High School

Jane Anne entered the story contest for her remaining two years in elementary school. She won second prize in grade seven, and first prize in grade eight. Both prizes made her and her mom very happy, but the second prize in grade six was the most special. It was the first time that Jane Anne saw herself as someone better than plain, ordinary, common as dirt, Jane Anne Smith.

She still didn't have any friends, because she was too shy to speak to anyone that didn't speak to her first. She walked mostly with her head down and rarely smiled, except at home. She didn't know how to make friends, because she had zero social skills.

In spite of everything there were still people who were kind to her in little ways, but they were mostly anonymous kindnesses. When she went to school with red freezing hands for several days because she had no mitts, she found a pair of hand knit wool mitts stuffed into the air vent of her locker. She didn't find out who did that till a few years later, but she still added the unknown donor to her List of Gratitude.

Another time she found an apple and a cookie in her desk when it was noticed by somebody that she only had a sandwich for lunch every day. She never resented nor questioned the need for silence or anonymity. She knew that anyone that attempted to become her friend would instantly lose status in their own social circles. She was unpopular whether she deserved it or not, and very few kids were willing to risk their own popularity to become her friend.

She hoped that her life would become easier and she would make a few friends in high school. At first she was afraid that her hope was just a pipe dream, because her first year got off to a rather bad start.

Jane Anne's first day of high school was a living nightmare! When she got on the bus, some of the kids stuck their legs out in the aisle so that she couldn't get by. when she tried to knee the legs aside, another set of legs would get in her way. Out of frustration she kicked the closest set of legs.. hard! The other sets of legs suddenly went back behind the seats where they belonged. She found a seat, but no one would sit with her.

There were a few titters and snickers, but no one ever said anything directly to her face. She was well known as the girl with the ear piercing scream, and as the girl that got bullies arrested. She was never physically harmed, but she suffered psychological warfare every day.

If she hadn't lived ten miles away from the high school, she would have walked to school. She had no choice but to suffer the humiliation of sitting alone on a crowded bus. Her face burned with shame when she saw kids sit three to a seat to avoid sitting with her. She buried her face in a book so that nobody could see the tears.

This went on for about two months until one of the girls unceremoniously dumped a gym bag on the seat beside Jane Anne. Another girl put her books with the gym bag. A third girl put a backpack beside her. They weren't brave enough to sit with her, but at least the seat wasn't empty anymore. It was a little thing, but for the first time since she started high school, she wasn't completely humiliated on the ride home.

She thought that the ride to school the next day would be the same as always. She never even suspected that the previous day's random act of pity wasn't a one time deal. She didn't even hope that she wouldn't be alone in her seat on the way to school. She was pleasantly surprised that the seat she always sat in already had a book bag beside the window when she sat down. She sat on the aisle rather than move the book bag. She didn't want to offend anybody.

A little ways down the road, the second girl from the trio of the day before leaned over Jane Anne to deposit her gym bag on top of her friend's book bag. The girl smiled at her briefly, then moved on to the seat behind her. Jane Anne blushed and said nothing. When the third girl got on she sat with her two friends, then leaned over the seat to deposit her books beside Jane Anne.

The same thing happened on the bus home from school. As soon as she got inside the trailer she ran down the hall to her room. She opened her journal to the back page and added three names to the List of Gratitude:

Melissa Baker, Jocelyn Anderson, Andrea Kavenaugh - for making my bus ride to and from school less than totally horrible.

The three girls did the same thing every school day until the day before Christmas break. That day something unbelievable happened. Melissa Baker was sitting in Jane Anne's usual seat when she got on the bus! She assumed that Melissa was going to sit in that seat that day, so she headed toward the empty seat behind the other girl. Without warning, Melissa patted the seat beside her.

"Sit here Jane Anne.... please? "

Jane Anne was astounded, and she didn't know if it was a cruel trick or not, but she sat down beside Melissa anyway. She kept her eyes forward as she tried to keep a hot blush from creeping up her neck to her face. She was really very shy, and she had never shared a bus seat with anyone ever since kindergarten. When Jocelyn and Andrea boarded the bus she was sure that they would say something mean to her, or to Melissa for sitting with her, but they didn't. Instead, Andrea leaned forward and spoke to her directly.

"Would you like to come to the candle light service at our church Christmas Eve Jane Anne?"

She knew that the three girls went to the local protestant church in town, but she had no transportation to go there, and no nice church clothes to wear. She was about to shake her head no, when Melissa turned toward her.

"My dad can pick you up if you want. He's picking up Andrea and Jocelyn too. We've got a van, so we have lots of room."

She was truly flattered by the invitation, but she still couldn't go because she had nothing good enough for church. Her second hand school clothes were nowhere near nice enough.

Jocelyn seemed to read her mind.

"It's an outdoor nativity play, and we'll have blankets and thermoses of hot chocolate to keep us warm. Please say you'll come."

There was a huge lump in her throat that would not allow her to speak, so she nodded her assent. She knew that the trio went to church, but she had no idea that they took Christian kindness and charity so seriously. She wished that her elementary school bus had taken the same routes as the high school bus. She might have met the three girls earlier, and they might have become friends. She knew that was just wishful thinking, but it was a pleasant thought none the less.

When Jane Anne headed toward her science class after home room, she was surprised when Melissa caught up to her and walked beside her.

"Is it okay if I join you at your lab desk? It doesn't make sense for Andrea and Jocelyn and I to share one desk behind you when you have a whole desk to yourself. I call that downright selfish!"

She laughed as she said it, so Jane Anne knew it wasn't an insult. Melissa made it sound like she sat alone at the big desk by choice, and that took the sting out of the fact that no one had been willing to share it with her before. She nodded, again too overwhelmed by shyness to say anything.

When the two girls entered the room, Andrea and Jocelyn were already there. The stool that had always been missing from Jane Anne's desk was no longer crowded behind Andrea and Jocelyn's desk. It was back where it belonged. When Melissa sat down at Mary Jane's desk, a football jock leaned over from the desk across the aisle.

"Are you slumming it today Melissa?" He said rather loudly, with a malicious snicker.

"Of course not Troy, I'm not sitting with you am I?" Melissa said equally loud, but without the snicker.

Troy's face went beat red and he turned away from Melissa.

Jane Anne was so shocked that she watched the entire exchange with her mouth hanging open! Melissa gently pushed her lower jaw back into place.

"You better close your mouth. There are evil spirits lurking across the aisle. You don't want them to find a place to nest in you." She commented.

Jane Anne gave a short snort of laughter in spite of her best effort to keep it in.

The End

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