“Miss Jones, can we come down to your room and watch a video?” My brother Matthew, with little Timothy in tow, cornered my teacher as she was about to head down to her room in the basement.
“I’m sure Miss Jones has other things to do,” I piped up. “How about we go Rollerblading before it gets too dark—”
“’Mato movie!” Timothy interrupted. “I want ’mato movie!”
“He means the movie where the tomato tells Bible stories,” Matthew translated.
“Sure, boys, head on down.” Miss Jones held the basement door open wide for my brothers. Our eyes met. “Chrissy, would you like to come, too?”
“No,” I replied, just barely managing to keep the ice out of my voice. At the last second I remembered to add, “Thanks, anyway,” but my heart wasn’t in it
“Can you believe her?” I exploded to Amy the next day. It was recess, and we were perched atop the jungle gym. This had become our spot for talking about all the personal things we felt we couldn’t discuss with our other friends. After discovering that Amy had gone through experiences similar to mine with her own family, I found it easier to open up and tell her things.
“Can you believe Miss Jones just stole my brothers away like that, and then invited me to join them?”
“The nerve!” Amy exclaimed.
I studied her expression to see if she was being sarcastic.
“Okay,” I admitted with a small laugh, “I guess Miss Jones didn’t do anything evil. But I still don’t see what my brothers find so fascinating about sitting on the floor of her room, eating graham crackers and watching videos on her tiny TV.”
Amy nodded. “And last time I spent the night at your house, I didn’t see what was so fascinating about putting pennies in a gumball machine, but that’s all your little brothers wanted to do. They spent half the evening banging on your bedroom door, begging to come in and play with your gumball machine, and look at your books, and feed your hamster.”
“Yeah…” I said slowly.
“So now they have a new bedroom to be fascinated in, and a new person to pester for attention, and you’re jealous.”
“You know,” I told Amy, “some people would just sit back and let their friends complain.”
Amy shrugged. “Well, I’m not ‘some people’.”
I grinned in spite of myself. I knew Amy was right about my jealousy, but I really didn’t give it much thought. After all, jealousy wasn’t that big a deal. It didn’t cause any real problems…right?
“Hey, guys, come on down from there!” Rebekah called from beneath the jungle gym. “Some of us are going to build a fort in the bushes around the school!”
“No thanks,” I said
At the exact same moment Amy yelled, “Awesome!” and jumped to the ground.
I watched the two of them run away. Together. Leaving me behind.
This feeling seemed very familiar.
The lunchroom was noisy and the table crowded as I squeezed into an empty seat and opened my lunch bag. The five other long tables in the room were empty, because although it might have been more comfortable to spread out, all of us kids at Clarksfield school chose to sit together during lunch. We had always gotten along, and there was almost never any bickering about seating arrangements or anything else at lunch time.
Lately, however, even this had started to change—at least for me.
More and more I found myself watching Amy and Rebekah at lunch time, feeling those pangs of jealousy that had become so familiar over the past few weeks.
“You should have seen me trying to ride Amy’s horse over the weekend,” Rebekah said, laughing at herself. “The horse started walking backwards, and I was like, ‘How do I get this thing out of reverse?’”
Everyone who was listening laughed except me. I took a big bite of sandwich and muttered, “I can’t believe there’s actually something she isn’t perfect at.”
I hadn’t meant for anyone to actually hear, but Rachel, who sat beside me, gave me a funny look. “Are you mad at Rebekah for something?” she whispered.
I shrugged. “I just don’t see why Amy invited Rebekah for ride her horse but she’s never invited me.”
This time, Andy overheard. “You want to ride a horse? I thought horses gave you the creeps.”
“Yeah,” Rachel agreed. “You said they have shifty eyes and restless feet and swishy tails, and you would never put your life in the hands of something so fidgety.”
“Hooves,” someone else spoke up. I turned to find that either Ian or Carlos—I still couldn’t tell the twins apart—had joined our conversation. “Horses have hooves. Only people have hands.”
“It’s a figure of speech,” his brother—either Carlos or Ian—replied. “Putting your life in someone’s hands, that’s just a figure of speech, an idiom.”
“What did you call me?”
“Monkeys!” one of the Davids yelled out. “Monkeys have hands!”
“They have paws,” said the other David.
“No, they’re hands, ‘cause they have fingers.”
“Birds have fingers, too.”
“Wait a second!” Amy exclaimed. “Was someone just saying horses are creepy?”
Desperate to keep Amy from finding out how this conversation had actually started, I blurted out the first thing that popped into my head. “Octopus!”
All eyes turned toward me.
“Huh?” said Ian-or-Carlos.
“Octopus…they, uh, have legs, but no feet.”
“Yeah, and a snail has a foot but no leg,” said Carlos-or-Ian.
“Are they octopus or octopi?” Andy wondered. I breathed a very quiet sigh of relief, glad to have the talk back in safe territory. Still, I couldn’t help but notice that Amy and Rebekah were not part of our conversation—if you could even call it a conversation. Instead, they were back to talking horses and making plans for next weekend. And I was back to wishing—selfish as it was—that I were the only friend Amy wanted to talk with.