Bethany was nervous. As usual. But this time it was her mother's fault. Well, no, it wasn't, that was mean to assign blame. It was her brain's fault. That was okay, wasn't it?
A few days before the first day of school, Bethany's mom came into her room while she was knitting and sat down at her desk. "Can we talk for a minute, honey?" her mom had asked.
"Sure," Bethany said, still knitting but looking up now. "What's up?"
"I think you should join an activity this year."
She looked at her mom, confused. "What do you mean? I do activities."
"I mean a school sponsored activity. Get involved. Try something new. Find some people you have something in common with. Make some friends. All that good stuff."
Bethany shrank inside. What was wrong with the things she already did? Youth group, volunteering. It's not like she just sat around knitting and did homework. Okay, it was kind of like she just sat around knitting and doing homework but it wasn't so bad.
But she was supposed to obey her parents. So she sighed and said, "Okay", and on the second day of school she attended the club fair, took exactly one flier for the knitting group, and escaped from all the people trying to talk to and recruit her as quickly as she could. She liked knitting, she knit anyway, she may as well do it in a room with other people. But that didn't mean she'd enjoy it.
She most definitely would not enjoy it. Wait, would that be disobedience to her mom if she didn't enjoy it? Oh no. So she'd try to enjoy it. Could she? There would be people there... What kind of people would be there? Doesn't matter, people are people.
At least her mother was happy about it when Bethany told her. "Way to use your interests!" she'd said.
She dreaded it all day. It was okay to dread it, wasn't it? She didn't know why it wouldn't be but it didn't feel right either. Well, no duh, of course it didn't feel right, it's not like dread is a happy feeling. But was it really dread? Did she dread it or was she just nervous? Was there a difference?
Relax, she told herself at lunch. It's just knitting, you'll just sit there and knit and it will all be fine. Herself didn't listen. Instead, her eyes blurred over the words of the textbook she was studying as she ate a ham and turkey sandwich that tasted like a literal sand witch and she started worrying about whether or not they would actually be knitting in the club. Like, maybe it was just going to be an informational meeting. What would happen then? If she couldn't knit in the meeting, there would be no way to calm her nerves and she would not survive. Oh no, what if she didn't survive? Pfft, she'd survive. Probably. Knitting needles aren't deadly. Unless they're used to stab. Or thrown like darts. Bethany knew of kids that would definitely throw knitting needles like darts. What if those were the types of kids in the club?
She tried to put it out of her mind and focus on her classes.
After her last class, she thought about dawdling going to knitting club, but worried she would be too late, she would interrupt, and everyone would look at her. She could not have everyone looking at her. So, she headed off to the little room off the library, hoping it was the right place. This was the day, right? Monday? Or did it start next Monday? No, it was today. It had to be today.
She made it to the small, armchair stuffed room, relieved to find she wasn't the first or the last person to arrive. She chose a cushy looking purple chair far away from all the people who were already there, and sat, joining in the silence. Nobody was knitting. This was the knitting group, right? It had to be, Coach Drina was here, wearing a nice handknit sweater, and Bethany had heard that she was the teacher mentor for this. And there was another, older girl wearing a knit sweater too, a teal one with black stripes, and she had a cool knit tote bag too. Bethany thought about complimenting it, but couldn't get up the nerve to say anything. What if the girl thought she was stupid, or did that thing where someone is like "Um, thanks..." and looks around awkwardly until you stop talking to them. She hated that. The girl did look a little grumpy...
A few more people trickled into the room and nerves twisted in Bethany's stomach. She wiped her fidgety palms on her jeans. She couldn't do this without knitting. She bent down and unzipped her backpack, cringing at how loud it sounded in the silent room. Everyone was looking. She could feel it. She pulled out her knitting anyway, currently a preemie hat to donate to the hospital for babies born prematurely. She liked knitting baby hats. They didn't take much time, and the yarn was soft to work with. Soon enough, she was hunched over her project, fingers flying, and she felt a little better.
She expected more people to start knitting, though, and they didn't. She was the only one and was absolutely positive that everyone was staring at her. She knew the girl with the cool bag was, but she didn't want to stop, so she kept going, feeling awfully conspicuous every time her needles clicked or she pulled more yarn from the ball, tucked safely into it's own slightly unzipped pocket of her backpack.
STOP LOOKING AT ME! her mind screamed repetitively with the rhythm of her knitting.
Needle in, STOP, yarn around, LOOKING, through the loop, AT, and off, ME! Repeat. Wait, is that mean? Shouldn't she think nice things instead? Repeat. Cupcakes. Repeat. Puppies. Repeat.
She kept this up even as she listened to Coach Drina and the girl with the cool bag (apparently named Mika) talk. She didn't interrupt herself until she learned that she would have to introduce herself. Oh no. What if her voice cracked? What if she forgot what to say? Wait, what should she say in the first place? Before she could spend much time thinking about this, it was her turn to talk.
"I'm Bethany. Sophomore. I knit donations for people." She barely looked up, but when she did, she caught a glimpse of Mika smiling at her, but she didn't even think about smiling back until her opportunity was long gone. Mika probably thought she was a jerk! She sighed inwardly and listened to the rest of the introductions, not surprised to learn that she didn't know anyone else.
When the meeting ended, her mom picked her up in her little blue car. "Hi, sweetie! How was knitting club?"
"Fine," Bethany replied, pushing her textbook filled backpack down by her feet.
"Did you make any new friends?" her mom asked as they pulled out of the school parking lot. Out her window, a few other people were still waiting outside the doors of the school or walking to their own cars.
"Not yet," Bethany replied, trying not to sound entirely pessimistic.
"That's okay, honey. There's no rush."
Wasn't there, though?