The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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What’s a Real Friend?
How I learned the difference
I. L.
headshot

Names have been changed.

I avoid drama and pettiness. If a situation is serious, I try to talk it out with the person and resolve any conflict. But when I started high school, drama started coming at me from many different directions.

At first, I was happy that I’d made five friends right away. I was closest with Margot; we hung out after school laughing and talking about boys, and we were both into Justin Bieber and One Direction. But after a few months, she started a rumor that I didn’t care about Alison, another girl who was part of this new group. She had recently been hospitalized for attempting to commit suicide. This upset me since the opposite was true. In fact, I had been texting Alison every day letting her know I was thinking about her. It also upset me that this new friend created a rumor that she knew was false. None of my friends had ever done that to me before. But I didn’t confront Margot, because I knew she’d deny it.

Feeling Disrespected

Later in the week, in English class, I overhead a girl say about me, “I heard she can’t be trusted and that she’s self-centered. Her friend, Alison was taken to a mental hospital and she didn’t care. What a friend she is.” I turned around and another girl stuck her middle finger up at me and smiled. I turned around quickly and just stared at my blank paper. These girls hardly knew me. I felt disrespected.

When class finished the girl who’d stuck her middle finger up came up to me.

“You know, you’re a selfish b-tch.” She smiled and walked away.

I watched her walk away thinking, “I’m not a bad person, I know I’m not.” What she said felt like a hard smack across my face. I felt worthless, like a speck of dust in the wind. I didn’t say anything because I didn’t think I should have to prove myself to her. But knowing that people in my school were talking about me and spreading lies upset me. Until now, I hadn’t experienced anything like this.

False Rumors Rage On

Alison was in the hospital for two weeks. When she came back, I saw her in the locker room and I smiled as I headed over to her. When she saw me, she walked away. I knew she’d heard the rumors. I changed quickly and walked into the gym. I saw Alison jogging so I jogged towards her.

“Alison,” I said. She continued jogging and didn’t even turn around.

“Alison,” I repeated, grabbing her arm to turn her around.

“What, Selena? You’re the last person I want to talk to.” When she looked at me her eyes were red like she’d been crying.

“Why are you ignoring me?” I asked.

“Don’t act stupid, Selena, you’re smarter then that. I heard what you said about me. I actually considered you a true friend. I was so wrong.”

I was astonished that she believed these rumors. I thought she knew me better than that.
I continued jogging and Margot tapped me on my shoulder. “What do you want?” I asked angrily. Margot smirked.

“Sucks that Alison doesn’t want to talk to you, I wonder why.” She walked off and started laughing with her other friends.

I was furious. Another student once told me that Margot was a nightmare dressed as a daydream: She appeared like a sweet angel when in reality she’s mean-spirited. Others said she was a liar. But I gave her a chance because I didn’t like judging someone based on what other people said.

True Friendship

image by YC-Art Dept

Still, I know a true friend is someone who helps you out when you need it, accepts you the way you are, and loves you for you. Fortunately I still had two friends like that from middle school—James and Roberta. They were there for me to talk to.

Roberta tried to help me improve my confidence and self-esteem. “Their opinions shouldn’t influence you, yours is the only one that matters,” she said. She even wanted to wait for Margot after school to confront her. I told her that I didn’t want her doing that because it would turn into a physical fight and I didn’t want Roberta getting a black eye or busted lip because of me.

James was, and still is, a huge part of my life. He told me I shouldn’t waste time on people who want to bring me down. “Seeing you hurt is something I never to want see,” he said. Those words stayed with me throughout this ordeal.

My relationships with Roberta and James made me realize that people like Margot didn’t deserve to be in my life and that she wasn’t a friend. Being around someone who just wants to gossip and make up lies to hurt people is a big no with me. After coming to this conclusion I felt like an idiot that I hadn’t seen this sooner. I had become friends with Margot because she seemed honest and well-intentioned. But I should have listened to my father. He taught me that I shouldn’t trust people right away, I should get to know them first.

Making Things Right

I knew the rumors wouldn’t stop unless I spoke to Margot. I decided one day after school to wait for her.

“Hey Selena, need anything?” she smiled cockily.

“Yeah we need to talk. This whole I-didn’t-care-about-Alison thing has gone on for too long. What are you getting out of this? Are you feeling good ruining other people’s friendships? Thank you Margot. You ruined not just my friendship with Alison but ours too,” I said angrily.

I saw Margot’s expression change from happy to shocked.

When she didn’t respond, I just walked away. I felt dozens of eyes on me; I hadn’t even noticed a crowd had gathered around us expecting me to fight her. But I wasn’t going to fight. My words were stronger.

Later that day, I got a call while I was doing homework. It was Alison.

“Hi. Kinda shocking you still have my number,” I said.

“I saw what happened today. It was legit how you told Margot off like that without hesitation. I called to apologize. I doubted you and believed what others were saying. I really am sorry.” Alison began to cry.

“Why are you crying, love? Don’t cry,” I said trying to comfort her.

“I’m mad at myself because I made you feel worthless, the way I yelled at you without even letting you tell your side of the story. I’m such a horrible person.”
I stayed quiet.

“Selena, I understand if you don’t want anything to do with me. It’s OK,” she said.

“No, you’re somebody I care about deeply. I love you Alison, and I forgive you for not believing me.”

Alison giggled. “Friends?”

“Friends,” I said smiling. Alison and I continued talking about school, music, and our families. It felt good to have my friend back.

Since this incident, I don’t rush into friendships. I get to know the person first. I also observe how they treat other people. I still associate with Margot, but not often. Even though she was nasty to me, I don’t want to hold a grudge against her. I felt I should be mature and move on. And that’s what I did.

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