I walked down the cold hallway.
This is it. This is it. Smile. Introduce yourself. Don’t fix your hair too much.
All these nervous thoughts spiraled through my head over and over again. Tears welled up in my eyes and I bit my lip, wanting to turn around and run back outside. Maybe my mom hadn’t left yet. As I gazed out of a series of windows and double glass doors, I saw our car backing out of its spot. I turned my head away quickly and rubbed the tears from under my eyes. But as I was about to round the corner and go down another dark hallway, I decided I couldn’t take it anymore, and, turning around sharply, ran to one of the doors. I breathed in deeply as our van reached the end of the parking lot and stopped. I waved frantically at the woman in the driver’s seat, hoping to catch her attention. But my mom didn’t see me. My shaking hands moved from the handle of the door to the blue straps of my backpack, fingers fidgeting with a loose string.
Too late to turn back now.
It was my first day at Our Mother of Mercy, a Catholic school, and I was a nervous wreck. Just a few months ago my family decided that my sister and I were going to leave Blessed Son because I was going to have only six other people in my entire grade. Me and the others there were always fighting and making up again and again because we were constantly together. Even if another person did something terrible to you, everyone would be best friends again in less than a week. Let’s just say we were a little too close for comfort. I had really great friends there though, like Emma and Nikki, but the thought of going to a big school where you actually had more than ten kids in your class sounded awesome. Even still, I was afraid that so many people would be overwhelming, and there would be all of these cliques and I wouldn’t fit in at all. To be honest, I figured I would scare everyone off with how wild and crazy I was.
But I didn’t feel very outgoing as I stood there peering out that window as our car drove out of sight.
I peeled myself away from the foggy glass and continued down the hall, trying to calm my nerves. Running my trembling hands on the wall as I walked, I thought about how the day might go.
What if nobody likes me? What if this is all just a huge mistake? Blessed Son wasn’t that bad- maybe I should have just stayed put.
But then I sighed, remembering that more girls meant more friends. There had to be somebody nice. If not there was always public school, if my parents would go for it. I thought about my sister, who had run ahead of me in her haste to meet her new peers and teachers. I wished I had her spirit.
All of a sudden I stopped, unsure of where to turn next. I got a sinking feeling in my stomach, and awkwardly turned around. I was upset with myself for not paying better attention as I ambled thoughtfully down the hallways. I had been following the signs, but where were they now? I shut my eyes and took a deep breath. When I opened them I had a new burst of confidence. I looked around some more and eventually found a paper hanging on the wall that said: GYM ->. I grinned and hurried in the direction it showed.
Before I knew it I heard a lot of talking and some yelling coming from inside the large gym that loomed before me through some cheerily decorated doors. In one instant, all of my courage faded.
“Hi there!” a woman holding some colorful papers exclaimed.
“Hi,” I replied, my voice almost a whisper.
“Are you new? I don’t think I have seen you before,” she told me, scrunching her eyebrows, as if trying to recall a distant memory.
“Yeah,” I answered. But then I scolded myself for not being friendlier and giving more than one word answers. “Could you point me in the right direction?”
“Of course! What grade are you in?”
“Oh, that is wonderful! A good year to be the new kid. Your class is right over there,” she said, pointing to a sign above the wooden bleachers that stretched to the far side of the gymnasium.
I thanked her and walked toward that area.
There was only one girl sitting in the section, and she looked pretty friendly. She was leaning casually on the guardrail that ran down the edge of the bleachers. I fixed my curls a little bit, climbed up the steps, and sat down. I made sure to be seated at a comfortable distance away so I didn’t scare the girl. We sat in silence for a moment, half-smiling at each other, then looking away. Finally she spoke up.
“Are you new here?”
“What’s your name?” the brown-haired girl inquired.
“Ariel,” I said. “What’s yours?”
“That’s a nice name.”
“Same with you.”
A new group of kids flooded through the open doors. I assumed they were all from some buses that just got here.
I wonder who rides my bus. Maybe next week I will start taking the bus to school.
I smoothed my skirt and watched closely as these children each went to their own section of the bleachers.
Here we go. There are some girls coming toward us!
These girls were chatting away, showing each other pictures from summer break. They all sat down near me and Bailey.
One of them, a pretty girl with long, light blond hair and blue eyes like mine, I recognized immediately.
Last week, the principle of Our Mother of Mercy held an event called “New Family Night”. I went with my family and took a tour of the school with my sister while my parents listened to speeches by the teachers and staff. Three or four kids were leading the tour, and there were two girls who looked older or younger than me. I couldn’t tell. They were both shorter, but had this teenage air to them that made me feel a little immature, even though they were dancing around and singing. They just seemed…cool. I figured they weren’t going to talk to me because they were so busy talking to each other and laughing. They were obviously very good friends. But when we all were about to go down this one particular hallway with glass doors and windows, the taller of the two girls walked over and asked me what my name was. I told her and her eyes got really big.
“Like the mermaid?” she had asked giddily.
“Yeah. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard THAT one,” I replied with a chuckle, and her friend came over to see what was going on.
“Hi!” she said. “I’m Izza. But everyone calls me Iz.”
“Nice to meet you! That’s such a cool name,” I responded.
“And I’m Cameron. But everyone calls me Cami,” the tall girl added.
We started walking, and I found myself up front with my new friends and the other tour guides. Before I knew it, it was time to leave. We met up with our parents and said goodbye.
“I forgot to ask you what grade you are going into,” Cami said.
“5th grade,” I told her.
She started jumping up and down like crazy.
“Oh my gosh! So am I!” she shouted. “Iz! Get over here! Ariel’s going into our grade!”
“Wow! That’s awesome!” Iz said as she ran over to Cami’s side.
I was very startled when Cami hugged me. But she did like she’d known me for years.
“Oh, just one thing to remember when you come,” she said darkly. “There’s this boy named Derek…”
“Oh no. Are you going to tell her?” Iz said mischievously.
“We have to,” she replied sadly, with a hint of silliness in her voice. “You are, like, so pretty.”
“Oh, thank you!” I said, smiling.
“That is not a good thing when it comes to Derek Snido,” Cami responded, shaking her head.
“He is going to try to hit on you,” Iz whispered.
“Oh no…not boy drama,” I groaned.
“Yep. It’s true,” Cami said. “Extremely weird, but true. He has liked every single girl in our class over the years. He left a message on my home answering machine saying how much he LOVED me and asked me out. My dad threw a major fit. At me.”
“What we are saying is… just stay away from him,” Iz added.
“I definitely will. Yuck.”
“Double yuck,” Cami gagged.
These memories went through my mind as the blond girl smiled and started walking toward me and Bailey.
“Hi Cami!” I exclaimed.
“Ariel!” she yelled.
We hugged and she started introducing me to some people.
“Everyone!” Cami shouted. “This is Ariel. Ariel this is Rebecca, Kaylee, Georgia, Paris, Amy, and you already know Iz.”
Cami pointed to each of them and they waved. After I had met everyone who was there, I started talking about school with her.
“…going to love it here!” she was saying, but stopped and nudged me. “Look!” she whispered.
Two boys were walking into the gym and heading toward our section.
“What about them?”
“The one on the left is Derek!” she said.
“Remember: don’t let him hit on you.”
“Trust me, I won’t forget.”
Derek and the other boy headed up the steps toward us. Derek whispered in his companion’s ear and they sat down right next to us.
“Hi Cami,” Derek said with a goofy smile.
“This is Ariel. She has a boyfriend.”
I gaped at Cami but she elbowed me.
“Yeah. It’s me,” he responded.
“Ugh, Derek. Just stop,” Cami muttered.
“I don’t have a boyfriend and I don’t plan to have one anytime soon. We’re in 5th grade,” I told Derek smartly.
“You go girl,” my friend said under her breath.
“Whatever,” Derek replied. “What’s your name anyway?”
“Don’t tell him,” Cami coughed.
I giggled and told him shortly, “Ariel.”
“Under the sea…under the sea…” he started singing- terribly.
I rolled my eyes and sighed.
“Anyway, my name is-” Derek started.
“I already know what your name is.”
“Oh. Was Cami talking about me?” he asked.
“Yes, I was, Derek.”
“I thought so.”