Making Friends

Jane Anne was certain that school would become a living Hell because of Melissa's put down of Troy the Neanderthal. Melissa probably wouldn't get much teasing about it because she was strong, outspoken and best of all, popular enough to weather a storm of cruel gossip. Strangely enough, the rest of the day was better than most days at school.

 Melissa stood as a buffer zone between nasty Troy and Jane Anne during science class. Troy threw glowering looks at the girls occasionally, but Melissa ignored him. Jane Anne refused to even look in that direction. After the first ten minutes of class, the girls got so involved with the study of concave and convex lenses that Troy was forgotten altogether.

Jane Anne was amazed to find out that science was not nearly as easy for Melissa as it was for her. The other girl's eyes glazed over during the teachers' long winded lesson, so Jane Anne whispered short, more understandable explanations as they did their experiment with speed and accuracy.

When the two girls finished early, Jane Anne was suddenly flanked by Andrea and Jocelyn asking for help with their experiment. There was a little bit of jostling and giggling, but the teacher didn't reprimand them. He knew that poor little Jane Anne Smith was being treated badly by the other students, but there was never any open reason to discipline anyone for it. He allowed the girls a few minutes chat time before the bell rang.

Melissa had a math class while Jane Anne and the other two had history. The other two girls' desks weren't anywhere near Jane Anne, but she could feel their presence behind her. No one snickered or whispered behind their hands when she went by. Gossip travelled fast that the most unpopular girl in grade nine now had back up and moral support. The other kids weren't any friendlier, but they were no longer openly hostile either.

All through that last day before Christmas break, Jane Anne had company walking to and from all of her classes. Sometimes it was one or two of the trio, and a few times it was all three of the girls that escorted her to class. They talked about the nativity play and candlelight service at their church. It was part of their annual Christmas concert, and the girls looked forward to it.

When they got on the bus after school, Melissa again sat beside Jane Anne. Jocelyn and Andrea got off first, but Melissa got off after Jane Anne. Melissa handed her books to her, then put a hand on her arm for a second to halt her progress.

"We'll be by to pick you up at seven o'clock in the evening. The play starts at eight. We'll have plenty of time to get good seats in the bleachers. Don't forget!!"

This comment was made in Melissa's regular speaking voice. No attempt was made to whisper, or hide the fact that Jane Anne had been invited to an event with the trio of friends.

She nodded at Melissa.

"I'll be ready, I won't forget."

When she walked to her trailer, she was practically walking on air. She might be making friends at last! She told her mom all about it the minute she got home from work. Susan was thrilled for her only child. She had never had many friends herself because she was always working or too tired to attend anything where she might get to know other women.

Worry and paranoia set in the next day. What if they changed their minds? What if they forgot? What if Melissa's dad refused to come way out to the trailer park to pick her up? Jane Anne suffered many bouts of worry and consternation in the two days left before Christmas eve. On the afternoon of December 24th, Jane Anne washed her hair twice, and had her mom trim her hair and her bangs.

She made sure that her best jeans were clean, and that there were no rips or tears in the long thermal underwear that she would wear under them to protect her from the cold. She had one warm wool sweater that she would also wear. She had found a really warm sheepskin lined coat at the Salvation Army store a few weeks earlier. She was delivering Christmas fliers again that season, and she had earned a few more dollars than she had the year before.

She recognized the coat as one that the store manager's daughter had worn two years earlier. It was clean and in excellent shape. Mrs. Astleford the manager, had gone to the back and brought it out when Jane Anne entered the store. She handed it to the girl.

"Try this on Jane Anne, it just came in. It looks to be about your size."

Mrs. Astleford was right, it did fit well. She gave it to Jane Anne for only a dollar! She knew that the girl wouldn't take it for free, so she priced it affordabely low. When Jane Anne got home that day, she added another name to her now growing List of Gratitude.

Mrs. Grace Astleford - Salvation Army store manager - for saving her own daughter's outgrown clothes to sell to me at rediculously low prices. She preserves my pride by not treating me like a charity case.

Jane Anne was ready and waiting inside the front door by 6:30 on Christmas eve. She was all bundled up, and she started to get really warm, so she went outside to sit on the step while she waited. She sent up a little prayer that this whole thing wouldn't turn out to be a really cruel practical joke. She needn't have worried. Melissa's green family van pulled up in front of the trailer ten minutes early. Melissa waved from a side window as Jane Anne walked to the van. Melissa pulled the side door open for her. When she got in, Melissa introduced Jane Anne to her dad,

"Dad, this is my friend Jane Anne."

Mr. Baker turned away from the steering wheel to smile and nod at her. She smiled and nodded back, still having a hard time believing that Melissa had called her a friend!

The End

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