Test of Friendship
An Original Story
By: Rebecca Nowack

Finished: 4/27/03

/Why did this happen? What went wrong? Why is the price of
happiness so much pain? ... Why can't everyone accept each other for
who they are?/ These are the thoughts that continue to play in my mind.
Why should a happy, popular seventeen-year-old girl have these thoughts?
Simple, because I'm not happy, and I'm not perfect. They haunt me, but
I know I made the right choice in the end. Didn't I?

It all began a month ago. It was a typical start for another
beautiful day at Robertsdale High School. I walked into my first hour
Community Service class and sat down in one of the desks located in the
middle-back of the classroom. Expecting long, dull discussions and
comments about fundraisers for the year, I laid my golden blonde head
into my arms, trying to receive a few winks of sleep that I'd lost the
night before.

"Morning, Maggie!"

Inside, I groaned at the voice that belonged to always-cheerful
Ashley Lanier, one of my many "friends". I'm actually a friend with
most of them, but Ashley is more of my rival. I lifted up my head and
gazed my tired brown eyes at her. I murmured a quick "Hey, Ash." in
reply.

"Did someone wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning?"
Ashley teased as she flicked her loose, brown hair over her shoulder,
her hazel eyes twinkling good naturally.

"No, someone was up late studying for the government test
today." I answered back grumpily. At that time, the bell decided to
ring, signaling that class was to commence. I lowered my head back down
as I waited for the class to be over, hoping I didn't fall asleep. But
I needn't have worried; Mr. Curry had already made sure I would be
awake.

"Today class," he started as he did every day. "we will be
beginning our first community service project. In pairs, you will be
helping out in various ways. The main part of your grade will be the
comments written by your supervisors at _each_ session AND the partner
summaries of your overall performance. This will be going on for two
weeks. Groups must have a minimum of ten hours per week. Listen
closely for your assigned partner and work place. David Babington and

I half-listened to Mr. Curry as I glanced over at Ashley sitting
next to me. We both knew we would never be put together and neither of
us were too pleased about the assignment. We could only pray that we
would be assigned to someone we like.

"Michael Cunningham and Ashley Lanier, you will be visiting
senior citizens at Gordon Oaks Retirement home."

Well, Ashley got her prayers answered. She's only had a major
crush on Michael since freshman year.

"Margaret Davis and Helen Thompson will be cleaning up Municipal
Park."

Pause and Rewind. Did Mr. Curry just partner me with _Helen
Thompson_? She was only one of the least popular girls in school. We
have nothing in common. I glanced over at Ashley again. She gave me a
look of sympathy and leaned over. "Hey," she whispered quietly, "at
least she's nice. Maybe it won't be so bad."

The class then began to move into their groups to organize work
schedules and times. I just sat there in my desk, hoping that this
nightmare would end. I kept thinking, /Why me? Why Me?/

"Margaret?" Helen's quiet voice startled me out of my thoughts.
She stood next to me in her signature dark gray shirt and black slacks,
which accented her pale skin and violet eyes, nervously playing with her
dark hair. I quickly acknowledged her presence and plastered a polite
smile upon my face.

"Hey, Helen." I answered. "Sorry about that. I'm kind of out of
it today. So when can you work?"

/What have I gotten myself into?/

***********************************************************************

The first day of work wasn't so bad. The park was afire with
the color-changing leaves of autumn, and a cool wind teasing of the
winter to come. The music of nature surrounded us, and that's all we
heard. We were silent. We didn't know what to say to each other
because we were so different. The first thing we said to each other
besides a polite greeting was shortly after we turned in our equipment.
Helen was walking slightly ahead of me until she stopped and turned
around to look at me. "Margaret, it's been bothering me, but why are
you in community service? I mean it's not like you have to." She
questioned.

I stood there silent for a few minutes, wondering why she had
asked me this. "It's because I'm thinking about being a social worker.
If I can get through this class and enjoy it, it might help me to
decide."

"Oh." was the only thing she gave me as she started off again.

"Wait!" I called out as I ran to catch up with her. "What about
you?"

"I just wanted to help other people." She answered, granting
with it a brilliant smile that was never shown at school. That small
moment broke the ice between us. Everyday afterwards we began asking
questions to help pass the time and began to know each other better. We
learned that we had almost nothing in common and that we got along
really well. By the end of the week, we were talking between classes,
and by the end of the project, we were becoming great friends.

My other friends, however, were only tolerant of Helen. They
understood my spending time with her due to the project, but once it was
over, they were pushing me to drop her like a dead doornail. I kept
asking them to give her a chance, but they wouldn't do it. When it
became clear to them that I wasn't going to stop being friends with her,
my "friends" began to harass her. Knocking her books over, pushing her
in the hallway, spreading "harmless, little" rumors, small pranks, these
were a few things that Helen went through because of our friendship and
she dealt with it. She didn't care as long as I wasn't the one doing
them, and I was there to help her.

But one day, the stakes were driven higher. It was Friday, and
I was in the restroom checking my make-up for the day when Ashley
cornered me. "Maggie, I didn't want to do this," she started with a sad
look in her eye, "but this has to end. You have to choose, Helen or
us." I was all ready to choose Helen after what my so-called friends
had done to her, but then I noticed another emotion in Ashley's eye that
made me think the other girls didn't know what Ashley was doing. I saw
fear behind the sadness. Why did the second most popular girl in the
school have fear in her eyes over losing her only competition? I
realized that she didn't want to be the most popular, that it was too
much for her to handle.

"Give me a week to decide." was all I said after hearing her
proposition.

***********************************************************************

That week was the hardest I had ever lived. I stayed away from
Helen, and I stayed away from the girls. I wanted to be alone to think.
Am I willing to choose my popularity over Helen? No. I knew the answer
to that question. But was I also willing to cause other people pain?
Ashley did not want my place as most popular. She was terrified to be
the best, and she had made that clear to me, but ...

Finally, it was Friday again. It was time for my ultimate
decision. Popularity or Helen. Everyone had gathered in the hallway
after school. The popular girls were on one side, and Helen on the
other, all anxiously waiting for my decision. And there I stood, in
the middle of a battlefield waiting to be covered with blood.

"My decision is" I started clearly. Helen's eyes were filled
with hope, and the other's filled with deadly promises. God, I didn't
know it would be so hard. I couldn't do it, and yet I knew I must.
"that I will stay with the popular group." I looked down. I couldn't
face Helen, with the shock I knew she felt and the pain. I heard the
girls walk away, congratulating themselves on a job well done.

"You said," Helen whispered with anger in her voice. "that no
matter what they did we would stay friends." I looked up and saw
blazing violet eyes filled with fury.

"I ... I'm sorry." I once again began staring at the floor,
unable to look at her.

"You also said you wanted to be a social worker. Well, part of
being a social worker is knowing the right thing to do. Find a new
dream, Margaret." Helen turned away and ran towards the exit, not
waiting to hear my defense.

/But you don't understand, Helen. I was doing the right thing.
No matter how much I wanted to be your friend through anything, I
couldn't let them ruin your life./ My silent plea screamed in my head.
That was Ashley's trump card. In her desperation not to become me, she
had threatened to ruin Helen's life. I knew it could be done. I had
seen it happen. /Maybe one day, Helen, you will understand. And then,
maybe you will forgive me./

***********************************************************************

Yes, I know this story is one huge cliche. I tried not to make it one,
but the story wouldn't listen. As always, any sort of response is
welcome.

Rebecca Nowack
chaya311
AIM: chaya311
"Logic is for those who cannot create their own realities."

****
Wendy: I had no idea all this was going on.
Dave: I did!
Wendy: (with heavy sarcasm) I'm sure you did. Resident genius and
psychologist that you are.
(My favorite lines from I play I did.)