our school that year, and she didn’t have any markers, so she asked to borrow mine.  She was also in the “gifted” classes, like me.  We were instant BFFs.  My mom was just glad that I finally had a friend.  We roomed together on the marine biology field trip, and tried to do everything we could together.  We talked about crushes and everything.  I guess things were finally looking up.